TV catchup, end of February
I think it’s fair to say that the Flash bounced back after that a miserable second episode. The red death has her team of rogues going after a special super secret macguffin And the Flash needs to get there first. However, he can’t be seen as the Flash, breaking into a Secret military facility, so hes gonna need to assemble a team – and not the usual suspects from team Flash, but perhaps.. villains?
I’ve got to say, this is a really smart way of bringing back old faces and still prolonging the whole farewell tour. We got a lot of this last season when they thought it was the end, and We got to say goodbye to a lot of the regulars. A lot of heroes…. whereas this time around, the familiar faces tend to be the bad guys. They’re fun bad guys as well, and it’s just enormous fun to watch these two groups of rogues battle out. Boomerang and the fiddler Versus the piper and goldface and Volcano dude…it’s just fun. And really, that’s what the Flash has always been when it’s at its best.
So what’s my reaction to discovering we’ve got Ryan Wilder, Batwoman herself under the mask of the red death? My knee jerk reaction is always going to be annoyance that they’re changing the comic character.. but in this context, I find myself less frustrated than usual. It actually kind of makes sense, with us tying up loose ends… and basically putting the arrowverse to bed. The thing about the arrowverse , while Arrow may have started the series, the Flash has always been the heart of that universe. He’s where we go to cross over. Barry was the firstst character to cross over to Supergirl, and that was the same year that we had our first cross over between Green Arrow and The Flash. It also makes sense with them being one of the last men standing. We’ve already had references to Kara and CatCo from the long cancelled Supergirl series, so Reminding us of those connections to Batwoman and Gotham city makes a lot of sense. Enough to mitigate my annoyance over the “sticking the girl in the man’s costume” trope, and kind of going rogue with the character again. It’s not just a capricious change either. As we see in the next episode, there’s been a lot of thought put into this. Alternate universes, and giving Wilder a real mad-on for Barry… and maybe a justified one. Indeed, I feel like Javicia Leslie actually has more characterization and a better chance to really chew the scenery and stretch her acting chops out here then she was ever given on Batwoman. I like this. I like her as a villain. I’m I’m still looking forward to each episode.
As we delve deeper into the red deaths origins, We get some real universe shaking stakes… and we’re getting it pretty early in the season. Then again, with only a 1/2 Season order this year, I suppose 5 issues in and we better start ramping things up. We’re a 3rd of the way through our final year!
And that’s the thing, I’m gonna stand by my statement that the Flash all of a sudden got pretty good. Perhaps it’s because we’ve been racing towards the end of the series now for the last 2 years, and that’s the sort of thing that makes you bring your A game. It makes me happy to think that the Flash is actually going to go out on top.
I checked out a new series this week. My wife watches the Curse of Oak Island every week, and it’s been followed by a series called History’s Greatest Heists. I’m a sucker for Pierce Brosnan in the first place, but throw him in with some true crime? This looks tailor made for me. Nevertheless, I’ve been slow getting to it. However it’s, this week they were recapping the Lufthansa heist. It’s a good solid retelling of the story, with way more detail than you’d get if all you’re familiar with is Goodfellas. I’m liking this so far. It’s not appointment viewing. It’s absolutely DVR fodder, much like The Food that Built America (which I’m also hopelessly behind on!) But still, I’m enjoying it, and eager to dig through the back catalog.
The Mandalorian came back this week, and all I’ve heard from anyone is that it was slow. I suppose I understand that, because they do spend a great deal of time getting themselves back to speed. That hiatus for a couple of years was just far too long. between The long break, as well as the meddling we saw Kathleen Kennedy eject into Book of Boba Fett, not to mention the firing of Gina Carano and the drastic change in Baby Yoda story… Just 1 or 2 of those things could absolutely sink a show. The fact that The Mandalorian manages to rise above all of them and restart is a Testament to how strong a concept this series is (And this is coming from some of those not really even a Star Wars fan…. and certainly was never as Is fascinated by Boba Fett as the rest of the fandom is).
The Mandalorian works on its return because it evokes a nice, comfortable feeling of being reunited with old friends. The familiar faces let you sink right back in and engage. It feels like picking up where we left off as if no time had passed…. making it all the more baffling that they didn’t lean into this approach with the sequel trilogy! It is very much a setup episode. A restablishment of the worlds and reintroducing the characters. Finally, it sets up this season’s quest. In some ways, it is still by the numbers… but it’s television, and that kind of predictability is actually exactly what I want here.
One of the standouts for this season already though, is the music. In television, the music tends to be light background and flat and boring. The goal is to enhance the mood without being noticed. This year, that music is absolutely getting noticed… with strong themes and lines announcing itself and the scene. I think I want a soundtrack.
And then, there’s Picard.
Look, I was done with Star Trek, period. I was not giving these guys another chance. The current regime running the series had spat in the faces of the fans too many times. Nothing coming out of Secret Hideout was remotely recognizable as Star Trek. The closest they were coming was Prodigy, and still… no.
It took well over a dozen people to convince me to give this a chance. Voices that I respected, more than a few people who were every bit as disenfranchised as I’ve become. Even then, I turned the TV on and sat with clenched teeth, crossed arms, and a scowl on my face. I warned my family, “I’m probably gonna be in a bad mood in an hour or so”.
At first glance, it just looks like more of the same. Same dim lighting, same PEW! PEW! Same S and F bombs. But then you star listening. You start watching…and you start…noticing things. You star to notice that Patrick Stweart is acting like…..well, he’s actually acting like Jean-Luc Picard. So are the others. Jeri Ryan is acting more like Seven of Nine that we’ve seen in ages. Johnathan Frakes isn’t just being a gloomy gus, he’s acting like Will Riker with all the bluster and bravado we’ve come to expect (and if anyone has cause to act grumpy it’s him. his back must surely hurt from carrying this series) but haven’t actually seen except for a brief moment at the end of Picard Season one. You know EXACTLY what moment I’m talking about. When Riker shows up with a fleet of ugly Kurtzman-ships to rescue Picard and company (In a scene that was actually a reshoot- and originally featured Lady Admiral Hubris). Yeah. It’s that Riker we’re seeing, and every bit of chemestry that he had with Stewart is still there.
Oh and ugly Kurtzman-trek ships? Gone. Star Trek is once again the rightful repository of the most beautiful ships in science fiction. And about zarking time.Ship design was always Star Trek’s great strength, but the last ten years have been filled with flat boats with all the personality of a paper airplane. No, the titan and the unnamed Crusher vessel are gorgeous. Starfleet clean with recognizable design. I can literally feel my body relaxing as I see them – it’s a similar feeling that I had back when the TIE Fighters and Millennium Falcon first showed up in The Force Awakens after decades of prequel era ships that just felt like an unrecognizable mess of jumbled pixels.
I got through the first episode without shouting obsenities at the screen once. I don’t understand this. I’m not used to this. In fact, I was actually caught by the cliffhanger and found myself
kind of looking forward to the next episode.
Wait a minuet! Did I just say that??? What the fluff is wrong with me! That’s not…I…. That’s can’t be the right sentence. You know what? Let’s just move on.
A sort of roaming Doctor on the frontier, Beverly Crusher has found herself and her son (no, not, him. She’s squeezed out a new and improved version who isn’t nearly as irritating as Wil Wheaton). She sends out a distress call to Picard, who enlists the help of Will Riker and off they come to the rescue. Of course it’s not that simple. Riker is a Captain, but one without a ship. His plan is to scam the new Captain of the Titan to take them out to the edge of Federation space and “borrow” a shuttle.Of course once they rescue Doctor Crusher – the people chasing Her and now chasing them and the Titan. It’s a monster of a ship populated with thugs and bounty hunters who aren’t impressed with Picard, The Titan or Starfleet. The face off is another one of those cliffhangers that
makes me wish I could just instantly go on to the next one….
Okay seriously. Can we figure out where those strange sentences are coming from? Because now it’s starting to freak me out.
With episode 3, we start to get deep into the characters and storyline. A conspiracy is afoot and not everyone on the ship is what they may seem. There’s a reason why The bounty ship keeps managing to follow the Titan, evenin the nebula where sensors don’t work. Back on Earth, Raffie is getting acquainted with Worf…. her handler. This is where things actually start to get interesting. Raffie was never particularly a fan favorite…. she’s always been written dower and accuseatory. It seemed like her main purpose in the first season was to be an addict, and to constantly criticize Picard… To put him in his place. Her interactions with Worf were far different. Worf dosen’t have time forany of that. He is firm and decisive. He’s still respectful, but hes not taking any of her crap. Interestingly enough, this has a positive effect on her character. It uplifts her in a way that Picard’s wishy washy approach never did. All of a sudden, their mission to unravel the conspiracy on this end of space gets interesting. It’s all due to Michael Dorn’s performance as Worf, and the way that it makes everyone around him really bring their A game.
But then there’s this moment… Picard is finally face-to-face with Beverly Crusher. They’re alone, and he needs answers about this lost son of his that hes never met. He’s upset, angry even… and justifiably so. Crusher points out that they had just broken up for the 5th time, it wasn’t going to work. She wanted to tell him she was pregnant, but right at that moment he gotten kidnapped by romance. By the time they’ve retrieved him five days later….
“And is that all I had?” he asks.”A five day window?”
Crusher then points out and attempts on his life by a Reman sect, and then he was off to negotiate a peace treaty…
“I lost my Husband and my son to those same stars,” Beverly protests. (I suppose. Westly isn’t dead, but he’s not quite human anymore either, but rather a travler) and she suggests, she knew she could protect HER son from those kind of things, but not PICARD’S son…
The explanation isn’t quite good enough for Picard, He still points out that she took away his choice about whether or not he wanted to be a father said this young man. She responds that he never wanted kids, at least that’s what he told her. After all, he was afraid he’d be abusive like his father. Picard erupts in a rage.
“How dare you do something that was told to you in confidence to rationalize your own choice here!”
He asks why she couldn’t have had faith in him… he suggested that he could have gotten out of active duty, taken a less dangerous job so he could be that father to Jack. Crusher isn’t sure she agrees.
Here’s the thing. This is exactly when the show proves that it’s actually classical Star Trek. You see, in this argument, they’re both right. They’re also both wrong. There’s two sides to this question, two sides of the same coin, and the show explores them equally. It wants to have the conversation. Much like classic star trek, it wants to MAKE you think. Unlike current star trek which tells you WHAT to think. I will flat out say that in previous seasons of Picard, and all Discovery for that matter… the same conversation would gone very differently. Picard would have shrunk away, apologizing, and admitting that he doesn’t have any argument or justification. That he was wrong, and his entire perspective is wrong. He would immediately defer to the nearest female in higher authority.
To watch this instead, to see this man and this woman, both hash it out as equals , It’s something that’s long been missing from Star Trek.
Thats the thing. Picard is actually good. I mean it’s really stinkin’ good and I’m not sure how to process that. I didn’t go in with any hope. I didn’t even go in wanting to like it (and I’d like to think that most of the time I’m more fair than that, but I’ll admit I wasn’t this time). Picard had a high bar to clear just to get my attention..and it did it. I don’t know if this is a turning point. I’m not optimistic enough for that. But I don’t want to throw the baby out with the bathwater. For now….for RIGHT now. I’ll sit back and be content for this brief moment I can actually enjoy Star Trek for a change….because who knows? This time may never come again.
At least, not until Prodigy returns!
Discovery – the first quarter
Is it just me or is Discovery in full damage control mode now?
I suppose I shouldn’t be criticizing this. I’m actually watching Discovery fix a lot of my problems with the show, but these are a lot of things that shouldn’t have been issues in the first place.
I’m genuinely surprised at how much I like Captain Pike in this series. I never particularly cared for him in TOS and I haven’t exactly been dying for a Pike series, nevertheless Anson Mount seems to pull the role off well. It’s big shoes he has to fill. I really dug Jason Isaacs. Mount’s compassionate yet firm performance is an interesting contrast to Isaacs’ duplicitous, edgy Captian Lorca. I still miss him, but Pike is a good replacement. His command to replace all the holographic communicators on the ship with analog on-screen ones (because they are supposedly more secure) is however, a sloppy fix to my (and other’s) complaints about the use of technology that shouldn’t exist at this point in the timeline yet. We’re seeing a lot of this kind of quick patch-and-fix method.
Pike’s not the only classic Trek character being brought in though. In addition to Spock (Who, four episodes in, we still haven’t seen – and that’s probably a good thing. It builds suspense), episode four also brings in Majel Barett’s first officer character from “The Cage”, this time pleasantly played by an unrecognizable Rebecca Romijn (actually, I like her version better than Majel’s. She’s more likable – and cool that she vanishes into the role. I can’t believe I didn’t know that was her!) for a quick pop-in cameo at the beginning of the episode. It’s another example of nostalgia overkill. I swear, the Star Trek Writer’s have been trying to make something of this character for at least the last thirty years. There’s something of an obsession here. I’m not convinced that fandom is really dying for a “Number One” story, but Discovery is still trying to pull in that pre-trek crew and any familiar face they can (Please don’t bring back Harry Mudd btw. Rainn Wilson was wholly unlikable – which completely misses the point of Harry)
Speaking of familiar faces, the Klingons look a hundred percent better in this series. They are transitioning them over to what is more recognizable by growing their hair out and dressing them in more leather, less bone and resin. I see a lot of forehead ridges being sculpted differently to. They’ve explained it as a story point, that the empire shifted once L’Rell took it over at the end of the last season. The Klingons are growing their hair out now. It’s a nice try. A little late – those drastic changes to the Klingons were a major sore point to a lot of Trekkers. Had they gone with this mix, a sort of evolved Klingon makeup, I think people would have accepted it a lot more readily – even been excited about it. You’ll never convince me that this evolution however, was the intent from the beginning though.
It’s actually the NEW faces that seems to really work for me. I’ve never been a real fan of Tig Notaro’s comedy, but man does she fit right in here as a recently rescued engineer from the shipwreck on a wayward astroid. I’d actually really like to see her replace Anthony Rapp as chief engineer. It’s not that Rapp has done anything wrong, it’s just that Notaro is that much better. I love watching her and Rapp verbally spar and would really dig seeing that kind of chemistry with a Captian. She absolutely feels like the McCoy of the group, and that’s something we’ve needed in this series. It brings into sharp focus just how sterile the interpersonal relationships have been on Discovery.
One of the things that impressed me about watching Tig and Rapp fight was the subject matter, a discussion of old reliable methods – Dilithium Crystals and Duck Tape, versus new tech – that is, the Spore Drive. This is the kind of social commentary that Star Trek has usually done well. It’s metaphor for Liberal vs. Conservative thinking and it hits both sides of an issue. It’s not the in-your-face SJW rhetoric that has taken over Doctor Who. I know Discovery has occasionally come under criticize for that same “Woke” attitude, but I don’t see it here nearly as much as I do in say, the abysmal last few seasons of Supergirl. I think we’re more sensitive to it in this day and age where it oversaturates too much of genre TV. Discovery actually could be commended for dialing it back to traditional levels.
So the real question for me is whether this season is better than last. It feels very similar, but with a lot of Tig’s duck tape trying to patch over the leaks in the series. It’s not like the real jump in quality we saw between the first season of TNG and the third. Then again, I don’t think Discovery is really as weak a show as TNG was during those first two seasons. However it also doesn’t have the goodwill That TNG derived frm being a return to weekly television after eighteen years (the animated series notwithstanding) off the air. TNG also didn’t have the responsibility of being the flagship for both a new network AND platform hanging around it’s neck like an albatross. Discovery’s mandate to launch CBS All Access has created an uncomfortable relationship between series and studio. The subscriber base for All Access has plateaued, and that puts Discovery in jeopardy. Had it been on a traditional network – even a premium cable one, that might not have been the case. Shows like Doctor Who and Game of Thrones thrive on their networks, largely because the infrastructure has been build and the general public have already accepted the platform. Discovery lacks that, and to put the burden on it’s shoulders is somewhat unfair. Star Trek is durable, but history shows us this is a losing bet. Star Trek II (the aborted TV series) failed to launch a paramount network. Voyager was moderately more sucessful, but wasn’t enough to create a sustainable network and UPN is now no more than a memory. I fear we’re watching that same scenario lay out now. CBS’s attitude is somewhere around “Wait and see” though insiders are saying CBS is abandoning Discovery and focusing on their Picard series (Not sure what that means for the black ops spin off that was suosed to feature Michelle Yeoh’s Georgiou). I think that’s a shame, because there’s plenty good here. I’d like to see more…but I’m not convinced we’re going to.
Star Trek : Discovery
So Discovery came back last week, though it took me until the weekend to actually see it. It hasn’t been that long a wait for me actually. With the exception of the first two episodes, I only finally got around to watching the bulk of the first season this past December.
Let’s get straight to the heart of this, because I see a lot of Trek fans constantly trashing this series out of hand. Discovery is not bad. It’s better than Voyager and Enterprise. It’s closer to Star Trek in spirit than the J.J. Abrams movies (hereon out referred to as the Kelvan timeline) ever came. It’s not as good as TNG, but might tie with DS9 as far as quality and originality goes.
There. We’ve established a pecking order. We’ve also established that I like it, more or less. Indeed, when CBS premiered the show last year with their two episode sneek peak, I actually told friends I was surprised that I liked it as much as I did. The effects are up to par. I love the uniforms (I ALWAYS wanted blue uniforms, back as far as 8th grade. Asymmetrical even. I couldn’t have done a better job myself.) and I’m totally in love with that spunky plump redhead on the show (Seriously, Tilly pushes all of my buttons). Sonequa Martin-Green does a fine job here, and actually is a far more interesting character than she ever was on The Walking Dead. Also, I’m pretty much on board with anything Jason Issacs is in. I also love the redesign of the Enterprise (brief glimpses as we get). It’s actually EXACTLY what I wanted to see done to the ship when TOS went through all it’s remastering and redone FX all those years ago. I also have to give them credit for finding flattering angles to shoot the U.S.S. Discovery from – ones that help it look dynamic and cool. No small feat to pretty up what is possibly the ugliest ship in Trek history. They definitely deserve some praise for that.
But there are problems.
- I’m so sick to death of prequels. Not only is making this a prequel unnecessary, it’s CONFUSING. Exactly what is this a prequel to? Is it taking place in the Kelvan timeline? Because that might make sense. Tech and fashion and stuff in general developed differently there. If however, this is supposed to be in the prime timeline with the original series, it’s creating some continuity holes big enough to drive a Klingon warship through. Not one of the little ones either like a bird of prey, no I’m talking one of those ginormous Neghvar cruisers that dwarfed the Vor’Cha class.The Holographic communicators really bother me since we actually SAW the introduction of this tech in the fifth season DS9 episode “For the Uniform”. Yeah, it’s funny that that’s the one t hat irks me more than the jump drive thing….I suppose I can believe that the Jump tech was classified and never used again. Maybe. If I start thinking about it, the whole thing unravels pretty quick.
So for fifty years we’ve just forgotten that the Jump tech exists. We’ve also forgotten about the brief use of the Discovery uniforms and the rank designations being on the arrowhead insgina (which is different from any we’ve ever seen before). This stuff is the peril of doing a prequel. What’s frustrating is that this didn’t HAVE to be a prequel. It’s not about forging the frontier or any significant events that were history in TOS. This could have just as easily been set fifty years after the end of Voyager and been the next, NEXT generation. It means you don’t get to use Sarek or Mudd, but those could easily be swapped out with other characters.
- We’re going back to the well. The last THIRD of Discovery’s first season was all about the mirror universe. This has quickly become the go-to stock story for these series. It’s the single thing most people remember and rave about Enterprise. It’s a trope so often used in TV and print that I’m actually shocked that Discovery got to it before the Kelvan timeline films did (To be fair though, they were busy with regurgitating Star Trek 2 – another trip to a different well). This is another one of those things that plays havoc with the timeline by the way. In the TOS story “Mirror Mirror”, both the Enterprise crew and the mirror universe blokes all seem blissfully unaware of the whole thing, despite incursion by both Archer’s Enterprise and the Discovery crew. This does not compute.
Mirror Universe aside, the fact that season 2 is bringing in both Captain Pike and Spock as major players signals a certain degree of uncertainty on CBS’s part. It’s a mandate to bring in familiar faces. The problem is even though this Spock actually looks better than Zachery Quento, I’m not actually jonseing for more Spock and I certainly don’t dig the importance they are putting on this long-lost sister thing that Michael Burnham represents.Where did Sybok go anyhow?
- TV-MA. Seriously, I understand that Star Trek has always been Adult Sci-Fi, but it’s never been ADULT (Bam-chika-wow-wow) fare. I wasn’t a particular fan of Data’s expletive as the Enterprise-D crashed in Generations but it felt organic and wasn’t excessive. Honestly though, I don’t really feel the need F-Bombs or Klingon breasts in my Star Trek. It doesn’t make it any more mature subject matter nor does it push the narrative. It’s a classic case of “We’re doing it because we CAN” rather than doing it because they should. I had the EXACT same criticisms of the film Logan, which did precisely the same thing. The only thing this accomplishes is to guarantee that my kids won’t be watching it. That’s kind of a shame isn’t it?
- You can’t talk about Discovery without talking about the paywall. Quite frankly, no matter how good the series is, the paywall was always going to turn a lot of people off. We’re still in the middle of figuring out the business model for streaming services. CBS is operating on an old model, releasing one episode a week, while applying the netflix pay model (and ironically, for foreign markets CBS decided to forego the streaming platform and just go on Netflix). That hybrid is turning a lot of souls off, as evidenced by Discovery consistently being in the to 20 most pirated shows on TV, with the pilot actually hitting #12 (and that was one of the ones CBS made free to everyone to watch!), rivaling shows like Game of Thrones. Plenty who don’t pirate, just waited for DVD. I didn’t have cable growing up and I still never missed an episode of any Trek series – as evidenced by snowy VHS recordings with the Channel 43 logo in the bottom right corner. One more service on top of cable and netflix and maybe Prime or Hulu….it’s to much. The guy to finally make sense of this ala carte system is going to be a millionaire. But untill then, the various individual streaming platforms is only going to generate a bunch of ill will, especially for millenials, who already despise paying for cable. CBS hoped that Trek would help their streaming brand. While it probably has, I’d say it’s had a greater effect to the opposite – it’s damaged the Star Trek brand too, and hung a particular taint around the neck of Discovery. There’s a good article about this over here – https://www.fudzilla.com/news/44594-star-trek-discovery-shows-that-big-content-still-has-not-got-the-message.
I don’t think Discovery is a bad show. If you haven’t given it a chance, I think you should (and I wish there was an alternative to dropping the cash on the streaming service or the DVD set. Come over to my house. We’ll crack a couple Dews and watch a couple, the same as I used to do with my buddy Johnny Em.)But I think it has some serious baggage. Voyager and Enterprise limped along despite fatigue and softening ratings. But they didn’t have the baggage Discovery does. Now with the announcement that fourth Kelvan timeline film has been shelved, combined with the sort of playing-it-safe move that bringing in Spock is do make me wonder for the future of the series.
I’m trying to remember if I’ve ever gotten anyone from Star Trek the Next Generation through the mail before. I’ve gotten original series cast that way…they are getting harder to find on the convention circuit, but the TNG cast used to always be accessible.
I was really pleased to get this one though the mail, I especially wanted a Night Court pic here because one of my favorite things was discovering Data on my favorite sitcom. Thanks so much Brent!
Turist Ömer Uzay Yolunda : Turkish Star Trek
This used to be rare, but thanks to the Internet, I noticed it made it up to YouTube a while back.
It’s interesting, you can tell someone making this really loves Star trek and was trying to create something good. They’ve even changed Spock into command gold!
I’ve seen worse bridge sets, though this still looks like cardboard and Christmas lights in someone’s basement. They’ve stolen some ship shots from the original series so we aren’t hampered with home made effects.
It seems like there’s an attempt to do the man Trap on the planet from “City on the Edge of Forever”, but that’s my best guess as to what’s going on with the plot. This is a curiosity. Nothing more.
In Defense of Star Trek Five
There’s no doubt that this is one of the weakest films in the franchise. In fact, there’s really not a lot of defense for it, but then again, the movie isn’t exactly the one who needs defending. What this really is, it’s a defense of William Shatner.
I’m not a fan actually, but I think he gets unfairly savaged when it comes to Star Trek five. It ended any feature directorial career he might have had and at the end of the day, there’s so much of what went wrong in this film that just wasn’t his fault.
Let’s start with the one real thing that WAS his fault, because it affects a lot of the rest of the film, but didn’t necessarily have to. Shatner’s greatest sin was begin an inexperienced director. Sure he’d done some TV work, but that’s just not the same thing. Having directed a couple of features myself as well as episodes of my own series, I can tell you that logistically those two tasks are very different. the vision has to be different. There’s a ton more “moving pieces” you have to coordinate. But most of all…you have a very different relationship with the studio. And that’s where everything began to go wrong.
Shatner invoked the favored nation clause in his contract (basically an agreement that anything they give Nimoy, they have to give Shatner as well.) generally used in salary negotiations, but more than one source has mentioned that this was Shatner’s way of leveraging his directorial debut on to Paramount. The studio wasn’t thrilled about this, but did still have dollar signs in their eyes after Star Trek 4, possibly the most successful of all the Trek films (ironically, my least favorite). They backed Shatner into a corner and got a fourteen to sixteen month scheduled. They’d tried to do this with Nimoy, who had flatly refused, stating he needed at least two years to do things properly, and more likely three (I actually remember him mentioning this in an interview after Star Trek 3). Shatner’s inexperience allowed him to be bullied into an impossibly tight schedule. Still, that wasn’t necessarily the end of the world as long as you have a good crew working with you – particularly in per-production.
Well, that presents a little problem we like to call “The Writer’s Strike”. Hitting ST5 at the worst possible time, we ended up with a less than polished script. In fact, we have a flawed premise from the word go. It’s one thing for the Enterprise to search for and encounter a small-gee god. It’s another for them to try and find God, Elohim, Yahweh, Jehovah. The problem is, anyone with the clout to be able to explain this to Shatner and company was out in front of the Paramount building holding a picket sign.
You don’t just need good people in pre-production though, you also need good people in production. Star Trek in particular NEEDS good special effects. This was 1989 – the year we learned the true meaning of the word “Blockbuster”. Sure we’d had them before, but this is one of the first summers where we had constant back to back blockbusters packing out the box office. Indiana Jones and The Final Crusade, Batman, Ghostbusters 2 and that’s just for starters. What this translated into was a shortage of effects houses, and you could just forget booking Lucasfilm for another year at least (There’s that rushed production schedule again!).
ST5 went with a smaller house that was known for it’s smoky, wispy effects. It’s a decision that kind of makes sense as they were thinking about what to do with the Great Barrier section of the film. The problem was that this effects house had NEVER worked with models like this before. They had to learn the process from the ground up and the end results were….less than spectacular. The green screen is obvious, the tone and lighting is frequently wrong and the ship movements are jerky, unnatural. It brings the whole film down, and strips away a great deal of the suspension of disbelief.
Then there’s the villain chase at the end where Kirk is pursued by a giant floating head.
Well, that wasn’t actually the intention.You can find this in both the novel and comic adaptation. The original idea was to have the rocks burst from the ground and assemble themselves int man-like forms that breathed fire and chase Captain Kirk through the desert and up the cliff. Almost sounds similar to what we saw in Galaxy Quest. Of course today, this would be all done in CGI, just like it was in Galaxy Quest, but in 1989, it would either have to be suits or puppets. IMDB reports the budget for ST5 at 27,800,000, higher than four. So I don’t understand what happened when they bargained Shatner down. He wanted an army. The studio said too much. We don’t have the budget. Shatner was willing to play ball. Five. He said. They agreed. Month’s later, word came down that five was being reduced to three. On the day of shooting, only one rockman costume appeared on set….and it looked awful. It looked like a rubber suit, not even up to the standard of the monsters that we saw on the TV show in 1966. The floating head was a post production fix…and one Shatner should actually get some credit for. It was a good bit of quick thinking that ended up being surprisingly effective.
Post production was rushed due to the firm start date in summer 1989 and there was no time for test screenings or tweakings. The film was going out as it was, for better or worse. So much of the story of Star Trek 5 is a tragedy of studio interference. A more seasoned director might have been able to turn out a superior film under these conditions. A more experienced director might have been able to stand up to the execs and fight for what was best for the film, perhaps snatched victory from the jaws of defeat. Shatner just didn’t have that kind of juice and even worse, he didn’t have the kind of support a first time director really needs to thrive.
A lot of times I’ll use this space to recommend you go revisit a movie and try to see it through different eyes. This time around I have a different suggestion. Head to the library or the used bookstore or even Amazon and get yourself a copy of the novelization. Back in the days before DVD, there was no such thing as “Special features”. You know how we got to see deleted scenes? We read the novel. You want to see how truly scary Kahn is ? How brutal and violent? Check out the novelization for Star Trek 2 – you’ll see Kahn murdering the space station crew in scenes that were only hinted at in the film. The same is true of this film. The novelization helps show how good a film this really could have been if it had a bit more time, a bit more polish and better visuals. Shatner’s flair and touches are still there, but a lot of the gaps are filled. It’s not a short book. It’s as long as any of the Star Trek novels, actually longer than most. Pick up the book and see if that changes your opinion about Star Trek 5.
In Defense of Star Trek : Insurrection
Today we’re talking about what is actually my favorite of the Next Generation movies. I’ve never understood the hat this movie gets. I have heard more than ne person tell me this is a worse movie than Star Trek Five.
This is frequently used as positive proof that Jonathan Frakes can’t direct. Funny, considering he also directed what is arguably considered the best film of the series too; First Contact. I do see his flair in it. The zooming shots, a lot of camera movement. Many of the set-ups are simple, but certainly not bad.
This film gets lambasted for it’s humor – as if humor was never a part of Star Trek. Why do I never hear that criticism leveled at “The Trouble With Tribbles”? It’s really more than just humor in this film, it’s familiarity. We should be comfortable enough with the characters that it’s a reunion. If you’re expecting 2001 from a Star Trek movie then I don’t know what you’re thinking. They tried that with the first film. It didn’t work. To be fair, by this time Trek movies had devolved into simple sci-fi action flicks…and that includes Generations. and yeah, most of them have EXACTLY the same ending. This is still one of the better versions of it though…
The ships in this film are gorgeous – and it’s one of the first times we really some serious new design work in TNG in ages. A pity that the interiors look like any other Okuda hell, but those ships hulls are beautiful and a nice departure from First Contact.
Speaking of First Contact- I like the movie, but it really doesn’t have a story. No, think about it. The characters drift from one engagement to the next – it’s a video game. A fun ride but no real plot. This movie has a narrative, growth in the characters (which we sadly abandon at the end because everything has to return to the status qoe) and some good plot twists. It has great actors like F. Murry Abraham and Anthony Zerke.
If the gags bug you, ignore them. Try watching this for the romp that it is and visit with these characters we really grew to care about. There’s not to many movies in the TNG film period and it’s a shame to have to throw this one out.
Star Trek into Darkness
Finally took a break from Violent Blue to get out to the Lorain Palace to see the new Star Trek movie. My reaction was simple. It was good. It wasn’t Star Trek, but it was good.
I think that’s the only way I can look at these movies and be okay. The whole time travel conceit helps, but I’m just far too aware that these are not the characters I know. That’s Chris Pine playing Kirk. It’s not Kirk himself on screen. I never had those kind of feelings with the original cast…not even with Nimoy’s cameos in the new movies….when Nimoy shows up – that’s Spock. I believe it. When Zachery Quinto is on screen, it’s Zachery Quinto in pointy ears.
It’s not just the cast though, J.J. Abrahams seems to be missing some of the soul of Star Trek, and certainly the familiarity. When the Klingon ships show up – I had no idea what I was looking at. If they hadn’t told me those were Klingon ships, I never would have figured it out. That wasn’t the case when the bird of prey showed up in Star Trek 3. It LOOKED Klingon. There was a design language that told us what we needed to know immediately. Those new ships….they’re just a bunch of polygons flexing up and down. It’s a shame, I like Abram’s direction, and his style, but I wish he’d been given the reins ten years ago and done this stuff in continuity, rather than in a tangent universe. I think that would have been a beautiful and bold change. This….this is just…not Star Trek.
I’m not going to try and make snarky remarks about this being a remake of Wrath of Kahn, because it isn’t. It’s a completely different kind of Kahn story and a good one at that. It’s also a great thing they set Kahn up to be able to come back, and really using him is logical. Over the years he’s been set up (correctly or incorrectly) as Kirk’s arch-enemy. It makes sense for him to show up here. The touches like the Spock shouting “Kahn” as Kirk lies dying in a radiation chamber are obvious homages (and I think, a little unnecessary) but this is not even remotely the same story. I do believe it can stand alone and really is a great story.
I did like all the alternate uniforms we saw. The diving suits were really cool and I even marginally like the gray suits for headquarters, though the hats I think took the military look to far – anyone who complained about Harve Bennetts red uniforms looking to militaristic ain’t seen nothin’ yet! Still the I liked the variety. I’ve always thought that was a nice part of the films- we had the base red uniform, and different coats for away missions, and different uniforms for engineering and medical.
They take the alternate uniforms a little far this time though don’t they?
Seriously. It’s the same complaint I had with IM3. We don’t actually see Tony in the suit enough. It’s still a problem here. We waited all last movie to see Kirk in the gold shirt, and we got it for five seconds at the end. This movie, we’re still spending the majority of the film with him in different uniforms.
Perhaps they were able to get away with this better when Shatner and Nimoy and Kelly were in the roles (although I’m not even sure about that. On of the things that irritates me about 3&4 is the lack of screen time for my favorite of all Starfleet uniforms) but with these characters, we haven’t had enough time to emotionally invest in these actors as the characters. We haven’t had enough exposure to this ensemble and it only heightens the feeling that these are just actors playing the characters… not the characters themselves.
And that’s what it keeps coming down to. This isn’t Star Trek to me. I don’t recognize it, and that’s a shame. I think people like me would have been more ready to embrace it if we’d had more, not having to wait for three years. The only continuity we’ve had is a comic book series from IDW and perhaps a few kids novels. A sister series on TV would have helped. A set of monthly novels and more magazines would have helped. Most of all, an eighteen month turn around schedule would have helped.
But there’s none of this, and whatever bloom there might have been, is off the rose.
These are fun sci-fi- action flicks (something that Trek films devolved into during the TNG movies- and they really should be blamed for that), but they aren’t Star Trek, and that’s fine. But don’t expect my devotion. Don’t expect my respect.
When does Doctor Who start up again?
Galactus vs Star Trek
Comics are Go! decided to do something different this time around. Mike was wanting to play the Star Trek Tactics game, and he decided to pair it with Galactus.
Now, I’m a fan of Star Trek – or at least of good star trek (I feel it really got watered down towards the end of the century) built I haven’t been buying this game. I really hadn’t seen to many people playing it and honestly, I don’t need more Trek toys. I have a pretty full set of the Micro Machines ships and what few ship the Tactics set makes that Micro Machines didn’t are WAY expensive. Far more expensive than standard Heroclix. Too much for toys that I didn’t expect to play with and don’t have room to display.
Still, when this opportunity came up, it was too good to resist. Galactus in general is a really good idea for this kind of game and it really got my imagination going. So much so that I created this prolog for the game. (They would definitely carry this comic at Taylors shop in Violent Blue)
Mike ended up playing a Romulin team. Jim and I played Federation teams – I was borrowing pieces from Mike’s collection and tried not to duplicate anything that Jim was playing (except the cloaked Defiant. that was just too cool).
I did find a use for my old Micro machines toys. I used the little figures as counters. It ended up looking a little creepy though….like they were just people who had been sucked out of the ship, dead bodies floating is space.
Jim brought along his custom Borg cube as well. I’d seen this while it was still a work in progress, but cool to see it complete with the custom dial mounted and in place.
It’s didn’t get played, but it brings up the question – what would The Borg vs. Galactus look like? I speculated that he’d just slam his hand down on the cube and rip off a chunk with his fingers. Kind of like this.
A really fun scenario. I’m hoping to see more tactics played up at the shop. Definitely something I’d be up for if it turned into a monthly thing.
I think I may be about to get angry.
A couple days ago I was finishing up some Violent Blue and decided to catch up on the prequel comics for the upcoming Star Trek movie. After seeing this panel, I begin to think the new Star Trek movie is about to make me very, very upset.
In this scene, they have discovered that April has been arming primitive species, violating the Prime Directive and generally setting up a whole big mess….and I really don’t like that.
You have to understand, April is my favorite captain. Not Kirk, not Picard, April. Moreover, he’s been my favorite captain for twenty years. When I was a child I used to fold pieces of paper in half and draw comic books featuring Robert April (yeah, if you think I’m kidding about that, just scroll down). I proposed to my wife the same way April proposed to his. In my opinion, Diane Carey’s Final Frontier is the finest Star Trek novel ever.
I keep reminding myself that this isn’t MY Robert. Who knows what’s changed about the tangent universe April. Still, this just doesn’t seem like him. he doesn’t act like this. It’s one thing to take Garth of Izar, a character with No backstory, and tell us he was once a great Starfleet captain, and now he’s gone bad. It’s another thing to take a character that already exists and use him in such a foul way. I had the same reaction to the uses of D.A. Scanallon as a villain in the Green Hornet.
I always assumed April just stayed in the diplomatic corps in this universe. Perhaps he was so disturbed by the death of his friend George Kirk that he resigned Starfleet entirely. I was okay not knowing.
I’ve been surprisingly on board with the tangent universe since the first movie came out. I can accept a lot of changes because of the way it was handled, but I don’t like this and I hope Into Darkness doesn’t takes us somewhere that really defiles one of my heroes.
And by the way – that whole thing about making Robert April comics as a kid? Here’s the proof:
Catching up on autographs
You know, I never posted any of the autos I got at the Akron Comic Con last year, and that’s something I’ve really been meaning to do. So here we are. I want to start with the ones from Gerry Conway because they are just my absolute favorites. The fact that I not only have these comics, but have signed copies of them just makes me want to squee everytime I see them.
Mike W Barr was a delight. I loved his run on Star Trek and especially love his Batman and the Outsiders, so it’s a great pleasure to have them both signed. Id didn’t just go with number ones though, I went with an issue of Trek that was special to me as well….the first one I ever got.
Tony Isabella created something special in Black Lightning, and I don’t know if we ever really appreciate it enough. I especially loved the 90’s version. They made a figure of it, but other than that, it got almost no attention at all. I never even knew about the series until long after it was over.
Breyfogal. enough said.
I’m a fan of Joe Staton’s Green Lantern and have to wonder why he isn’t a bigger personality in the field…It’s not that Dick Tracy is a bad gig, but it seems like he should be doing more.
Kyle Rayner is another underappreciated character. Polarlizing I guess. I hated him at first too, just because he took the place of Hal Jordan. Once my friend Ben got me actually reading the book though, I really grew to love him and realized my ire was more a reaction to how poorly Jordan was treated in Emrald Twilight. I got Daryl Banks, the costume designer, to sign a couple of great covers both with a lot of characters crammed into them!
A couple more to throw in here, Cameron Diaz was nice enough to sign a Green Hornet picture for me. Tara Strong signed a collage for me and a pony picture for my girls. Maddie sleeps with it….I kid you not.
Finally there is…this. How do I properly describe this and the joy it brings me?
About a year or so ago my friend Johnny Em bought an animation cell off ebay. The seller shipped it in this envelope to protect it. As soon as he saw it he thought of me. My wife couldn’t understand why I was so excited over a dirty old envelope. Well you see that Filmation logo on the corner? As in the people who made He-Man? This carried proofs or cells at one time while they were making the series – you can see the notes “young hordak, Sorceress, and (I think) Marlana scrawled up in the corner by the logo. It’;s signed by every person who when through the production phases – each signing off on thier work.Definitely one of the coolest pieces of He-Man Memorabilia I’ve ever gotten!
Last week’s pulls
You know what? Green Lantern just pisses me right off. I did catch up on the series, and it started off alright. It actually has had some great moments and I was kind of excited for the return of Black Hand, but then we fall right back into this mulit-colored lantern corps dreck. I don’t care about any color lantern but green and that’s really what I’m waiting for. On the plus side though, Hal is slowly beginning to feel more and more familiar to me again. I guess after seven or eight years, he ought to be.
I’m glad I’m still with the Shadow. Issue five has a lot more of what I really like about the character, though I’d still prefer to see him back in New York. A lot of action and atmosphere in this one. I think however, the most exciting part of this issue was the advertisement for “Masks” – Dynamites crossover event using all these Golden age pulp heroes like the Green Hornet, the Shadow and the Spider. I’m going to be all over this series. The Shadow / Doc Savage crossover from DC in the 90’s was a bit disappointing, and I’ve never gotten my hands on the Shadow / Ghost one from Dark Horse. It seems like a tough sell, crossing over the Shadow….well actually, it’s an easy SELL, but rather a tough thing to execute correctly. Still, with an Alex Ross fully painted first issue… you just can’t go wrong here.
My first impressions of the New Star Trek : The Next Generation series is overwhelmingly positive. I love that it’s the Borg, and I love that it’s TNG movie period – in fact it’s post-movie period. Riker is captain of the Titan and Data is still dead. I’ve always believed that this is the best period to focus on because there’s so little material for it. I always believed the same of the original series. It was one of the reasons I enjoyed DC’s comic series and one of the reasons I think the current IDW series focusing on the tangent universe is an extremely good idea.
The only problem I see with the Star Trek : Hive series is the feeling I’ve seen it all before. The first issue is half “Scorpion” from Voyager and “The Worst of Both Worlds” from the DC TNG run. I’m hoping I get more out of the rest of the series. Still, it’s nice to be back in the TNG movie period and I’m definitely following this run.
Finally, I dipped my toe once again into DC’s zero issues. Why do I keep doing this to myself? Seriously. Why? I picked up Phantom Stranger, and get this : It’s an origin story.
See, the thing about the Phantom stranger, especially in the modern age is his mystery. We’re not sure where he came from or why he is what he is. That is a huge component of the characters mythos and appeal. Not only do we get a clear-cut, well defined origin for him, we also get one for the Spectre. DC! Pay attention! Not every question requires an answer! To Quote Neil Gaimen from one of his Sandman stories “I keep TELLING you: It’s the MYSTERY that endures, NOT the explanation. A good mystery can last for EVER. The mysterious corpse has a magic all its own. Nobody really CARES who-done-it. They’ll peck you to pieces if you tell them” And that DC, is why I keep kevetching. That’s what you’ve messed up, and if you keep messing this kind of elementary stuff up, the fans and I will absolutely peck you to pieces. Someone, please wake up and revert us out of this new 52 nightmare.
I’m going to go read some Violent Blue.
I’m a little upset with Whoopie
As the weekend began,I finished up this months Violent Blue and came home to find a big yellow envelope waiting for me. I immediately recognized the return address….something I don’t always do.
Back in November. I sent Whoopie Goldberg two pictures. One from Star Trek, and one from Burglar – my favorite of her films.
It took ten months for her to reply, and when she did, what I received was this:
A head shot. It’s autographed, and I’m reasonably certain it’s real. The signature matches (though slightly varied also good. That means it’s not an auto-pen), and I’ve seen this picture before, but with the autograph in different places on the pic and written in different colors. I tested the lower left edge of the underline to see if the ink was separate from the paper. You can see a little that I rubbed off.
But really? Almost a year and I don’t get my pictures back? That’s kind of weak. I suspect my letter and pictures got lost somewhere and they only now rediscovered my SASE during a recent work session.
It’s a little off-putting, but on the other hand, I really don’t have much to complain about. I DID get an autograph from it. That’s better than just getting a pre-print, or nothing at all (which I was suspecting. At this point I had given up on hearing from her). Remember my autograph tutorial – she doesn’t really owe me anything. Signed on my pics or not, sending that auto is still a favor she did me, and I’m grateful.
But I’m more grateful to Malcolm McDowell for sending me a headshot AND signing my items too. Mr. McDowell, you’re a better dude than Whoopie. That’s all I’m saying.