DeFlip Side #173: Virtual Mailbag 2016

DeFlip Side #173: Virtual Mailbag2016.mp3

Welcome everyone. I’m Christopher DeFilippis and this is DeFlip Side.

And it’s once again time for the flip side to DeFlip Side, since this time out I’ll be featuring your side, not my side. I’m opening up the virtual mailbag and reading your letters in response to previous DeFlip Side articles and radio segments.

Let’s kick things off with a response from my old friend Jason Nadler, who wrote in reaction to DeFlip Side #171: Life’s First Handshake — where I told you about the discovery of complex molecules called chiral molecules in deep space, and how they might explain how life evolved on Earth.

To briefly recap, what makes the chiral molecules unique is that they form mirror image pairs — some of them left handed and some of them right handed — and their handedness could affect their properties.

Here’s what Jason had to say:

“I liked your piece. The fact that a molecule can be two different things based on its ‘handedness’ is fascinating.

The first experience most people ‘didn’t realize they had’ with the effects of chiral molecules was thalidomide. In its natural form, thalidomide is a sedative that helped calm morning sickness. When created synthetically, the result is a 50-50 mix of left- and right-handed molecules. One worked as a sedative, the other caused horrible birth defects.

When the news hit that thalidomide was being released again a few years ago, people were flipping out (that’s when I learned about this) because the manufacturer tried to explain that when it was first manufactured no one understood chirality — resulting in the problem.

I’ve read that aspartame is another chiral molecule that tastes either sweet or bitter depending upon chirality.”

Do I hang out with smart people or what? I honestly hadn’t ever heard of chiral molecules until the interstellar discovery back in June. It’s amazing to learn about them in this broader context.

Keep those responses coming, Jason.

Okay. I’m going deep for this next round of feedback.

About two years ago, I ran an article that I joyously called “The Death of Star Trek.” It was to mark the fifteenth anniversary of the series finale of Deep Space Nine, which — in my opinion — marked the demise of good Trek. All we had after that was crap like the poorly-written, continuity eschewing Voyager, and the booming mediocrity that defined most of Enterprise. I even noted some of the publicly-aired frustrations that veteran Trek writer Ronald D. Moore expressed over the haphazard writing at Voyager.

And on the cinematic side, I was still smarting at the then recently-released disaster that was Star Trek Into Darkness.

Is there any wonder I was in mourning? Here’s how I finished that article:

“I’d say the future of the franchise looks bleak, but that would imply that I think it has any future at all. Good, new Star Trek might certainly be possible, but seems highly unlikely.

But maybe that’s for the best. If the long decline of Star Trek has taught me anything, it’s how to let go. I once readily wore the hurt and indignity of the scorned fan on my sleeve, lashing out in anger at the jerks who were destroying my beloved life-long obsession.

But there’s no reason to let the current sorry state of Trek sour the legacy of the groundbreaking and genuinely terrific work that came before.

I will instead mark the death of Star Trek with the dignity it deserves, remembering the good times and accepting that they will probably never come again.”

Unsurprisingly, these sentiments made for a busy comments session.

The first post came from a reader named Brian, who wrote:

“I’m sorry but there are those of us that can’t let go as easily as you can. If we had there would have been no DS9. If it weren’t for fan-based organizations like S.T.A.R. (Star Trek Association for Revival), Star Trek would have never come back from the grave and Star Trek conventions would never have started up. So likely no Comicons, either. Without them I’m not even sure there would be a Big Bang Theory on television since it is so Trekcentric. For those of you reading this that would like to see a Star Trek based television program back on the air, support your local SciFi clubs and SciFi conventions. They did it before and with your support maybe they can do it again.
–Ever hopeful, Brian”

But Marina T’Mar Bailey had a different take. She wrote:

“That’s tellin’ ’em. Voyager was crap. Enterprise had potential but the writers seemed to refuse to complete storylines that arose out of the chemistry between characters just because they didn’t like it. DS9 is the best of the new shows. Benji (Sisko) *rules*, man!!”

You’re speaking my language, Marina! But perhaps the most telling response came from Mark O’Connell — an actual DS9 writer. He wrote:

“As a freelancer who was lucky enough to have written story and/or script for four DS9 episodes, I agree completely with the sentiments of the author (that’s me), and of Ron Moore. I tried to pitch stories to Voyager and it was just impossible; Paramount was focus grouping the show to death and the producers could never make up their minds what kind of stories they wanted to tell — or would be allowed to tell. Poor Jeri Taylor, whom I have always admired, seemed to be always twisted in a million different directions… and was always apologizing to me for how ridiculous things were. It was not a good scene.”

Hmmm. Straight from the horse’s mouth — or the writer’s pen, anyway. Jeri Taylor, by the way, was a veteran Trek producer, who worked on more than 100 episodes of Next Gen before winding up her career with the entire series run of Voyager.

So why do I dredge up these old comments, from an article two years gone that I never even presented on the air?

Well, first of all they’re really good and worth sharing. But they also seemed to take on new relevance after it was announced that Trek is returning to television next year in the new series Star Trek: Discovery. And since I’ll be devoting next month’s show to Trek’s 50th anniversary — and my feelings on the current state of the franchise — I thought this history would give that show some greater depth.

But that’s a discussion for next month.

For now I’d like to wrap up with a final bit of feedback that arrived by an unusual route.

As many of you know, in addition to DeFlip Side, I also co-host a podcast about the Stephen King novel 11/22/63 and its Hulu TV series adaptation starring James Franco.

Well, one of my regular podcast listeners, Tom Walton from Delaware, Ohio, decided to visit my website and give DeFlip Side a try. He wrote:

“I have spent most of my day at work and my drive in this morning listening to DeFlip Side. I was completely blown away. Going back to my childhood, learning about things I didn’t know about, which you make extremely interesting — planetary probes, moon walks, government cover ups, movies, this, that, and the other — all more entertaining than I could have imagined. The first thing I did notice was how short they are. I guess I wasn’t expecting that out of you after 11.22.63. When the first one ended, I thought there was a problem with the stream. Now I know better, even though I would love for some of the topics to go much longer. Either way, I look forward to listening to more in the days to come.”

A quick explanation: our 11.22.63 podcast episodes often go on for three or four hours. Hence Tom’s surprise about the brevity of my DeFlip Side segments.

But I’m glad that you like what you’re hearing Tom, and I’m humbled by your kind words.

And on that high note, the DeFlip Side mail bag is now empty. Thanks to each and every one of you who took the time to write in. It’s always gratifying to know that I’m not doing this in a vacuum, and that people out there are indeed listening and reading.

As I’ve said before, the only thing that makes me happier than writing DeFlip Side is when you, my listeners, send enough material to write it for me. So click on, and please keep those responses coming!