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Star Trek: Enterprise – Divergence (Review)

This May, we’re taking a look at the fourth (and final) season of Star Trek: Enterprise. Check back daily for the latest review.

Given the general directions and interests of the fourth season, an episode like Divergence was inevitable.

Before Affliction and Divergence aired, the subject of “Klingon foreheads” was of great interest to a fandom that had noted the change in Klingon make-up between the broadcast of The Time Trap in November 1973 and the release of Star Trek: The Motion Picture in December 1979. In the years following the debut of the “forehead ridges” during the introductory sequence of The Motion Picture, the ridges became a source of curiousity and fascination for the fandom.

Things come to a forehead...

Things come to a forehead…

This curiousity was stoked by the franchise itself, most notably Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. Perhaps owing to the show’s engagement with its franchise roots, the production team teased out the dilemma on a number of occasions. Three classic Klingons – Kor, Koloth and Kang – actually gained ridges between their appearances on the original Star Trek and their reappearance in Blood Oath. Encountering flat-headed Klingons during Trials and Tribble-ations, the crew pushed Worf for an explanation. “We do not discuss it with outsiders,” he responded.

Given that the fourth season of Star Trek: Enterprise has been so fixated upon issues of continuity and history, it seems like it was only a matter of time before one of the season’s multi-episode arcs would be devoted to explaining what had originally been a quirk of make-up design and had evolved into one of the franchise’s most fun (and admittedly trivial) riddles.

Food for thought...

Food for thought…

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Star Trek: The Next Generation – Booby Trap (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.

Booby Trap is a bit of a mess. The writing credits for the episode, featuring four different writers credited with getting the idea from basic story to finished script. This wasn’t at all unusual in the show’s third season – consider the writing credits for Yesterday’s Enterprise – but it gives an indication of the chaos unfolding behind the scenes on the third season of Star Trek: The Next Generation.

It’s Michael Piller’s second credited script, and his first writing credit since he took over the writers’ room. (Although he did, along with Melinda Snodgrass, do a pass on Ronald D. Moore’s script for The Bonding.) As such, it is written with a very clear idea of where Piller wants to take the show, one that shines through a somewhat uneven and all-over-the-place plot, which often feels like several different scripts blended into one.

Building on what came before...

Building on what came before…

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Star Trek – The Man Trap (Review)

To celebrate the release of Star Trek: Into Darkness this month, we’ll be running through the first season of the classic Star Trek all this month. Check back daily to get ready to boldly go. It’s only logical.

It really is amazing how busy the Star Trek universe is. Or, well, how busy it was at one point. Although there are plenty of alien civilisations scattered across the vast gulf space, numerous empires vying for power and glory, the first season of Star Trek seems fixated on the notion that the universe is packed with the relics and ruins of long-dead civilisations. The Man Trap is just one example, as Kirk and his crew investigate an archaeological dig on the planet M-113, decorated with “the ruins of an ancient and long-dead civilisation.” Of course, the civilisation isn’t quite dead, but there’s a definite funereal atmosphere about The Man Trap.

That somewhat grim atmosphere makes the show’s fixation on long-dead worlds somewhat fascinating, given how the series is primarily about mankind’s optimistic future. However, it creates a sense – palpable throughout the first year of Star Trek – that the human race is a relatively new arrival on the scene, but emerging following the collapse and decay of countless ancient civilisations. It’s an old universe, but it’s a new dawn.

Suckers!

Suckers!

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Star Trek: The Next Generation – Symbiosis (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.

After Arsenal of Freedom, I was wary of Symbiosis. Star Trek has always liked exploring socially and morally relevant ideas through the vehicle of science-fiction. I can understand the appeal of it – science-fiction allows us to divorce basic arguments for all manner of clouding context and to address them in the purest or terms. I think Star Trek is at its most powerful exploring these themes (as The Next Generation would do in episodes like The Outcast), but there’s a risk involved. Nobody wants to be lectured about a simplistic moral principle for forty-minutes, and nobody wants to see a complex issue boiled down past all recognition.

So it’s pretty nice that Symbiosis works quite well. The show is a bit bumpy in places, but it does a lot of things well enough that it’s an entertaining watch. Indeed, it feels like the kind of episode we should have seen a lot earlier in the year.

Star gazing...

Star gazing…

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Star Trek: The Next Generation – Arsenal of Freedom (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 suppose that Arsenal of Freedom could be worse. At its heart, it’s the sort of issue-driven story that the classic Star Trek did so very well. The original Star Trek was fond of constructing clever (and not so clever) explorations of the issues of the day, giving the audience a relatively simplistic morality play about the dangers of certain vices and the risks that they might pose to a civilised society. Later on its run, Star Trek: The Next Generation would handle its own morality plays with just a bit more nuance and sophistication, favouring deliberate and considerate probing rather than its predecessor’s endearing brashness. Like so much of the first season, Arsenal of Freedom feels like it is an attempt to capture the flavour of those sixties episodes.

At least, though, the show concedes that time has passed, and that social mores have shifted. The social issues of the day are no longer hippies (The Way to Eden) or simplistic racism (Let That Be Your Last Battlefield), and Arsenal of Freedom is a “message show” for the eighties. It is a morality tale about the dangers of unchecked capitalism and the risks of weapons development. It’s clumsy, awkward and a little forced, with The Next Generation not quite suited to this particular form of heavy-handed moralising, but it could be a lot worse. Which, I suppose, is something.

Looks like we've got a Minos problem here...

Looks like we’ve got a Minos problem here…

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