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Non-Review Review: Star Trek – Into Darkness

Note: This is a spoiler-heavy review. If you want a spoiler-lite recommendation, click here. If not, continue at your own risk.

Towards the climax of Star Trek: Into Darkness, Kirk and the Enterprise flee an aggressor by entering warp. At that speed, several factors the speed of light itself, they surmise that they must be safe from their pursuer. Of course, they prove to be wrong – brutally so. Everything in Into Darkness moves fast, so fast that the Enterprise’s top speed seems more like a casual jog than a breakneck acceleration. The plot rockets along with incredible speed, from plot point to plot point, counting on the momentum to sustain the film and carry it across the line.

There is enough material here to produce a trilogy of films. Indeed, cynics might suggest that a lot of the movie’s iconography and plot points are indeed recycled from the central “trilogy” of the original Star Trek films, running from the homages to Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan right down a climactic visual reference to Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home. Abrams and his team of writer continue their work from 2009’s breakout blockbuster Star Trek by putting the franchise’s most compelling images and cues into a high-speed blender.

Into Darkness just substantially increases the concentration.

Seeing red...

Seeing red…

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Star Trek – What Are Little Girls Made Of? (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.

What Are Little Girls Made Of? is the first episode from a script written by Robert Bloch, perhaps best known as the author of Psycho. Interestingly, it wasn’t the first script Bloch wrote for the show. Apparently Bloch contributed Catspaw first, when the show asked him for a Halloween special, even though it wouldn’t be produced until the series’ second year. And, to be fair, you can sense that What Are Little Girls Made Of? is a bit more comfortable with the Star Trek conventions than Bloch’s other two episodes. An uncredited re-write from Gene Roddenberry probably helped.

With Bloch’s third script, Wolf in the Fold, serving as a loose adaptation of (or spiritual successor to) his celebrated short story Yours Truly, Jack the RipperWhat Are Little Girls Made Of? stands out among Bloch’s contributions to the show. It’s an iconic episode, one that has undoubtedly influenced the way that we remember Star Trek, serving as the source for all manner of Star Trek memes like Kirk overwhelming a hot android with his sexual charisma, and defeating a less physically attractive robot with a logic puzzle. It features some of the most iconic costuming of the original Star Trek show, and also serves as the root of the whole “what constitutes life?” philosophical strand that would find itself embodied by Data on Star Trek: The Next Generation.

It helps that, like so much of this first season of Star Trek, it is just good pulpy fun.

A cold reception...

A cold reception…

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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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Non-Review Review: Star Trek – Into Darkness

Note: This is a spoiler-lite review. If you want a spoiler-heavy in-depth look at the film, click here.

Towards the climax of Star Trek: Into Darkness, Kirk and the Enterprise flee an aggressor by entering warp. At that speed, several factors the speed of light itself, they surmise that they must be safe from their pursuer. Of course, they prove to be wrong – brutally so. Everything in Into Darkness moves fast, so fast that the Enterprise’s top speed seems more like a casual jog than a breakneck acceleration. The plot rockets along with incredible speed, from plot point to plot point, counting on the momentum to sustain the film and carry it across the line.

There is enough material here to produce a trilogy of films. Indeed, cynics might suggest that a lot of the movie’s iconography and plot points are indeed recycled from the central “trilogy” of the original Star Trek films, running from the homages to Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan right down a climactic visual reference to Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home. Abrams and his team of writer continue their work from 2009’s breakout blockbuster Star Trek by putting the franchise’s most compelling images and cues into a high-speed blender.

Into Darkness just substantially increases the concentration.

Seeing red...

Seeing red…

Continue reading

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 Enemy Within (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.

One thing that I don’t think the original Star Trek gets nearly enough credit for is the quality of the writers that Gene Roddenberry recruited to contribute scripts. Television obviously operated under a different model at the time, but there’s an impressive selection of science-fiction literary giants who contributed scripts to the show. More than that, it’s impressive how many of those stories became truly iconic Star Trek stories.

The Enemy Within is the work of author Richard Matheson, best known for stories like I Am Legend or What Dreams May Come. It’s very much a high-concept science-fiction story, but it’s also notable because it establishes two of what would become the show’s favourite tropes: transporter accidents and evil duplicates. Indeed, the two devices would be reunited in the following season’s Mirror, Mirror. These narrative elements even featured in the last season of Star Trek: Enterprise to air, in episodes like Daedalus and In a Mirror, Darkly.

Perhaps it’s a demonstration of how important these outside writers were to the development of Star Trek as a franchise that Matheson would effectively codify two stock narrative devices that would still be in use four decades later.

Mirror, mirror...

Mirror, mirror…

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Star Trek – Crew by John Byrne (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.

We’ll be supplementing our coverage of the episodes with some additional materials – mainly novels and comics and films. This is one such entry.

Majel Barrett Roddenberry was the first lady of the Star Trek franchise, in more ways than one. She was married to Gene Roddenberry and remained a part of the franchise after his death. She guest starred on the shows occasionally, continued to lend her voice to the computers and offered the occasional interview to the press. Although her actual influence on the television shows was relatively minimal (and she was occasionally prone to protesting various plot developments including the Dominion War on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine), she did remain involved in Star Trek until she passed away in 2008.

However, she was also involved from the start. She had the recurring role of Christine Chapel throughout the original television show, and appeared in the unaired pilot, The Cage, as Christopher Pike’s first officer. Identified only as “Number One”, this almost made her the literal “first lady” of Star Trek. I’m surprised that Number One hasn’t been used more often as a character, with her appearances in tie-ins generally restricted to her time on board Pike’s Enterprise.

John Byrne’s miniseries might have the title Crew, and feature supporting roles for Christopher Pike and Mister Spock, but it is very much the story of Number One. Published a year after her death, and dedicated to her memory, Crew feels like a fitting farewell to the actress responsible for one of the franchise’s earliest and most intriguing supporting characters.

Fate protects fools, little children... and ships named Enterprise.

Fate protects fools, little children… and ships named Enterprise.

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