Thursday, September 28, 2017

If TNG Had an Eighth Season

The Next Generation was a smash success on television, and it far surpassed expectations of everyone involved. It became a pop culture hit that breathed new life into the Star Trek brand. It ensured that Trek would be a force for at least a full decade or two more. That it went for seven full seasons was beyond what many of us had hoped for when their adventures began, and yet when the show came to a close in 1994 we wished it could keep going on for at least another year. I get why they chose to end it when they did. The quality of the show slipped a little in the final season, and the people involved were tired. They wanted to do something in addition to Star Trek, and with Deep Space Nine on the television set we would still have Trek. Plus, let’s be honest, there would be more money involved in feature films, so financially the decision made sense.

But what if it had gone on for one more season? What new adventures could we have seen, what new worlds could have been discovered? What past stories could have been continued and/or concluded? Lots of fans have wondered what might have been, including this fan. I decided to examine that as part of the celebration of TNG’s 30th anniversary, and so here is what I would have loved to see if TNG had gone on for at least one more season. Please note, I know this is wishful thinking and that it would have changed things in Deep Space Nine and the like, but this is just for fun. So, on this, the 30th anniversary of this legendary show, I give you a “what if” tribute to what might have been. These are given in no particular order. 

1. Conspiracy Aliens – In Season 1 we had a fun episode titled “Conspiracy” that had Starfleet being infiltrated by intelligent and malevolent parasitic creatures. They were intent on taking over Starfleet and were defeated in a grizzly manner. Before they were defeated, however, they sent out a message to the farthest reaches of the galaxy, presumably to their own kind. This left the door open for a possible follow-up to the story. It never happened. I really wish it would have. It would have been nice to see these little critters again, maybe build the story over the last season, sowing seeds that something was once again afoot. It could have been a great two-part episode.

2. The Crewmen from Lower Decks – “Lower Decks” was a great episode that featured three new characters joining the already established Alyssa Ogawa and one of Wes Crusher’s squadron members from “First Duty”, Sito. It was a great episode that shone a light onto the lives of the countless crewmen that we had seen over the past seven years. In the episode, Ensign Sito is presumably killed on a mission, and her friends (Ben, Lavelle, Ogawa, and Taurik) are left to mourn her loss. While Ogawa was still seen on the show, even in a couple of the feature films, the other three were never seen again. I’m not saying that there should have been an episode where Sito is still alive (although that would have been sweet), it would have been nice that after dedicating a full episode to Ben, Lavelle, and Taurik to have seen them again.  

3. Commander Sela – When Denise Crosby returned to reprise her character in the classic “Yesterday’s Enterprise” it allowed the writers to create a delightful adversary in Yar’s half-human, half-Romulan daughter Sela. She interfered with the Enterprise on a few occasions and was a great plot twist in her reveal in the end of the fourth season “Redemption”. Her last appearance on the show was the great two-part episode “Unification” that featured Leonard Nimoy. While that story was great, it would have been nice to have had her back one last time. I had hoped she would have shown up in one of the feature films, but regardless of which, I wanted more Sela.

4. Captain Sulu – The episodes that featured beloved characters from the original series were always great episodes. From an aged Admiral McCoy in the pilot, to the afore mentioned “Unification” that had Spock, to the clever transporter rigging that beamed Scotty to the 24th Century in “Relics”, it was always fun to see these characters one last time. Even Sarek, Spock’s father, had a special episode that was very popular. In the eighth season it would have been fun to have had one last blast-from-the-past appearance. Unlike the other items on this list, I have a fully fleshed out idea. Captain Sulu could have made an appearance, and he didn’t have to be really old or brought forward in time the way that Scotty and later Kirk would do. It wouldn’t even have to be a major part of the episode, more like McCoy’s appearance in “Encounter at Farpoint”. My idea is that in an episode, likely the opening sequence (but really, it could be fit in anywhere), have Picard in the holodeck fencing. Since both opponents are masked you cannot tell who is who. After a few jousts and back-and-forth action, Picard removes his mask and says: “Well played, Captain”. His opponent then removes his mask to reveal Hikaru Sulu. They exchange some pleasantries, during which they are interrupted by either a page from the bridge or one of his officers entering and informing him of something that needs Picard’s attention. Picard bids Sulu “Adieu” and adds “Computer, end program”, to which the fencing arena and Sulu disappear. I will confess that this idea is basically something I remember reading in one of the many TNG novels that are out there, but I thought it was a great idea and would have loved to see it appear on the screen.

5. Deep Space Nine Crossover – Before you start, yes, there were some crossovers in the last bit. Doctor Bashir visited the Enterprise in Season 6 and helped Data dream. Riker contacted Quark to help track down the Duras sisters in Season 7. I’m not talking about a quick little cameo, I am talking a full-on crossover episode, somewhat like the ones we see in the DC superhero universe between Arrow, the Flash, Supergirl, and the Legends of Tomorrow. It could have been a two-part event, one happening on DS9 and the other on TNG that would have brought both crews together to save the universe or something. Picard and Sisko had a rough beginning in the pilot episode of DS9 and it would have been fun to see them mix it up a bit after having made amends. O’Brien could have had one last adventure with his former colleagues, and maybe Data and Bashir could have revisited the android dreams again. Lots of combinations could have made this fun.

I would love to hear your thoughts on these ideas, as well as anything you would have liked to have seen if an eighth season had happened. Leave your thoughts in the comment section. 

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Episode Review - Brothers (Next Generation, Season 4)

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

Overview – The Enterprise is en route to Starbase 416 to save a young boy who is in severe need of medical help. It is during this crisis that Data suddenly and unexpectedly takes control of the ship and redirects it to Terlina III. As the crew try to regain control of the ship, Data beams down to the planet where he encounters his creator and “father”, Doctor Noonian Soong. Soong had activated a homing device in Data that would cause the android’s programming to seek only Data’s return to the cyberneticist that created him.  As Data reconnects with Soong, they are joined by Data’s brother, Lore, who was inadvertently activated by the same homing device. As the father and sons reunite, the purpose of Soong’s plan is revealed, as he has created an emotion chip for Data. As he prepares to implant the chip into Data, Lore takes matters into his own hands.

Score: 8/10 – I quite enjoy this episode. It gives us a great insight into Data and does a lot to move his character’s development along. We follow up on the fate of Lore and meet Dr. Soong himself. Data finally gets a chance to have emotions, and this development will have big impacts in a few seasons. Best of all, this episode really showcases Brent Spiner’s acting skills. Honestly, how he went all seven seasons of TNG without a single Emmy nomination is beyond my comprehension. I am hard pressed to think of any actor in television that had this much screen time as three distinct characters, and he pulled it off in fantastic form. Not only does he make each character unique, but he adds depth to all of them. Even Lore is one you can't help and feel a bit of sympathy for, except at the end when he pulls a fast one on them and assaults Soong. The side story of the two brothers on the Enterprise serves as fair backdrop to give the episode a touch of risk, but the focus is all on Data. In the end, we get some great insight into one of Star Trek’s most beloved and popular characters.

Relevance – 3 points. One point for following up with Lore’s fate from “Datalore”. He apparently had spent a couple years floating in space until he was picked up by the Pakleds. Another point scored for the emotion chip which will come into play in the Season 6 finale as well as the movie “Generations”. There is also a throwback to “Encounter at Farpoint” as Data once again tries to (unsuccessfully) whistle “Pop Goes the Weasel”. That gives it a third point in this category.

Continuity – 3 points. I don’t see anything in this episode that goes against story, character, or universe continuity. There are everybody acts the way we would expect. Nothing contradicts here. Lore especially shows a few layers that do accurately reflect who he is. He shows a love for his brother that I believe is genuine, and he gives us a few moments where we believe that his evil actions in the past were more like those of a misguided teenager lashing out for attention. He also reveals that in his books, Lore always comes first, and turns on his creator that ultimately seals his role as a villain. He will play on his knowledge of Soong and Data to deceive them and gain the upper hand.

Character Development – 2 points. This is all about Data. This is his story where he is reunited with members of his “family”, mainly his father and brother. We almost see him achieve one of his desires in gaining emotions. Mostly, his best moment comes when he is saying goodbye to Doctor Soong who is dying. It is touching and shows a deep look into how thoughtful Data is. He gives his father a reassurance that he will honor his memory and legacy. All the other characters are simply doing what they do, but nothing really gives us much insight into their characters.

Social Commentary – 3 points. Family. It is a universal theme. Families are complex and often messy. Here, we have a family made up of a father and his two sons (both androids). While Soong does care for both of them, he had to make some hard choices regarding Lore due to his actions. Despite his good intentions, Soong’s day of reckoning came. I’m not saying that Soong deserved what Lore did to him, but sometimes doing the right thing can catch up with you. This can lead to another theme of the unintended consequences of even our best intended actions. In the midst of all of this is Data, the good son, who deserved better than he received. And in the end, the side story of the two brothers on the Enterprise teaches Data, and us, an important lesson on family: “Brothers forgive”.

Cool Stuff – 2 points. There is definitely a point for Doctor Noonien Soong. Brent Spiner plays the character with delicious zest. Another point is scored for seeing Brent Spiner play three different characters at once. It was well acted and edited. I already said it once, but I want to say it again, but it was almost criminal that Spiner did not receive even an Emmy nomination for his work in this episode. Finally, in one of the final scenes when Soong implants the emotion chip in Data, there is a neat little plot twist that shows us that it is Lore that received the chip instead of Data. Watching this for the first time, I was surprised by this turn of events. It made sense, but I really think that it was a cool twist. 

Rank – Admiral (21 points). Season 4 started with the Best of Both Worlds ending, and then, to lighten things up a bit, gives us back-to-back episodes about family. Brothers is the second of those, and it is a strong episode. Brent Spiner is the biggest highlight with portraying three different characters at the same time, and he is up to the task. A great continuation to the Lore story, an important move in Data’s development, and introduced to a fun character in Noonian Soong. A must see episode on many fronts. 

If you would like to read other reviews from the Next Generation, click this link.

If you would like to read an episode review from any of the Trek series, click the following link to get to the series catalog. If the episode you want reviewed has not been done yet, then feel free to request it in the comments and I will see what I can do. 

Monday, September 25, 2017

Star Trek: Discovery Lands. My Thoughts Watching the First Two Episodes

Last night, my wife and some friends and family members and I gathered to watch the first two episodes of DIS. For years this show has been building, changes to the production team changed, and anticipation grew. Fans took sides and debates raged along the spectrum. Some loved what they were seeing, while others saw it as the coming of the apocalypse. As the days to the premier counted down, the discussions got hotter and the opinions became more polarized. Then, last night, it happened. We had a new Star Trek series on television. I am not going to touch on whether or not CBS All Access is a good business model or a slap in the face of "true fans". I will not even touch the topic of "true fans" because that subject has beaten to death already. Instead, let me give you my thoughts and hopes for this new series.

First off, I liked it. I didn't love it, but I liked it. There is a lot to take in less than 24 hours later, but overall I enjoyed the first two episodes. I won't talk about any details in order to keep this spoiler free, but the show has some promise to it. I have not seen Sonequa Martin-Green in much of anything, but because of her work on "The Walking Dead" I had heard about her. I was impressed by much of her acting in these first two episodes, and her character of Michael Burnham is well established. The actions of Commander Burnham set a tone and a course for the story and the show, and she is a very unique character. It is refreshing to see a character that is not the captain as the central focus of the show. Hats off to both the writers and the actress for giving us someone we haven't seen the likes of before.

This, in a way, sums up my feelings on the new show. It is unlike anything in Trek I have ever seen before. This is why I can say I like it, but not love it...yet. Like many open-minded fans, I am reserving overall judgement until I see more. There are a few things that I can discuss, though, and maybe address some of the controversies and arguments that have come around before the show even aired.

First off, the production value is amazing. Special effects, sets, wardrobe, props, all of it is top quality. I am thrilled with that aspect of it. While I appreciate that some of the familiar sound effects are still being used, I do not mind it so much when updates are incorporated into the show. So many fans complained that the sets and technology the characters use are too "modern" for a show set a decade or so before Kirk and Spock were on the Enterprise. As I watched the first two episodes of Discovery, a thought came to mind. If Gene Roddenberry had the budget and technology in the 1960s that we have today, I suspect his show would have looked very similar to what we see on Discovery. Hind sight being what it is, that is mere speculation, but it is how I felt. The use of 3D/hologram projections for communications, for example, sounds like something that Gene would have loved to do. So while I get why some would have felt that those details should have been made to be more like what we saw in the 1960s, I give the show credit for giving us something fresh and sleek. I really think that if we tried to actually recreate a show made in 1966 to look exactly the way it did back then, few would watch it. 

Now, on to the Klingons. I had heard and read many theories on what was up with the new Klingon look. Some explanations have been given by fans, with the producers saying "Trust us, we got it. It will all make sense". I want to trust them, but I have to go on what I saw. Now that I have seen how the Klingons are in Discovery, I can say this: I hate and love them. What I don't like is the new look. I can tell that they are Klingons, but I just do not like the new look. I don't mind the updated ship and weapon design, but the makeup design they went with does bother me a bit. Having said that, when you look past the makeup, they have the essence of the Klingons just about right. When I think of TOS Klingons, I think of schemers who speak little of honor. It wasn't until Star Trek III and TNG that the Klingons really came into their own, and the Klingons of Discovery fit that mold much better. They have the language, the culture, and the soul of great Klingons such as Worf, Chang, Martok, Gowron, and so many others. Well-established parts of Klingon culture are not only incorporated but delved into further, adding to the rich history of this beloved warrior empire. So yes, the new look has a long way to go before it grows on me, but they got it right in most of the other important ways. I will also add that there may be a better explanation of the new look in future episodes, so I will hold off on final judgement until then.

One of my favourite parts about Trek is the development of intriguing characters. I already mentioned Michael Burnham, but some other important characters were introduced as well. Captain Phillipa Georgiou is a great captain, showing experience combined with instinct, mixing heroics with wisdom. She is a delightful mix of grit and compassion, grace and steel. We also meet Lt. Cmdr. Saru, a member of the Kelpian species. The Kelpians are a new species created for Discovery. His species developed as a prey species on his homeworld, and because of this Saru is a very cautious individual. As most Kelpians he has an innate sixth sense to approaching danger, which comes into play in the show. His constant fretting and worrying does make him a bit of nuisance at times. His potential as a character is large, and I look forward to seeing if he mellows out a bit as the season progresses. In the character department, I was a little disappointment that we still have to wait and meet some of the regulars, such as Anthony Rapp's Paul Stamets and Isaac Jacob's Captain Lorca. We did have Sarek, played by James Frain. While nobody in my mind will ever do a better Sarek than the original Mark Lenard, I did enjoy Frain's portrayal and hope we will see this cherished character again. 

Several fans raised concerns that there would be a loss of Trek with the announcement that they were going to ignore the Roddenberry Rule of no conflict between Starfleet officers. First, let me point out that this rule was ignored by Gene several times in TOS. Second, the conflict in most cases reminded me of the banter between Spock and McCoy, just with different approaches. It worked, and with one major and crucial exception, it is nothing too severe. The exception, though, is what makes the show stand out, so it is worth the watch. 

My biggest question mark with Discovery is how the new format of story-telling will play out. I like a good balance of stand-alone episodes and multi-episode story arcs in a series. I recognize that in today's television world that is evolving to be more serialized, but that does give me concerns. I enjoyed what I watched last night, but if every episode is just a lead in to the next, I do not know if I will continue to enjoy it as much. Seeing as how last night showed two episodes that were darker and grittier than any Trek show I have seen to date, I hope that there is something to balance out the feel. I am not convinced that a series that is only dark and gritty is what I want from Star Trek. In earlier incarnations the seasons had a mixed bag of light and dark. For every "Balance of Terror" there was a "The Trouble with Tribbles". For every "Yesterday's Enterprise" there was a "Data's Day". I hope we get to see the lighter side of some of these new characters. I hope we get to see some laughter and the odd bit of silliness. I always felt that Star Trek's greatest legacy was that it showed us that humanity has hope for its future. While there will always be some bumps along the way, I want to see Discovery give us that hope. I did not expect it from the get go, but it is something I want to be there. That, for me personally, is what will make this a Trek show I love versus a show that is merely enjoyed. 

So, while we have to wait another week for the next installment, I hope and wish the producers and stars of Discovery nothing but the best as they move forward. I know you won't please everybody, but if nothing else, I hope that this show will get more people introduced to this franchise that has come to be the influential piece of our cultural mosaic it is. I hope that they will continue to learn, grow, and more importantly, love this series. I hope more fans will keep an open mind and, if the show is worthy, support it in the best way they can. In essence, I hope Discovery lives long and prospers. 

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Episode Review - Darmok (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

Overview – The Enterprise is sent on a mission to the El-Adrel system to make contact with the Tamarians, a mysterious race that the Federation have made several unsuccessful attempts to establish relations. Upon arrival, Picard and his crew are at a loss at the difficulty in communicating with the Tamarians, whose words are heard but their meaning is impossible to decipher. The Tamarian Captain beams both Picard and himself to the planet’s surface, where the two commanders find themselves in a battle against a strange beast. As the crew try to break through the interference that the Tamarian ship has set up around the planet, Picard tries to learn how to communicate with the Tamarian captain before it is too late.

Score: 9/10 – Such a great episode. The premise is original and gives the crew a real challenge in trying to communicate with a species that the universal translator will not help much with. The Tamarians speak in metaphor, and without a suitable knowledge of their lore and legends one cannot truly know the meaning of their words. Daithon, the Tamarian captain, is portrayed by Paul Winfield, whom Trekkies will remember as Captain Terrell from “The Wrath of Kahn”. He gives a strong performance here and conveys a sense of honor to his character. Patrick Stewart again shows his strength as an actor, showcasing Picard’s strong diplomatic skills. The best part of this episode is the writing. The script is wonderfully crafted by Joe Menosky, and the Tamarian dialogue has been a hit with the fans ever since. I dare you to go to a convention and not hear “Shaka, when the walls fell” when someone makes a mistake. In fact, those were neighbor categories on an episode of Jeopardy this past summer. 

Relevance – 3 points. I wish I could use the Tamarian language as being relevant. As I mentioned before, at a convention if you yell “Darmok and Jalad” and someone doesn’t respond with “at Tanagra”, then you are in the wrong convention. Sadly, this is not touched on again in the series, so I cannot give it a point. However, we do score a few points here. One is for introducing Lt. Robin Lefler, played by Ashley Judd. She will become a more important character in a future episode “The Game”, which brings back Wesley Crusher for the first time since leaving for the Academy. We also score a point for the debut of Picard’s new jacket uniform, which only he will wear throughout the remainder of the series. This is also the debut of the type 6 shuttlecraft, which was one of the nicer looking designs of shuttlecraft.

Continuity – 3 points. Character continuity works. Picard uses every tool at his disposal to communicate with the Tamarians, and when they all fail he is able to improvise and eventually is successful. While he is cautious of Dathon at first, Picard keeps an open mind to him as he tries to figure out how to connect. Story continuity and universe continuity also are maintained. I especially liked how the universal translator was practically useless to the crew as it gave the words but could not convey the meaning.

Character Development – 2 points. This is a strong Picard episode, but really it is just that. While the rest of the crew do there best to rescue their captain, this episode is all Picard. He is able to crack the puzzle that is Tamarian communication under extenuating circumstances. While his new friend falls to the attacks of the beast, Picard is still able to bring peace to his crew and the experience has left its mark on him.

Social Commentary – 3 points. I think in today’s technological world, the ironic issue facing many of us is communication. Too often we assume too much about those who we are different from. I loved how Picard and Dathon had to work in order to understand one another, and by learning how to communicate they learn that they were not all that different from each other. Imagine how different our society would be that instead of attempting to challenge and combat each other with our words and ideas we focused instead on understanding each other. It is a very poignant reminder for us in our ever-polarized world.

Cool Stuff – 3 points. One point for the Tamarian make-up. Michael Westmore gives us a cool looking species. They look a bit like a dinosaur in many respects. Of particular note, and I only came upon this recently, their thumbs are elongated and with a sucker-like tip. Their language is also very cool, and seeing how it has had such an impact on Trekkies with a single episode, it also scores a point. I give a final point to the beast of El-Adrel with it’s Jem’Hadar like cloaking abilities. A very cool creature effect.

Rank – Admiral (23 points). As with the other TNG episodes I have been doing to celebrate their 30th anniversary, this is one excellent sci-fi episode. It shows that even with our technology we have to rely on our intuition and instincts to succeed in contact. I would say that the message of the importance in seeking understanding is universal and always necessary. If anything, we need this message today more than ever.

If you would like to read other reviews from the Next Generation, click this link.

If you would like to read an episode review from any of the Trek series, click the following link to get to the series catalog. If the episode you want reviewed has not been done yet, then feel free to request it in the comments and I will see what I can do. 

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Episode Review - Yesterday's Enterprise (Next Generation. Season 3)

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

Overview – A time rift has Picard’s Enterprise encounter the previous ship that bore the same name, having been transported about two decades into the future. The appearance of the older Enterprise vessel causes the timeline to change and has the Federation in the midst of a brutal war against the Klingon Empire. In addition to the war, Lieutenant Tasha Yar was on the bridge of the Enterprise, not having died two years prior. The only person who seems to have any recollection of the previous timeline is Guinan, and she tries to convince Picard to send the Enterprise-C back to restore the timeline.

Tasha Yar is back.

Score: 10/10 – “Yesterday’s Enterprise is one of those special landmark episodes that makes a bold move in the story telling in that it admits that they got something wrong and are trying to fix it. In this case, it was the past death of Tasha Yar. She had died in the late first season episode “Skin of Evil” and both the fans and those involved in the making of the show had felt dissatisfied with it. This was a collaborative effort between Trent Christopher Ganino and Eric Stillwell and it was thought that as well as telling a fun story, it would give Tasha Yar a more meaningful death. What we were given was a great episode that is usually in people’s Top 5 TNG episodes (it’s ranked #4 on mine). We see a much different Enterprise here and the tone is considerably darker than most of what has come before. The amount of detail that went into this new reality was impressive, down to the finer points like having a male voice for the computer and much more spartan sets. The new Enterprise has one function, and that is war. Throw in the mystery surrounding Guinan and the return of a beloved character that many felt was gone too soon, and mix in some exciting battles, and you get a classic episode. These types of episodes where we see the what-could-have-been scenarios play out are always fun. It allows us to see things we wouldn’t expect, such as Riker getting killed by an exploding console. Originally, we were also supposed to see the deaths of Data and Wesley Crusher, but those were cut from the story. That would have been fun and added to the intensity of the final scene, but we still get a good dose of that when Picard mutters “That’ll be the day” as the Klingons demand his surrender and the good captain jumps behind the weapons controls. We also get some great guest stars with Tricia O’Neil as Captain Rachel Garrett and Christopher McDonald as Richard Castillo, and their characters quickly became fan favourites. Overall, this episode is gold on many levels.

The U.S.S. Enterprise NCC 1701-C

Relevance – 3 points. One point scored for bringing back Yar and giving her a death that has meaning. Being snuffed out by a giant, evil oil-slick is not the best death that one can imagine, and Tasha deserved better. Another point is scored as this story ultimately leads to Denise Crosby returning as the half-human, half-Romulan Commander Sela. The third point? Well, it’s likely less epic but definitely noteworthy. This is the episode where Worf gets his first taste of prune juice. His love for the beverage will carry on throughout the rest of TNG and DS9 as well.

Two Enterprise captains meet

Continuity - 2 points. Character continuity is hard to measure in an episode as anything that is different with our characters is going to be attributed to the fact that this is an alternate reality. Still, our characters continue to act in familiar ways, and everything that is slightly different makes sense. Even the absence of Worf and Troi in the alternate timeline makes sense. Worf, being Klingon, is obvious. For Troi, it makes sense that her skills would not be necessary on a warship. Universe continuity is also intact here, but again the differences (e.g. at war with the Klingons) is are easily explained with the time rift. Where I am going to dock them is on story continuity. In the closing scene, where Guinan asks Geordi to tell her about Tasha Yar, Geordi is still wearing the more military-like uniform of the alternate timeline. A minor oversight on the part of the producers, but it is enough.

Look at Geordi's cuffs. He's wearing the wrong uniform.

Character Development – 1 point. OK, this is a hard one for me. Any character development is almost a moot point as whatever happens gets reset when the timeline is restored. So, I will look at it this way, the most development goes to Guinan (not a main character), Picard (but it gets voided when they successfully return the Enterprise-C to its proper time), and Yar (who used to be a regular cast member but is now a guest star). Well, I can stretch it a bit and give a single point here. The impact of this episode will not be truly felt until “Redemption: Part II”, so the minimal impact on Worf’s love a prune juice will get us a single point here.

Worf tastes prune juice for the first time

Social Commentary – 2 points. The actions of the past often have unforeseen impacts on the future. Just as one ship sacrificing itself to defend an outpost could prevent a devastating war, our own acts of kindness, no matter how small, can end up changing someone’s life in a way we cannot predict. In addition to that little message, there is also the theme of second chances that is given here. When Tasha learns that she had died a meaningless death in the other timeline, she knew that she had a chance to make a difference. How many of us would want to do the same? Some food for thought.

Castillo and Yar

Cool Stuff – 3 points. A point for the great amount of detail given in the alternate timeline. New uniforms, new set designs, all of it was cool. Seeing Tasha Yar again was also very cool. I quite enjoyed her character and was sad to see her killed off in Season 1, so any reason to have her brought back is great, and they way they did it was very cool. I also found that having two Enterprises of different eras was fun. Having Garrett and her crew wearing the movie era uniforms was also a good attention to detail.

Riker's fate in the alternate universe

Rank – Admiral (21 points). I cannot fully express how amazing this episode is. It brings a much-needed closure to one beloved character and opens up the possibilities for another. While the tone is dark, the impact is enlightening. If this is not on your Top Ten list of the best TNG episodes, perhaps you need to rewatch it.

A tale of two Enterprises

If you would like to read other reviews from the Next Generation, click this link.

If you would like to read an episode review from any of the Trek series, click the following link to get to the series catalog. If the episode you want reviewed has not been done yet, then feel free to request it in the comments and I will see what I can do. 

Let us make sure that history never forgets the name "Enterprise"

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Discovery News - Discovery Has a Main Title Theme

I have not written too much on Star Trek: Discovery (which in my blog will be referred to as the more fitting DIS three-letter abbreviation) because so much is kicking up a great deal of controversy. I have addressed that controversy once and was holding off on further judgement until the show debuted and we had something to talk about. Allow me to slightly deviate from that, as the theme music has just be revealed. Let me give you my thoughts on it in a moment, but first, please observe the following at this link. Unfortunately, I think this may only be available in the US, but I will try to update the link with a more universally accessible video/soundtrack when I find it.

Here are my thoughts. Many fans have been vocal about their expectations of the new show, and the theme music has often been a point of debate and discussion. The general consensus is that the fans want an instrumental theme song, not a lyrical one like Enterprise had. While I do not mind the Enterprise theme song (it did grow on me), I really enjoyed the instrumental songs from all the other series. Well, with the recent announcement, Discovery is going the way that most fans seem to want them to. No lyrics, and some obvious nods to the original theme music. There is enough of the old to make it familiar, and yet the new is exciting.

Yes, if you want me say it, I love the new theme. I know that there will be some that will hate it. Heck, some hate it so much and have yet to hear it! I don't care. They got the music right on this. The tone that the theme music sets says a lot about what the show is, and for me, this theme music says a lot. It says that it remembers and respects its roots, but that it will take its own path. It will be serious, it will be exciting, and it will have an impact. Most of all, it tells me that this is a show that sounds like a Star Trek show. Whether or not this show will look or feel like a Star Trek show is to be determined, but I feel more optimistic with this music being released for us.

Again, I respect that some will not like it. There will be those that interpret it differently. The music has always been a contentious issue. Everybody has a favorite theme song. A lot of people love Voyager's theme. Many find that the Next Generation's theme gets their adrenaline flowing. Some find Deep Space Nine's music soothing. The Original Series has a theme song that is as iconic as the characters themselves. And yes, some of us find Enterprise's theme song a breath of fresh air. I hope that those who are critical of the music are critical for appropriate reasons and are not just hating it because it is Discovery. For many of us, this just gets us excited for September 24.

The countdown is on. Looking forward to it.

Oh, and if anyone can get me a link to the music that is available to everyone, I'd appreciate it.

UPDATE: Thanks to those who passed along the Instagram link, which is region free (I'm in Canada and it worked for me, so here's hoping. Here is that link

Friday, September 8, 2017

Episode Review - Balance of Terror (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

Overview – While preparing for a wedding between two crewmen, the Enterprise is called to an area of space along the neutral zone with the Romulan Empire. Not much is known about the Romulans as there has been no contact with them since the Earth Romulan war of a century ago. As the Enterprise approaches the neutral zone it becomes apparent that something is amiss, with several of their outposts having been destroyed. As Kirk and his crew learn more about the identity of the aggressor, and it is indeed a Romulan ship, they discover that the Romulans bear a striking resemblance to Mr. Spock. As the Enterprise begins a cat-and-mouse game with the Romulan ship, tensions rise on both vessels, culminating in an epic showdown.

Score: 10/10 – This is one of the best episode in all of Star Trek. I could end it there, but let’s examine that a bit further. The story is well-paced, mixes triumph and tragedy, and introduces us to the Romulans. The Romulans will become a significant adversary to the Federation, but unlike the Klingons, their build will be slow and deliberate. Mystery is their greatest weapon. The first Romulan we see, the unnamed Romulan Commander, is played by Trek legend Mark Leonard, who will later become famous as Spock’s father, Sarek. He brings such a dignity to the role, that you almost can’t help yourself and cheer for him. His performance is among the best acting in the series, and a delight to witness. The Romulans have developed a devastating weapon and are attempting to see how it measures up against the Federation, which should make the Commander menacing in and of itself. Yet between Mark Leonard’s acting and the writing you actually see a sympathetic and noble side to this veteran military officer that has us feeling sad for his ultimate defeat and demise. The side story of Tomlinson and Martine’s wedding does get token treatment for much of the episode, but it provides us with a painful denouement that sends us home with a bittersweet sense of victory. The themes of honor in combat and bigotry are woven into the story with skill, giving us more than just a fun fight story. The tactics used by both Kirk and the Romulan commander are logical and easy to understand, yet still brilliant. It is truly a match between two equals where, as the Commander says to Kirk at the end, we are believing that in another life the two could have been friends.

Relevance – 3 points. A point is scored for the introduction to the Romulans. The Romulans would continually be developed in small doses over the course of all the television series, and that adds to their effectiveness of a foe for our heroes. Their similarities to Vulcans leads to the establishment of being distant cousins, and will come into play in future episodes as “The Enterprise Incident” and “Unification”. Another point is scored for the pre-wedding Captain’s speech, which is almost word-for-word repeated by Picard in the TNG episode “Data’s Day”. A final point is given for the first mention of the Earth-Romulan war, which is responsible for the establishment of the Neutral Zone and is mentioned in “Star Trek: Beyond”.

Continuity – 3 points. Everything checks out here. Universe continuity works easily as this episode establishes the Romulans, and they have stayed more or less true to form ever since. Story continuity works with a well-paced battle between two tough foes. Character continuity is also good, especially with Kirk and Spock.

Character Development – 3 points. There are two main characters that receive the bulk of the attention: Spock and Kirk. Spock shows that when he is confronted with prejudism he stills remain logical. It was obvious that Stiles’ suspicions and accusations did trouble him a bit (credit to Nimoy’s acting), he confronted it in a way that is both admirable and effective. He just did his job. He made no excuses for his actions, especially when he saved Stiles life at the end. Kirk, meanwhile, shows us why he is an extremely effective captain. He demonstrates intelligence, compassion, courage, nobility, wisdom, and true grit in this episode. Really, it is hard for me to think of a better showcase for James T. Kirk than this episode. He takes chances to win the battle, and when the end is decided and his adversary defeated, he extends an olive branch to prevent further loss of life. Kirk may not be your favourite captain, but in this episode he earns everyone’s respect.

Social Commentary – 3 points. Two important themes are woven through this story. The first, honor in combat, shows itself in great fashion as Kirk and the Romulan Commander engage in battle. They do all they can to emerge victorious and defeat their opponent, but they do so not out of a love for bloodshed or glory, but out of duty and respect towards their adversary. In a life-and-death high stakes game, both commanders approach the battle in a way that is devoid of hatred. This is even more impressive as various members of each crew express their own hatred and bigotry towards their opponents. This brings us to the second theme: bigotry. Lieutenant Stiles is well versed in reasons to hate Romulans, stemming from the losses his family was dealt a century ago. That hatred has been passed down, and when it became known that the Vulcans and Romulans were likely of the same genetic stock, his distrust of Spock grew. While it is a common trope used in these types of stories to have the object of one’s prejudice save their life, this is done well here. I found it most interesting that in the scene where Stiles was telling Kirk about how untrustworthy Romulans are, how they can hide among us and that spies could be everywhere, he is sitting next to Sulu, played by George Takei. Takei had spent much of his childhood in relocation centers just a few decades prior to this episode during WWII when many Americans expressed similar distrust towards Americans of Japanese heritage. To have Stiles saying those hateful things beside an actor who personally experienced similar bigotry adds a delightful taste of irony that makes the message much more personal. How Kirk responds to Stiles is also telling and applicable to our day as much as back then. “Leave any bigotry in your quarters. There’s no room for it on the bridge.” No lecture on tolerance, no follow-up discussion, just a quick reminder of the lieutenant’s duty and move on from there.

Cool Stuff – 2 points. The weapon used by the Romulans is very cool. An energy weapon that can make the strongest of materials weak and fragile. I liked that it had limits which allowed Kirk to defeat it, but still a cool weapon. Mark Leonard is so good in this episode that it has to count as a cool factor. To take a dangerous enemy and make him beloved and respected means something. I cannot even classify him as a villain because of his honor and nobility. Adversary, yes, but he is too honorable to be a villain. Villains typically have a treacherous side, and this Commander lacks that.

Rank – Admiral (24 points). A near perfect episode. I occasionally scour the internet looking for Top Ten lists, and I have yet to find one for the Original Series that doesn’t rank this among the very best. I typically find it jousting for the top spot, and it is easy to see why. The battle between the two ships reminds me of a future Trek battle, and one that is always going to be among my favorites, and that is the Enterprise vs the Reliant in Star Trek II. The character of the Romulan Commander is among my favorites in Star Trek. The tackling of important social issues in the way that only Star Trek can is at its best here. Overall, a beautiful work of art in Star Trek.

If you would like to read other reviews from the Original Series, click on the link here.

If you would like to read an episode review from any of the Trek series, click the following link to get to the series catalog. If the episode you want reviewed has not been done yet, then feel free to request it in the comments and I will see what I can do.