Friday, June 2, 2017

Squawk Box: Trekfried

Star Trek: Enterprise

I'm ambivalent about Season 3. Let's start with the Xindi Weapon attack on Earth- totally okay with the idea of a massive attack on Earth and sending Enterprise out to find the people responsible. That's all fine and dandy- but a fucking laser beam slicing across the Eastern Seaboard? I'm assuming if they have ships like Enterprise, they have better communications technology than we do now- so you're telling me, they a. didn't notice where it was coming from, b. couldn't extrapolate a trajectory and c. warn people to get out of the way? A massive bomb/asteroid attack like we saw in 'Shockwave' would have been more effective and had more emotional heft- especially when it comes to the death of Trip's sister. If someone drops an asteroid on her, there's absolutely nothing that he could have done. But a gigantic ass laser beam? She didn't see the wall of fire, get in her car and run like hell?

The whole quest for the Xindi thing just drags on and on and on and doesn't start getting good until they build-up to the pay off, which actually- and I'm guessing here, because I haven't seen Season 4 yet- is probably the best run of Enterprise episodes of the entire series. I like the idea of the Sphere Builders being behind it all, but there was an epic missed opportunity not to think ahead and plant seeds for this all the way back in Season 1- in a somewhat similar way to what TNG did with the Borg. I also think that with all this Temporal time jumping, there was a huge missed opportunity not to have a crossover ep with another Trek series at some point as well. Pretty much- Zombie Vulcans and the whole Trip/T'Pol thing aside (thank GOD they got rid of those hideous pajamas by the end of the season) the whole thing was good, but it felt like with a little more ambition, it could have been a truly epic arc of Trek.

But then they have to ruin everything by introducing fucking Alien Space Nazis. God damn it.


Star Trek: The Original Series

So, Season 2 apparently is all right for fighting because damn- I can't think of too many episodes in the second season that didn't feature a fistfight of some kind. Overall, it's kind of a mixed bag, but there are some standout episodes worth talking about, 2/3rds of the way through the run of the original series, Right off the bat: 'Amok Time' which introduces the idea of Pon Farr and fleshes out a ton of Vulcan and it's culture that remains canon for the rest of Trek. 'Mirror, Mirror' introduces the alternate 'eeeeeeevil' universe where Spock has a goatee (visited  by Deep Space Nine multiple times and weirdly, Enterprise once.)  'The Doomsday Machine' is an incredible episode that can run hold it's own right up there with the best of Trek. 'Journey To Babel' introduces Spock's parents, 'The Trouble With Tribbles' is a classic and deep in the season, where I was just sort of getting used to eye rolling, 'meh' episodes, 'The Ultimate Computer' came along and surprised the heck out of me with an intelligent look at the debate between technology and humanity and the boundaries between the two- some of which still seems very relevant today.

While the good are very good, the bad this season are very bad indeed. 'The Gamesters of Triskelion' featured yet another uncomfortable, cringeworthy moment involving a female crew member (Lt. Uhura) getting assaulted in her cell- and that's the best interpretation I can offer- the not so good interpretation is that she was raped in her cell- and they certainly seem to lean toward that in the episode itself. Trek's overall vision of the future is optimistic enough, but it's not all sunshine and daisies for women all the time in the future. I know the portrayal was probably fairly tame for the time it was shown, but in a modern context it is jarring and uncomfortable. That ep is the worst offender...  'Patterns of Force' and 'Bread and Circuses' are just lazy writing, at least to me. Space Nazis and a planet full of Romans are kind of eye-rolling kitchy- though the whole Space Nazi thing persists far longer than you'd think, showing up in Voyager and I think Enterprise as well. 'Catspaw' was just a hot-ass mess and probably my least favorite of the entire season.


Star Trek: The Next Generation

I think Season 5 and Season 6 of TNG are probably this show at it's best- and both seasons are certainly my favorite so far of the run. Season 5 wraps up the Klingon Civil War with Redemption, Parti II and then hits you right away with 'Darmok' a Trek classic, 'Ensign Ro' which introduces the Bajorans and their back story and then 'Disaster' which sees command of the Bridge fall to a very unprepared Counselor Troi- who goes on to have some of her character's best moments in the entire series over the course of Season 5 and into Season 6. ('Power Play' and 'Face of the Enemy' especially the latter, convinced me that Marina Sirtis might just be the John Billingsley of TNG. Criminally underused. Plus, I'm glad she finally ditches the pink velvet thing for a regular uniform. It works for her.) 'Unification Parts I and II' brings Spock into TNG and delves more into the Romulan dissident movement which gets played with in a few episodes. Worf gets some good episodes- especially in 'Ethics' where they explore the ins and outs of ritual suicide and right-to-die ethics.

'The Inner Light' serves as a fantastic book end to the season (along with 'Darmok' this episode has to be one of the best TNG throws down.)

Season 6 keeps the awesomeness right on rolling with the time travel two parter, 'Time's Arrow.' 'Relics' brings Scotty to the future. (McCoy, Scotty, Spock all make it. Sulu, Uhura and Chekov don't make it all the way to the future at all- though in Chekov's case, I'm sure playing Bester on Babylon Five probably kept him busy. And Sulu does show up with the Voyager episode 'Flashback' as, weirdly enough, a flashback.) 'Chain of Command' is an excellent two parter- probably one of TNG's best... David Warner and Patrick Stewart bounce perfectly off one and other. 'Tapestry' is probably the best Q episode of the bunch. (It's a Wonderful 'Q' Life, pretty much) and Doctor Crusher has one of her strongest outings of the series in 'Suspicions.' (Another character they could have and should have done more with.)

We'll see what Season 7 brings, but at this point after probably two of the strongest Seasons I've seen thus far, let me just say this: I get it. I'm on board. This is really, really good stuff...  is it... better than Deep Space Nine good? That I don't know...  but  has TNG nudged far enough ahead to make for a photo finish with Deep Space Nine and Voyager? I think it has. The level of consistency and the quality of writing, especially in the later seasons are more than evident.


Star Trek: Deep Space Nine

The back half of Deep Space Nine is amazing. Probably the best, the most consistently excellent run of any Trek franchise out there. Once the Dominion War (which the back half of Season 5 built up too) begins, it doesn't seem possible, but Deep Space Nine gets even better- opening Season 6 with a six episode arc about the struggle to retake Deep Space Nine. There's not really a bad episode here- there's a weak-ish one, 'Valiant' the whole, 'ship full of kids doing war' didn't really work for me. Sort of made me roll my eyes more than anything else- but hey, if that's the only complete you can muster, then it has to have been a good season of television.

So, what's the best of the best? Well Dax and Worf get married, ('You Are Cordially Invited') Iggy Pop shows up as a Vorta ('The Magnificent Ferengi'), Sisko makes compromises to help win the war ('In The Pale Moonlight') oh and you can throw in, 'Who Mourns For Mourn?', 'Far Beyond The Stars' and 'The Sound of Her Voice' to that list as well.

I know I said Voyager was pushing up the list and threatening to dethrone Deep Space Nine as my favorite Trek, but these last two and a half seasons are reminding me just how excellent DS9 can be.


Bonus: Chaos On The Bridge

A fascinating little documentary about the early seasons of The Next Generation, William Shatner lifts the lid on the craziness. From getting a deal to make another show in place, to making sure that Gene Roddenberry gave it his blessing and came onboard to casting, to the chaos in the writer's room that was reflected in the, shall we say, somewhat uneven quality on the show in the early years.

Facts I did not know: they made Patrick Stewart audition in a toupee because Gene Roddenberry was convinced that people wouldn't go for a bald Captain. Boy was he wrong! Roddenberry's lawyer is a character that I would have loved to have seen interviewed for this doc, because apparently he had his fingers in every thing. And Roddenberry? His vision of an utopian future where everyone got along clashed with the realities of television: namely that without drama, there is no television show. After going through writer after writer after writer- and losing cast members (Denise Crosby left the show when Tasha Yar was killed off. Gates McFadden got fired and replaced with Diana Muladar's Dr. Pulaski for the Second Season only to be brought back in the 3rd Season) eventually they got Michael Piller in charge of the writing and he shifted the focus onto the characters- a formula that stuck not only throughout the rest of TNG's run but through subsequent series' as well.

If you're a fan of Star Trek, look this up. It's floating around Netflix and it's only about an hour- so it's not a hard watch and it's an enjoyable, behind-the-scenes look at TNG's early years.

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