Advertisements
    Advertisements
  • Following Us

  • Categories

  • Check out the Archives









  • Awards & Nominations

  • Advertisements

Star Trek: Enterprise – Stigma (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 April, we’re doing the second season. Check back daily for the latest review.

It’s been a long road.

Continuing the effort in Dawn to refocus Star Trek: Enterprise on franchise core values, Stigma offers a good old-fashioned allegory episode. It is a script clearly designed to stand alongside earlier iconic Star Trek shows like A Taste of ArmageddonErrand of MercyLet That Be Your Last BattlefieldToo Short a SeasonThe High GroundHalf a LifeEthics, The Outcast, Rejoined and Distant Origin. This is a big and important episode, dealing with big and important themes. In this case, the stigma associated with HIV/AIDS and (whisper it) homosexuality.

It's just not in the show's DNA at this point...

It’s just not in the show’s DNA at this point…

Of course, it arrives well over a decade too late. Writer David Gerrold had pitched his own allegory about HIV/AIDS and homosexuality with Blood and Fire during the first season of Star Trek: The Next Generation. The script was a little clunky, but – rather than rework it – the producers decided to shut it down completely. During that show’s third season, David Livingston was on hand to stop the show from providing the franchise’s first glimpse of a homosexual couple in The Offspring. What queer content made it into Star Trek seemed somewhat haphazard.

The decision to allow Lal to chose her own gender in The Offspring is remarkable, because it goes almost unremarked. Dax’s deduction that Pel has a crush on Quark in Rules of Acquisition comes before Pel reveals that she is a female passing herself off as male. The sincerity of The Outcast was somewhat undermined by the decision to cast a female performer in the role of genderless alien who is attracted to Riker. The good work of Rejoined is undercut by the crassness of Profit and Lace and The Emperor’s New Cloak.

Meditating on a contemporary issue...

Meditating on a contemporary issue…

There was a time when an episode like Stigma would have seemed cutting edge and provocative. Broadcast during the first (or even the second) season of The Next Generation, the episode would have challenged a number of the underlying public assumptions about the spread of HIV/AIDS and attacked a very real (and very frank) homophobic policy from the government. The biggest problem with Stigma is that it features Captain Jonathan Archer instead of Captain Jean-Luc Picard.

Of course, this suggests a very tangible issue with Enterprise at this stage of its life-cycle. It still feels like a show stuck in the past. This is still Star Trek as it was being produced in 1989, despite the fact that it is now 2003. It is a problem that has haunted Enterprise since the broadcast of Fight or Flight, but one which is really emphasised not only by the plotting of Stigma, but also in its political targets.

"You know, given how often I seem to risk removal from the ship, I should probably just keep this packed..."

“You know, given how often I seem to risk removal from the ship, I should probably just keep this packed…”

Continue reading

Advertisements

Star Trek: Voyager – Faces (Review)

This September and October, we’re taking a look at the jam-packed 1994 to 1995 season of Star Trek, including Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and Star Trek: Voyager. Check back daily for the latest review.

One of the more interesting aspects of the first season of Star Trek: Voyager is just how much of a throwback the show seems to be. In many ways, the show seems anchored in a very fifties mindset. While Star Trek: Deep Space Nine has embraced multiculturalism and the wake of the Cold War, the first season of Star Trek: Voyager seems to be dealing with anxieties carried over from the end of the Second World War.

Caretaker reconnected with the “Wild West in outer space” mentality of the classic Star Trek. Episodes like Time and Again and Jetrel are concerned with the splitting of the atom. Cathexis played out a decidedly Cold War paranoia thriller. Good old-fashioned technological espionage – like the leaking of nuclear secrets – was at the heart of State of Flux. There’s a sense that Voyager may have been a piece of fifties Americana that had the misfortune to arrive forty years too late.

Faces is perhaps the most obvious example of this. Splitting a bi-racial character into two halves as part of a science experiment, evoking classic monster movies, and even the decision to define the Vidiians as stand-ins for the Nazis, all give the episode a delightfully pulpy feel. This is Voyager doing a cheesy fifties b-movie. And doing it quite well at that.

He has you now, his pretty!

He has you now, his pretty!

Continue reading

Star Trek: Voyager – Phage (Review)

This September and October, we’re taking a look at the jam-packed 1994 to 1995 season of Star Trek, including Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and Star Trek: Voyager. Check back daily for the latest review.

Phage is far from perfect. It is very far from perfect. However, there’s something rather endearing about this cheesy B-movie throwback written by Brannon Braga from a pitch by Timothy DeHass and first draft by Skye Dent. The Vidiians are probably the most memorably and effective aliens from the first three seasons of Star Trek: Voyager, feeling like they could have wandered into the show from some trashy late-night horror movie on another channel.

There’s a pulpy quality to the episode that makes it more enjoyable than many of the surrounding Voyager episodes, albeit one undermined by some of the more awkward resonances in the script.

The Vidiians survive by the skin of their teeth...

The Vidiians survive by the skin of their teeth…

Continue reading

The X-Files – F. Emasculata (Review)

This August (and a little of September), we’re taking a trip back in time to review the second season of The X-Files. In November, we’ll be looking at the third season. And maybe more.

The wonderful thing about the second season of The X-Files is the spirit of experimentation. There’s a sense that the show is consciously pushing itself to try new things, to figure out what works. Watching the second season of the show, you can see the series’ outline beginning to take shape, even if it’s not full developed yet. The third season of The X-Files would seem a lot stronger and more cohesive, but it was building off the lessons learned during the second season.

Sometimes those experiments worked well. For example, the first stretch of the season demonstrated that the show could do an arc spanning multiple episodes. Colony and End Game established the foundations of the larger “colonisation” mythology even beyond “the government knows about aliens and they sometimes abduct people.” Episodes like Die Hand Die Verletzt and Humbug demonstrated that the show could do comedy stories and step outside its comfort zones.

Has everybody caught the Ebola bug?

Has everybody caught the Ebola bug?

Of course, there were a few narrative dead-ends as well, a few experiments that did not work as well as they might. Most notably, the tail end of the season leans rather heavily on science-fiction high-concepts. The elements introduced in Colony and End Game work well enough, but shows like Soft Light and Død Kälm feel almost like episodes of some other science-fiction anthology show. Still, there’s a sense that the show is trying to figure out what exactly it wants to be.

F. Emasculata is a wonderful example of that spirit of experimentation, effectively tapping into nineties health scares within the framework of a conspiracy thriller.

Everything burns...

Everything burns…

Continue reading

Star Trek: The Next Generation – Blood and Fire by David Gerrold (Review)

This January and February, we’ll be finishing up our look at the second season of Star Trek: The Next Generation and moving on to the third year of the show, both recently and lovingly remastered for high definition. Check back daily for the latest review.

We’ll be supplementing our coverage of the episodes with some additional materials – mainly novels and comics and films. This is one such entry. This is actually supplementary to the first season of the Next Generation, specifically the episode Symbiosis.

The lead up to the first season of Star Trek: The Next Generation was full of potential. Gene Roddenberry was directly overseeing a Star Trek production for the first time since Star Trek: The Motion Picture. More than that, the producer had brought along quite a few of the talented production staff members who had helped to make the franchise so special in the first place. David Gerrold and D.C. Fontana, two of the best loved Star Trek writers of all time, would be working on the show.

Despite all that television had changed in the decades since the original Star Trek had been on the air, Roddenberry proudly boasted to fans that the franchise would continue to engage directly with the big issues of the day. After all, one of the most memorable aspects of the classic Star Trek was the show’s willingness to engage with big political issues. Even the most casual of pop culture fans remember the awkward metaphors for Vietnam or racism.

Unfortunately, The Next Generation really seemed to lack the nerve of its direct predecessor. This became quite clear early on, when veteran writer David Gerrold’s script for the proposed Blood and Fire was unceremoniously shelved, and quickly forgotten about.

tng-bloodandfire

Continue reading

Star Trek: The Next Generation – Justice (Review)

To celebrate the twenty-fifth anniversary of Star Trek: The Next Generation, and also next year’s release of Star Trek: Into Darkness, I’m taking a look at the recent blu ray release of the first season, episode-by-episode. Check back daily for the latest review.

I’ve been harping on quite a bit about how too much of the first season of Star Trek: The Next Generation is trying to hard to be classic Star Trek, without acknowledging that the original series was the product of a very different society and outlook. You can’t literally map familiar beats and metaphors on a one-for-one basis and expect them to work perfectly inside a storytelling engine that is radically different. It’s easy enough to imagine Justice working as a classic Star Trek episode.

Indeed, it seems quite similar to The Apple, among others. However, it’s the differences that are telling, and it’s the differences that serve to take what might have been an entertaining piece of fluff from the sixties and turn it into a near-catastrophic misfire in the eighties.

“This show is about Riker trying to what an alien?”

Continue reading