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Josh Reviews The Latest Short Treks

January 3rd, 2020

As we await the start of the new Picard show, we’ve gotten several new Star Trek short films, called “Short Treks,” on CBS All-Access.  I really loved the four “Short Treks” we got between seasons one and two of Discovery, though I wasn’t wild about the first two we got in this latest batch.  (Let’s not mince words: they were awful.)  The three most recent ones have been better, though none as good as that first batch:

Ask Not — In this very short installment, a young Starfleet cadet finds herself in the midst of a dangerous situation alongside Captain Pike.  I really like this new character of cadet Sidhu, played by Amrit Kaur.  It’s great to see a strong, competent female new character, especially one played by an actress of color.  I’d love to see her again.  Anson Mount is great as Pike, as he was throughout season two of Discovery.  The test that cadet Sidhu is put through is cruel — it’s a bit hard for me to believe this is how Starfleet operates — but we’ve seen Starfleet cadets put through this sort of simulation before (see TNG’s “Coming of Age”) so there is precedent for this.  The short looks great.  None of these shorts look to have been made on the cheap, which is great.  In particular, I quite like the Discovery version of the Original Series uniforms.  The short’s biggest weakness is that, like most of Discovery, it’s too fast-paced and too confusing.  The short runs less than 10 minutes in length.  It could have used a few extra minutes to slow down and better set up cadet Sidhu and her location and situation.  Despite that, it’s a pretty solid short until the intensely aggravating shot at the end of Main Engineering on the Enterprise, which looks NOTHING like Main Engineering from the Original Series Enterprise, and is yet another slap in the face to long-time Star Trek fans.

Ephraim and Dot — This short is the first Star Trek animated project since The Animated Series from the seventies!  It tells the cute story of the at-first antagonistic encounter between a space-faring tardigrade (introduced in Discovery’s first season) and one of the Enterprise’s repair robots (seen in Discovery season two).  I hugely hate and object to the existence of Star Wars-like droids in the Star Trek universe.  I was bummed to see one of those robots used as the centerpiece for this short.  But then I was very surprised and delighted to hear audio from “Space Seed” and discover that this short seems to be set in the classic Star Trek continuity of the Original Series!  I loved how the short traveled through many Original Series adventures (including “The Trouble with Tribbles,” “The Naked Time,” “Who Mourns for Adonais?,” “The Doomsday Machine,” “The Tholian Web,” and more) and even the first several Star Trek movies!  That was very cool.  The animation was terrific.  It shared a certain look and feel with that of The Animated Series, but updated.  The Enterprise looked beautiful.  This Enterprise looked closer to the Original Series design than that seen on Discovery, which made me happy.  And when we saw the refit Enterprise from the movies?  Spectacular!  That’s my very favorite Enterprise design, and the refit Enterprise was beautifully animated.  (Even though they screwed up by labeling the refit Enterprise as 1701-A…. even though the 1701-A Enterprise wasn’t created until the end of Star Trek IV.  Oops.  How did no one catch that?)  The short was narrated by Kirk Thatcher, who worked for years as Leonard Nimoy’s assistant, and who was the angry “punk on bus” from Star Trek IV!  The short’s Looney Tunes style music was silly, but it worked OK.  It made me wonder, though, was any of this meant to be taken seriously?  I loved all of the references to Original Series adventures, though I was annoyed by the usual lack of attention to detail that plagues Discovery, in that the Original Series episodes references were done so completely out of order.  If we’re supposed to be seeing the chronological progression of the droid and tardigrade’s adventures, why couldn’t the various Original Series episodes the two characters pass through have happened in the correct order?  It’s very annoying!

The Girl Who Made the Stars ––  In this short, we see a young Michael Burnham (from Discovery) being told a bed-time story by her father.  It’s a sweet story about courage, though I have to wonder why this fairy tale about how the stars were made was seen as a suitable basis for a Star Trek story.  Like Ephraim and Dot, this short is also animated, albeit in a very different style than that used in Ephraim and Dot.  This is a more lush, 3D style.  I really enjoyed both animation styles.  Each worked for the story being told.  The work Pixomondo Studio did for this short was extremely beautiful.  In particular, I loved how expressive young Michael’s face was.  That was very well done.  It was cute how young Michael had a tardigrade pillow (though of course that doesn’t make sense from a continuity standpoint, as that was first discovered in Discovery season one by an older Michael).  They also show an alien ship jumping to warp from within a planet’s atmosphere, which Trek has established cannot be done… sigh… why can’t the makers of modern Trek pay more attention to these details??  If you can put that aside, this is a sweet, albeit slight, little story.

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