• Following Us

  • Categories

  • Check out the Archives









  • Awards & Nominations

New Escapist Column! On “The Last of Us” as a Character-Driven Apocalyptic Narrative…

I am doing weekly reviews of The Last of Us at The Escapist. They’ll be dropping every Sunday evening while the show is on, looking at the video game adaptation as the show progresses. To start with, though, a look at the series as a whole.

Although it takes a little while to get going, with its first two episodes largely given over to exposition and worldbuilding, The Last of Us is an incredible accomplishment from HBO. The show is clearly the result of a great deal of care and attention, and a substantial investment from the service. It’s a show that benefits from the best possible talent and from the freedom afforded to that talent, to find a distinct angle on the end of the world. It’s a charming, emotional and deeply moving character study at the end of the world.

You can read the piece here, or click the picture below.

Star Trek: Borg (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.

The Borg were the breakout aliens of the era surrounding Star Trek: The Next Generation. They appeared in all the spin-offs following The Next Generation – providing a piece of back story for Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and a nice mid-run bump for Star Trek: Voyager. They are probably the only Star Trek alien created in the wake of the original television show that can be identified readily by casual television viewers and movie-goers; ranking with the Klingons or the Romulans.

As such, it’s a surprise that the franchise waited so long to capitalise on them so ruthlessly. Q Who? introduced the Borg, and they appeared in the following season’s cliffhanger finalé. The Best of Both Worlds became something of a minor television phenomenon, and the Borg reappeared a couple of times in the years following. That said, it wasn’t until 1996 and 1997 that the franchise really pushed the Borg to the fore.

With the release of Star Trek: First Contact into theatres, the Borg were everywhere. They got spin-off comic books, a build-up to a cliffhanger appearance in Voyager, and even Star Trek: Borg.

st-borg7

Continue reading

Star Trek: The Next Generation – The Price (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.

Well, the streak had to end some time. After seven episodes ranging from “flawed but still interesting” to “pretty great”, the third season of Star Trek: The Next Generation hits a bit of a snag. The Price is the weakest episode of the show’s third season to this point, and confirmation that the writers really have no idea how to write for Deanna Troi. It’s still the best episode to focus on the ship’s half-Betazoid counsellor, but being better than Haven or The Child is hardly an accomplishment for the ages.

All that glitters...

All that glitters…

Continue reading

Star Trek: The Next Generation – The Ensigns of Command (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 Ensigns of Command is a Data-centric script from Melinda Snodgrass, the writer responsible for The Measure of a Man. It was the first episode produced in the show’s third season, even if it was the second to air. As with so many third season episodes, The Ensigns of Command was beset by behind-the-scenes difficulties. These issues plagued the episode through all stages of production – from the script through to post-production.

It is a wonder that The Ensigns of Command turned out watchable. While it certainly can’t measure up to Snodgrass’ earlier Data-centric story, it is an intriguing character study that benefits from a focus on character and an understanding of Star Trek: The Next Generation works. While far from an exceptional or defining episode of The Next Generation, it’s a demonstration of how far the show has come that even an episode as troubled as this could look so professional and feel so satisfying.

A fun shoot...

A fun shoot…

Continue reading

Star Trek: The Next Generation – Evolution (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.

Evolution kicks off the third season of Star Trek: The Next Generation, and marks the point at which the spin-0ff really comes into its own. It’s remarkable how consistent in quality the third season is, despite the trouble brewing behind the scenes. It’s also remarkable how quickly the show finds its footing after two years of stumbling clumsily in the right direction. Within the first five episodes of the third season, The Next Generation has clearly found its voice.

However, a change is obvious even from Evolution. Michael Piller would take over the reigns four episodes into the season, but he also co-wrote the script to the season premiere. While Piller polished quite a few of the scripts passing through The Next Generation‘s third season, it is interesting that his credited work book-ends the season, setting the tone and leaving a clear impression.

While Evolution is not the strongest episode of the season to come, it does have a much stronger sense of self and purpose than anything that has really come before. It isn’t a bold or ground-breaking script by any measure; it’s actually a relatively simple story. It just tells that story with a wonderful resonance, clarity and efficiency, commodities that have been sorely lacking from The Next Generation to date.

Hold on, it's time for a change...

Hold on, it’s time for a change…

Continue reading

Star Trek: The Next Generation – Shades of Grey (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.

Well. That’s over now. Star Trek: The Next Generation limps across the finish line of its second season with a compilation clip show designed to save money and keep the season’s episode count up. Shades of Grey is frequently cited as the worst episode not just of the second season of The Next Generation, but of the show as a whole. While it’s hard to entirely agree with this assessment – Shades of Grey is cynical and lazy, but it’s neither as sexist as Angel One or The Child nor as racist as Code of Honour or Up the Long Ladder – it is possible to see where that argument comes from.

Like the first season before it, there’s a sense that the second season of The Next Generation might have been better had it ended an episode earlier. Indeed, the second season could have ended with Q Who? and the only episode anybody would really miss would be The Emissary. Unfortunately, one imagines the syndication agreements and network policy made this impossible. While one suspects many of those involved would be happy if Shades of Grey simply faded from existence, it remains part of the show’s syndication package.

This is a little like what this episode feels like...

This is a little like what this episode feels like…

Continue reading

Star Trek: The Next Generation – Samaritan Snare (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.

To describe Samaritan Snare as a step down from Q Who? feels like an understatement. Q Who? was Star Trek: The Next Generation realising that it needed to improve its game if it ever wanted to measure up to its predecessor, interrogating some aspects of the series that had been taken for granted, calling the crew out on their arrogance and offering an opponent that could really push the Enterprise crew for all that they are worth.

It was really the logical culmination of themes running through the second season, themes that seem to faintly echo into Samaritan Snare, another story about the arrogance and ego of the Enterprise crew. Unfortunately, while it does seem to acknowledge many of the same weaknesses and flaws that Q Who? hit upon, it can’t help but seem a little disappointing. Here, the Enterprise are not thrown against an impossible-to-defeat adversary. Instead, their arrogance turns them into interstellar marks.

His heart just isn't in it...

His heart just isn’t in it…

Continue reading

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine – Invasive Procedures (Review)

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine is twenty years old this year. To celebrate, I’m taking a look at the first and second seasons. Check back daily for the latest review or retrospective.

Invasive Procedures is an interesting episode. It has a great high concept, some nice character beats, and offers an inside glimpse at an astonishingly interesting alien culture. Verad is a compelling guest character and Sisko gets to be pretty badass, continuing the presentation of the character as some weird composite of James T. Kirk and Jean-Luc Picard.

There are however, a number of very sizeable flaws. The most obvious being that – despite this is nominally a “Dax” story – Dax winds up feeling more like a plot point than a character in her own right.

Slugging it out...

Slugging it out…

Continue reading

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine – Move Along Home (Review)

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine is twenty years old this year. To celebrate, I’m taking a look at the first season. Check back daily for the latest review or retrospective.

And here we hit what is commonly agreed to be the nadir of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine‘s rocky first season. Even the production staff seemed to acknowledge the problems with Move Along Home. Director David Carson conceded that it was “disappointing”, while future writer Ronald D. Moore could help  “wondering if everyone had lost their minds.” And there’s no way of getting around it. Move Along Home is a stinker in virtually every way that counts. It’s messy, contrived, confused, but without the wit to pull off the surreality of the set-up. There are no stakes, and the only way the episode can generate suspense is by lying to the audience.

And yet, despite that, I am actually much fonder of Move Along Home than I am of The Passenger. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t like either very much, but I’m more forgiving of the problems with Move Along Home, which stem from the episode’s ambition. There’s a sense that at least the episode was trying to do something a bit novel, even it backfired spectacularly. If I have to choose between flawed ambition and bland mediocrity, I’ll choose flawed ambition every time. Move Along Home might be a pretty dodgy episode, but at least its less generic than The Passenger.

A piece of the action...

A piece of the action…

Continue reading

Wanted! Contestants for Irish Quiz Show!

RTÉ is launching a new quiz show that will be recorded on September 4th as part of the network’s “format farm” season. The producers over at Vision Independent Productions got in touch with me and let me know that they are looking for contestants for Division. I’m always glad to help Irish film and television, so the full text and details are below. If you’d like to enter for a chance to win a €5,000 holiday, drop them a line at the contact details below. Or visit the website.

If you do decide to enter, best of luck!

Divison Logo Continue reading