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I have a question for the group mind, and I'm tossin' it out HERE because this board is a congenial bunch and perhaps geeky enough that someone might have a clue as to the answers I'm lookin' for. But it's a COMPLICATED question, and requires some background.
Awright, Star Wars. SW is owned by Lucasfilm, outright. No one owns any PIECES of it. And Lucasfilm is owned by Disney, so Disney's who you ask if you want to make a SW TV show, movie, theme park, candy treat, garment, or toy product. Period. One stop shopping. Perhaps Disney's licensing department has a special Star Wars division, but that's about it as far as divisions go.
Now, The Walking Dead is a little different. Anything based on the TV show has to go through AMC, the TV cable channel that produces the show. However, there is an entirely separate licensing division based on the comic book that the TV show was lifted from. Hence, you want to make a Daryl Dixon action figure, or use the likeness of Andrew "Rick" Lincoln, you go through AMC... but you could make a TWC miniatures game based on the likenesses of the comic characters by simply contacting rights owner and TWC creator Robert Kirkman. But there's TWO different ways to go.
...which brings us to The Avengers/Marvel. The Marvel Cinematic Universe... that is, The Avengers, Hulk, Thor, and Captain America... is OWNED by Marvel Comics, which is owned by Disney, who made the movies. However, the Fantastic Four are owned by Marvel/Disney, but 20th Century Fox has the movie rights, and made the movies, while Sony has the movie rights to Spider-Man, and I'm STILL trying to figure out who-all has the rights to X-Men.
All the CHARACTERS are owned by Marvel, but the MOVIES and MOVIE RIGHTS are tied up nine ways from Sunday by different companies, to the point where getting Spider-Man for the last Avengers flick was considered a major achievement. And SOME of these people are JERKS about it; the first Fantastic Four movie was literally made solely to keep the movie rights, and was never intended to be released, and when the rightsholders wouldn't sell back or even lease the rights back to Disney, Marvel cancelled the FF comic in retaliation... despite it having been in print continuously since 1963.
But I'm digressing; this is piled too deep as it is. So back to my question: I'm thinkin' about Star Trek.
Been on a bit of a kick lately; bought the Modiphius minis for the Next Gen bridge crew, and have begun acquiring the HeroClix minis of the original series. And I have been in several discussions about the new Star Trek TV series, about which I have mixed feelings, particularly about the Klingons, who for some reason still speak tlhIngan Hol, straight out of Okrand's dictionary, but in no way resemble any Klingons ever seen on TV or movies previously, as well as having some weird new cultural traits.
I do not care for this. I want the Next Gen Klingons back. But the show is what it is, and some like it and some don't, and, well, we'll always have Qo'Nos, right?
But then someone on Facebook was tellin' me, "Dude, it's because the people makin' this new show don't have the rights to the old style Klingons."
I said, "Hah? It's Paramount. Paramount Pictures bought the rights from Desilu Studios, back in the day. How can they not have the rights to their own show?"
"Naw, dude, Paramount split from Viacom, and now they both have different rights to different parts of Star Trek, dude. That's why Shatner's Captain Kirk was born in Iowa but grew up on space colonies, but Chris Pine's Captain Kirk grew up on Earth and stole classic cars. That's why the new Klingons are bald and blue and fly around in giant Christmas ornaments, dude -- they had to create NEW Klingons, because the OTHER company has the rights to the Michael Dorn Klingons."
So I did some research. Then I stopped, because my head hurt. Near as I can tell, boiled down, Viacom has SOME of the Star Trek IP rights... and Paramount has some OTHER Star Trek IP rights... but as far as I could tell, it was largely a matter of who could make TV shows as opposed to who could make and distribute movies. And if Klingons are a bone of contention, why are there Vulcans in all the new iterations?
Are Klingons an issue of property rights, or did someone just say, "Naw, I think Klingons should be bald and blue now, for no apparent reason, other than that I am a Hollywood Big Shot, and I Say So,"?
And what about the merch rights?
Can anyone out there shine some light on this?
So I hear they're making another Star Trek television series. Apparently, they think this one is so good, people will pay to watch it, like HBO and Game Of Thrones. I have my doubts, but I haven't seen it, so what do I know?
Star Trek has had several spinoff series of varying quality. I didn't expect to like Next Generation, but they lucked out with a combination of a cast that could do ANY durn thing (Patrick Stewart's one of the few actors I know of who can literally carry a one man show) and enough good scripts in the first two years to carry them past the bad ones (planet of the black people, anyone? How about the toga people who wanted to kill Wesley for stepping on flowers?)
By the third season, though, the show really shone, and even its detractors had to admit it was some good television. So they decided to make ANOTHER one, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. And, again, after an uneven first season, it did some mighty good episodes.
...and then they tried yet again with Star Trek Voyager... which... was less good. More uneven. I don't know what it is about TV executives thinking that people want to see people on a spaceship all lost somewhere in the universe. I don't WANT to be lost. I liked Star Trek because they KNEW where they were, and could go home ANY TIME THEY WANTED. But, no, the TV execs think I want to identify with people stuck a zillion miles from home. But I digress.
...and then they tried again with Star Trek: Enterprise. Which... well, they tried.
And now they're trying again with another prequel series. And I just don't know. This "prequel series" thing presumes I want to know what led up to Captain Kirk and Mr. Spock and everyone.
And I was thinking about this when I saw that one episode of the original series where Captain Kirk gets shanghaiied by the glowy brains to be a gladiator. Remember that one? The glowy space brains that have tremendous cosmic power and can't think of anything to do with it except set up sporting matches and bet on the outcome? And Captain Kirk convinces them that setting everyone free and setting up a civilization would be more interesting than betting on sports?
First saw that episode when I was, I think, ten. It was good enough when I was ten. Now, I just wonder what the hell Captain Kirk was thinking, handing a civilization over to a race of glowy space brains that couldn't think of anything better to do with amazing cosmic powers than bet on how American Gladiators is going to turn out today. What kind of civilization are THESE people going to set up?
And then I thought about it: what if a Federation spaceship happens to come back some hundred years later? What kind of civilization DID they set up?
And that's when it hit me: they wanna do a new Star Trek series? Everyone I talked to agreed that Enterprise stank, all the way up until they remembered all the OLD Star Trek stuff... the Gorn, the Tholians, the Mirror Universe... all that old stuff left over from when Shatner and Nimoy were on board.
What happened to all the Thralls on the planet of the gambling-addicted space brains?
What happened to the planet of the Space Gangsters?
What happened to the planet of the Space Nazis?
What happened to the planet of the Space Romans?
What happened to the planet of the Space Children who were actually 200 years old?
What happened to the planet of the Space Indians?
What happened to the planet of the Space Hippies With The Big Pompadours who worshipped the Computer Snake Monster Cave Thing?
What happened to all the space women that Captain Kirk had, um, diplomatic relations with?
It occurred to me that Captain Kirk alone left enough weird floating around in space that a whole new Star Trek series could spend the first couple seasons just finding out what happened afterwards. Did any of these planets join the Federation afterwards? Is there a whole planet of people who look like six year old Clint Howard? More importantly, are there a zillion space babies out there who resemble William Shatner?
And lastly, is this new series going to be more interesting than finding out what the Space Hippies with the Big Pompadours did?
So I hear Paizo's got this new game, Starfinder, up and coming. And I am not sure what to think.
Pathfinder filled a need; I tried 4th Edition D&D, and did not much care for the radical changes after several years of 3.5. Pathfinder was just an extension of the d20 system, and worked well as a generic fantasy game ... that, as splatbook after splatbook and so forth, grew steadily less generic. Still a fine game, although it begins to show signs of splatcreak*, as the sheer amount of rules pile up.
Makes sense they'd want to expand their base of gaming; a one-game company is vulnerable to changes in the market, and D&D has finally gotten its head on straight. Time to seek out new life and civilizations... if only to stay competitive.
But I dunno.
First science fiction RPG I ever played was Traveller, which did an amazing job of distilling the basics down to three little booklets in a box, which seems to be how things were done, then. We had combat, we had spaceships, we had computers, find a ship, find a crew, find a job, keep flying. It worked. (I will not discuss Gamma World or Metamorphosis Alpha; while I enjoyed 'em, these were more postapocalyptic and less space opera, and this is hard enough to keep on track as it is).
Another game, Space Opera, was interesting and fun, although waaaay too in love with its rulesset; as I recall, you could burn a whole gaming session just creating a character. Which I guess was a little better than Traveller, where you could accidentally get killed before your character entered PLAY, but Space Opera's extra crunchy rules were a bit much, even for the times.
I enjoyed Star Frontiers, once TSR finally got off their duffs and designed a neat space opera setting, although I took it kinda personally that they did not include a starship design or purchase system, or for that matter much of any information about space travel other than "buy a ticket." What, Traveller could do it, but you can't? They were up front enough, though, about the fact that they'd be out with a separate boxed set that would include the starship rules... eventually. And they did.
Aaaand that's where we take a sharp left, because Star Frontiers was the last generic science fiction space opera I ever played.
FASA quickly came out with a licensed Star Trek game, set during the TOS era, because that's all we had back then; Next Generation was still years away. Still remember the one adventure we played as Klingon officers, who wound up blowing up the ship due to a complex web of backstabbery... but I digress. Not long after that, they also came out with a licensed Doctor Who game, which preoccupied us for a while, as there were a hell of a lot of VHS tapes to track down to keep up with the setting! It did have the advantage of spreading across all TIME, as well as space... although we took a break when West End Games's Star Wars came out, because to a nerd-child of the seventies, the history of mankind breaks down into pre-SW and post-SW. After all, you never saw any Planet Of The Apes RPGs, did you? Hell, I still have a copy of Leading Edge's Aliens RPG around here somewhere; it was fun, albeit rather sketchy, as it was based entirely on the two movies in the Alien franchise as of 1988... had plenty of information about Weyland-Yutani, the Space Marines, the Aliens... and nearly nothing else...
Which brings us to now. As I said above, Pathfinder filled a need.
But there are a great many licensed science fiction games now. Firefly is still going strong. A new Star Wars game still circulates, albeit unsupported due to licensing. A new Star Trek game is in the works, assuming its maker ever gets it out of playtesting, and the current Doctor Who game still seems to be selling.
Is there a place now for a generic science fiction setting? Will it appeal to people who've never tried Pathfinder? Or does the current market favor established licensed science fiction settings where one can watch a movie or three and get an idea INSTANTLY about the world and how it works?
Opinions? Ideas? Rants?
Actor Anton Yelchin, known for playing Pavel Chekov in the newest reboot of the "Star Trek" franchise, died today in a freak accident, apparently pinned between his car and a brick post in his driveway.
He was 27.
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