Star Trek: Discovery Trailer And Thoughts On The Franchise

Somewhat optimistic thoughts on Discovery but mostly hating on the classic show again.

Last week a trailer was released for Star Trek: Discovery that actually showed us some footage that wasn’t spaceship porn. Weird, right?

Much has since been written about the new Star Trek series. If it will take off, if it will be a good TOS prequel, what kind of stories they can actually tell, and whether or not it will actually be good. Neither of these questions can be answered by a simple trailer. All we know about is that our new main character is called Number One, who will be the first officer of the Discovery, which wasn’t shown in this trailer but instead we got Michelle Yeoh and her ship, which totally doesn’t mean that she will bite the dust two episodes in so we can transfer all the characters over to the Discovery, no sir, totally not going to happen.

And aside from the trailer showing glimpses into Number One’s past where Sarek tells her that as a human she will never fit into Vulcan society, and some Klingon stuff, because isn’t there always, that is pretty much it. I’m actually okay with that. I don’t need to know that much about the project going in, I just need to know what it will be about in order to be a valid piece of advertisement. This is a compelling trailer in that regard, it shows us that we will get some classic Star Trek adventures on a ship on the edge of space with some Klingon shenanigans. That’s the classic formula that pretty much every series has conformed to, even DS9. Many other elements, however, are different: the POV being on a first officer instead of a captain, who is also a human expat living on Vulcan from what I can tell, multiple ships being the focus of the series with a much bigger cast, a grander scope that will probably include arcs, it gives the show a feeling that you don’t often get from Star Trek: the fact that they might know what they are doing.  Continue reading “Star Trek: Discovery Trailer And Thoughts On The Franchise”

A Look At Star Trek’s Kira Nerys – Or: How A Terrorist Could Be Sympathetic in the 1990s

Desperate for clicks. Might as well talk Star Trek again… but not the new trailer that hit. I’ll write about that sometime next week when I had time to think about it more.

Star Trek has been many things over the years, but ever since the 1960s it has never been anything other than safe and samey and conforming to social norms at the time. Heck, the 60s included in that when we look at all the sexism on display…

That is except for one character: Kira Nerys, the female lead of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. A former freedom fighter, terrorist, and now somewhat-supportive member of the provisional government of her homeworld of Bajor.

I don’t think I ever really appreciated the character that much when I first viewed the series, but when I did my English degree in university and combined it with a history topic on the use of terrorism in the media, I was quite startled to realize that Kira is, for lack of a better word, still unique in current day media. Finishing its run in the late 90s, DS9 still feels like the most modern installment of the franchise. Later movies and shows had better cinematography and effects, but being a pre-9/11 show, DS9 was almost prophetic in the way it handled subject matters of terrorism and terrorism. While it handled many other topics with much more maturity than the last 16 years of pop culture entertainment, its most revolutionary storytelling remains the character of Kira.  Continue reading “A Look At Star Trek’s Kira Nerys – Or: How A Terrorist Could Be Sympathetic in the 1990s”

How To Embrace The Fact That Your Science Fiction Ideas Will Become Outdated

How will you handle the fact that all of your predictions will fail to come true?

We might as well deal with the fact now that every blog post I will be writing within the next however many months it will take something from the writing I do on the side for the final stages of the novel. Everyone good? Great. Let’s talk about science fiction becoming outdated.

Science fiction has always been near and dear to my heart, but when you’re dealing with something long-running like Star Trek, still on the air after 50 years, or are reading an older book like 2001: A Space Odyssey, you are immediately presented with two immediately outdated concepts: a Eugenics War by 1996 and an interstellar humanity with an existing cold war by 2001. What’s the science fiction in that you might ask? If it’s not in the future, then what’s the point, it immediately breaks the immersion. Why would we watch something, read something, that has already gone past the expiration date?  Continue reading “How To Embrace The Fact That Your Science Fiction Ideas Will Become Outdated”

Writing And The Soapbox

When is it okay to soapbox in your writing?

Among writers and readers, friends and foes, the internet and that normal place where they have ice cream, I always read about soapboxing. A soapbox in a modern connotation is something you step on and give an impromptu speech about usually a political subject but also about anything that comes to your mind. At least this is what Wikipedia tells me. From many people online that have either read my writing or with whom I discuss other peoples’ works we often discuss the merits of soapboxing.

Sure, on the one hand its easy to do it. Write what you know and that usually involves our own personal opinions and fields of expertise. For me it worked out fine with my first book The Historian’s Crusade right here on this blog. I was unsure what to really write about, what was near and dear to me enough so that I could put it into a couple ten thousand words, form a narrative. And so I just did exactly that. Right now I think it’s a success, I had fun writing it and it got some pretty decent feedback on the blog.

Naturally, I decided to try the trick again when I wrote my second book on which I am currently sitting at around 60.000 words and still going strong (more updates in the future). Again I chose a subject that was near and dear to me, being a sequel it also deals with history, historicity, reception, ideas, all that theoretical boring stuff that nobody cared about and instead focused on the thinly veiled Star Trek Enterprise pastiche. With the second book though I stood before a big problem: not being able to write for all the different statements I wanted to make and this is where we get to the central crux: Continue reading “Writing And The Soapbox”

Star Trek: A Retrospective (Or Autopsy?)

What went wrong with Star Trek? And when?

For those late to the show: I like Star Trek. A lot. I wouldn’t have written a Star Trek parody/homage novel otherwise. But being a Star Trek fan in this day and age – who am I kidding, every age – means that you are most definitely aware of the limitations of the franchise. There is virtually no mass market appeal, a lot of the old series are so dated in their storytelling that it’s hard to get new people on board, the new tv show is plagued with behind-the-scenes drama, the last movie didn’t do so well… did I miss anything?

Now as an “old-school” Trek fan and having read my review of Into Darkness, you would probably think that I believe the franchise went wrong the moment JJ Abrams took control of it. And well, you wouldn’t be all that wrong, but in search of what made Star Trek derail, as a good historian, I went a bit deeper (Note to self: insert Inception horn. Remove before publishing).

Star Trek is in its 51st year at this point and there are more than enough places it could have gone wrong, but I decided on five specific moments that, even if inadvertently so, caused many more problems in the long-haul or outright destroyed the prospect the show could have had for a brighter future:

I’m not a hardcore TOS fan, but even I will admit that almost the entirety of the first season is a great viewing experience. When it comes to overall quality only latter-day DS9 could surpass it in quality and quantity. Some of the great science fiction writers of Hollywood wrote for it, including the great Harlan Ellison. And then season 2 had a surprising amount of quality drop, barely any of the writers returned. Do you wanna know why? Going by Harlan Ellison’s 200 page “fuck you” to a 20+ years dead Gene Roddenberry, the answer is quite simple: Gene Coon and Dorothy Fontana, the real geniuses behind Star Trek’s early success, called in all their favors with great writers. Then Roddenberry pissed them off. Normally I wouldn’t just believe an old man who’s holding a grudge past the grave, but knowing Roddenberry’s antics? It seems plausible. Continue reading “Star Trek: A Retrospective (Or Autopsy?)”

Star Trek Into Darkness (Re)Review: Abrams Strikes Again

The Nostalgia Critic thought Into Darkness was a good movie ruined by a terrible ending. Oh boy, set phasers to obsessive fanboy reply…

Next week a new Nostalgia Critic editorial will appear to the general public. I know this because I’m one of the clever and handsome people… who happen to have a free year long subscription to Vessel, the early access service. Sucks for you, eh?

All joking aside, the video is about movies being ruined by the ending, and while I surprisingly agree with most that was being said, my one pet peeve, Star Trek, is not among the films that were bad just because of the ending.
(For those interested and with an account: https://www.vessel.com/videos/XapZBKqZE)

A bad ending to a good film is merely getting cut with a kitchen knife or stepping on a lego brick. Sitting through Into Darkness, however, was a serious of paper cuts followed up by stepping on a lego brick. Memetic humor aside, this means that you are already so num from the previous stupidity that you don’t really care about one more insult, one more dumb element.

I never said a definitive piece on Into Darkness. We once did an hour long angry rant podcast that came close to it, but in hindsight that seems more and more like I was getting swept up in the hate on the movie. It doesn’t deserve it that bad. The acting was good, the effects were good, the score was amazing, in many ways everything worked about the movie except for the writing and the the direction.

Like I stipulated in my Star Wars article from a couple of weeks back, JJ Abrams hides the flaws in his movies by speeding you by it, Into Darkness is very similar and you can tell, because not much happens. Benedict Cumberkhan attacks, Enterprise goes to revenge, capture, twist, fight, fight, fight, don’t give into revenge even though that is what Khan did and it got his crew to safety and he lived. That would have been fine had there been more to flesh out these few elements, but they served merely as set-ups for the action scenes. It’s a big problem in most action films now, and even the superior Star Trek Beyond, one of the best Trek movies ever surprisingly enough, was not exempt from it: scenes that should not include an action beat have one to keep the audience invested, distracted even, from a mundane scene. Into Darkness makes the cardinal mistake though, of interrupting interesting drama scenes with action beats or twisting them in such a way that action becomes inevitable.

By now everyone should hopefully have noticed that Into Darkness was a thinly veiled rip-off of Deep Space Nine’s “Homefront” and “Paradise Lost” two-parter, with Peter Weller playing the role of Admiral Leyton. And yet that story worked and Into Darkness didn’t, because it wasn’t a character piece, it was an action piece that happened to have some characters in there with badly written motivations that were supposed to trick you into thinking there was depth. Admiral Robocop’s plan was dumb: if you want to engineer a crisis to get your military budget raised so you can prepare for a war with the Klingons you don’t go and tell Kirk to fire torpedoes at the Klingon homeworld. Admiral Leyton is one of the best villains in all of Trek because he did everything bloodless and made sure to not harm anyone and the moment that happened he surrendered himself voluntarily. Admiral Buckaroo Banzai is just another kill crazy Admiral.

That’s not even mentioning small stuff that starts to gnaw at you throughout the film: a cold fusion device that was used to freeze a vulcano even though its a method of generating energy, Kirk shooting his horse-thingy even though that’s where he had parked it, hiding a starship under water even though that would inevitably lead to discovery and breaking of the prime directive, all the admirals meeting without security, for some reason injecting a Tribble with human blood… not even mentioning the fact that the character arcs from the last movie are re-used, which is probably one of the greatest missteps: there is no reason to watch this film because it only repeats the last one and is inconsequential to the next one, which starts where 09 ended. This is one of those mid 90s Disney sequels like Lion King 1.5.

For a movie so meticulously set up last time to make everything new and exciting the film just went nowhere and stayed with all the Trek cliches and reused plot lines, which is arguably its biggest problem.

So yes, an ending can ruin an otherwise decent movie, but in the case of Into Darkness there wasn’t much left to ruin because of the number of things already wrong with it.

Remember in your rebuttals: Twitter hashtags #stillnotoverit #trekfanboy #ohmygodcanyoupleasestoptalkingaboutit

How To Get Into The Star Trek Franchise – A Crash Course

Last article to move over from the old blog so here we go. I actually gave this one to Jessica when it came to TNG. 

 

A Rundown of the Star Trek franchise


I have been asked by a friend “How do I get into Star Trek?”. Or at lest something in that direction. I admit, it’s a hard question to answer. Star Trek encompasses five live-action tv shows, eleven movies (soon to be 12), one animated series and dozens upon dozens of novels and further material. Getting into Trek is a daunting process. So, how do you start?

Well, start at the beginning, some might say. I believe, that that answer is much more complex, so, what I’m going to do, is give you a rundown of all live-action series and the movies, why and why not you should watch them and some episodes I recommend, as well as my personal experience with them.

At this point I should probably mention, that I’m not a hardcore Trek fan. I’m no Trekkie, or Trekker, or whatever they want to be called. I’m not obsessed with Trek, I just happened to grow up with it. That also gives me the chance to approach some of the more… let’s say controversial aspects with some distance, though by no means by being objective.

1.) Star Trek: The Original Series

This is, of course, the Big One, the original, the one everything else was based upon. The classic 1966 series, the one that became a part of pop culture and the one most people know of.

Let’s get this straight: most of it has not aged well, at all. By that I mean the portrayal of certain… subjects and of course the women, oh the women (I’m looking at you, Janice Rand, captain’s doormat). If you go in it, you should do so with the mindset of “for it’s time”. It was progressive “for it’s time”, the portrayal of women was progressive “for it’s time”, even the miniskirts were progressive “for their time” (back them they stood for empowerment or something in that line, know you kinda feel uncomfortable when Uhura walks around and you can see her underwear in glorious 1080p).

And then, of course, the fact of quality material. I believe Philip J. Fry said it best: “[…]79 episodes, about 30 good ones.” A lot of episodes, while wonderful for fans and watching it for the kitsch, no doubt about it, are hard to sit through. That being said, there are some of the franchises best episodes in their and some of my favourites. So, if you want to watch some TOS, start with these, so that you get a proper introduction to the series and go back to others later. It’s way too easy to get a bad first impression.

“Where no one has gone before” – the second pilot and a good introduction to the series. If you have to start somewhere, you better start here.

“The Corbomite Maneuver”

“The Conscience of the King” – probably one of my favourite Star Trek episodes

“Balance of Terror” – another one of my favourites, it introduced the Romulans and is probably the most mature a Trek episode came to discussing the effects of war until DS9 came around, which owes much to this one episode.

“Space Seed”

“The Devil in the Dark”

“Errand of Mercy” – introduces the Klingons

“The City on the Edge of Forever” – the big one, pretty much universally considered Trek’s best episodes in the franchises history.

“Mirror, Mirror”

“The Trouble with Tribbles”

After these you can feel free to go back and watch some more, there are still some gems in there. Oh, and, if you can arrange it, watch the remastered version. Not only is it in HD, but it also put new effects in there, that replaced the cheesy old ones, that never looked so good. Hardcore fans may tell you otherwise, but they really enhance some really great episodes by showing what just wasn’t possible on a shoe-string budget in the 60’s.

Continue reading “How To Get Into The Star Trek Franchise – A Crash Course”