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Star Trek – The Lights of Zetar (Review)

This July and August, we’re celebrating the release of Star Trek Beyond by taking a look back at the third season of the original Star Trek. Check back every Monday, Wednesday and Friday for the latest update.

The Lights of Zetar is another third season ghost story.

The third season of Star Trek is populated with these weird stories about long-dead souls refusing to pass on. There is Kirk’s haunting of the Enterprise in The Tholian Web, the dead world of Scalos in Wink of an Eye, the replicas of the long-dead Losira in That Which Survives, the title character in Requiem for Methuselah, the escapes into the past in All Our Yesterdays. It is almost as though the third season is working through its anxieties, a season television trapped between two cancellations.

Flash of inspiration.

Flash of inspiration.

The Light of Zetar features yet more death and destruction. The mangled bodies inside the Memory Alpha facility, contorted over the furniture. The lone survivor, screaming in agony. The eponymous spectral apparition that “cannot be a phenomenon of nature.” The inhabitants of Zetar, rendered non-corporeal through the destruction of their world, refusing to acknowledge that they have truly been dead for thousands upon thousands years. The argument that Mira Romaine must sacrifice herself so that the Zetar might live.

More than a ghost story, The Lights of Zetar is an exorcism story.

More like Memory Omega.

More like Memory Omega.

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Star Trek – By Any Other Name (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.

By Any Other Name is very much a stock episode of Star Trek. It hits on all manner of familiar themes and ideas. It’s a story about powerful aliens who seem to overpower the crew, only to be outmanoeuvred themselves. It is about the Enterprise literally going where no human has gone before. It is about how humans are undeniably and incomparably special – about how becoming human opens up the aliens to a world of sense and experience.

However, By Any Other Name never really has anything particularly insightful to say about any of this stuff. The script to the episode is a mess, despite the best efforts of D.C. Fontana to develop the character beats. For a show based around such core Star Trek concepts and storytelling devices, By Any Other Name is surprisingly all over the place, with a wildly dissonant tone and a sense that the script was desperately padded in order to extend it out to the requisite fifty minutes.

"No dice, Captain..."

“No dice, Captain…”

By Any Other Name is not a terrible episode of Star Trek, but it’s not a particularly good one either. It is just “there.” In many ways, it feels like an example of an episode designed to fill a gap in twenty-odd-episodes-a-year schedule. After all, the last eight episodes of the season were pushed into production at short notice when NBC opted to pick up the show for the rest of the season during the production of The Gamesters of Triskelion. It makes sense that the episodes in this final stretch of the third season are somewhat rough.

By Any Other Name is a familiar Star Trek plot with a somewhat bloated script and a sense that the show is just trying to eat up minutes between here and the end of the season.

"It appears the rock knows as little as we do, sir..."

“It appears the rock knows as little as we do, sir…”

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Non-Review Review: Star Trek V – The Final Frontier

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.

Star Trek V: The Final Frontier is not a good movie. There’s really nothing that can be excavated from the film that might redeem it. It isn’t a misunderstood masterpiece. It isn’t an insightful diamond in the rough. It’s just a bad film, the one which forms the cornerstone of the “odd-numbered Star Trek films” curse. It’s indulgent, pretentious and narrow-minded. It tries to blend a world-weary cynicism with an ill-judged and mean-spirited sense of humour.

Despite being shorter than Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, it feels remarkably longer. It feels like a rather halfhearted attempt to recapture the spirit of the television show – oblivious to the fact that the franchise has spent the past decade moving onwards. It confuses ponderous pretension for intelligent insight.

Feeling blue...

Feeling blue…

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Star Trek – Leonard McCoy, Frontier Doctor by John Byrne (Review)

The 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.

It’s fascinating how few stories take place around Star Trek: The Motion Picture. There’s a rake of tie-in material that exists to flesh-out the Enterprise’s five-year mission, and a large volume of material set during the period from Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan straight through to Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country. However, the space around The Motion Picture has been somewhat overlooked by writers delving into the expanded world of Star Trek tie-in fiction.

To be fair, there are reasons for this. Although it was a box office success, looked stunning for the time, had a rake of big ideas and welcomed the crew to the screen, The Motion Picture isn’t generally considered to be one of the high points of the franchise. As such, it seems reasonable that it garners less attention, the affection shown by a few writers aside. There’s also the fact that The Motion Picture opens with the crew of the Enterprise broken up, scattered amongst the cosmos.

The Motion Picture sees Kirk putting the band back together after the universe seems to have forgotten about them, pulling them out of mothballs. Any story set in the lead-up to The Motion Picture would have to feature the ensemble all separated and going about their own thing. This limits the kind of stories that can be told in the setting, and makes it less appealing than other settings in Star Trek continuity.

John Byrne’s Leonard McCoy, Frontier Doctor gives us a glimpse of what a project set between the end of the Enterprise’s mission and the start of The Motion Picture might look like. It’s essentially a solo adventure series focusing on one member of the cast, and it’s absolutely fascinating.

These are the voyages of the Starship... Yorktown...

These are the voyages of the Starship… Yorktown…

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Star Trek (Gold Key) #56 – No Time Like the Past (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 remarkable to think that Star Trek was kept alive in the decade between the airing of The Turnabout Intruder and Star Trek: The Motion Picture. The most popular television show to air in the 1968 and 1969 season was Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In, a show that was apparently lucky to receive two “best of” DVD collections in the early part of the last decade, collecting a grand total of eight of the 140 episodes. Given that Star Trek didn’t even rank among the twenty highest rated shows of that broadcast season, it’s incredible that the show endured for so long.

To be fair, there is a lot of material which fills the gap between the last episode of the live action television show and the first feature film. There was Star Trek: The Animated Series, perhaps the most high-profile release. There were a few novels, even if the tie-in line wouldn’t necessarily take off until the eighties. And there were the comic books, produced by Gold Key, notable as perhaps the largest publisher of non-superhero comics in the seventies.

These comics weren’t classics. It’s hard to argue that they are essential additions to the mythos, or that anybody would miss anything be ignoring them entirely. However, there’s a weird pulpy sci-fi charm to these stories that makes them interesting, even when you would wonder whether the artist or writer had actually watched any episodes of the show they were apparently adapting.

Trippy!

Trippy!

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Star Trek – Vulcan’s Glory by D.C. Fontana (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.

I’ve never really felt too strongly one way or another about continuity. I never got too upset about Klingon forehead ridges, or the fact that Khan somehow remembered Chekov from an episode that took place before he joined the Enterprise. I’ve always found the use of the term “canon” to describe the shared continuity as more than a little indulgent or absurd. I consider some of the better tie-in novels I have read to be a worthy part of the Star Trek universe, regardless of the fact that they may not fit, or they may contradict what was depicted on-screen. I’ve never been too tightly tied to the notion that something is “important” or “in continuity” among this 700-episode franchise.

Still, I can’t help but feel like there’s something almost legitimate about Vulcan’s Glory. It is a novel from writer D.C. Fontana, who served as script editor and writer on the classic Star Trek show, and is regarded as one of the guiding lights of the franchise. She went on to write for both Star Trek: The Next Generation and Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. Given her importance to the show over its extended history, anything Fontana writes about it is worthy of note. Indeed, Vulcan’s Glory was originally published in 1989 and was reissued in 2006 for the franchise’s fortieth anniversary.

Even to somebody reluctant to consign “importance” or “worthy” to a tie-in based on outside factors, the story of Spock’s first mission on board the Enterprise, written by one of the strongest writers of the original Star Trek and a guiding influence on the franchise, still jumps out as a pretty important book.

vulcansglory

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