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Star Trek – The Ultimate Computer (Review)

The first Star Trek pilot, The Cage, was produced in 1964. To celebrate its fiftieth anniversary, this December we are reviewing the second season of the original Star Trek show. You can check out our first season reviews here. Check back daily for the latest review.

The Ultimate Computer is the second classic produced by John Meredyth Lucas, following on from The Immunity Syndrome. (Although it is credited to him, Journey to Babel was actually overseen by Gene L. Coon.) Like The Immunity Syndrome before it, The Ultimate Computer is a bottle show, filmed on the show’s standing set. It features a relatively small guest cast, even trimming the number of extras appearing on the Enterprise sets.

It seems that these sorts of constraints and pressures brought out the best in Lucas. Lucas steps behind the camera on The Ultimate Computer, and helps to bring the show to life. Although he is using familiar sets, he often figures out ways to shoot them that feel original and fresh – no mean accomplishment two years into the show’s run. The guest cast that Lucas has assembled is superb – with William Marshall turning in one of the best one-shot guest appearances in the history of Star Trek.

Does not compute...

Does not compute…

However, what is most notable about The Ultimate Computer is the funereal atmosphere that haunts the episode. There is a solemn and reflective tone to the episode, particularly during the early tests of the M-5 computer. The Enterprise is dark, abandoned, empty. Kirk is reflective. As with Bread and Circuses at the end of Gene L. Coon’ tenure, Spock offers McCoy an olive branch. In many respects, The Ultimate Computer seems to hark forward to the film series, with Kirk wondering how he might define himself if he is not a starship captain.

Appropriately enough for a series staring down the barrel at cancellation, The Ultimate Computer would have made for a pretty great finalé.

"Dammit, I told you we should have used a surge protector..."

“Dammit, I told you we should have used a surge protector…”

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Star Trek – Debt of Honour (Review)

This June, we’re taking a look at some classic Star Trek movie tie-ins and other interesting objects. Check back daily for the latest reviews and retrospectives.

By all accounts, Debt of Honour should be an unqualified success.

It’s a prestige graphic novel from DC comics, produced around the twenty-fifth anniversary of Star Trek and the release of Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country. It is written by celebrated comic book scribe Chris Claremont, fresh off his career-defining stint on Uncanny X-Men. An avowed Star Trek fan and comic book veteran, this should be in his wheel house. The art is provided by Adam Hughes, one of the most celebrated and respected artists of his time.

Talk about kicking off a comic...

Talk about kicking off a comic…

By any measure, Debt of Honour should count as some sort of hallmark for DC Comics’ Star Trek tie-ins. Unfortunately, that isn’t quite the case. A rather muddled storyline that is hopelessly devoted to Star Trek continuity while awkward interfacing with it,  Debt of Honour is just packed a little too tight. Charting a story from the earliest days of Kirk’s career to the aftermath of Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, Claremont bites off more than he can chew.

Over the course of Debt of Honour, Claremont introduces a vague alien threat that has apparently been haunting Kirk for his entire career, a new arch-foe or love interest for Kirk, and even a supporting role for Kor. Along the way, he packs in cameos and shout-outs to various parts of Star Trek lore. He even explains why Klingons suddenly had ridges around the time of Star Trek: The Motion Picture. Ultimately, Debt of Honour is ambitious, but a little over-stuffed and quite over-cooked.

Warp speed ahead!

Warp speed ahead!

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