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Star Trek: Enterprise – In a Mirror, Darkly, Part II (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.

In a Mirror, Darkly, Part I and In a Mirror, Darkly, Part II are an indulgence.

That goes almost without saying, this indulgence standing as one of the most searing critiques of the two-parter. After all, Star Trek: Enterprise had only five episodes left at this point in its run. One of those episodes would be given over to Rick Berman and Brannon Braga to bring in Jonathan Frakes and Marina Sirtis as a way to allow Star Trek: The Next Generation to put a cap on the eighteen years of the Berman era. Devoting two of the remaining four episodes to the mirror universe was a choice that left the show open to criticism.

Archer's cosplay went down a treat.

Archer’s cosplay went down a treat.

After all, it is not as if the audience at home was crying out for more mirror universe episodes. Even hardcore Star Trek fans were still recovering from the trauma of The Emperor’s New Cloak, the seventh season episode of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine that had the audacity to combine a mirror universe episode with a Ferengi episode. Discounting the somewhat divisive (and mirror universe free) Resurrection, the last time that a mirror universe episode really worked had been Crossover, which had been broadcast before Star Trek: Voyager was on the air.

So In a Mirror, Darkly, Part I and In a Mirror, Darkly, Part II are both episodes that feel excessive and gratuitous. And, for all their flaws, that is a huge part of the charm.

Gorn again.

Gorn again.

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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: Enterprise – United (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.

The Romulans are a very curious species.

They have a long history within the Star Trek franchise. They were introduced less than half-way through the first season of the show, in Balance of Terror. The Klingons would not show up until Errand of Mercy, towards the end of that first year. The Romulans have appeared in just about every iteration of the franchise, their reappearance in the final episode of the first season of Star Trek: The Next Generation serving to connect the show to its legacy. Appearing in both Star Trek: Nemesis and Star Trek, they appeared on both sides of the film franchise reboot.

This could be the start of a beautiful friendship...

This could be the start of a beautiful friendship…

Still, the Romulans have never truly been defined. Unlike the Klingons or the Cardassians, the Romulans have never been developed into a fully-formed culture. There are great episodes built around the Romulans, from Balance of Terror and The Enterprise Incident to Face of the Enemy and In the Pale Moonlight. However, there has never been recurring Romulan character afforded the depth of Worf, Martok, Quark, Dukat, Damar or Garak; if populating that list with Star Trek: Deep Space Nine characters feels like cheating, no Romulan measures up to Soval or Shran.

Although they only appear in four episodes of the season, exerting influence over another two, it feels like the fourth season of Star Trek: Enterprise affords more attention to the Romulans than they have received in a long time.

"All right, who arranged the bridge power display to form a smiley face?"

“All right, who arranged the bridge power display to form a smiley face?”

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Star Trek: Enterprise – Babel One (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.

It seems entirely appropriate that the United trilogy sits in the middle of the fourth season.

The three-parter is not the strongest of the season’s multi-episode epics, abandoning the clean three-act structure that made the Kir’Shara trilogy so successful in favour of a disjointed two-parter-and-coda format that prevents the story from feeling as cohesive as it might. It jolts and starts, never really finding the proper flow for the story that it wants to tell. There is a sense that the production team’s desire to do both a “birth of the Federation” story and a “visit to Andoria” story within the same three-part narrative ultimately hinders the storytelling.

"What do you mean I'm not in the third part?!"

“What do you mean I’m not in the third part?!”

However, there is something satisfying in watching Star Trek: Enterprise commit to the idea of the birth of the Federation. It could be argued that this is an example of the fourth season’s continuity pandering, but the Federation is far more fundamental to the fabric of the franchise than something like Klingon foreheads or that ghost ship from that third season episode. If Enterprise is to be a prequel, it should devote some attention to building the fabric of the shared universe. The Federation is an essential part of the idealistic future of Star Trek.

However, the most compelling aspect of the United has nothing to do with continuity and history. Instead, it is simply reassuring to see Enterprise embracing the franchise’s utopianism and hope for the future, particularly in the context of January 2004.

Shran, Shran, he's our Andorian...

Shran, Shran, he’s our Andorian…

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Star Trek: Enterprise – The Augments (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.

The fourth season of Star Trek: Enterprise is obsessed with continuity.

More than any other season of Star Trek, the fourth season drips with references and nods towards the franchise’s rich history. Nothing is off limits. The fourth season explains how the Klingons lost their ridges, what happened to the Defiant, how the Federation came to be, the origins of the Earth-Romulan War. It features prominent guest appearances from Brent Spiner, Jonathan Frakes and Marina Sirtis in roles explicitly tied to their part in the franchise. There are trips to Vulcan and the mirror universe, Romulus and Andoria.

Hitting rewind...

Hitting rewind…

This obsession with continuity is part of a double-edged sword. On the one hand, it arguably serves to make the show more insular and introspective at a point when the franchise was on the cusp of collapse. These references could distract from storytelling and feel like indulgence for the sake of indulgence. On the other hand, it is not as if a broader audience was watching Enterprise at this point. Pandering to the fanbase makes sense when the fans are the only ones left. More than that, if the franchise is dying, it makes sense to have its life flash before its eyes.

However, what is most striking about the nostalgia running through the final season of Enterprise is the way that it feels almost ahead of its time. In the way that fourth season looks backwards, it seems to almost be looking forwards.

Obligatory sexy underwear fight, in case you forgot this is till airing on UPN.

Obligatory sexy underwear fight, in case you forgot this is till airing on UPN.

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Star Trek: Enterprise – Borderland (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.

Borderland establishes the format that will come to define the fourth season of Star Trek: Enterprise; the mini-arc, a single story told over two or three episodes before moving along to the next adventure.

Technically speaking, Storm Front, Part I and Storm Front, Part II established the format for the season. However, the franchise had done multi-part season premieres before. Star Trek: Deep Space Nine was particularly fond of the format, seguing from a status quo altering season finale into a multi-part season opener; The Homecoming, The Circle, The Siege, The Search, Part I, The Search, Part II, The Way of the Warrior, Image in the Sand, Shadows and Symbols. This is to say nothing of the massive six episode arc that opened the sixth season.

Put your hands together for Mister Brent Spiner.

Put your hands together for Mister Brent Spiner.

Borderland represents a departure because it signals that the fourth season of Enterprise will be comprised entirely of multi-episode stories. Historically, Star Trek shows had typically done one or two multi-part stories in a season, give or take a cliffhanger to bridge two years of the show. The fourth season of Enterprise would tell seven multi-part stories eating up seventeen episodes of the twenty-two episode season order. It was certainly a bold departure for the series and the franchise.

In fact, Borderland begins the franchise’s first three-part episode since the second season of Deep Space Nine. (Although determined fans could likely stretch logic a little to suggest that Tears of the Prophets or Zero Hour were season finales that formed a three-parter when tied into the two-part premieres that followed.) It is a curious departure, and one that immediately helps to establish the fourth season of Enterprise as something quite distinct.

A slave to continuity...

A slave to continuity…

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Non-Review Review: Black Mass

Black Mass has endearing ambition.

This is an old-school crime biography, one that foregoes clarity or singularity of purpose in favour of sprawling scale. Black Mass covers decades in the life of notorious Boston gangster James “Whitey” Bulger. The thematic throughline is his connection to the local branch of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Agent John Connolly. Connolly grew up with Bulger, and hits on the seemingly ingenious idea of advancing his own career by bringing Bulger into the fold as an “informant.” It is an arrangement that benefits Bulger and Connolly more than the FBI.

Gangbusters...

Gangbusters…

There is an interesting story to be told there, the tale of two men gaming the system for their own advantage. Many of the stories around Bulger are so ridiculous and improbable that they defy belief; they make for perfect cinematic fodder. With two strong lead actors, and a clear arc, the tale of Bulger and Connolly could be compelling and revealing. However, it also seems far too modest for Black Mass. Although Bulger and Connolly form the spine of the film, its limbs sprawl out in every possible direction trying to cover everything.

It is a valiant effort. There are moments when Black Mass really works as it picks on an awkward conversation or a loaded confrontation. However, these moments feel fleeting; they are a chain of short stories rather than a single cohesive narrative. Black Mass is frequently fascinating but seldom satisfying.

Awash with corruption...

Awash with corruption…

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