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Star Trek – Mirror Images (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.

There has always been something rather strange about IDW’s Star Trek publishing line. How does the company decide what ideas got to print? What indicators do they look at in order to determine that one concept is worth exploration, but another is not? Basing the monthly on-going comic series around JJ Abrams’ rebooted Star Trek universe makes a great deal of sense, as does commissioning D.C. Fontana to write Year Four – The Enterprise Experiment. However, there is a sense that a lot of their output comes from throwing darts at boards.

For example, comics based on Star Trek: The Next Generation and Star Trek: Deep Space Nine have been confined to miniseries or arcs of the on-going monthly series; this seems odd, given that the market buying comics books would have been at the perfect age to feel nostalgia for them. However, miniseries like Intelligence Gathering or Assimilation2 are given as much prominence as strange alternate universe stories as The Last Generation or Mirror Images.

Pained leadership...

Pained leadership…

It isn’t that The Last Generation or Mirror Images aren’t interesting, at least on paper. While the execution in both cases might leave a little to be desired, there are interesting stories to be told in the classic “what if…” comic book style. However, it is hard to believe that there is as much demand for the four-issue story of mirror!Kirk taking command of the I.S.S. Enterprise and killing mirror!Pike as there is to see Data or Odo or Picard again. Given the success that IDW has enjoyed resurrecting The X-Files, it would seem nineties nostalgia is out there.

There is an argument to be made that the classic crew is currently more popular and iconic than any of the spin-offs, largely thanks to the recent cinematic reboot. However, is there really so much demand for a story based around Christopher Pike that four issues of mirror!Pike scheming demand to published?

Only logical...

Only logical…

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Star Trek: Mirror Universe – Shards & Shadows: The Greater Good by Margaret Wander Bonanno

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.

If Star Trek and Star Trek: Into Darkness proved one thing, it’s that it sucks to be Christopher Pike, in any universe. The first captain of the USS Enterprise not only had to wait until 1988 to see his pilot (The Cage) finally broadcast on television, he also got shuffled off-screen unceremoniously in the franchise’s first two-parter (The Menagerie) and was never really mentioned again. When JJ Abrams’ Star Trek introduced us to a rebooted Christopher Pike played wonderfully by Bruce Greenwood, he observed of George Kirk was captain of a starship for eight minutes. It seemed like Pike ended up in command of the Enterprise for only slightly longer than that.

It seems that even mirror!Pike can’t catch a break, as Margaret Wander Bonanno demonstrates in her short little glimpse into how exactly mirror!James Tiberius Kirk took control of the ISS Enterprise.

st-shardsandshadows

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Star Trek – The Menagerie, Part II (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.

I will admit that I am sceptical of Gene Roddenberry as a writer. There’s no denying that Roddenberry was a fantastic ideas man. After all, his concepts and characters have stood the test of time. Without Roddenberry, there would be none of the Star Trek that we all love so dearly. As such, I feel a little guilty when I criticise his writing, or when I argue that his influence on the early years of Star Trek: The Next Generation held the show back from greatness. (I’d suggest that it was only when Roddenberry’s involvement was minimised, and the writers were allowed to add shading to his futuristic utopia that The Next Generation truly came into its own.)

Still, Roddenberry was always an excellent salesman, and his script for The Menagerie brings out that quality in abundance. The Menagerie is effectively an excuse for why the show ran out of original scripts half-way through its first year, and Roddenberry might not make the most convincing argument, but he still makes it compelling.

Watching Star Trek on Star Trek...

Watching Star Trek on Star Trek…

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Star Trek – Burning Dreams by Margaret Wander Bonanno (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.

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

It’s amazing just how iconic and influential the character of Christopher Pike is, despite the fact that he only appeared as a guest character in a two-part episode of the first season of Star Trek. Of course, he was the lead character of a pilot that was filmed in 1964, but not aired until almost a quarter of a century later, but it still seems strange that the character should hold such sway over Star Trek fandom. Perhaps it’s a sign of how preoccupied fans are with trivia and minutiae. Maybe it’s a sign of how skilfully Star Trek cultivates holes in its own mythology (in this case Pike’s time as captain) for the fans to fill. It might even be the lingering sense of tragedy surrounding the “captain who never was”, played by an actor who died at the young age of 42.

Whatever the reason, it feels appropriate that Pike was one of the characters celebrated and included in the franchise’s 40th anniversary celebrations, and the character is well served by the decision to task Margaret Wander Bonanno with writing “the definitive Pike novel.”

tos-burningdreams

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Star Trek – Where No Man Has Gone Before (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.

In a way, there’s a very clear divide between The Cage and Where No Man Has Gone Before. It’s clearer than the strange new actor sitting in the middle of the Bridge or the fact that Spock is suddenly a lot less casual. In a way, each is perfectly positioned in popular consciousness. The Cage was produced in late 1964, but wouldn’t be shown on television until 1988, after spending years touring the fan circuit. It remains a strange bit of Star Trek history, sitting simultaneously outside any of the five television shows, and simultaneously a completely inexorable part of the franchise’s evolution. It’s where it all began, but not where the first Star Trek began.

In contrast, Where No Man Has Gone Before feels more like the pilot episode of Star Trek. Sure, the fashion changes a bit in the episodes to come, the entire cast has yet to be assembled, but this is recognisably the same ship and the same show as The Corbomite Manoeuvre or The Man Trap. It’s more than the actors filling roles, the consistent characterisation of Spock or the fact that it actually aired on television in September 1966. This is what the next three years of Star Trek will be like. It’s an aesthetic or an approach to storytelling that is markedly different to the way that The Cage tackled many of the same themes and ideas.

While The Cage laid down many of the philosophical underpinnings of the broader Star Trek universe – including the classic show – it is also a lot less physical and visceral than the classic Star Trek. Indeed, The Cage featured the Captain of the Enterprise reasoning with an advanced bunch of god-like aliens, appealing to human virtues. The action sequences felt a bit extraneous. In contrast, Where No Man Has Gone Before sees the Captain of the Enterprise punching a god-like being repeatedly in the face while hitting on the same themes.

I think that’s perhaps the most dynamic difference between not only The Cage and Where No Man Has Gone Before, but between Star Trek and its spin-offs.

All the old familiar faces...

All the old familiar faces…

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Star Trek: Early Voyages #1 – Flesh of my Flesh (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.

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

In the late nineties, Marvel were publishing Star Trek comic books. One of those books, perhaps the book garnering the most critical praise, was Star Trek: Early Voyages. Written by Dan Abnett and Ian Edginton, the series was intended to follow the mission of the USS Enterprise under the command of Captain Christopher Pike. Published monthly, the comic is perhaps the best indication of what a Star Trek show starring Christopher Pike might have actually looked like. Although the series was cancelled suddenly after only seventeen issues, ending on a cliffhanger, it is still a fascinating look at what might have been.

Looks like they've hooked a Pike...

Looks like they’ve hooked a Pike…

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Star Trek – The Cage (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.

The Cage is fascinating. Looking at it now, it holds up phenomenally well a s apiece of sixties science-fiction. However, it feels like we’re watching a prototype of Star Trek. In many respects, The Cage feels like a rough sketch that captures some essentials, but is missing out on the finer details. Spock is there! But he smiles! The set design looks the same, but the characters are different. Some of the cast fill the same roles, but some are dramatically different. Watching The Cage, you can see a lot of the philosophy that Gene Roddenberry would bring to Star Trek, but it’s very difficult to imagine an on-going series spinning out of this adventure, let alone one that managed to become as iconic or influential as Star Trek would ever be.

Still, it’s pretty solid viewing. It’s entertaining on its own terms, but it’s also informative in the context of the series. It’s more like dry run or a test drive of the concept.

To boldly go... for some reworking...

To boldly go… for some reworking…

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