Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Squawk Box: Trekkerdamerung

Star Trek: Enterprise
This might be an unpopular opinion, but I think that Enterprise deserved at least one more season and it baffles me that the fourth season didn't get them at least 13 more episodes- hell, even a pick-up as a mid-season replacement would have been something that this show had earned at the very least. I get why they pulled the plug though- it took this show too long to find its footing and it spent three seasons getting lost in a lot of unnecessary muck and mire before putting together a remarkably solid, nay, even good 4th Season. That only makes the overall experience of the show that much more frustrating. This could have been really, really good- the threads were all there. They just didn't get it put together in time.

If it were me, I would have made a rule from Episode 1: if they haven't met an alien in the Original Series, they can't appear on Enterprise. There were too many episodes in the first season that felt like they were checking off various 'fan service' things that were completely unnecessary and undermined the premise of the show. The introduction of the Andorians was brilliant. The conflict between the Andorians and the Vulcans should have been explored more. Ditto with the Tellarites. I felt like the Romulans should have been a bigger long term behind the scenes villain than they were.

While the Xindi arc was okay, it felt a little odd simply because the Xindi didn't exist in canon prior to this- ditto with the Suliban. And the Temporal Cold War silliness missed golden opportunities to crossover with Voyager (who also plays around with the Temporal Cold War/time agents kind of a deal.) Despite all the goodwill the 4th Season built up for me, the finale "These Are The Voyages..." was hot garbage and did the crew and this show a massive disservice. As a TNG episode, it's good. As a series finale and a goodbye to this show, it was a flaming dumpster fire. Not a good note to end on. (John Billingsley as Dr. Phlox is probably the MVP of this show for me personally. Ranks right up there with McCoy and the Doctor from Voyager as best doctors in Trek.)

Star Trek: The Original Series
Well, I did it. I finally watched the original 79 episodes and the 3rd Season was probably the hardest season of the three to get through. That's not to say that it didn't have it's moments... 'The Enterprise Incident' is a standout highlight of the early portion of the season, as is 'The Tholian Web' and 'For The World Is Hollow and I Have Touched The Sky.' There are some mid-range surprises as well with the meeting with Garth of Izar in 'Whom Gods Destroy' and 'The Lights of Zetar' also jumped out at me.

But you can tell that time is running out and the overall quality of the show takes a turn in the back third of the season. 'Turnabout Intruder' is an sudden abrupt ending that the series didn't deserve and didn't do anything particularly original with the old 'body-switching' trope- though it made noises in that direction talking about gender roles- but didn't do much more than that. 'The Way To Eden' is a good premise (the Enterprise is hijacked) weighed down by a commentary on the counterculture of the 60s that doesn't age well at all. And let us never speak of the 3rd season premiere, 'Spock's Brain' or at least do so at little as possible.

Overall I think every season had their standout episodes, but this season made me sit up and take notice the least. It was... okay, I guess. It had a moment or two here or there, but was very 'meh.' What I think I do appreciate about The Original Series is that it's aesthetic and tone and storytelling style is very evident in each of the six movies featuring the original cast. As a series, it provided a certain amount of context to the movies and gave me a greater appreciation of why the series has endured for as long as it has.

Star Trek: The Next Generation
Okay, okay...  I get it now. I get why TNG is as loved and revered as it is. I took me awhile to really get into this show, but I think Season 7 is probably what sealed the deal for me. If ever there was a show that went out on a sublime, perfect high, it's probably this one.

The series finale, 'All Good Things' might be the best series finale of any of the Trek franchise- it ties everything back into such a beautiful bow. In terms of it's final season, it's generally very, very good- other than 'Masks' (which was...  odd, but not bad.) and 'Journey's End' (which was a weird-ass way to close out Wesley Crusher's character) there's not really episodes that I would consider to be 'duds'. I loved 'The Pegasus', 'Parallels', 'Lower Decks', 'Sub Rosa' and 'Genesis' probably the most. I liked the fact that Troi finally takes her bridge test to become a proper officer- which only underlines the fact that they could have done SO MUCH more with her character- but it's nice to see them doin' it right by Season 7. Ditto with Dr. Crusher in 'Sub Rosa'- which I've seen people rag on here and there on the Trek Subreddits, but I actually liked that shift in tone. A lot of the later shows play around and bend the genre a bit and TNG doesn't do that all that often, but when they do- shifting into a gothic horror/ghost story type of tone, the results are often very good indeed.

Honestly, I think I would buy TNG as well. For sure I'd get DS9 before any of the others, but I think I'd add TNG as well. (Oh, who am I kidding: I'd buy Voyager too.)

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine
Deep Space Nine remains my favorite Trek. It goes deeper, darker and grittier than any other Trek series before or since and the 7th Season provides an especially satisfying conclusion to the series. I forgot just how great Nicole DeBoer is stepping into the role of Ezri Dax. That's gotta be a tall order for anyone, given Terry Farrell's tenure on the show- but in one season, she manages to make Ezri seem like a fully fledged character that's been on the station all along. Before the show launches into the final ten episode arc to end the show, the war dominates everything with Nog losing his leg and a new ally chipping in with the Dominion (the Breen) and throwing everything in the war up in the air once more.  In the meantime, Dukat gets a makeover, gets down and funky with Kai Winn and prepare for a Pah-Wraith- Prophet showdown that decides the fate of the Emissary once and for all.

How do I feel about the fate of Captain Sisko, Bajoran Space Jesus? I feel like there's more to the story and would love to see a television special, a movie, anything, finishing the tale of Captain Sisko once and for all. After all, he did promise that he would be back. In the meantime: Deep Space Nine remains awesome... honestly, if I was going to buy and own any Trek series top to bottom, it would probably be DS9 (I was on my way to doing just that back in my undergraduate days... Jesus, I used to have a lot of seasons of television on DVD. I shudder to think how many I had and then divested of over the years... (I legit miss Stargate Atlantis on DVD.)

Star Trek: Discovery
I had been dreading this show for about a year and a half now. Bryan Fuller left. There was delay after delay after delay. Reviews were embargoed which people took as another sign of an incoming trainwreck of a television show and you know what? Every bit of negative hype around this show turned out to be so, so, so, so unbelievably wrong.

The first two episodes were 100% the greatest series premiere in Trek. Hands down. Not even a contest. The scale was more epic and bigger than any previous Trek series. It looked fucking beautiful- the SFX are movie level on this. The actors clicked beautifully. Michelle Yeoh was excellent as Captain Georgiu. Sonequa Martin-Green as Commander Burnham? I'm all in. I can't wait to see where this is going to go. Doug Jones as Science Officer Saru? I immediately loved his dynamic with Burnham right off the bat. (When Burnham's at his station he sort of reaches over her to take back his station- it's such a small moment, but worked so well!) The Klingons worried me in the run up to this, but you know what? I'm in. Star Trek up to now has rarely had aliens that felt really and truly alien and these Klingons do. It reveals a complexity to their political structure and culture that had yet to be revealed in canon. I also sort of see that they've got different looks/ridges as well which could also sort of solve some of the canon problems about the different looks they've had over the years as well.

We'll see how the next thirteen episodes go, but this is an incredibly ambitious, beautiful, intelligent, start to a brand new Trek that I am genuinely excited about.

Bonus Round:
Star Trek Generations: Better than I remember it and overall, not that bad as TNG-Trek movies go- but alas for loss of the Enterprise-D and it gets a bit... sloppy with all the Nexus business at the end. (Plus: uniforms are a weird mix of TNG and DS9 throughout.)

Star Trek IV The Voyage Home: Time travel hijinks + whales. Still probably one of the best TOS crew movies. (Plus, Spock's "Ah...  the giants." still cracks me up.) And 7th Heaven weirdness- Catharine Hicks shows up as Gillian whatsherface three movies after Stephen Collins showed up as Decker in TMP.

Star Trek Insurrection: Dare I say it, but this might be the best TNG Movie? Seriously. It had action, it had themes, it had depth, it had fun. I enjoyed the hell out of this movie.

Star Trek V The Final Frontier: Curiously, not nearly as bad as I remember it being. I think my perception of a lot of these movies has shifted the more of the original series that I've watched. You could see this one had its roots in the television show in many ways, despite taking a left turn and getting lost in the whole God mess.

Star Trek VI The Undiscovered Country: probably the one I've watched the most and still great even after all these years. Nicholas Meyer should write all the Star Treks.

Star Trek II The Wrath of Khan: Still the best Trek movie.

Star Trek III The Search For Spock: More like Star Trek II Part II, but still good. Seriously... all of these movies are much better than I remember them being.

Star Trek The Motion Picture: probably the weakest one of the bunch, but is a fun super late 70s science fiction movie. I kind of dig it. Very Kubrick in a lot of ways.

Star Trek First Contact: The most memorable TNG Trek movie, it actual remains a solid entry in the franchise. I'd maybe put ahead of Insurrection. But not by much.

Star Trek Beyond: The best of the nu-Treks, it's just so much fun. Start to finish.

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