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Star Trek: Enterprise – Affliction (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.

The shift from episodic storytelling to a more serialised format poses all manner of challenges for the Star Trek production team.

By the time that Star Trek: Enterprise embraced long-form storytelling with The Expanse at the end of its second season, the franchise was dangerous behind the curve. During the nineties, genre shows like The X-Files, Buffy: The Vampire Slayer and Babylon 5 had demonstrated the potential of serialisation as a narrative tool. Even within this particular franchise, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine had managed to strike a reasonable balance between standalone stories and the larger narrative framework.

Nothin' but Trip...

Nothin’ but Trip…

This is say nothing of the revolution taking place on a wider scale. HBO had allowed its production team to embrace the potential of long-form storytelling on late nineties shows like Oz or The Sopranos. Within a few years, the cable broadcaster had attracted considerable mainstream attention by embracing serialisation on shows like The Wire, Deadwood and Rome. In the meantime, Star Trek: Voyager had steadfastly refused to move beyond the episodic model. When Ronald D. Moore left the franchise, any experience with serialisation left with him.

As such, it is no surprise that the franchise struggled with some of the challenges posed by a serialised storytelling model. In particular, Enterprise struggled a little bit with integrating its entire ensemble into its new serialised storytelling model. Affliction and Divergence feel like an attempt to rectify this issue, with mixed results.

It's all coming together...

It’s all coming together…

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Star Trek: Enterprise – The Forge (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.

The Kir’Shara trilogy is the strongest three-parter of Star Trek: Enterprise‘s fourth season. It could legitimately be argued that the Kir’Shara trilogy is the strongest story of the entire season and one of the strongest stories of the show’s four-season run.

There are a lot of reasons why this is the case. The Kir’Shara trilogy makes great use of the franchise’s continuity and history, without getting too tied down into references for the sake of references. Indeed, there is a valid argument to be made that the trilogy represents the most overt rewriting of continuity across the fourth season, an ironic touch for a season so committed to continuity. The story does excellent work the show’s under-utilised supporting cast. The adventure actually merits three episodes, the story never dragging or wandering off on tangents.

Under a not quite blood red sky...

Under a not quite blood red sky…

However, a large part of why this trilogy of episodes works better than the Borderland trilogy or the United trilogy is a simple piece of structuring. The Kir’Shara trilogy has a very clear and linear three-act structure, with each of the three episodes fitting comfortably together while doing their bit to advance and escalate the plot. There are no strange structural detours like the siege in Cold Station 12 or the visit to Andoria in The Aenar. Each of these three episodes is recognisable part of a singular larger story that builds to a crescendo.

The Forge does an excellent job setting up the arc, Awakening does an excellent job raising the stakes, and Kir’Shara does an excellent job tying it all together. The result is a satisfying two-hour television movie broadcast in three forty-minute chunks.

Mapping out an adventure...

Mapping out an adventure…

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Star Trek: The Next Generation – The Emissary (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.

The Emissary is one of the stronger episodes from the tail end of Star Trek: The Next Generation‘s second season. An interesting meditation on heritage and race, as well as an insightful character piece for Worf, The Emissary is an interesting exploration of Worf’s relationship to his culture – and how his experience is far from universal. It’s the sort of story that The Next Generation should have been producing on a more consistent basis, but it’s better late than never.

Bonded by blood...

Bonded by blood…

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Star Trek: The Next Generation – A Matter of Honour (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.

The second season of Star Trek: The Next Generation might be a bit rough around the edges (among other places), but there’s still a sense that the show is trying to improve itself, struggling to find its own voice. Most of the first season seemed content to offer a pale imitation of the classic Star Trek show, ignoring the fact that a lot had changed in the two decades since Kirk and Spock took to the air.

A Matter of Honour is an example of The Next Generation engaging the late eighties instead of trying to evoke the lost spirit of the sixties. Taking the “Klingons as Communists” metaphor as far as it could logically go, and serving as a companion piece to Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, A Matter of Honour is a tale of deep space détente.

Guess who's going to dinner where?

Guess who’s going to dinner where?

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Star Trek: Myriad Universes – Echoes and Refractions: A Gutted World by Keith R. A. DeCandido (Review)

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine is twenty years old this year. To celebrate, I’m taking a look at the first and second seasons. Check back daily for the latest review or retrospective.

We’ll be supplementing our coverage of the episodes with some additional materials – mainly novels and comics and films. This is one such entry.

“What if” stories are inherently fascinating. Naturally, they are predicated on investment in the original story, but it’s always fascinating to imagine the branching possibilities, the ripples in the stream. Sometimes, these are used to explore the grand philosophical questions of Star Trek in a new light; to imagine how, were you to change one variable in a complex formula, the answer might be radically different.

However, Keith R. A. DeCandido’s A Gutted World feels different. It is a massive story, spanning a huge amount of time and space, drawing in a massive ensemble cast and gently probing the politics of five or six different Star Trek culture, as DeCandido explores what might have happened if the Cardassians never withdrew from Bajor, if Terok Nor never became Deep Space Nine.

To put it more succinctly, if the show never happened, but its central storyline still did.

st-myriaduniverses

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Star Trek: Terok Nor – Night of the Wolves by S.D. Perry & Britta Dennison (Review)

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine is twenty years old this year. To celebrate, I’m taking a look at the first season. Check back daily for the latest review or retrospective.

We’ll be supplementing our coverage of the episodes with some additional materials – mainly novels and comics and films. This is one such entry.

Prequels are a tricky business. Not just because we already know the ending – after all, we love adapting old familiar stories in new ways, and knowing the outcome can easily lend a project an air of grand tragedy or irony. However, the temptation with prequels is to make it all make sense, to tie absolutely everything up in a neat little bow, resolving all the plot threads and removing any hint of ambiguity or mystery from the original work – less of a story in its own right and more of a “fill in the blanks” approach.

James Swallow’s Day of the Vipers occasionally fell into this trap as it offered an account of the Cardassian plot to take control of Bajor, but it managed to offer its own insights and character development – giving us a suitably complex and self-justifying version of Gul Dukat. Night of the Wolves is somewhat less successful at avoiding the same problems, with a plot that appears to have been fashioned by linking off-hand references and back story from various early episodes together.

We get Odo and Kira meeting for the first time; an account of the liberation of Gallitep; a back story for a young Damar; the roots of Natima Lang’s dissatisfaction with the Central Command. None of these threads seem to build to anything insightful or clever, instead playing out predictably – pretty much exactly as we might have imagined them.

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Star Trek (DC Comics, 1989) Annual #2 – Starfleet Academy!

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.

Multimedia franchises tend to have very strange lives. These iconic pop culture characters rarely seem to ride off into the sunset in any real way. Their story might end, but there’s always a new beginning just waiting for them. When veteran Star Trek writer Ronald D. Moore took charge of the reboot of Battlestar Galactica, he even wove the idea into the fabric of the show. “All of this has happened before and will happen again,” the characters repeated.

It’s been a Hollywood fad for the last decade, with high-budget reboots like Batman Begins and The Amazing Spider-Man suggesting that icons never die, they just get reinvented. However, it has always been a feature of the pop culture landscape. Think of how many adaptations of Batman have run their course, or how many times in how many different media Sherlock Holmes has played out his game of wits. Life for these iconic properties is something of a spinning wheel. It seems that no sooner are you off one side than you are back on the other.

So, with the release of Star Trek: The Undiscovered Country in 1991, it seemed the ideal time for Star Trek author Peter David to venture back to the very beginning, and to explore Kirk’s time at Starfleet Academy!

"By the way, I like David as a name..."

“By the way, I like David as a name…”

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