Monday, February 25, 2013
"REMEMBERING VIRGILIA HAZARD"
My recent viewing of my "NORTH AND SOUTH Trilogy" DVD set, led me to the "Special Feaures" section that featured a behind-the-scene look at the television miniseries trilogy. In it, Patrick Swayze (Orry Main), James Read (George Hazard), Lesley Anne-Down (Madeline Fabray) producer David Wolper and the trilogy's author, John Jakes discussed both the literary and television versions of the saga.I found their recollections of the trilogy's production very interesting and entertaining. What I found surprising were the actors' admissions that they found abolitionist Virgilia Hazard to be their favorite character. Even more surprising was my discovery that John Jakes shared similiar feelings.
In the saga, Virgilia Hazard (Kirstie Alley) was the only daughter of iron manufacturer William Hazard (John Anderson) and his wife, Maude (Inga Swenson) in Pennsylvania. She had three brothers - the eldest sibling Stanley (Jonathan Frakes), the youngest Billy (John Stockwell/Parker Stevenson) and middle brother George. Unlike most of her family, Virgilia became a firm devotee of causes for women's rights, civil rights for free Northern blacks and especially the abolitionist cause in mid-19th century United States. In fact, one could honestly say that Virgilia's devotion to abolition drifted into fanaticism.
Virgilia ended up being one of the most complex characters that author Jakes had ever created. On one hand, her fanaticism, tactless behavior, self-righteousness and bigotry toward all Southern-born whites made her a very unpleasant person. Just how unpleasant could Virgilia be? She had a tendency to air her beliefs to anyone within hearing range, regardless of whether they wanted to listen to her or not. She became so blind and bigoted in her self-righteousness toward Southern whites - especially those of the planter-class that she failed to notice that despite her brother George's close friendship with the son of a South Carolina planter, Orry Main, he had also become a devoted abolitionist and civil rights advocate by the eve of the Civil War. If she had been willing to open herself more to the Mains, she would have discovered another potential abolitionist in their midst - namely Orry's younger Cousin Charles (Lewis Smith).
Her tactless behavior nearly cost George's friendship with Orry, when she helped Grady (Georg Sanford Brown), the slave of the Mains' neighbor, James Huntoon (Jim Metzler), escape from slavery during the Hazards' visit to South Carolina. That same tactless behavior led her to take part in John Brown's 1859 raid on Harper's Ferry and expose herself needlessly to the local militia. And because of this, Grady - by that time, her husband - had rushed forward to save her and instead, ended up dead. One of Virgilia's worst acts - at least to me - was when she had tossed away her convictions and self-esteem to become Sam Greene's (David Odgen Stiers) mistress, following her confrontation with a hospital administrator (Olivia DeHavilland) over a Confederate officer's death. All over a matter of survival. She had no problem with confronting her family and neighbors' scorn over her devotion to abolition. She had no problem with confronting the Mains in her complicity to help Grady escape. But when she faced a murder investigation, she threw her self-esteem to wind and lowered herself to the level of a prostitue to stay out of prison.
But for all of her faults, Virgilia also possessed a great deal of virtues. Why else would the likes of Swayze and Read declare that she was their favorite character? One cannot help but admire her resilient devotion to the abolitionist cause, which was not very popular with most of her family and fellow Northerners. She was open-minded enough to look past Grady's skin color and view him as an attractive man, worthy for her hand in marriage. Many, including most of the Hazards, had excused her marriage to Grady as a political statement. One member of the Hazard family knew the truth - George's Irish-born wife, Constance Flynn Hazard (Wendy Kilbourne). She knew that Virgilia genuinely loved Grady.
And while many "NORTH AND SOUTH" fans may have abhorred Virgilia's habit of speaking her mind, I cannot help but admired it. If I must be honest, I really enjoyed Virgilia's habit of confronting her family and the Main family about slavery and reminding them of the institution's horrors. I feel that it took a lot of guts on her part and I admired her for this. Virgilia's practice of "telling it like it is" seemed very apparent in three scenes:
*Philadelphia Abolitionist Meeting - in which she gave a speech about the practices of slave breeding on Southern plantations. Despite Orry's outraged reaction to her speech, it turns out that Virgilia had spoken the truth. Due to the United States' official banning of the Atlantic Slave Trade in 1808, many Southern planters were forced to resort to the deliberate breeding of their female slaves to either maintain the number of slaves in the South or to make a fortune in selling such slaves when the value of their land depleted.
*Opposition to the Mexican-American War - during Orry's first meeting with the Hazard family, Virgilia made her disgust and opposition to the United States' threat to wage war against Mexico very clear, claiming that many of the war's supporters saw it as an opportunity to conquer Mexican territory and use it for the expansion of slavery. I hate to say this, but slavery's expansion had been a strong reason for those who supported the idea of war.
*Confrontation Over Grady's Escape - this is without a doubt, my favorite scene in which Virgilia confronted her family and the Mains over her disgust with slavery. Hell, I had practically cheered the woman as she made it clear that not only the South, but the entire country would eventually pay a price for its complicity in the institution of slavery. And she had been right.
It took a brave woman to willingly pursue a cause that many found unpopular . . . and make her convictions to others, quite clear. Hell, I think that she had more balls than all of the men in her family. Even more so, she did not hide her beliefs and convictions behind a personable veneer in order to soothe the sociabilities of her family and their friends. I had discovered that both Lesley Anne Down (Madeline Fabray) and David Carridine (Justin LaMotte) had both received Golden Globe nominations for their performances in the first miniseries. Frankly, I find this appalling for I believe that Kirstie had deserved a nomination, as well. Probably even more so, considering that she had a more difficult role. I wonder if both Swayze and Read had felt the same.
Friday, February 22, 2013
Below is a gallery of photos and publicity stills from the 1939 Academy Award winning adaptation of Margaret Mitchell's 1936 novel, "GONE WITH THE WIND". The movie was produced by David O. Selznick and directed by Victor Fleming:
"GONE WITH THE WIND" (1939) Photo Gallery
Tuesday, February 19, 2013
"MANGAL PANDEY: THE RISING" (2005) Review
I have read several novels about the historic event known as the Sepoy Rebellion of 1857-1858 (aka The Indian Mutiny, or aka the First War of Indian Independence). And the main characters in each novel have been British. I have not seen one movie about the event. And after seeing 2005’s ”MANGAL PANDEY: THE RISING”, I still have not seen one movie about the Sepoy Rebellion. But this is the first movie I have seen that touches upon the subject.
Actually, ”MANGAL PANDEY: THE RISING” is really a prelude to the Sepoy Rebellion itself. Directed by Farrukh Dhondy, it is based upon the life of Mandey Pandey, an Indian sepoy (soldier) of the British East India Company, who served as the catalyst for the 1857-58 rebellion. The movie began with Pandey facing execution for violently protesting against the use of new rifles issued by the East India Company. Pandey, along with his fellow soldiers believe that the rifles’ cartridges have been greased by animal fat – beef, pork or both. Since many Hindus and Muslims view this as an abhorrent, they consider the cartridges an insult to their religious beliefs. Pandey’s conflict with the Company (East India Company) rule also manifests in a few violent clashes with an aggressive and bigoted British officer named Hewson. In the end, not even Pandey’s friendship with his company’s sympathetic commander, Captain William Gordon, can save him from being convicted and executed by the regimental commander. His execution eventually inspired other sepoys to view him as a martyr and continue the major revolt against British rule he has instigated.
I have been aware of ”MANGAL PANDEY: THE RISING” for nearly two years – ever since I read about it on the Wikipedia site. But I never thought I would get a chance to view it, until I discovered that Netflix offered the movie for rent. And if I have to be perfectly honest, it is a pretty damn good film. However, it is not perfect. I suspect that it is not historically accurate. This does not bother me, considering that most historical dramas are not completely accurate. However, I have one minor and one major complaint about the movie. My minor complaint centered on the occasionally melodramatic dialogue of the British characters. Aside from Toby Stephens, who portrayed William Gordon and Coral Beed, who portrayed the daughter of the regimental commander, Emily Kent; I was not that impressed by the British cast. I found them rather hammy at times. However, I had a real problem with the occasional musical numbers that interrupted the story’s flow. The last thing I wanted to see in a costumed epic about a historical figure are three to five minute musical numbers. They seemed out of place in such a film.
But if I have to be honest, there was one musical number that did not interrupt the story’s flow. It featured a dance number in which a group of courtesans – led by a woman named Heera. Heera’s performance attracted the drunken attention of Pandey’s main foe, Lieutenant Hewson. And Pandey found himself in a fight against the British officer to prevent the latter from pawing and sexually assaulting Heera. But that was simply one of many interesting dramatic scenes featured in ”MANGAL PANDEY: THE RISING”. Another featured a tense moment in which Pandey attempts to help Gordon convincing the other sepoys that the cartridges used in the new rifles are not greased with animal fat, by loading the rifle. However, this action backfires when Pandey eventually becomes convinced that he had been wrong. But the cartridges and Pandey’s reaction to them turn out to be the tip of the iceberg in the conflict between the growing resentment of the sepoy and the British rulers.
Although most of the movie centered on the dark aspects of the British Empire, it did touch upon one aspect of Indian culture with a negative note – namely the funeral practice of sati. Pandey and Gordon had saved a young Indian widow from the sati funeral pyre and Gordon spent the rest of the film saving her from being killed by her in-laws. However, the movie is about Mangal Pandey and the negative aspects of British imperial rule by 1850s India. The movie featured the corruption generated by the East India Company’s production of opium in India and its trade in China. The movie also featured the continuation of the slave trade in which Indian women are used as sexual slaves for the Company’s officer corp. This introduced one the movie’s major characters, the courtesan named Heera, who bluntly expressed her view on the Indian male population who willingly sign up to serve the East India Company’s army. When Pandey expressed his contempt toward women like her for selling their bodies, she responded with equal contempt at all of those who ”sold their souls” to the East India Company. All of the resentment over British rule and the distrust regarding the new Enfield rifles and the greased cartridges finally spilled over in an ugly encounter between Pandey and Lieutenant Hewson. Their second encounter became even uglier when Hewson and a group of fellow officers pay Pandey a visit at the regiment’s jail to brutally assault the imprisoned sepoy even further. Violence finally spilled over when Pandey convinced the other sepoys to mutiny. And after he is executed, the mutiny at the Barrackpore will inspire other sepoys throughout many parts of India to rebel against British rule.
I was not exaggerating when I say that most of the performances by the British cast members came off as over-the-top. A prime example was Ben Nealon’s portrayal of Pandey’s main nemesis, Lieutenant Hewson. One could say that Nealon was at a disadvantage from the start. His character was just as one-dimensional as many non-white characters that could be found in old Hollywood movies with a similar setting. However, Coral Beed, who portrayed Emily, the daughter of the Barrackpore commander, fared better. In a way, Emily came off as another cliché from the British Imperial literature of the 20th century – the young, open-minded English girl who is not only sympathetic to the Indians, but also interested in their culture. But Beed managed to portray this cliché without coming off as a second-rate version of the Daphne Manners character from 1984 miniseries, ”THE JEWEL IN THE CROWN”. Fortunately, most of the Indian cast did not engage in hammy acting. However, there was one exception – the actor who portrayed the “Untouchable” sweeper who mocked Pandey for demonstrating the new Enfield rifle. I do not know his name, but gave the hammiest performance in the entire movie. I felt as if I was watching an Indian version of a court jester perform. Perhaps that was director Dhondy’s intent. If it was, it did not work for me. However, I found myself very impressed by Rani Mukherjee’s performance as Pandey’s love interest, the courtesan Heera. Mind you, I found the idea of a devout Hindu like Pandey becoming romantically involved in a prostitute – especially one used to service British officers hard to believe. But I must admit that Mukherjee and actor Aamir Khan (who portrayed Pandey) had a strong screen chemistry. And the actress did give a very charismatic performance.
Finally we come to the movie’s two lead actors – Aamir Khan and Toby Stephens. And both actors gave superb performances. Aamir Khan is considered one of India’s biggest stars. He is at times compared to George Clooney. Well, he deserves the comparison. Not only is he a handsome man, but he also possesses a dynamic screen presence and is a first-rate actor. And he did an excellent job of developing Mangal Pandey’s character from the loyal sepoy who seemed to be satisfied with his life, to the embittered rebel whose actions instigated a major uprising. Khan conveyed this development with great skill and very expressive eyes. Toby Stephens was equally impressive as the British East India officer, Captain William Gordon. One might find his character a little hard to digest, considering that he is portrayed as being very sympathetic to the Indian populace and their culture (save for the sati ritual) with hardly any personal flaws. Fortunately, Stephens is skillful enough as an actor to rise above such one-dimensional characterization and portray Gordon as an emotionally well-rounded individual.
"MANGAL PANDEY: THE RISING" is not perfect. It has its flaws, which include some hammy acting and questionable historic accuracy. But its virtues – an interesting and in-depth study of a man who made such an impact upon both Indian and British history; superb acting - especially by the two leads Aamir Khan and Toby Stephens; and a rich production made it a movie worth watching. It is rare for a Westerner to view or read a story relating to the Sepoy Rebellion from the Indian point-of-view. I am aware that other movies, novels and history books have focused on the topic from a non-British POV. But "MANGAL PANDEY: THE RISING" was my first experience with this point-of-view and I believe that director Ketan Mehta and screenwriter Farrukh Dhondy did a pretty solid job.
Sunday, February 17, 2013
Here is some information and an old recipe for a dessert dish known as the Charlotte:
I first heard about the Charlotte or one of its variations in the 1992 movie, "HOWARD'S END". One of the supporting characters seemed to have a real enthusiasm for the dessert being served to him by his family's maid. I have never forgotten that particular scene. And when I came across some information on the Charlotte, I found myself inspired to post an article about it.
The Charlotee is a type of dessert that can be served hot or cold and was believed to be created in the late 18th century. It can also be known as an 'ice-box cake'. Bread, sponge cake or biscuits/cookies are used to line a mould, which is then filled with a fruit puree or custard. It can also be made using layers of breadcrumbs. Classically, stale bread dipped in butter was used as the lining, but sponge cake or sponge fingers may be used today. The filling may be covered with a thin layer of similarly flavoured gelatin.
Many different varieties have developed. Most Charlottes are served cool, so they are more common in warmer seasons. Fruit Charlottes usually combine a fruit puree or preserve with a custard filling or whipped cream. Some flavors include strawberry, raspberry, apple, pear, and banana. Other types do not include fruit but use a custard or bavarian cream. A citrus curd is a more contemporary choice.
There is a lot of doubt surrounding the origins of the name charlotte. Despite the fact that Charlottes are served across Europe, one etymology suggests it is a corruption of the Old English word charlyt meaning "a dish of custard." Meat dishes that were known as charlets were popular in the 15th century. Some claim that the charlotte had its origin in the dessert, Charlotte Russe, which was invented by the French chef Marie Antoine Carême (1784-1833). Apparently, he named it in honor of Charlotte of Prussia, the sister of his Russian employer Czar Alexander I (russe being the French word for "Russian"). Other historians say that this sweet dish originated with the Apple Charlotte, which took its name from Queen Charlotte (1744-1818), wife of George III - patron of apple growers in Britain.
The various types of Charlotee desserts include:
*Charlotte Russe - a cake is which the mold is lined with sponge fingers (Ladyfingers) and filled with a custard. It is served cold with whipped cream.
*Apple Charlotte - a golden-crusted dessert made by baking a thick apple compote in a mold lined with buttered bread. This dessert was originally created as a way to use leftover or stale bread.
*Chocolate Charlotte - a cake that uses chocolate mousse within its layers
*Charlotte Malakoff - a cake with a lining of ladyfingers and a center filling of a soufflé mixture of cream, butter, sugar, a liqueur, chopped almonds, and whipped cream. It is decorated with strawberries.
*Cold charlottes - made in a ladyfinger-lined mold and filled with a Bavarian cream. For frozen charlottes, a frozen soufflé or mousse replaces the Bavarian cream.
Here is an old American recipe for Apple Charlotte:
"Cut as many very thin slices of white bread as will cover the bottom and line the sides of a baking dish, but first rub it thick with butter. Put apples, in thin slices, into the dish, in layers, till full, stewing sugar between and bits of butter. In the mean time, soak as many thin slices of bread as will cover the whole, in warm milk, over which lay a plate, and a weight to keep the bread close on the apples. Bake slowly three hours. To a middling-sized dish use a half pound of butter in the whole." - "A New System of Domestic Cookery, Formed Upon Principles of Economy, and Adapted to the Use of Private Families" by Maria Rundell, 1807
Here is a more modern recipe for the same dish:
1 tablespoon butter 1 (1 pound) loaf white bread, crusts trimmed 8 apples - peeled, cored and chopped 1/3 cup white sugar 1/2 tablespoon ground cinnamon 1 tablespoon lemon juice 2 tablespoons butter, cubed nonstick cooking spray.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C). Grease a 9x5 inch bread pan with 1 tablespoon butter. Press bread slices onto the bottom and sides of pan, making sure there are no gaps.
In a large bowl, combine apples, sugar, cinnamon, lemon juice and 2 tablespoons cubed butter. Place apple mixture in bread lined pan. Cover top with bread slices, and coat with nonstick cooking spray. Cover with aluminum foil.
Bake in preheated oven for 35 to 40 minutes. Allow to cool for 15 minutes in pan, then invert onto serving dish. -allrecipes.com
Wednesday, February 13, 2013
Below are images from "THE WAY WE LIVE NOW", the 2001 television adaptation of Anthony Trollope's 1875 novel. Directed by David Yates, the four-part miniseries starred David Suchet, Shirley Henderson, Cillian Murphy and Matthew Macfadyen:
"THE WAY WE LIVE NOW" (2001) Photo Gallery
Sunday, February 10, 2013
"TOWARDS ZERO" (2007) Review
When it comes to the television adaptations of Agatha Christie’s Jane Marple novels, I tend to stick with those that featured the late Joan Hickson as the elderly sleuth. However, my curiosity got the best of me and I decided to watch a movie that starred Geraldine McEwan as Miss Jane Marple. And this movie is the 2007 adaptation of Christie’s 1944 novel called "Towards Zero".
The adaptation of Christie’s novel has drawn a good deal of criticism from purists. First of all, the novel is not a Jane Marple mystery. Instead, the main investigator in "Towards Zero" turned out to be Superintendant Battle, who had been featured in a few other Christie novels, including one Hercule Poirot tale - ”Cards on the Table”. However, Battle did not appear in the 2007 adaptation. Jane Marple replaced him as the story’s main detective, with the police represented by Alan Davies as one Superintendant Mallard. Since ”Towards Zero” has always been one of my favorite Christie novels, I decided to give the movie a chance.
In ”TOWARDS ZERO”, Jane Marple is invited to a house party hosted by an old school friend named Lady Camilla Tressilian. Also included in the party are the following:
*Neville Strange – Professional tennis star and Lady Tressilian’s ward
*Kay Strange – Neville’s younger second wife
*Audrey Strange - Neville’s reserved ex-wife
*Thomas Royce – Owner of a Malaysian plantation and Audrey’s distant cousin
*Mary Aldin – Lady Tressilian’s companion
*Ted Latimer – Kay’s childhood friend
*Mr. Treves- Lady Tressilian’s friend and solicitor
The house party turned out to be a tense affair, due to emotions running rampant between the characters. Neville discovered that he was still in love with his first wife, Audrey. She seemed to harbor emotions for him, despite her reserved behavior. Thomas seemed jealous of Neville, due to his love for Audrey. Mary seemed attracted to Thomas and a little envious of Audrey. Kay was obviously jealous of Audrey. And Ted was also jealous of Neville, due to his love for Kay.
During a supper party, Mr. Treves recalled an old murder case in which a child had made deliberate preparations to kill another and make it look like an accident. That child, according to Mr. Treves, had a peculiar physical trait. All of the suspects possessed a peculiar physical trait. And following the supper party, Mr. Treves died from a heart attack after climbing some stairs that lead to his hotel room. Someone had placed a NOT IN SERVICE sign in front of his hotel’s elevator. Another day or two later, this same person brutally murdered old Lady Tressilian with a blow to the head.
As I had earlier stated, the 1944 novel has always been a favorite of mine. Christie had crafted a complex and original mystery filled with characters of great psychological depth. By inserting another Christie creation – Jane Marple – as the story’s main investigator, I feared that this 2007 adaptation would prove to be a bust. Imagine my surprise when my fears proved to be groundless. Thanks to director David Grindley and screenwriter Kevin Elyot, I found myself surprisingly satisfied with this movie. Despite a few changes – namely the post-World War II setting, Jane Marple as the story’s main detective, the deletion of a character named Andrew MacWhirter, the addition of another character named Diana, the new police officer in charge of the case – Superintendant Mallard, and the budding romance in the story’s conclusion that did not happen in the novel. Perhaps that is why I had enjoyed it so much. Both Grindley and Elyot recognized the novel’s first-rate plot and tried to follow it as closely as possible.
The production values for ”TOWARDS ZERO” impressed me as well. Production designer Michael Pickwoad did an excellent job in re-creating Britain of the early-to-mid 1950s. And he was ably supported by Sue Gibson’s beautiful photography, which struck me as rich in color and sharp. Sheena Napier’s costumes not only captured the era perfectly, but also the personality of each character. I do have one quibble – namely Saffron Burrows’ hairstyle. I am aware that some women wore their hair slightly long past the shoulders. But I got the impression that the hairdresser could not decide whether to give Burrows a 1950s hairstyle or a modern one. Her hair struck me as a confusing mixture of the mid 20th century and the early 21st century.
The cast turned out better than I had expected. If I must be honest, I could not spot a bad performance amongst the entire cast . . . even from Julian Sands, whom I have never been that impressed by in the past. But there were a handful that really impressed me. One came from Saffron Burrows, who gave one of the most enigmatic and intense performances I have ever encountered in a Christie film. I could never tell whether her character was guilty of the two murders or not. And Burrows did a superb job in conveying this ambiguity of the Audrey Strange character with very little dialogue. I was also impressed by Zoe Tapper’s portrayal of the more extroverted Kay Strange. Tapper could have easily given an over-the-top performance, considering the type of character she had portrayed. But the actress conveyed Kay’s passionate nature without turning the character into a one-note scream fest. I also enjoyed Alan Davies as Superintendant Mallard, the new police investigator in this mystery. I not only enjoyed his wit, but also his transformation from his contempt toward Jane Marple’s investigative skills to a full partnership with the elderly amateur sleuth. And Eileen Atkins provided a great deal of comic relief as the second victim, Lady Camilla Tressilian. Not only did she provide much of the story’s sharp humor, Atkins also captured the character’s bombastic and arrogant nature. Her Lady Tressilian struck me as a modern day Lady Catherine de Bourgh, but with a stronger moral center.
But I believe the two best performances came from Greg Wise and Geraldine McEwan as Jane Marple. I found myself completely surprised by Wise’s impressive portrayal of the tennis pro with the two wives, Neville Strange. His performance perfectly portrayed Neville as the complex force of nature that had a major impact upon the other characters in”TOWARDS ZERO”, without indulging in any hammy acting. But I was more than impressed by Geraldine McEwan’s portrayal of Jane Marple. I had seen McEwan’s portrayal of Miss Marple in ”THE SITFORD MYSTERY”, and found her performance ridiculously mannered and annoying. No such exaggerated mannerisms marred McEwan’s performance in”TOWARDS ZERO”. The actress gave a subtle performance laced with subtle humor and her character’s intelligence. One of McEwan’s best moments featured very little dialogue on her part in a scene between Miss Marple and the verbose Lady Tressilian, inside the latter’s bedroom.
Most Agatha Christie purists might automatically dismiss this adaptation of ”TOWARDS ZERO”. Especially since the script changed the main investigator from the literary Superintendant Battle to a cinematic Jane Marple. But despite this major change, along with another that included a romance that emerged in the film’s final scene; David Grindley’s direction and Kevin Elyot’s script remained surprisingly faithful to Agatha Christie’s novel. Normally, I would care less about changes in an adaptation of a novel. But in the case of ”TOWARDS ZERO”, this close adherence ended up working in the movie’s favor.
Thursday, February 7, 2013
CODE: Paris, Torres, P/f, and (P/T)
RATING: [R] For scenes of a sexual nature and adult language.
SUMMARY: A curious B'Elanna Torres stumbles upon an illicit love affair that involves Voyager's Chief Helmsman. Set during mid-Season 1. A bit dark and angsty.
FEEDBACK: Be my guest. But please, be kind.
DISCLAIMER: Tom, B'Elanna and all other characters related to Star Trek Voyager belong to Paramount, Viacom and the usual Trek Powers to Be.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: A lot of fan fiction have portrayed Tom's womanizing as something not to be taken seriously. More reputation than fact. In this story, the rumors of his rampant womanizing prove to be true.
ANOTHER NOTE: Although TPTB never gave Hogan a first name, I decided to name him Simon - after the actor who portrayed him in the series, Simon Billig.
An eager Tom Paris strolled along Deck Nine's corridor, mindful of the curious stares from passing crewmen. He was on his way to the quarters of one Ensign Telac Mara, a delectable Bajoran officer who worked in Exobiology. Tom planned to spend several hours in her quarters, entertaining her the best way he knew how - food, talk and plenty of sex. If he was lucky. His anticipation must show on his face. How else could he explain the smirks and expressions of disgust on the others' faces.
Nearly two months had passed since Voyager found itself catapulted into the Delta Quadrant. Nine weeks since Captain Kathryn Janeway gave a former Starfleet brat, turned convict a second chance to make something of his life. And although Tom felt obliged to show his gratitude by becoming an exemplary officer, he realized that he also had a private life to maintain. For Thomas Eugene Paris, that meant the pursuit of the opposite sex.
As Tom round a corner, he nearly collided with two members of the Engineering staff - Joe Carey and Simon Hogan. Starfleet and Maquis. It seemed that Captain Janeway's desire to assimilate the two factions into one crew might come into fruition after all. Tom flashed a smile at the two men. "Hey Joe! Simon! What are you two doing here?"
Carey, forever the proper Starfleeter, gave Tom a muted smile. "Paris. We're here on business. Why?"
"Yeah, why?" Hogan added sneeringly. "What business is it of yours?" Being Maquis, Simon Hogan was less subtle in expressing his dislike of the Chief Conn Officer. "You plan to run back to Janeway and send a report?"
Tom took a deep breath and mentally began to count to ten. "Look, Hogan, I was merely curious, that's all. Especially since neither of you have quarters on this deck."
Suspicion glimmered in the former Maquis's eyes. "How do you know that?"
For a long moment, the former colleagues stared at each other. Tom eventually realized that Hogan's suspicions were ridiculous. "For crying out . . . Never mind!" He shook his head in disgust and continued along the corridor, ignoring the other man's dark mumblings.
Pushing the encounter with the two engineers to the back of his mind, Tom continued to scan the cabin numbers for Mara's quarters. Nine-f, nine-g, nine-h, nine . . . A slender hand shot out of an opened doorway and grabbed Tom's wrist. "What the hell?" he began. Then he found himself being dragged into an empty cabin before he could protest any further. That same hand, along with another, slammed him against the wall. Tom stared into a pair of familiar eyes. "What the hell are you doing?" he demanded in an annoyed voice.
She purred, "I saw you talking with Hogan and Carey in the corridor. And I thought I would surprise you." She pressed her body against Tom's. "You know, renew old times." A pink tongue darted from her mouth and flickered across the edge of Tom's jaw.
"I'm not interested in renewing old times," Tom retorted. His mind desperately tried to ignore the wet tongue on his jaw. "And I have plans to spend my evening with someone else. Someone I actually like."
"You mean Telac Mara?" She sniffed. "I thought you had better taste than that." Her tongue reached the edge of his mouth and began to make circular motions. Tom managed to hold back a groan through sheer effort.
Breathlessly, the pilot responded, "Look, why don't you go seduce someone else? I'm not in the mood and we barely like each other. We never have."
"That didn't stop you from spending a little time with me, before." Her tongue flickered back and forth across Tom's upper lip.
"I was drunk, . . . oh God . . . desperate for sex and didn't know any better." Tom paused to control his breathing. "Besides, you're only doing this . . . because your old lover . . . is no longer interested in you."
The tongue disappeared from Tom's mouth. Much to his surprise - and disappointment. Eyes slitted dangerously. "Did anyone ever tell you that you have a big mouth, Paris?"
"A lot of people," he replied in a weary voice. "Including you."
She unzipped her Starfleet-issued jacket and removed it. "Well, maybe you should . . ." A gray turtleneck blouse followed, along with an undershirt of the same color. ". . . use your mouth for something more substantial." In a swift motion, she removed her bra. "Like these."
Tom's eyes riveted upon a pair of pale, round breasts. "Huh," he grunted. His mouth grew dry. "I must say. The offer is tempting."
One of her eyebrows formed an arch. "Tempting?" She smiled, took Tom's hands and placed them on her breasts. "As I recall, you were never been able to resist them." Her breath fanned his cheeks.
'Goddamit!' Tom thought. He hated this. She never failed to get him into this state. Breathless. And hard. In an attempt to resist her, he immediately withdrew his hands.
"And if my memory serves me right," she continued, "you really enjoyed this." Before Tom knew what happened, he felt her slender hands unfasten his trousers. "Let's see." She slipped one hand inside and firmly grasped the flesh between his legs. "Ah yes!" His member immediately swelled from her touch. "Now I remember."
Tom gasped out loud. She pulled and stroked every inch of his flesh, while she pressed her body against his, and her tongue continued to form wet traces near the edge of his mouth. Any resistance that may have lingered within him, immediately shattered. "The hell with this!" Tom grabbed her shoulders and shoved her against the wall. "You want to relive old times, huh?" he growled in a husky voice. "Okay, I'll show you old times!" He covered one plump breast with his mouth and began to suckle upon the hardened tip. She threw her head back, and emitted a deep, low moan, as the couple began to relive old times.
* * * *
Inside the Chief Engineer's quarters, B'Elanna Torres began to remove the last vestiges of her uniform. She would have moved a lot faster, but her aching body made it impossible.
B'Elanna and her Engineering staff had just spent the entire day trying to reconfigure the Warp Plasma conduit, which had suddenly drained at least 35% of the ship's energy source. The latter had been an ongoing problem for Voyager ever since its encounter with that event horizon, nearly a month ago. Just before B'Elanna had been given the position of Chief Engineer.
Some of the ship's energy source managed to be preserved, thanks to Neelix's conversion of the Captain's dining room into a galley. And the use of the replicator had been rationed, using credit chips. Yet, despite all of these precautions, Voyager's energy drain continued. If the crew did not find any dilithium soon, the ship might end up dead in space. Or Janeway might be forced to consider colonization.
To find a solution to Voyager's problem, B'Elanna had gathered her top engineers for a brainstorming session in her quarters. After three hours or so, they managed to come up with a minor solution. Use the impulse engines, unless the situation made it necessary for Voyager to go to warp. Carey had also suggested sending both the holodecks and replicators off-line, as well.
After so many hours of working on the warp conduits, crawling through Jeffries tubes and meetings, B'Elanna felt exhausted. In fact, she had to struggle into her red pajamas. Once her head rested on her pillow, her eyes closed and B'Elanna slipped into a deep sleep.
* * * *
The noise roused B'Elanna out of her sleep. Her eyes blinked open. CRASH! What the . . .? A loud moan followed. The noise made B'Elanna spring into a sitting position. She glanced at the chronometer on the table, next to her bed. It read 22:07 hours. Kahless! She had only been asleep for twelve minutes! Who in the hell was making so much noise?
"Wha . . . Oh gods!" a male voice cried out. One that struck a familiar chord. "God! Don't . . . don't stop!"
More thumps followed. It seemed as if someone was banging his or her fist on the wall. Another crash. A few more thumps and then, a long, loud groan. One that came, B'Elanna surmised, from a female. "Oh . . . oh! Don't stop!" the woman continued. "Don't . . . ye-ee-ess-ss! Yes!"
The woman's cries mingled with more thumps. B'Elanna found herself growing uncomfortably aroused. She had witnessed her share of erotic vids in her time, but never had she been this close to the action. Aside from a few sexual encounters of her own. Then it came. One final cry that emitted from both parties. "Yes! Yes! Ooooh! Spirits! Ye-ee-esss-ss!"
Silence followed. To B'Elanna's embarrassment, she felt a warm rush between her legs. She pressed them together and sighed. Well, she no longer felt exhausted. Just tense and aroused. Which meant that she definitely will have trouble sleeping tonight.
* * * *
Barely able to keep her eyes opened, B'Elanna reached for her cup of coffee. And grabbed only air, instead. She muttered a curse under her breath.
"Here you go." Someone placed the cup in her hand. B'Elanna recognized his voice. Harry. "Hey Maquis, you really look tired. Rough night?" Sympathy shone in his black eyes, as he sat in the chair opposite her.
B'Elanna heaved a long, dry sigh. "Rough day, period. Between those damn warp plasma conduits, meetings with my staff and a loud neighbor, I've barely had a chance to sleep."
"A noisy neighbor?" Harry's face expressed interest. "And who might that be?"
"I haven't the foggiest idea."
Harry frowned. "After two months in the Delta Quadrant, you don't know your own neighbors?"
B'Elanna groaned and took a sip of coffee. "Look Starfleet, I'm not exactly the most sociable person. And I've been spending the last month trying to keep this ship together after our encounter with that event horizon."
"And the noisy neighbor?" Harry asked. "Has he or she been giving you trouble all this time?"
"Just last night. When it comes to sex, he or she is pretty damn noisy."
A red flush crept up Harry's face. "Oh. One of those."
B'Elanna stared at her friend's embarrassed expression and giggled. "Oh, Harry! If only you could see your face at this moment."
"I see it and think it looks quite delicious," a third voice added. It belonged to Seska, a Bajoran ex-Maquis, who worked under B'Elanna in Engineering. She and another former Maquis, stood next to the table, holding their trays. "Good morning, B'Elanna." She smiled at Harry. "Ensign Kim."
Poor Harry now looked even more embarrassed. He mumbled, "Morning, Ensign uh, Seska." His face, now resembling the color of a beet, Harry immediately began to dig into his food. Seska's smile stretched wider and she sat in an empty chair next to him.
The other ex-Maquis sat next to B'Elanna. Her name was Mariah Henley and the red-and-black uniform she wore indicated that she served in the Conn Division as a pilot. She glanced at the food in her tray and sighed. "How lovely," she commented in her usual sardonic manner, "another one of Neelix's 'delectable' meals." Her eyes shifted to Seska, who was busily eating. "How can you eat this stuff?"
"This 'stuff' is the only thing that keeps us on our feet," Seska retorted. "At least until the replicators return on-line. So I suggest you eat up." Henley mumbled an insult. But that did not stop her from following Seska's advice.
The four companions continued eating their breakfast - only raktijino and a roll for B'Elanna. They chatted about the ship's ongoing energy crisis, and the planet recently detected by the long-range sensors. The Mess Hall's doors slid open. B'Elanna glanced in that direction and frowned at the two newcomers - Ensign Telac and Lieutenant Paris.
Another sneer crept into Henley's expression. "Look who's here! Voyager's own little playboy with his latest bed warmer at his side." B'Elanna noticed that the pilot spoke with intense vehemence. She was well aware of Tom Paris's unpopularity aboard ship. The Starfleet faction condemned him for killing three other 'Fleet officers in a shuttle accident on Caldik Prime and lying about it. Voyager's former Maquis detested him for betraying their cause when he had agreed to help Janeway hunt them down in the Badlands. Only a handful of people genuinely liked Paris. B'Elanna did not count herself among the latter.
Harry quietly added, "That's Telac Mara with Tom. He's been dating her for over a week, now."
"I bet Megan Delaney must be thrilled." Henley's voice dripped with sarcasm. "I wonder when she found out about those two. Before or after Paris dumped her?"
Annoyance darkened Harry's countenance. "Don't you have anything better to do than complain about Tom? Why are you always so hard on him? What did he ever do to you?"
Henley's mouth formed a hard line. "Nothing," she hissed. "I'm in a bad mood. And I need someone to bitch about. Paris fits the bill."
"Bad mood? Sounds more like green-eye jealousy," Seska teased. "Are you jealous, Mariah?"
Three pairs of eyes riveted upon Henley. The pilot's face turned red with embarrassment. "What are you talking about, Seska? What do I have to be jealous about?" The ire in her voice, somehow, did not ring true.
"I don't know. Because Ensign Telac is enjoying breakfast with Tom Paris and you're not?" A spiteful smile curved Seska's lips. "I remember how you used to stare at him adoringly back in the Maquis. And how you were the only one to come to his defense. Until we all ended up in the Delta Quadrant."
B'Elanna stared at her former comrade in disbelief. "Kahless, Mariah! Don't tell me that you were once attracted to Tom Paris?"
"Of course not!" Henley retorted. "Seska's just exaggerating! Why would you believe such . . ." She broke off when the subject in question approached their table.
The Chief Helmsman flashed his usual megawatt smile, irking B'Elanna to no end. She disliked people who used such shallow methods to get by in life.
"Hey everyone!" Paris greeted, before turning to his best friend. "Say Harry, I need your help with those new navigation specs we had talked about. Will you be available later, today?"
Harry nodded. "Sure. How about this evening? Around 2100?"
A gust of breath escaped Paris's mouth. "A little too late for me. I have . . ." He glanced at Telac, who smiled at him. "I have other plans, tonight. How about 1730? After our shift ends?"
Harry glanced uneasily at B'Elanna. She knew the reason for his unease. They had planned to go over ideas regarding the warp conduits. "Sorry Tom. B'Elanna and I . . ."
"We have other plans after the Alpha shift," B'Elanna bluntly finished for her friend. "Make some other plans."
Cool blue eyes fixed upon B'Elanna's face. "Other plans, huh? Hmmm. Lucky Harry." A knowing smirk touched the pilot's lips.
It took all of B'Elanna's control not to wipe that smirk off Paris's face. Violently. Bridling with anger, she retorted, "It's not what you think, moron! Get your mind out of the gutter! If you can."
"Take it easy, Torres! I'm just kidding! Even Harry knows about my sense of humor. Right buddy?"
Harry nodded wearily. "Don't mind Tom, B'Elanna. He can't help it if he has a peculiar sense of humor." Tom chuckled at his joke.
"Well he better learn to curb it!" B'Elanna growled. "Before he uses it on the wrong person."
Paris rolled his eyes and looked away. B'Elanna, to her annoyance, realized he had just dismissed her. The pilot focused on his subordinate. "By the way, Henley. Don't forget that you'll be taking Culhane's place during Beta shift, tonight. I suggest you get some rest this afternoon."
Henley did not look pleased by the news. "Again?" she whined. "This is the second time I've had to cover for Culhane. Assign someone else!"
"You need the flight time!" Paris snapped back. "And the last time you had covered Culhane, happened a month ago."
"What if I don't bother to show up?"
Silence surrounded the table. B'Elanna, along with her companions, stared at Paris, wondering how he would deal with this challenge to his authority. To her reluctant admiration - the Chief Pilot handled it well. "It's quite simple," Paris continued with a cold smile. "I'll either have you assigned to Beta shift for the next three months. Or you can spend those same months in the brig. Take your choice." His eyes penetrated Henley's. Whose face grew even redder.
Paris turned to Harry with a more genuine smile. "Look Harry, we can get together over those specs another time. I'll see you later." And he returned to Ensign Telac.
Seska faced Henley, her eyes wide open with feign compassion. "Still have that crush on Paris, Mariah?"
The latter growled, "Shut up, Seska!" And she focused once more on her breakfast.
* * * *
Later that night, B'Elanna laid in bed, wide awake. Her eyes were fully alert, anticipating and dreading a repeat performance of last night's disturbances.
Five minutes passed. Only silence greeted B'Elanna's ears. Another fifteen minutes later, more silence. By the time ten more minutes went by, B'Elanna felt herself growing sleepy. She also realized that whatever she had witnessed last night, was not bound to occur again.
Secure that she would finally get some rest, the half-Klingon closed her eyes and fell into a deep sleep. She would have been happy to learn that no sexual activity of any kind occurred in the cabin next door.
End of PART ONE