Saturday, December 31, 2016

Episode Review - The Abandoned (Deep Space Nine, Season 3)

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


Overview – Quark makes a disturbing discovery in some salvage that he has just purchased: a baby. The infant grows rapidly and it soon becomes apparent that this is an infant Jem’Hadar. Odo takes on the task to raise the child in a hope to convince it to move against its genetic programing. Meanwhile, Commander Sisko gets to know the dabo girl that has been dating his son Jake, and makes some surprising discoveries of his own.


Score: 7/10 – A good episode that provides the audience with a better understanding of a new foe as well as develop the characters of Odo, Ben, and Jake. The B-story line with the Siskos is fairly routine and predictable, but adds some good filler. It could have been pared back a bit to allow Odo’s story to develop a bit more, but it was still good.


Relevance - 3 points. More than anything else, this grants us a deeper insight into the Jem’Hadar, establishing for the first time that these super soldiers have been genetically modified to be lacking an essential enzyme, which will later on be revealed as Ketracel-white. Odo shows footage from the battle shown in “The Search”. We also see the promised dinner between Ben Sisko and Mardah, the Bajoran dabo girl that Jake is currently dating. There is also a repeat appearance of the Boslic freighter captain that has had dealings with Quark.


Continuity - 3 points. Character continuity is solid. Odo wanting to turn the young Jem’Hadar and in essence show that his people can be redeemed works. Sisko as the overprotective father wrestling with the romantic development between his teenage son and an older woman is typical


Character Development – 2 points. Odo shines in this episode and grows the most. As he struggles to help the young Jem’Hadar renounce the instincts built into his genetics, he must ultimately face the truth that such an endeavour is doomed. He has a conflict with Kira over the issue, but true to their relationship they stay closely connected. Jake’s writing is further developed as it is what drew Martah to him.


Social Commentary – 3 points. I had a hard time deciding whether this would score two or three points. I did a lot of research and discovered that there are many different ideas and concepts that are being explored here. The Sisko story line shows how our children seem to grow up without us parents really noticing, and that we can still be surprised by them. The main story line gives us a chance to explore some deeper subject matter. Director Avery Brooks compared the story to an exploration of racial issues, specifically in gang culture. It is difficult to take someone out of a culture that has spent so much time conditioning them. Writer and producer Rene Echevarria described the story as a tragedy in that the Jem’Hadar youth could not be turned and redeemed. So many times we hope to be able to influence someone for good and help them change the pathway that they are on, only to learn that their effort is futile. I think many of us know someone whom we have tried to help overcome something deeply rooted in their life, such as addictions or negative cultural issues, but in the end realize that we just cannot help them.


Cool Stuff – 2 points. A point is scored for the more in-depth exploration into the growth of a Jem’Hadar soldier. This is the only chance we get to see how the Jem’Hadar start out it in life. It is very cool. It is also a nice insight into Jake. The realizations that Ben have about his son further strengthens their relationship. Cool point for that.


Rank – Captain (17 points). A solid outing that gives us our only glimpse at the life of a young Jem’Hadar. The Odo story is solid, and the B-line story with the Siskos is decent.




Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Episode Review - Shore Leave (Original Series - Season 1)

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

Straight out of Wonderland

Episode Overview – Needing a much needed break Captain Kirk sends an away team mission to an unknown planet. The away teams soon discover some unusual appearances that seem to appear right out of their imagination. As Kirk and his crew face off against deadly perils, the true nature of the planet reveals itself, and it is not what they expected.

Even the Captain needs a back rub

Episode Score – 7/10. This was a fun episode, full of fantasy and mayhem. There are a number of crewman featured (Barrows, Rodrigues, Martine) and everyone’s fantasy is played up. Starting off with McCoy’s vision of Alice and the White Rabbit from Wonderland, Kirk faces off against his old Academy foe, Finnegan (which led to some great musical scores and comedic moments), Sulu finds the perfect addition to his firearms collection, and McCoy gets to be the brave knight as he attempts to woo the beautiful Yeoman Barrows. There is a great deal of suspense, especially when McCoy is seemingly killed. The end reveal that the entire planet is some sort of large-scale amusement park that brings your every daydream to life and that nobody is truly harmed is fun.

The rascal, Finnegan

Relevance – 2 points. One point scored for the sequel episode “Once Upon a Planet” in the animated series. Another point is scored as we see the second and final appearance of Angela Martine, who was first seen in an earlier Season 1 episode “Balance of Terror”. Apparently she has recovered from the personal tragedy that she faced in that episode.

The mission takes a deadly turn for McCoy

Continuity – 3 points. We get full marks for having everything happen the way that we would expect it to happen. Character continuity might have suffered in this episode happened immediately following “Balance of Terror”, as Angela Martine lost her very recently wedded husband in that episode, and she seems to have emotionally recovered from her loss. Story and universe continuity both check out.

Sulu finds the perfect collector's piece

Character Development – 2 points. Some more insight given to some secondary characters, mainly Sulu and McCoy. We learn that McCoy has a romantic side and gets some much needed love interest.  

Back from the dead, and with some explaining to do

Social Commentary – 1 point. There is not much that can be said as far as social commentary, other than the power of imagination. Still, it’s a fun episode.

Living the fantasy

Cool Factor – 2 points. The entire planet being a large holodeck type shore leave planet is cool, and scores a point. The different fantasies played out by the crew members is also cool.

Enjoying the fresh air

Rank Captain (17 points). A light-hearted episode that mixes fun with excitement. We are originally led to believe that the crew was at risk, and this turns the fun into tragedy when McCoy dies. It’s a good twist for its time.

Not sure if his eyes can be believed



Thursday, December 15, 2016

Episode Review - Disaster (Next Generation, 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 – The Enterprise is left critically disabled after hitting a quantum filament. With the crew separated from each other and unable to communicate with different sections, each officer must dig deep within themselves to handle the situation as best as they can.

Lt. Monroe right before she bites it.

Episode Score – 8/10. I really enjoyed this excellent bottle episode. It pushes many of the characters out of their own comfort zone and gives us several smaller stories interwoven by a large scale disaster. With five separate tales being told, it is impressive how each one is treated almost equally, although the Crusher-La Forge story seemed just a little bit like an after-thought. It was as if they needed another something to go wrong to give these two characters something to do (which, mind you, may not be a bad thing after all). There are definitely some lighter moments that bring you laughter, and though you know that everything will work out for the main characters, there are some moments when you feel concerned for the outcome.

Troi and O'Brien discuss their options.


Relevance – 3 points. Three key things that score a relevance point. First, in the episode “The Loss” the ship encounters a cosmic string. Troi references that when she is discussing what has happened to the ship. Second, this episode leads Troi to eventually seek a promotion to Commander in the episode “To Thine Own Self”. Finally, the birth of Molly O’Brien, ushering in a character that we watch grow up on Deep Space Nine. The fact that Worf delivers Molly is also brought up in the Deep Space Nine episode “Accession”.  

Worf meets Molly

Continuity – 2 points. Trek universe and story continuity both score points here. Where a point was deducted was in character continuity. This is for two reasons. First, Ensign Ro was very apologetic at the end of the episode. After butting heads with Troi over what to do (Ro wanted to separate the saucer section while Troi chose to give everyone as much of a chance as they could to survive), when the dust finally settles, Ro meekly offers her apology to Troi, conceding that she was right. Show producer Michael Piller felt that this was not the right direction for the character, feeling that she would have been the one to point out that she could have very well been right. I agree with that reflection. Second, Riker tells Data that, android or not, he wouldn’t order anyone to risk their life in the manner in which Data offers. In the next season, when Troi is taking the promotion exam, Riker tells her that his first duty is to the ship, which means that sometimes you order officers to risk their lives to save the ship

Data acting as a lightning rod

Character Development – 3 points. Lots of great character development here. We see growth in several of the main cast and some supporting cast. This being the second episode to feature Ensign Ro we see more of how she interacts with a Starfleet crew. We learn that La Forge can sing and that Beverly is heavily involved in the ship’s theatre program. We see Worf squirm a bit as he delivers Keiko’s baby (which also brings in some great comedic dialogue). Riker and Data pretty much do things by the book for their characters. Picard really has to soften up as he is trapped in the turbolift with three scared children, and he makes further growth in dealing with his discomfort around children. I especially liked how Picard used his own rank pips to give the children their ranks as they became a part of his crew. When he agrees to show the kids some of the more exciting parts of the ship on their reschedule tour (starting with the battle bridge), it shows how far he has come in this regard. More than all the others, though, this is Troi’s episode. She is the one left in command of the bridge, and the moment when she takes her place in the captain’s chair seems to be a major turning point for her career and attitude. Troi fans should definitely watch this episode.

Troi takes command

Social Commentary – 1 point. Work well as a time in tough times. That’s about it. Hey, a fun episode does not always have to have something profound to say.

Picard;s worst nightmare is realized.


Cool Factor – 2 points. When Riker takes Data’s head and brings it to engineering to stabilize the warp core we have a cool moment (especially since it becomes apparent that all you really need is Data’s head). I always thought they should have finished the episode with only Data’s head hooked up to his console. The birth of Molly is one of the funniest scenes in Trek, as Worf and Keiko have a great dialogue between them.

Data showing he is the brains of the operation.


Rank Captain (19 points). This episode is a breath of fresh air for so many reasons. It is fun, has some great comedy, some tension, and some good character development.  

I AM PUSHING!!!!


Thursday, December 8, 2016

Celebrating Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country


25 years ago Trekkies were celebrating the 25th anniversary of their beloved franchise. The Next Generation was riding high in ratings and reviews. A new series, Deep Space Nine, was just beginning to form in creative minds. Fans were most excited about the newest movie that was to be released on December 6, 1991. It was given the title “The Undiscovered Country” and it was being billed as the final voyage of the original crew. Leonard Nimoy, most famous for his role as everyone’s beloved Vulcan, Spock, was one of the major creative forces behind this film. Not only was he taking on his regular acting role, but he served as one of the story writers. Directing this movie was the talented and beloved Nicholas Meyer, who was widely revered for directing “The Wrath of Khan” and credited with setting the bar for all Trek films. The celebration was a bit subdued, as a few weeks before its release, Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry had passed away. The movie was dedicated to Gene, who was able to watch it two days before he passed.


Star Trek VI was the only Trek film (to date) that I had the privilege to see in a special advance premier screening. I was a high school student living just outside of a small rural Alberta town, and the movie was being shown in Edmonton, one hour drive away. As both of my parents were unable to go, we called upon a family friend to take me. There was a bitter blizzard that evening, and after a few vehicular mishaps, the two of us finally managed to get ourselves seated in the theater just as the trailers ended. There is nothing like watching a Trek film with the room packed full of Trekkies. When the opening image appeared, Gene’s dedication, we all cheered. Then the music started, and we prepared ourselves for an amazing ride of thrills and nostalgia. The opening credits elicited many more cheers as the names of William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, Nicholas Meyer, and others appeared. Then, as the introductory music faded, Praxis exploded, and we were off.


The Undiscovered Country may not be my favorite Trek movie (Wrath of Khan forever!), but it in no way disappointed us. After the poorly received fifth movie, many wondered if that was it for the franchise in film. Thankfully, the powers at Paramount Pictures wanted something special for the 25th anniversary and a more fitting send off than Star Trek V, and #6 delivered. Big time. It has everything that is needed to be a great Trek film. A compelling story that spoke directly to current events of our time (in the story, while the Federation and Klingon empire were seeking peace, America and its allies were coming closer to ending the cold war against the USSR). There was action and humor, suspense and fondness. The pacing of the plot was near perfect, and when the end approached, we had arguably the best moment of closure with the signatures of the actors we had loved for so long appear on the screen as a thank you to us fans. We left the theatre knowing that we had just completed a fitting sendoff to our dear crew of the USS Enterprise.


There are many aspects of this movie that I love. Indulge me in mentioning a few. First, there were some great guest characters. We saw a few old favourites. Admiral Cartwright was back, played once again by the impressive Brock Peters (we had last seen him in Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home). John Schuck also reprised his Voyage Home character as the Klingon ambassador to the Federation. Of course, we had Mark Leonard reprise Sarek for the final time (he had just appeared on TNG in Part One of Unification). Some new characters played by seasoned actors were introduced. Kim Cattrall, soon to be of Sex and the City fame, pulled off a fairly good Vulcan in Valeris. David Warner gave depth to the Klingon Chancellor, Gorkon. Kurtwood Smith played the Federation President, his first of three Trek roles. Super model Iman played the shape-shifting Matria. Rene Auberjonois, who we would grow to love as Constable Odo on DS9, was the treacherous Colonel West. We even had Michael Dorn play the grandfather of his TNG character, also named Worf. That’s a lot of star power.


Best of all, however, was General Chang, deliciously played by Christopher Plummer. I would likely rank Chang easily in my Top 3 Trek movie villains. He was cunning, intelligent, witty, and could quote Shakespeare in both English and its original Klingon. Plummer stole virtually every scene that he was in, and Chang sparred with Kirk like few could. I loved watching the final battle scene for nothing more than the gusto that Plummer brought to it. I have never been able to hear the line “Cry havoc! And let slip the dogs of war!” since without hearing Chang’s delightful voice. If nothing else, you have to admit that only a Klingon warrior would bolt an eye patch to his head. Sorry Martok, but Chang proved he was far tougher.


The story was so poignant and relevant to the world that was in 1991, and in many cases is even more so now. For the first time, our cherished heroes had to confront their prejudices. Klingons had been the enemy for so long it was easy to hate them. As much as Gene wanted the future to be all rainbows and utopia, even the most morally aligned characters have their flaws. The verbal debate between Spock and Kirk at the beginning of the mission highlights this. When Spock tells Kirk that the Klingons are dying, Kirk emphatically responds “Let them die.” In the movies, Kirk developed every reason to hate the Klingons, and he held onto that hate for many years. Likewise, Spock also had his prejudices towards the superiority of Vulcan morals. He had difficulties believing that his own protégé was a traitor due to her heritage. It took both of these iconic characters a great deal of courage and inner strength to admit and overcome this. Twenty-five years ago, as I mentioned, both sides of the Cold War were learning to overcome decades of distrust against each other. Today, we see the divisions more clearly and deeply as our world is divided on everything from religion to politics to race and to ideologies. Each of us needs to make a careful examination of our own prejudices and see what we need to do to keep them in check.


Most of all, the greatest strength of the film was the core group of characters that we had faithfully watched and re-watched for a quarter of a century. Everyone had some great moments. Kirk, Spock, and McCoy all had a great deal of limelight, but we saw great contributions from all the others. Scotty made some key discoveries in the investigation of the conspiracy, Uhura puts her linguistic skills to good use in crossing the Klingon border, and Chekov gets some of the greatest one-liners in the franchise’s history (“Guess who’s coming to dinner”). Most notably was Sulu, now Captain Hikaru Sulu of the USS Excelsior (a Search for Spock throwback). This was the decision that, for me, signaled that this was indeed the end for the original crew. They were finally starting to go their separate ways. This was, indeed, good bye.


Finally, I think that Undiscovered Country was a great movie for bringing closure to this wonderful televisions series that stretched into the feature films. Because it was cancelled after the third season, there wasn’t a final hurrah for the Enterprise and her crew. All of the other television series had it, but not the original. Since this was indeed the final voyage, we fans were able to send off Kirk, Spock, McCoy, Scotty, Chekov, Uhura, and Sulu in grand fashion. I felt that this was by far a better send off than Picard and company received in Nemesis as it left us with a satisfying sense of completion, which is something that every good franchise will eventually need. While the franchise would continue in some shape or form for another twenty-five years (and counting), this was a necessary final chapter for a cast of characters that are permanently etched into the annals of science fiction and pop culture. The Undiscovered Country proved to be more than worthy of a final ride into the sunset, and it ended with the most fitting of final lines, which also seems to set the tone for ending this celebration.

Second star to the right. And straight on ‘til morning.


Thursday, December 1, 2016

Episode Review - Where No One Has Gone Before (Next Generation Season 1)

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

The far reaches of the galaxy

Episode Overview – A Starfleet engineer and his assistant arrive to upgrade the warp drive of the Enterprise. While the crew is skeptical, Picard is ordered to allow him to test his modifications. The Enterprise ends up being hurled to the farthest reaches of the universe and must turn to the assistant, who has developed a special bond with Wesley Crusher, to get them home.

Kosinski and his assistant arrive on the Enterprise

Episode Score – 8/10. This is one of the highlights of the shaky first season. It is well written and there are some really cool experiences for the crew. While some of the dialogue is a bit campy, it is important to remember that the first season of any show is trying to find its footing. It is imaginative and sometimes whimsical, and definitely a fun ride.

Riker and Argyle decide what to make of Kosinski

Relevance – 2 points. Definitely a point scored for the first appearance of the Traveler, a mysterious alien that becomes interested in the prodigy of Wesley Crusher. The Traveler would appear twice more after this and is an integral part of the Wesley Crusher overall story arc. Speaking of Wesley, this is the episode where he is given the field commission of acting ensign, so another point is scored.

Wes and the Traveler share a special bond

Continuity – 2 points. Character continuity scores a point as we continue to see everyone act as they do normally. Story continuity gets a point, and this is an important episode to watch as the Traveler is interwoven with Wesley’s story. Universe continuity loses a point, however, due to the discrepancy in the amount of time for the Enterprise to travel at maximum warp speeds from the area of the Milky Way galaxy they were sent to. If you compare the number of years they projected it would take them to arrive back in Federation space to how long Voyager would take to return home from the Delta Quadrant, then the Enterprise is 9 times faster than Voyager at maximum warp. Something about those numbers didn’t add up for me.

Watch your step

Character Development – 2 points. This episode is the main launching pad for Wesley’s overall story of being a prodigy. While the idea of Wesley being gifted was brought about right at the beginning, this is where the idea as to how special Wesley really is begins to germinate. We also see development of Picard with his relationship towards Wesley, as well as a glimpse into Tasha Yar’s childhood.

Picard gets a visit from his deceased mother

Social Commentary – 1 point. What can we take away from this episode as a lesson learned? Perhaps being aware of the special gifts of others, or that maybe time and space and thought are all one? Might be something in there, but it is not a strong message.

The Traveler phasing

Cool Factor – 3 points. All the fantastic visions and experiences of the crew as they find themselves in a part of the universe where thought becomes reality is always fun to watch and is one of the great hallmarks of science fiction. We also get to see a Klingon targ for the first time, and that was pretty cool too. And, of course, the Traveler is cool in his own way.


The first Klingon Targe, shown with Michael Dorn, was a boar named Emmy Lou

Rank – Captain (18 points). A fun episode that gives us great insight into the potential of Wesley Crusher. If you are a fan of the character, then this is one you cannot miss. If you are not a fan, it is still essential to see if you ever wondered what was so special about the kid in the first place.

One of the rarely seen male "kilt" uniforms