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New Escapist Column! On the Appealing Fandom of “Star Trek: Lower Decks”…

I published a new piece at The Escapist last week. We’re doing a series of recaps and reviews of Star Trek: Lower Decks, which is streaming weekly on Paramount+ in the States and on Amazon Prime in the United Kingdom. The second episode of the third season released last week, and it seemed like a good opportunity to take a look at the series.

It’s very obvious that Lower Decks is being written by Star Trek fans, andthe show operates in a fairly comfortable register of trusting that its writers and audience know (and care) enough about the franchise that it can effectively race through familiar Star Trek tropes, turning the standard conventions of the franchise into a loving joyride. The Least Dangerous Game is a light episode, but a fun one. It is fast on its feet, and moves with enough charm that it never collapses under its own weight.

You can read the piece here, or click the picture below.

New Escapist Column! On “The Rings of Power” and Post-Golden Age Television…

I published a new In the Frame piece at The Escapist this evening. With the release of The Rings of Power this weekend, it seemed like a good opportunity to take a look at what is effectively the biggest television show in the world, and what it says about the current state of television.

For the past twenty years, American television has gone through an era described as “the Golden Age”, one rooted in moral ambiguity and uncertainty in shows like The Sopranos, Breaking Bad and The Shield. These were morally complex stories about difficult protagonists that invited the audience into murky liminal spaces. As such, it is interesting that The Rings of Power exists in marked contrast to that paradigm. Instead, it offers a very clear-cut black-and-white worldview.

You can read the piece here, or click the picture below.

New Escapist Column! On How “The Rogue Prince” Lets “House of the Dragon” Reflect the Modern World…

I am doing weekly reviews of House of the Dragon at The Escapist. They’ll be dropping every Sunday evening while the show is on, looking at the Game of Thrones prequel as it progresses from one episode to the next.

One of the more interesting aspects of Game of Thrones was the way in which it was a high fantasy series that used the language and conventions of the genre as what felt like a compelling commentary on American identity, filtering the anxieties of the War on Terror through the prism of dragons and free cities. House of the Dragon continues that trend, offering a show that seems to reflect a particularly anxious and unstable moment in American history.

You can read the piece here, or click the picture below.

303. Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (#—)

Hosted by Andrew Quinn and Darren Mooney, The 250 is a weekly trip through some of the best (and worst) movies ever made, as voted for by Internet Movie Database Users. New episodes are released Saturdays at 6pm GMT.

So this week, to mark its re-release in Irish and British cinemas, Nicholas Meyer’s Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.

Now supervising cadets at Starfleet Academy, Admiral James Tiberius Kirk finds himself reflecting on his mortality. A routine training mission provides an unlikely reckoning when genetically engineered superman Khan Noonien Singh escapes from his exile and vows revenge on Kirk as the man who marooned him. Kirk has lived his life on the assumption that there is no such thing as a no-win scenario, but that philosophy is about to be sorely tested.

At time of recording, it was not ranked on the list of the best movies of all time on the Internet Movie Database.

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New Escapist Column! On How “The Rings of Power” Balances Itself Between “The Lord of the Rings” and “Game of Thrones”…

I am doing weekly reviews of The Rings of Power at The Escapist. They’ll be dropping every Friday morning while the show is on, looking at the Lord of the Rings prequel as it progresses from one episode to the next.

The Rings of Power is very obviously a prequel to the events of The Lord of the Rings, and so exists in the shadow of Peter Jackson’s earlier cinematic adaptation. However, it emerges into a very different landscape, twenty years later. Audience expectations have shifted, along with their relationship to the larger fantasy genre. The Rings of Power asks what it means to be a Lord of the Rings prequel in a post-Game of Thrones world, and finds itself navigating the boundaries that have been reset.

You can read the piece here, or click the picture below.

New Escapist Column! On Matt Smith’s Complicated Men…

I published a new In the Frame piece at The Escapist this evening. With the release of House of the Dragon last weekend, it seemed like a good opportunity to take a look at Matt Smith’s career. In particular, how the actor has cornered the market on a particularly modern take on masculinity.

As Daemon Targaryen, Smith was the breakout star of House of the Dragon. However, Daemon trypifies the kind of roles that Smith has been drawn towards in the years following his departure from Doctor Who. In projects as diverse as The Crown, Last Night in Soho and Charlie Says, Smith exemplifies a fascinatingly contradictory portrait of masculinity, one that is by turns alluring and pathetic, powerful and fragile, arrogant and insecure. Smith’s ability to play these conflicting facets off one another is what makes him such a compelling performer.

You can read the piece here, or click the picture below.

New Escapist Column! On the Strange Conservatism of “Star Trek: Lower Decks”…

I published a new piece at The Escapist this evening. We’re doing a series of recaps and reviews of Star Trek: Lower Decks, which is streaming weekly on Paramount+ in the States and on Amazon Prime in the United Kingdom. The first episode of the third season released this week, and it seemed like a good opportunity to take a look at the series.

There is something very interesting about how modern Star Trek treats the idea of Starfleet and the Federation as sacrosanct. It’s very different from how shows like Star Trek: The Next Generation or Star Trek: Deep Space Nine approached the idea of these authorities and institutions. It’s very strange to watch a television show in August 2022 that asks its black female protagonist to place her complete unwaivering trust in the system, and in particular in the judicial system.

You can read the piece here, or click the picture below.

New Escapist Column! On How “The Heirs of the Dragon” Places House of the Dragon in Daenerys’ Shadow…

I am doing weekly reviews of House of the Dragon at The Escapist. They’ll be dropping every Sunday evening while the show is on, looking at the Game of Thrones prequel as it progresses from one episode to the next.

Part of what is so interesting about the first episode, The Heirs of the Dragon, is the way in which the show immediately positions itself in the shadow of Daenerys Targaryen, perhaps the biggest breakout character from Game of Thrones. The first three scenes of The Heirs of the Dragon place the show firmly in the context of Daenerys, fixating upon the idea of what it means to be a Targaryen Queen of Westeros. It is a bold move from the show, and a strong statement of purpose, one that immediately establishes House of the Dragon as a series in conversation with Game of Thrones.

You can read the piece here, or click the picture below.

 

New Escapist Column! On “She-Hulk” and Unnecessary Origins…

I published a new piece at The Escapist this evening. We’re doing a series of recaps and reviews of She-Hulk, which is streaming weekly on Disney+. The first episode of the show released this week, and it seemed like a good opportunity to take a look at the series.

Like a lot of these streaming shows, She-Hulk suffers from an identity crisis. It is caught between the show that it clearly wants to be and its obligations to the familiar formula of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. In particular, She-Hulk begins with an extended and unnecessary origin story, which the show itself doesn’t seem particularly enthused about. It’s strictly formula. Giving the first thirty-odd minutes of the show over to this generic and paint-by-numbers exercise undermines a lot of the show’s potential appeal.

You can read the piece here, or click the picture below.

New Escapist Column! On Letting Daredevil be Daredevil…

I published a new In the Frame piece at The Escapist this evening. With the upcoming release of She-Hulk, and news that the show will be responsible for folding Matt Murdock into the larger Marvel Cinematic Universe, it seemed like a good opportunity to talk about what makes Daredevil unique.

The production team on She-Hulk have talked about how the series will showcase the “lighter side” of the Man Without Fear. This is somewhat worrying, given that part of what makes Daredevil relatively unique among the major Marvel superheroes is the fact that his stories are appreciably darker in terms of tone and content. Part of the appeal of Daredevil is the way in which the character allows the publisher to explore themes that it never could with more mainstream characters. It would be a shame to lose that while transitioning the hero into the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

You can read the piece here, or click the picture below.