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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 … [continued]

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Josh Reviews the New Short Treks Episode: The Trouble with Edward

November 1st, 2019

In “The Trouble with Edward,” the latest “Short Treks” Star Trek short film being released on CBS All Access in the lead-up to the launch of the new Picard series, we meet the newly-promoted Captain Lynne Lucero (Rosa Salazar), transferring off of Christopher Pike’s USS Enterprise onto her own command, the science ship USS Cabot.  Among the Cabot’s command crew is Lieutenant Edward Larkin (H. Jon Benjamin), who proposes a most unusual solution to the starvation crisis the Cabot has been tasked with resolving: genetically engineering fast-breeding Tribbles for the afflicted colonists to eat.  When Captain Lucero rejects this plan, Larkin goes ahead anyways, and Tribble-enduced chaos ensues.

That sounds like the description of a fun romp, and as soon as I learned of this episode’s title (an obvious nod to the Original Series episode “The Trouble with Tribbles”), I was excited.  But my goodness, I thought this was terrible.  It was so bad that it made me truly question whether I should stop watching this new Alex Kurtzman-overseen Star Trek product (which has mostly left me dissatisfied).

Things start well.  I enjoyed the scene between Lucero and Captain Pike, as he wishes her well on her new assignment and gives her some advice, veteran Captain to newbie.  We got some beautiful visual effects, seeing the Enterprise in orbit on the night side of a planet, and getting a good look at the beautiful new starship, the Cabot.  I really liked Rosa Salazar’s performance as this smart, energetic young Captain.  And H. Jon Benjamin is a terrific comedic actor, and I was excited for him to bring some silliness and fun to this new Star Trek story.

But I didn’t find this episode funny at all.  It all felt surprisingly weird and mean-spirited to me.  H. Jon Benjamin’s Lieutenant Larkin isn’t a funny goofball or even a pathetic Barclay-like screw-up.  Rather, he is a total psychopath.  I can suspend a lot of my disbelief when watching Star Trek and other sci-fi — I can accept the existence of starships and aliens — but it breaks my credulity that this evil little troll (who is so incompetent that he can’t even operate his PADD computer tablet at the ship’s staff meeting) could ever become a Lieutenant on a starship.  That Larkin behaves like an internet scoundrel by sending anonymous messages to Starfleet saying how terrible his new female captain is isn’t one bit funny — it’s gross.

And Rosa Salazar’s Captain Lucero doesn’t come off that much better.  I liked her character and was rooting for her, but she turns out to be completely ineffectual, eventually losing her ship.  That the episode ends with her getting reamed out by Starfleet brass … [continued]

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Josh Reviews the New “Short Treks” Star Trek Short Film: “Q & A”

October 14th, 2019
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Last year in the months leading up to the launch of the second season of Star Trek: Discovery, CBS All Access posted a series of four Star Trek short films, which they nicknamed “Short Treks.”  In the months leading up to the start of the new Picard series, it looks like they’re doing the same, with a new round of six new short films.  The first one, “Q & A”, was recently released.  It depicts Spock’s first day on board Christopher Pike’s Enterprise (prior to the events of the original Star Trek pilot, “The Cage,” as well as the events of Discovery’s second season), in which he and Number One get trapped in a turbolift together.

I love the idea of these “Short Treks” as a way to give us vignettes set across the Star Trek universe, in different times and different locations.  The Star Trek universe is vast and deep, and there are so many wonderful areas and settings and characters to be mined for new stories.  One of the most fan-favorite aspects of Discovery’s second season was the way they incorporated Christopher Pike (now played by Anson Mount) and Spock (now played by Ethan Peck) as important characters, so the idea of returning to those characters and setting makes sense for this first new “Short Trek.”  Discovery season two also recast the role of Pike’s first officer, Number One (played by Majel Barrett in “The Cage” and by Rebecca Romijn in her brief appearances on Discovery).  I was bummed that Number One had so little to do on Discovery, so I was pleased that she and Spock would be the focus of this new short film.

But I wasn’t as taken with “Q & A” as I was with the four previous “Short Treks,” and I found it vastly inferior to Michael Chabon’s previous effort, the beautiful “Calypso” (which represents possibly the best 15-ish minutes of new official Star Trek in a decade).

The short is cute, with some nice banter between Spock and Number One as they while away the hours stuck in the turbolift.  But I didn’t find the banter to be nearly as funny or interesting as I’d expected, nor that revelatory for either of their characters.  We never got to know Number One that well in “The Cage,” but the Number One in this short strikes me as a very different character than the woman we saw in “The Cage.”  The Number One of “Q & A” is surprisingly snarky, and I just don’t buy that this stiff, buttoned down woman would ever start singing in front of a man who she’d just met that day.  The short is supposed to … [continued]