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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 (Gold Key) #1 – The Planet of No Return! (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.

The Star Trek comics published by Gold Key are somewhat infamous additions to the Star Trek canon. The company began publishing comic book tie-ins in July 1967, in the gap between the first and second seasons of the original Star Trek show. They continued to publish those tie-ins until 1978, when the license passed to Marvel. These early comics have become the source of much derision over the years, with fans dismissing them as hollow cash-ins produced by people with little understanding of the franchise itself.

However, recent years have seen something of a reappraisal of these early comic books. Once IDW Publishing secured the rights to produce tie-in Star Trek comic books, they devoted considerable effort to archiving and releasing classic and little-seen material from the franchise’s history. They released the Star Trek newspaper strips in a two-volume set, before turning their attention to the classic Gold Key comic books. It is a very worthwhile attempt to provide fans with a glimpse of oft-overlooked chapters in the franchise’s history.

Plant life...

Plant life…

The Gold Key Star Trek comics are messy. A lot of the criticisms hold true. There are all manner of continuity errors in the production of the comic. Artist Alberto Giolitti takes quite some time to figure out what Scotty looks like, and the colourists take a bit of time to figure out what uniforms various cast members should be wearing. The writing is similarly clunky, with characters sounding a little out of sort as the basic plot details seem to stand at odds with still-relatively-small Star Trek canon had been established by the closing credit of Operation — Annihilate!

And yet, despite all these considerable flaws, these comics do make for an interesting time capsule. They don’t feel quite like Star Trek so much as an impression of what Star Trek would look described to somebody who has never seen it, filtered through the lense of fifties and sixties science-fiction comics. The early issues feel like three blind men describing an elephant, and it is glorious.

Branching out...

Branching out…

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The X-Files – Teso Dos Bichos (Review)

This November (and a little of December), we’re taking a trip back in time to review the third season of The X-Files and the first (and only) season of Space: Above and Beyond.

It happens.

Every once in a while, there is a misfire. This is especially true when producing a genre television series churning out over twenty episodes a year. Inevitably, some of those episodes will fail; a few will fail spectacularly. Such is the way of things. It is hard to think of a twenty-odd episode season of anything that managed to maintain consistent levels of brilliance for a full season. All you can really hope is that the eventual and inevitable misfire is mostly technical.

No bones about it...

No bones about it…

Teso Dos Bichos is a terrible episode of The X-Files. It is a terrible episode of television in general. However, it is terrible in ways that are mostly banal. This isn’t a failure of overreaching ambition, like Fearful Symmetry. It isn’t a missed opportunity, like 3. It isn’t even a racist and sexist nightmare, like Excelsis Dei. Instead, Teso Dos Bichos is just bad television. It is an episode that probably didn’t work on paper, containing elements that were unlikely to work on film either.

Given how strong the third season has been, there’s a desire to brush past Teso Dos Bichos, and pretend it simply did not happen.

Cat people!

Cat people!

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Star Trek: The Next Generation – The Sky’s the Limit: Suicide Note by Geoff Trowbridge (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.

Suicide Note is another one of those great “expanding from dangling plot threads left at the conclusion of an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation stories that are popular in tie-in media. In this case, writer Geoff Trowbridge is building off the end of The Defector, which saw Captain Picard receiving a suicide note from the eponymous defector Admiral Jarok. Jarok had asked Picard to pass the not on to his family, which was not possible at the time.

Of course, The Next Generation never really dealt with these threads, because – put quite simply – it wasn’t that kind of show. So it’s fun to pick up these threads and to try to recontextualise them in terms of everything that has unfolded since. In this case, Trowbridge is able to explore Jarok’s sacrifice in the context of the Federation and Romulan alliance towards the end of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, in the wake of In the Pale Moonlight.

In keeping with Trowbridge’s The Chimes at Midnight, Suicide Note is structured as a critical exploration of American history, through the prism of Star Trek. While The Chimes at Midnight was a brutal deconstruction of the franchise’s roots in the Second World War, Suicide Note is framed in a more modern context.

tng-theskysthelimit

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