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Star Trek – Tomorrow is Yesterday (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’s interesting how easily you can trace a line back from the original Star Trek films to the television show which inspired them. Each of the first four films has a very clear predecessor, an episode broadcast during the show’s run which seems to serve as something of a thematic forerunner. Star Trek: The Motion Picture is so similar to The Changeling that Star Trek: The Original Series 365 dubs it “Where Nomad Has Gone Before.” The Wrath of Khan is obviously rooted in Space Seed. Kirk’s decision to hijack the Enterprise and go against regulations to save his first officer in The Search for Spock feels like a full circle from Spock’s efforts to help Pike in The Menagerie.

And Tomorrow is Yesterday feels like a bit of a dry run for Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home. The crew might not have to save any whales, but it’s a comedic time-travel adventure that finds the Enterprise crew visiting the twentieth century and trying to avoid altering the time-line too much. Tomorrow is Yesterday feels a little simplistic when compared to some of the franchise’s later interactions with time-travel, but it is a fun and entertaining little episode. It’s easy to see why The Voyage Home might be tempted to revisit the set-up.

Flying the friendly skies...

Flying the friendly skies…

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Star Trek – The Squire of Gothos (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’s easy to see why The Squire of Gothos has become such a Star Trek touchstone. The show is iconic, but there are particular images and ideas that resonate beyond the core fanbase. Captain Pike’s wheelchair from The Menagerie is one such example, as is the fight with the Gorn from Arena. It’s amazing that Star Trek could produce so many memorable and distinctive images so quickly. Trelane might not have the same name recognition, or even the same pop culture cache, but The Squire of Gothos makes quite an impression.

Indeed, the image of a god-like being acting like a spoilt child, dressed in all manner of period military clothing is a great visual, and it’s little wonder that Roddenberry would return to that idea when he was writing Encounter at Farpoint, the first episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation. Similarly, The Squire of Gothos is one of the major influences on Futurama‘s superb parody/homage, Where No Fan Has Gone Before, right down to the wonderful “twist” ending that has been spoiled by almost half-a-century of pop culture osmosis.

Still, even apart from its massive influence on pop culture, The Squire of Gothos is still a fantastic piece of television, and an example of Star Trek at its very best.

It's hip to be squire...

It’s hip to be squire…

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Star Trek – Court Martial (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’s hard not to be impressed by the sheer versatility of Star Trek as a format. For a show about exploring the universe, the creators have really managed to incorporate just about any and all genres of television story. Over the franchise’s 700-episode history, there’s been a wealth of quirky episodes that explore types of stories that one might consider quite surreal for a show about a ship travelling to the stars. A court room episode might not be the most radical of these shifts, but Court Martial is still fascinating as an evolution of Star Trek as a concept, broadening the kind of stories that could be told within a Star Trek framework. After all, the fact that there’s a whole subgenre of Star Trek involving court room drama is probably rooted in this first-season adventure.

While its influence is absolutely massive, Court Martial is still a problematic episode. Despite demonstrating what writers could really do within the context of the show, Court Martial suffers because it’s really not that good.

Running rings around the prosecution...

Running rings around the prosecution…

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Star Trek – Balance of Terror (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.

I’ve talked about it about it quite a bit in my earlier reviews, so I won’t dwell on it too much here, but Star Trek got really good really quickly. Balance of Terror is only the ninth ever episode of Star Trek ever produced, but it stands as one of the finest entries in the original series, and perhaps even the franchise. It also represents the moment where the model of what Star Trek would be really sort of solidified. The first eight episodes had contained any number of classic Star Trek tropes.

The Cage and Charlie X gave us old and immeasurably powerful alien civilisations, while Where No Man Has Gone Before gave us a god-like being. The Man Trap gave us space monsters. Mudd’s Women gave us awkward gender politics. The Enemy Within created the whole “transporter malfunction” and “evil duplicate” subgenres. However, Balance of Terror is the first episode to suggest outer space might be more than the place where crazy stuff happens and our heroes bump into monsters or ancient civilisations. The universe might have its own politics, its own history, its own civilisations that will emerge, contrasted with mankind’s expansion into space.

The Klingons are undoubtedly the most recognisable and iconic of the classic Star Trek races, but the Romulans are the first of the franchise mainstays to appear, and Balance of Terror is the first episode to devote considerable effort to world-building the Star Trek universe.

The not-so-great bird of the galaxy...

The not-so-great bird of the galaxy…

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Star Trek – Charlie X (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 incredibly difficult to divorce Star Trek from the sixties. I know that this has become something of a (very obvious) theme in these daily reviews, but Charlie X is the kind of Star Trek episode that could only have been produced for television in the sixties. It isn’t necessarily the presence of a single factor, it’s more the package as a whole. While the general concept (“The Day Charlie Became God”, to quote Roddenberry’s succinct synopsis from his 1964 Star Trek Is… pitch) could easily be adapted for any of the spin-offs (and Hide & Q clearly plays on the same idea), the execution is so firmly anchored in the sixties that it’s very hard to separate and parse.

Part of it is the weird use of coloured lighting on the mostly grey Enterprise sets, something that Inside Star Trek suggests was down to the fact that NBC was owned at the time by RCA, a major manufacturer of colour television sets. Part of it is the somewhat confused sexuality that is a weird mix of liberated and outdated. Part of it is the fact that the show features an impromptu musical and dance number. The idea of Charlie X might be fairly simplistic, but the execution is very clearly and very distinctively Star Trek.

Screaming to the Evans...

Screaming to the Evans…

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Star Trek: The Next Generation – Encounter at Farpoint (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.

It is very hard to believe that it has been a quarter of a century since Star Trek: The Next Generation first appeared on our screens. It is actually quite nice that Paramount and CBS are using the opportunity to give the series a bit of a visual overhaul, going back to the original films and special effects and updating them for high definition. This is not the same approach adopted by George Lucas with his remastering of the original Star Wars trilogy.

Instead, the aim of these high definition re-releases is to bring what was already there up to modern standards, rather than to retroactively re-do the special effects. The project is being overseen by the wonderful Mike and Denise Okuda, and Mike has argued that this restoration is a very bold endeavour, suggesting, “it’s the largest – as far as we know – the largest project of its kind that has ever been attempted.”

And I am proud to support it. In a large way, my interest in this high definition release is in large part grounded in recognition of the scale of the work involved. Because, let’s face it, the first season of Star Trek: The Next Generation is a solid contender for the worst year of Star Trek ever produced for television.

“Let’s see what’s out there…”

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