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Star Trek: Enterprise – Harbinger (Review)

Next year, Star Trek is fifty years old. We have some special stuff planned for that, but – in the meantime – we’re reviewing all of Star Trek: Enterprise this year as something of a prequel to that anniversary. This August, we’re doing the third season. Check back daily for the latest review.

It goes almost without saying that the third season of Star Trek: Enterprise was an attempt to revitalise a franchise that had already been on television for a decade and half. It was an attempt to do something quite radical and dynamic with a television property that had become rather staid and conservative. Star Trek: The Next Generation had been perfectly calibrated for the late eighties and early nineties, but its approach towards storytelling was increasingly outdated after seven seasons of Star Trek: Voyager.

One of the recurring issues in the first season of Enterprise was the conflict between the established franchise structure and something more adventurous and exciting. So many of those first season episodes seemed laboriously paced and awkwardly arch; there was a sense of dull routine rather than exciting adventure. The show would occasionally try to deviated from the established template (to varying degrees of success) with stories like Dear Doctor, Shuttlepod One, and A Night in Sickbay, but narrative conservatism won out in the sophomore season.

"So... sweeps?"

“So… sweeps?”

In many ways, Harbinger plays as a return to those earlier experiments in story structure. It is an episode that is not driven by story. Although the strange alien discovered by the crew provides a suitably dramatic climax, most of Harbinger is built around established character dynamics. Trip and T’Pol begin working through the sexual tension that has existed between them since the start of the third season; Reed and Hayes do something similar in a very different fashion. In the meantime, the ship just cruises along en route to the third season’s next big plot beat.

Harbinger is not entirely successful in this regard. There is a sense that the franchise is still figuring out how to construct episodes that don’t conform to a rigid story structure, with the mysterious alien visitor serving as an effective crutch to help get around these problems. Still, it is an interesting experiment and an example of how the show is consciously trying to reinvent itself in a manner that is more than simply cosmetic.

Expanding his Sphere of influence...

Expanding his Sphere of influence…

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Game On: The Video Game Curse…

Prince of Persia is coming soon. You can’t miss it, what with all the airtime they’re filling the television channels with, and all the movie specials. The movie is what it is – it’s a cynical attempt to cash in on the retro-chic of the old swords-and-sandals pulpy serial adventures in the same way that Pirates of the Caribbean originally did, while remaining anchored to a property with at least some geek recognition attached. It isn’t by any stretch of my imagination a must-see movie this year (not even making it into my top ten most anticipated films), but it looks it might manage to do what it says on the tin. It might offer a distracting low-brow Middle-Eastern-themed romp with an effective cast and competent direction masking what’s undoubtedly a weak premise. However, the movie has one major fact playing against it: it’s a video game adaptation. And those have something of a dodgy history in Hollywood.

Is Prince of Persia going to get to the next level of video game adaptations?

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So, You Want to Read Comics, Eh?

We’re a bit late to the party, but this week we’ll be celebrating the 75th anniversary of DC Comics, with a look at the medium, the company and the characters in a selection of bonus features running Monday through Friday. This is one of those articles. Feel free to look up the rest, they’re fully of nerdy goodness.

So, it’s the end of our week-long look at the comic book medium and what a week it’s been. We’ve looked at grown-up comics and superhero comics, the best of DC comics and the quirks of the medium. So I hope you might forgive the excess if I write this last blog post from an all-together more person perspective. I like the funny books, I do. I think the medium has huge potential to tell stories in a fascinating format, unconfined by budget or scope. I am fascinated by the intertextual elements, the notion that all of these different and unique titles can be drawn together as part of one giant meta-story. But what I really have difficulty understanding is why the medium insists upon making itself so damn inaccessible.

Sometimes Superman just likes be a douche...

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The Crisis Surrounding “Crisis Crossovers”

We’re a bit late to the party, but this week we’ll be celebrating the 75th anniversary of DC Comics, with a look at the medium, the company and the characters in a selection of bonus features running Monday through Friday. This is one of those articles. Be sure to join us for the rest.

In 2012, we will witness the first true superhero crossover on the big screen, with Iron Man, Captain America and Thor joining forces as The Avengers to battle evil. The Hulk may even get in on the action. However,this sort of overlap is hardly new to the source material which will inform the film. It seems that the comic book medium is dominated by the crossover fad, with the two major companies churning out massive event after massive event. Is this a good thing which demonstrates the strength and flexibility of the monthly-publishing schedule, or does this style of writing only serve to make the medium even more insular?

Yeah, see how messy this picture looks? Multiply that by about 42 and that gives you the idea of the complexity we're looking at...

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It’s the 75th Anniversary of DC Comics…

… and to celebrate, we’ll be running a selection of comic book themed posts throughout the week.

We've come a long way, baby...

We’ll be looking at:

Those interested in this might like to check out The Dark Week, a week-long Batman-related event we ran to celebrate the anniversary of The Dark Knight and Batman’s birthday last year.

For those here for the movie news and reviews, don’t worry, this won’t itnerrupt with regularly-scheduled posting.

The Disappearance of Without a Trace

I’m going to be honest – I’m not a fan of Without a Trace. I’ll confess to something resembling indifferent affection to Anthony LaPlagia, but I’ve never sat down and watched an episode. I do know lots of people who watch it regularly. Hell, based on the viewing figures, there are a lot of people who watch it regularly. So, as someone who never watched the show, I am still gravely worried by what I see: the recession is affecting networks so badly that they are being forced to cancel expensive high-budget dramas.

I wonder if the network cancelled it simply because of the amount of puns that journalists could make about Without a Trace going missing...

I wonder if the network cancelled it simply because of the amount of puns that journalists could make about a show called Without a Trace going missing...

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