Here's a recent discovery of mine regarding the unused hologram character Merlin in the Wing Commander movie. The film was shot to include all his scenes and his deletion had a knock-on effect for nearly all other elements of the film.
Merlin was Blair's PPC (Personal Portable Computer), a futuristic version of a Siri-ChatGTP crossbred with a holographic avatar. He would banter with Blair, make observations, and be a bit of comic relief. Here are a few early concepts of what he might have looked like:
Blair also would discuss things with Merlin while in the cockpit of his Rapier. When the decision was made to remove the character, they changed some of Merlin's in-flight dialogue to be from the Rapier Computer. We often speculated about what Blair's PPC unit (holo emitter base) looked like. Surely we must be able to see Merlin's base somewhere in the final movie. At the time, the obvious conclusion felt like maybe Blair's Storm Navigator watch would be a cool way for him to carry around the PPC...
There's a couple problems though: most characters have watches so it's not something unique to Blair, and Maniac seems to have the same specific model as Blair. Second: the script required Blair to also speak with Merlin while wearing flight and Marine armor suits. Per the script, it's not entirely out of the question that it could be the watch, but it does make it less likely. Merlin does have an audio-only mode that was supposed to be used in most of the cockpit scenes. That brings us to the recent discovery: Merlin's hardware!
I was looking through some new-to-me footage and came across a few curious shots... a square device that seems mounted on Blair's armor! The center lights up with red bars in a roughly speech-like patern. This discovery led me to go back through the Bluray on a scavenger hunt.
Remarkably, Merlin's home had been inconspicuously under our noses the entire time. Blair is wearing this device in nearly the entire movie! The catch is that it's usually on his belt and gets cut out of the frame in any medium close-up. The first place the emitter is clearly visible is on the Diligent when Blair talks to Paladin in Paladin's quarters. You can also catch a brief unlcear glimpse of it under his jacket when he is getting out of the Rapier shortly after arriving on the Claw.
The PPC is clearly on Blair's belt again when the Claw makes the jump to the Ulysses Corridor, and again later we can see that it's attached to Blair's jacket or waistband on his flight suit.
Merlin originally played a key role is explaining why Blair leaves the Diligent during the comcon raid. We see there that Blair has attached the PPC to his arm! Since we never see it light up, it's easy to mistake it for just another part of his armor.
You can see Blair is wearing his PPC just before he goes on his flight to Sol near the end of the film, as well as when he's rescued and visits Tolwyn. It's also apparent when he makes his eventual return to the Claw.
While in some ways I think the Storm watch is cooler, it's great to finally put the pieces together regarding how this element of the film was intended. Lastly, I'll leave you with a brief clip of Merlin's audio mode in action. Enjoy!
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