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New Escapist Column! On the Fetishising of the Federation in the Third Season of “Star Trek: Discovery”…

I published a new piece at The Escapist today. With the third season premiere of Star Trek: Discovery last week, it seemed worth taking a look at the new season of the Star Trek spin-off.

The third season of Discovery finds the characters thrown into the distant future, after the collapse of the Federation. This is interesting, because it represents both a clear extrapolation of the futures suggested by Star Trek: Voyager and Star Trek: Enterprise, and also a clear progression of the franchise status quo suggested by Star Trek: Picard. This is a franchise dealing with the decline and collapse of American exceptionalism. However, Picard and Discovery offer easy answers to hard questions, lacking the introspection that their premise deserves.

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

New Escapist Video! On “Star Trek: Discovery” and the Forgotten Psychedelic History of “Star Trek”…

So, as I have mentioned before, I am launching a new video series as a companion piece to In the Frame at The Escapist. The video will typically launch with the Monday article, and be released on the magazine’s YouTube channel the following week. This month, it will be releasing on the Tuesday.

With that in mind, here is last week’s episode, covering the first season of Star Trek: Discovery and the way in which the show taps into the forgotten psychedelic history of the original Star Trek television series.

New Escapist Column! On the Forgotten Psychedelia of the First Season of “Star Trek: Discovery”…

I published a new In the Frame piece at The Escapist this evening. With the third season of Star Trek: Discovery premiering later this week, I thought it was worth taking a look back at the first season of the Star Trek relaunch.

The first season of Discovery is fascinating, in large part because it genuinely feels like a completely different iteration of the Star Trek franchise. As befitting the mood of the moment, Discovery largely bypasses nostalgia for the Berman era and reconnects the franchise with the psychedelia and anxieties of the franchise’s original sixties television series. This is a show that exists in the same irrational and chaotic universe as episodes like The Man TrapCharlie X, Dagger of the Mind, Catspaw, Mirror, MirrorThe Immunity Syndrome, The Tholian Web and many more.

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

New Escapist Column! On “The Best of Both Worlds” as the Moment that “The Next Generation” Came of Age…

I published a new In the Frame piece at The Escapist yesterday evening. Because The Best of Both Worlds, Part II aired thirty years ago on Thursday, it seemed only right to take a look back at one of the most beloved stories in the Star Trek franchise.

The Best of Both Worlds, Part I is widely accepted as one of the best cliffhangers in television history. However, the episode is really the culmination of the growth and development of Star Trek: The Next Generation. The spin-off had a rocky first couple of seasons, but really came into its own during a much more ambitious and consistent third year. That third year built inexorably towards that cliffhanger, demonstrating the effectiveness of that approach to storytelling.

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

New Escapist Column! On the Paradoxical Nostalgia of “Star Trek: Lower Decks”…

I published a new In the Frame piece at The Escapist this evening. Star Trek: Lower Decks launched last week, the latest entry in the larger Star Trek canon.

Lower Decks is an interesting phenomenon. It is perhaps the most overtly nostalgic Star Trek show of the new era, given how transparently it harks back to Star Trek: The Next Generation in both form and content. However, the show’s aesthetics – an animated series with a modern comedic sensibility – are likely to alienate those fans most obviously yearning for a nostalgic Star Trek hit. At the same time, the show’s reverence for the trappings of Star Trek prevents it from working in the mold of good comedy – even good Star Trek comedy.

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

New Podcast! The Sanctuary – “A Private Little Vietnam”

I was flattered to be asked by the wonderful Tony Black to help him launch a new Star Trek podcast. The Sanctuary hopes to be a look at the politics and the social commentary of the larger Star Trek franchise, and will feature Tony and a host of guests looking at how the franchise examines a big issue.

As a pilot, Tony suggested that we might discuss how the original Star Trek series looked at the Vietnam War. It’s an interesting discussion, because it’s a very complex and evolving conversation that takes place across the run of the show, between various creative voices within the show. This is interesting, because the show itself unfolded against a backdrop of shifting public opinion on the topic, which means that it’s not as simple as a “pro” or “anti” position.

Anyway, it was a huge honour to be invited on to help launch the show, and I hope you enjoy it. You can subscribe to the show here. You can listen to the episode here, or click the link below.

 

New Podcast! Make It So – Re:Discovery, Season 1, Episodes 1 & 2 (“The Vulcan Hello” & “Battle at the Binary Stars”)

The first season of Star Trek: Picard has wrapped, and so Make It So: A Star Trek Universe Podcast has turned its gaze backwards, looking at the start of the Kurtzman and Goldman era of Star Trek. I was flattered to be invited to join the wonderful Kurt North to discuss The Vulcan Hello and Battle at the Binary Stars, the two-part premiere of Star Trek: Discovery.

I’m generally quite fond of the first season of Discovery, although I think it comes a little off the rails towards the end of the season. However, I unequivocally think that The Vulcan Hello and Battle at the Binary Stars comprise the best first episode of any Star Trek series. They are a bold statement of purpose, largely serving as a eulogy for the Berman era of the franchise, typified by Star Trek: The Next Generation, Star Trek: Voyager and Star Trek: Enterprise. Instead, these two episodes offer an immediate and distinct vision of what modern Star Trek might look like. There’s an incredible and infectious confidence at play, including a conscious effort to update the trappings and sensibilities of the franchise for a new era of television.

Anyway, it was a huge honour to be invited on, and I hope you enjoy. You can listen to the episode here, or click the link below.

New Escapist Column! On “The Good Place”, “Brooklyn 99” and “Parks and Rec” as the True Successors to “Star Trek: The Next Generation”…

I published a new In the Frame piece at Escapist Magazine this evening. With self-isolation, I’ve been taking the opportunity to binge some light, feel-good television including Parks and Rec and Brooklyn 99, and I’ve come to the shocking realisation that these network sitcoms are probably the closest thing in the modern television landscape to Star Trek: The Next Generation.

Of course, there are a variety of reasons for this. Most obviously, it seems like the only viable space for that sort of utopian humanism in the modern world is within the narrative trappings of the familiar sitcom, a space where audiences are inherently more accepting of a fundamentally functional world. More than that, there’s a sense in which The Next Generation is perhaps closer to an idealised workplace show than its science-fiction trappings would attest; at its core, The Next Generation is about a band of hopeful and hyper-competent people working together for the common good. That’s admittedly a much harder sell these days than it was a quarter of a century ago, but shows like Parks and Rec and Brooklyn 99 offer a very similar vibe.

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

 

New Escapist Column! On “Star Trek: Picard” and Parental Failure…

I published a new piece at Escapist Magazine yesterday evening. Given that Star Trek: Picard just wrapped up its first season, I had some thoughts expanding on my discussion of Et in Arcadia Ego, Part II on Make It So.

The first season of Picard is undeniably messy and awkward. The pacing is a little off in places, and it pulls several of its most powerful punches. However, at the heart of the series is a story that simmers through a lot of contemporary pop culture, from Star Wars: Episode IX – The Rise of Skywalker to Bad Boys for Life, the idea of a failed parent trying to redeem themselves through their child. It’s a fascinating inversion of the Campbellian archetype embodied by Star Wars, the quintessential story about a son come to terms with his relationship to his father. Stories like Picard invert that dynamic, and look at the responsibilities that parents owe to their children to provide them with a better world.

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

New Podcast! Make It So – Season 1, Episode 10 (“Et in Arcadia Ego, Part II”)

I binged Star Trek: Picard over the course of the previous week, and so was thrilled to join the wonderful Kurt North on Make It So: A Star Trek Universe Podcast to discuss the first season finale, Et in Arcadia Ego, Part II.

I have somewhat complicated feelings about Picard. There are parts of it that I love, and parts of it that I am a bit more skeptical about. One of the joys of coming into the podcast to discuss the season finale was getting the chance to talk about the season as a whole, given how its various arcs were set up and how they paid off. It’s a nice, broad and comprehensive discussion of a sprawling, ambitious and complicated conclusion to the larger season. I feel really bad that I talked as long as I did on the episode, but there was a lot to dissect and discuss. For all the criticisms of Picard as shallow or superficial, there’s clearly a lot of meat on the bones.

Anyway, it was a huge honour to be invited on, and I hope you enjoy. You can listen to the episode here, or click the link below.