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My 12 for ’13: Star Trek Into Darkness & Fighting for the Future…

This is my annual countdown of the 12 movies that really stuck with me this year. It only counts the movies released in Ireland in 2013, so quite a few of this year’s Oscar contenders aren’t eligible, though some of last year’s are.

This is number 6…

Star Trek Into Darkness won’t win any awards for scripting or plotting. It’s very hard to succinctly explain the various overlapping evil plans directed by the movie’s two competing villains – who knows what at which point, and how that makes sense in the context of their objectives. Star Trek Into Darkness is a bit of a hot mess when it comes to storytelling – an overly convoluted plot that spends far too much time homaging what come before, when it should be boldly going somewhere new.

And yet, despite that, there is an ambition to Star Trek Into Darkness, a willingness to embrace big ideas and questions about cynicism and optimism, about hope and fear, about the attitude that people adopt towards the future. At the most basic level, that’s what Star Trek is. Into Darkness doesn’t have the same space as a television show to delve into those questions, nor to offer the same degree of nuance.

However, it’s a willingness to ask them that is quite endearing.

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Non-Review Review: Star Trek IV – The Voyage Home

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.

Up until the release of JJ Abrams’ Star Trek in 2009, Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home was the most successful of the Star Trek films. Indeed, it ranks alongside Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan as the film which has most deeply dug itself into the popular consciousness. “I’m from Iowa; I only work in outer space” might not be as iconic a quote as “KHAAAAAAN!!!”, but a lot of people casually remember “the one with the whales.”

The fourth film in the series closes off an inter-connected trilogy of Star Trek films, wrapping up character development for the leads and tying up loose ends, but it’s also – somewhat paradoxically – the most accessible of the movies. If you’re looking for an introduction to Star Trek, it’s hard to think of a more welcoming entry than The Voyage Home. However, what’s really strangely charming about The Voyage Home is that it’s also probably the film truest to the franchise’s humanist values.

Ship off the starboard bow!

Ship off the starboard bow!

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Star Trek – The Devil in the Dark (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.

There are any number of ways to “get into” Star Trek, to jump on board the cult phenomenon. Despite decades of continuity, a lot of the franchise is accessible on its own terms, and it’s easy enough to come across a list of recommended classic episodes for a neophyte to sample. There are over seven hundred hours of Star Trek, so there’s something for everybody. And it’s perfectly possible to tailor a recommendation to the new viewer’s preferences.

Want proof that Star Trek can do credible drama? Stick on The City on the Edge of Forever. Fascinated by Spock? Try Amok Time. Want to watch William Shatner take on another leading character with a similar amount of gravitas? Give Space Seed a go. Want some high-concept sci-fi android stuff? Maybe What Are Little Girls Made Of? is right up your street. Want a contemporary commentary on the Vietnam War? Watch A Private Little War.

However, if you asked me to recommend an example of the franchise’s philosophy and its humanist values, executed with a superb level of craftsmanship, The Devil in the Dark is really the only choice. There’s a reason that Arthur C. Clarke considers it to be the most memorable episode of Star Trek ever produced.

Spock would have to have a heart of stone not be affected by this...

Spock would have to have a heart of stone not be affected by this…

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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.

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Star Trek 101: The Best of The Original Series

To celebrate the release of Star Trek: Into Darkness, we’re holding a month full of Star Trek  related fun. We’re reviewing every episode of the show’s first season, from The Cage through to Operation — Annihilate!, one-per-day for all of May. We’re also looking at some of the various spin-offs, tie-ins and pop culture intersections, so there’s always something going on to do with Star Trek. Anyway, with the release of the new film, we thought it might be interesting to make some recommendations for fans of the new films who wanted to “dip their toes in the water” so to speak, offering a quick taste of the best that the classic 1960s original Star Trek has to offer those wanting to boldly go with Kirk, Spock and McCoy.

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Star Trek: The Next Generation – Season 1 (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.

Well, the video and sound quality on the blu ray are excellent. I feel the need to state that here, first, before I delve into the season as a whole. I jumped on board the recent high-definition re-release of Star Trek: The Next Generation, and the work done here by the production team is astounding. As I trawled through every episode from Encounter at Farpoint to The Neutral Zone, I was amazed and impressed at how much care had gone into restoring and renewing the show for high-definition. I can’t imagine how painstaking the work was – re-editing the original film stock, remastering old effects, remixing the sound. The team have made a believer out of me, and I am on board for pretty much any restored Star Trek boxset that CBS sees fit to release. (I can’t wait to see Deep Space Nine updated.)

I think it’s important to acknowledge the work that went into producing a set that looks and sounds fantastic. It made returning to the show a joy, even when I was (frequently) reminded of just how rocky that first season was.

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Star Trek: The Next Generation – Home Soil (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.

I’ve been complaining pretty consistently throughout this rocky first year of Star Trek: The Next Generation that the show is trying too hard to be a carbon copy of the classic Star Trek, rather than trying to define its own distinct identity. By that logic, I concede that I should detest Home Soil. Much like the less-than-classic The Naked Now, it is pretty much an attempt to update an episode from the original show.

In this case, the story of a bunch of terraformers provoking an unconventional native lifeform recalls The Devil in the Dark, one of the best-loved episodes of Star Trek‘s pretty stellar first year. While Home Soil doesn’t quite measure up to its rather wonderful progenitor, it does manage to put its own slant on the story, to the point where Home Soil doesn’t feel like a recycled Star Trek script; rather, it feels like a story told from the perspective of The Next Generation.

Spark of life...

Spark of life…

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