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Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D – F.Z.Z.T. (Review)

F.Z.Z.T. is a reminder that Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is a genre show still in its first season. That might not sound like a good thing, and F.Z.Z.T. isn’t the strongest of the mediocre crop of episodes so far, but it does indicate that there is still potential. The Girl in the Flower Dress teased the possibility that Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. might have settled into its own incredibly unambitious niche, and any evidence to the contrary should be welcomed.

F.Z.Z.T. is boring and generic, but at least it’s boring and generic in a way that is different from most of the boring and generic episodes so far. So that’s something.

A Gemma of an idea...?

A Gemma of an idea…?

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Star Trek: Deep Space Nine – Babel (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.

With Babel, we hit the most significant flaw in the first season of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. Put frankly, Babel is the first story that could easily have worked as an episode of the original Star Trek or of Star Trek: The Next Generation. Indeed, Michael Piller concedes in Captains’ Logs Supplemental – The Unauthorized Guide to the New Trek Voyages that Babel had a history longer than that of Deep Space Nine itself:

We had this premise for over five years at Next Generation. It was written by the same person who wrote “Hollow Pursuits” for us, and we had always been attracted to the idea that you could suddenly lose the ability to use language and communicate, and how people are able to communicate with each other.

This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it’s worth noting that the first season of Deep Space Nine was airing concurrently with the sixth season of The Next Generation. If people wanted to see stories that could work on The Next Generation, it made more sense to see them executed on that show by a production team with experience in these sorts of plots.

While Babel isn’t a bad episode by any means, there’s a sense that it has been cobbled together from leftovers at another table, and the result isn’t nearly as satisfying as it should be.

Chief concerns...

Chief concerns…

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Star Trek – This Side of Paradise (Review)

To celebrate the release of Star Trek: Into Darkness this month, we’ll be running through the first season of the classic Star Trek all this month. Check back daily to get ready to boldly go. It’s only logical.

Star Trek always had a curious relationship with the hippie movement in the late sixties. On a surface level, you’d assume that the series would have a great deal of empathy for the idealistic and pacifist movement. After all, the show embraced counter-culture in a fairly significant way, offering none-too-subtle criticisms of American foreign policy in episodes like A Taste of Armageddon, and harbouring some very serious concerns about authority in adventures like Dagger of the Mind. What was The Naked Time but an embrace of fin de siècle anxiety mere months before “the summer of love”? After all, the nineteenth century European fin de siècle period had produced Der Wandervogel, considered one of the predecessors to the hippie movement.

And yet the show never seemed entirely comfortable with the youth movement. This would be much more obvious third season’s dire The Way to Eden, but the show’s sense of unease is quite palpable here, as Kirk finds himself trying to deal with a crew that have sampled some mind-altering vegetation and are now embracing free love.

Flower power...

Flower power…

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Star Trek – The Return of the Archons (Review)

To celebrate the release of Star Trek: Into Darkness this month, we’ll be running through the first season of the classic Star Trek all this month. Check back daily to get ready to boldly go. It’s only logical.

It is really hard to believe that this is the first time we’ve really had one of these plots, with the Enterprise visiting an alien civilisation, meddling thoroughly and freeing the population from oppression. Of course, that’s probably because the universe seemed so vast an empty in the first few episodes. The only planets seemed to be either lifeless rocks or human colonies. From this point on, the galaxy is going to seem a whole lot busier.

Return of the Archons is a little bit like an expansion of the archetypal Star Trek plot established in What Are Little Girls Made Of? The Enterprise visits an alien world following up on the disappearance of Federation personnel. When they arrive, they discover sinister plans afoot involving evil artificial intelligences that plan on stomping out free will. Kirk promptly uses his humanity to talk the machines into destroying himself.

However, Return of the Archons deals with a whole civilisation trapped in the midst of this sinister robotic plot. Kirk and his crew aren’t strolling through an alien graveyard. This is a living, breathing society. And this is the first time that Kirk would save an entire civilisation.

Some men just want to watch the world burn...

Some men just want to watch the world burn…

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Star Trek – Tomorrow is Yesterday (Review)

To celebrate the release of Star Trek: Into Darkness this month, we’ll be running through the first season of the classic Star Trek all this month. Check back daily to get ready to boldly go. It’s only logical.

It’s interesting how easily you can trace a line back from the original Star Trek films to the television show which inspired them. Each of the first four films has a very clear predecessor, an episode broadcast during the show’s run which seems to serve as something of a thematic forerunner. Star Trek: The Motion Picture is so similar to The Changeling that Star Trek: The Original Series 365 dubs it “Where Nomad Has Gone Before.” The Wrath of Khan is obviously rooted in Space Seed. Kirk’s decision to hijack the Enterprise and go against regulations to save his first officer in The Search for Spock feels like a full circle from Spock’s efforts to help Pike in The Menagerie.

And Tomorrow is Yesterday feels like a bit of a dry run for Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home. The crew might not have to save any whales, but it’s a comedic time-travel adventure that finds the Enterprise crew visiting the twentieth century and trying to avoid altering the time-line too much. Tomorrow is Yesterday feels a little simplistic when compared to some of the franchise’s later interactions with time-travel, but it is a fun and entertaining little episode. It’s easy to see why The Voyage Home might be tempted to revisit the set-up.

Flying the friendly skies...

Flying the friendly skies…

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Star Trek – The Galileo Seven (Review)

To celebrate the release of Star Trek: Into Darkness this month, we’ll be running through the first season of the classic Star Trek all this month. Check back daily to get ready to boldly go. It’s only logical.

It’s amazing to think that only now, almost half-way through the first year of Star Trek, the show is doing a Spock-centric episode. Spock is an iconic and instantly recognisable part of Star Trek lore, to the point that Leonard Nimoy’s version of the character served as the link between the classic series and JJ Abrams’ 2009 reboot of the franchise. The character appeared in The Cage, the very first episode of Star Trek ever produced. He is perhaps even more iconic than James T. Kirk himself.

So it feels slightly weird, then, that The Galileo Seven should serve as the first episode of the series completely devoted to Spock as a character, pushing Jim firmly to the background as we get a look at Spock’s first command experience.

Talk about carrying dead weight...

Talk about carrying dead weight…

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Star Trek – The Naked Time (Review)

To celebrate the release of Star Trek: Into Darkness this month, we’ll be running through the first season of the classic Star Trek all this month. Check back daily to get ready to boldly go. It’s only logical.

Star Trek is, by its nature, an inherently optimistic television show. I seem to keep mentioning that in these reviews, as the first season of the show subverts and plays with the notion of an idealised future. However, despite the suggestion that evil is necessary in The Enemy Within or the death of the last of a species in The Man Trap or the suggestion that man’s next evolutionary phase would be truly horrifying in Where No Man Has Gone Before, Star Trek is still a hopeful vision of a possible future. It’s a story about a world where mankind hasn’t wiped each other out and where we can go (relatively) peacefully among the stars. It’s a world without racism or classism. There is sexism in Star Trek, but I’ll give the producers the benefit of the doubt and assume it’s not intentional.

So The Naked Time feels a little weird, being – as it is – a story about the collapse of civilisation at the end of a world. Not our world, mind you, but there’s a very clear sense of social collapse mirrored in the literal collapse of planet Psi-2000.

How logical...

How logical…

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