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Star Trek – Space Seed (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.

Following the commercial success (and lack of critical success) of Star Trek: The Motion Picture, Paramount made a conscious decision to side-line Gene Roddenberry. Given that his plans for the sequel involved Spock travelling through time to assassinate Kennedy, we can likely all agree that was probably a good thing. Harve Bennett was tasked with producing the sequel, and took to the task of researching what would become the second Star Trek film. Demonstrating considerable respect for the source material, Bennett locked himself away and screened all three seasons of the show, looking for inspiration.

Apparently he only needed to reach the tail end of the first season, because he had found the basis of his film by the closing credits of Space Seed.

You Khan do it...

You Khan do it…

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Star Trek – Arena (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.

Arena is a fascinating piece of Star Trek, because it’s such an iconic and important piece of franchise history, despite the fact that it’s far from the best that the show has to offer. Indeed, the basic premise of the show is rather generic science-fiction B-movie stuff. Kirk is forced to compete against a lizard-like alien by some god-like beings to ensure the survival of his crew. The script, by producer Gene L. Coon, is credited to a story written by Fredric Brown. Despite its similarities to Brown’s short story of the same name, Arena also shares quite a few plot points with a 1964 episode of The Outer Limits, Fun & Games. None of this is to suggest that Coon was consciously channelling these sources when he wrote the teleplay, just to illustrate how generic the basic plot is.

However, despite (or perhaps because of) this rather straightforward and familiar set-up, Arena is a truly memorable episode of Star Trek. Like quite a few other episodes of the original Star Trek, the episode produced images and concepts that have resonated well outside Star Trek fandom, to the point where elements like the Gorn or Kirk’s highly dubious improvised weapon will be recognisable to people who have never actually seen the episode. However, the episode is also vitally important to the Star Trek franchise itself, as it offers a more thorough expansion and exploration of the back story that has been inconsistently hinted at throughout this first season. Arena is really the first episode to feature a fully-formed framework for the internal logic of the Star Trek universe, one that has informed half-a-century of the franchise.

Plus, you know, Kirk wrestles a lizard man.

Don't pretend you aren't loving every minute of this, Shatner!

Don’t pretend you aren’t loving every minute of this, Shatner!

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Star Trek – Balance of Terror (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’ve talked about it about it quite a bit in my earlier reviews, so I won’t dwell on it too much here, but Star Trek got really good really quickly. Balance of Terror is only the ninth ever episode of Star Trek ever produced, but it stands as one of the finest entries in the original series, and perhaps even the franchise. It also represents the moment where the model of what Star Trek would be really sort of solidified. The first eight episodes had contained any number of classic Star Trek tropes.

The Cage and Charlie X gave us old and immeasurably powerful alien civilisations, while Where No Man Has Gone Before gave us a god-like being. The Man Trap gave us space monsters. Mudd’s Women gave us awkward gender politics. The Enemy Within created the whole “transporter malfunction” and “evil duplicate” subgenres. However, Balance of Terror is the first episode to suggest outer space might be more than the place where crazy stuff happens and our heroes bump into monsters or ancient civilisations. The universe might have its own politics, its own history, its own civilisations that will emerge, contrasted with mankind’s expansion into space.

The Klingons are undoubtedly the most recognisable and iconic of the classic Star Trek races, but the Romulans are the first of the franchise mainstays to appear, and Balance of Terror is the first episode to devote considerable effort to world-building the Star Trek universe.

The not-so-great bird of the galaxy...

The not-so-great bird of the galaxy…

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Watch! Star Trek: Into Darkness Teaser!

Given we’re spending a month covering Star Trek: The Next Generation‘s twenty-fifth anniversary, it’s worth sharing this, the trailer for JJ Abrams’ Star Trek: Into Darkness. I’m actually quite looking forward to it, as Benedict Cumberbatch is making quite a name for himself, and he seems perfectly suited to this sort of role.

The trailer plays it a bit coy, refusing to reveal Cumberbatch’s identity. Based off a one-scene-longer Japanese version of the trailer, the internet is going wild with the speculation that he is Khan, the villain from the episode Space Seed and also Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. I can’t see the production team recycling such an obvious character, if only because he’s so iconic to fans as to be sacrosanct, but not easily recognisable to casual movie goers. (Okay, that shot of Kirk screaming “KHANNNNN!” is one of the great movie moments, but beyond that… do casual movie-goers recognise the character in the same way they would Darth Vader or the Joker?)

Personally, I’m hoping that Abrams and his creative team have done something similar to what Meyer did when he drafted Khan into Star Trek II. Meyer reviewed the original series to find a villain who offered the potential for an exciting story and found Khan. I would like to think that an examination of the show might find another. Given his dialogue about revenge against the Federation, I wouldn’t mind seeing Garth of Izar from Whom the Gods Destroy get reimagined, but that’s off the top of my head.

Still, enjoy the trailer and sound off below.