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Star Trek: The Next Generation – Survivors by Jean Lorrah (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 Skin of Evil.

Writing tie-in fiction is tougher than a lot of people seem to think it is. There’s a notion that you’re playing in somebody else’s sandbox, and that you’re confined and restricted by what has and what has not appeared on screen, knowing that your work will always be secondary. As such, I can’t imagine how tough it must have been for Jean Lorrah to write Survivors. Only the fourth tie-in novel for Star Trek: The Next Generation, it was released in January 1989, around a quarter of the way through the show’s second season. Given the time it would take to edit and publish a paperback, it seems that Lorrah likely had to have the novel ready quite early in the life of The Next Generation.

It’s one thing to try to accurately capture the voice of well-defined characters on a long-running show, but it must be infinitely more difficult when writing based off sketchy early episodes that aren’t always consistent in their own characterisation.

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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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Star Trek – Crucible: Spock – The Fire and the Rose by David R. George III (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 second part of David R. George II’s epic Crucible trilogy, The Fire and the Rose, can’t quite measure up to the charm and warmth of the first instalment in the series, Provenance of Shadows. George’s Crucible trilogy is a breathtakingly ambitious piece of work. Celebrating the fortieth anniversary of Star Trek with a trilogy of novels, each grounded in The City on the Edge of Forever and each based around a different member of the show’s leading trinity. The Fire and the Rose is still a very smart and well-constructed read, but it stands in the shadow of the first of George’s three books.

I suspect that at least part of the reason The Fire and the Rose doesn’t work as well is down to the subject. Leonard McCoy is a vitally important Star Trek character, but he was also a relatively under-developed one. While he was one of the leading trio on the original show, he was never as popular as Kirk and Spock, and never garnered the same amount of attention. (Notwithstanding solid work done by writers like Diane a Duane.) So McCoy was a relatively blank canvas for George to develop.

In contrast, Spock is the face of Star Trek. He was part of the first episode of Star Trek ever produced. He appeared in the most recent film released. Although DeForest Kelley christened Star Trek: The Next Generation with a cameo in Encounter at Farpoint, Leonard Nimoy’s visit to the spin-off earned a full two-parter in Unification. As such, Spock is a character who has been developed and explored and expanded by countless writers over the franchise’s long history.

Quite frankly, it’s hard to imagine there’s too much left to say about him. George tries quite hard, and find a nuance or two, but The Fire and the Rose feels more like an attempt to consolidate what we already know of Spock.

cruciblespock

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Star Trek: The Next Generation – Requiem by Michael Jan Friedman & Kevin Ryan (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.

At the risk of stating the obvious, Star Trek is a franchise spanning almost half-a-century with six leading actors and five different television shows. Due to its nature, one of the more enjoyably fanboy-ish pastimes is attempting to reimagine various confrontations and encounters, swapping out the characters involved. How would Kirk have responded to the Borg? Would Sisko have been ideally suited to dealing with the Xindi threat? What if Janeway faced the Doomsday Machine? Different characters have different defining moments, and those moments often play to their particular strengths. It might be fun to watch Khan spar with Picard, but it probably wouldn’t work as well as it did with Kirk. Q and Kirk would probably have difficulty striking it off.

Still, Kirk’s confrontation with the Gorn in Arena stands as one of the most iconic moments in the whole of the franchise, to the point where the weird toga-wearing god-like being at the end barely gets a look-in. Indeed, based on Sisko’s fanboy gushing in Trials and Tribble-ations, it seems to be one of Kirk’s defining moments within the shared Star Trek universe. So it might be fun to take Captain Jean-Luc Picard, and put him through that same sort of confrontation.

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Star Trek: The Next Generation – Where Silence Has Lease (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 (and a tiny bit of the second), episode-by-episode. Check back daily for the latest review.

If we ignore The Child as an aberration, a recycled script necessitated by the Writers’ Guild of America Strike of 1988, Where Silence Has Lease actually makes for a much stronger starting point for the second season of Star Trek: The Next Generation. We’re not quite at the point where we’re getting consistently good episodes on a weekly basis, but episodes like Where Silence Has Lease and the following Elementary, Dear Data demonstrating that the show was at least learning what worked and what didn’t in the bets of the first season episodes.

In particular, Where Silence Has Lease allows the show to tell a straight-up science-fiction exploration story that provides commentary on the human condition, but in a manner that isn’t as clumsy as first-season efforts like Lonely Among Us. It’s not a classic episode, but it’s a solid one. However, a solid episode of the second season can stand alongside the best episodes of the first season, demonstrating that the show is making significant progress towards the consistent quality it would eventually maintain.

Into the void...

Into the void…

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Star Trek: The Next Generation – Coming of Age (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.

Coming of Age is interesting, if only because it is one of those rare instances where an episode’s B-story is far more compelling and interesting than the primary drama unfolding. Coming of Age is apparently about Wesley’s entrance examination to Starfleet Academy, which seems to have quite high standards for an organisation that let Riker and Yar into its ranks, but that teenage academic story feels a little trite and cliché.

Far more interesting, however, is the strange investigation conducted into the crew of the Enterprise at the behest of Admiral Gregory Quinn, who makes a dramatic impression by suggesting to Picard, “I have reason to believe there may be something very wrong on this ship.”

Evidently he has been watching the first season as well.

Picard off-guard...

Picard off-guard…

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