Sunday, September 8, 2013

Happy 47th Anniversary, Star Trek!

Posting EVERY DARN DAY for two years is A LOT.
There will now be a complete refit.
Go Outside. Seek Jamaharon. And Grok Yourselves!

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Of Gods and Men

***** (5 stars out of 5)
Nichelle Nichols gets a meatier role as Nyota Uhura than any classic episode or film! Walter Koenig's Chekov likewise. And I still adore Captain Harriman. ("Ferris Beuller... yer my heero.")

This trio of Captains (Head of Starfleet Linguistics, Starfleet Intelligence veteran, and commander of the Enterprise-B) meet up for a 40th anniversary of Captain Kirk's first 5 year mission aboard Enterprise: a Constitution-class Museum ship under the dead hero's nephew, Commander Kirk (James Cawley, nicely nicely).

It's 2305- Charlie Evans' Forty-Year Thasian Time-Out has ended, and he's looking for Way-Back Pay-Back against Captain Kirk. From planet M-622, Charlie uses the Guardian of Forever to kill Kirk's mother before he is born. The face of the galaxy takes a powerful 70-Year-Long punch...

In the new timeline, under the oppressive Galactic Order, humanity still has some alien friends, but they are the likes of the Klingons and the Orions, who seem to have been a bad influence. Amoral Harriman is a stooge of the system. He destroys planet Vulcan as an object lesson to the rebellion. (Poor Vulcan! That place is running out of parallel versions fast!)

The rebellion, under Chekov and his shapeshifting pal Ragnar, use desperate measures that devoutly pacifist Uhura finds just as deplorable as the butchers of the Galactic Order. As a universe without Kirk, everyone's under the thumb of super-powered madman Gary Mitchell. Your Only Choice: Vote Gary Mitchell for Curate Prime: 4 More Decades of Absolute Dominance!

Acting on vague impressions of a better version of reality from a mind meld with young Mr. Tuvok, and with Uhura's conscience as their guide, the rebels must restore what was.

Who can stand in a war with a demigod like Mitchell? Can old, old Charlie have a change of heart? Be "our new darling" once again?

Director Tim Russ joins Chase Masterson, Garrett Wang, Cirroc Lofton, Grace Lee Whitney, J. G. Hertzler, Gary Graham, Ethan Phillips and all the other heroes and villains lending juicy performances to an anniversary tale of peace, love, and friendship with lots of lovely space battles.

"Of Gods and Men" is dedicated to the Great Bird, 40 years of cast, crews, and writers, and also to the fans. Which, as a fan, I'm very O.K. with.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Blood and Fire

**** (4 stars out of 5)
Episodes 4 & 5 of Star Trek Phase II were written and directed by David "The Tribbles Guy" Gerrold, and dedicated to Trek First Lady Majel.

Pitched battle is joined with the Klingons, and I imagine even the dead must appreciate how good the special effects are! "Fontana, go heal somethin'," snarls overworked McCoy.

Ensign Peter Kirk and Lt. Alex Freeman are engaged to be married. Overprotective Captain Kirk is taken off guard to hear it, but agrees to perform the ceremony... and to let his green nephew serve on a dangerous rescue mission in the same day.

"Relax, Jim," McCoy "soothes". "We don't put bulls-eyes on the red shirts anymore."

Starship Copernicus is in distress, intentionally on course for destruction in a plasma streamer between the stars Lear and Iago. The crew has been gruesomely killed by swarms of Regulan bloodworms. Starfleet Command orders the infected vessel destroyed... with the landing party still aboard.

Regulan bloodworm swarms are the anti-tribble. Unstoppable, immune to phasers, and burning through walls like tiny horrible Hortas. Their rapid skeletonization of Hodell from the feet up forces Peter to disintegrate the man to stop his suffering. The unsettling doctors Jenna N. Yar (Denise Crosby as Natasha's grandma) and Blodgett hope to harness the creatures for nefarious purposes. Like Burke in Aliens, you have to wonder what they'd do once they HAD them. Millions of tiny "Bloodworms Rock" T-Shirts?

Who will live and who will die? What is the secret of the worm?

If "canonical" Star Trek ever gets around to depicting "gay" as "normal" they will have to look back (at least) with an acknowledgement to "Blood and Fire"; a script from the '80s, modified for the noughties, that turns out COULD be made well without anyone's heads literally exploding. This is the Kirk I can really respect- a man who respects love in all forms.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

World Enough and Time

**** (4 stars out of 5)
I've run out of canonical Star Trek, kids! Three days early, too.

So here's your bonus from the reams and reams of available Unofficial Trek: the tip of the asteroid, if you will.

James Cawley, producer, actor, and Elvis impersonator, was born during The Original Series in Ticonderoga, New York. With Jack Marshall and the Cawley Entertainment Company, Cawley created (and performed as Captain Kirk) in Star Trek: Phase II AKA Star Trek: New Voyages AKA Those Magnificent Bastards with too much time and money who have a moon shuttle full of creativity and spirit... and maybe just a thimble full of copyright infringement.

Who, it must be said, have put out stories which surpass some of the canon itself! To date, seven episodes have been produced. I saw them on YouTube, and if you're interested enough in Star Trek to have read this far, I recommend you see them, too. They're free! That's why CBS is sort of O.K. with it.

Writers Marc Scott Zicree and Michael Reaves deliver a powerful tale of love, sacrifice and time travel, showcasing (Ohhh Myyy!) George Takei as parallel universe Hikaru Sulu- if he'd been a desperate castaway and single dad like that chap Prospero. Mr. Sulu is rescued at the same moment he was lost, but for him, it's been 30 years. His daughter Allahna Sulu is brought aboard as well... only she must remain suspended in an improvised non-physical form because she's awfully darn paradoxical. If Sulu will not consent to undo this savage but fruitful life and return to the youth he was, the Romulans will surely get the better of Enterprise... but who could ask a father to sacrifice his child?
With Grace Lee Whitney as Rand and Majel Barrett Roddenberry as the computer voice, you could squint and forget it's a fan film at all. But the regular cast is pretty good by this point, too. At the very least, it's worlds better than Nemesis!

"World Enough and Time", (the third story of this particular parallel universe) was nominated for a Hugo Award in 2008, and only lost out because 'Dr. Who: Blink' existed simultaneously.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Star Trek Into Darkness

**** (4 stars out of 5)
Star Trek 2! (Brought to you by Budweiser.)

2259: a terrorist bombing at the Doctor Who production offices in London is masterminded by rogue Starfleet operative "John Harrison Ford Not An Alias". Starfleet C-in-C Admiral Alexander "Buckaroo Banzai" Marcus, demands answers! While Marcus gathers all his eggheads in one basket, "Harrison" drops by in a hover chopper and kills (among others) Kirk's beloved mentor Admiral Pike. The suave, handsome mass murderer then beams to "safety"- a transwarp jaunt into the post-nuclear wasteland of the Klingon homeworld. You know, for safety!

Marcus orders Kirk to take a fistful of top-secret, totally unidentified torpedoes and shell the crap out of a Klingon continent from orbit to stop one man. Heroism! Scotty is the only one who vocally refuses to go along with this horrible plan (well, Keenser, too, just not so vocally). Kirk accepts that hippie's resignation while drooling over the Torpedo Babysitter "Carol Wallace Not An Alias". After all, who needs Scotty when you've got an English lady in her underthings?

With a K'normian ship acquired earlier during the comic book, Kirk and company disobey Admiral Marcus and extract "Harrison" themselves. "Harrison" allows himself to be arrested, since it is clear he can kill a dozen Klingons with his bear hands, cool coat, and giant gun, and also chew through handcuffs and cell walls if he so wished. He doesn't even need oxygen! Nice job on the genetic engineering, 1965!

For he is a super-soldier, and in my first disappointment of the Abrams tenure, he's Khan. Not Khan's trusted lieutenant, not some other Eugenics War Augment. Khan Singh. (The man's a versatile, PHENOMENAL actor. He's an amazing nemesis. He's an absolute snake in human skin! But does he look like a KHAN NOONIEN SINGH? Wesley Snipes, maybe! Nigel Chillingsbottom. Even John Harrison. THAT I'd believe!

Speaking of lying about your name for no real reason, Wallace the torpedo babysitter is the Admiral's good-hearted daughter- Carol Marcus. (Now that we're doing this, I half-expected Keenser to be DAVID Marcus under a Halloween mask!) Big Daddy Marcus is a war-mongering maverick with a big, black starship. He found Khan someplace and used him for wetwork (see deleted shower scene). But Marcus also held Khan's crew hostage to blackmail the centuries-frozen savage strategic genius into DESIGNING his big, black starship! You know, just as Donald Rumsfeld would logically have forced frozen Napolean Bonaparte to design his war planes...

Some visually entrancing but exceedingly questionable physics-defying airlock antics later, Kirk and Scotty tag gamely along as Khan defeats Marcus. And crushes his skull. Then Khan steals Marcus' Vengeance for himself. Vengeance and Enterprise shoot each other down, and Kirk dies of the radiation while re-starting the engine. Spock rages at the death of his BFF, and beats Khan into submission aboard a speeding hover garbage truck.

Everyone is very sad, so Dr. McCoy uses Khan's magic blood to resurrect Kirk, a tribble, and Admiral Archer's beagle. You had to be there. It was pretty exciting.

Speaking of exciting, for all the Cumberbitches, I offer this deleted scene of Khan in a hot shower. As The Internet has pointed out, it's a regular shower with Mr. Cumberbatch in it!

So, yeah. Amazing action. Visually stunning. Fantastic performances. Originality? Not so much. Dialogue, characters, emotional beats- too many are lifted directly from Wrath of Khan. Which was a big let down after the 2009 film was so fresh. This leaves a bad taste in the mouth, like two skanky Neko-Girls in bed with Kirk instead of one perfectly nice Orion.

"Star Trek Into Darkness" offers half the fun, but keeps the dream alive and, despite the poster, is probably a sophomore slump instead of the franchise finally crashing and burning. As Kirk's final speech hypocritically exclaims: "Exploration is the answer, not violence! Just ignore all that lovely, pulse-pounding violence we just spent two hours thrusting at you! Exploration! That's the ticket! Yeah! Violence? Icky." Until I tire of it (I've only seen it twice, after all), I still have to give it four stars. It's Star Trek, you guys! It may be grim, but it's all we've got for the next few years.

What's that you say? You say there's hundreds of comics and novels and fanzines and YouTubes? Well, then what the hell are we waiting for? The Human Adventure is Just Beginning!

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Star Trek

***** (5 stars out of 5)
In which the planet Romulus is destroyed. Nero, one of the few survivors, seeks revenge on the entire galaxy. Traveling backward to a suspiciously similar parallel universe, he interferes with the birth of Jim Kirk, killing our hero's father and otherwise dicking around with time. Fate and the Original Mr. Spock, marooned in the past, must intervene to stop the fiddling Nero from burning every Federation world, one by one.

By default, Kirk's father figure is the noble Captain Pike, who peels the lad off a barroom floor. "Your father was captain of a starship for 12 minutes. He saved 800 lives... I dare you to do better."

Dr. McCoy's origins can be summed up in one curmudgeonly sentence. "The ex-wife got the whole damn planet in the divorce- all I got left is my bones." Kirk latches onto the glum medicine man instantly on the shuttle to Starfleet Academy.

The pair of fast friends embark on their better-late-than-never career path, along with a certain straight-laced Vulcan who (by the standards of his world) is really a Bad-Ass Rebel. Spock's also going to be setting the standards of his world from now on, as one of a handful of survivors when the Romulan terrorists implode Vulcan along with half the Starfleet on Graduation Day.

Add Spock's brainy linguist girlfriend Uhura, the math ninja Chekov, and the regular ninja Sulu, and the wheels are almost back on this high-octane Wagon Train to the Stars.

Snarky Scott was exiled to the chilly, remote planet Delta Vega for losing Admiral Archer's beloved beagle in a long-distance transporter experiment. The writers confirm this was indeed 145-year-old Federation Founding Father Jonathan Archer, but were quite sure the beagle involved was NOT Porthos. And, in case (like me) you were worried about the poor little puppy, Alan Dean Foster's novelization finally beams him back aboard. So does one of the comic books. But that's not the real question: "Are you from the future?" Scotty innocently inquires. "Do they still have sandwiches there?"

A massive round of applause to the combined efforts of the make-up and CG teams for some of the most creative atmospheric aliens in a long while, and who finally netted a Trek film an Academy Award. The ubiquitous Romulan foreheads of the 24th century are suspiciously absent, but one can only assume more cases of the Augment Flu caused them in the first place.

Speaking of aliens who are easy on the eyes, and because it slips my mind whether or not I've ever mentioned that I enjoy ladies of the green persuasion, let me refer you to my own sadly neglected sister blog for my thoughts on some Orion window dressing who should be crew, Gaila! Since the time of that writing, I saw the deleted scenes that explain how Kirk used an email mash note for his alien bedroom buddy to carry his cheat code to the Kobiyashi Maru test simulator. Also, there's a scene where Kirk stands in an Enterprise hallway apologizing to a disgruntled Orion woman he THINKS is Gaila... further implying that Kirk thinks Gaila is aboard! Not in the sequel. sadly, but not dead yet!

They say the heart of rock and roll is still beating, and from what I've seen, I believe 'em.

"Star Trek", until I saw it, was a movie I expected to LOATHE. Told for years that no one cared about the concept anymore, THEN told it would be a Top Gun/Kirk/Spock/Academy prequel/reboot by that Lost guy, I was never happier to be wrong. Michael Giacchino's score is delightful. Orici and Kurtzman's script is top drawer. It is repeatedly hilarious, and painful, and triumphant.

If no one had ever made Galaxy Quest, this would be my favorite Star Trek movie ever.

Monday, September 2, 2013

These Are the Voyages...

**** (4 stars out of 5)
In which (yes, spoilers, damn it) Trip bravely dies to save Enterprise from the snooty Maitre De from Ferris Bueller's Day Off.

I've rarely read so many negative reviews for a single episode of anything! And yes, I still really like it. Despite the fact that it shunts the regulars aside... and reminds us that they are centuries dead... and that a minor crisis Riker resolved years ago was retroactively because he and Troi liked to watch these people on the holodeck on the Enterprise-D during commercial breaks!

"Just beyond the next planet, just beyond the next star there would be something magnificent, something noble," says Archer, and for the most part, he was bang on.

But what do we learn today? We jump six years ahead and nobody mentions the Romulan War. Nobody on the bridge got a promotion or changed AT ALL. Except Shran, who had a cute half-Aenar looking kid.

"You got any advice?" Riker asks Trip in what will turn out to be the last day of his life.

"No." Trip laughs. And I can't top that.

So it's 2161- dignitaries from 18 different worlds are present when Jonathan Archer signs the charter of the United Federation of Planets. And the most important moment of all of this... is his heartfelt hug for the alien. I've read that many were mad that Riker ends the program BEFORE we get to hear Archer's speech to the fledgling Federation.

But, c'mon. We KNOW the speech! We've all heard it many hundreds of times. And we hear it again. From Picard, from Kirk, and yes, from Archer. It begins: "Space. The Final Frontier..."

"These Are the Voyages..." divides even those few who claim to have seen it. For many, it was a stumble at the finish line. For myself, a tired but sincere love letter to an era that will never come again. Just as Jar-Jar Binks is BOTH a loveable sweetheart and a tooth-grinding screw-up, there's nothing hindsight can improve. With 25 seasons produced in the 18 solid years leading up to this ending, some were brilliant... and some were worn out.
IF you felt Enterprise was robbed of its own finale, I can only say (Season 4 notwithstanding, and let's not forget I'm easily Season 4's biggest fan) that if Enterprise had spent less time coasting on the goodwill of previous series and more time innovating it might have deserved one.

But this is not the end. As Captain Archer toasts: "Here's to the next generation."

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Terra Prime

***** (5 stars out of 5)
John Paxton, voted best-dressed Bond Villain of 2155, patrols the streets of Old Detroit keeping humanity safe from adorable pointy-eared half-alien rugrats. Plus he's got a mobile moon base with laser sharks!

Seemingly following up on rumours that Humans and Vulcans have started to bump uglies, Paxton managed to keep his lunch down and had his Earth First (Sorry, Babylon 5, I meant Terra Prime) stooges steal Trip and T'Pol's... uh... personal Starfleet Seed Samples. The crazy racists whip up a test-tube baby they believe will make their closed-minded buddies toss their cookies. Toss their cookies with RAGE! If the aliens don't quit their fruit picking, hover-cab driving, and medical professional jobs at once and leave the solar system FOREVER, Paxton will blow up Starfleet HQ. As you do.

It's up to our heroes to swoop down to Mars on a terraforming comet, bringing along enough phasers and sick bags to stop Paxton tying T'Pol to the monorail tracks until she pays the rent.

Gary Graham and Eric Pierpoint, the fantastic leads from the Alien Nation TV series, finally appear again in the same episode. But they've swapped roles as "Prejudiced Human Cop" and "Brainy Alien". Still, as T'Pol points out: "Life is change."

There's nothing like the death of a sick little kid to suck the wind out of your sails in a story's final moments. The second Elizabeth in Trip's life passes on. But grief is easier when shared. T'Pol is as moved in her own way as Trip by the tragedy of a life that was too brief. That moment is very painful. And I'm proud of them for having it.

Phlox tells Archer that his time on Enterprise was kind of meant as a break from his giant crazy family. But he found another family with them.

"A final frontier begins..." says Archer to the sceptical alien delegates. "Let's explore it together."

"Terra Prime" was, by default, Enterprise's TRUE finale. (There's one more to go, but it turned out to be a Star Trek finale overall instead.) Hmm. A giant laser beam firing into the San Francisco bay? Looks pretty cool. Let's make sure we use THAT again someday...