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Star Trek – Bread and Circuses (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.

Bread and Circuses is not subtle. Then again, that is the point.

There’s a lot of interesting stuff happening in Bread and Circuses, the fourteenth episode produced for the second season, but the last to air. There’s the idea of a world dominated by “a twentieth century Rome”, a rogue captain, a Prime Directive dilemma and a scathing indictment of modern television. Not only is it one of the last episodes with a “produced by Gene L. Coon” credit, it is also an episode co-written by Roddenberry and Coon. It is also the episode of Star Trek that endorses Christianity most explicitly and heavily.

"Wait, we're only getting it in black and white?"

“Wait, we’re only getting it in black and white?”

Bread and Circuses is a bold and audacious piece of television, full of venom and righteous anger, rich in satire and cynicism. It’s a plot so ridiculously over-stuffed with good ideas that viewers are liable to forgive the show’s somewhat cop-out ending where Kirk and his away team beam back to the Enterprise and continue on their merry way as though little has actually happened. Bread and Circuses feels like it uses every minute of its fifty-minute runtime wisely, balancing character with world-building.

It is probably a little bit too messy and disjointed to be labelled a dyed-in-the-wool classic, particularly when compared to the shows produced around it. Nevertheless, it is a decidedly ambitious piece of work, and one that demonstrates what Star Trek could do when it sets its mind to something.

When in Rome...

When in Rome…

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Star Trek: The Next Generation – The Sky’s the Limit: Suicide Note by Geoff Trowbridge (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.

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

Suicide Note is another one of those great “expanding from dangling plot threads left at the conclusion of an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation stories that are popular in tie-in media. In this case, writer Geoff Trowbridge is building off the end of The Defector, which saw Captain Picard receiving a suicide note from the eponymous defector Admiral Jarok. Jarok had asked Picard to pass the not on to his family, which was not possible at the time.

Of course, The Next Generation never really dealt with these threads, because – put quite simply – it wasn’t that kind of show. So it’s fun to pick up these threads and to try to recontextualise them in terms of everything that has unfolded since. In this case, Trowbridge is able to explore Jarok’s sacrifice in the context of the Federation and Romulan alliance towards the end of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, in the wake of In the Pale Moonlight.

In keeping with Trowbridge’s The Chimes at Midnight, Suicide Note is structured as a critical exploration of American history, through the prism of Star Trek. While The Chimes at Midnight was a brutal deconstruction of the franchise’s roots in the Second World War, Suicide Note is framed in a more modern context.


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