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Star Trek – Spock’s World by Diane Duane (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.

One of the more interesting aspect of Star Trek tie-in media during the eighties was the sense of freedom enjoyed by those working on the line.

One of the more infamous examples concerned DC’s attempts to publish a monthly comic during the release cycle of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, Star Trek III: The Search for Spock and Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home. The three films tended to build off one another, forming a tight continuity, but that did not stop the comic book company from trying to build off the ending of each of the films, leading to a variety of weird continuity hijinks. Spock left to work on a Vulcan ship; Kirk took command of the Excelsior; a Klingon joined the crew.

Writers working on the tie-in novels enjoyed a similar amount of freedom. By the time that Spock’s World was published in 1989, Diane Duane had been able to firmly establish her own supporting cast of characters in her various tie-in novels. Spock’s World includes appearances from Duane regulars like K’s’t’lk and Harb Tanzer, introduced in The Wounded Sky; even Lia Burke from My Enemy, My Ally puts in an appearance. It really feels like Duane has carved out her own space within the larger Star Trek universe.

However, perhaps that freedom finds its strongest expression in the fact that Duane was able to map an entire cultural and social history unto the planet Vulcan. Spock’s World reads almost like a biography of a fictional planet – charting the history of Vulcan from the planet’s earliest days through to the twenty-third century. It is a delightfully bold and intriguing Star Trek book, one utterly unlike any other tie-in ever published.

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Ed Brubaker’s X-Men – Deadly Genesis (Review/Retrospective)

This May, to celebrate the release of X-Men: Days of Future Past, we’re taking a look at some classic and modern X-Men (and X-Men-related) comics. Check back daily for the latest review.

In 2006, Ed Brubaker was one of the hottest younger writers working at Marvel Comics. He was writing a celebrated run on Captain America. He was about to take over Daredevil following a monumental run by Brian Michael Bendis. He was also going to launch The Immortal Iron Fist with collaborator Matt Fraction. It was a year that cemented Ed Brubaker as one of the primary voices writing at Marvel Comics. In the midst of all that, Brubaker also took over the X-Men franchise.

In the early years of the decade, Marvel had tasked Brian Michael Bendis to reinvent the Avengers franchise, which he had done with Avengers Disassembled and an extended stint on New Avengers. Bendis had done this by tearing down a lot of the elements of The Avengers taken for granted and demonstrating that nothing was safe. The Avengers Mansion was destroyed, Hawkeye and Vision were killed, Wolverine and Spider-Man were recruited. The approach was iconoclastic, but it worked.

Sentinels of liberty...

Sentinels of liberty…

It’s not too hard to see Ed Brubaker’s stint on the X-Men franchise as a not-entirely-successful attempt to emulated Bendis’ reinvention of The Avengers. There was a clear attempt to focus on aspects of the mythology that were outside the comfort zone, and to attack and undermine some of the most sacred areas of the mythology. After all, Brubaker began his run on Uncanny X-Men with The Rise and Fall of the Shiar Empire, a twelve-issue space opera that took the focus of the book off the wake of House of M.

Logically, then, Deadly Genesis serves as the equivalent of Bendis’ Avengers Disassembled. It’s the story that exists as the lead-in to Brubaker’s run, outside the monthly series. It sets the agenda for a lot of what is to follow, shifting the premise and changing the rules. However, Brubaker’s work suffers because he doesn’t have the same freedom that Bendis had with New Avengers. He can’t just clear the board and start anew. Deadly Genesis find him heaping a bold new status quo on top of a bold new status quo.

Burning it all down...

Burning it all down…

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Star Trek: Deep Space Nine – The Storyteller (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.

The Storyteller should not work half as well as it does. While some episodes this season (notably The Passenger and Battle Lines) feel like they were simply lifted directly from the “reject” pile within the writers’ room on Star Trek: The Next Generation, The Storyteller is actually a rejected pitch from that show’s first season. Written by Kurt Michael Bensmiller, the writer responsible for Time Squared, one of the stronger installments of the show’s first two years, it was also written late in 1992, about a month before Star Trek: Deep Space Nine would actually air.

And yet, despite that, The Storyteller really feels like a show that wouldn’t work on any of the other Star Trek spin-offs. A lot of that seems to be down to the work by Ira Steven Behr to polish up Bensmillers’ draft and to add a lot of character work and development to what is a decidedly high concept. As producer Michael Piller confessed in Captains’ Logs Supplemental – The Unauthorized Guide to the New Trek Voyages, “Ira did a lot of work on that script.”

O'Brien's mind is a bit clouded right now...

O’Brien’s mind is a bit clouded right now…

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Star Trek Special #2 (DC Comics, 1994) – A Question of Loyalty (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.

A Question of Loyalty is essentially a Star Trek character study, comparing and contrasting the two young Vulcan female characters to appear in the film franchise, providing a meeting between Valeris and Saavik, Spock’s two young protegés. The production history of Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country is interesting, as there were early plans to include Saavik. For a variety of reasons, this didn’t work out and director Nicholas Meyer and his writers decided to cast a new role, Valeris. A Question of Loyalty allows the two characters to come face-to-face, and offers both some character motivation for the under-developed Valeris and a fond farewell for Saavik.

Her ears are tingling...

Her ears are tingling…

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Star Trek – Dwellers in the Crucible by Margaret Wander Bonanno (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 state of Star Trek tie-ins in 1985 was radically different than it is today. While the film series was at height of its popularity, generating a great deal of attention for the franchise, authors working on the associated tie-in novels were granted a great deal of freedom. Books from this era tend to be a great deal looser, adapting a sort of “devil may care” attitude towards the type of restrictions one might impose on a Star Trek story. Novels could be dedicated to new characters or to existing aliens, or offer radical twists on the show’s rich mythology. It was almost free-style Star Trek, with authors afforded the freedom to tell the stories that they wanted to tell, no matter how difficult it might be to fit that within the confines of “Star Trek.”

Dwellers in the Crucible captures a lot of the spirit of this era quite well. It’s Margaret Wander Bonanno’s first Star Trek tie-in book, but it’s also her strangest. It’s a rather high-concept piece of trashy “women in prison” fiction that dares to ask a question that nobody in their right mind had ever broached before: what if Kirk and Spock were lesbians?

st-dwellersinthecrucible

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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 – Unspoken Truth by Margaret Wander Bonanno (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.

Saavik is an interesting character, for several reasons. Most obviously, there’s the behind the scenes manoeuvrings involving the new character. Everything from her origin to the recasting of the role between Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan and Star Trek III: The Search for Spock. There’s the inclusion of a short scene in Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, and the fact that the last time we see Saavik, she’s watching the reunited cast of the original Star Trek continue their galactic adventures.

There’s her complete absence from Star Trek V: The Final Frontier and then the weird pseudo-return of the character in Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, where the role that would become Valeris was originally considered for Saavik, before being cast with Kim Cattrall, an actress who had originally been considered to play Saavik. It’s interesting to consider the conceptual history of the character, given what she was supposed to represent upon her introduction in The Wrath of Khan.

Margaret Wander Bonanno does an excellent job exploring Saavik’s life in the wake of her decision to remain on Vulcan in The Voyage Home, with Unspoken Truth doing an excellent job playing with the character in the grand scheme of the shared Star Trek universe.

startrek-unspokentruth

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Star Trek Special #1 (1994) – The Needs of the One (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.

In many ways, the Star Trek movies feature more character development and exploration for the cast than the entire three seasons of the television show. Star Trek III: The Search for Spock and Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home are true ensemble pieces, but there’s also more of a sense that this is a family rather than a bunch of people who just hang out together. I’d argue that the cast of Star Trek: The Next Generation remain the tightest ensemble that the franchise has ever produced, but the first six movies portray the crew of the original Enterprise as a bunch of people who have been to hell and back together.

Michael Collins’ The Needs of the One represents a bit of an interlude between The Search for Spock and The Voyage Home, taking place during the crew’s three month “Vulcan exile.” While Collins’ script suffers from its inability to decide whether it’s a Spock-centric character drama or a day-in-the-life of the renegade crew, it’s a fascinating story situated in a lacuna of the movies’ chronology. It cements the idea that Spock has been radically altered over the course of the film series, and that his character arc spans the first four films.

Indeed, Collins’ opening sequence tying together his failure to achieve Kolinahr in Star Trek: The Motion Picture with his decision to once again rejoin the crew in The Voyage Home.

When all Kirk asked for was a tall ship, he probably should have been more specific...

When all Kirk asked for was a tall ship, he probably should have been more specific…

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Non-Review Review: Star Trek II – The Wrath of Khan

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.

In many respects, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan represents the franchise’s first true “reboot.”

There have been various points in the history of the franchise when the show has undergone a reinvention of some description, a radical shift from what it was into what it would be. The third season of Star Trek: The Next Generation represented such a dramatic update, a shift turn-around from the show’s first troubled two seasons. The third and fifth seasons of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine did something similar. Star Trek: Enterprise tried to affect some radical shift, but only managed to accomplish it in the third season. JJ Abrams’ recent summer blockbuster represented its own dramatic alteration to what Star Trek was or could be.

However, The Wrath of Khan represents the show’s first massive shift, the first point at which the franchise effectively evolved into something markedly different from what it had been before.

You Khan do it!

You Khan do it!

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Star Trek – The Galileo Seven (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 only now, almost half-way through the first year of Star Trek, the show is doing a Spock-centric episode. Spock is an iconic and instantly recognisable part of Star Trek lore, to the point that Leonard Nimoy’s version of the character served as the link between the classic series and JJ Abrams’ 2009 reboot of the franchise. The character appeared in The Cage, the very first episode of Star Trek ever produced. He is perhaps even more iconic than James T. Kirk himself.

So it feels slightly weird, then, that The Galileo Seven should serve as the first episode of the series completely devoted to Spock as a character, pushing Jim firmly to the background as we get a look at Spock’s first command experience.

Talk about carrying dead weight...

Talk about carrying dead weight…

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