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Star Trek: The Next Generation – The Vengeance Factor (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 Vengeance Factor is an ambitious little episode that never quite manages to follow through on its potential. Something of a Riker-centric romance to compliment the Troi-centric romance in The Price, the episode is an exploration of vengeance and generational strife – the cost of feuds that last decades, even centuries. It’s a story where Yuta’s thirst for revenge keeps her young, and one that opens with Crusher tracking the acts of piracy back to the Gatherers using a blood stain on a shard of metal. Subtle, it is not.

However, there’s something almost endearing about The Vengeance Factor, from its very eighties leather Mad Max reject space pirates through to the way that channels the optimism of Star Trek quite well. Although the ending is unbelievably forced, at least it is striking and effective. Far from perfect, and not among the high points of this third season, The Vengeance Factor still marks a sharp improvement from The Price.

There will be blood...

There will be blood…

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Star Trek – Crucible: Spock – The Fire and the Rose by David R. George III (Review)

This August, to celebrate the upcoming release of Star Trek: Into Darkness on DVD and blu ray, we’re taking a look at the Star Trek movies featuring the original cast. Movie reviews are every Tuesday and Thursday.

We’ll be supplementing our coverage of the movies with tie-ins around (and related to) the films. We’ll be doing one of these every week day. This is one such article.

The second part of David R. George II’s epic Crucible trilogy, The Fire and the Rose, can’t quite measure up to the charm and warmth of the first instalment in the series, Provenance of Shadows. George’s Crucible trilogy is a breathtakingly ambitious piece of work. Celebrating the fortieth anniversary of Star Trek with a trilogy of novels, each grounded in The City on the Edge of Forever and each based around a different member of the show’s leading trinity. The Fire and the Rose is still a very smart and well-constructed read, but it stands in the shadow of the first of George’s three books.

I suspect that at least part of the reason The Fire and the Rose doesn’t work as well is down to the subject. Leonard McCoy is a vitally important Star Trek character, but he was also a relatively under-developed one. While he was one of the leading trio on the original show, he was never as popular as Kirk and Spock, and never garnered the same amount of attention. (Notwithstanding solid work done by writers like Diane a Duane.) So McCoy was a relatively blank canvas for George to develop.

In contrast, Spock is the face of Star Trek. He was part of the first episode of Star Trek ever produced. He appeared in the most recent film released. Although DeForest Kelley christened Star Trek: The Next Generation with a cameo in Encounter at Farpoint, Leonard Nimoy’s visit to the spin-off earned a full two-parter in Unification. As such, Spock is a character who has been developed and explored and expanded by countless writers over the franchise’s long history.

Quite frankly, it’s hard to imagine there’s too much left to say about him. George tries quite hard, and find a nuance or two, but The Fire and the Rose feels more like an attempt to consolidate what we already know of Spock.

cruciblespock

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Star Trek – Operation — Annihilate!

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.

How do you follow The City on the Edge of Forever? The previous episode is one of the best-loved episodes of Star Trek ever produced, one of the great science-fiction television episodes of the sixties, and one of the best science-fiction romances ever written. It’s a gigantic and massively influential piece of television, one of the cornerstones of Star Trek and perhaps the best indicator of just how thoughtful and how genuine the franchise can be when it tries. So, what’s next? Where do we go from here? What is the next shot after that last scene of Kirk abandoning the Guardian of Forever on a desolate rock?

It’s always interesting to compare the first season of Star Trek to the first year of Star Trek: The Next Generation. The former can be counted among the very best of the show’s thirty televised seasons, while the latter can be counted among the worst. However, they do have something in common. They both probably should have ended an episode early, with The City on the Edge of Forever and Conspiracy serving as effective caps on each show’s first season, leaving the audience a chance to digest what they had seen.

Unfortunately, neither show ended on anything that could be measured among the strongest show of a given year. The Neutral Zone ended the first season of The Next Generation with a moralising whimper. While Operation — Annihilate! is quite entertaining on its own terms, it doesn’t rank among the best of the season. Still, it’s a solid pulpy science-fiction tale, which might not be the worst thing.

Man of action!

Man of action!

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Star Trek – The City on the Edge of Forever (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.

The City on the Edge of Forever stands as both on of the most troubled episodes of Star Trek ever produced, and one of the most brilliant. It’s a powerful science-fiction romance, cleverly constructed and smoothly executed. Everything in the episode seems to working smoothly, which seems all the more improbable given the difficulties occurring behind the scenes. Harlan Ellison’s teleplay differs significantly from the finished product, but it’s very hard to argue that the televised episode isn’t among the finest Star Trek stories ever produced.

The hole in things...

The hole in things…

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Star Trek – The City on the Edge of Forever by Harlan Ellison/Cordwainer Bird (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.

The City on the Edge of Forever had a troubled history, not that you’d know it based on what appeared on screen. Like quite a few classic Star Trek episodes (The Enemy Within, The Doomsday Machine, Amok Time), it was developed from a script written by a giant of science-fiction. Harlan Ellison is a respected author with a considerable reputation. However, the version of The City on the Edge of Forever which eventually made it to screen at the end of the show’s first season is radically different from the version Ellison original wrote. “It’s not the vision I had,” Ellison quotes at the start of the paperback edition of his original screenplay, released in 1996.

The book is a fantastic read, and well worth a look for anybody with any interest in Star Trek or Ellison, or even good science-fiction or the craft of television writing. Reading the various drafts, there’s no denying that it is a phenomenal script, as good as the script that eventually went into production. At the same time, it’s also quite clear that it would not have made for as classic a Star Trek episode.

Into the vortex...

Into the vortex…

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Star Trek: The Next Generation – Requiem by Michael Jan Friedman & Kevin Ryan (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.

At the risk of stating the obvious, Star Trek is a franchise spanning almost half-a-century with six leading actors and five different television shows. Due to its nature, one of the more enjoyably fanboy-ish pastimes is attempting to reimagine various confrontations and encounters, swapping out the characters involved. How would Kirk have responded to the Borg? Would Sisko have been ideally suited to dealing with the Xindi threat? What if Janeway faced the Doomsday Machine? Different characters have different defining moments, and those moments often play to their particular strengths. It might be fun to watch Khan spar with Picard, but it probably wouldn’t work as well as it did with Kirk. Q and Kirk would probably have difficulty striking it off.

Still, Kirk’s confrontation with the Gorn in Arena stands as one of the most iconic moments in the whole of the franchise, to the point where the weird toga-wearing god-like being at the end barely gets a look-in. Indeed, based on Sisko’s fanboy gushing in Trials and Tribble-ations, it seems to be one of Kirk’s defining moments within the shared Star Trek universe. So it might be fun to take Captain Jean-Luc Picard, and put him through that same sort of confrontation.

tng-requiem

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Star Trek – Dagger of the Mind (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 knew we were due a nice Shakespearean title soon. And The Conscience of a King is just around the corner, to boot. Seriously though, I have to admit a massive fondness for these wonderfully lofty and high-minded episode titles. It’s something that links the original Star Trek and Star Trek: Deep Space Nine quite firmly, and was sadly never enthusiastically taken up by any of the other spin-offs. It’s a shame, because – regardless of the quality of the episodes in question – there’s something undeniably endearing about forty-five minutes of television given a pretentious name like For the World is Hollow and I Have Touched the Sky, The City on the Edge of Forever or Wrongs Darker Than Death or Night.

A scream...

A scream…

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