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Star Trek – The Cloud Minders (Review)

This July and August, we’re celebrating the release of Star Trek Beyond by taking a look back at the third season of the original Star Trek. Check back every Monday, Wednesday and Friday for the latest update.

The Cloud Minders is another reminder of the third season’s unique ability to produce memorable Star Trek.

There is something about the third season of Star Trek that draws fandom’s imagination to it. The general consensus is that the season is a disappointment filled with lacklustre episodes, questionable characterisation and crippling cutbacks. Nevertheless, the third season is also the source of a lot of the franchise’s core iconography like the Klingon D7 cruiser introduced in Elaan of Troyius or the IDIC in Is There in Truth No Beauty? That is to say nothing of the little curiosities sprinkled across the season.

Above all else.

Above all else.

Garth of Izar and Axanar are one such example, tied to the clumsy and awkward Whom Gods Destroy. Nevertheless, the concept of the “Battle of Axanar” was enough to launch a high-profile fan film that would become a flashpoint for twenty-first century fan productions. Indeed, there has even been speculation that Garth of Izar might be the commanding officer (although not the protagonist) in Bryan Fuller’s Star Trek: Discovery. This is not bad for concepts tied to an episode of which nobody seems particularly fond.

The same is arguably true of The Cloud Minders. It is a very clumsy and flawed piece of television, with a number of sizable script-related issues. However, it also has a number of very memorable visuals and ideas that have allowed it to take on an oversized place in the cultural memory of Star Trek.

Clouded judgement...

Clouded judgement…

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Star Trek: Enterprise – Daedalus (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.

Discussions of the fourth season of Star Trek: Enterprise tend to focus on the multi-part episodes.

That makes a great deal of sense. After all, no Star Trek show had ever built a season around a collection of multi-part arcs. While Star Trek: Deep Space Nine had embraced serialisation in the second half of its run and Star Trek: Voyager had embraced an aesthetic that supported two-part “event” episodes, there had never been a season of the franchise constructed around a string of two- or three-part adventures. Even the third season of Enterprise had really been on long form story with the occasional episodic diversion.

Padding it out.

Padding it out.

These multi-part stories dominate the fourth season. Of the twenty-two episodes of the fourth season, seventeen are part of seven multi-part stories. Of the five episodes that nominally stand alone, Home is very much a thematic introduction to the season that sets up all manner of ideas to pay off later in the run and These Are the Voyages… is effectively an attempt at a coda for the eighteen years (and twenty-five television seasons) of the Berman era as a whole. Discounting these two “bookends”, that leaves only three standalone episodes.

Two of those episodes, Daedalus and Observer Effect aired back to back in the middle of the season. However, although each episode is self-contained in terms of plot, they do feel like spiritual companion pieces.

Turn the lights off on the way out...

Turn the lights off on the way out…

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Star Trek – The Galactic Whirlpool by David Gerrold (Review)

The first Star Trek pilot, The Cage, was produced in 1964. To celebrate its fiftieth anniversary, this December we are reviewing the second season of the original Star Trek show. You can check out our first season reviews here. Check back daily for the latest review.

David Gerrold is one of the very few Star Trek writers to become an established science-fiction writer after his work on the television show.

Sure, writers like Ronald D. Moore and Brannon Braga have continued to work in genre television and film, but Gerrold is unique in that he has built up a reputation as a formidable science-fiction novelist. “By any reasonable definition David Gerrold is a major figure in science fiction,” the New York Times has argued. It seems hard to disagree. If Roddenberry had produced Star Trek a decade or so later, he may have been approaching David Gerrold the same way he approached Ray Bradbury or Theodore Sturgeon.

Gerrold joined the writing staff in the second season of Star Trek, following a number of failed pitches. The writer managed to sell The Trouble With Tribbles, which became one of the most iconic and memorable Star Trek episodes ever written. He was such a success that he was drafted in to punch up I, Mudd – the script going into production before The Trouble With Tribbles. Gerrold would hang around for the third season of the show and would become one of the defining voices on Star Trek: The Animated Series with D.C. Fontana.

galacticwhirlpool

Gerrold remained busy in the long gap before Star Trek: The Next Generation, writing a string of well-regarded one-off science fiction novels in the seventies; however, perhaps his best-known work in the interregnum was The War With the Chtorr, his series of novels documenting an alien invasion of Earth. When he fell out with Gene Roddenberry over the production of The Next Generation, Gerrold would launch his popular Star Wolf series – a bunch of novels adapted from a television pitch that feel very much like his vision of The Next Generation.

However, despite this success outside Star Trek, Gerrold remains quite attached to that massive shared universe. Indeed, he recently adapted his own infamously lost Next Generation script – Blood and Fire – for Star Trek: Phase II. However, this was not Gerrold’s first “non-televised” piece of Star Trek. The author was responsible for The Galactic Whirlpool, the fourteenth Bantam Star Trek novel published in 1980. The novel was published shortly before the license was handed over to Pocket Books, and is a remarkable accomplishment.

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Star Trek – I, Mudd (Review)

The first Star Trek pilot, The Cage, was produced in 1964. To celebrate its fiftieth anniversary, this December we are reviewing the second season of the original Star Trek show. You can check out our first season reviews here. Check back daily for the latest review.

I, Mudd is delightfully silly.

This is probably the broadest Star Trek comedy episode ever produced. It is very difficult to imagine any Star Trek ensemble outside the original cast pulling off an episode like this. While The Trouble With Tribbles is easily the show’s most iconic comedy episode (and the franchise’s, to boot), there is something rather plucky and endearing about I, Mudd. One of features of the later Star Trek spin-offs was a tendency to take themselves quite seriously. This isn’t a problem of itself, but it does make it impossible to do a show like I, Mudd.

Mudd in yer eye...

Mudd in yer eye…

As with other second-season episodes, there is a sense that the show is stretching its wings a bit. Catspaw was a clear attempt to do a horror story, and Wolf in the Fold was a slasher or occult film in Star Trek form. Episodes like Amok Time and Journey to Babel are very consciously building out the Star Trek universe. Episodes like I, Mudd and The Trouble With Tribbles demonstrate that Star Trek can do comedy.

To be fair, it is perfectly reasonably to argue that shows like I, Mudd led the show to think that Spock’s Brain was a good idea. Still, I, Mudd is just so much fun – demonstrating the sense of goofy and theatrical fun that ran through so much of classic Star Trek.

"Stella, Stella... You're putting me through hell-a!"

“Stella, Stella… You’re putting me through hell-a!”

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Win! A Copy of David Gerrold’s World of Star Trek!

As you may have picked up, we are big fans of Star Trek here at the m0vie blog, and we are big fans of David Gerrold as well. Mr. Gerrold has recent released a number of his classic novels in eBook format, including The World of Star Trek. Originally published in 1973 and updated in 1984, the book offered a behind-the-scenes glimpse of the franchise and is an invaluable glimpse behind the curtain. A full list of Mr. Gerrold’s eBooks are available via his official site, or by clicking the image below.

We have an excerpt from the classic below and Mr. Gerrold has kindly volunteered to host a give away here. For your chance to win a copy – and four of David Gerrold’s eBooks of your choosing – simply leave a comment below. Simply leave a comment on the article stating you would like to be entered in the draw and we’ll pick a name from a hat. Enjoy!

World of Star Trek_giveaway

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Star Trek: The Next Generation – Blood and Fire by David Gerrold (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.

We’ll be supplementing our coverage of the episodes with some additional materials – mainly novels and comics and films. This is one such entry. This is actually supplementary to the first season of the Next Generation, specifically the episode Symbiosis.

The lead up to the first season of Star Trek: The Next Generation was full of potential. Gene Roddenberry was directly overseeing a Star Trek production for the first time since Star Trek: The Motion Picture. More than that, the producer had brought along quite a few of the talented production staff members who had helped to make the franchise so special in the first place. David Gerrold and D.C. Fontana, two of the best loved Star Trek writers of all time, would be working on the show.

Despite all that television had changed in the decades since the original Star Trek had been on the air, Roddenberry proudly boasted to fans that the franchise would continue to engage directly with the big issues of the day. After all, one of the most memorable aspects of the classic Star Trek was the show’s willingness to engage with big political issues. Even the most casual of pop culture fans remember the awkward metaphors for Vietnam or racism.

Unfortunately, The Next Generation really seemed to lack the nerve of its direct predecessor. This became quite clear early on, when veteran writer David Gerrold’s script for the proposed Blood and Fire was unceremoniously shelved, and quickly forgotten about.

tng-bloodandfire

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