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Happy Birthday Star Trek

50 years ago today yesterday, the first episode of Star Trek (now known as ‘The Original Series’) aired.  Sci-fi fandom hasn’t been the same since.  Hundreds of episodes of TV across five decades, scores of books and comics, big budget movies, video games, copycats and parodies, Trek holds a special place in our pop culture.  Star Wars may have the cool laser swords and planet-exploding superweapons, Star Trek – for all the added fistfights – made you a better person.

The Original Series was the first show I ever watched that dealt with real social issues which despite the show’s 1960’s roots, were still relevant.  Star Trek made you think about the consequences of the action, even as they had to shoehorn in a ridiculous fight with papier-mâché rocks to try and stay on the air.  Sure, “Let That Be Your Last Battlefield” may have been heavy handed, but for ten year old me this was the first show that dealt with racism in a way I understood.  I came for the Frank Gorshin, but left asking my parents why those two men thought they were so different.

But the best part of Star Trek was how it brought my family together.  My dad, I think, was the driving force, he loved TOS due to the “Wagon Train to the stars” aspect.  I can still remember us gathering to watch Encounter at Farpoint together.  Looking back, it wasn’t the greatest premiere episode, but it still had a sense of wonder about it that captured my attention.  It didn’t hurt that it had John de Lancie mugging for the camera as Q.  Most likely I hit The Next Generation at exactly the right time – young enough to forgive the inconsistency of the first few seasons, but then maturing with the show as it truly hit its stride a few years in.  That led into Deep Space Nine, which remains one of my all-time favorite shows, and the one that best continued the Trek legacy of examining real-world issues through a sci-fi lens.

I am looking forward to the new Star Trek: Discovery show, as it looks like it may be a return to form for Star Trek after the uneven, action-oriented ‘Kelvin-verse’ movies.  And if it doesn’t, there’s always “The Squire of Gothos”, “The Trouble with Tribbles”, “Inner Light”, “The Visitor”, “In The Pale Moonlight”…

Movies Review

Movie Review – Star Trek Beyond

I’ve got a bit of a love/hate relationship with the “Kelvin-verse” Star Trek movies.  I really like the cast, and have come to grips with the fact that, since it’s not a TV show, the movies need to shade a bit more to the action side of things than the more cerebral Trek episodes.  Still, the first two movies (especially Star Trek Into Darkness) made some really painful story choices and had me looking at Star Trek Beyond with a bit of trepidation.  I’m happy to report that Star Trek Beyond was pretty darn great, and definitely my favorite of the three so far.

I think what works here more than the previous two movies is, you actually feel like these individuals have come together as a crew.  There are quiet moments of contemplation and camaraderie mixed in with the action beats and it just makes it feel more like Star Trek.  I could actually believe this crew having to deal with some of the stranger stuff from the original series, like Trelaine or Apollo or planets where everybody talks like a gangster.

Beyond follow this crew right in the middle of their 5 year mission, with Kirk handling a diplomatic exchange between two warring races.  Unlike what we’re used to with Picard, it does not go well.  “I ripped my shirt again,” Kirk laments at one point in a tongue-in-cheek moment.  He feels a bit lost, which makes sense as this version of Kirk didn’t have his Starfleet dad to watch and look up to his whole life.

It isn’t uncommon, you know? It’s easy to get lost. In the vastness of space, there’s only yourself, your ship, your crew.

This line comes from Commodore Paris, played by Shohreh Aghdashloo of The Expanse, as Kirk discusses taking a desk job with her.  This is a different spin on the original cast movies, with Admiral Kirk leaving the desk job behind to get out and make a difference in the galaxy again.  Pine’s Kirk is chafing under the monotony of a five year mission, feeling ‘episodic’ (:wink:) and having trouble with the idea that you never really reach a destination out in the vastness of space.  It also works as a counterpoint to the villain, who was sent out into space himself (remaining vague so as not to spoil things) and was broken by it.

I loved the character beats between the leads, it felt very much like the classic series Kirk/Spock/McCoy interactions.  Sofia Boutella’s Jaylah fit in fairly well, and I liked that they didn’t shoehorn in some romantic subplot just because they were adding a female lead.  If there’s one thing that bothered me about Beyond, it’s that 20-21st century music played a role again.  Yeah, it was a callback to the first movie but it felt a bit out of place then and it still does now.  Minor quibble, though, to be sure.

If you are a Trek fan but were turned off by Star Trek Into Darkness, give Star Trek Beyond a try.  I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised.


Things I Want from the New Bryan Fuller Star Trek Series

The news dropped today that Bryan Fuller (Pushing Daisies, Hannibal) will be the showrunner for the new Star Trek series set to premiere on CBS next year, before moving to the CBS All Access paid subscription.  My enthusiasm for the new show had been stifled by the mostly mediocre movies and the fact that I’d need yet another subscription to see it, but they just got my full attention.  My wife and I both enjoyed Pushing Daisies a ton, and Fuller has a previous Trek pedigree, credited for story or writing on two dozen Deep Space Nine and Voyager episodes.  I’m not sure where he’s going to find the time (he’s also running the adaptation of Gaiman’s American Gods and is attached to the Amazing Stories reboot) but they’ve got my eyeballs for the pilot at least.

Fuller’s been talking about Trek for years – the EW article here has some details – and I like what I’m hearing.  Here’s my wish list for what I want from the new series:

  1. Get back to exploring – One disappointing thing about the most recent movies is they rarely deal with exploration.  I don’t totally fault them for that, as you can’t really do an ‘alien culture of the week’ as a blockbuster movie, but shifting back to TV should allow them the creativity and flexibility to go deeper than fist fights and phaser blasts.
  2. No wars – Anyone who has read my stuff before knows I LOVE Deep Space Nine.  It’s up there with my favorite shows of all time.  Having said that, it may be tempting to replicate the very excellent Dominion War arc that show had…but it would be a mistake.  Let’s base this one on a science vessel, do diplomatic missions, rescues.  Some of my favorite Trek episodes dealt with content that was not your usual weekly sci-fi show fare (The Measure of a Man, Far Beyond the Stars, The Visitor, The Inner Light), and many went straight into goofball humor (Doctor Bashir, I Presume?).  We need that introduced back into Trek.
  3. Cast some new people – Star Trek has always connected back to previous shows, and one of the ways that’s been done is by bringing on actors from the past to cameo.  While I love the actors of Trek past, I’d like them to not try this, at least at first.  Let the new show grow into it’s own and develop the new characters.  Since the show isn’t going to link directly to the movies or the older shows (at least based on what we know now), that will work the best.  We don’t need Brent Spiner popping up as another Soong to bring us in.
  4. Be positive – One of the things that’s shifted over the years is the idea that the Federation was this vision of what the future should be.  I thought DS9 masterfully deconstructed that with the Bajorans and Sisko as the Emissary.  The Federation wasn’t always right, and the conflict of interest there made for some good TV.  But it got taken too far at times, with Section 31 and Insurrection and the like.  Let’s have Starfleet/the Federation trying to be a force for good and running into the moral dilemmas and struggles they’ve encountered since the Original Series.
  5. Be diverse – Others can speak more eloquently than me on this, but whether it’s another female captain, an alien captain, LGBTQ captain (or some or all of the above) you can do better than the JJ Abrams movies have.  These shows are ensembles, and can represent ALL of Earth and hey, remember that it’s a Federation of Planets, plural.  Cast your net wide, jack up the alien makeup budget and represent some folks that aren’t often portrayed in a genre show.

So that’s what I want.  What else do YOU want?

Comics Review

Comic Book Review – Star Trek: The City on the Edge of Forever

The City on the Edge of Forever is often described as the best episode of the original series of Star Trek, and it’s hard to argue against that.  The script, written by Sci-Fi legend Harlan Ellison, won the Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation in 1968, and also the Writer’s Guild of America award of the same name.  That those awards were actually for different scripts is where the comic book adaptation comes in (here is some background).  As you can see, Ellison – never one to stay calm in the face of even imagined slights – famously criticized the edits done by Trek’s writers to his story, a “fatally inept treatment”.  I remember discovering this after seeing Ellison doing his best ‘Andy Rooney of Sci-Fi’ in remarks on the old Sci-Fi Buzz show on the Sci-Fi channel, and being curious about what his story was like.

BlockQuoteCityEdgeForeverI no longer have to wonder, as IDW has published a faithful adaptation of one of Ellison’s drafts of the script.  (spoilers possible from here)  Many of the story beats are the same – Kirk and Spock must travel back to fix the timeline after a crewman screws it up – but the devil is in the details.  Here, a drug-dealing crewmember is the one who mucks things up, something that probably wouldn’t have flown with Roddenberry’s vision of the future.  His treatment also dealt more with the racism of the time, which was present but toned down in the TV episode.  Gone, also, on TV was the fact that the Enterprise changed after the crewman escaped to the past.  Ellison’s script actually has a rather badass picture of Yeoman Rand standing with the redshirts on this other ship in the changed timeline, phaser-blasting and elbow-dropping dudes to buy Spock and Kirk time to beam back down to the Guardian of Forever.

But the most intriguing change is to the end, with what happens to Edith Keeler.  In this story, the crewman (this vile drug-dealing killer) attempts to save Edith from the truck while Kirk stands dumbfounded.  Spock knocks the crewman away, and Edith dies as she is meant to.  It provides a bit for Spock and Kirk to ponder at the end, debating how good and evil can come from the same place.

I enjoyed the book quite a bit.  Scott and David Tipton ably adapted the story, and the JK Woodward art comes across as a series of paintings, expertly capturing the actors in their youth.  I could’ve used some smoother transitions from scene to scene or panel, but it does the job well.  Of course, this version would’ve been impossible to film at the time it was written.  Too long to film, too much stuff to make.  But hey, now you can see the story as Ellison meant it.

Thanks again to NetGalley for the early review copy.  Pre-order your own trade at Amazon.  Or check on the individual issues at your local comic shop.

Review TV

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Rewatch – In Purgatory’s Shadow and By Inferno’s Light

Shifting gears for a bit (mostly because while I was able to watch Season 4 and part of Season 5, I haven’t been able to do my normal rewatch blog posts), I wanted to talk specifically about these two episdoes, In Purgatory’s Shadow and By Inferno’s Light.  Despite sharing a plot with Garak, I think these episodes might just be the best representation of Worf in the entirety of the Next Gen era Trek.

There’s a trope named after Worf – when you want to show some new alien race is tough, have them beat up the Klingon guy.  It got to be a little embarrassing for the poor guy, to be honest.  Part of it was, once you establish him as being that tough, well, the next guy has to be able to beat him to be seen as a threat.  Anyway, Worf improved quite a bit as a character once on Deep Space 9, and this two-parter really shows that.  He’s captured with Garak while investigating a signal from Enabran Tain in Dominion space, and taken to a prison asteroid.  There, the Jem’Hadar test themselves by fighting the prisoners.  We meet the real General Martok, who has been the Jem’Hadar’s punching bag, until Worf arrives.  You get it all.  Klingon honor, ass-kicking by Worf, stoic toughness in the face of broken wounds, a promise of an epic poem extolling his deeds, the works.  He even brings the Jem’Hadar commander around, earning enough respect that he refuses to kill a defeated Worf.

It’s what we were always TOLD about Klingons, but not often shown.  Here’s an entire race designed for war, even moreso than the Klingons, and Worf beat the tar out of all of them, save one.  Even when Martok advises him to stay down, that ‘honor has been satisfied’, he gets up.  That’s what we always wanted from Worf.  Not him getting knocked flat every other episode so the alien of the week can be shown as tough.

Review TV

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Rewatch – Season Three

DS9 Rewatch:  Season One, Season Two

Note:  To save my sanity, from here on I’m only going to cover the episodes that stand out to me, or ones I have a really funny comment on.

Season three again starts with a multi-part episode, and it’s important.  Founders!  The Dominion!  THE DEFIANT.  I fucking love that ship.

  • Episodes 1 and 2 – The Search:  Sisko gets a new ship, The Defiant.  Designed to kick the shit out of the Borg, he figures it’ll do well against the Dominion.  Also comes with a Romulan woman running a cloaking device.  Odo’s nose gets out of joint when a ‘Starfleet Security’ guy, Commander Eddington, gets assigned to the station.  It’s kind of sad that they get their ass kicked on the Defiant’s first mission, but hey.  I like that the Founders tried to determine just how far the Federation would go in a war via the simulation.
  • Episode 6 – The Abandoned:  Look, an adorable baby!  Hey, it’s a Jem’Hadar.  Solid work establishing that much of the Dominion is brutally controlled by the Founders, through genetic engineering, and the threat of the Jem’Hadar which are bred to be loyal.  Sets up some later episodes.
  • Episode 9 – Defiant:  I love this, as it rewards us for TNG not taking the easy way out by killing off the duplicate Riker.  Tom Riker steals the Defiant and tries to blow up some Cardassians.  He’s not very good at it.  Sisko is a lot smarter than Dukat.
  • Episode 13 – Life Support:  Vedek Bereil has been helping Kai Winn negotiate peace with Cardassia, but their transport is damaged and Bereil severely hurt.  An interesting counterpoint to TNG’s The Measure of a Man, as they replace part of the Vedek’s brain with a positronic one so he can continue his work.  He is not the same, however, and Bashir refuses to replace the rest of his brain, that Bereil’s “Spark of Life” would be gone despite the fact that we know of positronic lifeforms.
  • Episodes 20 and 21 – Improbable Cause, The Die is Cast:  Garak explodes his own shop to get Odo to investigate an assassin sent to kill him.  It leads Garak back to Enabran Tain his mentor, who has been working with the Romulan Tal Shiar to build ships to attack the Founders.  Garak joins Tain on his mission.  They try and bomb the heck out of the Founders but…they aren’t there.  The Romulan equal to Tain is a Founder, and it was a plot to lure the Obsidian Order and Tal Shiar to one place, where they can be destroyed.  Odo and Garak are rescued by Sisko and the Defiant.
  • Episode 25 – Facets:  Dax’s previous hosts are telepathically bonded to willing subjects, so she can talk to them directly.  Nice in that if gives you a sense of some of them, especially Curzon, who freaking loves being in Odo’s body and doesn’t want to give it up.  It’s odd how many episodes this show has that allows the principal actors to act differently (Mirror Universe episodes, holodeck accidents, Lwaxana Troi making everyone horny, this).
  • Episode 26 – The Adversary:  Sisko is promoted to Captain, and at the ceremony, an Admiral asks Sisko and the Defiant to go with him to negotiate with a race that is threatening war with the Federation.  Turns out the Admiral is a Founder, and he’s TRYING to start that war with the Defiant.  Odo kills the changeling, but not before we find out that they are ‘everywhere’.  Foreshadowing ahoy!

Season three was a strong one, with some great guest stars and interesting plots.  Still too many one-off episodes but they hadn’t really committed to the story arcs yet.  BUT DEFIANT!

Review TV

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Rewatch – Season Two

DS9 Rewatch:  Season One

The series really starts to round into form with it’s second season, with the actors seeming to be much more comfortable in their roles.  More Dominion stuff, more Bajoran stuff, more Garak.  Here are my episode thoughts:

  • Episodes 1, 2, 3 – The Homecoming, The Circle, The Siege:  A rare three part episode to kick off the show’s second season sees Kira rescuing a hero of the Bajoran resistance from a Cardassian prison that isn’t supposed to exist anymore.  At the same time, hardline elements on Bajor want ALL alien influence gone from their system, Federation included.  There are some great guest stars here (Frank Langella, Steven Weber, Stephen Macht, Richard Beymer) and a solid story.
  • Episode 4 – Invasive Procedures:  While the station is operating with a skeleton crew, a somewhat unstable Trill steals the Dax symbiont.  More background on the Trill and the joining procedure.
  • Episode 5 – Cardassians:  The appearance of a Cardassian war orphan raised by Bajorans has political implications on Cardassia.  A Garak/Bashir episode which I’m a sucker for.  Hints, lies, obfuscations.  Fun.
  • Episode 6 – Melora:  Dr. Bashir tries to woo a woman from a low-gravity planet, while trying to develop a technique to strengthen her to live in normal gravity.  She decides she likes being different.  Klingon restaurant.
  • Episode 7 – Rules of Acquisition:  Grand Nagus Zek tasks Quark with making a Gamma Quadrant business deal, but does so with the help of a Ferengi female, who aren’t allowed to leave the home planet.  Or wear clothes.  She leaves, possibly taking a piece of Quark’s heart with her.
  • Episode 8 – Necessary Evil:  A flashback episode, showing how Odo became Constable on Terok Nor, and his first meeting with Kira.  An interesting plot, and it gives a bit of background on what the occupation was like on the station.
  • Episode 9 – Second Sight:  A kind of strange episode where an obnoxious scientist comes to the station to try and re-ignite a nearby star.  Sisko meets a woman who seems to appear just long enough to allure him, then vanish.  Man can’t catch a break with women, at least for another year or two.
  • Episode 10 – Sanctuary:  For once, the ‘universal translator’ doesn’t work right away.  Something about refugees wanting to settle on Bajor.  A matriarchy, even.  Meh.
  • Episode 11 – Rivals:  An El-Aurian (like Guinan) comes on station with a probability-altering device.  He makes big ones, which end up affecting the entire station.  B plot involves a racquetball match between Bashir and O’Brien which helps them figure out what’s happening.  Worth seeing just as a foundation for the future bromance.
  • Episode 12 – The Alternate:  Dr. Mora, the man who studied Odo in the lab on Bajor, finds a possibly related creature.  I really like the relationship between Odo and Mora, and how it becomes more important later in the series too.  Funny to hear Sisko talk about his dad as if he were dead, when we see him a few years later.  Oops!
  • Episode 13 – Armageddon Game:  Two warring races come together to destoy a bio-weapon used by both sides.  End up working together to kill everyone which knowledge of how to make it…which includes Bashir, since he helped them destroy it.  O’Brien gets infected, OF COURSE.
  • Episode 14 – Whispers:  O’Brien is replaced by a clone sleeper agent.  The twist is, we see the episode from the clone’s point of view, with the command crew and even the Chief’s family acting strange enough that he escapes the station – perhaps thinking the odd pod people episode of TNG was recurring.
  • Episode 15 – Paradise:  Crazy woman tries to create a utopian society without tech.  Sisko and O’Brien get stranded there.  Could take or leave this one.
  • Episode 16 – Shadowplay:  Old guy re-creates his village with a holographic projector.  This idea is played out several times on Trek (TNG and Enterprise both have versions of this).  Another mention of the Dominion.
  • Episode 17 – Playing God:   The Dax symbiont is known for washing Trill joining candidates out – think Gordon Ramsay reducing someone to tears.  Jadzia doesn’t want to be that way, but is it maybe what the candidate in this episode needs?  The Trill stuff is always interesting, though the “protouniverse” framing story is meh.
  • Episode 18 – Profit and Loss:  As a younger person watching this, I wasn’t familiar enough with Casablanca to catch all the references.  The episode seemed odd on the first run-through.  It makes more sense now.  Fun Quark/Garak/Odo interplay.
  • Episode 19 – Blood Oath:  Klingons!  Not just any Klingons, but the three Captains that Kirk faced in the original series.  It seems that a common enemy of theirs, who killed their children has been found, and the three Klingons who swore a blood oath to kill him want to take him out.  Curzon Dax swore the oath as well, being Godfather to one of the children, and Jadzia wants to accompany them.  Worth it if only for Michael Ansara’s voice.
  • Episodes 20, 21 – The Maquis:  One of the things I like about the later seasons of TNG, on into DS9 is how there were more callbacks to previous events in the series.  I’m sure it was a respons to Babylon 5 but it was still a positive influence.  Here, we learn more about the fate of the Federation colonists that ended up living on Cardassian-owned worlds (see TNG’s Journey’s End) and how they turn to terrorist tactics to try and defend themselves.  Some good Gul Dukat stuff, and good ol’ John Schuck has a role too.
  • Episode 22 – The Wire:  One of my favorite episodes of the early years, it gives some insight into Garak’s plight.  Or does it?  Some of it is true, as far as we can tell, but even under the stress of the breakdown of the ‘Wire’, Garak still manages to spin some plausible lies for Bashir.  I really enjoyed Enabran Tain, Paul Dooley was having some fun here.  This is really the transition of Garak as a bit player to an important part of the station and the future seasons.
  • Episode 23 – Crossover:  A return to the “Mirror Universe” as seen in the Original Series episode Mirror, Mirror.  Now, though, the humans are oppressed, thanks in part to the influence of Kirk’s crossover.  These episodes must be fun for the actors, as they get to be VERY out of character.  Especially mirror Kira, the lustful Intendent of Terok Nor.
  • Episode 24 – The Collaborator:  Bajoran politics.  After the…loss of Kai Opaka, Winn and Bereil are competing for the vacant role of Bajoran spiritual leader.  Evidence comes to light (thanks to Winn’s maneuvering) that implicates Bereil in a massacre – 43 Bajorans killed after a collaborator gave information about them to the Cardassian occupiers.  Yet more of the nastiness of Winn, setting her up for true villainy later.
  • Episode 25 – Tribunal:  You’ve been hearing from Garak how all Cardassian criminals are guilty, and trials are just to show the people the error of their ways, well here you go.  Of course, O’Brien is saved but it’s still fun to think about how ‘law and order’ works in other cultures.
  • Episode 26 – Jem’Hadar:  Now it begins.  We meet the Jem’Hadar, the enhanced soldiers of the Dominion, as well as the Vorta.  A must-watch if anything from the next few years is to make sense, and there is some great action after a bit of a slow start.  So much promise for what is to come.  Love it.

The Dominion threat is only just beginning, but there’s still plenty of character building here.  I’m already most of the way through season 3 so expect more from me soon.

Movies Review

Movie Review – Star Trek Into Darkness

There will be spoilers.  You are warned.

If there’s anything I know from reading reactions to Star Trek Into Darkness, it’s that it is very polarizing.  You are going to love it or hate it.  The middle ground ‘it was decent’ option is pretty darn uncommon.

To best prepare you for discussing STID, I’m going to give you some key phrases you’ll hear in the arguments about the movie.

  1. Plot Holes – They are Jupiter-sized and multiple.  There’s a lot that happens where the filmmakers pretty much just hope you won’t be thinking about it hard (or at all).  Why do they need ‘Harrison’ alive if there are 72 other supermen in tubes they can get blood from?  Are they like Marvel’s mutants, where they have different superpowers?  Why thaw out a 20th century guy to make weapons?  I could see studying them, maybe recreating the Eugenics tech that created them – might’ve made an even better movie.
  2. Bad Science – Cold fusion doesn’t do what you think.  The ability to transwarp transport stuff could solve a lot of your problems, and create a bunch of really terrible ones.  “Hey, I can transport myself to the Klingon homeworld from here in the Federation!  Wait…on second thought, I’ll just beam a bomb into that Starfleet briefing and take a nap.”  Magic blood that heals…I assume no one gets sick or dies again now ever, right?  Look, I know that the previous Trek stuff is full of pseudoscience, but there was consistency to it – things you can do, things you can’t.  When you are willing to hand-wave everything away with a cheap fix that doesn’t fit the universe that’s been 40 years in the making, you just lost ALL your tension.  They defeat DEATH, what threat will they face on their five year mission greater than that?
  3. Fan-service – Tribbles!  Harry Mudd!  Carol Marcus!  Section 31!  Prime Directive!  I can confirm that JJ/Orci/Kurtzman definitely read Memory Alpha at some point.  And while I can appreciate the reversal in the ending, but the only reason Spock should scream like that is when he’s mind-melding with a Horta.  Lame.  And at least Spock stayed dead through the rest of ST II.
  4. Women in Trek – Read Felicia Day’s thoughts on this.  She’s got the serious concerns down.  You know what’s bothering me?  Sticking with the 60’s aesthetic with the uniforms for the female characters.  The Original Series didn’t know any better, but yeah, we don’t require women to wear ridiculous uniforms in the military NOW, why would they in 2-300 years?  Even Troi got to wear pants eventually.  I know that there’s only one traditionally female lead in Uhura, but why can’t she save the day at least once?  She should’ve successfully talked the Klingons out of killing them.  Stunning Khan had worked before, did it not in the endgame just because a girl was holding the phaser?
  5. Khan is…white? – When Young Spock called Old Spock about Khan, I kept waiting for Young Spock to show him a picture of the current Khan…and Old Spock to tell him, no, you must have the wrong guy.

Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed seeing the movie quite a bit.  Seeing being the operative word…the visuals were amazing.  In fact, it wouldn’t surprise me one bit if the filmmakers had come up with some really awesome scenes they wanted to film/create and all of the plot inconsistencies came about when they shoe-horned them in.  That’s how you end up with a ship rising out of the ocean to fly over a volcano.  It’s actually a fitting metaphor for the movie – a visually stunning sequence that everyone in the audience figures out a better way to solve within minutes.

Movies TV

The Best of Both Worlds Movie Event

I went to the movies last night, and it was to watch a TV show.  The Best of Both Worlds, the biggest sci-fi show cliffhanger ever, got the Blu-Ray treatment, and so it also got a theatrical event.  There were three main parts to the show.  First, a making-of feature talking to the starts, writers, producers and costumers that was quite a bit of fun.  I had no idea that the actress that played Shelby (Elizabeth Dennehy) was Brian Dennehy’s daughter.  Lots of fun insights into how TV shows got made back then, and the discussion of how the Borg costumes came to be was great, but Patrick Stewart stole the whole thing with his opening and closing bits.  I believe much of this is on the Blu-Ray.

Next was the actual episode itself.  The Blu-Ray transfer was what you’d expect, and it looked better than I expected.  I hadn’t watched it for a while, and I still felt pulled into the story as much as I did the first time I saw it.

The night ended with a gag reel (also on the Blu-Ray), and it killed.  Really funny at times, but the one bit from Guinan (won’t spoil it) had me in tears.

If you missed last night’s event, I highly recommend buying the disc.  Tons of fun.

Review TV

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Rewatch – Season One

Since we finally bit the bullet and signed on with Netflix, I decided it was high time to re-watch my favorite Star Trek series, Deep Space Nine.  There are a few rough patches, but I enjoyed S1 quite a bit more than I anticipated.

Some general thoughts first.  Bashir was so annoying at first, wasn’t he?  I don’t know how O’Brien put up with him long enough to become friends.  I did enjoy Dax’s bemused handling of his ‘attentions’ however.  Kira’s strident nature cooled though I thought that fit with her pretty well anyway.  I’d actually forgotten how important Keiko’s school ended up being.  The episodes are all standalone, for the most part, but did do a solid job of introducing or fleshing out some of the characters and races (like the Ferengi and Trill).  Oh, and it was kind of difficult to see how much abuse was heaped on Nog early on.  And how Rom could transform from such a poor father to a sympathetic character.

I’ll list some individual thoughts on each episode:

  • Episode 1 and 2 – Emissary (two parter):  A great start to the show.  Some action, some mysticism, and deep thinking.  Really liked having Picard as the link from TNG to DS9, and how it fit with Sisko’s background.
  • Episode 3 – Past Prologue:  This episode gives you some detail on Major Kira, and the Bajoran occupation.  Helpful if you don’t remember everything from the Ensign Ro episode of TNG, and it provides a base for the three-episode arc to start season two.  The most notable part of this episode is the introduction of Garak, the Cardassian tailor left behind when his people abandoned their occupation.  He’s a favorite of mine.  Also features the Duras sisters, which I’d forgotten.
  • Episode 4 – A Man Alone:  Odo is accused of murder, after a crime only he could commit appears to have taken place.  A good character look at Odo, and his personal philosophy.  Also introduces Keiko’s school, and the Jake/Rom friendship, both of which become important later.
  • Episode 5 – Babel:  An aphasia virus, spread by the food replicators, ravages the station.  It’s from a failed attempt to sabotage the station by the Bajoran resistance 18 years before.  Your typical ‘find the cure just in time/medical jargon’ episode, notable mostly for showing some touching moments between Jake and Benjamin Sisko.
  • Episode 6 – Captive Pursuit:  A hunted alien becomes friends with O’Brien.  They help him escape, of course.
  • Episode 7 – Q-Less:  Q’s only appearance on DS9, along with Vash, the treasure hunter Picard romanced on Risa.  She tries to auction off Gamma quadrant merchandise, but the most valuable item turns out to be a life form that drains power from the station.  Best known for Sisko punching out Q.
  • Episode 8 – Dax:  Dax is accused of murder, but not Jadzia – a previous host, Curzon, the one Sisko knew previously.  Helpful for understanding the relationship between host and symbiont for the Trill, in case you didn’t remember that from the TNG episode that dealt with them.  Doesn’t explain why Trill look different now, though.  If you like Law and Order, you may enjoy this one.
  • Episode 9 – The Passenger:  To be honest, I skipped this one.  Something about an alien criminal transferring conciousness to try and escape custody.  You can only take so many mystery/police procedural plots.
  • Episode 10 – Move Along Home:  Yeah, skipped this too.  A ridiculous premise, to be honest.
  • Episode 11 – The Nagus:  Now we’re talking!  I honestly love Grand Nagus Zek, and this is a great introduction.  Rom finally gets a name.  Jake teaches Nog to read (seriously, nobody thought a future Ferengi businessperson needed that skill?).
  • Episode 12 – Vortex:  Hints for the future – is Odo alone in the universe?  What’s a ‘changeling’?
  • Episode 13 – Battle Lines:  Kai Opaka, the Bajoran spiritual leader, is ‘killed’ yet not killed on an alien planet.  Setting the table for future spiritual conflicts.  Enjoyed this a lot.  Good stuff for Kira here.
  • Episode 14 – The Storyteller:  A rather odd tale that mostly serves as a backdrop to two different friendships – the Nog/Jake one, and the (future) O’Brien/Bashir one.
  • Episode 15 – Progress:  Brian Keith stars as farmer guy, whose farm is standing in the way of progress.  The moon he’s living on is going to be tapped for electricity, somehow, but it’ll cause it to be uninhabitable.  Character building stuff for Kira.  See her realize that being part of a government and making the tough choices is not always easy.
  • Episode 16 – If Wishes Were Horses:  Another strange one, where a group of aliens causes the crew’s thoughts to manifest.  Molly O’Brien conjures Rumplestiltskin, for instance.  Hear about how baseball dies in the future.
  • Episode 17 – The Forsaken:  Lwaxana Troi visits DS9.  She likes Odo.  There are other plots, O’Brien dealing with an alien program shutting down station systems (It’s like a puppy, apparently.  Kind of silly.), and Bashir babysitting some other ambassadors and rescuing them from the station’s troubles.  But I really liked the Odo/Troi interaction here.  A bit of vulnerability from both sides.  Wish we could’ve seen more from her and Odo.
  • Episode 18 – Dramatis Personae:  Another ‘alien psychic entity’ causing the people on the station to act out a previous conflict.  Eh.
  • Episode 19 – Duet:  This episode was a highlight of the rewatch for me.  Though the sickness or whatever that could only be contracted at this one time seems really odd.  A Cardassian comes to the station with that disease, causing Kira to accuse him of being a war criminal.  But all is not what it seems.
  • Episode 20 – In the Hands of the Prophets:  Keiko’s school becomes a battleground as Vedek Winn accuses Mrs. O’Brien of blasphemy.  Winn’s followers bomb the school, and Sisko brings Vedek Bereil into it.  It’s a great set up for season 2, and really shows just how dastardly a villain Winn is – always done with a smile and condescension that cuts like a knife.

While the season suffers in comparison to later ones, thanks to it not really being part of any great arc, there are some great episodes here.  Much better than early TNG.  I’ve already started Season Two so expect to see that soon.

Books Featured Review

Book Review – Redshirts (or: Dead Ensigns is going to be the name of my next band)

If you’re like I was when reading the early reviews, this one might frustrate you, because I’m going to try not to spoil things too badly.  It’s not going to be easy, though, as Redshirts is not like most sci-fi books you might read.  You’re going to make assumptions about this book, John Scalzi’s latest, based on the cover and title, some of which would be correct.  It’s about ‘Redshirts’, the disposable ensign that gets killed on away missions instead of Captain Kirk or Spock or whoever.  Many shows have them, and no, they don’t always have a red shirt, but we all know how to spot them.

In fact, you could make a fun genre romp that just turns that trope on it’s head – what if the Redshirts figured out they were cannon fodder?  What do they do?  There’s some of that, here, but it goes a lot deeper than that.  It gets freaking meta, man.  There’s…well, here’s where I run into the “don’t spoil it, asshole” part.  Hmm.  Instead of giving it away, let me just ask you this:  If you think a combination of Star Trek, Stranger Than Fiction, and The Matrix would be interesting, with characters who are snappy smartasses, and a set of three codas that twist your perspective around on itself a few times, check this out.  Just do it before a Borgovian land worm eats your brain.

Buy this at Amazon or B&N.

Featured Gadgets Movies

Friday Finds – Kung Fu and Carmen Sandiego

Well, it was a busy week for me, though most of the creative juices were used at the Sabres site I run.  They had a rough week, what can I say?  Still, I got OGT out, and it’s one of my all time favorites, River City Ransom.  Check it out if you haven’t yet.  On to the links!

Martin Campbell (who helmed Casino Royale and The Green Lantern) is in early talks to direct The Fall Guy.  The Fall Guy, for those of you who don’t know, centered around Lee Majors as a stuntman who took bounty hunter jobs to try and make ends meet.  It’s pure 80’s cheese, right up there with the A-Team and Knight Rider.  It will be tough to cast the Colt Seavers role, though.  It can’t be somebody that actually looks like they could be down on their luck, but still tough enough to be a stuntman/bounty hunter.  Can Daniel Craig lose the accent?

Another of my favorite old shows might get the movie treatment – Kung Fu.  Bill Paxton may direct (he’s got some movies under his belt already).  It would be interesting to see how they go with it.  When I saw the show originally, I didn’t know about the whole ‘Bruce Lee came up with the idea and it was stolen from him basically’ thing, but Kwai Chang Caine became a favorite character of mine.  I even loved Kung Fu – The Legend Continues.  I’m curious to see if they keep the half Chinese/half American aspect, as I think that could still give an interesting slant to the story – a man who at the time would be rejected both in China and in the Americas for being different.

My friend Anneke as Carmen Sandiego.  May have to scroll down a bit.

Even our favorite, long running TV shows had bad seasons.  IO9 lists some of the worst in sci-fi and fantasy.  TNG Season 2:  Joe Piscopo.  Enough said.  Though as commenters pointed out, that season gave us The Measure of a Man and the first appearance of the Borg, so it’s not all bad.

Finally, Barnes and Noble is indeed firing back at the Kindle Fire, with a new Nook Tablet.  Engadget got a hold of some slides from a presentation that give some details, and it sounds solid.  Dual-core 1.2ghz, twice the RAM and on-board storage as the Fire, thought it is still more than the Fire at $249.  They will drop the original Nook Color to $199 (I think it should go lower, make Amazon sweat).