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Star Trek – Charlie X (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 really is incredibly difficult to divorce Star Trek from the sixties. I know that this has become something of a (very obvious) theme in these daily reviews, but Charlie X is the kind of Star Trek episode that could only have been produced for television in the sixties. It isn’t necessarily the presence of a single factor, it’s more the package as a whole. While the general concept (“The Day Charlie Became God”, to quote Roddenberry’s succinct synopsis from his 1964 Star Trek Is… pitch) could easily be adapted for any of the spin-offs (and Hide & Q clearly plays on the same idea), the execution is so firmly anchored in the sixties that it’s very hard to separate and parse.

Part of it is the weird use of coloured lighting on the mostly grey Enterprise sets, something that Inside Star Trek suggests was down to the fact that NBC was owned at the time by RCA, a major manufacturer of colour television sets. Part of it is the somewhat confused sexuality that is a weird mix of liberated and outdated. Part of it is the fact that the show features an impromptu musical and dance number. The idea of Charlie X might be fairly simplistic, but the execution is very clearly and very distinctively Star Trek.

Screaming to the Evans...

Screaming to the Evans…

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Star Trek – The Naked Time (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.

Star Trek is, by its nature, an inherently optimistic television show. I seem to keep mentioning that in these reviews, as the first season of the show subverts and plays with the notion of an idealised future. However, despite the suggestion that evil is necessary in The Enemy Within or the death of the last of a species in The Man Trap or the suggestion that man’s next evolutionary phase would be truly horrifying in Where No Man Has Gone Before, Star Trek is still a hopeful vision of a possible future. It’s a story about a world where mankind hasn’t wiped each other out and where we can go (relatively) peacefully among the stars. It’s a world without racism or classism. There is sexism in Star Trek, but I’ll give the producers the benefit of the doubt and assume it’s not intentional.

So The Naked Time feels a little weird, being – as it is – a story about the collapse of civilisation at the end of a world. Not our world, mind you, but there’s a very clear sense of social collapse mirrored in the literal collapse of planet Psi-2000.

How logical...

How logical…

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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 – Mudd’s Women (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 think it’s fair to say that Star Trek had some gender issues. I say that as a fan of the show, and as a person with an immense fondness for the ensemble. It’s tempting to write off those sexist moments and decisions as attitudes that were socially acceptable at the time. After all, the sixties are almost half a lifetime away at this point. However, that doesn’t account for the fact that many of the same gender issues plagued Star Trek: The Next Generation in the late eighties, which lost two of its three female leads in its first season, and opened its second year by subjecting the remaining female lead to The Child.

Even disregarding that, though, there comes a point where even the time when a work was produced can’t excuse certain attitudes or approaches. Star Trek doesn’t feature too many strong female characters, relegating recurring female characters like Uhura and Janice Rand to the background. This is dodgy enough, but the show’s problems with gender become a lot more obvious when a show throws sexuality into focus. Mudd’s Women is such a show. It famously introduced one of the few recurring non-crewmember characters, and it plays into the “Star Trek as space western” theme, but it is also very sexist. Very, very sexist.

Mudd-ying the waters...

Mudd-ying the waters…

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Star Trek: The Next Generation – The Neutral Zone (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.

Watching The Neutral Zone, it’s hard not to feel that the first season of Star Trek: The Next Generation should have wrapped up with Conspiracy. At least that would have represented a bold step forwards, even if it wasn’t the direction that the show would ultimately take. In contrast, a lot of The Neutral Zone falls back into the trite, patronising arrogance that we’ve seen our crew demonstrate repeatedly over this first year, treating three refugees from twenty-first century Earth as an excuse to lord their superiority over the viewers at home. It’s a rather strange direction to take, and it certainly doesn’t make for good television. Which feels like a bit of a waste, given that the B-plot is actually quite workable.

"We're back."

“We’re back.”

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