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Star Trek – Return to Tomorrow (Review)

The first Star Trek pilot, The Cage, was produced in 1964. To celebrate its fiftieth anniversary, this December we are reviewing the second season of the original Star Trek show. You can check out our first season reviews here. Check back daily for the latest review.

Return to Tomorrow is similar to By Any Other Name in a number of ways.

Most superficially, it’s an episode about aliens in human bodies, who find themselves learning (or, in this case, remembering) how to appreciate all that mankind has to offer. The plot similarity is rather broad, but it seems strange that By Any Other Name and Return to Tomorrow would be produced right after one another, and that no significant effort would be made to space them apart on initial broadcast. (Both aired in February of 1968.)

Leonard Nimoy only gets to smile once a year, so the show makes the most of it...

Leonard Nimoy only gets to smile once a year, so the show makes the most of it…

However, there are more fundamental and underlying similarities between Return to Tomorrow and By Any Other Name. Both are episodes that are very much engaged with the underlying philosophy of the franchise, particularly concerning humanity’s place in the universe. Indeed, there’s an argument to be made that Return to Tomorrow and By Any Other Name both work much better as statements of philosophical intent than they do as stories in their own right.

Co-written by Gene Roddenberry, Return to Tomorrow is a rather generic piece of television, but one that feels like a considered statement of the franchise’s central themes.

"Things are going to be a little different around here..."

“Things are going to be a little different around here…”

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Star Trek – I, Mudd (Review)

The first Star Trek pilot, The Cage, was produced in 1964. To celebrate its fiftieth anniversary, this December we are reviewing the second season of the original Star Trek show. You can check out our first season reviews here. Check back daily for the latest review.

I, Mudd is delightfully silly.

This is probably the broadest Star Trek comedy episode ever produced. It is very difficult to imagine any Star Trek ensemble outside the original cast pulling off an episode like this. While The Trouble With Tribbles is easily the show’s most iconic comedy episode (and the franchise’s, to boot), there is something rather plucky and endearing about I, Mudd. One of features of the later Star Trek spin-offs was a tendency to take themselves quite seriously. This isn’t a problem of itself, but it does make it impossible to do a show like I, Mudd.

Mudd in yer eye...

Mudd in yer eye…

As with other second-season episodes, there is a sense that the show is stretching its wings a bit. Catspaw was a clear attempt to do a horror story, and Wolf in the Fold was a slasher or occult film in Star Trek form. Episodes like Amok Time and Journey to Babel are very consciously building out the Star Trek universe. Episodes like I, Mudd and The Trouble With Tribbles demonstrate that Star Trek can do comedy.

To be fair, it is perfectly reasonably to argue that shows like I, Mudd led the show to think that Spock’s Brain was a good idea. Still, I, Mudd is just so much fun – demonstrating the sense of goofy and theatrical fun that ran through so much of classic Star Trek.

"Stella, Stella... You're putting me through hell-a!"

“Stella, Stella… You’re putting me through hell-a!”

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Star Trek: The Next Generation – Brothers (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.

Brothers is Star Trek: The Next Generation getting back to business at usual. Well, not quite usual, but close enough. Following the monumental season-bridging epic that was The Best of Both Worlds and the breathing space afforded by Family, Brothers is a good old-fashioned science-fiction adventure story revolving around one of the show’s most popular character and really written to satisfy a laundry list of Star Trek tropes and conventions.

Although its notable for maintaining a thematic consistency that is threaded through the fourth season, and also for affording Brent Spiner to play three different roles, the most striking aspect of Brothers from a production point of view is the fact that it is written by Rick Berman. Berman had been serving as producer on the show since Encounter at Farpoint, but this was his first scripting contribution. He’d only write one more episode of The Next Generation before the show went off the air.

Given Berman’s production style, it feels strangely appropriate that Brothers is so carefully and meticulously structured and constructed.

"Let's put a smile on that face..."

“Let’s put a smile on that face…”

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Star Trek: Myriad Universes – Shattered Light: The Embrace of Cold Architects by David R. George III (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.

It’s amazing to think what happens if you shift events just a little to the left or a little to the right. Part of what’s most fascinating about David R. George III’s The Embrace of Cold Architects is that the alternate universe isn’t created by altering the outcome of any major event. Instead, the alternate universe is created by shifting a single date slightly forward in time. Moving one event out of its original context – in this case the conference from The Offspring – and transposing it later into the third season of the show has any number of radically unforeseen side effects.

Of course, this all feels like very clever meta-commentary by author David R. George III. As much as The Embrace of Cold Architects is about shifting around the order of events inside the narrative, it’s also about shifting around the framing structure itself. The Embrace of Cold Architects doesn’t just offer a glimpse of what might have happened had certain events within the framework of Star Trek: The Next Generation occurred out of their previously-established context, it is also about reimagining The Next Generation itself.

Quite a lot of The Embrace of Cold Architects feels like glimpse of an alternate version of The Next Generation, one where the show itself has been shifted so that it might be written in the context of the War on the Terror.

st-shatteredlight

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Star Trek: The Next Generation – The Offspring (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.

The Offspring is an absolutely wonderful piece of Star Trek. In many ways, it is a spiritual successor to The Measure of a Man, the breakout show of the second season. (This similarity was one of the factors that led writer and script editor Melinda Snodgrass to harshly dismiss it as “fairly obvious and tired and stupid” in Captains’ Logs: The Unauthorized Complete Trek Voyages.) Sitting between two of the more epic and sweeping stories in the third season, The Offspring is a touching little story about parenting and childhood, and a nice character episode for Data.

It remains one of the most touching episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation ever produced, and a fitting debut for both future staff writer René Echevarria and soon-to-be-prolific Star Trek director Jonathan Frakes.

Building a loving family...

Building a loving family…

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