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Star Trek: The Next Generation – The Hunted (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 Hunted is a piece of allegorical Star Trek. Like The Defector before it, there’s a sense that the show is a little behind the curve – that it’s really dealing with issues that aren’t at the peak of their relevance. The Cold War with the Romulans felt like a bit of a throwback in the era of glasnost, and the ghosts of Vietnam raised by The Hunted feel like echoes of a national debate that had already taken place in the mid- to late-eighties.

And yet, despite that, it works. Like The Defector, there’s a sense that The Next Generation is distant enough from the issue that it can engage objectively. The treatment of Jarok in The Defector or Roga Danar in The Hunted feels infinitely more nuanced and sophisticated than the portrayal of Finn in The High Ground, when The Next Generation was rather consciously trying to engage with a more relevant and topical issue.

Effectively The Next Generation‘s Vietnam story, The Hunted serves as a startlingly effective piece of television. It might be the best action-driven episode of the show to date.

Keep soldiering on...

Keep soldiering on…

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The X-Files – Darkness Falls (Review)

Darkness Falls is the best script Chris Carter has written so far. It it is far superior to Fire or Space or Young at Heart or The Jersey Devil or even The Pilot. It’s quite possibly the strongest normal “monster-of-the-week” episode that Carter ever wrote, discounting his work on “special” episodes (like Post-Modern Prometheus or Triangle) or even some mythology stories (I’m quite fond of Redux).

Darkness Falls is – at its most basic – just a very strong monster-of-the-week installment, hitting all the right buttons to provide an atmospheric horror thriller.

If a tree falls in the woods...

If a tree falls in the woods…

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Star Trek: Myriad Universes – Echoes and Refractions: The Chimes at Midnight by Geoff Trowbridge (Review)

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.

We’ll be supplementing our coverage of the movies with tie-ins around (and related to) the films. We’ll be doing one of these every week day. This is one such article.

The death of Spock at the climax of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan is one of the definitive Star Trek moments. Pop culture has assimilated the moment, to the point where any half-decent nerd will identify “the needs of the many…” or “I have been and always shall be…” or maybe even “of all the souls I encountered…” It’s an absolutely massive moment for the franchise, where the film series dared to kill off the show’s most iconic and best-loved character.

It’s no wonder that the moment is such a strong focal point for those seeking to explore Star Trek. Star Trek: Into Darkness riffs mercilessly on that iconic scene, inverting it and counting on the iconography to generate enough emotional resonance for the film to get away with a fairly half-hearted homage. (The effects of The Wrath of Khan last until Star Trek III: The Search for Spock, while the consequences of the climax of Into Darkness don’t even last until the closing credits.)

So that famous sequence serves as an effective focal point of Geoff Trowbridge’s The Chimes at Midnight, which offers a parallel continuity of the Star Trek films in a universe where Spock died after the events of Yesteryear.

st-myriaduniverses

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Star Trek – Operation — Annihilate!

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.

How do you follow The City on the Edge of Forever? The previous episode is one of the best-loved episodes of Star Trek ever produced, one of the great science-fiction television episodes of the sixties, and one of the best science-fiction romances ever written. It’s a gigantic and massively influential piece of television, one of the cornerstones of Star Trek and perhaps the best indicator of just how thoughtful and how genuine the franchise can be when it tries. So, what’s next? Where do we go from here? What is the next shot after that last scene of Kirk abandoning the Guardian of Forever on a desolate rock?

It’s always interesting to compare the first season of Star Trek to the first year of Star Trek: The Next Generation. The former can be counted among the very best of the show’s thirty televised seasons, while the latter can be counted among the worst. However, they do have something in common. They both probably should have ended an episode early, with The City on the Edge of Forever and Conspiracy serving as effective caps on each show’s first season, leaving the audience a chance to digest what they had seen.

Unfortunately, neither show ended on anything that could be measured among the strongest show of a given year. The Neutral Zone ended the first season of The Next Generation with a moralising whimper. While Operation — Annihilate! is quite entertaining on its own terms, it doesn’t rank among the best of the season. Still, it’s a solid pulpy science-fiction tale, which might not be the worst thing.

Man of action!

Man of action!

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Star Trek – A Taste of Armageddon (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 amazing to think that A Taste of Armageddon and The Return of the Archons were produced on consecutive weeks by the same television show. Both are politically-charged pieces of pop culture, heavily influenced by the realities of the Cold War, but they adopt two completely different philosophies towards the conflict. The Return of the Archons is a story about the need for freedom and individuality, and how the struggle for those inalienable rights is a battle that must be fought. While it’s debatable whether Landru is a representation of the forces of communism, the episode is unquestionably about the triumph of Western liberal values.

In contrast, A Taste of Armageddon can’t help but feel a little cynical about the whole damn thing.

A shooting war...

A shooting war…

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Non-Review Review: Thunderbolt & Lightfoot

I think that Thunderbolt & Lightfoot might be my favourite Michael Cimino film. Don’t get me wrong, of course. I acknowledge and appreciate the director’s work on The Deer Hunter, but it’s not a film I return to on a regular basis. It’s a thoughtful and powerful commentary on the Vietnam War, but it isn’t among my favourite explorations of that particular conflict. On the other hand, while it still has its own serious flaws, Thunderbolt & Lightfoot has a much lighter touch. It’s a film that offers a great deal of depth beneath a relatively accessible surface layer, serving as an exploration of seventies America, but one with significant hidden depths. However, despite his sophisticated work here, Cimino’s directorial début is not inaccessible and works quite well as a hybrid of the “road” and the “heist”movie genres, albeit with a great deal happening beneath the surface.

The road to nowhere?

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Garth Ennis’ Run on Punisher MAX – Hardcover, Vol. V (Review)

To celebrate St. Patrick’s Day, this month we’re going to take a look at Northern Irish writer Garth Ennis’ run on that iconic Marvel anti-hero, The Punisher. Check back every Friday and Wednesday for a review of a particular section.

And so we’re here. We’ve reached the end of Garth Ennis’ Punisher MAX run, and one of the last things the author wrote for the character (he’d go on to write the Punisher: WarZone miniseries to tie into the film of the same name). It’s frequently regarded as perhaps the definitive run on the character, one held up as an example of what the Marvel MAX imprint is capable of. So, it’s been a long, sixty-issue journey to this point. And, I have to confess, I wasn’t entirely blown away by the run, or the conclusion to it.

Firing on all cylinders?

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