Archive for May, 2013

Trekathon: All Good Things

May 18th, 2013

738 movies or episodes down.

(Memory Alpha says 728, but I count five of the two-part episodes in their syndication versions, not their original aired versions).

What did I learn from all that?

First, I became a Star Trek fan. Before I did this I was just someone who liked Star Trek. But after watching the whole thing I found I liked it a lot more than I thought I did, and liked it in a broad way. I learned to appreciate The Next Generation and The Original Series a lot more than I did before, I found flaws in Deep Space 9 that I hadn’t appreciated, and I even found some things to like in Voyager. Enterprise was the genuine surprise – I was expecting bad, I got (for the most part) good.

Secondly, I found out that there’s a lot more to being ‘Trek’ than I thought. When reading the books about Star Trek I used to find the Roddenberry philosophy stuff a bit annoying and pretentious. But having watched the whole thing, I can now see there’s a core to what it means to be Star Trek present in that philosophy. As I mentioned before, it’s most obvious when it’s missing, as in the first Abrams Star Trek, or Season 3 of Enterprise.

Thirdly, I had a good history lesson in TV. With Star Trek stretching over nearly 50 years of TV history, the changes are interesting, and tell you a lot about what’s going on with the people who run TV networks.

To finish things up, a few more lists.

First, the classic episodes. My own notes put 65 episodes down as great or better, but there are 16 that stand out for me.

Next Generation:

  • Yesterday’s Enterprise
  • The Best of Both Worlds
  • Darmok
  • Cause and Effect
  • The Inner Light
  • Chain of Command, Part II
  • Frame of Mind
  • Parallels
  • All Good Things… (I)
  • All Good Things… (II)

Deep Space Nine:

  • Duet
  • The Wire
  • The Visitor
  • Hard Time
  • Trials and Trbbleations

Enterprise:

  • In A Mirror Darkly, Part I

(Yes, no Original Series – there’s a lot of great episodes, but nothing that quite makes it to this level).

There were about 30 writers with more than 10 credits on Star Trek. So now we have the top 6 and bottom 6 writers:

Top 6:

  • Peter Allan Fields (16 credits) – The Inner Light.
  • René Echevarria (43 credits) – Lower Decks, I, Borg, Trials and Tribble-ations.
  • Ronald D. Moore (64 credits) – Yesterday’s Enterprise, Trials and Tribble-ations.
  • Chris Black (13 credits) – Countdown, Proving Ground
  • Michael Piller (44 credits) – The Best of Both Worlds
  • Robert Hewitt Wolfe (40 credits) – The Wire, Had Time

Bottom 6:

  • DC Fontana (19 credits) – This Way to Eden
  • Lisa Klink (15 credits) – Favorite Son
  • Gene Roddenberry (17 credits) – Datalore, Mudd’s Women
  • Maurice Hurley (12 credits) – Shades of Grey
  • Raf Green (11 credits) – Virtuoso
  • Hans Beimler (37 credits) – What You Leave Behind, His Way

This isn’t a totally fair picture, of course – not very much separates Robert Wolfe from DC Fontana. The main reason Hans Beimler comes in absolute last place is my deep and abiding hatred of Vic Fontaine. And almost all of the most prolific (30 plus credits) writers have at least one stinker and one great to their name.

Poor old Gene gets the hardest rap from this – he was a great series creator, but the episodes he wrote himself just weren’t that great.

That was 32,792 minutes – or 546 and a half hours, or just short of 23 days. Of which, by the way, around 1,817 minutes was the opening and closing credits (1 and a quarter days).

I’ve written 117,327 words on this whole thing, or about twice as many words as there are in an average novel.

And that’s it. Well, there’s still a few more things to do. There are about a dozen non-Trek things I want to review specifically in terms of the influence that Trek has had on them. And after that, well, maybe some more normal blogging for a year or two at least.

But for now, Live Long and Prosper.


Trekathon Movie Summary

May 18th, 2013

Twelve movies – all very different.

Let’s start with the rankings, and then discuss:

Great:

  • Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan
  • Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country

Good, but flawed in some way:

  • Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home
  • Star Trek Into Darkness
  • Star Trek: First Contact
  • Star Trek

OK, but not great:

  • Star Trek Generations
  • Star Trek III: The Search for Spock
  • Star Trek: The Motion Picture

Plain and simply bad:

  • Star Trek: Insurrection
  • Star Trek: Nemesis
  • Star Trek V: The Final Frontier

But wait, I hear you say. Didn’t you call the movies just a little down this page ‘not Trek’? True. But the sad fact is that the movies on average are not a great representation of Star Trek. Even the undisputed champion, Wrath of Khan, only barely hangs on to what’s at the core of Trek.

If someone wants to watch some Star Trek, start them with parts of the TV show. The movies are just not the right place.

Which makes it all the more sad that right now TV Trek is dead, and only Movie Trek is around.


Trekathon 738: Star Trek Into Darkness (MOV)

May 18th, 2013

Kirk hunts down a dangerous terrorist.

For the first time since I started this, the spoiler one is in effect. Watch out, spoilers for the entire movie after the break. If you want the non-spoiler version: I liked it. Some of the flaws of the first movie are still a problem, but it feels a lot more like Star Trek overall.

Read the rest of this entry »


Trekathon 737: Star Trek (MOV)

May 7th, 2013

JJ Abrams reboots Star Trek.

This is a pretty good, but not spectacular, movie. There’s a good mix of action and plot, a believable enemy with understandable (if extreme) goals, good character development, and some good humour. It has some problems, most notably some ridiculously overcomplicated camera work, and a some bad inconsistencies on scale/speed of things. But generally a good fun summer action movie.

Where I struggle more is with the question of whether or not this should be considered Star Trek or not. Some elements work well – Zachary Qunito is excellent as Spock, and there are occasional glimmers of the Kirk we know in Chris Pine’s performance. More importantly, the relationship between the two of them feels as it did in the TV series. The supporting characters are less consistent – Bones is good, but Uhura, Sulu and Chekhov have been reduced to one note versions of themselves. Scotty has more promise, but still feels off.

But there are continual tonal problems. I don’t mean things like the bar brawl – that’s the sort of thing we saw in TNG, Voyager and DS9. But rather things like the clumsy Nokia product placement, building spaceships on Earth, too many new alien species – things that (Nokia aside) feel more like Star Wars than Star Trek to me. But there are some hints back to the right tone, particularly through Old Spock, and when Kirk offers mercy to the Romulans.

On balance it is more Star Trek than not, but it was a close run thing.

737 down, none to go. Well, until the next movie is released tomorrow Australia time.


Trekathon Season Review: Enterprise, Season 4

May 6th, 2013

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.

So to start, this season needs to be considered in two brackets. Firstly, the five ‘standalone’ episodes: three awful (Bound, These are the Voyages… and Daedalus), one average (Home) and one OK-ish (Observer Effect). By any measure, a pretty bad year here.

But then there are the seven multi-part stories: one bad (Storm Front), one average (the Terra Prime two-parter), one OK-ish (the Augments trilogy), one good (the Andoria/Tellar trilogy) and two excellent (the Vulcan trilogy and In a Mirror, Darkly). With the exception of Storm Front, these were all about digging into the origin stories of the Trek that we know from earlier (and therefore later) series. Given my entire project, these episodes were always going to appeal to me more than the average run. The Vulcan trilogy mainly rescued the series from some continuity problems. But the mirror universe story resurrected a plot that DS9 had ground into dust.

Overall that’s the very definition of a mixed bag, with as many great episodes as there are terrible ones. There are only four other seasons with as many great episodes (TNG 4, 5 and 6, and DS9 2). But there are also only two others with as many terrible episodes (TOS 3, TNG 1). In the end it’s a nose ahead of Voyager Season 5 on the great episodes, but just behind DS9 Season 1 because of the terrible ones.

That brings the final league table to:

The very best of Trek:

  • TNG Season 6
  • DS9 Season 2

Strong performers:

  • DS9 Season 5
  • TNG Season 3
  • TNG Season 5
  • TOS Season 2
  • ENT Season 3
  • TNG Season 4
  • VOY Season 4

Mixed bag:

  • TOS Season 1
  • DS9 Season 4
  • DS9 Season 1
  • ENT Season 4
  • VOY Season 5
  • ENT Season 1
  • VOY Season 1
  • TNG Season 7

Not good:

  • DS9 Season 3
  • DS9 Season 6
  • VOY Season 6
  • VOY Season 3
  • TNG Season 2
  • ENT Season 2
  • TAS Season 1

Really just awful:

  • VOY Season 7
  • VOY Season 2
  • DS9 Season 7
  • TOS Season 3
  • TAS Season 2
  • TNG Season 1

Overall Enterprise is clearly substantially better than Voyager, and clearly not as good as TNG. But what about the Original Series? They have similar numbers of episodes overall (80 for TOS versus 98 for ENT), and similar numbers of excellent episodes (6 for TOS, 7 for TNG). But Enterprise never got as lost as TOS Seaosn 3 managed, so by a nose I’m giving this one to Enterprise.

That makes the final series league table:

  • Deep Space 9
  • The Next Generation
  • Enterprise
  • The Original Series
  • Voyager
  • The Animated Series

That’s 736 watched, 32,533 minutes, and 99.61% complete. 115,585 words written. 1 to go. Only the one movie left now. At least until the 9th.


Trekathon 736: These Are the Voyages … (ENT)

May 6th, 2013

Dear Writers of this Episode,

No, Fuck You!

Signed,

Everyone who actually liked this show.

Outside of the big problem (that this is a bad episode of TNG, not a farewell to Enterprise), there are a lot of other issues with this episode. Characterisation feels off all over the place. No one has gotten a promotion in six whole years. Shran is suddenly unable to solve problems on his own. Reed appears to have given up on internal security. And then Trip dies for absolutely no purpose or benefit. And no one other than Archer or T’Pol seem to care that he’s dead. And it’s implied that this isn’t the founding of the Federation, which doesn’t match with what we were told by Daniels back in Zero Hour when we saw the same ceremony.

Truly horrible. A full third is wasted on the TNG sequences, which add to an episode in no need of further explanation.

736 down, 1 to go. That was the end of TV Trek, after 18 uninterrupted years.