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Star Trek: Discovery – Context is for Kings (Review)

Perhaps what is most surprising about Context is for Kings is just how conventional it is.

The Vulcan Hello and Battle at the Binary Stars were very much atypical episodes of Star Trek, an opening two-parter designed to demonstrate a lot of how Star Trek: Discovery would be different from the earlier series in the franchise. The two-parter introduced a new captain and a new ship, only to kill the captain and destroy the ship at the climax of the story. The primary character ended these opening two episodes as a disgraced mutineer, sentenced to life in prison.

In darkness dwells.

Although the two-parter was traditional in some respects, its structure was consciously designed to subvert a lot of the expectations of previous pilot episodes. Typically, Star Trek pilots find a new crew coming together in a way that sets the tone for the following series. In contrast, The Vulcan Hello and Battle at the Binary Stars joined the Shenzhou at the end of its seven-year mission, and reduced it to floating wreckage. It was a subversive (if not entirely unpredictable) narrative decision, a clear attempt to contextualise Discovery as a modern television series.

All of this means, of course, that Context is for Kings finds itself cast in the role of a conventional Star Trek pilot. In many ways, Context is for Kings is clearly intended as reassurance that Discovery is still fundamentally Star Trek, in spite of the tweaks and alterations that have been made to the framework of the series.

Seeding the future.

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Star Trek: The Lost Era – Deny Thy Father by Jeff Mariotte (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.

In theory, you can probably tell a good story about just about anything. There’s a knack to constructing a narrative and in making particular characters fascinating or compelling. In the right hands, even the most tired and boring premise can generate some measure of excitement and over a glimpse of depth that we never thought was there. For example, I didn’t come out of Star Trek: Generations thinking that I’d ever read a classic story about John Harriman, and then I read the superb Serpents Among the Ruins.

However, some ideas strike you as a little less exciting than others. Some concepts seem a bit riskier to pull off, a bit more daunting in scope. Constructing a compelling narrative around the youth of Commander William T. Riker, probably one of the blandest members of the Star Trek: The Next Generation ensemble, seems like an uphill struggle.

Unfortunately, Jeff Mariote’s Deny Thy Father isn’t up to the task of making the boring father-son relationship glimpsed in The Icarus Factor seem any more exciting.


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Star Trek: Myriad Universes – Echoes and Refractions: The Chimes at Midnight by Geoff Trowbridge (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 death of Spock at the climax of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan is one of the definitive Star Trek moments. Pop culture has assimilated the moment, to the point where any half-decent nerd will identify “the needs of the many…” or “I have been and always shall be…” or maybe even “of all the souls I encountered…” It’s an absolutely massive moment for the franchise, where the film series dared to kill off the show’s most iconic and best-loved character.

It’s no wonder that the moment is such a strong focal point for those seeking to explore Star Trek. Star Trek: Into Darkness riffs mercilessly on that iconic scene, inverting it and counting on the iconography to generate enough emotional resonance for the film to get away with a fairly half-hearted homage. (The effects of The Wrath of Khan last until Star Trek III: The Search for Spock, while the consequences of the climax of Into Darkness don’t even last until the closing credits.)

So that famous sequence serves as an effective focal point of Geoff Trowbridge’s The Chimes at Midnight, which offers a parallel continuity of the Star Trek films in a universe where Spock died after the events of Yesteryear.


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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.



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Star Trek – The Enemy Within (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.

One thing that I don’t think the original Star Trek gets nearly enough credit for is the quality of the writers that Gene Roddenberry recruited to contribute scripts. Television obviously operated under a different model at the time, but there’s an impressive selection of science-fiction literary giants who contributed scripts to the show. More than that, it’s impressive how many of those stories became truly iconic Star Trek stories.

The Enemy Within is the work of author Richard Matheson, best known for stories like I Am Legend or What Dreams May Come. It’s very much a high-concept science-fiction story, but it’s also notable because it establishes two of what would become the show’s favourite tropes: transporter accidents and evil duplicates. Indeed, the two devices would be reunited in the following season’s Mirror, Mirror. These narrative elements even featured in the last season of Star Trek: Enterprise to air, in episodes like Daedalus and In a Mirror, Darkly.

Perhaps it’s a demonstration of how important these outside writers were to the development of Star Trek as a franchise that Matheson would effectively codify two stock narrative devices that would still be in use four decades later.

Mirror, mirror...

Mirror, mirror…

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Star Trek: Early Voyages #1 – Flesh of my Flesh (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.

In the late nineties, Marvel were publishing Star Trek comic books. One of those books, perhaps the book garnering the most critical praise, was Star Trek: Early Voyages. Written by Dan Abnett and Ian Edginton, the series was intended to follow the mission of the USS Enterprise under the command of Captain Christopher Pike. Published monthly, the comic is perhaps the best indication of what a Star Trek show starring Christopher Pike might have actually looked like. Although the series was cancelled suddenly after only seventeen issues, ending on a cliffhanger, it is still a fascinating look at what might have been.

Looks like they've hooked a Pike...

Looks like they’ve hooked a Pike…

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Star Trek: The Next Generation – Season 1 (Review)

To celebrate the twenty-fifth anniversary of Star Trek: The Next Generation, and also next year’s release of Star Trek: Into Darkness, I’m taking a look at the recent blu ray release of the first season, episode-by-episode. Check back daily for the latest review.

Well, the video and sound quality on the blu ray are excellent. I feel the need to state that here, first, before I delve into the season as a whole. I jumped on board the recent high-definition re-release of Star Trek: The Next Generation, and the work done here by the production team is astounding. As I trawled through every episode from Encounter at Farpoint to The Neutral Zone, I was amazed and impressed at how much care had gone into restoring and renewing the show for high-definition. I can’t imagine how painstaking the work was – re-editing the original film stock, remastering old effects, remixing the sound. The team have made a believer out of me, and I am on board for pretty much any restored Star Trek boxset that CBS sees fit to release. (I can’t wait to see Deep Space Nine updated.)

I think it’s important to acknowledge the work that went into producing a set that looks and sounds fantastic. It made returning to the show a joy, even when I was (frequently) reminded of just how rocky that first season was.


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