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Star Trek: Voyager – Prophecy (Review)

The big surprise with Prophecy is not that Star Trek: Voyager is doing a Klingon-centric story, despite being set on the other side of the galaxy. The big surprise with Prophecy is that it took the series so long to get around to it.

Of course, there are lots of very good reasons why Voyager should never have had to resort to a Klingon-centric story. After all, Voyager is a series about a ship stranded half-way across the galaxy. The whole premise of the series is to get away from the familiar and established Star Trek aliens, to take a break from the familiar and iconic races like the Romulans or the Klingons, and to introduce new aliens like the Kazon, the Vidiians, the Hirogen, the Malon. Caretaker threw the crew into the Delta Quadrant to give the show a clean break.

Klingon in there!

However, the pull of the familiar is strong. Voyager wasted little time in building episodes around familiar alien menaces; Eye of the Needle featured a Romulan, Death Wish featured Q, False Profits featured two Ferengi, Blood Fever reintroduced the Borg as a potential menace. Few Star Trek aliens are as iconic as the Klingons. Even the most casual of audience members knows the name “Klingon” and probably has an understanding of how the culture works. Next to Vulcans – and even then, arguably just Spock – Klingons are Star Trek to casual viewers.

Indeed, Prophecy is far from the first time that Voyager has indulged its fascination with Klingon culture. Torres was split into human and Klingon halves in Faces. Holographic Klingons played significant roles in episodes like Day of Honour, The Killing Game, Part I and The Killing Game, Part II. Ronald D. Moore only worked on Voyager for a very short time, but – with the assistance of Bryan Fuller – helped to send Torres to the Klingon afterlife in Barge of the Dead. Indeed, even Endgame will feature recurring actor Vaughn Armstrong as a secondary Klingon character.

“You can’t make a mess in here, this is the mess hall!”

All of which is to say that while Voyager took its time to do an episode built around a major guest cast of new flesh-and-blood Klingon characters, the series had a long-standing interest in these most memorable and distinctive of Star Trek aliens. In its own weird way, the inclusion of such an overtly Klingon-centric episode plays into the seventh season’s weird fixation on the perceived “Star-Trek-ness” of Voyager, a strong desire to assert the aspects of Voyager that connected it to the larger Star Trek canon.

However, as with a lot of these recurring “Star-Trek-y” elements in the seventh season of Voyager, there is a strong sense with Prophecy that the production team have no greater understanding of the Klingons than their long-standing connection to Star Trek lore.

Today is a good day to try.

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The X-Files – Provenance (Review)

This December, we’re taking a trip back in time to review the ninth season of The X-Files.

Provenance and Providence are a landmark moment for The X-Files. They represent the last mid-season two-parter.

The mid-season two-parter has been an institution since the early second season, when external factors forced the production team to improvise around Gillian Anderson’s pregnancy. It was decided that the character of Scully would marginalised and written out so as to avoid dealing with the pregnancy, and the centre-piece of that plan was an epic two-parter that would air during in October 1994. Duane Barry and Ascension were such a big hit that the production team opted to do a second mid-season two-parter in February 1995, with Colony and End Game.

The Truth will not be buried...

The Truth will not be buried…

The show never looked back. Those episodes quickly codified the mythology, becoming a highlights in the season schedule. The two-parters typically aired during Sweeps and occasionally managed to garner press and media attention. They featured bigger budgets and impressive scale, with many of those two-parters standing out as prime examples of The X-Files as “event” television. The submarine in the ice in End Game, the leap to the train in Nisei, the mid-air alien abduction in Max. These were blockbuster moments.

Provenance and Providence would mark the end of this rich tradition. Sadly, they do not embody the finest attributes of the form.

Burnt notice.

Burnt notice.

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Millennium – Monster (Review)

This May and June, we’re taking a trip back in time to review the fifth season of The X-Files and the second season of Millennium.

Monster continues the process of laying the groundwork for the second season of Millennium. Glen Morgan and James Wong had very consciously shaken things up with The Beginning and the End, and the first third of the second season is clearly intended to construct a solid foundation for the rest of the year. Looking at the plot points and character beats from the various episodes, they read almost like a checklist of things to address or introduce before the series can really start moving under its own power again.

Even outside of the dramatic changes wrought by The Beginning and the End, the other episodes in this stretch of the season each have their own purpose. Beware of the Dog introduces us to the Old Man, affectionately riffs on the first season format, and outlines the refactored Millennium Group. In turn, Sense and Antisense riffs on The X-Files and helps to identify areas of overlap with Millennium. A Single Blade of Grass gives Frank back his psychic powers, albeit in a more powerful and abstract form. The Curse of Frank Black is a character-driven vehicle. 19:19 and The Hand of St. Sebastian get well and truly biblical.

Fire and brimstone...

Fire and brimstone…

The most dramatic aspect of Monster is the introduction of the character of Lara Means. Means becomes a pretty vital part of the second season of Millennium, and is introduced in Monster with an eye to her inevitable role in The Time is Now. Means is a vital cog in the workings of the second season, perhaps the most important part of the mythology explicitly created by Morgan and Wong, instead of simply repurposed and reinvented. Means is a fantastic creation, wonderfully brought to life by actor Kristen Cloke and well-realised by Morgan and Wong’s scripting.

However, even outside of the important introduction of Lara Means to Millennium, Monster feels like an episode that exists to set up and outline the larger themes and ideas of the season in a way that foreshadows the larger arc. Like A Single Blade of Grass, it reiterates themes that will become a lot more important as the year goes on. Like Beware of the Dog, it uses the familiar template of a first-season Millennium episode to do this.

I believe in angels...

I believe in angels…

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Millennium – Maranatha (Review)

This February and March, we’re taking a trip back in time to review the fourth season of The X-Files and the first season of Millennium.

Maranatha provides a nice close to Chip Johannessen’s four scripts for the first season of Millennium.

At its core, Maranatha is a story about stories. It is a tale about mythmaking and storytelling. It is about a monstrous man who seeks to transform himself into a creature of legend, brutally slaughtering innocent people in order to feed the idea that he is something much more than a corrupt political official. As such, the story sits quite comfortably alongside Johannessen’s other three scripts for the season, each of which is about storytelling or mythmaking in some form or another.

The power of Antichrist compels you...

The power of Antichrist compels you…

In Blood Relatives, James Dickerson attends the funerals of people he never knew, pretending to have been a part of the lives of the recently deceased; he tells stories and memories that never happened. In Force Majeure, Frank Black encounters a radical group of people who believe in the story of the end times; whether true or false, this story provides meaning to the life of the otherwise lost Dennis Hoffman. In Walkabout, Frank Black tries to piece together his recent history, constructing a narrative to account for out-of-character behaviour.

Maranatha serves as something of a culmination of this approach to Millennium. It the story of a sadist who seeks to elevate himself to the status of legend, dictating and shaping his own narrative through fear and manipulation.

"I wanna take his face... off!"

“I wanna take his face… off!”

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Star Trek: Deep Space Nine – Destiny (Review)

This September and October, we’re taking a look at the jam-packed 1994 to 1995 season of Star Trek, including Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and Star Trek: Voyager. Check back daily for the latest review.

The biggest problem with Destiny is that it doesn’t feel fully-formed. The show plays more like a series of vignettes than a single story. There are some nice character beats, and a sense that Star Trek: Deep Space Nine is an ensemble show, but Destiny meanders far too much. It seems like it wanders around without any singular purpose, any strong central point to tether it.

Is it about Sisko’s relation to the title of “Emissary”? Is about peace between Bajor and Cardassia? Is it about O’Brien and flirty Cardassians? Is it about Kira’s faith and her position on Deep Space Nine? Is it about end time prophecies?

It seems to be about all these things, but with no real commitment to any of them above the others. The end result is that it’s not about any of them particularly well.

Picture perfect...

Picture perfect…

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Non-Review Review: You Will Meet a Tall, Dark Stranger

This film was seen as part of the Jameson Dublin International Film Festival.

You Will Meet a Tall, Dark Stranger is – we’re told at the start by the (now seemingly customary) narrator – “a tale told by an idiot, filled with sound and fury, signifying nothing.” It doesn’t use the exact quote from Macbeth, but it references it pretty explicitly. However, this seems less like the genuine intention of Woody Allen and more like an excuse scribbled on the introduction to a term paper he couldn’t be bothered finishing, as if to declare to the world, “It’s okay if nothing is ever really resolved or developed and random stuff seems to occur for no reason – that’s the stylistic approach I’m adopting!” I don’t doubt that the movie’s inconclusive nature is undoubtedly intentional, but it’s inconsistency is still infuriating – perhaps more for the sections of the movie that do engage rather than those that meander. It’s not necessary a bad film – Allen is still a great storyteller, even when he doesn’t seem especially bothered – but it’s just not up there with Vicki Cristina Barcelona or even Match Point.

Growing old disgracefully...

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