Linda Hunt Should Rule

Some years back a tv series, Space Rangers, premiered. I had great hopes for it, all of which were crushed. (I have great hopes for every sf tv series that comes along. Mostly they are crushed.)

The premise was OK, but the execution was terrible. It had some cool actors, primarily Linda Hunt, but also Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa.

All the other actors were eminently forgettable, though that may have been the fault of the writing, the conception, the execution, and the notes from the suits.

I hasten to add that I have absolutely 0 evidence for anything in this essay. It is all 100% conjecture. I’ve never talked to anybody who had anything to do with Space Rangers. The year I was in Los Angeles at the Chesterfield Writers Workshop at Amblin, I talked to some of Space Ranger producer Pen Densham’s “people” (I talked to a lot of people’s people that year; I very seldom talked to any actual “people,” in the Hollywood sense of the term) about writing for The Outer Limits, but though they had all sorts of amazingly wonderful things to say about my screenplays, they never called me back, I never worked for them, and I never met the actual person attached to all those people, Pen Densham.

The Outer Limits gave me the classic Hollywood “No.”

(I invented the term, “The Hollywood ‘No.’” The Hollywood “No” consists of hysterical enthusiasm followed by endless silence. Everyone I know who has worked in Hollywood, when hearing about the Hollywood “No,” has said, “OMG, that’s exactly right, that’s exactly what happens!” or words to that effect.)

So, like I say, this is all conjecture.

I’m completely convinced that the original proposal for Space Rangers had Linda Hunt as the spaceship captain: the action hero.

I’m completely convinced that the notes from the suits (network executives) demanded that the spaceship captain be a hunky guy, because hunky guys are the only people qualified to be spaceship captain action heroes, and no sci fi nut would ever accept a show with an action hero who wasn’t a hunky guy.

It would have been a much different, much neater, and quite wonderful series with Linda Hunt as the action hero. The series only lasted a few episodes (it really was pretty terrible), but I rewrote them all in my mind as I was watching them — with Linda Hunt in the starring role.

A few critics have accused me of writing The Moon and the Sun so the Billy Kwan character from The Year of Living Dangerously could get the Sigourney Weaver character. Billy Kwan (Linda Hunt) certainly deservered her more than the Mel Gibson character did.

I haven’t ever answered that question, but I wouldn’t argue too much against it.

Hunt now plays the Sekrit Master of the NCIS-LA team, and I have been known to watch that (fair to middling silly) show because she’s in it (just as I’ve been known to watch — also fair to middling silly — NCIS because David McCallum is in it). Lord knows the hunky action heroes do pretty much nothing for me. I have a long history of preferring second bananas to hunky heroes (Illya Kuryakin, Artemus Gordon, and, OK, I admit it, Mr. Spock, though Mr. Sulu was a close second).

But I would really like to see a series with Linda Hunt as the up-front hero, not the Sekrit Master. Sekrit Masters hardly ever have anything to do except be Sekrit Masters.

Hunt has almost no Internet presence that I can find with my awesome google-fu, and a short visit to a tv series mailroom when I was a pup convinced me that street mail was useless in telling anyone on television that I found them admirable. (In the Star Trek mailroom, I happened to glance into the box of mail they were going to dump because they didn’t have the staff or the time to answer it all. I picked out an envelope and handed it to the person in charge of mail. “You might want to answer this one.” It was from Willy Ley. If you have no idea who Willy Ley was, you were probably born after the original Star Trek went off the air…)

But I really would like to see Linda Hunt as an action hero.

Not that she’d have any reason to have any idea who I am.

Still — If you know her, please tell her so.

— Vonda


Starfarers, by Vonda N. McIntyre. Cover art by RBrandtI blog here on Sundays and irregularly as the spirit takes me.

You can find The Starfarers Quartet at my Book View Cafe bookshelf, along with Dreamsnake, The Moon and the Sun, Superluminal, and a number of my short stories, including “The Adventure of the Field Theorems,” a Sherlock Holmes scientific romance.

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Linda Hunt Should Rule — 14 Comments

  1. Me, too. The reason I watch NCIS-LA is for Linda Hunt. She holds everything together, as far as I’m concerned. She would be a brilliant A-list performer, just as she is a brilliant B-list actress. She may never get the chance — but, we know.

    And worship at her altar. (Also David McCallum’s altar, but that’s another post….)

  2. Linda Hunt is a brilliant actor and she was the reason The Year of Living Dangerously was so damn good. You know, I’d forgotten who else was in it — despite being a Sigourney Weaver fan and having enjoyed Mel Gibson before his brain exploded; if you’d asked me about it, I’d have said it was that movie with Linda Hunt.

    Now, though, she is a “woman of a certain age” and is probably lucky she’s working at all. So many great women actors aren’t. Every year there are so many movies with famous and old male actors and women who are completely unfamiliar and very young.

    I wouldn’t watch NCIS on purpose because of Linda Hunt, though, because I only watch NCIS and the other modern cop shows when I’m vegetating in front of a TV and the only other choices are “reality” shows and sitcoms, neither of which I can stand.

    Unlike Vonda, I approach all TV and movie SF with great trepidation. Near as I can tell, the only reason they make them these days is to play with special effects, and they tend to drive me crazy. I wait until someone I trust tells me to check them out.

  3. Nancy, I actually think the SPFX obsession is not as bad as it once was. Consider Star Trek: The Motionless Picture versus Star Trek: The Reboot. Effects are better than ever, but a few filmmakers have caught on to the fact that it’s characters and story that give a film real legs.

    Linda Hunt is Amazing. I didn’t realize she was in that NCIS thing. Must have a look.

  4. I’ve always assumed that Edna Mode in The Incredibles was based on Linda Hunt. Who’s with me?

    And I watch NCIS for David McCallum. You have to love a show where the following exchange takes place:

    Ziva: I wonder what Ducky (McCallum’s character, Dr. Donald Mallard) looked like as a young man.

    Gibbs (utterly straight-faced): Like Ilya Kuryakin.

    I watch NCIS: LA occasionally, but even Linda Hunt can’t save all the other characters from severe Blah, hard as she works to do it.

  5. Linda is who Edna reminded me of (physically — I’m sure she could have played her live action) — here in the dreaded Wikipedia, we have a quote from Edith’s creator, which suggests that Linda did have her part in Edna’s creation. It’s in the sub-heading “Character Design” :

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edna_Mode

  6. Oh, Nancy, I’m just your basic incurable optimist. It doesn’t hurt that I have a minor taste for “so bad it’s good” movies and tv shows, which Space Rangers approached.

    And while you’re right that Hunt is of a certain age, she’s such a great character actor…

    Madeleine,

    Not only did I think Edna Mode was based on Linda Hunt, I thought she played the role, and was surprised that the voice was that of Brad Bird. All I can say is, he does an impersonation of Linda Hunt that fooled me.

    It was Kate (Ziva’s predecessor) I think who asked what Ducky had been like when he was younger. I fell about laughing at the reply. Did you note that all the pictures of Ducky in his house are of Illya Kuryakin?

    Vonda

    P.S. I agree that “Ilya” is a more proper way to transliterate the name, but on Man from UNCLE they spelled it Illya, and his patronymic was Nikovich, which isn’t really a proper Russian patronymic. I don’t think the guys who made Man from UNCLE knew much Russian. On the other hand, neither do I. On the third hand, I think I knew more than they did, at least in 1966.

  7. Willy Ley? [insert sound of jaw dropping, impacting on next surface below said jaw.]

    Wow. Not that i could condemn a younger person for not knowing, but — wow.

  8. Judith Tarr: “I actually think the SPFX obsession is not as bad as it once was. Consider Star Trek: The Motionless Picture versus Star Trek: The Reboot. Effects are better than ever, but a few filmmakers have caught on to the fact that it’s characters and story that give a film real legs.”

    It’s not always the filmmakers. The one time I heard Robert Wise speak was right after ST:TMP came out and while being courteous and charming, he absolutely would not talk about it outside of saying that sometimes a studio had ideas that differed from the writer or director. *Everything* else was fine to talk about including his SF and horror films, none of which were as ponderous as ST:TMP. It’s come out since then that Wise’s cut was character driven and he’d eliminated many of Trumbull’s effects shots because they were slowing up the story, and that the studio put ’em back in and cut the story stuff because they’d paid big bucks for the effects. (According to David Gerrold the Wise cut was used on airplanes because it was much shorter–the Laserdisc cut was an unholy shotgun wedding of all versions, and I haven’t watched the DVD cut.) I believe but have never been able to verify the conversation that Wise is supposed to have had with a Paramount exec who yelled out “And what have *you* ever edited?”

    “Citizen Kane.”

    But I’d believe it.

  9. I think – without looking at anything – that the Incredibles character “Edna Mode” was based on famous costumer Edith Head. Linda Hunt looks to be playing an Edith Head-inspired character on NCIS-Los Angeles (aka “Worst Show Evarrr”). You guys really are different from me . . .

  10. LOL! I had no memory of this show, and my memory wasn’t jogged by watching the trailer – I had two things to say – one, Vonda, if you’re right, and you very well could be, because Linda Hunt is definitely the featured cast member, at least Jeff Kaake, the captain replacement, has never been seen again, to my knowledge. Second, there are people saying this is the worst sci fi show ever on iMDb and even referencing the recent Flash Gordon update – which truly has to be the Worst EVARR – I mean NCIS Los Angeles has improved after a type of premiere that I’ve seldom seen (I don’t watch that much TV, esp. not episodic shows). It was one of those “I’ve had 18 writers!” shows. Usually you see what with WTF??? movies. You guys kill me . . .

  11. The New Flash Gordon is very, very competitive with “worst show evarrrr” for real. The episode where their own catering truck doubled for a wedding catering truck, in which several random bags of ice just happened to be lying around, just in time to save Flash’s buddy’s life . . . the random Flash is a sensitive long-distance runner with a troubled relationship with Dale . . . hey, it’s Purple, we must be on MONGO! And Ming looks like Kevin Spacey with heartburn! And look, there’s Baron Harkonnen, only he’s been on a big diet!

  12. My daughter has seen the hawkmen dancing in a circle and squawking in their plastic raincoat wings – it went viral on You Tube and numerous kids have seen it because it’s SO STUPID!