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Star Trek: Enterprise – The Forge (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.

The Kir’Shara trilogy is the strongest three-parter of Star Trek: Enterprise‘s fourth season. It could legitimately be argued that the Kir’Shara trilogy is the strongest story of the entire season and one of the strongest stories of the show’s four-season run.

There are a lot of reasons why this is the case. The Kir’Shara trilogy makes great use of the franchise’s continuity and history, without getting too tied down into references for the sake of references. Indeed, there is a valid argument to be made that the trilogy represents the most overt rewriting of continuity across the fourth season, an ironic touch for a season so committed to continuity. The story does excellent work the show’s under-utilised supporting cast. The adventure actually merits three episodes, the story never dragging or wandering off on tangents.

Under a not quite blood red sky...

Under a not quite blood red sky…

However, a large part of why this trilogy of episodes works better than the Borderland trilogy or the United trilogy is a simple piece of structuring. The Kir’Shara trilogy has a very clear and linear three-act structure, with each of the three episodes fitting comfortably together while doing their bit to advance and escalate the plot. There are no strange structural detours like the siege in Cold Station 12 or the visit to Andoria in The Aenar. Each of these three episodes is recognisable part of a singular larger story that builds to a crescendo.

The Forge does an excellent job setting up the arc, Awakening does an excellent job raising the stakes, and Kir’Shara does an excellent job tying it all together. The result is a satisfying two-hour television movie broadcast in three forty-minute chunks.

Mapping out an adventure...

Mapping out an adventure…

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Star Trek: The Next Generation – The Bonding (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.

The Bonding is a pretty pivotal and momentous episode for Star Trek: The Next Generation. On one hand, it’s the first episode overseen by incoming executive producer Michael Piller. Piller would go on to become one of the most influential producers to work on Star Trek. Aside from steering The Next Generation towards success, he also created Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and Star Trek: Voyager, as well as overseeing the production of the first three Next Generation films.

However, The Bonding is also the first script written by Ronald D. Moore. Obviously, the version that made it to screen had been revised and tweaked by Melinda Snodgrass and Michael Piller, but The Bonding still feels like a Moore script. Ronald D. Moore would go on to be one of the more influential writers on The Next Generation and Deep Space Nine. He also worked (very) briefly on Voyager, before departing and heading up his own reboot of Battlestar Galactica.

So The Bonding is the beginning of something new, an original direction for The Next Generation. Featuring a powerful and wonderful opening half, The Bonding suffers a bit from falling into conventional Star Trek tropes towards the end of the episode. However, it’s still a clever and powerful piece of television.

A bit of shadow...

A bit of shadowplay…

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Non-Review Review: Star Trek – Generations

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.

There are lots of problems with Star Trek: Generations. It feels too much like a two-parter from the television show. It tries to fit in a laundry list of demands from the studio. It wastes Malcolm McDowell. It decides that the only part of the original series deserving a send-off is James T. Kirk, and then pushes him off-screen for an hour before dragging him back into the movie to kill him off in the most ironic and anti-climactic manner possible.

Yet, despite these considerable flaws, Generations also has a lot to recommend it. Although the script occasionally feels a little overcooked, the themes concerning mortality lend it a serious amount of weight. Director David Carson demonstrates that he can work wonders on a tiny budget. Cinematographer John A. Alonzo finds a way to shoot familiar sets in a way that makes them look incredibly beautiful. None of these strengths can fully compensate for the very fundamental flaws with the seventh Star Trek cinematic outing, but they do mitigate them somewhat.

Generations isn’t a great Star Trek film, and it isn’t even the best odd-numbered Star Trek film, but it is far from an unmitigated disaster. Well, except for the way it treats Kirk.

Riding the wave...

Riding the wave…

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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 – 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 – The Cage (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.

The Cage is fascinating. Looking at it now, it holds up phenomenally well a s apiece of sixties science-fiction. However, it feels like we’re watching a prototype of Star Trek. In many respects, The Cage feels like a rough sketch that captures some essentials, but is missing out on the finer details. Spock is there! But he smiles! The set design looks the same, but the characters are different. Some of the cast fill the same roles, but some are dramatically different. Watching The Cage, you can see a lot of the philosophy that Gene Roddenberry would bring to Star Trek, but it’s very difficult to imagine an on-going series spinning out of this adventure, let alone one that managed to become as iconic or influential as Star Trek would ever be.

Still, it’s pretty solid viewing. It’s entertaining on its own terms, but it’s also informative in the context of the series. It’s more like dry run or a test drive of the concept.

To boldly go... for some reworking...

To boldly go… for some reworking…

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Star Trek: The Next Generation – Home Soil (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.

I’ve been complaining pretty consistently throughout this rocky first year of Star Trek: The Next Generation that the show is trying too hard to be a carbon copy of the classic Star Trek, rather than trying to define its own distinct identity. By that logic, I concede that I should detest Home Soil. Much like the less-than-classic The Naked Now, it is pretty much an attempt to update an episode from the original show.

In this case, the story of a bunch of terraformers provoking an unconventional native lifeform recalls The Devil in the Dark, one of the best-loved episodes of Star Trek‘s pretty stellar first year. While Home Soil doesn’t quite measure up to its rather wonderful progenitor, it does manage to put its own slant on the story, to the point where Home Soil doesn’t feel like a recycled Star Trek script; rather, it feels like a story told from the perspective of The Next Generation.

Spark of life...

Spark of life…

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