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Star Trek: Enterprise – In a Mirror, Darkly, Part I (Review)

This May, we’re taking a look at the fourth (and final) season of Star Trek: Enterprise. Check back daily for the latest review.

In a Mirror, Darkly, Part I and In a Mirror, Darkly, Part II are very strange pieces of television.

They represent the fifth- and fourth-to-last episodes (and third-to-last story) of Star Trek: Enterprise. They come towards the tail end of the Berman era as a whole, positioned right before Star Trek took a decade-long absence from television. With the fourth season rather consciously building towards integrating the series with the larger shared universe and trying to lay the foundation for the Federation, it would make sense for the final stretch of the season to channel its energy into that particular avenue.

A vigourous constitutional...

A vigourous constitutional…

However, rather than trying to tell a story essential to this particular show or to the franchise as a whole, the production team opted to construct a two-parter that would feature none of the show’s primary cast and which served as a prequel to an episode of television broadcast in October 1967 and a sequel to an episode of television broadcast in November 1968. The two-parter serves to wrap up plot threads that had been left dangling so long that nobody really cared about them any longer. Given how obsessive Star Trek fans are, that is impressive.

This puts Enterprise in the rather strange position where three of its final five episodes (or two of its final three stories) do not feature any of the primary cast, instead focusing on doppelgangers or holograms. Perhaps this is a reflection on the show’s attitude towards its place within the canon. Perhaps Enterprise fears that it will be a secret history, a forgotten story populated by spectres and echoes.

Engines of destiny.

Engines of destiny.

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Star Trek: The Next Generation – Booby Trap (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.

Booby Trap is a bit of a mess. The writing credits for the episode, featuring four different writers credited with getting the idea from basic story to finished script. This wasn’t at all unusual in the show’s third season – consider the writing credits for Yesterday’s Enterprise – but it gives an indication of the chaos unfolding behind the scenes on the third season of Star Trek: The Next Generation.

It’s Michael Piller’s second credited script, and his first writing credit since he took over the writers’ room. (Although he did, along with Melinda Snodgrass, do a pass on Ronald D. Moore’s script for The Bonding.) As such, it is written with a very clear idea of where Piller wants to take the show, one that shines through a somewhat uneven and all-over-the-place plot, which often feels like several different scripts blended into one.

Building on what came before...

Building on what came before…

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Non-Review Review: Star Trek V – The Final Frontier

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.

Star Trek V: The Final Frontier is not a good movie. There’s really nothing that can be excavated from the film that might redeem it. It isn’t a misunderstood masterpiece. It isn’t an insightful diamond in the rough. It’s just a bad film, the one which forms the cornerstone of the “odd-numbered Star Trek films” curse. It’s indulgent, pretentious and narrow-minded. It tries to blend a world-weary cynicism with an ill-judged and mean-spirited sense of humour.

Despite being shorter than Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, it feels remarkably longer. It feels like a rather halfhearted attempt to recapture the spirit of the television show – oblivious to the fact that the franchise has spent the past decade moving onwards. It confuses ponderous pretension for intelligent insight.

Feeling blue...

Feeling blue…

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Star Trek – Season 1 (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.

That came together rather well, didn’t it? With the current success of Star Trek as a blockbuster movie franchise, it’s fun to speculate about the show possibly returning to television. Being honest, I would be nervous about that. In this cut-throat age where ratings need to solidify (or start rising) almost immediately, I wouldn’t trust the first season of a Star Trek spin-off to rope in viewers quick enough. None of the Star Trek spin-offs, from The Next Generation through to Enterprise, had what could be considered “strong” first years. Occasionally there were a few classic episodes buried in there, as with Deep Space Nine, but it always seems to take a Star Trek show some time to find its “space legs”, so to speak. Time that I am not sure it would be afforded in the current market place.

Which makes it all the more spectacular that Star Trek itself started out so phenomenally. The first year of the show (and the franchise) is not only the best first season of any Star Trek show ever, it’s also in the running for the best of the thirty seasons of television that the franchise has produced. Not bad at all, considering that it seems like nobody had any idea what exactly they were doing when they started out.

tos-miri18

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Star Trek – Court Martial (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.

It’s hard not to be impressed by the sheer versatility of Star Trek as a format. For a show about exploring the universe, the creators have really managed to incorporate just about any and all genres of television story. Over the franchise’s 700-episode history, there’s been a wealth of quirky episodes that explore types of stories that one might consider quite surreal for a show about a ship travelling to the stars. A court room episode might not be the most radical of these shifts, but Court Martial is still fascinating as an evolution of Star Trek as a concept, broadening the kind of stories that could be told within a Star Trek framework. After all, the fact that there’s a whole subgenre of Star Trek involving court room drama is probably rooted in this first-season adventure.

While its influence is absolutely massive, Court Martial is still a problematic episode. Despite demonstrating what writers could really do within the context of the show, Court Martial suffers because it’s really not that good.

Running rings around the prosecution...

Running rings around the prosecution…

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Star Trek – Miri (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.

It is amazing how Star Trek manages to deftly balance the absurd with the horrific, the bizarre with the terrifying and the camp with the truly haunting. It’s something that’s really unique to the first iteration of the show, that deft ability to go completely for broke, willing to look completely ridiculous without any hint of embarrassment or modesty. Any of the spin-offs would be too conservative and too dignified to attempt anything quite as insane as Miri, with the failure of episodes like Move Along Home demonstrating that it’s impossible to replicate the freedom and the enthusiasm of the original show.

As a result, Miri is a wonderfully weird hour of television, one which is – on just about any level – incredibly wacky. And yet, despite that truly “out there” approach, it’s also a strangely compelling and engaging example of Star Trek.

Feels like going home...

Feels like going home…

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Star Trek – Balance of Terror (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.

I’ve talked about it about it quite a bit in my earlier reviews, so I won’t dwell on it too much here, but Star Trek got really good really quickly. Balance of Terror is only the ninth ever episode of Star Trek ever produced, but it stands as one of the finest entries in the original series, and perhaps even the franchise. It also represents the moment where the model of what Star Trek would be really sort of solidified. The first eight episodes had contained any number of classic Star Trek tropes.

The Cage and Charlie X gave us old and immeasurably powerful alien civilisations, while Where No Man Has Gone Before gave us a god-like being. The Man Trap gave us space monsters. Mudd’s Women gave us awkward gender politics. The Enemy Within created the whole “transporter malfunction” and “evil duplicate” subgenres. However, Balance of Terror is the first episode to suggest outer space might be more than the place where crazy stuff happens and our heroes bump into monsters or ancient civilisations. The universe might have its own politics, its own history, its own civilisations that will emerge, contrasted with mankind’s expansion into space.

The Klingons are undoubtedly the most recognisable and iconic of the classic Star Trek races, but the Romulans are the first of the franchise mainstays to appear, and Balance of Terror is the first episode to devote considerable effort to world-building the Star Trek universe.

The not-so-great bird of the galaxy...

The not-so-great bird of the galaxy…

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