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Star Trek – Untold Voyages (Review)

This June, we’re taking a look at some classic Star Trek movie tie-ins and other interesting objects. Check back daily for the latest reviews and retrospectives.

There’s something of a continuity lacuna that exists between Star Trek: The Motion Picture and Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. Although the movies were released three years apart, more time appears to have passed for the characters themselves. Some of the changes are quite startling. After fighting so hard to get the Enterprise back in The Motion Picture, Kirk has retired to Earth once again at the start of The Wrath of Khan. After putting the Enterprise back in action in The Motion Picture, it has been converted into a cadet cruiser in The Wrath of Khan.

A lot of stuff has happened, and the gap is relatively under-explored by tie-in material. In contrast, the gap between The Turnabout Intruder (or The Counter-Clock Incident) and The Motion Picture is filled with all sorts of material designed to offer the show the type of closure that it never got on television. The same is true of the gap between The Cage and Where No Man Has Gone Before, with books and comics eager to offer accounts of Pike’s time in command and the transition to Captain James Tiberius Kirk.

Star Trek: Untold Voyages is a five-issue Marvel Comics series published in 1998 designed to bridge The Motion Picture and The Wrath of Khan. Although it wallows a bit in continuity and references, writer Glenn Greenberg uses the series to make some very clever and introspective points about Star Trek as a franchise – in effect, cleverly transitioning from Gene Roddenberry’s “future humans are the best” attitude toward Nicholas Meyer’s more reflective and introspective take on the characters and their world.

Shining star...

Shining star…

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Star Trek: Strange New Worlds VI – The Beginning (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. This is one such entry.

The Borg are, quite possibly, the most significant addition to the Star Trek mythos since the Klingons. They are one of the few modern pieces of Star Trek lore that will be instantly recognisable to a broader audience. They have featured, in some way, in all four of the Star Trek spin-off series. They are constantly rumoured and suggested as a viable antagonist for the rebooted film series. The Borg are a pretty big deal.

And yet, like so many pop culture villains, they seem less threatening the more we know about them. One of the more frequent complaints about the use of the Borg in Star Trek: Voyager was that it made the aliens more familiar, more understandable, more relatable. Continuing to build off the premise of the Borg Queen in Star Trek: First Contact, the Borg became an alien species that Janeway would reason and negotiate with, in stark contrast to Q’s characterisation of the collective in Q Who?

Although Star Trek: Enterprise did manage to turn the Borg’s fascination with mankind into a causal loop, televised Star Trek never managed to produce an origin story for those cybernetic monsters. Ever ready to fill in a perceived blank in the canon, the expanded Star Trek universe has actually proposed a number of origins for the Borg.

st-strangenewworlds6

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Star Trek: The Lost Era – The Buried Age by Christopher L. Bennett (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. This is one such entry. This is actually supplementary to the first season of the Next Generation, specifically the episode Encounter at Farpoint.

“I’m offering the chance to find something entirely new,” Picard teases at one point in The Buried Age. “To begin filling in a tremendous gap in our understanding of galactic history.” In a way, Picard might as well be addressing the reader, explaining one of the many joys of Christopher L. Bennett’s The Buried Age. It is a chance to delve into the world of Star Trek, exploring the lacuna that exists leading directly into Encounter at Farpoint.

tng-theburiedage

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My 12 for ’13: Star Trek Into Darkness & Fighting for the Future…

This is my annual countdown of the 12 movies that really stuck with me this year. It only counts the movies released in Ireland in 2013, so quite a few of this year’s Oscar contenders aren’t eligible, though some of last year’s are.

This is number 6…

Star Trek Into Darkness won’t win any awards for scripting or plotting. It’s very hard to succinctly explain the various overlapping evil plans directed by the movie’s two competing villains – who knows what at which point, and how that makes sense in the context of their objectives. Star Trek Into Darkness is a bit of a hot mess when it comes to storytelling – an overly convoluted plot that spends far too much time homaging what come before, when it should be boldly going somewhere new.

And yet, despite that, there is an ambition to Star Trek Into Darkness, a willingness to embrace big ideas and questions about cynicism and optimism, about hope and fear, about the attitude that people adopt towards the future. At the most basic level, that’s what Star Trek is. Into Darkness doesn’t have the same space as a television show to delve into those questions, nor to offer the same degree of nuance.

However, it’s a willingness to ask them that is quite endearing.

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Star Trek: Deep Space Nine – The Jem’Hadar (Review)

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine is twenty years old this year. To celebrate, I’m taking a look at the first and second seasons. Check back daily for the latest review or retrospective.

In terms of sheer quality of execution, The Jem’Hadar is probably the weakest of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine‘s season finalés. It lacks the gut punch of A Call to Arms, the shock twist of Broken Link, the atmosphere of The Adversary or even the timeliness of In the Hands of the Prophets. It is, at its most basic level, a story about a disastrous first contact that occurs during a father-son bonding trip that goes horribly wrong, ending with precious little actually advanced.

However, in terms of conceptual ideas, The Jem’Hadar is a game-changer. It is the cornerstone upon which Deep Space Nine would construct its most iconic narrative arc. It caps off two years of trying to develop the Ferengi as more than one-note jokes. It’s a bold statement about the freedom that Deep Space Nine would enjoy with Star Trek: The Next Generation retiring from the airwaves. It cemented the notion that Deep Space Nine never really dealt in two-part episodes to bridge seasons.

For Deep Space Nine, season finalés did not exist simply as pieces of Lego designed to snugly fit those other pieces at the start of the following season, crafting some illusion of continuity flow between two different seasons of television. Instead, cliffhangers on Deep Space Nine changed the rules, shook up the status quo, and teased the changing face of things to come.

A Jem?

A Jem?

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Star Trek: Deep Space Nine – Melora (Review)

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine is twenty years old this year. To celebrate, I’m taking a look at the first season. Check back daily for the latest review or retrospective.

It’s hard to believe, based on what we’ve witnessed so far, but one day viewers will be able to think “oh, a Bashir episode!” without an involuntary shudder. There will come a time when the writing staff figure out how to write a Bashir-centric episode. In fact, they’ll even revisit this central premise in the show’s final season, in a way that is much less creepy because at least it acknowledges the creepiness. However, we’re a long way from that.

It’s not that Bashir is a bad character. In fact, I’m very fond of him. I think that this version of the character works very well as part of an ensemble, or even teamed up with another major character to carry a story. However, I don’t think that the show has quite figured out how to tell a Bashir-centric story yet. Most notably because – like The Passenger before it – Melora isn’t really about Bashir. At least not in a way that isn’t creepy and disturbing and unnerving.

Instead, Bashir is mostly a vehicle for the guest character of the week, who lends the episode her name and serves as the focal point of some incredibly condescending and patronising writing which doesn’t make the optimistic future of Star Trek look particularly bright.

Floating in a most peculiar way...

Floating in a most peculiar way…

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Star Trek (DC Comics, 1989) Annual #2 – Starfleet Academy!

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.

Multimedia franchises tend to have very strange lives. These iconic pop culture characters rarely seem to ride off into the sunset in any real way. Their story might end, but there’s always a new beginning just waiting for them. When veteran Star Trek writer Ronald D. Moore took charge of the reboot of Battlestar Galactica, he even wove the idea into the fabric of the show. “All of this has happened before and will happen again,” the characters repeated.

It’s been a Hollywood fad for the last decade, with high-budget reboots like Batman Begins and The Amazing Spider-Man suggesting that icons never die, they just get reinvented. However, it has always been a feature of the pop culture landscape. Think of how many adaptations of Batman have run their course, or how many times in how many different media Sherlock Holmes has played out his game of wits. Life for these iconic properties is something of a spinning wheel. It seems that no sooner are you off one side than you are back on the other.

So, with the release of Star Trek: The Undiscovered Country in 1991, it seemed the ideal time for Star Trek author Peter David to venture back to the very beginning, and to explore Kirk’s time at Starfleet Academy!

"By the way, I like David as a name..."

“By the way, I like David as a name…”

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