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Star Trek: Voyager – Lineage (Review)

Lineage is an extremely odd piece of television.

On one hand, it continues the engagement with archetypal social-commentary-driven Star Trek that defines so much of the seventh season of Star Trek: Voyager. Of course, Voyager has always defined itself as archetypal Star Trek, but it is particularly pronounced during the final season. Producer Kenneth Biller seems eager to offer fans a series that superficially embraces the recognisable elements of Star Trek. There are a number of Prime Directive stories like Natural Law and Friendship One, for example. The idea of the Federation as an ideal comes up in stories like Drive and The Void, for example.

Tom has the talking pillow.

There are also a number of episodes that adopt the classic issue-driven format that fans and even casual audiences have long associated with Star Trek, the sort of “science-fiction as a mirror on society” stories that can trace their roots back to episodes like Let That Be Your Last Battlefield… The seventh season of Voyager wrestles with the healthcare system in Critical Care and the death penalty in Repentance. More than that, it explicitly calls back to one of the highlights of the form when Author, Author stages a late-season remake of The Measure of a Man.

On the surface, Lineage belongs as part of that tradition. It is a story about genetic engineering and designer babies, two hot-button issues at the turn of the millennium, a palpable anxiety rippling through the popular consciousness in projects as diverse as Space: Above and Beyond or Gattaca or The Sixth Day. There was a real and tangible fear about what this sort of genetic tampering would do to society, and the set-up of Lineage promises to explore the implications of an idea with which the franchise had been grappling since Space Seed in the late sixties.

Duvet really know how much you care?

However, as with Critical Care, there is a sense that the production team want the credit (and the attention) for dealing with a hot-button issue without the possible political back draft that would come from actually taking a strong stance on the point. Lineage pays lip-service to a broader cultural debate around things like genetic engineering and designer babies, but it consciously veers away from anything potentially contentious to focus on a really tonally surreal soap opera that involves the casual violation of the EMH’s programming and an absurd stand-off in Sickbay without any emotional reality.

The result is something of a surreal roller coaster that doesn’t work in any meaningful way, veering dramatically in terms of tone and theme while completely abandoning any sense of nuance or complexity in favour of heightened melodrama. The result is deeply unsatisfying, but fascinating as a hodge-podge of different ideas thrown together to structure an episode.

Baby on board.

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Non-Review Review: Gattaca

I genuinely think that Gattaca is an unsung modern science-fiction classic. Andrew Niccol also wrote the screenplay for The Truman Show at the same time, another science-fiction masterpiece of the nineties, and another film way ahead of its time. I wonder if The Truman Show eclipsed Niccol’s work on Gattaca. It’s certainly a far more conventional science-fiction feature film, with a decidedly retro-futuristic aesthetic to it, and a slightly more earnest approach to its central themes. Still, I think that Gattacais a film that has held up remarkably well since its release and deserves a great deal more praise and attention than it really gets.

A face in a crowd…

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Desert Island Discs

The ever wonderful Andy over at Fandango Groovers has put together a rather excellent little project among film bloggers where we’re all essentially playing ‘desert island discs’. For those who aren’t familiar with the concept, it sees the person in question stranded on a desert island somewhere with only a handful of items – in this case films. Each person will then choose their own eight films that will presumably see them through the rest of their lives in something resembling tranquility. Of course, the kicker is if we arrive on the island and there’s no DVD player.   

The Losties were less than pleased when Darren phoned ahead with his movie choices...

Note: I’ve also compiled a list of movies and bloggers, so you can see if anyone else shared your picks.

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Space Racism = Bad (District 9)

I finally got around to checking out the District 9 trailers that everyone’s been talking about. The movie’s attracted a lot of cult attention – mainly because Peter ‘Lord of the Rings’ Jackson has plastered his name all over the trailers – but I haven’t seen any sort of advanced publicity in Ireland, despite a fairly deftly-managed viral campaign in the United States. In fairness, we aren’t getting it until two weeks later than the Americans, but it would be nice to see some of these advertisements reaching us – just pretend we’re a semi-important market. For the uninitiated, it’s a movie about illegal aliens settling in South Africa and becoming second class citizens. The catch? They’re from outer space. In fairness, this year looks to be an epic year for science-fiction – Watchmen is already out, Moon is currently on release, Avatar is due out in the next few months and there seems to be legitimate buzz around The Road as an Oscar contender. Still, District 9 looks like it might just be a bit preachy for my tastes, but isn’t most science fiction?

Guess the moral...

Guess the moral...

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