Monday, March 6, 2017

Squawk Box: Die Trekure

The second round of the grand, Star Trek Cycle has arrived. I've made progress on all fronts, but Voyager lit a fire under my behind and I wrapped it up in short order with Deep Space Nine knocking on the door of the finish line next. (We're into Season 5 and heading for Season 6 and the Dominion War now...) The title of the post? Well, it's from the second opera of the Der Ring des Nibelungen, 'Die Walkure', hence, Die Trekure.

Let's take it from the top, shall we?

Star Trek: Ten episodes into Season 2 and one thing immediately stands out: they be brawlin' all over the place! From 'Amok Time' to 'Journey To Babel' there's always fisticuffs in damn near every episode. Chekov also appears, which is nice. But so far there's been a few 'meh' episodes- one inexplicable, 'what the hell am I watching?' episode ('Catspaw') and a handful of good ones. 'Mirror, Mirror' introduces us to the evil parallel universe (goatees are bad), 'Amok Time' shows us Vulcan for the first time. I'd say in the early going, 'The Doomsday Machine' and 'Metamorphosis' might be my favorites, but we've got a lot of Season 2 left.

Star Trek The Next Generation: The Next Generation continues to grow on me the more I watch of it, but I don't think it's as consistently good as DS9 or even Voyager are. Season 4 wrapped up 'The Best of Both Worlds' and dealt with the fallout in 'Family.' Wesley Crusher finally goes to the Academy and exits the show in 'Final Mission' and 'The Wounded' introduce us to the Cardassians- who evolve a bit before they get to Deep Space Nine. (Weirdly, 'The Host' also introduces the Trill- who also go through some evolution before we get to Deep Space Nine.) 'Reunion' provides a nice foreshadowing of the Klingon Upheaval/Civil War that ends the season in 'Redemption, Part I' but it's two episodes that really stand out: 'Identity Crisis' where LaForge turns into a cool looking UV alien and 'First Contact' which was probably the best episode of the season. We'll see what Season 5 brings, but I continue to move a little more slowly on TNG than I do on DS9.

Star Trek Deep Space Nine: I'm heading into Season 5 for Deep Space Nine and I'm sure DS9 will be the next series off the board, but once I got through Season 4, it struck me: Season 4 is a really, really good season. In fact, reviewing the episodes- I don't think there's a bad/weak one in the bunch. The addition of Worf to the cast is a welcome shake-up in 'The Way Of The Warrior', 'The Visitor' should appear on any list of 'Best-Of Trek Episodes' somewhere near the top. If it doesn't, then it's a bad list. Seriously though: this was an incredibly well balanced season- there are good Ferengi episodes, good Bajoran episodes, good Bashir and good Odo episodes! Everyone gets great material to work with. We'll see how I feel at the end of my DS9 run, but I think Season 4 might be the best run of episodes of any Trek anywhere.

Star Trek Voyager: The next series off the board, I had intended to keep cycling through all the Treks more or less equally to spread out my viewing, but Voyager got it's claws on me and I just took off and ran through the rest of the series. I left off about halfway through Season 3 at 'Fair Trade' which is where Neelix reaches the end of his knowledge and Voyager really starts heading into the unknown. Early hints of the Borg follow the back half of the season- while 'Before and After' provides a new preview of 'Year of Hell' coming up in Season 4- it's 'Distant Origin' that was the highlight for me, with it's commentary on the theory of evolution- and plus, hey, we find out what happens to the dinosaurs, right?

Season 4 sees the departure of Kes (Jennifer Lien) in 'The Gift' which gets them ten years closer to home and the arrival of Seven of Nine (Jeri Ryan). Everyone talks about 'Year of Hell' as being one of Voyager's standout episodes and I agree that it is, but to me, it's the stand alone episodes that sneak up on you and surprise you that really resonate with me. 'Message In A Bottle' sees them finally get the word out that they're still alive and kicking. 'Scientific Method' is a brilliant episode where the crew are being used as guinea pigs in an experiment. 'The Omega Directive' feels like a throwback to The Original Series, almost- and 'Living Witness' is one of my favorite Voyager episodes ever.

Season 5 features both high points and low points: 'Night' might well by one of the strongest season premiers in the entire run of the series. 'Extreme Risk' and 'Latent Image' provide excellent character development for both B'Elanna Torres and The Doctor respectively. ('Timeless' is another one that stands out.) 'Dark Frontier' is an excellent mini-movie tangle with The Borg and of course, the lowlight on everyone's list 'Course: Oblivion' is in the back half of this season as well.

Season 6: 'Blink of an Eye' what a fantastic episode of science fiction this is. So much goes on in this episode and it's an amazing concept. I'm sort of 'meh' about the whole Equinox two parter because they take in all these extra crewmen and then they don't revisit it ever again. 'Good Shepherd' is another episode that I totally forgot about that was really, really good- and I like the whole Borg Children arc they played with. Even though Icheb is the only one who sticks around, it really helped Seven of Nine sort of grow as a character a bit more.

'Unimatrix Zero' is another interesting tangle with The Borg- and the 'Flesh and Blood' two parter brings back the Hirogen, who, I think in contrast to the Kazon could have developed into really iconic villains had they been introduced a season or two earlier. The marriage of Torres and Paris and her pregnancy get played with in a couple of episodes here, which breaks new ground for Trek, by having two members of the crew get married and have a baby- Worf and Dax were headed that way on Deep Space Nine of course and then, she got killed. The exit of Neelix from the ship is beautifully done in 'Homestead' and The Doctor gets one final adventure in 'Renaissance Man' before the last tangle with the Borg that finally gets Voyager home in 'Endgame.'

This was my second time watching Voyager from start to finish and the more I watch it, the more it seems to grow on me. Deep Space Nine probably remains my favorite of all the Treks, but Voyager is threatening to push it into second place. I like a lot of the writing on this show- I like how, especially in the early seasons, it's very science-y. In fact, I'd go so far as to say that Voyager is the most science-y of all the Treks- there's always some problem they've all got to come together and solve or theory to test. If someone hasn't looked at how the scientific method is handled on this show and discussed, they should. That aspect of the show does fade a bit in later seasons, but I think the overall flavor of it is still there.

Would I buy this show on DVD? If they weren't all on Netflix, I absolutely would.

Enterprise: The back half of season two builds up to the Xindi attack on Earth in 'The Expanse.' While 'Carbon Creek' offered a different take on First Contact with the Vulcans, once again, Enterprise seems to be falling into a trap ordained by canon- namely that they encounter ever race every other series ever did, thus, we also have the stinker 'Regeneration' where, naturally, we must encounter The Borg. It's balanced out by episodes like 'Horizon' (character development for Travis) and 'First Flight' (some nice Archer backstory) but halfway through and I'm still not sure how to feel about Enterprise. Dr. Phlox is probably the most consistently excellent character in the show, but all I see everywhere is wasted potential. This show could have been much more. Maybe the next two seasons will prove me wrong- I hope so, but still. There's moment of excellence interspersed with a whole lot of 'meh' and some tired, tired old Trek.

We'll see what Seasons 3 and 4 bring.

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