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Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home (DC Comics, 1986) (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.

The comic book adaptation of Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home does a surprisingly good job of translating the comedy adventure into comic book form. Relying the creative team of Mike W. Barr and artist Tom Sutton to produce a one-shot comic book adaptation of the feature film, DC Comics have reached a point where they are able to consistently and reliably churn out comic books based around the Star Trek franchise.

Indeed, one might imagine that the somewhat lighter tone of The Voyage Home would pose a challenge for the duo, eschewing the grand space opera of Star Trek III: The Search for Spock in favour of something more firmly rooted in modern sensibilities. However, Barr and Sutton do a wonderful job adapting the screenplay into a charming comic, even if it does seem to be aimed more squarely at hardcore Star Trek fans than casual viewers.

Standing tall...

Standing tall…

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Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home by Vonda N. McIntyre (Review)

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

Comedy doesn’t always translate well between different media. That’s not to suggest that comedy works better in one medium as compared to others, merely to contend that certain forms of comedy don’t translate perfectly between different media. It works any number of ways. Something that is funny in sound and vision is not necessarily hilarious in prose. Gags relying on delivery might play better with a seasoned performer than in the mind’s eye of a reader. Witty prose doesn’t always lend itself to narration or articulation on film.

Much of Star Trek IV: The Voyager Home plays as broad farce, following a bunch of time-travelers from the future (and refugees from television land) as they try to interact with the real world. The movie does have some wonderful character moments – notably Spock’s character arc that beautifully brings him a full circle and Kirk’s relationship with Spock – but it also plays the Star Trek ensemble in a highly caricatured manner, more as archetypes than fully-realised three-dimensional characters.

This is grand. After all, these are fictional characters rather than real people. After all stories are more than just excerpts from the biographies of fictional characters. While it’s nice to have consistent characterisation, suggesting that you can’t have Kirk and Spock acting in an exaggerated fashion for the sake of comedy is a very narrow and restrictive view of what Star Trek is or should be.

The Voyage Home gets the big character beats right – Spock’s insistence that the crew rescue Chekov, Kirk convincing Gillian to trust him, Spock “guessing” – that we can excuse the crew’s lack of awareness about a time period they have visited before and the general flippancy of the movie itself. The novelisation, however, is another matter. Vonda N. McIntyre clearly cares a great deal about the characters. That was one of the strengths of her work on the novelisations of the last two films. Here, however, McIntyre struggles to balance that with the tone of the story.

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Star Trek: Deep Space Nine – Tribunal (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.

Tribunal is probably the weakest episode of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine in quite some time, hampered by the fact that it never seems too ambitious and the fact that the episode ends because we’re three minutes away from the closing credits rather than because it feels like the story has been told. Tribunal is hardly the deepest or most sophisticated episode of the show’s second season, spending most of its time riffing on Kafka and Orwell, but it’s still solidly entertaining – a rare example of black comedy on Star Trek that works surprisingly well.

I suspect the biggest problem with Tribunal is where it’s placed. The second season of Deep Space Nine has been hitting it out of the park since around Blood Oath, giving us the strongest run of episodes we’d see until the start of the fourth season. Indeed, had the show found its groove a little bit earlier, the second season of Deep Space Nine could have been on par with the third season of Star Trek: The Next Generation as “that season the show found its groove.”

However, it remains an impressive run of episodes, a rallying of the show in the last third of the season, showing just what Deep Space Nine was capable of. Most of the episodes in that run felt very different from anything done on The Next Generation and most offered some major insight into how the world of Deep Space Nine works as distinct from the rest of the franchise.

A broad cast of characters...

A broad cast of characters…

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Star Trek (DC Comics, 1984) Annual #1 – All Those Years Ago…

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.

It’s weird to think that the original cast of Star Trek didn’t get a proper on-screen origin story until JJ Abrams rebooted the franchise in 2009. The show produced two pilots – The Cage and Where No Man Has Gone Before – and even the pilot episode that wound up airing was broadcast as the third episode of the first season. Given the realities of sixties television, it’s probably not too surprising. Rather famously, Gilligan’s Island scrapped its origin story pilot, reworking some of the footage (along with re-shot footage) into a later episode – deciding to skip the story of how everybody got here and just get to the meat of the story.

And you can understand why this approach worked with the original Star Trek. Structurally, the series was a product of its time, largely episodic. Sure, there were recurring alien races and even a few recurring guest stars outside the senior staff, but there was a sense you could jumble the viewing order of most of the episodes up and not notice anything strange.

At the same time, the lack of an origin leaves a vacuum. After all, each of the four following spin-offs opened with a two-hour special about putting the crew together to take their place on the final frontier. In hindsight, having had years to grow old with these characters and watch their friendships (and personalities) deepen and broaden, it occurs to us that we never really say them come together for the first time.

All Those Years Ago... isn’t nearly as elaborate or as sophisticated as Vonda M. McIntyre’s Enterprise: The First Adventure, but it does hint at a growing curiosity about how the team came to work together.

Second star on the right...

Second star on the right…

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Star Trek – Cast No Shadow by James Swallow (Review)

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.

Valeris is a fascinating character who gets a bit lost in the scope of Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country. Given the film’s focus on bidding a fond farewell to the iconic crew of the Enterprise, it’s understandable that the newest addition to the crew should get pushed aside. It’s even more notable because Valeris is clearly a stand-in for the character of Saavik, another of Spock’s young female Vulcan protegés, making her not only a newer character, but a substitute for a newer character.

One of the most interesting things about Star Trek tie-in fiction is the scope afforded by the gigantic shared universe. Across the dozen movies and the seven-hundred episodes of television, there are countless supporting characters and concepts thrown out. Due to plotting necessities and the demands of particular stories, some of these ideas are never truly fleshed out. The sheer volume of tie-in material means that writers do get a chance to develop and expand upon these character which might otherwise be forgotten.

Writing a novel centred on Valeris is a very bold idea, but one which acknowledges just how intriguing the concept of Kim Cattrall’s Vulcan traitor is, despite the fact the film treats her as a minor character at best.

castnoshadow

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Star Trek – The Movies (Review)

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.

It’s interesting how radically different the Star Trek feature films were from the show that spawned them. All were anchored in the classic science-fiction series. Star Trek: The Motion Picture felt like it was heavily influenced by The Changeling. Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan obviously drew on Space Seed. Star Trek III: The Search for Spock evoked The Menagerie. Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home featured the same plot device (and time travel technique) as Tomorrow is Yesterday. Star Trek V: The Final Frontier had Kirk defeating one final god-like being. Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country had the crew finally make peace with Klingons.

However, they were quite clearly a very different animal from the original television show. Which makes a great deal of sense. After all, there’s a world of difference between a fifty-minute adventure produced for weekly television and a big theatrical event. However, what’s interesting about these changes is that they weren’t necessarily in the direction you might expect. The television show was a collection of episodic adventures, but what’s really striking about the films is that most of them have a reasonably clear serialised arc.

startrek-themotionpicture

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Star Trek – In the Name of Honour by Dayton Ward (Review)

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.

The Klingons changed rather dramatically, between the classic Star Trek and Star Trek: The Next Generation. Part of the changes were physical – most obviously, advances in make-up allowed Klingon characters to be shown with their now-iconic forehead ridges. However, there was another interesting change. Somewhere between The Turnabout Intruder and Encounter at Farpoint, the Klingons went from generic communist stand-ins to a fully-formed alien culture with a wealth of ritual and tradition.

To a large extent, this shift took place during the movie era. Klingons wound up being the focus of Star Trek III: The Search for Spock, and were a significant presence in each of the films that followed. Star Trek V: The Final Frontier, produced at the same time as the first season of Star Trek: The Next Generation, suggested that it wasn’t necessary for the Federation and the Klingon Empires to be mortal enemies. The final movie featuring the original cast, Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, tied up Kirk’s adventures with the promise of galactic peace.

Still, it’s hard to reconcile the differences in characterisation between the Klingons seen in the classic Star Trek television show and those from the later spin-offs. With In the Name of Honour, Dayton Ward tries to explore this radical shift and also to bridge The Final Frontier and The Undiscovered Country. He does the former much better than the latter.

startrek-inthenameofhonour

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Non-Review Review: Star Trek VI – The Undiscovered Country

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.

Whatever its faults, Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country is a fond farewell to the original cast of Star Trek, giving the ensemble one last epic adventure before heading off into legend. Chancellor Gorkon suggests that the “the undiscovered country” that lends the movie its title is “the future.” Most Shakespearean scholars would argue that it is “death.” Perhaps they need to – as Gorkon argues – “experience” it in “the original Klingon”, or perhaps there’s more to it than that.

Perhaps the undiscovered country can be both – the death waiting for all of us eventually, the “chimes at midnight” that Chang alludes to after a disastrous diplomatic dinner. Probably not. Still, The Undiscovered Country does represent a death. It’s the end of an era, the extinguishing of a torch that had already been passed. It’s the last adventure of Kirk’s starship Enterprise, and it feels appropriate that it serves to end the Cold War raging between the Klingons and the Federation.

It’s a beautiful farewell to the crew, to the extent that even the actors’ decision to “sign” the closing credits doesn’t feel over saccharine or manipulative. The movie has more than its fair share of narrative flaws, neither as tight as Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan nor as energetic as Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home. However, it hangs together remarkably well, in no small part thanks to a solid premise, a strange honesty and a deep affection for the cast and crew.

We're having some old friends for dinner...

We’re having some old friends for dinner…

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Non-Review Review: Star Trek IV – The Voyage Home

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.

Up until the release of JJ Abrams’ Star Trek in 2009, Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home was the most successful of the Star Trek films. Indeed, it ranks alongside Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan as the film which has most deeply dug itself into the popular consciousness. “I’m from Iowa; I only work in outer space” might not be as iconic a quote as “KHAAAAAAN!!!”, but a lot of people casually remember “the one with the whales.”

The fourth film in the series closes off an inter-connected trilogy of Star Trek films, wrapping up character development for the leads and tying up loose ends, but it’s also – somewhat paradoxically – the most accessible of the movies. If you’re looking for an introduction to Star Trek, it’s hard to think of a more welcoming entry than The Voyage Home. However, what’s really strangely charming about The Voyage Home is that it’s also probably the film truest to the franchise’s humanist values.

Ship off the starboard bow!

Ship off the starboard bow!

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Star Trek (DC Comics, 1984) #28 – The Last Word (Review)

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.

Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, Star Trek III: The Search for Spock and Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home form a trilogy that tells a single story, covering Spock’s death and resurrection, the loss of the Enterprise and the construction of its replacement and Kirk’s journey from washed-up old commander to saviour of the planet Earth. Although the three films weren’t planned as a single story, they worked out surprisingly well as a Star Trek epic told across three films and four years.

Four years is a remarkable turn-around for three franchise films, let alone three well-received franchise films. However, it’s worth conceding that the storyline had a fairly significant impact on the tie-in media. Books could be published set in the existing gaps in chronology, but DC’s plan for their first volume of Star Trek comics was to feature stories set in the contemporary film universe. Since that universe was in the middle of its own story, and the comic publishers had no idea how it would play out, the results are interesting.

Lighten up...

Lighten up…

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