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Star Trek: The Next Generation – The Ensigns of Command (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 Ensigns of Command is a Data-centric script from Melinda Snodgrass, the writer responsible for The Measure of a Man. It was the first episode produced in the show’s third season, even if it was the second to air. As with so many third season episodes, The Ensigns of Command was beset by behind-the-scenes difficulties. These issues plagued the episode through all stages of production – from the script through to post-production.

It is a wonder that The Ensigns of Command turned out watchable. While it certainly can’t measure up to Snodgrass’ earlier Data-centric story, it is an intriguing character study that benefits from a focus on character and an understanding of Star Trek: The Next Generation works. While far from an exceptional or defining episode of The Next Generation, it’s a demonstration of how far the show has come that even an episode as troubled as this could look so professional and feel so satisfying.

A fun shoot...

A fun shoot…

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Doctor Who: The Greatest Show in the Galaxy (Review)

To celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the longest-running science-fiction show in the world, I’ll be taking weekly looks at some of my own personal favourite stories and arcs, from the old and new series, with a view to encapsulating the sublime, the clever and the fiendishly odd of the BBC’s Doctor Who.

The Greatest Show in the Galaxy originally aired in 1988.

Sometimes I think it’s you that’s crazy, not Deadbeat here.

Anybody remotely interesting is mad in some way or another.

– Ace and the Doctor cut to the heart of Doctor Who

It’s very hard to believe that The Greatest Show in the Galaxy aired as the final story of the twenty-fifth season of Doctor Who. Stories like Remembrance of the Daleks and Silver Nemesis were clearly anniversary fodder, celebrating the progress of the show to this point. The Happiness Patrol was a delightfully surreal oddity that has only really been noticed by the general public in recent years, with news breaking in 2010 that Andrew Cartmel had been using Doctor Who to tell politically subversive stories. Which, I suppose, confirms just how few people were watching The Happiness Patrol in 1988.

The Greatest Show in the Galaxy is as concerned with the legacy of Doctor Who as Remembrance of the Daleks or Silver Nemesis, but it lacks the nostalgic shine. Instead, it’s a stunningly bitter piece of television that offers a pretty damning indictment of what Doctor Who had become by the late eighties, a critique of selling out and chasing ratings and living in constant fear that the gods of entertainment – the middle-class families so desperately courted and so carefully catered to – might tune out and consign the show to oblivion.

The Doctor welcomes you to The Greatest Show in the Galaxy...

The Doctor welcomes you to The Greatest Show in the Galaxy…

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Star Trek: The Next Generation – Code of Honour (Review)

To celebrate the twenty-fifth anniversary of Star Trek: The Next Generation, and also next year’s release of Star Trek: Into Darkness, I’m taking a look at the recent blu ray release of the first season, episode-by-episode. Check back daily for the latest review.

Remember how yesterday I said was hesitant to throw around adjectives like “worst” or “mind-numbingly” or any other similar sounding pejorative term? I was doing that so that when I did string them together to form a sentence or a description, it would carry a bit more weight. After all, Star Trek: The Next Generation didn’t have the strongest first season, as I keep noting apologetically in these opening paragraphs. However, Code of Honour is pretty dire by any measure, and it remains one of the low watermarks of the troubled first season.

Yes, I did type “one of”, but that doesn’t make Code of Honour any easier to manage.

Not quite steps to greatness…

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Bealtaine Film Tour Schedule

I’m always a fan of bringing cinema to as wide an audience as possible, especially to those who can’t or wouldn’t normally attend. After all, I think it’s a wonderful thing to share – but then you probably suspected as much, given you’re reading a blog about film and pop culture. Anyway, I just received the schedule for the Bealtaine 2012 festival. It celebrates creativity as we age, and involves a rich slate of cultural activities aimed at sharing culture with those who wouldn’t normally have access to it. accessCinema and the wonderful folks at the Irish Film institute (with support from Seven Seas Active 55) will be taking three films on tour, including Maggie Smith in My House in Umbria, the classic Gene Kelly film An American in Paris and the underrated Last Chance Harvey. I am quite fond of that one. For those in Dublin, the IFI will also be screening Little Miss Sunshine and Cinema Paradiso, both of which are genuine classics.

The full schedule for the May festival is below. I’d just like to reiterate how cool it is that they do this, and to encourage any readers with any elderly friends or relatives to consider checking out some of these. Visit their official website here. Continue reading

Wallander: Firewall (Review)

The wonderful folks at the BBC have given me access to their BBC Global iPlayer for a month to give the service a go and trawl through the archives. I’ll have some thoughts on the service at the end of the month, but I thought I’d also take the opportunity to enjoy some of the fantastic content.

Firewall feels a bit more like a conventional little mystery thriller, especially measured against Sidetracked, the pilot episode of Wallander. It’s very much a conventional television “whodunnit” (or, perhaps, a “whydunnit”), with our lead character opening an investigation into a fairly simple case, but asking a series of questions that point towards something all-together larger. It does feel a bit lighter than its direct predecessor, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. After all, it retains the two key virtues of the series. Kenneth Branagh is still on fine form as the eponymous detective, while the Swedish scenery is still absolutely haunting.

Hitting a brick Wallander...

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