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Star Trek: Enterprise – Rogue Planet (Review)

Next year, Star Trek is fifty years old. We have some special stuff planned for that, but – in the meantime – we’re reviewing all of Star Trek: Enterprise this year as something of a prequel to that anniversary. This January, we’re doing the first season. Check back daily for the latest review.

And with Rogue Planet, Star Trek: Enterprise wanders back into “generic Star Trek territory.

Rogue Planet is a story that could easily have been told on any other Star Trek spin-off. Indeed, a great deal of its story elements feel inherited like hand-me-down clothes. Hunters chasing sentient game is a stock science-fiction trope, but it is one that the franchise has explored quite frequently. The first season of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine gave us Captive Pursuit, another story about our heroes interfering in the hunt of a self-aware life form. The fourth season of Star Trek: Voyager introduced the Hirogen, a bunch of big-game hunters that put the Eska hunters to shame.

In fairness, wearing a glowing green eye patch on a pitch black planet probably isn't the best strategy...

In fairness, wearing a glowing green eye patch on a pitch black planet probably isn’t the best strategy…

Indeed, it hasn’t even been that long since Star Trek did an episode about hunters pursuing sentient prey. The final season of Voyager had produced Flesh and Blood, a gigantic feature-length television movie around the Hirogen and their pursuit of holograms that had developed self-awareness despite not meeting the more obvious criteria for sentience. This isn’t Enterprise retreading old ground; this is Enterprise retread ground that hosted a big song and dance less than fifteen months earlier. As with Civilisation and Sleeping Dogs before it, Rogue Planet has a definite “been there and done that” feeling to it.

That’s a shame, because there are a host of interesting elements here. They just are pushed into the back seat for a stock science-fiction plot.

Oh, Trip, have some respect!

Oh, Trip, have some respect!

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Star Trek: Enterprise – Fusion (Review)

Next year, Star Trek is fifty years old. We have some special stuff planned for that, but – in the meantime – we’re reviewing all of Star Trek: Enterprise this year as something of a prequel to that anniversary. This January, we’re doing the first season. Check back daily for the latest review.

Fusion is a mess of an episode.

On the one hand, it feels like an attempt to develop that Vulcans as they’ve been portrayed on Star Trek: Enterprise. It’s a clear attempt to justify their behaviour and to suggest that there are reasons that Vulcans eschewed emotions. It also gives some focus and development to T’Pol, a character who has been given very little space to herself so far in this first season. It brings back the relaxed pacing of episodes like Breaking the Ice or Cold Front, soaking in the details rather than driving the plot.

Out, out brief candle...

Out, out brief candle…

On the other hand, there’s a disturbingly reactionary subtext to Fusion. It feels like an even more cynical and mean-spirited version of All the Children Shall Lead or The Way to Eden, a story about how people need to be wary of youthful and experimental subcultures. It’s disappointing that one of the first season’s big T’Pol episodes is basically a rape allegory. And the plot of the episode feels crammed into the last act to make up for the somewhat loose pacing.

Fusion is simply all over the place.

False idols...

False idols…

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Star Trek: Enterprise – Shuttlepod One (Review)

Next year, Star Trek is fifty years old. We have some special stuff planned for that, but – in the meantime – we’re reviewing all of Star Trek: Enterprise this year as something of a prequel to that anniversary. This January, we’re doing the first season. Check back daily for the latest review.

Shuttlepod One is the best episode of the first season of Star Trek: Enterprise.

If you want to be particularly cynical about it, you could argue that it’s the show’s first absolutely unequivocal success. Enterprise‘s first season is a lot stronger and more interesting than most give it credit for, even if most of its stronger episodes were qualified successes – like Breaking the Ice, Cold Front or Dear Doctor – that hinted at a new type of character-driven Star Trek without entirely committing to it.

... it is very cold in space...

… it is very cold in space…

The first season of Enterprise tried quite a lot of new things that didn’t always work. That’s fine. That’s what a first season should be for. The greater tragedy is that the second season (or even the tail end of the first season) didn’t necessarily try to improve on those experimental successes, and instead fell back on that conventional Star Trek plotting that had been competing with that more experimental style in the first two-thirds of the first season.

In many ways, Shuttlepod One is the unlikely zenith of the first season. It comes off a string of flawed-but-intriguing episodes only briefly interrupted by the misfire that was Sleeping Dogs. However, the episode was written by creators Rick Berman and Brannon Braga to save budget in the second half of the season, filmed as a way to recoup budget overruns from elsewhere in the year. Despite that, it’s a compelling glimpse of Enterprise as it seemed to want to be – very much character-driven Star Trek.

Reed has a close shave...

Reed has a close shave…

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Star Trek: Enterprise – Shadows of P’Jem (Review)

Next year, Star Trek is fifty years old. We have some special stuff planned for that, but – in the meantime – we’re reviewing all of Star Trek: Enterprise this year as something of a prequel to that anniversary. This January, we’re doing the first season. Check back daily for the latest review.

Shadows of P’Jem is a wonderful episode. It is, in many respects, the first true post-9/11 episode of Star Trek: Enterprise, and it is a surprisingly thoughtful one at that.

In many respects, Enterprise has already established itself as Star Trek for the George W. Bush era. Archer is the franchise’s first white American male lead character since Kirk, and his contempt for politics and thirst for action mirrors the popular image of George W. Bush – a dynamic man with no time for questions or hesitation. Even little touches – like the fact that officers drink beer rather than champagne, or the anti-intellectual contempt that Archer and Trip feel towards Vulcans – suggest a Star Trek show that is very much in line with Bush’s America.

Shadows on Coridan...

Shadows on Coridan…

However, Shadows of P’Jem was among the first episodes written after the events of 9/11, and it’s an episode that seems quite thoughtful and introspective. The franchise has often used the Federation as a stand-in for American values and ideals. Shadows of P’Jem twists this idea on its head, offering the future Federation members as stand-ins for various facets of American foreign policy.

Shadows of P’Jem is a considerate and reflective look at what Walter Nugent termed “the habits of empire”, a look at the cost and consequences of imperialism in a post-colonial age, and how those issues tend to fester.

A night in sickbay...

A night in sickbay…

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Enter the Jameson First Shot Film Competition!

The guys at Jameson passed on details of their Jameson First Shot competition a few weeks ago. Here are the details for any budding film makers around the world looking to enter for a chance to work with some top-notch talent.

Jameson is on the hunt for the globe’s most gifted, undiscovered filmmakers with compelling stories to tell. Simply write an original piece of work, with the final draft being no more than seven pages in length. The story should reveal, with lightness of touch, the epic that is to be found in everyday experiences.  Closing date for entries is 1st February 2015. More information on the rules, including length and theme, can be found at http://www.jamesonfirstshot.com/.

Last year’s short films starred Uma Thurman and one of the winners just sold his first full length script. It’s a great platform for budding screen writers and this year is the first time it has been open to Irish entrants. Check out two of last year’s winners.

Non-Review Review: Selma

Selma is a fascinating look at the Civil Rights Movement, and at the life and times of the Reverend Martin Luther King Junior.

Adopting the increasingly common approach of narrowing its focus to a rather tight sequence of events, Selma offers an interesting and insightful glimpse at the protest in Selma, Alabama – culminating in a planned march from Selma to Montgomery in March 1964. That was a pivotal moment for the Civil Rights struggle, as the cameras of the nation focused on the brutally wielded by local authorities against those marching peaceably. Selma focuses on that national moments as a vehicle to explore the Civil Rights movement as a whole.

selma3

To be fair, Selma does have its problems. There is a sense that the film is perhaps too concerned with the character of Lyndon B. Johnson, even ultimately affording him something of a heroic moment at the climax. The carefully-maintained period feel is undermined by the decision to dub Yesterday Was Hard On All Of Us by Fink over a crucial moment. In contrast, the period-specific (or close enough) songs by Otis Redding, the Impressions or Duane Eddy add context and texture to the film; the tracks by The Fink and Common (featuring John Legend) feel superficial.

However, these are minor problems. Selma features a tight script, solid direction and a host of fantastic central performances. Eschewing the sentimentality or softness associated with these sorts of prestige pictures, Selma deserves to be considered among the best of the awards season prestige pictures. Its diminished presence on Academy Awards ballots seems sadly telling.

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Star Trek: Enterprise – Sleeping Dogs (Review)

Next year, Star Trek is fifty years old. We have some special stuff planned for that, but – in the meantime – we’re reviewing all of Star Trek: Enterprise this year as something of a prequel to that anniversary. This January, we’re doing the first season. Check back daily for the latest review.

There’s really very little to say about Sleeping Dogs. It’s not particularly good, it’s not particularly bad. Like Civilisation before it, it’s an episode of Star Trek constructed to a familiar formula. The ship in question answers a distress call from an alien ship. Our crew attempts a rescue mission, during which the away team end up stranded. Meanwhile, our captain tries to figure out how to communicate with an alien from a radically different culture, eventually coming to realise that he must address them on their terms.

These are all stock elements, and they are mixed into Sleeping Dogs with a minimum of fuss. The only real kink in Sleeping Dogs is that the aliens in question are Klingons. However, we’ve spent so much time with Klingons in the various other Star Trek spin-off shows that using them as a light seasoning in a fairly stock Star Trek plot doesn’t make for a particularly appetising combination.

Again with the Klingons...

Again with the Klingons…

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