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The Trek Nation - David E. Sluss

David E. Sluss

By Sebastian Lorenz
Posted at February 26, 2000 - 6:00 AM GMT

Welcome back to the Trek Nation Community Profile, a weekly (we'll see about that though ;) look at some of the prominent figures in the wonderful and weird world of online Trek. I'm Sebastian Lorenz and this time I'm going to interview David E. Sluss, known as the Cynic and for his wonderful reviews of episodes from Star Trek, the X-Files and Babylon 5. His reviews are different from others as he tries to get the worst out of each episode, with a huge sense of irony and cynism. Go and check out the Cynics Corner Interactive.

Sebastian: First of all, who are you? How old and from where?

David: I'm 30 years old, from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. In real life, I'm an instructor for a large computer training company.

Sebastian: Married?

David: Yes; sorry ladies!

Sebastian: You are writing your "Voyager" reviews on a weekly basis (if we leave out reruns and summer repeats). How much time does it take you to get the worst out of each episode? ;)

David: I watch each episode twice; usually the first time I just watch and occasionally take notes, while the second time i take fairly extensive notes that become the basis for my items of the week. When I sit down write a review, it takes, on average, two to three hours to complete. It's a lot easier now that DS9 is gone, especially since I have a lot less free time now than in past seasons.

Sebastian: Do you actually like "Voyager" and all the other shows you're reviewing?

David: Sometimes. I always felt that DS9 was worth watching, though it kind of came apart at the seams in its last two seasons, which was when I reviewed it. DS9 had its share of unwatchable dreck, but each season had shows ranging from decent to the occasionally brilliant. I almost feel that I watch Voyager out of a sense of inertia more than anything. Unfortunately, Voyager disappoints more often than not. Sad to say, I usually enjoy shredding the episodes more than watching them. The only other shows I've reviewed up to this point are a few episodes of "Babylon 5" and "The X-Files." I was never a hardcore B5 fan, though a number of episodes are outstanding. I used to enjoy "X- Files" quite a bit, but it hasn't been good in years. That's another show that I watch out of habit and for the occasional good episode. For what it's worth, my favorite show is not a show I review, nor is it SF: "Law & Order."

Sebastian: When did you get the idea about putting up your reviews? Tell us something about how everything evolved.

David: I started participating in Usenet newsgroups in early 1996 and commented on Star Trek rather frequently. After Voyager's "Scorpion, Part II" aired in September of 1997, I sat down to post some comments about the episode, and it took on the now-familiar "...OF THE WEEK" form. I called it a "Cynics Corner Review," and decided that I could probably craft such a post for every Star Trek episode. The responses to that first review were pretty encouraging, and so I continued. The Cynics Corner website came shortly thereafter, in October of 1997. Two or three significant upgrades later, I think I've got a respectable site, and I get a decent number of visitors, except during rerun seasons.

Sebastian: How many people feel the need to read another Voyager, DS9, blabla smackdown-review every day? (average)

David: When new episodes are airing, I get something like 150 per day, on average, with up to 300 per day around the time I post a new review. It drops off quite a bit during summer reruns, so overall, since I started counting about a year ago, it averages out to about 100 per day.

Sebastian: You probably get comments on your reviews. How are they, good, bad? Do people flame you because of making down "their" show?

David: Comments by email are overwhelmingly positive, even from people who disagree with me. I get a fair number of "I hate to admit it, but your review was funny as hell and right on target" responses. I also get the occasional "If you hate the show, don't watch it" type of replies. On Usenet, the situation is a little different, because each review spawns an ongoing discussion of the episode, with some posters agreeing with me, and some people not. Some of those discussions have gone on for weeks, with over a hundred posts on the subject.

Sebastian: Wow, that's incredible. Are you still as much of a poster as you used to be? Which newsgroups do you prefer?

David: My posting frequency has been way down recently, as I have a lot less time and interest. The newsgroup I most participate in is rec.arts.sf.tv, a catch-all group for SF television. I still read and post to the Trek groups (rec.arts.startrek.current, alt.tv.star- trek.voyager, etc.) a bit, but I find that I like r.a.s.t. better.

Sebastian: Are you a Star Trek Fan?

David: I suppose I'd have to say yes. I still watch the shows and movies, after all.

Sebastian: If yes, how did you become one?

David: I first saw TOS as a kid in the mid-70's. I guess I was hooked from that point.

Sebastian: Your favorite Star Trek show?

David: I think the middle seasons of Next Generation (third through fifth) were probably the high point of Trek in terms of television.

Sebastian: Why?

David: It was compelling, somewhat ground-breaking television in its time. A lot of it seems a bit stale, as SF shows are a dime a dozen now, and storytelling on television in general has evolved a lot. But TNG paved the way I think for the modern wave of SF on television that we're seeing now.

Sebastian: The worst Star Trek show?

David: Voyager, in my opinion, has had the worst ratio of bad shows to good shows.

Sebastian: Why?

David: I think the writers are burned out and devoid of ideas, and so locked into some sort of "groupthink" that they really can't see that what they are churning out is all too often crap.

Sebastian: Some other shows, movies you enjoy?

David: "Law & Order" is my favorite show, as I said earlier. I'm not yet sold on its spin-off series "Special Victims Unit," though. Those shows, along with "Voyager" and "X-Files" are the only series I watch regularly. Movies? My favorites, in no particular order: "GoodFellas," "Casablanca," "Network," "The Hospital," "Repo Man." Oh, and everyone should see "Gattaca," a fine example of what SF can be.

Sebastian: You like beer, don't you?

David: Yes, you could say that.

Sebastian: Why the good old german beer? Don't you like the homebrewed american stuff? ;-)

David: Most American beers, especially the well-known ones, are garbage. Exceptions include Yeungling, Leinenkugel's, a few others that I drink on a regular basis. But I prefer a good Köstritzer or Kulmbacher.

Sebastian: Yeah, I know what you mean. American beer really isn't that great, anyway, let's get back to the interview. How do you get your german beer?

David: The selection where I live isn't great, but the distributer for Kostritzer here in the States is nearby, so that's not a problem. Most stores here carry the usual stuff: St. Pauli Girl, Warsteiner, Beck's, etc., but lesser-known brands are harder to come by. Also, there are stores in northeastern Ohio, where I grew up, that have a better selection, and I get over there whenever possible. What I really miss though is EKU (Echt Kulmbacher), which apparently hasn't been available anywhere in the U.S. for years. When I visit Germany, I will definitely be looking them up.

Sebastian: You have this cool beer java applet on the left of your site. How did you aquire it?

David: What makes you think I didn't create it myself? Seriously, as I acknowledge on my site, it was found at the Köstritzer brewery's website. I borrowed it and modified its content a bit, obviously. As compensation, I give the brewery free advertising and a link to their site.

Sebastian: Is "Köstritzer" your sponsor?

David: No, but when I visit the brewery in Köstritz later this year, I may have to chat with them about the possibility.

Sebastian: You seem to like the german language quite a bit. Are you of german origin? Or is it all because of the beer?

David: I am of German origin, and I have a fair amount of knowledge of the language, though I don't get to use it very often.

Sebastian: Do you own a starfleet uniforn or something?

David: No. I don't have any use for it. I don't really have any Star Trek merchandise, and I don't attend conventions.

Sebastian: Have you ever been contacted by any paramount/ viacom intelligence?

David: If you mean the ones who try to pull the plug on people's web sites, the answer is no. I'm not a very big fish amongst Star Trek sites, and I don't post scripts, pictures, or video clips that get people in trouble, just fair use commentary (well, okay, sometimes it's unfair use :).

Sebastian: or famous people?

David: Someone from Voyager's F/X department sent me an email to thank me for a positive remark I made about a visual effect in an episode a couple of years ago. I can't remember the name, so I guess he isn't famous.

Sebastian: Who do you think is the worst actor of the Voyager cast? You seem to like "Chuckles" Chacotay quite a bit...;)

David: Beltran or Wang definitely. Both have shown on occasion that they can actually act, but it seems that too often they don't put in any effort. I also don't think much of McNiell. I've taken to calling these guys the Three Stooges in my more recent reviews.

Sebastian: you have a favorite star trek character?

David: No, not really.

Sebastian: quote?

David: "Even in the darkest moments, you can always find something that will make you smile." Sisko (quoting his father) in DS9's "In the Cards."

Sebastian: episode?

David: DS9's "In the Cards," which I think is a brilliant, completely enjoyable episode. I wasn't reviewing DS9 at the time, but this one would have had a fighting chance of scoring a 10, which by the Cynic's standards is high praise, and has never happened in the hundred or so reviews I've written.

Sebastian: With Voyager leaving the air in 2001- what's your opinion of the franchises future?

David: I say give it a rest! The current staff of Voyager would presumably move over to the new series, making it likely that the new show would be no better than Voyager. And after thirteen straight years on television, I think viewers are sick of Star Trek. A break would be a good idea for so many different reasons. I wrote a "Franchise's Future" article for TrekNation about six months ago that folks can read if they want to hear more.

Sebastian: Three favorite Star Trek websites.

David: Star Trek Hypertext, home of Jammer's reviews. I usually see Jammer's reviews on Usenet, but I still use his site for reference material; if I think something in a new episode contradicts an old one, I'll usually check Jammer's review of the old episode to see whether I'm remembering correctly. TrekToday is another site I check out regularly. In all honestly, those are the only Trek sites I visit on a regular basis.

Sebastian: Three favorite SciFi sites. Lee Whiteside's SF-TV schedule, at http://www.sftv.org/sftv/sftvschd.txt. Hmm... that's probably about it.

Sebastian: Three favorite misc sites.

David: Deja.com, to keep track of replies to my Usenet posts. TheCounter.com where my hit counter originates. Altavista and/or Northern Light where I usually do searches.

Sebastian: Ok, thanx David for participating. Was great fun.

David: You're welcome. See you ... out there.

Find more episode info in the Episode Guide.


Sebastian Lorenz writes regular interviews with leading figures in the online Star Trek community. He is also webmaster of Germany's No.1 Voyager website, Voyager Central, as well as co-editor of Europe's biggest sci-fi newsletter, the German-language Corona.