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.

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The Better Star Wars Prequels: A Fan Wank From A “Casual” Fan

Okay, here’s an idea to redo the Star Wars prequels with mostly existing material from the prequel era, just rearranged.

Episode 1: Starts out with a botched rescue attempt on a slave ship. The security forces can’t manage to push ahead fast enough, at least not fast enough until the slavers space or kill have the slaves as a form of evidence disposal. One kid’s, or teenager’s rather, mom gets killed before his eyes. He rages out, crushes a guy’s skull with the Force. Then a Jedi enters the fight and deals with the slavers way quicker than the security forces. He finds the boy and takes him in. That’s how Obi-Wan Kenobi meets Anakin Skywalker, a boy happy to be saved from slavery but harboring resentment at the Jedi for not intervening faster.

Time skip, ten, fifteen years later, and Obi-Wan and Anakin are called in to basically do the same thing as Attack of the Clones. We can skip Phantom Menace, that happened off-screen and without Obi-Wan or Anakin. Then basically the same shtick with Anakin, a cocky cowboy Jedi at this point, kinda how Obi-Wan described him in the Original Trilogy, defending a young senator. We go a bit more into detail why Dooku and Co wanna leave, get a bit of a civil discussion out of the way first to establish that he actually is a “political idealist” as stated in Ep2. We’ll rearrange the middle bit a bit, make the romance more interesting, but we’ll end with Anakin and Padme not getting together, cause, you know still two more movies to go and we need to stretch that shit. Movie ends with the beginning of the Clone Wars.

Episode 2: Starts out five, six years later, the war is stretching on, with the Jedi serving as Generals and Anakin in particular always at the front lines. He’ll have just come back from a mission at the front that saw several Padawan die, giving him resentment over the Jedi essentially using child soldiers. He sees this unnormal and creepy because he was taken in late, so there’s a nice callback to Yoda and Luke even = uncomplete conditioning/brainwashing on part of the Jedi. And then? We’ll then we get the Clone Wars cartoon condensed into one movie, with Anakin forced to take on Asoka as an apprentice. Anakin, who has just lost another Padawan, doesn’t want another one, cause he never learned to deal with loss. Throw in Padme there at some point for some lovin’ and a subplot for Obi-Wan about, dunno, Order 66 or something, all stuff from the TV show really, and then you’re good. Movie ends on a battle between Anakin and Asoka vs Dooku, in which Asoka is gravely wounded, and Anakin strikes down a defensless Dooku in return. Anakin quits the Jedi Order in disgust and goes off to live with Padme or something.

Episode 3: Another couple of years later, the war has been going on for 10-15 years at this point, and everyone is so tired at this point. Obi-Wan and Yoda and whoever else have a great plan to stop the war in a final decisive battle. Anakin has at this point become a bodyguard for Chancellor Palpatine and they’ve become fast friends, getting their relationship from the original prequels out of the way in that backstory, but with the Episode 3 stuff intact for this movie. Anakin goes back to the Jedi at the urging of Obi-Wan, Asoka also returns, because at this point the Order has been thinned from a couple of ten thousand to a couple of hundred. Corrusant and other planets are completely run down, the war economy is breaking down, people are clammering for an end of the war and Palpatine is making grand speeches about that stuff. The Stormtrooper Corps is at this point bolstered by first volunteers then conscripts. While Anakin and Obi-Wan are off to do the last grand battle or whatever, reigniting their friendship, we’ll have a subplot with maybe Padme about looking into Palpatine’s evil shit, discovering that he’s Darth What’s-His-Face, who played everyone all along. Palpatine and his goons decide not to kill her because she’s with child. Dun-dun-dun. And he’ll need those to train for himself. During the final mission everything get’s resolved in terms of defeating the Seperatists, but the price is high and all the Jedi die and Asoka gets near-fatally injured. In his rage Anakin slaughters his way through a legion of Seperatist troops and takes down the Seperatists by himself, but not without tapping into the Dark Side. He quits the Jedi again, in disgust at all the casualties, and the Jedi Masters like Yoda and Obi-Wan who sit in their Ivory Tower like armchair generals back on Corrsant. Now Palpatine arrives on location to take the surrender but first he meets up with Anakin in a medical facility, comforts him and basically does the usual Palpatine stick, then shows him how to tab into the Dark Side to save Asoka. He does and then gets told, maybe with flashbacks, that all the good he ever accomplished as a Jedi came from using the Dark Side and that the Jedi with their Light Side nonsense have only ever really accomplished the death of small children unfit for combat, and other shady stuff we allude to during the prequels.

Meanwhile, in a false flag operation, Palpatine uses force users to attack the Senate and make it seem like the Jedi are making a grab for power. We’ll also have an attack on Palpatine that Anakin stops, who pledges his allegiance to Palpatine, the only one who still makes sense in this time. They leave but leave Asoka behind to recouperate, though Palpatine leaves behind some Clones to “mob up” after him. The Jedi are now hunted because after all the shady Jedi stuff they (canonically) pull nobody really trusts them. Order 66 is issued by the Senate, even though some Senators rally behind Padme and Bail Organa. Anakin, now full on Palpatine’s side, sick of all the Jedi lies and bullcrap, helps take down all the rest of the Jedi, who can’t put up much of a fight anymore because the war depleted their numbers. Yoda quickly goes into hiding, saying that they failed and must wait for better times. Asoka, who survived Palapatine’s mob up crew also goes into hiding, disgusted at all that bullshit. Obi-Wan won’t tolerate that and goes on a last stand against Anakin and Palpatine. Basically the Mustafar thing: Obi-Wan wins, Anakin gets brutally maimed in what amounts to an accident because Obi-Wan also lets loose with his resentment but can’t stop himself in time to stop. He then disappears. Padme also disappears after hearing that Anakin “died” and goes and lives on Aldeeran. Obi-Wan finds out about the pregnancy and that they are Anakin’s kids, so he takes one with him to Tatooine, in fear that if Anakin should pull through he would eventually find them and train them in the Dark Side for the new Emperor. Maybe he can even fake Luke’s death so that everyone thinks only Leia survived. The movie ends where the normal prequels also end: with Anakin being reborn as Darth Vader.

Fin… err The End.

Now, obviously this doesn’t work as a three parter, the last one is very heavy in terms of plot, way too much stuff happens, but for something that I compiled in about 25 minutes I think it’s alright and definitely a starting point. All I wanted to demonstrate here is that we could very easily “fix” the prequels with material from the Clone Wars, “fix” all the continuity snarls with the Original Trilogy, and “fix” well, you get the point….

Suicide Squad Review

I have a blog and just saw a movie. You know what that means! Review time!

Just came back from watching Suicide Squad. Fun story: the release was pushed forward two weeks on last notice. Good for me, probably a bad sign for WB. Or not so good, because I didn’t much care for the film. Didn’t think it was particularly atrocious, but it was easily the worst superhero movie this year.

Watching the first act gave me Fantastic Four (2015) flashbacks because I knew of the rivaling cuts, etc, and it certainly felt completely butchered, the standout being Amanda Waller explaining why the team should be founded… followed by a scene were she explains why the team should be founded. It also had severe tonal issues in what was shown on screen and what happened presentation wise, like the goofy overlays, pop music and sound effects over prisoner abuse. The movie gets way better, however, when the second act finally comes around and the team deploys and it finally starts playing to its strengths, namely the characters. Minus the Joker, because that stuff was mostly boring because of how detached from the plot it was. The portrayal itself didn’t bother me because I have actually read a comic or two or watched a movie/cartoon in my life with different portrayals of the Joker. Stand out, like Jessica said in our podcast discussion is clearly Margot Robbie as Harley though, she absolutely knocked it out of the park. Will Smith was good as well, nice and charismatic like he hasn’t been in years. Rest of the cast was hit and miss, Captain Boomerang yeah, Rick Flag not so much. El Diablo was good too, everyone else kinda sucked. Oh and that fucking pink unicorn was gold!

For those interested, here’s our podcast discussion on the subject:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M7sKrm96ewk

I think the bar scene is a sign of what Ayter wanted to do at the beginning and everything else feels very much designed by committee, mainly because it was. I really don’t want the DC Extended Universe to stand for DVD Cut Extended Universe. Let filmmakers make films or tell them from the beginning that you’re making a “designed by committee” film.

Overall I wouldn’t really recommend it. Bored me about as much as Civil War but Civil War at least still had consistency and a boring but practical routine going on that this lacks. It was, however, not as terrible as people have made it out to be. Doesn’t make it good though either. I would, however, really like to see a proper sequel that hasn’t been butchered. Or David Ayter’s Director’s Cut, which ever comes first.

Academic Writing Is Boring – Let’s Change That

Let’s get right into it and not mention that I’ve been absent for two months, shall we?

Okay, let’s do mention it because it’s the subject of this blog post: academic writing. Recently, I finished up my Bachelor’s degree, which included two oral exams and one written thesis, mine having been in History. The subject of the paper was “Influences of the Jewish Settlement on the Ottoman Economy of the Late 19th Century”. Now the thesis turned out rather well I thought, as did everyone who corrected it and looked it over before I handed it in. The right mix of information and actually reading well. Turns out the actual evaluators didn’t think so. Oh well, that’s not what I’m here to bitch about since I do actually agree with what they wrote in their assessment. I still managed to graduate with a good grade average and the thesis is a minor blotch on the transcript so no real harm done. But that does bring me to what went through my head when I read the assessment and whenever I write a paper:

Screw this. Academic writing is boring, nobody would actually want to read this. THIS, this right here is why people think history is boring, why studying is boring. FUCK THIS.

38182bc

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Comic Book Status Quo Ruined The X-Men

I don’t care about the X-Men. This might sound like a strange thing to open an article about the X-Men with but I would actually like to explain why I don’t like the X-Men.

In theory, the X-Men are what I want from comics or even literature in general: a cool concept that can also make you think. The whole thing about the X-Men has always been that they are an allegory about racism and homophobia. Okay fine, that’s a really great thing. That’s not just a cool concept, that can lead to all thoughts of great story lines. Unfortunately, the execution of that was lackluster at best over the past few decades and is now arguably the main reason why I actually hate the X-Men and refuse to pick up their books. Let me explain.

Most people would agree that a story has a beginning, a middle, and an end. You introduce your story, build up the characters and the world, then you tell the story and explore your themes, they might need to overcome obstacles in order to succeed, but in the end they triumph (or not, depending on the tone of the piece and the message you wanna sent) and then the story is over. You may begin another one or not, that is all up to you and whether you think that the universe and characters you have created can support a sequel.

The reason why I bring up Writing 101 is because I believe that writers and editors working for DC and Marvel seem to not understand even the basics of writing you learn in Lit 101 in university. To say it with the immortal words of Yathzee Croshaw: “A story is like a good bowel movement: it ends at some points, or you’re gonna shit yourself to death”. At least that’s how I think it went. Point is: the main plot line, for which the X-Men have been lauded for for decades, falsely, I might add, has never been completed. And all they would have needed to do was follow history.

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Coming To Terms With Captain America

Captain America: the struggle between character and caricature.

I originally started writing this blog post about two days before the now infamous press release by Marvel Comics that Captain America, the Steve Rogers one, was an agent of H.Y.D.R.A. all along. Now, never mind that this is just another example of a desperate comic industry ratings stunt to sell more than 25.000 copies of any given book not headlined by Spider-Man, Batman, or Star Wars, what really surprised me was the public outcry over this fictional character. I’ve had my issues with Captain America in the past and talked about it here or there with people, but many people are heavily attached to the character. What makes Captain America who is is, is really the embodiment of the American Spirit. Cap is, in the words of Brows Held High, not the man who fought in World War 2. He is the man who fought in the World War that Americans wanted to fight. One in which the good guys always won, in which the Americans didn’t arrest hundreds of thousands of Japanese-American citizens, in which we don’t have to talk about the suffering and dying on the front lines. Where the bad guys weren’t also mostly people fighting to survive and for their comrades to survive. And I think it took me a while to come to terms with Captain America.

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The Great Man Theory and Joss Whedon

Joss Whedon was not a revolutionary creator, he was but one of many in a generation of new creators.

 

When it comes to science fiction television series blended with western and cowboy motifs following an ensemble cast of snarky badasses who go from job to job, throughout a star system on their awesome spaceship with a spin-section, Firefly is my second to most favorite next to Cowboy Bebop. But all joking aside, when Firefly aired in 2003 in the US and when I finally got my hands on the DVD set around the time the movie hit, it was a series that friends of mine got tired of me talking about until I had infected them with the Firefly virus as well.

I loved the stories, the universe it set up, the characters, their motivations, the wonderful soundtrack, it was great. I wondered who the genius was who had created this wonderful show that I had come to adore so much and that was the way I learned about Joss Whedon. Oh, Joss Whedon, what can you say about the man that the internet hasn’t dragged up yet? Well, nothing much. From Buffy to Angel, from Dollhouse to Agents of SHIELD, from Serenity to The Avengers, numerous comic book runs and entire tropes of the likes of “Buffy Speak”, the man certainly has left a mark on pop culture over the last little while. And yet there was always this slight nagging in the back of my mind whenever fans and pop-culture critics praised the man for being the innovator that he was.

It’s been close to a decade now that I have come to contact with the man’s work, I have almost finished dual Anglistics and History Bachelor’s degrees at my university and now find myself in a weird spot where the two fields of study I have chosen for myself in what future historians and grumpy Millennials will call “the Great Uni Rush of 2012” (it’s a German thing, you wouldn’t get it…) have started to let me see the world in two different ways: one in which Joss Whedon was a revolutionary TV creator and one in which he was part of a larger movement, surely talented and even the most mediocre of his work still enjoyable on some levels, but surely not revolutionary.

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