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New Escapist Column! On the Uncanny Valley that “Star Trek: Picard” Occupies Between “Star Trek” and Prestige Television…

I published a new piece at The Escapist this evening. We’re doing a series of recaps and reviews of Star Trek: Picard, which is streaming weekly on Paramount+. The seventh episode of the second season released this week, and it seemed like a good opportunity to take a look at the series.

One of the big problems with modern Star Trek has been the extent to which the franchise finds itself caught between the past and the future, between a nostalgic impluse that pulls it back to the plotting that defined the franchise’s long history and something more ambitious that pushes it towards prestige television. The recent shows have never quite managed to square that particular circle, and this problem comes to the fore as Picard tries to delve inside the head of its protagonist.

You can read the piece here, or click the picture below.

New Escapist Column! On How “The Motion Picture” Gave the “Star Trek” Universe Room to Breathe…

I published a new In the Frame piece at The Escapist this evening. With the release of the recently remastered Director’s Edition of Star Trek: The Motion Picture, it seemed like a good opportunity to take a look at the first feature film in the Star Trek franchise.

The Motion Picture is often derided by its critics as “the Motionless Picture”, reflecting the film’s slow pacing and simplistic plot in contrast to its more relaxed runtime. These criticisms are entirely valid, but they also ignore one of the central appeals of The Motion Picture. Just two years after George Lucas welcomed viewers to “a galaxy far, far away” with Star Wars, The Motion Picture made the Star Trek universe truly tactile and tangible. The film is perhaps best understood as an experience rather than a narrative, a window into the franchise’s fictional universe.

You can read the piece here, or click the picture below.

New Escapist Column! On “Star Trek: Picard” and “Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home”…

I published a new piece at The Escapist this evening. We’re doing a series of recaps and reviews of Star Trek: Picard, which is streaming weekly on Paramount+. The sixth episode of the second season released this week, and it seemed like a good opportunity to take a look at the series.

One of the interesting aspects of the second season of Star Trek: Picard has been the way in which it has been drawing more overtly from classic Star Trek tropes, with the season taking a number of cues from Star Trek: First Contact. However, the season has drawn most overtly from Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home. What is interesting about this is that the show understands that The Voyage Home isn’t just about time travelers from an imaginary future, but about fugitives from television.

You can read the piece here, or click the picture below.

 

New Escapist Column! On How “Star Trek: Picard” Remixes “The Voyage Home”…

I published a new piece at The Escapist this evening. We’re doing a series of recaps and reviews of Star Trek: Picard, which is streaming weekly on Paramount+. The third episode of the second season released this week, and it seemed like a good opportunity to take a look at the series.

One of the interesting aspects of the second season of Star Trek: Picard has been the way in which it has been drawing more overtly from classic Star Trek tropes, with the season taking a number of cues from Star Trek: First Contact. With the third episode, the season reveals some method to this approach, offering a reframing of the movie’s basic premise that places a greater emphasis on the familiar narrative template employed by Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home.

You can read the piece here, or click the picture below.

New Escapist Column! On How “Star Trek: Picard” Offers “The Next Generation” a Glimpse Through “A Mirror, Darkly”…

I published a new piece at The Escapist this evening. We’re doing a series of recaps and reviews of Star Trek: Picard, which is streaming weekly on Paramount+. The second episode of the second season released this week, and it seemed like a good opportunity to take a look at the series.

The second episode of the season is an interesting twist on a classic Star Trek trope. Star Trek: The Next Generation never really did a dark alternate universe story, comparable to something like Mirror, Mirror, Crossover, Living Witness or Twilight. It often seemed like The Next Generation was incapable of imagining the world any other way than the way that it was. As such, Penance offers something new for Jean-Luc Picard. Reflecting the gulf that exists in the more-than-a-quarter century between The Next Generation and Picard, the episode offers Picard a chance to look at a darker alternative future.

You can read the piece here, or click the picture below.

 

New Escapist Column! On How “Star Trek: Picard” Tries to Go Back to the Future…

I published a new piece at The Escapist this evening. We’re doing a series of recaps and reviews of Star Trek: Picard, which is streaming weekly on Paramount+. The second season premiere released this week, and it seemed like a good opportunity to take a look at the series.

The second season premiere of Picard is a much more openly nostalgic affair than the previous season had been. While the previous season often found itself caught between the past and the future, the second season seems to turn its gaze more earnestly backwards. It’s a complicated and somewhat flawed show, often retreating from the more interesting implications of its big ideas, but Picard is at least interested in grappling with the legacy of Star Trek: The Next Generation, and exploring why the utopian future it promised audiences seemed to slip from grasp.

You can read the piece here, or click the picture below.

New Podcast! Primitive Culture #114 – Star Trek and Vietnam

A little while ago, I had the pleasure of sitting down with the wonderful Tony Black to talk about Star Trek and Vietnam.

The general reading of classic Star Trek tends to play up the show’s liberal credentials, to read Star Trek as a utopian and pacifist series that was very much on the right side of history. This antiwar reading is supported by episodes like Errand of Mercy, The Trouble with Tribbles and Day of the Dove, among others. However, the show’s politics are decidedly more complicated. Like America itself, Star Trek was divided over the Vietnam War, as reflected in episodes like Friday’s Child or The Omega Glory, and most especially in A Private Little War.

The result was a fun (and involved) discussion, and you can listen to it below or directly via Primitive Culture‘s homepage on trek.fm.

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New Escapist Column! On How “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine” Challenged “The Next Generation”…

I published a new In the Frame piece at The Escapist on Friday. This week marked the 29th anniversary of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, so it seemed like a good opportunity to take a look back at the show. In particular, the show’s relationship to its elder sibling, Star Trek: The Next Generation.

Deep Space Nine had a surprisingly contentious relationship with The Next Generation, often positioning itself as directly adversarial to the more popular and more beloved Star Trek spin-off. There were points at which Deep Space Nine seemed positively iconoclastic, particularly in its establishing of a fraught relationship between Sisko and Picard. This approach would be controversial today, if it were even allowed within the framework of a modern franchise, but it allowed Deep Space Nine to boldly push itself in striking new directions.

You can read the piece here, or click the picture below.

New Escapist Column! On Making Sense of “For the Fans”…

I published a new column at The Escapist earlier this week. With the recent releases of Star Wars: Episode IX – The Rise of SkywalkerGhostbusters: Afterlife and Spider-Man: No Way Home, it seemed like a good opportunity to reflect on the argument that franchise brand extensions exist “for the fans.” What does that even mean?

As a fan myself, I find myself unsettled and disturbed by the idea that these sorts of properties should exist primarily for the satisfaction and consumption of the existing fanbase, not least because it means validating certain kinds of fans above others and pushes franchises towards an aesthetic conservativism that often strangles them. Perhaps the best thing to do “for the fans” is simply to make media as good as possible and let history sort the rest out.

You can read the piece here, or click the picture below.

New Podcast! Rarely Going – “Star Trek: Prodigy 1×05 – Terror Firma”

Rarely Going is a podcast looking at the animated corner of the Star Trek franchise. I was thrilled to be invited to join guest host Tony Black for a discussion of the fifth episode of Star Trek: Prodigy, the latest animated spin-off.

I had not had a chance to watch Prodigy before Tony invited me on the show, so it was fun to catch up with the series. Tony and I have a broad discussion about animated Star Trek, about the current state of the larger Star Trek franchise, about whether Star Trek could be seen as “children’s television for grown-ups.” We talk about the importance of serving multiple audiences, and the nostalgic affection for Star Trek: Voyager within modern fandom, and what that might mean for the future of modern iterations.

You can listen to the episode here, or click the link below.