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New Podcast! Enterprising Individuals – “More Mooney, More Problems”

I am always thrilled to get a chance to talk about Star Trek with other fans, so I was thrilled at the invitation to join the wonderful Aaron Coker on Enterprising Individuals to talk about The Immunity Syndrome. The bulk of the episode came out last week, and is well worth your time if you’re specifically interested in discussing that individual episode.

However, the initial recording session was actually much longer than the version that appeared last week. It was a more casual and free-form conversation, covering everything from the state of the modern franchise to Doctor Who and plenty of stuff beyond. It’s a bit unfocused and wild, but I really enjoyed chatting with Aaron on such a wide range of topics.

You can listen to the episode here, back episodes of the podcast here, click the link below or even listen directly.

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New Escapist Column! On “Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country”, and Saying Goodbye to Old Friends…

I published a new In the Frame piece at The Escapist this evening. With the passing of Christopher Plummer recently, and with the film celebrating its thirtieth anniversary this year, I thought it might be worth taking a look at Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country.

The Undiscovered Country was the last Star Trek film to focus on the entire cast of the original show. However, it is not an entirely celebratory farewell. Instead, it’s a movie that makes a valid and convincing argument for the need to move on, for characters like Kirk and Spock to get out of history’s way and to surrender the stage to Star Trek: The Next Generation. It’s an introspective (and occasionally even acerbic) rejection of nostalgia that is particularly hard to imagine today, particularly in the era of films like Star Wars: Episode IX – The Rise of Skywalker.

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

New Podcast! Enterprising Individuals – “The Immunity Syndrome”

I am always thrilled to get a chance to talk about Star Trek with other fans, so I was thrilled at the invitation to join the wonderful Aaron Coker on Enterprising Individuals to talk about The Immunity Syndrome.

The reason that I picked The Immunity Syndrome is because I think it’s somewhat under-appreciated in the grand Star Trek canon. It represents the culmination of a number of themes running through the original Star Trek that are often overlooked in assessing the history of the show and the franchise: the way in which Star Trek was anchored in sixties counter-culture, the recurring themes of existential dread and chaos underpinning the original show, and the series’ recurring fascination with consciousness expansion.

You can listen to the episode here, back episodes of the podcast here, click the link below or even listen directly.

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221. Star Trek VI – The Undiscovered Country (#—)

Hosted by Andrew Quinn and Darren Mooney, The 250 is a weekly journey through the list of the 250 best movies of all-time, as voted for by Internet Movie Database Users. And sometimes, because we can, a movie not on the list.

This week, to mark the passing Christopher Plummer, a special midweek bonus episode covering Nicholas Meyer’s Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country.

An explosion on the Klingon moon of Praxis sends the Klingon Empire into disarray, and forces the warrior race to consider an unlikely alliance with their old enemies in the Federation. The Enterprise is sent to meet the Klingon Chancellor, under the command of Captain James Tiberius Kirk. However, things do not go to plan.

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

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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! Standard Orbit #297 – “Inverted Commas”

I was thrilled to be invited to join the great Zach Moore on Standard Orbit, a Star Trek: The Original Series podcast hosted over at Trek FM. I appeared on the show the year before last to discuss the third season of the series, and returned last year to delve into the second season, and so it makes sense that I should be back to discuss the first season.

This is an interesting one, in large part because I don’t necessarily have a strong take or controversial opinion on the first season of the original Star Trek. I think it’s a remarkable season of television, one of the best in the franchise and that it’s an embarrassment of riches in places. So we talk about the order in which we watch the series, the way in which it builds, the sense in which the show was constantly revising and reinventing itself between episodes before emerging towards the end of the year as the Star Trek that most fans know and love. There’s nothing too controversial here, aside from two people sharing their love for a great piece of television. Which is perfect Christmas fodder.

Zach was, as ever, a very gracious host. I had great fun discussing it. You can hear the full discussion below or visit the episode page here.

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New Podcast! Standard Orbit #246 – “A Tale Of Three Producers “

I was thrilled to be invited to join the great Zach Moore on Standard Orbit, a Star Trek: The Original Series podcast hosted over at Trek FM. I appeared on the show last year to discuss the third season of the series, and so it makes sense that I should be back to discuss the second season.

Zach got in touch after reading some of my reviews for the second season from several years back. He was particularly fascinated with my breakdown of the season between three producers: Gene L. Coon, John Meredyth Lucas and Gene Roddenberry. Each of those three producers had their own unique style and each brought their distinct sensibility to the series. In fact, watching the season in production order, there a discernible shift between the three talents involved. Coon was much more interested in playing with the tropes and conventions of the young series, while Lucas was engaged with more traditional science-fiction storytelling and Roddenberry had his own strong idea of what the series could be.

Zach was, as ever, a very gracious host. I had great fun discussing it. You can hear the full discussion below or visit the episode page here.

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New Podcast! Standard Orbit #196 – “Star Trek Origins: Season 3”

I was thrilled to be invited to join the great Zach Moore on Standard Orbit, a Star Trek: The Original Series podcast hosted over at Trek FM.

Zach very kindly asked me on to talk about an aspect of the original Star Trek that I thought was overlooked, so I suggested the rather unlikely shadow that the third season of Star Trek casts over the rest of the Star Trek franchise. These episodes have developed a reputation as the worst episodes of the original run, coming at a point when the production team was exhausted, the budget had been cut, and the series was in its death throes. With all of that in mind, it is interesting how many core attributes of the Star Trek franchise can be traced back to these twenty-four (relatively) unloved episodes.

Kirk as a lothario, Klingons as honourable, the Federation as a utopia, the Romulans and the Klingons as entities that have lives outside of the Federation.

Zach was, as ever, a very gracious host. You can hear the full discussion below or visit the episode page here.

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Star Trek – Season 3 (Review)

This July and August, we’re celebrating the release of Star Trek Beyond by taking a look back at the third season of the original Star Trek. Check back every Monday, Wednesday and Friday for the latest update.

The third season of Star Trek was always doomed.

NBC had wanted to cancel the show after the second season, but a massive outpouring of fan support (and no small amount of press coverage) convinced them to renew the series for a third year. However, this was not a pardon. It was at best a temporary reprieve. The budget was slashed. Key creative personnel were lost. Outsiders with minimal experience in science-fiction television were drafted. The show was exiled to the graveyard shift of late Friday nights, when its target audience would either be in bed or out on the town.

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With all of that in mind, it is no wonder that history has been cruel to the third season. The third season is generally regarded as a massive step down in quality from the first two years of the series, and that is certainly true. Without a strong producer like Gene L. Coon or a quality script editor like Dorothy Fontana, Star Trek would struggle to match the consistency of those first two years. Even before factoring in budget cuts and other constraints, the third season cannot compete with the prior two seasons on an episode-to-episode basis.

However, there is also a recurring sense that the third season of Star Trek is odd. It feels tangibly different from the two seasons that came before it. However, it also feels markedly different from the twenty-four live action seasons that followed. There is a strange tone to the season, one that feels distinct from that of the larger Star Trek franchise. The third season is populated by ghost stories and dying worlds, by mythology and folklore. Repeatedly, the logic that drives plots seems more magical than rational.

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This lends the third season an almost mystical and irrational quality. While Star Trek has flirted with irrationality and dream logic before, most notably in the episodes credited to writer Robert Bloch and instalments like Shore Leave or The Immunity Syndrome, the third season grabs these concepts with both hands. There is a sense that all of the assumptions underpinning the Star Trek universe are up for grabs, that nothing can truly be known for certain, and that relaity itself is coming undone.

Coupled with a recurring motif of dying races and dead worlds, this irrationality serves to cast a shadow over the entirety of the third season. For all that the third season embraces the utopian ideals that would become a staple of the franchise, the third season is permeated by an apocalyptic dread. There is a sense that doomsday is approaching, that death is an inevitability, that all might be lost. In a very real way, this perfectly captures both the production realities of the third season and the general mood of the time around it.

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Star Trek – Turnabout Intruder (Review)

This July and August, we’re celebrating the release of Star Trek Beyond by taking a look back at the third season of the original Star Trek. Check back every Monday, Wednesday and Friday for the latest update.

This is the end.

And what an ignominious ending it is. Turnabout Intruder is the last episode of the original Star Trek run, bringing down the curtain on three years of boldly going and bidding farewell to this cast… at least for the moment. It is also an infamously terrible episode of television, in which Captain Kirk finds himself swapping bodies with the psychotic scientist Janice Lester. Lester is repeatedly categorised as insane, but her primary motivation seems to be rebellion against Starfleet’s institutional sexism.

It's full of stars.

It’s full of stars.

Seen as this is a Gene Roddenberry story, Turnabout Intruder sides entirely with Starfleet on the matter. This was the same writer and producer who would later balk at The Measure of a Man because he thought that Data should willingly surrender himself to Starfleet experimentation. So, instead of becoming an exploration of sexism and discrimination, Turnabout Intruder instead becomes a vigorous defense of institutionalised misogyny. Of course Starfleet doesn’t allow women captains, the episode suggests, they could never handle the strain!

It is an episode that really puts paid to the show’s claims of liberal progressivism, credited to a writer who would in later years cultivate a mythology of himself as the architect of that liberal progressivism. Turnabout Intruder is just about the most damning argument against the franchise’s utopian idealism imaginable, which makes it particularly insulting as a series finale.

William Shatner did not react well to news of cancelation.

William Shatner did not react well to news of cancellation.

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