Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Top Powerful Deaths in Star Trek (TV Version)


Recently I happened upon a great article listing the Top 10 Most Emotional Deaths in Star Trek. It can be read at this link. It's a good read, but I found that every item on the list was from one of the major motion pictures. I am not sure if it was intentional or not, but thought I would create my own list that was dedicated to the characters on the small screen. How we deal with death is as important as how we deal with life, so it is no small wonder that a fair number of characters met untimely demises on Star Trek. To make this list, the character has to die on one of the TV shows. I am OK with the character being brought back (on a temporary basis) via alternate timeline or flashback, but ultimately they are dead. Also, the actual character has to die, not a holographic representation. Finally, the death must evoke an emotional response from the audience. It could be shock, sadness, anger, or even satisfaction. Some on this list were main cast members, some were recurring characters, and some were only with us for a single episode. Each of their deaths impacted us as viewers, and these are the ten that, in my humble opinion, impacted us the most. Oh, and in case you did not clue into this yet...SPOILER ALERTS!!!



10. Winn Adami - What? A villain evoking a powerful emotion in death? Of course! People cheering for a villain getting their ultimate comeuppance is just as powerful as any other heroic death. For seven seasons Winn Adami had slithered in and out of the lives and affairs of Deep Space Nine, always manipulating for her own personal gain. Finally, when she meets her final fate, I couldn't help but do a fist pump in the air.  



9. I-Chaya - In a lovely animated episode called "Yesteryear" we meet a young Spock and the family pet, an old sehlat named I-Chaya. The two are attacked by a le-matya and I-Chaya defends the boy at the cost of his own life. It's a bit of a throwback to the typical "family dog dies while trying to save the kid" scenario shown over and over, but it is still a powerful moment when Spock chooses to put the animal down rather than letting it contiune to suffer. For pet lovers, this one hits home.



8. Charles "Trip" Tucker - Ah, Trip. I have to say that his death elicited a different type of emotion for me. It was anger mixed with frustration. I felt that the final episode of Enterprise deserved more, and felt like Trip's death was just to give the episode a "big deal" feel to it. Trip had become on of my favourite characters on the show, and though he died saving the life of his crew and captain, I couldn't help but feel a bit ticked off over it. Well, it was emotional for me, to say the least, so it is on the list. 



7. K'Eheyler - Worf has had little luck with women. Case in point, the mother of his son, the half-Klingon-half-human Federation ambassador K'Eheyler. In her second and final episode, K'Eheyler arrives on the Enterprise with Alexander in tow, surprising Worf with parenthood. By the end of the episode, K'Eheyler has been killed by the wicked Duras, who subsequently dies at the hands of Worf. This was the first death that I was aware of in which fans cried in outrage at the writers and producers of the show over the death of a character. The Powers That Be said it was the best way to get Worf to kill Duras. Regardless of whether the fans liked it or not, her death was keenly felt. 



6. Jetrel - Voyager's contribution to this list comes in the form of Jetrel, the Haakonian scientist who created a super weapon that defeated the Talaxians in a bitter war. When the Voyager crew come across him, their resident Talaxian is full of rage and hatred towards this man. What follows is a story of a man who committed atrocious crimes in war and was doing whatever he could to atone for his sins. It is revealed that he is dying from the same effects of creating his weapon, and what we first see as a war criminal becomes the means of exploring forgiveness. The impact of this death is found more in Neelix, which is likely the deepest character development our favourite Talaxian has received in the entire series. For a man to face and ultimately forgive the person who was responsible for the death of his family is truly powerful



5. Lal - One of my favourite TNG episodes is "The Offspring", where Data creates an android daughter he names Lal. The episode involves the continued exploration of the status of androids as individuals in the Federation and what their rights are. By the end of the episode, Lal's programming becomes irreversibly unstable and collapses. The last few moments between Data and his beloved daughter is incredibly emotional, which for an unemotional android like Data is saying something. 


4. Tasha Yar - A first for a Trek series, we see the departure of a major cast member. According to Trek lore, actress Denise Crosby asked to be released from her contract to pursue other ventures. What resulted was the episode "Skin of Evil" where Tasha Yar is killed in the line of duty by...a living, evil, oil slick. What makes this death so memorable for me is that it happened the way that countless security officers have been offed in both TNG and with the original "red-shirt" scenario. This time, however, the security officer who bites it is one that we had become attached to. In a way, the death of Lt. Yar in this manner made all the other crew members who had died in the line of duty become more real. Add to that the effect of her death on the rest of the crew was palpable. It moved the main crew closer together as a family, which makes this a memorable and significant death.


3. Lisa Cusak - In the sixth season of DS9 there was a gem of an episode called "The Sound of Her Voice" in which the crew of the Defiant find themselves on their way to rescue a stranded Starfleet Captain named Lisa Cusak. What makes this character the most interesting inclusion on this list is that she is never once seen. Her entire part in the story is a voice over the comm system. As she speaks to the crew about life and problems, she quickly becomes a real significant part of their lives. She becomes a friend, a confidant, and an almost invisible companion. When they arrive at the planet that she has been stranded on they discover that they had been speaking to her through a time distortion, and she had been dead for years. Despite the fact that they had only known her for a short period of time, her death impacted the crew, and, vicariously, us. 



2. Edith Keeler - Likely one of the most critically acclaimed episodes of Star Trek (any series) is "The City on the Edge of Forever". We are introduced to Edith Keeler, a 20th Century social worker who encounters Kirk, Spock, and McCoy as they have traveled back in time. In the past, Keeler dies in an automobile accident that McCoy saves her from, disrupting the timeline and resulting in a serious and negative change to Earth's history. Kirk and Keeler fall in love, even though our brave captain knows that she must perish. As the moment arrives, and Kirk has to hold McCoy back from saving the life of his love, the look on Kirk's face is one of those intense moments where no words are needed to express the emotional impact. For once, Kirk is vulnerable, which we all are when faced with death.

Before I speak on the #1 most powerful death on Trek TV, I would like to thank Paul Woodsworth and Nigel Druitt for much input in creating this list. They provided me some great suggestions that I had originally overlooked. Because of those suggestions, I offer a quick list of "Honorable Mentions"


  • Tora Ziyal - half-Bajoran, half-Cardassian daughter of the infamous Gul Dukat. A tragic character torn between two worlds.
  • Timicin - played by the impressive David Ogden Steers, Timicin was a renowned scientist who fell in love with Lwaxana Troi days before he was to commit suicide due to the customs of his people
  • Marla Aster - a crewman on Picard's Enterprise who is killed in the line of duty, leaving behind a now orphaned son
  • Kestra Troi - the unknown older sister of Deana Troi. Her death resulted in a serious traumatic experience for Lwaxana Troi, giving Majel Barrett many great moments of depth and acting
  • Patahak - a Romulan soldier who could have been saved by a tissue donation from Worf. Worf refuses, bringing to light a great ethical debate
  • Michael Eddington - a Maquis and former DS9 security officer who gives his life for his people and the man he betrayed, dying for a losing cause he truly believed in
  • Gary Mitchell - a former classmate of Kirk who becomes gifted with god-like powers
  • Damar - a character like Damar grew so much during his time on DS9 that he almost seemed destined to go down with both guns blazing
  • Weyoun - there was a definite sense of satisfaction when the final clone of this smarmy character was killed (how many Weyouns did we see die? Four? Five?)
  • Sarek - the father of Spock dies of Bendii Syndrome, a debilitating condition that seemed hardly fitting for such a influential diplomat 





1. Jadzia Dax - I think of all of the deaths that Trek had, this was the most tragic on TV and belongs in the Top 3 (at least) when you include the films. First, she was going to be a mother, and as a parent I feel it when one is close to parenthood and has the opportunity taken away. Second, her death was almost accidental. Some argue that she should have died heroically, in battle, or in a valiant struggle against a superior adversary, but she instead fell victim to the "wrong place, wrong time" scenario. Dying at the hands of a wraith-possessed Dukat was not the most romantic and glorious way to go, and that is where I find much of its strength. Not all death is meaningful. People die every day, and this death without meaning was all the more powerful because of it. And finally, Jadzia's death had a lasting impact on the rest of the crew. Obviously, Worf was affected the most, with Captain Sisko a close second (his monologue with her casket is still a powerful moment), but everyone lost someone special. Bashir and Quark, Kira and Odo, Jake and O'Brien all seemed to be deeply wounded with the passing of their friend and colleague. 

I hope you enjoy the list. Please feel free to comment. Also, if you have any suggestions for future articles or would like to contribute, please let me know.

Monday, March 28, 2016

Episode Review - Dark Frontier (Voyager Season 5)

For those who are new to my episode reviews, you can find the post where I establish my point criteria here


Episode Overview: While attempting to obtain a transwarp coil from a Borg vessel, Seven of Nine finds herself torn between two collectives: the one she knew as a drone and the one she finds on Voyager.



Episode Score - 9/10. This is a big budget two-hour story that brings the Borg back into Voyager’s story big-time. For a Voyager episode, there are some pretty intense action sequences and a lot of great story-telling. We get to see a lot of development in Seven of Nine’s backstory and history. We get to see aspects of the Borg that we have never before seen, and dig deeper into their mythos. Solid performances by many of the cast, especially Kate Mulgrew and Jeri Ryan.



Relevance - 3 points. References to the past attempts of the Borg to assimilate Earth, the Hansen’s ship “Raven” and their attempts to study the Borg. Sets up future Borg episodes (Unimatrix Zero, Endgame). Refers to the Hansens, and shows the fate of Magnus Hansen (Seven’s father).



Continuity - 2 points. Trek Universe gets a point for showing a development of the Borg that is consistent with what has been previously established. Character continuity scores here as everybody acts as they would. An example of this is B’Elanna Torres who has always been suspicious of Seven’s loyalties telling Janeway that when Seven chose to stay behind on the Borg sphere she showed she was never really “one of us”, and Janeway refusing to give up on Seven despite that. Where this episode loses a point is story continuity. The episode suggests that the Borg were rumored to exist as a known entity for at least a decade before this episode, and before the episode “Q Who” on TNG. It is difficult to believe that a Captain such as Jean-Luc Picard could have ever been unaware of these rumors. As well as this the Borg Queen states a couple of inconsistent historical facts. First, that the Borg of attempted to assimilate humans once before. That, I would assume, is referring to “The Best of Both Worlds”. In truth, the events of the motion picture “First Contact” would count as a second attempt. Second mistake was stating that Seven of Nine was the first drone to regain individuality. I guess Hugh from “I Borg” and all the drones that followed Lore did not count.


Character Development - 2 points. Major development for Seven of Nine, having her first interaction with the Borg since leaving the collective and becoming an individual. For the first time Seven refers to Voyager as being her new “collective”, which I would assume is on a similar level as family. She states that she cares for the crew deeply. She also has great conflict in her leaving the crew to rejoin the Borg. She shows that she has not forgotten her lessons on Voyager by helping members of Species 10026 escape assimilation on two occaissions. Janeway and Naomi Wildman have some minor development as well. Everyone else seems to be their usual selves.



Societal Commentary - 1 point. This has been a hard one for me to nail down. The story is great, but what does it say about society in general? I’m not too sure. There is a theme of serving two masters or being torn between two cultures that can resonate with viewers. Because of this, I can only give it a single point.


Cool Stuff - 3 points. Much of the cool stuff in this episode is courtesy of the Borg. We get to see the Borg Unicomplex, which is one of the most impressive designs yet. We see two new ships in the Borg fleet: the Borg interceptor (a scout-type vessel) and the Borg Diamond (used by the Queen). We see the Borg Queen for the first time on television, and played for the first time by actress Susanna Thompson (her fourth character on Star Trek), and to be honest the way her body was formed was amazing. We see the Hansen family again. We learn a lot about the different species designations (humans are Species 5618, Ktarians are Species 6961, etc.). All of these more than make up the necessary requirements for the full three points.


Rank: Captain (20 points). This was a great episode with wonderful effects, a compelling story, and a great focus on Seven of Nine. It was great seeing the Borg again. I’m not the biggest Seven of Nine fan, but I did think this episode was great and did her character justice.





Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Episode Review - Acquisition (Enterprise, Season 1)


Here we are with yet another episode review. A friend requested a Ferengi episode, so Peter, this one is for you. I also want to welcome an old friend to the blog. About 25 years ago, I went to a church summer camp and met a guy who was as big of a Trekkie as I was. It did not take much for the two of us to become good friends. We attended Trek conventions in Edmonton together, even winning a sound-alike competition as a group. Over the years our lives took us in different directions, but the nice thing about good friends is that we can pick up where we left off. Mike McDevitt (aka Mike the Bold) is one of the most passionate guys I know when it comes to Star Trek, as well as pretty much all things inherent to Geek Culture. He also has a couple blogs, “Beyond the FarthestBlog” and “Mike’s Best Blog Ever”. He is a writer, actor, collector, and all around “wild and crazy guy”. Teaming up with Mike for these episode reviews is a no-brainer for me, and I can think of nobody better for being the first collaborator on this ambitious goal of reviewing every Trek episode. Thanks for taking the time to do this, Mike.

ACQUISITION EPISODE OVERVIEW – The Enterprise crew is gassed unconscious with only Trip Tucker left free to save everyone from a quartet of unidentified looters. It's both the final appearance of and "first contact" with the alien Money Grubs known as The Ferengi. The Internet tells me a Ferengi greeting "Amo Kino-ku" translates equally as "How are your finances?" and "How is your inner peace?". As any Ferengi knows- Wealthy is Happy.

EPISODE SCORE
Mike the Bold – 8/10: It's accessible and funny (even Captain Archer jokes for once), with no complicated ongoing arc to scratch your head over. It's all you might ask for in terms of pretty people running around, getting tied up & punching each other in space.

Mighty Elroy – 7/10: I will agree with the appeal of a humorous story without complicated storyline arches getting in the way. In a TV series, I think it is important to have some of these lighter episodes to balance everything out. I didn’t rank it quite as high mainly because the story is a commonly used one, where the heroes find themselves at the mercy of a clever yet ultimately inferior gang of crooks. The heroes then use all the old tricks to get the upper hand. There is nothing original in Enterprise’s approach. I also found it disappointing that this was pretty much a Trip-T’Pol-Archer show where the rest of the crew were unconscious for pretty much the entire episode. I think Porthos had more acting to do then everyone else.

I actually agree that the episode is by-the-numbers. And suffers from a lack of the supporting cast. Not changing my rating, but that's only because I'm lazy!

Relevance
Mike the Bold– 2 points. It drops nods to 'Dear Doctor' & multiple Ferengi stories from the last 15-odd years.

Mighty Elroy – 2 points. No argument here. Check on both counts.

Continuity
Mike the Bold – 3 points. The Ferengi plasma whip harkens nerdishly back to its only previous appearance in 'The Last Outpost' while dialogue references water polo, Porthos, oo-mox, and the nerve pinch, to name a few. Archer, Trip, & T'Pol behave exactly as you might expect, as do their bumbling trollish adversaries.

Mighty Elroy – 2 points. Again, I agree 100% with everything here. I have to say that I was very happy to see the Ferengi energy whips again. I had always wondered why they were never used after the first TNG episode. Where I docked the one point was at the end, when one of the Ferengi (Muk, played by Clint Howard) offered to Krem a Bolian female. If the Federation (of which the Bolians are a part of) does not officially encounter the Ferengi until Picard’s time, how do the Bolians factor into all of this? I was able to accept how well the writers stayed true to the whole meeting the Ferengi before we officially met the Ferengi, but that last bit just didn’t do it for me.

You're not wrong about Bolians. Although I can't cite anything ON SCREEN saying when Bolians became spacefarers or joined the Federation! All 'Acquisition' tells us is that in 2151 Muk has met Bolians and probably Menk.

Good point. Still, they were pushing the envelope with this episode in messing up continuity. A different species all together would have been a better chance for me. Maybe

Character Development
Mike the Bold – 1 point. Nobody learns nothin'! But I consider it a recurring character trait that the NX-01 crew are terrible at recording their first contacts! I'm looking at YOU, The Borg.

Mighty Elroy – 0 points. Due to the point I made previously as to how Malcolm, Travis, Phlox, and  Hoshi having no lines of dialogue, and that everything else with the others was business as usual, I would say that there was no significant development for anyone.

Societal Commentary
Mike the Bold – 2 points. Capitalism as a religion, piracy, and women viewed as property are all current-day problems but not treated here with any special honesty or sensitivity due to the farcical atmosphere.

Mighty Elroy – 1 point. I originally thought this would get a 0, but your points are true. However, because they were not treated seriously for the reasons you offered, I could only give it a 1.

Cool Factor
Mike the Bold – 3 points. Ethan Philips, Clint Howard, and Jeffrey Combs are all ideal guest stars. Plus I'm an obedient fan boy who buys into the excuse that it's NOT centuries too early to run across Ferengi – as long as they forgot to introduce themselves.

Mighty Elroy – 3 points. Your ideal guest stars for this are right on the money. Each one has a special cool factor: Howard for being in the Original Series 35 years before this episode, Philips for performing his third Ferengi (tying Armin Shimmerman and Max Grodenchik for that honor), and Combs for portraying his 7th Trek character. I also have to give Combs credit for a great performance. Plus, the energy whips. Loved seeing their return. My third Cool Factor point goes to a hypothesis rather than canon-fact, but I can’t help but think that Krem’s obsession with T’Pol was the genesis of the “Vulcan Love Slave” holo-program that was so prevalent in the TNG-DS9 era.

I like your point about the Vulcan Love Slave- it's suggestive of the stories Quark will write in the future, implying this is the "real" world incident that fired the Ferengi imagination for centuries!


RANK
Mike the Bold – Captain (19 Points). Goofy & irreverent. But I prefer bringing the fun even if you have to shove it in there like a sack of stolen pies.

Mighty Elroy – Lieutenant (15 points). I like your concluding statement, Mike. I almost ranked it as Captain myself (just one more point!). A fun episode for those who love the Ferengi.

Final thoughts – As I researched this episode, I found there seems to be a few different camps out there. One group loved the episode, just like we did. Another group loved the Ferengi, but had a hard time with the apparent lack of continuity. The third group, which is definitely the most vocal, hated it with a passion. Many hated it because they hated the Ferengi episodes or the Ferengi themselves in general.


Thursday, March 17, 2016

Episode Review - The Way to Eden (Original Series, Season 3)


Again, as requested, and on the heels of one of Star Trek's best original series episodes, I give you one of the worst (in my humble opinion, of course). Please know that such episodes in Star Trek are few and far between (off the top of my head there are only a precious handful of those that will earn this dubious ranking). Enjoy the read, and feel free to request any episode you would like! Oh, and the next episode review will feature a special guest writer/blogger/Trekker/old friend.



Episode Overview – The Enterprise rescues a group of intergalactic hippies who attempt to take control of the ship so that they may find the legendary planet of Eden.


Episode Score – 1/10. This is a painful episode for me to watch. Keeping in mind that the 1960s saw the height of the hippie movement in western culture, this attempt to recreate it seems forced and derivative. The music sung by the group is annoying, as are their colloquialisms and mannerisms (to this day, the name “Herbert” is uncomfortable for me to use). I also find it difficult to believe that a Federation starship could get so distracted by a concert of questionable music that it allows this band of misfits to take over the ship. There is also some poor editing (look for the scene on Eden where Kirk’s insignia appears on the wrong side of his shirt and some scenes of crew members collapsing that were taken from the episode “Spock’s Brain”). I seriously considered giving this episode a score of 0 because of all of this.


Relevance – 0 points. There was nothing that was relevant in this episode. No impact on future events or references to past events.


Continuity – 0 points. There was little, if anything, that contributed to the continuity of the Trek universe or story continuity. What is detracted from and even contradicts the continuity is in the characters. Walter Koenig has expressed that the episode was poorly written for Chekov’s character and that it was not how Chekov was originally seen.


Character Development – 1 point. I suppose that we can give this story a point for the development of Chekov as he has more to do, but it is a stretch. Walter Koenig himself has said that this episode was written in a way that was inconsistent with his character, so I can only give it the one point.


Social Commentary – 1 point. The hippie movement is no longer relevant to life today, although there will always be similar counter-culture movements (currently hipsters, I believe) that seek to rise against the establishment.


Cool Factor – 1 point. Honestly, I did not find much that was cool about this episode. I would say that Charles Napier, a veteran actor of many great TV series and films (including “Silence of the Lambs”, “Rambo”, “The Simpsons”, “Mission: Impossible”, and many others) would reappear in the Trek universe in an episode of DS9 called “Little Green Men”, more than 25 years later. That could be seen as being cool.


Rank – Crewman (4 points) Not a good episode. I actually felt a bit embarrassed when I watched this with my wife for her first time. Feel free to watch it once to say you have Trek at its worst, but feel equally free to skip over it altogether.





Saturday, March 12, 2016

Episode Review - The Trouble With Tribbles (Original Series, Season 2)


I received a few different suggestions for episodes to review. To Peter, your Ferengi episode is in the works. Today, for my first episode review, I decided to follow the request of an old friend to pick an episode from the original series that I considered to be of Admiral quality. As I thought about it, I figured there was only one episode for me to start this off with...


Episode – The Trouble with Tribbles


Episode Overview – Captain Kirk and his crew are called to Sherman’s Planet and find themselves in a territorial dispute with the Klingons. As tensions rise between the Klingons and the Federation, as well as between Kirk and the station manager, a new menace rears its cute, cuddly, purring…uh, “head”. Bring on the Tribbles!


Episode Score – 10/10. This is a classic episode. It has great writing and directing. The actors are spot on with their comedic timing, and the action is fun. I particularly like the lead up to the bar brawl as well as its aftermath. Cyrano Jones is a wonderfully bafoonish character that endears himself to fans quickly. The Klingons are up to their typical shenanigans. Kirk’s dismissiveness and irritation of Baris provides great one-liners which Shatner delivers perfectly.  


Relevance – 2 points. This episode provides a tie in to a few different episodes and movies. There is an episode of the animated series (“More Tribbles, More Troubles”) that sees the return of not only Cyrano Jones and the Tribbles, but also Koloth. The tribbles are seen in Star Trek III: The Search for Spock, and, of course, the Deep Space Nine episode “Trials and Tribble-ations”, which was a great tribute show to the classic episode. We also see tribbles in Star Trek:Into Darkness. Koloth is one of three Klingons from the original series to appear in the Deep Space Nine episode “Blood Oath”.


Continuity – 3 points. Trek universe continuity – Klingons at odds with the Federation, trying to upset the balance of power in the sector is a recurring theme throughout the series. Character continuity – Everyone acts as to be expected. Chekov claiming that everything is a Russian invention, Spock being able to calculate in his head with speed and proficiency, Scotty’s love of the Enterprise and design specs,  


Character Development – 2 points. Development of many of the main cast (Scotty’s fierce loyalty to the Enterprise, Chekov’s fierce loyalty to the captain)

Social Commentary – 1 point. Too much of anything, even love, can be a bad thing. This line is paraphrased from one of Kirk’s lines. Our society tends to over-indulge in things we like, so I suspect that this is something we can take away from this episode. It is a bit of a stretch, but for such a fun episode we do not need deep, philosophical commentary.  


Cool Factor – 3 points. William Campbell stars as the Klingon Koloth for the first time (he will later be seen in the DS9 episode “Blood Oath”). Kirk standing in a growing mound of tribbles is an iconic image. The tribbles themselves became a favourite of Trek fans that are essential to the universe.



Rank – ADMIRAL (21 points). This is largely seen as one of Star Trek’s favourite episodes. It shows that comedy can be done well on Star Trek. Great acting, a fun story, and one of the most cuddly and memorable alien species imaginable (not bad for literal balls of fur) makes this a must see for any new fan.





Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Episode Review - Request for Suggestions



One of the many projects that I have started over and over is the review of episodes. Throughout my home I likely have several drafts of these attempts, but here is one that stuck with me. Since I am getting a few hits here and there for this blog, I thought I would allow you some input as to which episodes you would like me to start with. You can ask for a specific episode or a season from any of the series. If you want me to start with a specific series, or a group of episodes in a story arc. Is there a certain character you would like focused on first, or maybe some significant moments that arch between series? Do you want me to start with the best of the best, or begin with the bottom of the barrel? I have all episodes on DVD, so ask away. 

Also, I would love to have these sort of posts be more collaborative. I would relish the opportunity to have other people, using the same criteria, rank the same episode, giving a bit of debate, as it were. I've reached out to a couple, and I promise I will do all I can to make this as low-stress as possible. Let me know if you are interested.

In the meantime, here is the scoring system I plan on using. 


Score: 
I will give each episode an overall ranking of how the episode stands on its own as an episode of television. This will be out of ten (10) points. Then, to make things a bit interesting, three bonus points will be given in five categories (total of 15 bonus points) for a grand maximum of 25 points. The five categories are as follows:
  •  Relevance – how relevant is this episode in Trek lore and culture? For each element or factor of the show that is deemed “relevant”, one point will be given, for a maximum of three points. This will include things like foreshadowing of important Trek events (e.g. when the Dominion is foreshadowed before it is revealed in DS9 Season 1 and 2), reference to past significant events from other episodes or movies (e.g. Data referring to his relationship with Tasha while he was on trial), introduction of a significant recurring character (first appearance of Rom, Seska, or Shran, for example) or important character references.
  • Continuity – this category will assign bonus points for the episode keeping continuity in three ways (one point each): Trek universe continuity (Vulcans having green blood), character continuity (Data’s inability to use contractions), and story continuity (Kahn was a result of 20th century genetics). If there is an inconsistency in one of those areas, it will negate any points given for that area.
  • Character development – one of Trek’s strengths lays in character development. To score one point, a major character has some development. To score two points, a major character has significant development, or more than one major character has some development. To score the full three points, more than one major character has significant development. Significant development would include things like a dramatic change in their life that will have a defining impact on the character development in the future (e.g. Picard’s assimilation by the Borg or T’Pol’s marriage).
  • Societal commentary – Trek was also at its best when it spoke to things that were presently happening in society. One to three points will be given based on how strong and relevant the commentary is and its enduring features. Hippies rocking out with Spock is not very relevant today, but racism discussed in “Let That Be Your Last Battlefield” is enduring.
  • Cool factor – up to three bonus points awarded for three really cool things, which could include any of the following: special guest star (Q, crossover characters, historical figures represented, etc), great special effects (must be time considerate, so the Original Series can get a bit of a break to using 1960s effects instead of comparing them to the most updated Trek series), neat story ideas (must be original), epic moments (could include major space battles, Alice Krige as the Borg Queen on Voyager, etc), or anything else that is just plain AWESOME about that episode.

Once the score is calculated, the episode will be given a rank.
  1. Admiral – Score: 21-25 points. These episodes are the best of the best. If you are referring to a given series, these are the episodes that could not and should not be missed.
  2. Captain – Score 16-20 points. These are excellent episodes that merit viewing by even casual fans. They will quite often contain important story lines, vital character development, or notable events.
  3. Lieutenant – Score 11-15 points. These episodes are your fairly decent ones. They may contain significant plot points or character development, but are lacking in the story telling department. They might be really good T.V. episodes that just do not mean a whole lot to the overall Trek universe. Fans should watch them, but if you can only pick 35 episodes to watch from a particular series, these would likely not make the cut.
  4. Ensign – Score 6-10 points. These will be weak episodes that tend to have redeeming qualities. Some may find them entertaining, many will find them forgettable, and a few will find them embarrassing.
  5. Crewman – Score 0-5 points. Every barrel, even Trek, has a bottom, and that is where these episodes are found. Alas, there will be a few episodes that earn this dubious distinction. No show is perfect, right?



Sunday, March 6, 2016

Top 10 List - Pre-Reboot Movies Part 2



Last post (not counting the news update), I ranked the bottom 5 of the ten pre-reboot Trek films. Today, we look at the top 5. I expect this list to be a tougher one to figure out, and I suspect that there will be a bit more disagreement, but that is the fun of things. 

Before we take a look at #5 I just wanted to provide a link to the website that helped me decide and sort out the different movies. Flickchart.com is a great website for people who love movies and have some spare time on their hands. Check it out at www.flickchart.com/

And now, #5



5. Star Trek III: The Search for Spock - There is an old saying that in the original 10 Trek movies, all the odd number movies were inferior to all the even number movies. There are two exceptions to that rule, in my opinion: the 10th and the 3rd. Star Trek III may not be as gripping as the Wrath of Khan or as fun as the Voyage Home, but it is a worthy movie with many strengths. This movie is the second in a compelling three-part adventure. With Leonard Nimoy at the helm as director (his first of two), Spock's presence was felt throughout. Kirk and McCoy both have some great moments, while the rest of the crew each gets their moment to shine. One of the greatest strengths of this movie is the supporting cast. While the debate will likely never be settled over who was the better Saavik, Robin Curtis plays a great Vulcan. Dame Judith Anderson came out of retirement from films for her role as the Vulcan Priestess. Mark Leonard returns as Spock's father, Sarek, bringing his typical poise and dignity. Especially fun are the Klingons, who since the films began were barely a footnote. There is a barely recognizable John Laroquette as Maltz, Steven Liska as Torg, and the ever wonderful Christopher Lloyd as the evil Klingon Commander Kruge. Lloyd plays his villain perfectly with a balance of cruelty and sophistication. Added to that is Merritt Butrick returning as Kirk's estranged son. The theme of sacrifice to save a fallen comrade is hit home in the exchange between Kirk and Sarek when discussing what saving Spock cost Kirk. Kirk says "If I hadn't tried, the cost would have been my soul". So while this movie may not be the greatest, it is still great. 



4. Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country - This movie was meant to be both a farewell and a celebration. Star Trek was 25 years old, and the original crew were about to take their final voyage. TNG was amidst the height of its popularity and the obvious heir to the franchise. DS9 was on the horizon, and it was time to give Kirk, Spock, and company their proper send-off. Sadly, the passing of Gene Roddenberry cast a somber shadow over the celebration. Star Trek VI is a near-perfect film for the franchise. Everything checks off. Great story with a timely social commentary, check. Fun script with proper balance of seriousness and humor, check. The original crew at their finest, check. My favourite features of this movie include the supporting cast. Mark Leonard returns as Sarek, David Warner as the Klingon Chancellor, and Michael Dorn as Worf's ancestor of the same name. Most impressive is Christopher Plummer as the Shakespeare-quoting General Chang, likely one of the greatest villains to ever tangle with Kirk. I also like having Nicholas Meyer back at the helm as director. I have always felt that Trek is best directed by those who get it, and Meyer definitely gets it. Leonard Nimoy was also greatly involved with the story and production. I also love how they moved the characters on, especially giving Sulu his own command. It is a fitting closing chapter of an important part of Trek history. While Gene had some issues with the story, he did get to see the movie before he died, and gave it his blessing.




3. Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home - One of the most successful (both financially and critically) movies of the franchise, Star Trek IV brings Trek to one of its highest points. The end to a great trilogy sees Kirk and company travel back in time to 1980s San Francisco. Leonard Nimoy returns to the director's chair. The story of environmental conscience can be overdone and become bogged down in preachy cliches, but this movie finds the right tone. I believe this movie also is the best at using humor. It is great seeing the elite of Starfleet out of their element in our day. Of particular note is finally getting Walter Koenig's Chekov to really exercise some great comedic talent, but Spock's befuddled nature, too much LDS, and the punk on the bus are all great entertainment. Everyone gets their moment. While having a great villain makes a movie great, this one doesn't need it, and this is one of the refreshing elements of this movie. While conflict is always a necessary plot device, in this movie the conflict comes with our past. The message to care for the Earth and the creatures that inhabit is timeless, for life on Earth will always be interconnected. I also enjoyed Catherine Hicks as the marine biologist that the crew must work with to save a pair of humpback whales. Most of all, after two movies with a darker theme to them, this is such a light-hearted escapade that everyone can enjoy it.



2. Star Trek: First Contact - While most of the TNG films ended up in the bottom 5, the number 2 spot belongs to their strongest contender. This movie is one great action adventure that delves deeper into Trek lore. While going back to our present day is fun and nostalgic, I like the idea of visiting a part that is still in our future that establishes an important moment in Trek history: first contact between Earth and extra-terrestrial life. While Generations seemed like a way for the Next Generation crew to take the torch from Kirk and company, First Contact was an opportunity to paint a new look for the Picard and his crew. We have a new Enterprise, bigger and better than ever. The crew gets new uniforms (which are later picked up by the DS9 group). We also see what is arguably the greatest enemy of TNG come alive on the big screen with a new look. Yes, the Borg have returned and they are going to pull all the stops to assimilate this pesky Federation. All the fish-out-of-water fun that made the Voyage Home so enduring is here as Riker, Troi, and Geordi try to help Zefram Cochrane (played by the always talented James Cromwell) launch the first warp-capable space vessel. Added to this is likely one of the most intense action stories as Picard, Data, and the rest of the crew fight against the zombie-like Borg from assimilating the Enterprise. they come face-to-face with the Borg Queen, portrayed with delicious coldness by Alice Krige. The Queen brings great depth to an already terrifying race. This movie also has many elements that I love in a great Trek story. There is humor (drunken Troi, as an example), suspense, and great drama. Patrick Steward takes Picard to new heights (or depths, possibly) as he gives an Ahab-like obsession to our normally composed captain. While many shows cause trauma to their characters, this shows that Picard is still healing from his experiences with the Borg, even though it was years ago. Data also gets growth as he becomes the favored of the Queen. The two of them have an amazing chemistry. Throw in so many well-placed and appropriate throwbacks to the Trek universe (look for Barclay, Ogawa, the EMH, the USS Defiant, and Ethan Phillips as a hologram give nods to almost every part of what was then the current Star Trek world). The soundtrack might be my all time favourite, and Johnathan Frakes shows us that his amazing directorial skills translate equally well on the big screen. This was the last movie that I saw several times in the theatre Still, it was not quite enough for it to beat out...



1. Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan - Several years ago, a classmate of mine said that Star Trek sucks, and I could not show her anything trek that she would like. I pulled out this movie. She took it all back. On flickchart.com, this movie is my #1 of all time. I have no idea where to begin with it. Everyone is firing at warp 9. Nicholas Meyer directs an amazing story he helped create. Going back to an original series episode, "Space Seed", Meyer brings back Khan Noonien Singh, once again played with brilliance by the incomparable Ricardo Montalban. This is the villain to beat all villains. He has a reason to be evil. He shows no mercy. He is multi-dimensional. He is intelligent and passionate. He is calculating and eloquent. I would put Khan against any villain anywhere and anytime. Add to this a sweeping saga of revenge peppered with the theme of dealing with one own's mortality, and you have a phenomenal movie. I also enjoyed the acting. I know, Shatner often is the butt of many "can't act" jokes, but I think he does quite well in this movie. This movie will make you laugh, cry, scream in horror, and applaud. The ending brings so much depth to our beloved characters as for the first time in Trek history we deal with the loss of a beloved character. Spock's ultimate sacrifice touched fans deeply, and this was before all details were leaked onto the internet months before the film was released. We had no idea whether Spock was gone for good or not. I think his service at the end was one of the most emotional and touching scenes in Trek history. I remember being a very young boy and crying over it in the movie theater. To this day I cannot listen to "Amazing Grace" being played on the bagpipes without remembering this scene. So much of Trek lore can be connected to this story. The Kobyashi Maru, the Vulcan soul, Genesis, the Eugenics wars, and more. and I would be remiss if I hadn't included the famous cry of rage that fans echo every chance they get; "KHAN!!!!!!!!" I think there is a very good reason that JJ Abrams revisited Khan and the aspects of this movie in his second reboot feature, and that is because it is just rich. As I said before, whenever someone wants to see a good movie, I show them this. Trekkie or not, people connect to this movie. 

So there are my Top 5. Let me know what you think.




Thursday, March 3, 2016

News - Roddenberry Back in Star Trek

March 3 2016 - It was announced today that Eugene "Rod" Roddenberry has been added to the new Star Trek TV show as an executive producer, along with Trevor Roth, who is a producer for Roddenberry Entertainment. 

My thoughts: It is obvious that having the "Next Generation" of Roddenberry involved is definitely an interesting signal. Some may argue that this is strictly a move to keep skeptical fans happy. For me, I see this as being good if not great news. Rod grew up with Star Trek in a way the rest of us could only dream of. Nobody else can come this close to having Trek in their blood. If nothing else, he will have a sense of family pride and heritage to make this work and to honor his family's legacy. As the on of the the creator and of an actress who was heavily involved in the series, he will have some high expectations.  I believe he will be up to the challenge. To paraphrase Captain Kirk "It wouldn't be Star Trek without a Roddenberry at the helm".

More info here

Top Ten List - Pre-Reboot Movies Part 1


This year, to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of Star Trek, we fans are anxiously awaiting the third installment of J.J. Abrams successful Star Trek reboot film series. I thought that while we waited for July 22 to arrive, we should take a look back at the 10 original movies and rank them in a Top 10 list. I decided not to include the reboot movies because they are in their own category (to me at least), but I plan on discussing them after the third movie comes out and then talk about all three together.

Before I begin, I will freely admit that I actually enjoy all ten movies. Some are definitely flawed, but they all have their good points. I would be very interested in hearing what any of you have to say on the matter. Also, since I will be discussing some basic plotlines, an obvious and obligatory "SPOILER ALERT" is in order (although, to be honest, for those who are following this blog, I expect that you have already seen most if not all of these movies a few times over).

10. Star Trek V: The Final Frontier - Directed by William Shatner himself, this movie often lands itself at the bottom of most fan lists. The only in the franchise to get nominated for the infamous Razzies (it received 6 nominations and earned 3 dubious awards, including Worst Picture and double whammy for Shatner getting worst director and actor). For myself, I liked the premise initially, and to be honest, found many of the jokes funny. I liked the effort to make the main cast appear somewhat more human (Chekov and Sulu getting lost hiking and then trying to bluff their way out of it with Uhura), Despite this, the editing was a bit flawed. For example, when the trio of Kirk, Spock, and McCoy are shooting up the turbolift, the numbers of the levels they pass are out of order. That sort of sloppy work is going to hurt the product. There were also a fair number of cringe-worthy moments (Uhura's fan dance, Kirk fighting a cat-lady, and how quickly the crew fell to Sybok's influence). There were points that I liked, but I get why it is usually hated by fans, so this one was easy for me to place in last place.


9. Star Trek: The Motion Picture - The film that started it all is a grand-scale special-effects laced epic that, for its time, was revolutionary. For years fans had been hoping to get the crew back together. It was wonderful to see everyone back in action, and yet I have found that this movie to be a bit the slowest, plot-wise, of all of them. It has the well-earned nick-name of "The Motionless Picture" for a reason. It's hard for me to watch in one sitting without getting distracted, but it is definitely better than #5, and without it we likely would not have the rest of the franchise.


8. Star Trek Nemesis - The last film before the reboot, and the last official voyage of the TNG cast, Nemesis is the film where I start to drift from general consensus. Many feel that this film killed the franchise. While I agree that it was the weakest of the TNG films, in no way do I find it to be a bad movie. I loved the action and how it sent the TNG crew off on a good note. I loved the cameos of Guinan, Wes Crusher, and Janeway (though I would have preferred to have seen more to do with Wesley, like maybe some lines of dialogue), as well as a slight tip of the hat to, at the time, the only Trek on TV (one of the ships sent to assist the Enterprise was shown as the USS Archer, after Captain Johnathan Archer). Troi and Riker getting married was a perfect wrap-up to their story, as was Riker finally taking command of his own ship. Some great comedic moments (Data singing "Blue Skies"), and some surprises (Data making the ultimate sacrifice to save his friends) made it a well-rounded movie. I do not get why so many fans hated the film, but I do understand some of its flaws. First, while Tom Hardy as the clone of Picard was interesting, I found his story to be a bit underwhelming. When I think of great movie villains, you can't be a whimper. There were also some interesting scenes that were deleted that would have made the movie stronger. Finally, the director just didn't get Trek. When you hire a director for Star Trek, you need someone who gets the franchise. While Stuart Baird has an impressive resume, he just did not get what this franchise was about. 


7. Star Trek Generations - The first outing of the TNG crew comes in at #7. Earlier in 1993, Picard and crew went on their last voyage for the TV series, and then jumped right into filming their first feature film. We finally get to see Kirk and Picard join forces, and we even get a look at the never-before seen Enterprise B. It was great to see Tim Russ, the future Mr. Tuvok, and having Chekov and Scotty with Kirk was a lot of fun. Some important character development for Picard (losing his brother and nephew) and Data (getting his emotion chip installed), but for the rest of the crew it was business as usual. Everyone had their moments, and we finally see the end of the Sisters of Duras. We also see the demise of two key characters, both who go down fighting. First, while not human, the Enterprise D was destroyed, likely to make room for an even bigger, better Enterprise in the rest of the movies. Second, Captain James T. Kirk himself meets his end, making a difference. I would say that while this movie is still a pretty great film, I found that the death of Kirk to be not quite fitting for such an iconic character. Originally it supposed to be Kirk getting shot in the back by Malcolm McDowell's character, Soran. When that ending was leaked, fans were furious, and the powers that be decided to change it around to keep it a surprise. I think this hurt the movie a bit. I also thought that Soran was not as strong as other villains we had seen, or would see in the future. Heck, I would put the alien whale probe ahead of Soran on the Best Villains list. Still, to see Data fully immerse himself in emotions, Worf finally get his promotion, and Picard and Kirk unite to save the day, it is a solid entry in the franchise.

6. Star Trek Insurrection - This might get me some heat for ranking it this high. It is largely considered a mediocre movie with silly humor and a boring plotline. It might be that it was on the heels of the very successful First Contact, but there were a lot of critics of this movie. I think my biggest issue for this movie was that it seemed more like an extended TV episode rather than a motion picture event. The villain, while more toothsome than Soran, is still not at the level of other greats like Kruge, Chang, and Khan. The story seems a bit uninspired, but not dull either. What I like about this movie is that it shows some of the crew a bit out of their element. I loved seeing Dr. Crusher and Troi  having a bit more to do in the action department, while being able to see Riker kick butt in the Captain's chair for the first time since "Best of Both Worlds". I was also happy to see the Roker-Troi relationship get to where fans had been hoping it would go for years, see Picard find some love, and finally get to see Geordi's eyes. Granted, Worf experiencing Klingon puberty again was a bit over the top, overall it was good movie.

In Part 2 I will take on the Top 5 films.