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Star Trek – Friday’s Child (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.

Errand of Mercy was a highlight of the first season. A wry script from producer Gene L. Coon introduced the Klingons as an antagonist for the Federation. Made up to look like space!Mongols, the Klingon Empire was presented as an imperial force hell-bent on expanding its sphere of influence. In case the parallels were a little too subtle, they were locked in a Cold War with the Federation. As such, they were the perfect stand-ins for Communist aggressors trying to undermine American foreign policy.

Of course, Errand of Mercy was brutally cynical in its depiction of the Federation. The episode suggested quite heavily that the Federation was just as imperialist and adversarial as the Klingons. They might couch their foreign policy in friendly language and polite overtures, but their end goals are quite similar. Smaller political entities are nothing but pieces shuffled around a board in a deadly game of chess. Errand of Mercy was not flattering in its portrayal of Kirk, presenting him as little more than a warmonger.

"Damn dirty Klingon!"

“Damn dirty Klingon!”

Errand of Mercy was a massive success. It remains a fan favourite to this day. In some respects, that is due to the introduction of the Klingons, but it is also an exceptional hour of scripted science fiction. So it makes sense that the show would return to the Klingons when it was renewed for a second season. Friday’s Child was the third episode produced during the second season, and returns to quite a few themes hit on by Errand of Mercy. Those themes would recur.

Friday’s Child demonstrates the obvious risks of an episode like Errand of Mercy. It’s an episode that essentially takes the “Klingons as space!Communists” seriously.

We come in peace...

We come in peace…

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Star Trek: Deep Space Nine (Malibu Comics) – Blood and Honour (Review)

The September and October, we’re taking a look at the jam-packed 1994 to 1995 season of Star Trek, including Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and Star Trek: Voyager. Check back daily for the latest review.

Whatever is to be done about the Romulans?

In space, all warriors are cold warriors...

In space, all warriors are cold warriors…

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Star Trek: The Next Generation – Peak Performance (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.

Peak Performance is a functional episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation. It doesn’t really stand out all that much, and it feels quite a bit average. Still, that’s not to dismiss Peak Performance. After all, this past season has seen The Next Generation advance considerably. During the first season, an episode like Home Soil or The Big Goodbye was a welcome relief. At this stage in the show, episodes like Peak Performance and Contagion are the average.

Of course, the third season would see the show’s quality improve even more dramatically, but we’re still just a little bit away from that. So we’re left with Peak Performance, a fairly standard piece of Star Trek that feels just a little bit too formulaic and a little bit too cliché. While it’s not among the strongest of the season, there are definitely worse sins.

Game on...

Game on…

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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 Klingons: Starfleet Intelligence Manual (FASA) (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 sheer wealth of supplemental material which exists for Star Trek is often quite stunning. While nowhere near the marketing juggernaut that Star Wars is, the depth of the Star Trek brand can’t help but seem impressive. On top of the television show and movies, there are novels and comics, but it goes even further than that. Models, blueprints, Christmas decorations, action figures, and even china dinner sets. It is occasionally awe-inspiring, but also quite intimidating.

Still, it’s interesting to witness how this extended material has come back to influence the “core” of the franchise. It’s not unheard of for spin-offs and tie-ins to help develop a core property. Kryptonite and Jimmy Olsen were added to the Superman mythos, for example, following their popularity on the radio show. Here we have some background material prepared for the FASA Star Trek role-playing game that was popular during the 1980s. As with a lot of this sort of stuff, it’s not really “canon” or “continuity” in anyway that seems to count.

However, The Klingons: Starfleet Intelligence Manual is interesting because it world-builds the franchise, explicitly in reference to John M. Ford’s vision of Klingon culture in The Final Reflection.

st-klingons-fasa

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Star Trek – Errand of Mercy (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.

Ah, Klingons. It feels strange to think that we’re almost at the end of the show’s first year and that we’re only meeting the franchise’s most famous aliens now. More than that, in the original version of the show, their distinctive model space ships didn’t appear until the third season, in Elaan of Troyius, the same episode where their iconic imperial crest appeared. They wouldn’t get their bumpy foreheads for over a decade, until Star Trek: The Motion Picture. And a lot of what we’d take for granted about Klingon culture would only be established in the tie-in novel The Final Reflection and later in Star Trek: The Next Generation.

Still, Errand of Mercy welcomes the Klingons to the franchise, and offers a demonstration of why the aliens had such staying power. It’s also a rather wonderful Cold War analogy, feeling like something of a companion piece to Gene L. Coon’s A Taste of Armageddon.

I bet a lot of people were surprised that they could Klingon to their reputation as Star Trek's top alien for so long...

I bet a lot of people were surprised that they could Klingon to their reputation as Star Trek’s top alien for so long…

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Star Trek – Spock Must Die! by James Blish (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.

Spock Must Die! is notable for being one of the first Star Trek novels published. Indeed, it is the first original novel published by Bantham Books. (For trivia hounds, the young adult original novel Mission to Horatius was actually published during the show’s run.) It’s written by James Blish, the British author responsible for those Star Trek episode novelisations I have been sporadically quoting over the past month or so. Blish was a published science-fiction author before he worked with Star Trek. Reading Spock Must Die!, you can definitely sense the writer’s fondness for high concepts and metaphysical quandaries.

Indeed, one of the defining attributes of Spock Must Die! is that Blish seems more preoccupied with the logic and implications of the show’s pseudo-science (and his own elements building on that) than he is with the characters themselves. It’s not necessarily a fatal flaw, but Spock Must Die! is more interesting and intriguing as a curiosity than as an expansion or examination of the Star Trek franchise.

tos-spockmustdie1

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