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New Podcast! On “Filibuster #72” Talking “Star Trek: Discovery” with Lee Hutchinson

I had the pleasure making a guest appearance on Filibuster with the great Lee Hutchinson, who very kindly invited me on to talk about the first season of Star Trek: Discovery. It was a welcome invitation, as I’ve been writing reviews of the show by my schedule and other commitments mean that I haven’t always been able to keep up. So it was good to talk about the season as a whole; what I liked about it, what I didn’t, what I’d like to see more of going forward. Indeed, how much I’d like to see more going forward.

You can listen to the podcast directly at the Filibuster website, but you can also listen to it directly below.


Star Trek: Deep Space Nine – The Emperor’s New Cloak (Review)

The Emperor’s New Cloak is a disaster.

To be fair, it is not a messy disaster. There is nothing particularly novel in how terrible The Emperor’s New Cloak actually is. Most of the awfulness is carried over from Through the Looking Glass and Shattered Mirror. The sharp decline in quality and merit of the mirror universe episodes since the concept’s reintroduction in Crossover has become a gentle slope. The Emperor’s New Cloak is unfunny and broadly homophobic nonsense, clumsily plotted and horribly paced. If it sets a lower bar for these mirror universe episodes, that bar is not appreciably lower.

Not quite having a blast…

The Emperor’s New Cloak is terrible in the same way that Prodigal Daughter and Field of Fire are terrible. It is as though Star Trek: Deep Space Nine has reached a point where its bad episodes are no longer surprising, simply uninspired. No audience member watching The Emperor’s New Cloak will wonder how any of these ideas made it to screen. There is none of the novelty that defined the horrors in episodes like Meridian, Let He Who Is Without Sin… or even Profit and Lace. There is just a creeping sense of fatigue.

In some ways, it makes sense that the most disappointing episodes of the seventh season should be affected by this feeling of exhaustion. The end is nigh, the production team have been working on the series for seven years. Even their bad jokes are no longer shocking, simply tired.

A dark moment for all involved.

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Star Trek: Deep Space Nine – Resurrection (Review)

In many ways, Resurrection is the mirror universe story that Star Trek: Deep Space Nine has been trying to tell for the better part of three seasons.

It is the most obvious of parallel universes, the classic variant on the “there but for the grace of God…” story that science-fiction tackles so effectively. After all, both Mirror, Mirror and Crossover were episodes that used the mirror universe to posit alternate versions of the Federation and the Occupation. It makes sense that the next logical extension of this Star Trek high concept would be an episode focusing on alternate versions of specific characters. How different would a person be, if they were to be transposed to an entirely different context?

Mirrors of one another.

Mirrors of one another.

Deep Space Nine tried to touch on this with Through the Looking Glass and Shattered Mirror, two mirror universe episodes that centred around the character of mirror!Jennifer Sisko. Through the Looking Glass allowed Benjamin Sisko to come face-to-face with his long-dead wife, while Shattered Mirror allowed Jake Sisko to spend some time with his deceased mother. Unfortunately, neither episode really lived up to that potential, hampered by weak performances from Felecia Bell and by the distraction of high camp.

Resurrection is very much the third attempt that this very basic story, and suffers a little bit from that sense of fatigue. However, the execution is substantially better this time around. While Philip Anglim is hardly the franchise’s strongest guest performer, he is a better actor than Bell. More than that, keeping the action anchored on the “real” Deep Space Nine stops the story from veering into high camp. It might be damning with faint praise, but Resurrection is probably Deep Space Nine‘s second best mirror universe episode.

Holy ex-boyfriend, Kira!

Holy ex-boyfriend, Kira!

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Star Trek: Enterprise – Terra Prime (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.

It all began with Spock.

The character of Spock was the only character to survive the transition between the two Star Trek pilots produced in the sixties. Leonard Nimoy first appeared as science officer Spock in The Cage, opposite Majel Barrett and Jeffrey Hunter. When the studio vetoed the original pilot, Gene Roddenberry was forced to jettison a lot of the cast and characters before setting to work on a second pilot. Spock survived serving (along with the sets and props) as a bridge between The Cage and Where No Man Has Gone Before.

Baby on board.

Baby on board.

Spock is an iconic part of American culture. He is instantly recognisable in a way that very few elements of the franchise can claim to be. He lingers in the collective memory. Leonard Nimoy has repeatedly been favoured over William Shatner as an ambassador of the brand. Nimoy reprised the role of Spock opposite Patrick Stewart in Unification, Part I more than two whole years before Shatner would cross paths with Jean-Luc Picard as James T. Kirk in Star Trek: Generations. Nimoy appeared in a key role in Star Trek; Shatner declined a cameo.

Star Trek: Enterprise was never going to feature a guest appearance from Leonard Nimoy. However, Spock as clearly haunted the fourth season as the embodiment of the franchise spirit. The Vulcan-human hybrid at the centre of Demons and Terra Prime makes little sense in basic plot terms, Elizabeth serves as a harbinger that might summon Spock. And, in doing so, Elizabeth might yet summon the future. It began with Spock, it ends with Spock. At least for now.

Infinite diversity in finite combinations...

Infinite diversity in finite combinations…

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Star Trek: Enterprise – In a Mirror, Darkly, Part I (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.

In a Mirror, Darkly, Part I and In a Mirror, Darkly, Part II are very strange pieces of television.

They represent the fifth- and fourth-to-last episodes (and third-to-last story) of Star Trek: Enterprise. They come towards the tail end of the Berman era as a whole, positioned right before Star Trek took a decade-long absence from television. With the fourth season rather consciously building towards integrating the series with the larger shared universe and trying to lay the foundation for the Federation, it would make sense for the final stretch of the season to channel its energy into that particular avenue.

A vigourous constitutional...

A vigourous constitutional…

However, rather than trying to tell a story essential to this particular show or to the franchise as a whole, the production team opted to construct a two-parter that would feature none of the show’s primary cast and which served as a prequel to an episode of television broadcast in October 1967 and a sequel to an episode of television broadcast in November 1968. The two-parter serves to wrap up plot threads that had been left dangling so long that nobody really cared about them any longer. Given how obsessive Star Trek fans are, that is impressive.

This puts Enterprise in the rather strange position where three of its final five episodes (or two of its final three stories) do not feature any of the primary cast, instead focusing on doppelgangers or holograms. Perhaps this is a reflection on the show’s attitude towards its place within the canon. Perhaps Enterprise fears that it will be a secret history, a forgotten story populated by spectres and echoes.

Engines of destiny.

Engines of destiny.

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Star Trek: Deep Space Nine – Shattered Mirror (Review)

This February and March, we’re taking a look at the 1995 to 1996 season of Star Trek, including Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and Star Trek: Voyager. Check back daily Tuesday through Friday for the latest review.

Shattered Mirror and The Muse represent the nadir of the fourth season of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.

To be fair, it could be worse. Neither episode is Let He Who is Without Sin or Profit and Lace or The Emperor’s New Cloak. Neither is a good episode by any measure, and they certainly rank among the weakest episodes in the show’s seven year run. However, they are more misbegotten lumps of clay than spectacular disasters. Still, as critical defenses go, that is a fairly unconvincing effort. “It could be a lot worse” is hardly the most ringing of critical endorsements.

A close shave...

A close shave…

On the other hand, the fourth season of Deep Space Nine is a fairly spectacular piece of television when taken as a whole. There is a strong argument to be made for the fourth season as the most consistently entertaining season of Deep Space Nine, which stands it in good stead when placing it in the context of the franchise as a whole. The fourth season of Deep Space Nine is one of the best seasons that the franchise ever produced, right alongside the third season of Star Trek: The Next Generation.

However, even the third season of The Next Generation had its weaker moments; The Price and Ménage à Troi come to mind. The realities and demands of television production mean that a perfect twenty-six episode season without any duds is an aspirational object rather than an achievable goal. The constant churn required to produce twenty-six forty-five minute blocks of television within nine or ten months means that not every episode is going to end up perfectly sculpted. Some will be great, some will be bland. Some will be bad.


Yanking his chain…

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Star Trek (IDW, 2009) #15-16 – Mirrored (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 mirror universe is a fun concept.

Over the run of the franchise, quite divorced from the context of Mirror, Mirror, the mirror universe itself is an excuse to go big; to indulge in hammy and silly behaviour. There’s no need to worry about putting the toys back in the box, or even the general philosophy of the franchise as a whole. Appropriately enough, it becomes a place where you can do almost anything you might imagine with no real consequences. Writers get to do big space opera stuff, actors get to munch on the scenery.

All hail the empire...

All hail the empire…

There is a reason that the most giddy and indulgent fan service from the already giddy and fan-service-filled fourth season of Star Trek: Enterprise was the two-parter set in the mirror universe. Indeed, Mirrored arguably borrows more from In a Mirror, Darkly than it does from Mirror, Mirror. The entire two-part story is launched from a casual conjectural conversation between Scotty and McCoy – suggesting that this might just be some flight of fancy. Indeed, the story cuts to the mirror universe as Scotty asks McCoy about “the worst timeline [he] can imagine.”

Mirrored is a very silly, very disposable story. It combines the weird fascination with alternate universes that runs through IDW’s monthly Star Trek series with the fixation on the events of JJ Abrams’ franchise-launching reboot. The result does not rank with the best mirror universe stories ever told, feeling too indulgent for its own good.

A cutting retort...

A cutting retort…

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