David Mack’s novel Best Defense is the middle book in a new trilogy of novels, entitled Legacies, intended to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of Star Trek. Click here for my review of the first book in this trilogy, Greg Cox’s Captain to Captain.
Best Defense picks up a few weeks after the end of Captain to Captain. The alien “transfer key”, capable of displacing its victims into an alternate universe, has been stolen from where it had been hidden on board the Enterprise by Captain Robert April eighteen years previously. Kirk’s attempts to track the Romulan spy who stole the key are cut short by the collapse of peace talks between the Federation and the Klingon Empire. Summoned by Federation negotiator Ambassador Sarek to the planet Centaurus, Kirk tries to prevent the outbreak of a shooting war with the Klingons, while the Romulans use the power of the transfer key to wreak havoc. Meanwhile, in the alternate universe to which the key permits access, Captain Una (the former Enterprise first officer nicknamed “Number One”, from the original Star Trek pilot “The Cage”) attempts to locate her friends and crew-mates who were banished to that desolate universe eighteen years earlier.
I feel about Best Defense very much the same way I felt about Greg Cox’s Captain to Captain. Like Captain to Captain, Best Defense is a fun, quick read. David Mack is a great writer, and man can he write a terrific action sequence. (This was clear from his previous books, and the climax of Best Defense doesn’t disappoint.) But while I have enjoyed both Captain to Captain and Best Defense, for a fiftieth anniversary trilogy, so far Legacies feels surprisingly slight to me. It’s not telling a story that feels all that critical in terms of the larger Trek universe, nor does it dig that deeply into any of the characters.
Best Defense also suffers somewhat from a classic sort of “middle chapter” syndrome in that the story feels somewhat stretched in order to fill out this three-book trilogy. Mr. Mack’s story throws all sorts of obstacles at Kirk and co., and brings back several characters from Trek lore. While it is fun seeing all those characters, to me they didn’t feel all that integral to the story, more like writerly distractions and a way to stretch out this tale to a three-book length.
That being said, of course it is fun to see Ambassador Sarek and Amanda again (this story is set a short time after the events of “Journey to Babel”). It’s interesting to see their relationship with Spock at this stage — the years-long feud between Spock and Sarek has been mended, but the … [continued]
In celebration of this year’s fiftieth anniversary of Star Trek, several of the best of Pocket Books’ stable of Star Trek authors have collaborated on a fiftieth anniversary trilogy of novels called Legacies.
The first novel, Captain to Captain, written by Greg Cox, is set during the five-year mission of Kirk’s Enterprise. As the story opens, Kirk and Spock are pleased to receive a very special guest to the ship: the woman nicknamed “Number One”, who was the ship’s first officer a decade previously, when Christopher Pike was captain of the Enterprise. (“Number One” was the unnamed character played by Majel Barrett in Star Trek’s original pilot, “The Cage.”)
Ostensibly, Captain Una (the name Mr. Cox gives to “Number One”) is visiting the ship to confirm her suspicions as to the true fate of her former Captain, Christopher Pike. (In the episode “The Menagerie,” the two-part TOS episode that re-purposed footage from “The Cage,” Spock commandeered the Enterprise in order to bring the crippled Captain Pike back to Talos IV, where the powerful telepaths would enable Pike to live out the rest of his life unconstrained by his ruined body.) But, in fact, Una’s visit to the Enterprise is a mission to steal a powerful alien object that the captains of the Enterprise had been hiding on board the ship for almost two decades. In a lengthy flashback, the story shifts back eighteen years previously to depict the fateful mission in which Lieutenant Una, serving on the Enterprise under Robert April (the Enterprise’s first captain), was involved in obtaining that powerful alien device.
Captain to Captain is an entertaining novel. It’s not that lengthy, and it is a very quick read as Mr. Cox’s crisp, clean prose zips along at a fast pace. Mr. Cox has a terrific grasp on the Original Series characters, particularly the Kirk-Spock-McCoy triumvirate. I love the idea of a secret that has been shared between the three Enterprise captains (April, Pike, and Kirk), that’s a nice hook for a fiftieth anniversary story intended to honor the franchise as a whole. The character of “Number One” is an interesting and mysterious one, based on her single brief on-screen appearance, and so the idea of delving into her character and her past is also a great idea for this fiftieth anniversary trilogy. I love that Mr. Cox chose to have her flashback set, not during the time of “The Cage” and Pike’s captaincy, but before that, during the time of Robert April, an era even less explored than that of Pike. (Robert April never appeared on-screen in any live-action Trek episode or movie, he was only seen once in a single episode of The Animated … [continued]
For the Love of Spock is a documentary about Leonard Nimoy that was produced and directed by Mr. Nimoy’s son, Adam Nimoy. The project was originally intended as an in-depth look at Leonard Nimoy’s iconic character, Mr. Spock, that Adam would create with Leonard’s involvement. Unfortunately, Leonard Nimoy passed away in February, 2015. Following his father’s passing, Adam Nimoy adjusted his documentary project to be look back at his father’s work and life, and also to his (Adam’s) own sometimes-fraught relationship with his father.
For the Love of Spock is a superb documentary and a wonderful look back at Leonard Nimoy’s life and work. Of course, the focus of the film is on Leonard Nimoy’s creation of the character of Spock. The film explores the many decisions that were made early on, by the combination of Leonard Nimoy along with Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry as well as the show’s writers and directors, that together created this much-loved character, and the film also explores just what it was about this character, and Leonard Nimoy’s performance, that made Spock such a beloved icon. As a big-time Star Trek fan, there wasn’t too much new information here for me, but the film was thorough enough and skillfully-enough assembled that I was completely engaged (no pun intended) from start to finish. And while we get the famous, much-told stories (such as the origin of the Vulcan salute or the Vulcan nerve pinch), the film also digs deeper to share many interesting recollections and anecdotes from the early days of the creation of the original Star Trek TV show, and I relished that look back at the creation of the iconic show.
I was also very interested in the time spent exploring Leonard Nimoy’s background and career pre-Star Trek, as these were areas about which I didn’t know as much. The film is packed full with wonderful photos and old video clips of a young Leonard Nimoy, and I found those to be hugely enjoyable to see. It was also interesting to hear stories from some of the people who worked with Leonard Nimoy during his days in the theatre. (I wish there was some video footage that existed of those performances, as the stories of Mr. Nimoy’s work in the theatre were so tantalizing.)
Everyone you’d hope to hear from in a documentary like this is included. We get some wonderful interview clips with all of the surviving original Star Trek cast. There are some particularly great moments with Mr. Nimoy and William Shatner, most drawn from convention footage or some of the retrospective projects that the two men did together later in their careers. We also hear from almost all the … [continued]
So, I assume by now you’ve all seen this:
Who knows whether the final film will be good, but that trailer is spectacular. There is some truly gorgeous imagery (like everyone else, I went crazy for that overhead shot of the enormous toppled statue of a Jedi Knight), which “feels” like Star Wars while also being new and different than what has come before. That is the balance this film needs to strike. As with The Force Awakens, this film’s whole conception is steeped in nostalgia (it’s a prequel, thus allowing us to get more of what we all loved from the original Star Wars: Darth Vader, the Death Star, classic Storm troopers, Tie Fighters and X-Wings, etc.), but for the movie to work it can’t just feel like a retread of movies we’ve already seen and loved (this was the major weakness of the third act of The Force Awakens) but like a new story worth telling. This trailer certainly strikes that balance, hopefully the actual film will as well.
By the way, this trailer’s suggestion that Mads Mikkelson’s character helps create the Death Star in order to protect his daughter (who will grown up to be the film’s main character, played by Felicity Jones), it got me thinking: was the fatal flaw of the original Death Star — that exhaust port that allowed the rebels to blow the whole thing up with just two proton torpedoes — not an accident? Could that weakness have been built into the Death Star on purpose?? I wonder if that is going to be what Rogue One winds up suggesting! That would be a wild recontextualization of the original Star Wars…!!
I’m enjoying Netflix’s latest Marvel show Luke Cage (full review coming soon… I still have five more episodes to go…) and while I wish Netflix would hurry up and get Jessica Jones season two in production (click here for my review of the terrific first season), I’m decently excited for their next Marvel show, Iron Fist. Here is the latest teaser, which is the most substantial look we’ve yet gotten at this show which is coming in March:
We’re only a few days away from Netflix’s resurrection of Black Mirror (click here for my review of the first two short but mind-blowing British seasons), and this trailer suggests that the new episodes will be just as amazing and nightmare-inducing as I had hoped. I cannot frigging wait for this:
Oh! And! Looks like there will also be a FOURTH season of Black Mirror from Netflix! Praise Jebus!
Here is a very, very brief tease for the next Planet of the Apes film:
I absolutely loved … [continued]
The 2013 five-novel “The Fall” reshaped the status quo in Pocket Books’ wonderful expanding series of Star Trek novels, which together have continued the stories of the 24th-century Trek adventures following the end of the official on-screen canonical adventures (in the Next Gen movie Nemesis and the series-finales of Deep Space Nine and Voyager). Dayton Ward’s novel Armageddon’s Arrow updated us on Captain Picard and the crew of the Enterprise E as they left known Federation space to begin a new mission of exploration, while Jeffrey Lang’s Force and Motion checked in on some of the DS9 crew, specifically Chief O’Brien and Nog. James Swallow’s new novel, Sight Unseen, circles back to the newly-promoted Admiral William Riker and the crew of the Titan.
Whereas Picard and the Enterprise have been given a new mission of discovery, the Titan has lost theirs, with Fleet Admiral Akaar preferring to keep the newly-minted Admiral Riker and his former ship closer to home to help deal with the upheaval following the events of “The Fall.” When a Starfleet ship that was helping an alien race called the Dinac, just taking their first steps into interstellar travel, goes missing, Riker and the Titan are called to investigate. What they discover is terrifying evidence that seems to point to a new invasion of Federation space by the aliens from the season six Next Gen episode “Schisms.”
“Schisms” is not a particularly classic episode, but nevertheless its open-ended ending is one that feels ripe for follow-up. I’ve been enjoying how so many of the recent Trek novels have been picking up dangling story-threads from various Next Gen episodes. (Absent Enemies is a sort-of sequel to “The Next Phase,” while Force and Motion picks up the story of Captain Benjamin Maxwell from “The Wounded.”) I really enjoyed the way Sight Unseen fleshes out those unnamed aliens from “Schisms.” Mr. Swallow’s book does some enjoyable world-building, expanding upon the glimpses of those aliens that we got in “Schisms” to tell us more about their society, their methods and their goals.
It’s great having Mr. Swallow back writing another Titan novel. I enjoyed his first Titan novel, Synthesis, and I loved his Titan-focused entry in “The Fall” series, The Poisoned Chalice. Sight Unseen is another very strong installment of the continuing Titan series. I love that, over the past decade, these Titan novels (exploring Will Riker’s first command after finally accepting the Captain’s chair of a Starfleet vessel following the events of Star Trek: Nemesis) have been such a consistent part of Pocket Books’ continuing series of interconnected Trek novels. Following Riker’s promotion to Admiral in “The Fall,” I wasn’t sure if that meant an end … [continued]
Almost twenty years after the events of the fourth-season Next Gen episode “The Wounded,” (one of my very favorite episodes of Trek), Jeffrey Lang’s terrific novel Force and Motion catches up with the disgraced Benjamin Maxwell, former Starfleet Captain now working as little more than a janitor on an old, falling-apart space station in the middle of nowhere. Captain Maxwell’s old comrade Chief Miles O’Brien decides to pay his former captain a visit, with Engineer Nog tagging along. Of course, since perilous adventures seem to happen whenever the Chief leaves DS9, as soon as he and Nog set foot on board the station where Maxwell lives and works, many bad things start occurring in short succession.
Force and Motion is a terrific novel. It’s a wonderful idea to follow up on Captain Maxwell. I’m actually somewhat surprised that it’s taken this long for a Trek writer to do so! ”The Wounded” was such a terrific episode, one of the first to really spotlight Miles O’Brien. With the episode’s spotlight on O’Brien and the Cardassians (“The Wounded” was actually the Trek episode that introduced the Cardassians!), and also with it’s dark, ambiguous ending, “The Wounded” feels in many ways like a classic Deep Space Nine episode, and that’s a compliment. Bub Gunton was incredibly memorable as Captain Maxwell, O’Brien’s former C.O., and so I was thrilled that this novel finally brought the character back and shed light on what happened to him after being removed from his command at the end of that Next Gen episode.
I also loved that Force and Motion brought Chief O’Brien back to the center stage. Chief O’Brien has been mostly overlooked by the past decade of DS9 novels. You’d really have to look back to the 2004 “Worlds of Deep Space Nine” novella The Lotus Flower, by Una McCormack, for the last time that O’Brien got a spotlight. The post-finale DS9 books at first respected the plot point from the DS9 finale, “What You Leave Behind,” in which O’Brien revealed that he’d decided to leave the station, with his family, to return to Earth. But after the destruction of DS9 in David R. George III’s fabulous DS9 duology Plagues of Night and Raise the Dawn, Mr. George brought O’Brien back into the fold as the Chief returned to oversee the construction of the new station. Still, for the past few years worth of new Trek novels, O’Brien hasn’t been given much to do. (We never even really got to see how he reacted to his friend Julian Bashir’s decision to abandon Starfleet in David Mack’s novel A Ceremony of Losses.)
I also enjoyed that this novel gave some attention to Nog, as well. … [continued]
At the conclusion of the galaxy-reshaping events of 2013′s five-novel crossover series, “The Fall,” Captain Picard and the crew of the USS Enterprise E embarked on a new mission of exploration and discovery. In Dayton Ward’s excellent novel, Armageddon’s Arrow, Picard and his crew stumble into the middle of a war between two neighboring alien races, the Golvonek and the Raqilan. The Enterprise encounters a gigantic, planet-destroying super-weapon, sent from the future by one side to annihilate the other. While Captain Picard hopes that the discovery of this weapon might spur the two sides to come to the negotiating table and pursue peace, rather than this future of mutual annihilation, he instead finds a situation quickly threatening to spiral out of control as both sides seek to gain control of the super-weapon and its secrets from the future. An already difficult situation is further complicated as Picard weighs his obligations to his oath of non-interference, his responsibility to protect the timeline, and his guilt at the Enterprise’s role in discovering the super-weapon. Is there any way out of this impasse?
While I was somewhat disappointed by the first stand-alone post-”The Fall” novel, Takedown, Dayton Ward’s Armageddon’s Arrow shows ‘em how its done. While Armageddon’s Arrow is (like Takedown) also a stand-alone adventure with a new sci-fi mystery/situation for Picard and his crew to unravel, it’s successful because not only is the new sci-fi situation rewardingly rich and complex as it unfolds, but because the novel also focuses deeply on the characters, exploring many of the crew-members of Picard’s Enterprise E and moving their stories forwards.
While familiar characters such as Captain Picard, Doctor Crusher, Worf and Geordi are very much front-and-center in the novel, Armageddon’s Arrow takes the time to shine a spotlight on many other members of the Enterprise crew, most of who have been created for Pocket Books’ post-Nemesis-set Trek novels from the past decade-plus. We see the part-Vulcan first-contact specialist T’Ryssa Chen struggle with her feelings of uselessness on board a starship that has, for years, been engaged in local political struggles rather than exploring strange new worlds, and also with her conflicted feelings toward Lieutenant Commander Taurik (a character introduced in the TNG episode, Lower Decks who has been enjoyably fleshed out in these post-Nemesis novels) as well as the Betazoid security officer Rennan Konya. We see the progression of Geordi’s relationship with the doctor Tamala Harstad, introduced back in Paths of Disharmony (she and Geordi have moved in together as the novel opens), and I was pleased to see Dr. Harstad also get involved in the story as more than just geordi’s love-interest, as she is a member of the way … [continued]
Last Thursday, Star Trek turned 50 years old! Wow! It was fifty years ago that NBC aired the first episode of Trek, “The Man Trap.” It’s unbelievable that this franchise has lasted for fifty years. I have loved Star Trek for as long as I can remember. Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home is the first movie that I remember ANTICIPATING before its release to theatres. (After I saw the movie, I had to go back and re-watch the first three with my dad because I didn’t remember what had happened to the Enterprise or to Spock!!) I was so excited when I heard that Trek was returning to TV with the release of Star Trek: The Next Generation, and for the next two decades Trek, in its various TV incarnations, was a weekly appointment for me. In recent years, the production of new official Star Trek on-screen adventures has dwindled, but my love for the franchise has continued and I have deeply enjoyed Pocket Books’ continuing series of Trek novels and so many of the amazing Trek fan film projects.
In this wonderful article, Devin Faraci from BirthMoviesDeath.com passionately argues that, no pressure, he needs the in-production new Trek show Star Trek: Discovery to save the world. I love this article, as Mr. Faraci is able to perfectly crystalize why Trek is so important, specifically its emphasis on the values of science and tolerance. Star Trek ”tells us that there’s a hopeful future where humans will stop being en masse assholes to one another, but it also tells us that it’s our responsibility to get there.” In an equally great follow-up piece, Mr. Faraci suggests that a key reason why Trek has endured for fifty years is because it is so much FUN. He writes: “I’m a Trekkie because I like watching the adventures of the Starship Enterprise and her crews. I like seeing ships go to warp and I like seeing phasers being shot. I like watching Captain Kirk down someone with his patented two-fisted punch. I like seeing cool aliens and I like the bright colors in the hallways in the first two seasons of The Original Series. I like the strange new worlds and I like the crazy scifi concepts that fuel the stories. I like seeing the crew bounce off one another and I like knowing that, in the end, they’re always there for each other. I like the moral conundrums and I like the hot women in miniskirts. I like watching the actors throw themselves across the bridge and I like watching the actors be called upon to deliver truly heartbreaking moments of emotional sincerity. I like the fucking and fighting and … [continued]
Yesterday was the fiftieth anniversary of the premiere of the original Star Trek on NBC. Fifty years. That’s incredible. Despite Paramount/CBS’ draconian attempts to shut down all of the Star Trek fan film projects (by halting production of the Axanar film and then releasing new fan film guidelines that would effectively eliminate most of the most popular and successful Star Trek fan film projects), the fine folks at Star Trek Continues recently released their seventh full-length episode: “Embracing the Winds.” I couldn’t think of a better way to enjoy the fiftieth anniversary of Trek yesterday than by watching this wonderful fan-made episode. Star Trek Continues’ initial vignette picked up just at the end of the final Original Series Trek episode, “Turnabout Intruder,” and with their seven (so far) produced episodes they have been creating what would have been the fourth season of the original Star Trek series, new full-length episode adventures of Kirk, Spock, McCoy, and the rest of the crew of the original Enterprise (“no bloody A, B, C, or D”).
In their newest episode, “Embracing the Winds,” Kirk and Spock are summoned to a starbase so that Spock can be promoted to command of the USS Hood, whose crew were killed due to an unexplained failure of the ship’s life-support system. However, a female officer, Commander Garrett, challenges this decision, claiming that she has been unfairly passed over for command of the Hood because she is a female. Meanwhile, Scotty takes the Enterprise to recover the Hood, but what seems like a simple job of towing the ship back to the starbase soon turns perilous.
As with every episode of Star Trek Continues, “Embracing the Winds” is extraordinarily faithful to the look and “feel” of a classic Star Trek episode. Vic Mignogna and his incredible team have once again done spectacular work in recreating the sets, costumes, props, music, and every other aspect of an Original Series episode. The result is jaw-dropping. This is a true labor of love by a dedicated group of Star Trek fans and I doff my cap in respect to their tremendous efforts.
This is a solid episode, in my opinion one of the stronger efforts by the Star Trek Continues team. I’ve mentioned in earlier reviews that some of the Star Trek Continues episodes have felt a little simplistic or by-the-numbers, unfolding without too many surprises. But both the A and B stories in this episode are very compelling and with good mysteries. As a viewer I wondered what Scotty was going to discover when investigating the Hood, and I also wondered how the story of Commander Garrett’s challenge of Spock’s new captaincy would unfold. Obviously, any Star Trek fan … [continued]
I am having a lot of fun getting caught up on the last year or so of Pocket Books’ Star Trek novels!
In 2013′s terrific five-novel crossover series, “The Fall,” a vicious assassination on board Deep Space Nine sends all of the major galactic powers — most notably the Federation and the newly-created alliance of many of their enemies called the Typhon Pact — on a collision course with one another. I loved “The Fall”, and the conclusion of that series left me eager to see the new status quo of the Trek universe explored as the novel series moved forward.
And so I was particularly looking forward to John Jackson Miller’s novel Takedown, first of all because this would be the first novel focusing on the newly-promoted Admiral Riker, and I was eager to see where the writers would be taking Riker next. Would he remain Earthbound, of would he still be connected in some way to the ship, Titan, that he had captained through the past almost-decade’s worth of wonderful Titan novels? I was also eager to see the crossover that this novel promised between Riker and the Titan characters , Captain Jean-Luc Picard and the Enterprise, and also Captain Ezri Dax and the crew of her ship the Aventine.
Unfortunately, I found Takedown to be a little disappointing. I have written many times on this site about how much I hate mind control stories. It always feels an excuse for “fake” drama, motivated by a character behaving in a manner that he/she ordinarily never would. Sadly, very quickly in Takedown it became clear that this was one of these stories, as Admiral Riker attends a mysterious peace summit only to return changed. (I would have vastly preferred had their been a legitimate reason for Riker, Picard, and Dax to be put at odds, perhaps an ethical dilemma without a clear right-and-wrong answer. That would have felt like more genuine drama to me, and therefore more worthwhile.)
It’s unclear to me whether Mr. Miller intended Riker’s transformation to be a surprise for the reader when the truth of what happened to him at the peace summit is revealed about halfway through the novel. It seems to me that this was likely WAS intended to be a surprise, because we don’t actually read in the novel the scene in which Riker is altered. We just see him arrive at the peace summit and then, when next we see him, he is returning to Titan. (Had Mr. Miller intended the reader to be in on what was happening, I suspect we would have gotten a chapter in which we saw Riker get changed.) But it was painfully obvious to me … [continued]
After enjoying the “Typhon Pact” e-book, The Struggle Within, I decided to move onto a more recent e-book, John Jackson Miller’s Absent Enemies. This e-book was the first story to take place following the events of the five-book Trek novel crossover series “The Fall,” so I was eager to see how the Trek series would be moving fall following the dramatic, Federation-shaking events of those books.
In this story, the newly-promoted Admiral Riker and the crew of the Titan are called upon to settle a seemingly intractable diplomatic situation, one that we learn (in flashback) even Captain Picard had found insoluble two decades earlier. On the world Garadius IV, two groups of alien settlers, the Ekorr and the Baladonians, have been warring with one another on and off for years. But when Riker and the Titan arrive, they find that the entire population of Ekorr has vanished. They initially suspect that the Baladonians have been guilty of a genocide, but the truth turns out to be much stranger.
Absent Enemies is a short, enjoyable story. It doesn’t feel all that significant in the greater Star Trek story that is being told in Pocket Books’ interconnected Trek novels, but it’s a pleasant yarn that winds up having a fascinating connection to the Next Gen episode “The Next Phase.” That was a rather silly episode of Next Gen, but I enjoyed the way Mr. Miller uses this story to ask some pertinent questions about the plot of that episode, and even better, finds some great in-Trek-universe possible explanations for some of the weird events of that episode. I also enjoyed the way the story shows us Riker’s early attempts at finding his way now that he is an admiral, and to avoid being one of the many useless, full-of-themselves Admirals that we have seen over the years in so many Trek episodes.
I like Mr. Miller’s writing style; Absent Enemies has a light, humorous tone that is still able to give the story sufficient heft when things turn more serious in the second half. (My favorite moment in the e-book is a brief bit of business at the beginning, in which Christine Vale, in command of the Titan, remarks that Tuvok is beginning to learn all of Admiral Riker’s facial expressions. Tuvok replies: “That one I learned from Kathryn Janeway. I call it ‘full stop.’”)
By no means essential, Absent Enemies is an enjoyable tale and I am eager to move on to John Jackson Miller’s first full-length Trek novel, Takedown.
Previous Star Trek novel reviews:
Star Trek: … [continued]
I enjoyed this summer’s solid-though-not-spectacular Star Trek Beyond, but for me, for the past decade-plus most of the best Star Trek has been of the unofficial kind. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed many of the Star Trek fan films that are being made (fan films that sadly remain threatened by Paramount’s draconian lawsuit against the fan-film Axanar), and I’ve also been eating up the Star Trek novels being published by Pocket Books. Those novels have been weaving a vast, interconnected saga, taking the Trek characters and stories far beyond the last official on-screen adventures of Star Trek: The Next Generation (which ended with a whimper with 2002′s dismal Nemesis), Deep Space Nine (my favorite of the Trek series, which ended back in 1999), and Voyager (my least favorite of the Trek series, which ended back in 2001). But I’ve fallen somewhat behind on reading the new Trek books, so much so that when I started to read one of the new ones, I found I had lost the thread of several of the stories. So I decided to go back and re-read several of the Trek novels from the past few years, which has been a lot of fun. While doing so, I also decided to read some of the Trek e-book novellas that I had skipped over originally. My first stop was Christopher L. Bennett’s “Typhon Pact” novella: The Struggle Within.
Back in 2010, Pocket Books published a four-novel series subtitled “Typhon Pact.” Introduced in Keith R.A. DeCandido’s novel A Singular Destiny, the Typhon Pact was an alliance of many of the Federation’s fiercest enemies: the Romulans, the Gorn, the Tholians, the Tzenkethi, and more. The Typhon Pact four-book series explored this newly-created alliance, with each book fleshing out one of those just-mentioned alien races. Over the course of those four books and the many novels that have followed, it’s been fun to see both the story of this anti-Federation alliance play out, and also to see these various alien races well-developed. We already knew a lot about the Romulans, but the Gorn and Tholians were little-seen in previous official on-screen Trek canon — and the Tzenkethi have never actually been seen on-screen, they were only mentioned a few times on Deep Space Nine — leaving a lot of room for the writers to expand and elaborate upon them.
Christopher L. Bennett’s 2011 e-book novella, The Struggle Within, takes some time developing the Kinshaya, another race who had been mentioned as being a part of the Typhon Pact but who had not been explored by any of the previous “Typhon Pact” novels. The book tells two parallel stories. In the first, two characters from the post-Nemesis-set … [continued]
For the 25th anniversary of Star Trek back in 1991, we were blessed with the minor miracle that was Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country. That film remains one of my very favorite Trek anythings, from all the many TV shows and movies. It’s a gorgeous film, surprising dark yet rich with character, and one that does what Star Trek does so well: telling an exciting sci-fi story that has profound relevance to the modern day. As befits a film released during the franchise’s 25th anniversary year, the film pays homage to the entire history of Star Trek to that point, deftly connecting the dots between the classic Trek crew and that of The Next Generation, set more than seventy years later. Most impressively of all, as I have written about before, Star Trek VI is that rarest of things in pop culture: a satisfying, definitive conclusion to a long-running, popular series.
Star Trek Beyond, released twenty-five years later during the franchise’s (hard-to-be-believed) fiftieth anniversary, is not Star Trek VI. It lacks that film’s sophistication and intelligence, nor does it feel like any sort of encompassing statement about the franchise as a whole.
But that being said, Star Trek Beyond is a heck of a lot of fun, and a worthy sequel to J.J. Abrams’ 2009 Star Trek reboot. Thankfully, Beyond allows one to entirely forget about the horrendous, indefensible Star Trek Into Darkness. Just imagine that the Enterprise started its 5 year mission at the end of 2009′s Star Trek, and you can skip Into Darkness and cut right to Beyond’s opening, set more than two years into the deep-space mission.
As the film begins, we see that Captain Kirk is beset by ennui as the monotony of the ship’s years-long mission into unexplored space has begun to set in. Just as Kirk is beginning to doubt himself and his chosen path of captaining a starship, the Enterprise runs afoul of a vicious swarm of alien ships that decimates the ship and leaves her crew scattered on a hostile alien planet. The separated Enterprise crewmembers must find a way to survive and reunite, while attempting to stop the devious plans of the alien leader, Krall (Idris Elba).
There is a lot to like about Star Trek Beyond. The film looks absolutely gorgeous, and as I have written in my reviews of both of the two previous nuTrek films, it is an absolute joy to see a Star Trek adventure realized on such a big, blockbuster-sized budget. This film is filled with one incredible sequence after another. The enormous starbase Yorktown is extraordinary. The extended sequence in which the Enterprise is taken out by Krall’s bee-like ships … [continued]
OK fellow nerds, buckle up for a deep dive into geekiness here.
Two weeks ago, I reviewed the wonderful Star Trek: The Ultimate Voyage CD, a recording of the concert series celebrating 50 years of amazing Star Trek music. That two-disc CD contained 30 tracks (15 on each CD) of Trek music from across 50 years of Star Trek history — all the various movies and TV shows (and even one track of music from a Trek video-game!). I loved the CD set, and I’ve listened to it several times. I had a lot of fun analyzing the track choices in my review, discussing which ones I loved and which ones’ inclusion surprised me.
Doing so got me to thinking: if I had been the one putting together this concert and CD set, what would my choices have been? I gave myself several challenges. First and foremost, not just to list my favorite tracks from all the Trek soundtracks over the years, but to assemble them together into a concert playlist whose ebb and flow would work. I also tried to limit myself to the same number of tracks, 30 in total (15 in each half), as the Ultimate Voyage used. (I failed, but only by a little bit. I found that I just had to include 16 tracks in each half of my concert.) I also debated whether to try to incorporate music from all the different Trek series, as the Ultimate Voyage concert did so effectively. While that is one of my favorite aspects of the Ultimate Voyage concert CD set, I decided in the end not to attempt that myself, and instead to focus on the Trek music that was my very favorite, even if that wound up with a more limited selection from Trek history.
I had a lot of nerdy fun thinking about this over the past week. And so, it is my pleasure to present to you:
Josh’s “Ultimate Voyage” Playlist: The Very Best of 50 Years of Star Trek Music:
1. “Overture” (Ilia’s Theme) from Star Trek: The Motion Picture – I’ll begin my Trek concert with this overture music that also began Star Trek: The Motion Picture (playing before the opening credits). I love this Star Trek love theme and I think it’s a beautiful, melodic way to open.
2. “Main Title” from Star Trek: Generations – That love theme would be a lovely segue into this opening music from Star Trek: Generations, which begins quietly and then builds to a triumphant declaration of the classic Alexander Courage Star Trek theme. The Ultimate Voyage concert also had this track as their number two track, and I am shamelessly … [continued]
I continue to be extremely impressed with Star Trek Continues, the fan-series spearheaded by Vic Mignogna. As I have written about many times here on this site, Star Trek Continues is a fan-made series that has set out to create a fourth season of classic Star Trek, creating complete episodes depicting the further adventures of Kirk, Spock, McCoy, and the crew of the original U.S.S. Enterprise (“no bloody A, B, C, or D”). Not only do Mr. Mignogna and his team manage to create extraordinarily professional-looking efforts — if you saw one of their episodes on TV, you very well might believe you were watching an actual episode of the Original Series — but they’re also able to do so on a regular basis. They are already on their sixth episode, and this latest installment, “Come Not Between the Dragons,” is terrific.
As the episode opens, the Enterprise is struck by an object that manages to pierce the ship’s hull. What at first was thought to be a meteor is quickly revealed to be something else, as the object begins to move through the ship of it’s own volition. When it lands in the quarters of Ensign Eliza Taylor (played by Farscape’s Gigi Edgley), she realizes that the rocky object is a sentient being, and she attempts to learn who it is and what it’s purpose is on board the Enterprise. The threat to the crew posed by the creature is soon dwarfed by another, much larger version of its kind, which as it approaches is able to send waves of anger and negative energy that infects Kirk and the Enterprise crew. Can Kirk and his crewmates gain control of their emotions in time to solve the mystery of these creatures?
Written by Greg Dykstra and James Kerwin and Vic Mignogna, “Come Not Between the Dragons” is a fun, tightly-paced sci-fi mystery/adventure. The episode manages to balance some nice character beats for almost every member of the Star Trek Continues ensemble with an exciting adventure story. This feels very much like a classic Trek story, as the Enterprise crew investigate a strange, new life-form.
The Star Trek Continues folks have been able to nab some very high-profile guest-stars for their episodes (Lou Ferrigno was a particular delight as an Orion in the series’ second episode, “Lolani”), and featuring Farscape’s Gigi Edgley here is another fun surprise. Ms. Edgley is a lot of fun as the sensitive Ensign Taylor, who quickly bonds with the strange rock-like life-form that has crashed into the ship. (Though I do wish Ensign Talyor wasn’t quite so cowardly when the creature first smashed into her quarters — come on, you’re a Starfleet officer!)
If … [continued]
So, I love Star Trek, and I also love movie soundtracks. That’s just the type of nerd I am. So, of course, I really love Star Trek soundtracks. I’ve written about quite a few here on the site. I was excited when I read that, in honor of Trek’s 50th anniversary this year, there would be a concert tour in which music from the various Trek movies and TV shows would be performed. That is right up my alley! Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to make it to one of the concert performances. But when I learned that a CD of the concert was being released, I snapped that right up! (You can too, by clicking here.)
Star Trek: The Ultimate Voyage is a magnificent two-CD set in which the Czech National Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Justin Freer, performs music from across the fifty year history of Star Trek. I was very impressed by the track choices. There are a few “musts” that of course were included (like Jerry Goldsmith’s Main Titles from Star Trek: The Motion Picture to the suite from “The Inner Light” from Star Trek: The Next Generation). But beyond that, I was impressed by some of the very deep cuts made by the music selection. (I was shocked and delighted that, for example, an exciting track from the Deep Space Nine final-season episode “The Changing Face of Evil” was included!) If the track selection has one weakness it is perhaps an over-reliance in music from Star Trek: The Motion Picture, but it’s hard to complain about so many wonderful selections from the master Jerry Goldsmith.
Let’s dive in, shall we?
1. “Main Title” from Star Trek: The Motion Picture – An obvious and perfect choice to open the concert, we begin with Jerry Goldsmith’s magnificent main theme from Star Trek: The Motion Picture. For many fans, this is THE definitive Star Trek music, even more so than Alexander Courage’s main theme from the Original Series. (That this music was also used as the main theme for Star Trek: The Next Generation helped cement its importance.) This is iconic music, instantly memorable, and among the very best movie theme music ever written.
2. “Main Title” from Star Trek: Generations – Right away, I was impressed by the choices made by the makers of this concert, as this is an inspired choice to place here at the beginning of the concert. This theme, by Dennis McCarthy, is a slow build to a triumphant declaration of Alexander Courage’s classic Star Trek fanfare (as the bottle of Chateau Picard wine smashes into the hull of the Enterprise B, christening the ship for launch).
3. “The … [continued]
As I have often lamented here on this blog, it’s been a dark time for Star Trek fans. The Next Generation movie series sputtered to a halt with the dreadful Star Trek: Nemesis in 2002, and there hasn’t been a Trek series on TV in over a decade, since the cancellation of Star Trek: Enterprise in May 2005. Since then, the only official on-screen new Trek adventures have been J.J. Abrams’ enjoyable but flawed reboot of Star Trek in 2009, and the abomination that was Star Trek Into Darkness in 2013.
Fans like me have found joy, and a Trek fix, in sources such as Pocket Books’ wonderful continuing series of Star Trek novels, which tell a sophisticated interconnected saga of stories that feature characters from all of the 24th century-set Trek shows (click here for my review of the novels Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: Sacraments of Fire and Ascendance, by David R. George III); and in fan-made projects such as Star Trek: New Voyages (which was for a while called Star Trek: Phase II) and Star Trek: Continues, both of which are spectacular fan-made projects to create new episodes of original Kirk/Spock/McCoy Original Series adventures (click here for my review of Star Trek: New Voyages’ latest episode, “The Holiest Thing,” and click here for my review of Star Trek: Continues’ latest episode, “Divided We Stand”).
The past few days have presented me with a few glimmers of hope that maybe, just maybe, we might be getting some quality “official” on-screen new Trek adventures in the near future.
First was this brief tease of the new Trek series that is being made for the CBS Digital platform:
There’s nothing great in that teaser, but it does reinforce that this series is actually getting made, which feels like good news to me. With the series being helmed by Bryan Fuller (a man with actual Trek experience, having worked on both Deep Space Nine and Voyager, and who then went on to become a very well-respected show-runner of shows like Hannibal) and with the involvement by Nicholas Meyer (the man most single-handedly responsible for my very favorite Star Trek installments, having written and directed Star Trek II and Star Trek VI, and who wrote all of the 20th-century-era sections of Star Trek IV), I have a high hopes for this new show. Many fans have seized on this teaser trailer’s reference to “new crews” (plural) as perhaps confirmation of the intriguing rumor that this new Trek show would be an anthology, with different stories set in different eras of Trek history. That’s a very cool idea and if done well it could be incredible. I am excited to … [continued]
I loved Sacraments of Fire, the first half of David R. George III’s new Star Trek: Deep Space Nine duology, and I’m pleased to say that the second book, Ascendance, is a strong conclusion to the story!
Ascendance picks up right where Sacraments of Fire left off. The crazed Iliana Ghemor (the Cardassian Kira Nerys look-alike from the DS9 episode “Second Skin”, who has been brought back as a major player in the post-finale DS9 novels) is leading the Ascendants, a fearsome race of interstellar religious zealots, in a crusade to destroy Bajor. The planet’s only hope: the Jem’Hadar Taranatar.
Whereas Sacraments of Fire bounced back and forth around the timeline, this novel is presented in a more linear fashion. The first half of the novel is set in what had been the missing years of the DS9 saga: after the events of 2009′s The Soul Key but before the events of David Mack’s Destiny trilogy. The second half of the novel is set seven years later, in the “present day” of the current Trek novels’ continuity, taking place after the Federation-shaking events of last year’s The Fall five-book series. It’s interesting that Mr. George chose such different structures for the two books in this duology. I’m not sure which approach I prefer. They both work for their respective books.
As I commented in my review of Sacraments of Fire, it is an enormous delight to see these novels finally go back to fill in the years of the DS9 story that got skipped when the entire Star Trek novel series jumped several years ahead of where the DS9 story was unfolding with David Mack’s excellent Destiny trilogy. I had almost abandoned hope that the books would ever go back and fill in those missing years, so this two-book series was a delight. (I detailed in my review of Sacraments of Fire the many old plot-lines from previous books that Mr. George so carefully picked back up and wove together in this wonderful new duology.)
I loved how these two novels carefully helped catch readers up on how all of the DS9 characters got to the places we saw them in Mr. George’s 2011 post-Destiny novel Rough Beasts of Empire. Several years after that at-the-time-controversial novel (at least it was controversial to me, because of the very surprising places it took many of the DS9 characters), I have accepted and taken for granted many of those changes. So it was an unexpected pleasure to get to actually see here, in this novel, just how and why Kira decided to leave military service to pursue a life as a Vedek (not to mention how she became friends … [continued]
Let’s begin today with this: the single best joke told by every president, from Obama to Washington.
Fox has greenlit 12 episodes of a 24 spin-off series, 24: Legacy. It’s hard to imagine my watching that since I didn’t make it past the first two episodes of 2014′s 24 revival mini-series Live Another Day. I watched 24 from episode 1 of season 1, and at first I was evangelical about this amazing, intense serialized show. But truth be told the only seasons I really loved were those first two years (and even those seasons had plenty of problems). I stuck around for years afterwards and while there were some high points, I tended to find myself continually disappointed. I finally bailed before the final season. I had high hopes that Live Another Day would be a return to the show’s original greatness, but those first two hours just felt like more of the same. Oh well.
Far more exciting: Netflix has announced a Wet Hot American Summer sequel! The so-obvious it’s genius Wet Hot American Summer: Ten Years Later will be eight episodes and, you can be assured, high on my must-watch list.
Was this seriously going to originally be the opening shot of Star Wars: The Force Awakens??? Love it!
So this is awesome: the Language Creation Society has just submitted a friend-of-the-court brief in Paramount’s suit attempting to halt production of the Star Trek fan-film Axanar. Seems this Language Creation Society objects to Paramount’s contention that they can copyright the Klingon language. You’ve got to read this article, it is nerdy and hilarious and wonderful. To restate my position, I strongly object to Paramount’s heavy-handed effort to squash this fan-made film. (After creating the amazing fifteen-minute Prelude to Axanar, this group of Trek fans fund-raised on Kickstarter — full disclosure: I have donated — to create a full feature-length film telling the story of the Five Years’ War between the Federation and the Klingons. This is an event that is part of the backstory of Star Trek: The Original Series. The planned film would focus on telling the story of Starfleet Captain Garth of Izar in the years before he became a crazy villain, as seen in the Original Series episode “Whom Gods Destroy.”) To be clear, it is probably true that the Axanar folks are in violation of Paramount’s copyright, but who really cares? These fan films are not a competition with Paramount’s official Star Trek efforts. These fan-made projects are done by Trek fans who love Trek. I absolutely guarantee you that every single Trek fan who donated to Axanar is going to buy a ticket (perhaps many!) to see Star … [continued]
One of my complaints about Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice was how much of the film was filled with shameless plugs for future DC Universe films. I am all for connectivity between superhero films, thus establishing a shared universe of story-telling. That is, in fact, one of the greatest triumphs of the Marvel cinematic universe! The problem with Batman v Superman was how obvious and awkward and often confusing those connections-to-not-yet-made-future-films were. The ending was a particular problem. The film’s ending (which I won’t spoil) was clearly designed to be a cliffhanger that would make an audience excited for the next DCU adventure. But I felt it landed with a thud. Rather than being excited for the next film, I’m already dreading the time that will need to be wasted in Justice League to undo the events of the end of Batman v Superman.
This got me thinking about great endings to films in a series. There’s something magical about a great ending to a film, particularly a film that is designed to be, not a stand-alone one-and-done entity, but rather an installment in a series. There is a delicate art to being able to satisfactorily bring a film’s story to a close, while also teasing future adventures. I adore that buzzy feeling of walking out of a movie absolutely desperate for the next installment, even if that next installment might be years away.
So what WERE some great endings to franchise films, endings that gave me that thrilled, excited feeling? Well, I’m glad you asked, as I’ve decided to list some of my very favorites.
Now, before we begin, let me clarify that I’m not talking about a movie that ends on a out-and-out “to be continued” cliffhanger. The best example of that would, of course, be:
Back to the Future Part II – This film, gloriously, actually does end with the words “to be continued.” (Well, actually the film ends with the words “to be concluded” which makes sense only when you know that the words “to be continued” were added on to the ending of the original Back to the Future for its home video release, so this ending of Part II now echoes/completes that ending of Part I. Without that “to be continued” ending of Part I, you might expect the ending of Part II to read “to be continued” rather than “to be concluded.” At least, I would! Sadly, all DVD and blu-ray releases of the original Back to the Future restore the original ending and remove that “to be continued.” But I dearly miss that “to be continued” ending, as that’s the ending I grew up with. Why no branching option, Warner brothers, … [continued]
We’re in the midst of one of the longest dry spells of new “official” Star Trek content since the decade between the cancellation of The Original Series in 1969 and the release of Star Trek: The Motion Picture in 1979. In the decade since the cancellation of Star Trek: Enterprise in May 2005, there have been just two official new Trek adventures released: the fun but flawed Star Trek reboot in 2009, and the catastrophically terrible Star Trek Into Darkness in 2013. And yet, among fans, Trek has continued to flourish. Despite Paramount’s ridiculous effort to shut down the production of Axanar (a kickstarter-funded fan-led effort to create a professional-quality Trek feature film, telling the story of the Federation’s Four-Years War with the Klingons that took place before the events of the Original Series), many fan-film productions have created wonderful new Trek episodes. (My favorites are Star Trek: New Voyages/Phase II, and Star Trek Continues; both groups are producing extraordinarily high-quality new Trek episodes set during the classic Kirk/Spock “Five Year Mission” era.) While those fan productions so ably explore Trek’s past, Pocket Books has continued to produce new officially-licensed Trek novels that explore Trek’s future. Over the past fifteen years, the Trek novels have created a wonderfully complex and sophisticated web of stories that expand the saga and the characters beyond where we left them at the end of the Star Trek: The Next Generation film series and the Deep Space Nine and Voyager TV series.
Being of the mind that Deep Space Nine was the best of the Trek spinoff shows, I’ve appreciated how central so many of the characters and story-lines from DS9 have been to this expanding Trek literary saga. It was the post-finale-set DS9 novels, beginning with S.D. Perry’s Avatar trilogy from 2001, that brought me back to the Trek books after some time away. And the success of that first wave of post-finale DS9 novels set the stage, I believe, for the more ambitious ongoing Trek story that has woven together characters and plot-lines from all of the many Trek series. With no new 24th century-set shows or movies on the horizon to whose canonical continuity the novels would have to adhere, the Trek books have been free to play freely with all sorts of wonderful Trek characters and story-lines, moving the sage forward in exciting and surprising ways. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: this last decade-and-a-half of Trek novels has been one of the very best sci-fi sagas in any medium that I have ever come across, sophisticated and a hell of a lot of fun. This is long-form story-telling at its very best.… [continued]
Dear Paramount/CBS and Disney/Lucasfilm:
Hi! My name is Josh, and I’m a pretty big fan of two franchises that you each own, Star Trek and Star Wars. Now, I’m not a dress-up-in-costume-as-one-of-your-characters at a convention or movie theatre level of fan, but I am the type of fellow who owns three copies of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. (For those keeping score at home, I have the original bare-bones DVD as well as the Special Edition DVD that contains the Director’s Cut of the film and lots of special features. I kept the original bare-bones DVD because I vastly prefer the original theatrical cut of the film. I also have a third version of the film in high-def, on blu-ray.) I have two copies of every single Star Trek film (DVD and blu-ray) and also two copies of the three original Star Wars films (the Special Editions on VHS and all the films on DVD). And I do also have to admit that I own the three prequel films on DVD. (All three prequel films have great special features that I have enjoyed watching, though I believe that Episode III is the only prequel I have watched more than once on DVD.)
So, I love Star Wars and Star Trek, and I’m a collector. That means I’m someone who your companies — companies whose main reason for existence is to make money — could probably get to buy all these movies again. Actually, it’d be pretty easy. Actually, I am DESPERATE to buy all these movies again, if only you’d let me.
Let’s begin with Disney/Lucasfilm, the owners of Star Wars. As I have written about at length several times on this site (including this piece when the films were released on blu-ray), I consider it a crime against cinema that the original theatrical versions of Star Wars are not available for purchase. In any format. It’s really quite unbelievable. The original Star Wars trilogy are three of the most popular and influential films of the last fifty years. This isn’t some now-forgotten cult favorite. The Star Wars franchise is a huge ongoing business for you guys, Disney! You might recall that you released a little film a few months ago called The Force Awakens that earned you a bazillion dollars. But, you might say to me, Josh, you can buy Star Wars on nice shiny blu-rays! So what’s the problem? Well yes, I can buy the Star Wars original trilogy on blu-ray, but these are not the original theatrical versions.
Brief history lesson: The Star Wars films have been messed with over and over again by George Lucas and Lucasfilm. The theatrical versions are different … [continued]
I was of course excited several months back when news broke that a new Star Trek TV series was in development for CBS All Access. I have loved many of the big-screen Star Trek adventures, of course, but Star Trek belongs on TV. Star Trek began as a TV series, of course, and the vast majority on canon Star Trek adventures, hundreds and hundreds of hours, have been on TV.
We still know nothing about what the TV show will be about, what era it will be in, even what timeline in will be in (the “prime” timeline of all the previous TV shows and movies, or JJ Abrams “nuTrek” timeline from the past two movies). But my excitement raised by many notches when we learned a few weeks ago that Bryan Fuller would be the show-runner of the new show. This is an amazing choice, probably the best possible choice. Mr. Fuller has a lot of actual Trek experience. He was a writer on both Deep Space Nine and Voyager. In the years since, he has become a phenomenal show-runner, helming a number of critically acclaimed shows such as Dead Like Me and Hannibal. This makes Mr. Fuller a seemingly perfect combination of someone who has deep Trek love and Trek experience, while also very much being a new, fresh voice at the helm of a Trek show. I couldn’t be happier.
Or so I thought. Because then last week the news broke that Nicholas Meyer would be joining the writing team of the new show. This is unbelievable, jaw-on-the-floor, earth-shattering news. Mr. Meyer is, in my opinion, the very best writer to have ever worked on Trek in any of it’s many incarnations. He is responsible for the very best Trek, the Trek that most feels to me like my most beloved incarnation of the series. Let me explain. Mr. Meyer wrote and directed Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. He wrote most of Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home. (He wrote everything that takes place in 1986. Mr. Meyer takes over the story with Spock’s classic line: “judging by the pollution content in the atmosphere, we have arrived in the latter part of the twentieth century.”) He wrote and directed Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country. Has Trek ever been better than those three films??
Mr. Meyer truly saved Star Trek back in 1982 with The Wrath of Khan. Remember, Star Trek was cancelled after only three seasons on NBC in 1966-1969. It was something of a miracle that the series was resurrected in 1979 with Star Trek: The Motion Picture. But that film didn’t quite get the tone of Star Trek right. … [continued]
For over a decade, Star Trek: New Voyages has been a fan-produced effort to create new full-length episodes of the Original Series, a never-made fourth season of the classic show. (The series began under the name Star Trek: New Voyages, then switched to be called Star Trek: Phase II for several years, and now they seem to be back to using the New Voyages title.) I have been a fan and supporter of this fan-made group since I saw their second official episode, released in 2006, in which Walter Koenig reprised his role of Pavel Chekov, an enormous coup did this fan-made series.
Last month New Voyages released their tenth episode, “The Holiest Thing.” I have been reading about this episode for years now. (I actually reviewed a rough cut of this episode that was released to the project’s Kickstarter backers, about a year and a half ago.) “The Holiest Thing” was supposed to have been released back in February, 2014, but was cancelled at the last minute so the production team could continue polishing the episode. It’s been a long two-years wait. I am pleased that the final, completed version has at last seen the light of day. To my relief it is an improvement on the rough cut in almost every way.
This episode tells the never-before-seen story of how Captain Kirk and Dr. Carol Marcus first met and fell in love. (Dr. Marcus’ one-and-only canonical main-timeline on-screen appearance was, of course, in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.) The Enterprise arrives at the planet Lapus III, to check in with the terraforming project overseen by Dr. Marcus. As she and Scotty tour the facility in a shuttlecraft, an enormous explosion destroys the research facility, killing everyone present except for Scotty and Dr. Marcus. Is young Dr. Marcus responsible for the deaths of her entire team?
“The Holiest Thing” is a leisurely paced tale. There is a mystery component as Kirk, Spock and Dr. Marcus work to uncover the truth about what went wrong with her terraforming project. But the focus of the episode is on the love story between Kirk and Dr. Marcus. Both Brian Gross (as Captain Kirk) and Jacy King (as Carol Marcus) do strong work. Ms. King is especially good, a pleasant surprise since so much of the episode rests on her shoulders. I like this version of a young Carol Marcus. She is smart, persistent, and take-charge, but she’s also clearly young and perhaps in a little over her head. (This is a far stronger depiction of Carol than the one we got in the terrible Star Trek Into Darkness.)
The rough cut of this episode suffered from terrible sound problems … [continued]
Amidst all the hubub over Star Wars: The Force Awakens, I have been remiss in commenting on the first teaser trailer for Star Trek Beyond that dropped last week!
Star Trek Beyond (should there be a colon in there?) is the third film set in J.J. Abrams’ rebooted Trek universe. However, J.J. is not returning to direct this third film (he’s been a little busy with that other movie sequel with Star in its title), nor are any of the other co-writers of the last two Trek films (Damon Lindelof, Robert0 Orci, and Alex Kurtzman) returning. Instead, Justin Lin (director of the third through sixth Fast and Furious films) is directing, and the script has been written by Simon Pegg (who also, of course, plays Scotty in this rebooted Trek series) and Doug Jung.
I enjoyed 2009′s Star Trek. I thought it got everything right except the script, which was a little too simplistic and a little too full of plot holes. But the cast was spectacular, and most importantly the tone was perfect. The film had stakes but felt like a FUN adventure. It also looked gorgeous. I didn’t care for all the design choices — and in particular I thought the Enterprise looked terrible, ugly and unbalanced — but it was exciting to see a Star Trek film realized with a big budget that the series had never before seen. 2012′s Into Darkness, however, was an abomination, a really terrible film that missed on almost every level. And so I am fine with this latest Trek film having an entirely new creative team at the helm. True, the idea of a Fast and Furious director at the helm of a Trek film doesn’t feel like a great fit to me, but Justin Lin has described himself as a Star Trek fan and has said a lot of the right things in interviews, and so I am willing to give him the benefit of the doubt. And Simon Pegg is definitely a hard-core Trek fan who knows his stuff, so that gives me hope.
So, how about this first teaser trailer?
I liked it! I liked it a lot more than a lot of others across the internet seemed to.
Yes, setting the trailer for a Star Trek film to a Beastie Boys song seems wrong. I agree. I like my Trek stately and serious. There’s something sort of silly about setting a Trek trailer to a Beastie Boys song. It makes one worry that the tone of this new film will be all wrong, that it’s just going to be a dumb action/adventure and not the sort of more cerebral, thoughtful adventure that is what I … [continued]
Prepare to lose your afternoon, comic-book fans. Alan Moore (author of Watchmen, V For Vendetta, From Hell, and so many other great works) answers a TON of questions in this great Q & A thread.
As the release of The Force Awakens draws ever closer, this in-depth interview with J.J.Abrams will help tide you over. (Nice to hear him admit to script problems on Super 8 and Star Trek Into Darkness.)
In other Star Wars news, you’ve gotta love this super-detailed fan theory laying out the case for Jar Jar being a trained force-user who was secretly behind all of the events of the prequels.
Sacha Baron Cohen & the great Mark Strong have fun with spy movie tropes in The Brothers Grimsby? Sign me up:
I wish Pixar would stick with creating original films rather than sequels, but it’s hard to feel too unhappy about this new teaser trailer for Finding Dory:
I’m also quite happy with the latest, most substantial look at Netflix’s upcoming Jessica Jones show, the adaptation of Brian Michael Bendis & Michael Gaydos’ phenomenal comic book series Alias. I am really hoping this doesn’t disappoint. We’ll know very soon!! This trailer is great:
I don’t think I’ve written anything yet here about the news that a new Star Trek TV series is in the works! (Albeit one that won’t actually air on TV — it’ll only be available on CBS’ All Access digital subscription service.) I love the idea of a new Trek series, it is too-long in coming. Star Trek belongs on TV. But obviously my degree of excitement in this new venture will be determined by who is involved, and the subject matter of the show. (The most pressing question is not just the era of the show — Kirk’s era? Pre-Kirk? Next Generation era? Beyond Next Gen? — but rather the timeline. Will this new show be set in the timeline of the original Trek shows and movies, or the rebooted J.J. Abrams universe?) For the moment, the involvement of Alex Kurtzman (who co-wrote the terrible scripts for the two rebooted Trek films, as well as several of the abominable Transformers films) does not give me joy. But hope springs eternal. And as for the show’s only being available digitally, I am OK with that. I’ve long felt that CBS/Paramount should play to Trek’s built-in fanbase by using digital platforms to deliver new Trek shows to the fans. (Why not use a Netflix or Amazon model to help pay for the creation of … [continued]
Though this is a slow period for new “official” Star Trek, there’s a lot of exciting, professional fan-made efforts happening. I’ve written a lot about the two groups working on creating their own new episodes of the Original Series, new adventures of Kirk and Spock and the Enterprise. Star Trek: New Voyages/Star Trek: Phase II (they seem to keep switching their name) has been doing this for over a decade, generally releasing one new episode a year. (Click here for my review of their most recent finished episode, Mindsifter.) Star Trek Continues is a newer group, and they just released their fifth episode, “Divided We Stand” — click here for my review. Meanwhile, Alec Peters and the folks at Axanar created the incredible Prelude to Axanar short film (click here for my review, and watch it here now) and are working on a feature-length Axanar film, to star Richard Hatch, Tony Todd, Kate Vernon, J.G. Hertzler, and Gary Graham (all professional actors, and all incredibly talented performers whose names will be familiar to fans of Trek and Battlestar Galactica).
Which brings me to Tim Russ and his Renegade Productions. Mr. Russ played Tuvok on Star Trek: Voyager, and several years ago he directed Star Trek: Of Gods and Men. This was a feature-length film, released on-line in three parts, that starred actors from many different incarnations of Star Trek. Walter Koenig reprised his role as Chekov, Nichelle Nichols reprised her role as Uhura, Grace Lee Whitney reprised her role as Janice Rand, and Alan Ruck reprised his role as Enterprise B Captain John Harriman (from Star Trek: Generations), and Mr. Russ himself once again played Tuvok. A host of other professional Trek actors appeared in new roles: Ethan Phillips and Garett Wang from Voyager, Cirroc Lofton, Chase Masterson, and J.G. Hertzler from Deep Space Nine, and Gary Graham and Crystal Allen from Enterprise. (Click here for my review of the film, and here for more information and to watch it yourself.)
Mr. Russ is now back at it again with the creation of Star Trek Renegades. He and his team recently released their hour-and-a-half-long film, which they intend to be the pilot of a new series. (Originally they apparently had a dream of pitching this to CBS — now the plan is to continue to release Renegades as a web-based series.) Click here for the Renegades web-site, and here to watch the pilot episode!
Once again Mr. Russ has teamed with a group of professional actors. Most notably, Renegades again features Walter Koenig as Chekov, along with Mr. Russ himself as Tuvok. Several other actors from Voyager reprise their … [continued]
I must confess that I don’t have high hopes for the third rebooted Star Trek film that is currently in production. But thankfully the Star Trek spirit is being kept alive on-line by groups of committed Trek fans. The fan-made series Star Trek Continues is back with their fifth episode, titled “Divided We Stand.” The intent of Star Trek Continues is to produce full-length episodes of classic Trek, modeled as the fourth season that never was of the original Star Trek. (Click here for my review of episode one, “Pilgrim of Eternity.” Click here for my review of episode two, “Lolani.” Click here for my review of episode three, “Fairest of Them All.” Click here for my review of episode four, “The White Iris.”)
In this latest episode, the Enterprise computer is hijacked by nanites of an alien origin. While Spock and Scotty work to save the ship’s computer from this infestation, an explosion injures Kirk and McCoy and infects them with the nanites. These networked microscopic organisms somehow trap Kirk and McCoy in a shared hallucination that they are trapped back on Earth during the time of the Civil War. Can Spock find a way to save his ship and his comrades?
You can watch the full episode right here:
I am thoroughly impressed that creator and star Vic Mignogna and his team have been able to produce five full-length, finished episodes in just two years. This is a tremendous pace, and a testament to their commitment that Star Trek Continues won’t be a one-off thing, but a real attempt at a continuing series of new Star Trek adventures featuring Kirk, Spock, and co.
As always, this Star Trek Continues episode looks incredible, absolutely professional. There aren’t many new outer-space effects shots in this episode, but as has been the case with this show since the beginning, the glimpses we get of the Big-E in space are gorgeous. The Enterprise costumes, sets, props, all are perfect. My eye couldn’t detect any flaws. Everything looks exactly like it should, just like an actual episode of classic Trek. The way Mr. Mignogna and his team have recreated the Enterprise bridge and sick-bay (the two Enterprise sets that feature most prominently in this episode) are astounding.
All of the stuff with Kirk and McCoy in the Civil War might look a tad less polished, but it works well enough. Clearly the Star Trek Continues folks took full advantage of the uniforms and equipment of Civil War reenactors to get some fine production value for their effort. (There are several shots with quite a number … [continued]
Prepare to lose the rest of your day. Mad Men screencaps with Parks and Rec quotes. You’re welcome.
I am intrigued by this trailer for Jon Favreau’s live-action The Jungle Book. This trailer is gorgeous. Will the film be good? My curiosity is certainly piqued.
Here’s another very brief peek at Netflix’s upcoming Jessica Jones series. I’m really itching for a more substantial look at this show, but this new very short spot is sweet.
I’ve spent some time lately catching up with Jerry Seinfeld’s amazing Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee. It’s pretty much perfect entertainment for anyone who loves Seinfeld, and anyone who loves comedy.
I’ve also been hugely enjoying catching up with some fantastic podcasts. First up is the always great Kevin Pollak’s Chat Show. These in-depth two-hour interviews with actors and comedians are extraordinary. So funny and so fascinating. I’ve been listening to years and I’ve still barely scratched the surface of the almost 250 shows that Mr. Pollak has done.
I’ve also been digging Kumail Nanjiani’s The X-Files Files. Each show features Mr. Nanjiani and a rotating series of guests discussing two episodes of The X-Files. They’re watching and reviewing the entire series in order, from start to finish. This is a great reminder of when The X-Files was great and when nothing was more fun than deeply analyzing its mysteries. This is a great way to build excitement for The X-Files’ much-anticipated return to television in January.
I was introduced to The X-Files Files when I read about it on Devin Faraci’s Birth.Movies.Death., and I’m also digging Mr. Faraci’s podcast The Canon, in which he and Amy Nicholson discuss one movie a week, debating its merits and legacy and deciding whether they think that film merits inclusion in “the canon,” their made-up repository of only the very best films. Often they pit two films against one another (such as their great episode debating Alien versus Aliens, or Annie Hall versus Manhattan). This is a great listen.
I enjoyed this article about Essential Star Trek novels. I have read every one of these books and they’re all great, though titling the article “That Even Non-Trekkers Should Read” is a mistake, as other than Peter David’s Imzadi, I can’t see non-Trek fans being interested in any of these books. But re-title this post “That Every Trek Fan Should Read” and then we’d be on to something. Lots of love in this article to several old-school novels from several decades ago. I still remember reading Vonda M. McIntyre’s The Entropy Effect (one of the very first Pocket Book Star Trek novels … [continued]
This trailer for SPECTRE is pretty great:
I am tremendously excited for the reintroduction of S.P.E.C.T.R.E. and Blofeld to the Bond films — for the first time in four decades!! — and I really hope they don’t blow it. This new trailer looks large-scale, and I am thrilled that this story looks to be combining threads from the first two Daniel Craig films, and the organization that was named as QUANTUM in the second film, with the mythology of SPECTRE. Casting Christoph Waltz as Blofeld is genius. The two things that worry me about the trailer is the re-appearance of the done-to-death idea of Bond going rogue from MI6, and all the hinting that Blofeld is somehow tied to Bond’s past. I hate this oh-so-common trend in movies that the hero and the villain must be intimately connected. The Joker didn’t shoot Bruce Wayne’s parents and I am not excited by the idea that Blofeld and Bond have some long shared history. Well, I will hold my concern in check to see what the filmmakers have come up with. Anyways, this trailer is slickly made and has me very excited to see this film.
The entire Back to the Future trilogy is being re-released back into theatres??? I am there!! (Click here for my review of Back to the Future’s 25th anniversary screening on the big screen…)
As readers of this blog know I have been pretty disappointed by DC’s recent slate of direct-to-DVD animated films. But I’m pleased that DC Animation mastermind Bruce Timm seems to be returning to the fold, and I am quite curious at the idea that he is overseeing an animated adaptation of Alan Moore & Brian Bolland’s violent and disturbing Batman: The Killing Joke. How could that possibly work without having all of its controversial edges shaved completely off? I dunno, but I’ll admit I am curious. And the news that Mark Hamill will be playing the Joker has me delighted. They’d damn well better be casting Kevin Conroy as Batman/Bruce Wayne!!
I can’t wait for Netflix’s Jessica Jones series! Brian Michael Bendis’ Alias was brilliant. I hope this adaptation lives up to the original.
I am impressed by the vibrant, colorful costumes seen in these peeks at Bryan Singer’s upcoming X-Men: Apocalypse film. It’s fun to see these Marvel-movie colors in a Fox X-Men film, which has used mostly far more stripped-down, color-less looks. I felt that X-Men: Days of Future Past was a great conclusion to Mr. Singer’s X-Men films (click here for my review) and I wish this new film was a … [continued]
Star Trek Continues is an impressive fan film production, creating full-length episodes that are intended to serve as the never-made fourth season of the original Star Trek. I love these episodes. The talented folks at Star Trek Continues are keeping Star Trek alive!
In “The White Iris,” the fourth episode of Star Trek Continues, Captain Kirk suffers a severe head injury while negotiating with a new planet that is set to join the Federation. Doctor McCoy uses an experimental medicine to heal Kirk’s injuries, but the procedure has an unexpected result: the unravelling of the mind-meld that Spock had used to erase Kirk’s memory of the death of Rayna in “Requiem for Methusaleh.” This in turn brings up Kirk’s repressed grief for the many women he has loved and lost over the years of his career. Overwhelmed by visions of these dead women, Kirk seems unable to stave off the escalating violence between the planet and its aggressive neighbor world.
As always, the production values of Star Trek Continues are incredible. The episode looks and sounds exactly, and I mean exactly, like a real episode of the Original Series. The costumes are perfect, from the Enterprise crew uniforms to the look of the new aliens introduced in this episode. The sets are perfect, from the bridge to sickbay to the transporter room to the Enterprise corridors. There is not an off-note anywhere to be seen. My jaw is on the floor at the way the sets from the Original Series have been so perfectly replicated. I mean, look at the pattern on the red pillows in sickbay! They are perfect!!
There aren’t too many visual effects in this episode, but what effects we see are fantastic. The Big E looks gorgeous, as has been the case in all of these Star Trek Continues episodes. I love seeing the original Enterprise reproduced so gloriously using CGI. The see-through effect on the women in Kirk’s visions is well-realized, simple and effective without becoming silly. I was also particularly impressed by the score in this episode, which wonderfully channels the sound and feel of Classic Trek.
I like the main story of this episode very much. It’s nice to see the show taking a look into the internal emotional life of our hero, Kirk. It’s also fun to see the modern sensibility of continuity brought to an Original Series story. The original Star Trek almost never referred back to a previous episode. But for modern viewers, there are so many Original Trek episodes that feel, today, like they demand follow-up. So it was a great thrill in this episode to see so many important women from Kirk’s like brought back to our attention. … [continued]
What a delight it is to have a new Star Trek novel that is officially titled as a Star Trek: Deep Space Nine book!! Though characters and situations from Deep Space Nine (my favorite of the Trek TV shows) have played a major part in the last decade or so of Pocket Books’ wonderfully interconnected universes of Star Trek novels (particularly David R. George III’s Typhon Pact novels Rough Beasts of Empire and the spectacular Plagues of Night/Raise the Dawn duology), it has been many years since one of these novels has actually born the banner of Deep Space Nine. I am glad to see that drought come to an end with Una McCormack’s new book, The Missing!
Giving this book that Deep Space Nine label is appropriate. Though this book is set squarely in the continuity of Trek books following last years’ five-book The Fall series, The Missing is very much a stand-alone novel. I love the tight continuity of Trek books and all the stuff about epic galactic politics, but having a small stand-alone story like this every now and then is a refreshing change of pace.
The Missing tells two parallel stories. Firstly, Dr. Katherine Pulaski has assembled an interspecies civilian crew of scientists on the space-ship the Athene Donald, filled with scientists from across the members of the Khitomer Accords and even the Typhon Pact (the association of races who have long stood in conflict with the Federation), including a member of the mysterious Tzenkethi. Dr. Pulaski’s hope is that these civilian scientists can learn to work together and thus set an example for their respective governments. But this effort is disrupted by two events. First, a Starfleet intelligence officer insists on being allowed to join the mission, and the Tzenkethi scientist takes offense, seeing this (correctly) as a sign that she is not trusted and that Starfleet as sent someone to spy on her. Second, a large, technologically-advanced, alien vessel intercepts the Athene Donald and threatens their safety. These aliens, who refer to themselves as The Chain, consider themselves vastly superior to the members of the Athene Donald.
Meanwhile, on Deep Space Nine, a small fleet of ships arrives at the station, containing a community of adults and many, many children from different species, who together call themselves The People of the Open Sky. At first these friendly People are welcomed with open arms, but soon questions arise as to their history and motives, and Captain Ro must deal with a quickly-escalating situation.
The Missing is a fairly short book and a very quick read. I quite enjoyed both stories, though both unfold fairly quickly and straightforwardly. I wouldn’t have minded a few additional … [continued]
Don’t tease me, universe! I desperately want this news of a possible resurrection of The X-Files to be true!!
I am thrilled to have three cartoons from Motion Pictures included in JOMIX — Jewish Comics; Art & Derivation, an exhibition currently open in New York City. Click here for more details! I was also delighted to get such a nice mention in this review of The Jewish Comix Anthology! The Anthology is still available for purchase at amazon!
This is an older article, but Rolling Stone’s The Last Days of 30 Rock is a magnificently in-depth look at the life and end of Tina Fey’s wonderful sitcom.
After losing Leonard Nimoy last month, we also lost the great, woefully under-appreciated Harve Bennett. Mr. Bennett was critically involved in the “trilogy” of Trek films: Star Trek II, III, and IV. Most importantly, without Mr. Bennett’s involvement, Star Trek II might never have happened after Star Trek: The Motion Picture underwhelmed. Mr. Bennett and writer/director Nicholas Meyer are the men who saved Star Trek. Harve Bennett is responsible for what, to me, is the greatest iteration of Trek, those three films. Star Trek would not be the franchise that it is today without Harve Bennett. Rest in peace. (You can learn a lot more about Harve Bennett by reading this wonderful eulogy on badassdigest.com.)
We also recently lost Sam Simon, who was one of the key creative voices in the early (and best) seasons of The Simpsons.
On a more upbeat note, watch this:
I am super-duper excited for Captain America: Civil War. The idea of adapting that great comic book story-line for the Marvel cinematic universe is genius. They should probably be calling it The Avengers 3 rather than Cap 3, but whatever. Looking further down the road, I am thrilled that it looks like The Russo Brothers, after directing The Winter Soldier and then Civil War, will be directing the two-part Avengers: Infinity War films. It’s been clear for a long while that Joss Whedon would be stepping aside after Avengers: Age of Ultron, and if it wasn’t going to be Mr. Whedon, I am delighted that the Russo Brothers are taking the lead in guiding Marvel’s Avengers franchise. These next few years of Marvel movies are going to be amazing.
After reading of Leonard Nimoy’s passing, I knew I needed to watch some Star Trek. Star Trek II was too painful to consider. I thought about watching Trek III or Trek IV, both of which were so marvelously directed by Mr. Nimoy. I thought about Trek VI, which is probably my favorite of all the Trek films, and which features one of Mr. Nimoy’s very best on-screen performances. (His heartbroken delivery of the line “She does not know” absolutely kills me every time.) But I decided what I wanted was some classic Trek, so I could see Mr. Nimoy — and the iconic character with whom he has been so indelibly associated for almost 50 years, and now will be forevermore — in his prime.
So I decided to watch “Amok Time,” from the second season of the Original Series.
“Amok Time” is one of the most famous Trek episodes. I’ve seen it countless times, but I hadn’t watched it for several years. It’s astonishing how great this half-century-old TV show looks and sounds on blu-ray, and re-watching the episode I was once again impressed by the show’s boundless creativity, and the high-quality of the production across every area. This happens to be a very sharply-written episode, filled with some of the very best and most well-known Spock lines. (Spock’s final statement to the Vulcan Stonn is particularly wonderful: “After a time, you may find that having is not so pleasing a thing after all as wanting. It is not logical, but it is often true.” There is great wisdom there.) The amount of world-building in this episode is astounding, as we make our only visit to Vulcan in the series’ run and, in so doing, learn so much about Spock and his people. It’s all super-cool, everything from our glimpse of the elderly stateswoman T’Pau to those awesome Vulcan weapons (which Trek fans well-know are called the Ahn-woon & the Lirpa) to all the great details in (and fun, made-up Vulcan words for) all the aspects of the Vulcans’ complex mating rituals. (Again, all true Trek fans know all about Pon Far and the Koon-ut-kal-if-fee and Plak Tow.) This episode features one of the very best Trek scores of them all, with the incredible theme music for the Vulcan combat. (I love how we can hear this music playing, very soft and slowly, when Spock first speaks to Kirk on the Enterprise of Pon Farr.) The episode feels a little of-the-past in the unsettling-to-a-modern-viewer way that the Vulcan combat ritual involves the woman’s being given to the victor. On the other hand, one can see and respect the groundbreaking-for-its-time way in which this episode presented Vulcan as a matriarchal … [continued]
This is a great article revisiting Stephen King’s final three Dark Tower novels. I absolutely adore these books, and I am not at all in the camp of Dark Tower fans unsatisfied with the ending of Mr. King’s magnum opus. I spent quite a while reading and writing about the Dark Tower series a few years ago. Feel free to follow these links to revisit the journey with me: Entering The Dark Tower — The Dark Tower Book I: The Gunslinger – The Dark Tower Book II: The Drawing of the Three – The Dark Tower Book III: The Waste Lands — The Dark Tower Book IV: Wizard and Glass — The Dark Tower Book V: Wolves of the Calla — The Dark Tower Book VI: Song of Susannah — The Dark Tower Book VII: The Dark Tower — Return to the Dark Tower — The Little Sisters of Eluria — Marvel Comics’ Adaptation of The Gunslinger — The Wind Through The Keyhole.
If you, like me, are starting to get very sad about the impending end of Parks and Recreation, then it’s time to fall down the rabbit hole of this epic Twitter exchange of great Parks & Recs clips between Alan Sepinwall & Linda Holmes. Here’s just a tiny taste:
Oh my god I am going to miss that show.
Holy cow: a Wet Hot American Summer sequel is happening — with all of the original cast — as an eight-episode Netflix series??? That is bonkers!!
This is a terrific article about the central “text” of Star Trek, and the challenges that must be conquered in terms of making future good Star Trek stories, on the big-screen or (hope hope hope) back on TV. I don’t agree with all of his points, but this piece was written by someone who gets and loves Trek, and I think he has the right idea.
Speaking of Trek, I sure wasted a lot of time watching these old trailers!
We just recently passed the tenth anniversary of the airing of the pilot episode of the reimagined Battlestar Galactica, “33.” Wow. I remember watching that when it aired. (I also watched the mini-series when that aired, about a year-and-a-half before the series kicked off in the States.) I can’t believe it was that long ago!! Here is a great, in-depth look back at the greatness of that pilot, and here is a nice Q & A from show-runner Ronald D. Moore.
This is a great list of twelve Simpsons characters who actually evolved.
I hope you’ve all enjoyed by Best of 2014 lists! I’ve listed my Top 20 Movies of 2014 (click here for part one, part two, part three, and part four), my Top 15 Episodes of TV of 2014 (click here for part one, part two, and part three), and my Top 15 Comic Book Series of 2014 (click here for part one, part two, and part three). Now we arrive at my final list, the Top 8 Blu-Rays of 2014.
Top eight? Yeah, top eight. While this year I have expanded most of my lists (my Top 15 Movies list became a Top 20, and my Top 10 Episodes of TV list became a Top 15), I found I had a hard time coming up with 10 truly great DVDs or Blu-rays. I think there are two reasons for this. The first is personal: though I suspect I still buy far more DVDs & blu-rays than the average person, I found that I bought far fewer discs this year than I had in years. Partly this was to save some money. But also because of reason number two: that after a golden age of awesome DVD sets with extraordinary special features, great special editions of movies or TV shows are much scarcer these days. I find myself unimpressed with the behind the scenes features on most blu-rays these days, even the movies that were the biggest hits. Most studios are trying to save money by cutting back on providing special features for their home video releases, which is a big shame in my opinion.
But still, there were eight blu-rays that I wanted to praise, and here they are:
8. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes – This film was number 5 on my Top 20 Movies of 2014 list, and it looked absolutely spectacular on blu-ray. And while I wouldn’t say that the special features are phenomenal, they are pretty good, certainly head-and-shoulders above the special features found on almost any other big 2014 release. There’s about an hour of fun behind-the-scenes featurettes (it’s particularly cool to see Andy Serkis, Terry Notary, and several other familiar faces from the Lord of the Rings and Hobbit behind-the-scenes documentaries, appear in these featurettes) and a great commentary track from director Matt Reaves. (Click here for my original review of Dawn of the Planet of the Apes.)
7. The Seven-Per-Cent Solution – For decades I have been reading or hearing about this film that was written by Star Trek II and VI writer & director Nicholas Meyer (adapting his novel of the same name), but … [continued]
One of the most intriguing story threads left hanging by last year’s five-book Star Trek The Fall series was the fate of Julian Bashir. Though Dr. Bashir was able to solve the Andorian reproductive crisis (a story-thread that has been running through the Star Trek books since the post-finale DS9 relaunch fifteen years ago), to do so he wound up disobeying his superiors and was discharged from Starfleet. This was an exciting development for the character, and I was very curious to see where his story would go next.
Luckily I didn’t have to wait long, as David Mack’s new book Section 31: Disavowed, focuses on Bashir, now on the outs from Starfleet and at something of a loss as to what to do with his life. No surprise, Bashir is soon approached by Section 31, who have been trying (since the final seasons of the TV show) to recruit Bashir into their organization. What unfolds is a game of spy-versus-spy, as Bashir and his girlfriend Sarina Hanfling enter the folds of Section 31 with the goal of undermining the organization from within. Meanwhile, their handlers in 31 are fully aware of Bashir and Hanfling’s goals, but confident that they can keep the two under their control.
It’s interesting that this book has been published under the “Section 31″ label. Very soon after DS9 went off the air, Pocket Books published four “Section 31″ books, but they haven’t used that label since. One of those books, Abyss by David Weddle & Jeffrey Lang, was also a Bashir-focused story, and the events of that book have some relevance to this story. Disavowed is also a direct continuation of the Bashir and Sarina developments that occurred in David Mack’s Bashir-and-Sarina-focused Typhon Pact novel Zero Sum Game, as well as everything that went down in the five-book The Fall series. I love the way the stories of these books, published years apart and written by various different authors, fit together. Mr. Mack has done a terrific job of pulling together various story and character threads and moving Bashir and Sarina’s tale forward, as well as that of their efforts against the mysterious Section 31.
To my delight, Disavowed also picks up the story of the Mirror Universe! David Mack wrote several wonderful Mirror Universe-focused books, most notably The Sorrows of Empire (click here for my review) and Rise Like Lions (click here for my review). Rise Like Lions felt like the triumphant conclusion of the Mirror Universe story-line, so I was not expecting to return to those characters. Nevertheless, it was an absolute delight to check back in with the Mirror Universe, seven years after the Terran Rebellion emerged … [continued]
The fan-film series Star Trek: Phase II came roaring back with the release this week of their tenth full-length Star Trek episode: “Mind-Sifter.” This episode has a fascinating history. “Mind-Sifter “was originally written by Shirley Maiewski all the way back in 1974 for a fanzine called The Star Trek Showcase. In 1976, Bantam included Ms. Maiewski’s story in their The New Voyages anthology of Star Trek fan-fiction, although their editors changed the story in ways that Ms. Maiewski did not approve. Many decades later, the folks at Star Trek: Phase II decided to adapt Ms. Maiewski’s story. In honor of that old New Voyages book, they released this episode under their series’ original title of Star Trek: New Voyages.
With me so far? In this episode, Spock is placed in command of the Enterprise when Captain Kirk goes missing for several months. Somehow, Kirk has become lost in Earth’s past, trapped and abused in a mental hospital in 1958. It’s all part of a Klingon plot to uncover the location of Gateway, the planet on which stands the Guardian of Forever, the powerful time-portal discovered by Kirk & co. in the seminal Original Series episode “The City on the Edge of Forever.” With Kirk missing and presumed dead, the crew of the Enterprise attempt to move on with their lives, while Spock and McCoy’s relationship frays to the breaking point.
I remember reading that New Voyages book years and years ago. “Mind-Sifter” was a memorable enough story that I still remember it, well over two decades since I read it. I love the idea of this story being adapted by Phase II, and over-all they have turned in a very solid episode.
As always, the show looks phenomenal. The sets and costumes are amazing, perfectly mimicking the look and feel of the Original Series. In many ways, it looks even BETTER than the original! The visual effects are extraordinary. This episode, for the first time for Phase II, was released in two different versions. One has modern-style visual effects overseen by Tobias Richter and The Light Works. The second has sixties-style visual effects created by Daren Dochterman, who oversaw the Director’s Edition of Star Trek: The Motion Picture. Both versions are fun, but the modern-VFX version is far superior and definitely the one to watch. These effects, though “modern” and far more advanced than what we saw in the sixties, still feel exactly right for an Original Series adventure. The Enterprise and the other Starfleet ships and the Klingon vessel all look and move and feel exactly right. Except they are looking better than they ever did before, far better than the original sixties goofy effects and also far better … [continued]
So the new Star Wars film is going to be called The Force Awakens? Sigh. Someday I would love to be really EXCITED by the announcement of a new Star Wars title. While The Force Awakens is certainly a better title than The Phantom Menace and Attack of the Clones, it seems very nondescript and bland. It also seems to imply that somehow the Force has been asleep or not present during the events of the previous six films, which puzzles me. What’s most interesting is that this new film is no longer being referred to as Episode VII. I am all for dropping the numbers — I prefer subtitles over numbered sequels, and at a certain point the high sequel numbers just get silly. But it means the new “main” trilogy won’t be distinguished from the spin-off films that are also being worked on. That is likely Disney’s intent, as they wouldn’t want those spin-off films to be seen as any less important than the “main” films. (Though I suppose it’s also very possible that the film will still be identified as Episode VII in its opening crawl. We should remember that, for the Original Trilogy, the episode numbers weren’t really used in the advertising of the films, including their logo designs and posters. They were only identified as Episode IV, Episode V, and Episode VI in their opening crawls. It was only with the prequels that the episode number became so prominently incorporated into the titles and logo designs of the films. Hmmm. It’ll be interesting to see how this plays out with Episode VII. I do very much like the idea that J.J. Abrams and his team are returning to the approach used by the Original Trilogy when it comes to the episode numbers.)
Speaking of Star Wars, this is fun: five minor actors from the original Star Wars trilogy who you didn’t realize were in everything you liked.
Who doesn’t love spending a little time reading about The Shawshank Redemption?
I wasn’t at all interested in NBC’s live telecasts of Peter Pan or The Sound of Music. But A Few Good Men? I’m in!! Boy I hope this happens, and with a great cast. You want me on that wall. You NEED me on that wall!!
This is cool: as an alternative to the hideously ugly U.S.S. Enterprise re-design from J.J. Abrams’ films, here is a very cool looking, fan-designed, souped-up version of the Big-E that hews very closely to the ship’s original design from the Original Series. Matt Jefferies’ design from the sixties ain’t broken, friends.
This is a great, fun interview clip with Benedict Cumberbatch. Behold his perfect Jar Jar … [continued]
Ok, ready to lose the rest of your day? You might recall that this past summer, FXX ran a marathon of every single Simpsons episode ever. Well, apparently a bunch of the best writers for Hitfix.com decided to list their favorite episodes of each day of the marathon. Five writers each picked their two favorite Simpsons episodes from that day, and wrote about them. Click here and thank me later. This is a staggeringly wonderful walk down Simpsons memory lane. It’s been way too long since I have revisited some of these classic episodes. Reading those articles makes me want to blow off work for the next week or two of work and just watch old Simpsons DVDs…
Click here for a terrific interview with Nicholas Meyer. Mr. Meyer is pretty much single-handedly responsible for all of the very best Star Trek ever made. He wrote and directed Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan and wrote and directed Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, and he wrote the vast majority of Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home. (He wrote everything that took place on present-day Earth, starting with the immortal Spock line: “Judging from the pollution content of the atmosphere, we have arrived in the latter part of the twentieth century,” all the way through to the escape with the whales.) Nicholas Meyer is the reason for the odd numbered Star Trek curse (in which fans noticed that the even-numbered original Trek movies are far superior to the odd-numbered ones). I had no idea he was involved in this Harry Houdini project for the History Channel, but now I am very interested in seeing it! Mr. Meyer doesn’t work nearly enough to suit me. It’s fascinating that the History Channel film is based on a biography of Houdini that Mr. Meyer’s father wrote. The whole interview with Mr. Meyer is terrific, but I particularly loved his answer, at the very end, when asked his opinion of the J.J. Abrams Star Trek films. ”That’s changing the shape of the bottle.” (Read Mr. Meyer’s comments to understand the context.) That is very well-put, and I 100% agree.
StarWars.com has released animatics for four unmade episodes of Star Wars: The Clone Wars. These are four full-length episodes, with complete voice performances and sound effects, it’s just that the rough blocky animatics were never taken to full animation. These are great episodes, well-worth the time of any fans of the show. Anakin and Obi-Wan investigate the death of a Jedi on Utapau (a key location in Episode III) and discover that General Grievous is about to acquire a terrible weapon with ties to the secret of the construction of Jedi … [continued]
Let’s begin today with these fantastic clips from The Simpsons Live, the recent Simpsons musical extravaganza at The Hollywood Bowl featuring Conan O’Brien, Jon Lovitz, Hank Azaria, and others. These clips are amazing.
Prepare to lose several hours from your day perusing this ranking of the 114 greatest characters from The West Wing. The ranking is ridiculous, but the character write-ups are great and the videos accompanying many of the write-ups are phenomenal, wonderful highlights of some of the best moments from that great show.
This is awesome: What Star Trek the original series would have looked like in widescreen. Check out how gorgeous that 48-years-old television show looks!! Unbelievable!!
Speaking of Star Trek, with the amazing HD remastering project of Star Trek: The Next Generation nearly completed (the seventh and final season comes out on blu-ray in December), I am desperate for CBS to do the same with Deep Space Nine, my favorite of the Trek TV series. I really mean desperate. Bill Hunt from the phenomenal web-site The Digital Bits has an excellent editorial on the topic, addressing this question of whether or not CBS will take the plunge and remaster DS9. When I first started buying blu-rays, as astounded as I was by the picture and sound quality, I looked at my vast collection of DVDs and vowed to myself that I wouldn’t go out and re-buy blu-rays of films I already owned on DVD. Many years later, and I am proud of myself for sticking with that vow, almost 100%. With one huge glaring exception. I have bought every single blu-ray set of a Star Trek TV show released so far. The Original Series, The Next Generation, and Enterprise. I am such a huge Trek fan that I just couldn’t resist. The improved picture quality was irresistible. Even more so were the INCREDIBLE special features on Next Gen and Enterprise, produced by Roger Lay, Jr. and Robert Meyer Burnett. (Those special features really set the standard for what I wish EVERY great TV show or movie had on their DVDs/blu-rays: exhaustive documentaries made with love, along with lots of other fun stuff including deleted scenes and out-takes.) CBS, I am ready to give you my money!! PLEASE release a re-mastered version of DS9, and DOUBLE PLEASE let Mr. Lay & Mr. Burnett continue their efforts to finally produce substantial making-of special features for this, the greatest of the Trek TV shows!! #ds9onblurayplease
Hitfix’s Drew McWeeny has released another phenomenal installment of his series Film Nerd 2.0, in which he discussed his approach to guiding his two young sons through the world of media, when and how he introduces them to … [continued]
In 2003 Pocket Books published a six-book series called “The Lost Era” that told tales from the almost-century between the end of Star Trek VI and the launch of the Enterprise D in “Encounter at Farpoint,” the premiere episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation. Since then, there have been only two additional “Lost Era” novels published. In 2007 we got Christopher L. Bennett’s book The Buried Age, which told what happened to Jean-Luc Picard in the decade between the loss of the Stargazer and his assuming command of the Enterprise D. (Click here for my review.) Then, earlier this year, Pocket Books published David R. George III’s novel One Constant Star, which tells a story of the Enterprise B under the command of Demora Sulu.
Star Trek: Generations introduced Hikaru Sulu’s daughter, Demora, as the helmswoman of the Enterprise B. Several novels set in the years that followed have chronicled Captain Harriman’s years as captain of the Enterprise, and established that Sulu rose through the ranks to eventually assume command of the ship, many years later. One Constant Star presents us with a Sulu who is already well-established as captain of the Enterprise. During a mission near Tzenkethi space (these aliens were mentioned but never seen on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, and recent Star Trek novels have fleshed out this race and developed them as an adversary of the Federation), an Enterprise landing party discovers a weird situation on the planet Rejarris II. The planet shows signs of a pre-warp civilization, but there is no sign of life. What happened to the planet’s inhabitants?
The first half of One Constant Star explores this interesting sci-fi mystery. I found myself enjoying it, but wondering why this seemingly inconsequential tale warranted a return to “The Lost Era.” This felt like a story that could have been told with any Trek crew in any era (the TNG crew, Riker’s crew on the Titan, etc.). In the second half of the book, though, we discover the reason this story is being told, and why this mission was a significant moment in “The Lost Era.”
I think David R. George III is one of the very finest Trek authors out there. His previous “Lost Era” novel, Serpents Among the Ruins, was phenomenal, one of my very favorite Trek books. His Crucible trilogy for Star Trek’s 40th anniversary, as well as his recent Typhon Pact/Deep Space Nine duology Plagues of Night and Raise the Dawn are also absolutely spectacular and count among the very best Trek books I have ever read. One Constant Star, unfortunately, was a bit of a let-down for me.
The preponderance of coincidences upon which this story’s … [continued]
I read Christopher L. Bennett’s novel The Buried Age back when it was originally released in 2007. I remembered loving it, and I’ve been wanting o re-read it for a while now. When the latest “Lost Era” novel was published recently, David R. George III’s One Constant Star, it seemed fitting to return to The Buried Age before reading Mr. George’s new novel.
“The Lost Era” was a six-book series of Star Trek novels published back in 2003 that chronicled some of the events in the approx. eighty years between the end of Star Trek VI and the launch of the Enterprise D in “Encounter at Farpoint.” (I have reviewed several of these “Lost Era” novels: click here to read my thoughts on The Sundered, Serpents Among The Ruins, and The Art of the Impossible.) Several years later, in 2007, one additional “Lost Era” novel was published, Christopher L. Bennett’s The Buried Age. That’s been it for the series, until the publication this year of One Constant Star.
The Buried Age takes place over many years, moving from the destruction of Captain Picard’s first ship, the Stargazer, in 2355, to his assuming command of the Enterprise D in 2364 just prior to the TNG pilot episode “Encounter at Farpoint.” This is fertile grounds for a story, as Mr. Bennett has astutely realized that, though the Stargazer was destroyed many years prior to Picard’s assuming command of the Enterprise, almost nothing had been revealed about what Picard was up to during those missing years.
The book begins with the story of the final day of the Stargazer, and the Ferengi ambush that resulted in the ship’s having to be abandoned. This is probably my favorite section of the book. It’s a phenomenally compelling blow-by-blow chronicle of how everything went wrong on board the Stargazer. Mr. Bennett has taken the hints we got in the first-season TNG episode “The Battle” and brilliantly worked backwards to reconstruct the full story, showing us how Picard could have been taken unawares by the Ferengi. It’s tough to imagine the Ferengi — not a very threatening species, despite the intention that they would be back when they were initially introduced in the first season of Next Gen — could have possibly beaten Picard and the mighty Stargazer. Mr. Bennett successfully constructs a scenario in which this seems plausible, while also sticking carefully to the continuity as established in “the Battle,” in which we see that DaiMon Bok was able to recover the Stargazer intact.
Even better than the story of the battle is the story of Picard’s subsequent court-martial, and the end of his relationship with Phillipa Louvois. Here again, Mr. Bennett … [continued]
Despite the lack of good “official” Star Trek these days, I think it’s a great time to be a Star Trek fan. I have written often about several incredibly high-quality Star Trek fan productions, including Star Trek Continues and Star Trek Axanar. But the first, and still in my mind the best, is Star Trek Phase II. They have produced, over the last decade, nine full-length episodes of what could have been the never-made fourth season of the Original Series. These episodes have all been terrifically entertaining and of an astounding high quality. By their third episode, “To Serve All My Days,” the Phase II team was creating episodes that looked and felt totally professional, incredibly close to “real” Star Trek. (They were also attracting the involvement of real Trek professionals, including Walter Koenig in “To Serve All My Days” and George Takei in the next episode, “World Enough and Time.”)
I feel like the Phase II group has been a little bit overshadowed recently by other Trek fan projects. The group Star Trek Continues have set out to do exactly the same thing that Phase II undertook a decade ago, that is to create the never-made fourth season of the Original Series, and they have surged past Phase II in productivity, releasing three complete (and high quality) episodes in the last year. (Click here for my review of their first episode, “Pilgrim of Eternity”, here for my review of their second episode, “Lolani”, and here for my review of their third episode, “The Fairest of Them All”.) Then there is Star Trek Axanar, a group setting out to make a feature film that will tell the story of Garth of Izar (from the Original Series episode “Whom Gods Destroy”) and his victory over the Klingons in the Four Years War (years before the events of The Original Series). I raved about this project recently, praising their twenty-minute “Prelude to Axanar” short film for its incredibly high-quality, professional look, and for the astounding array of professional actors they attracted to fill out the roles.
Meanwhile, Phase II seems to have hit some speed-bumps. They announced a big relaunch last summer, but they are still sitting on several episodes that have been filmed over the past several years. They announced that their next episode, “The Holiest Thing,” would be released last February, then delayed it on the planned day of release. What at first seemed like a delay of just a few days or weeks has stretched into months, with no sign of the episode in sight. Now the Phase II team have said they won’t be releasing it next at all, instead bumping up … [continued]
Forget J.J. Abrams’ nuTrek. Want to see the coolest bit of new Star Trek I have seen in a long time? Click here to watch the twenty-minute short film, Prelude to Axanar — or just watch the video below! (Make sure your video settings are on HD.)
How cool was that??
I have written a lot on this site about the fan film projects Star Trek: Phase II and Star Trek: Continues, each of which have created polished, episode-length adventures of Captain Kirk and company. Now comes Axanar, an off-shoot of Phase II. Writer/producer Alec Peters and an incredible team of talents have set out to create a feature-length adventure set prior to the events of the Original Series. The proposed Axanar film will tell the story of Garth of Izar and his heroic actions that ended the devastating Four Years War between the Federation and the Klingon Empire. Garth was introduced in the Original Series episode “Whom Gods Destroy.” In that episode he had fallen from grace and turned into a terrible villain. But Garth’s back-story was that he was once one of the greatest Starfleet captains who ever was, and Axanar aims to tell his story.
As a “proof of concept” for this planned feature-length film, the Axanar team have a created a twenty-minute prologue to their film, titled Prelude to Axanar. This film has been created to be in the style of a Federation historical film, looking back to tell the story of the war between the Federation and the Klingons and the events that led up to the pivotal Battle of Axanar.
Prelude to Axanar is incredible. It totally knocked me on my butt and has me salivating for the feature-length Axanar film. This is an incredible achievement for an unofficial fan-made project.
It feels weird referring to Prelude to Axanar as a fan-film, because of the extraordinary level of professional Hollywood talent in front of and behind the camera. (The Axanar web-site refers to the project as an “independent” film.) Just look at this incredible array of actors who appear in this film:
Richard Hatch (Apollo from the original Battlestar Galactica and Tom Zarek from the reimagined BSG) plays the Klingon warlord Kharn.
Gary Graham reprises his frequent guest-starring role from Star Trek: Enterprise as the Vulcan Ambassador Soval.
Tony Todd (who played Worf’s brother Kurn on many Next Gen episodes) plays Federation Admiral Ramirez.
JG Hertzler (who played General Martok on many episodes of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine) plays Captain Samuel Travis.
And Kate Vernon (so incredible as Ellen Tigh on the modern Battlestar Galactica) plays Captain Sonya Alexander.
Prelude to Axanar is structured as a faux documentary, with the above characters each … [continued]
Last year, David Mack wrote a terrific trilogy of Star Trek: The Next Generation novels, under the subtitle “Cold Equations.” (Click here for my review of book 1, click here for my review of book 2, and here for my review of book 3.) It’s a great trilogy that moved forward the continuing, post-Nemesis 24th century Star Trek story that has been ongoing in the Trek novels for many years now. Most notably, Cold Equations repaired the biggest sin of Star Trek: Nemesis and (Careful! Spoilers! Spoilers!) brought back Data.
Interestingly, this major event in the Trek books was itself a direct sequel to a stand-alone Trek book from about a decade earlier, a book called Immortal Coil by Jeffrey Lang. That novel introduced the idea of a secret society of android artificial intelligences and led to several fascinating developments in the life of Lt. Data. (Click here for my review of Immortal Coil, a terrific book.)
And so I was delighted to see that now Mr. Lang himself has written a sequel to David Mack’s Cold Equations trilogy, a book focusing on the newly-resurrected Data called The Light Fantastic. What a wonderful bit of full-circle perfection. The Light Fantastic is a phenomenal follow-up to Cold Equations, thoroughly exploring Data’s new status quo following the events of that trilogy.
It is difficult to discuss this book too deeply without ruining some of the surprises of Cold Equations, so if you are reading this but you have not yet read Cold Equations, you might want to stop here.
Still with me? The Light Fantastic picks up about a year following the events of Cold Equations. Data and Lal, both newly returned to life, have settled into a quiet life on, of all places, Orion Prime. (When Noonien Soong inhabited the new android body now possessed by Data, he used his intelligence to create something of a casino empire for himself, an empire Data now finds himself running, mostly as a way to keep that parto f his father alive in some way.) But their tranquility is shattered by the return of Moriarty, the holographic entity from “Elementary, Dear Data” and “Ship in a Bottle.”
I was thrilled to read of the return of Moriarty, a wonderful character from TNG and a terrific foil for Data. I was also delighted by what Mr. Lang has done with his character. The narrative of The Light Fantastic jumps around in time, often flashing back to show us what became of Moriarty and the Countess in the years after they we trapped in a holographic simulation back in “Ship in a Bottle.” It turns out things have not … [continued]
Star Trek Enterprise was was an interesting failure as a TV show. Its pilot episode showed great promise, but the show quickly fell into the trap of recycling familiar Trek story tropes. Its first two seasons were very mediocre, and the show quickly shed most of the viewers who had watched the pilot. Things took a sharp turn for the better in the third season, when the writers decided to tell a more complex, serialized story-line. Things got even better in the fourth season, when the show finally embraced its concept as a prequel to the Original Series, we finally got to see the kind of show it could have/should have been. And then, of course, it was cancelled, and that was that.
But Pocket Books’ series of Star Trek novels have been creating a phenomenal, inter-connected web of Trek stories moving beyond the finales of the various Trek TV shows. They have not ignored Enterprise, and have boldly pushed the series forward into territory it might have explored had the show been allowed to continue. (Click here for my review of Enterprise: Kobayashi Maru.)
I was at first delighted by the series of novels telling the story of The Romulan War, an event hinted at in The Original Series. But in the end, I felt those books disappointed. (Click here for my review of The Romulan War: Beneath the Raptor’s Wing, and here for my review of The Romulan War: To Brave the Storm.) When the Romulan War series was hurridly wrapped up (that’s how it seemed to me, at least, with Michael A. Martin’s planned trilogy shortened to just two books), I figured the post-Enterprise series of novels were over.
But, to my surprise, Pocket Books turned to a high-level Trek author, Christopher L. Bennett, to launch a new series of post-Enterprise novels, now subtitled “Rise of the Federation.” These books take place following the end of the Romulan War and the founding of the United Federation of Planets. The first novel, A Choice of Futures, followed now-Admiral Archer and all the other members of the former Enterprise command crew, now divided onto different ships, including the Endeavor, under the command of Captain T’Pol, and the Pioneer, under the command of Malcolm Reed. I thought this first novel was a terrific read and a compelling exploration of just how the noble Federation of Kirk’s era came to be. I was impressed at how thoughtfully Mr. Bennett examined many aspects of the Federation that Trek fans have taken for granted for fifty tears. I loved the way he moved all of the Enterprise characters forward into new situations, rather than having everyone … [continued]
After the dismal Star Trek Into Darkness (click here for my review), with the rumor that Bob Orci (who is perhaps a 9/11 Truther) will be directing the next Trek film, and with no prospects of a new Trek TV show anywhere on the horizon, this feels like a bleak time for Trek fans. But some Trek fans aren’t taking things lying down. As readers of this site are well aware, I am a huge fan of two parallel groups of Trek fans who have taken it upon themselves to create the never-made fourth season of the Original Series, crafting full-episode-length Star Trek episodes featuring the further adventures of Kirk, Spock, and McCoy.
The folks at Star Trek Continues have just released their third episode, “The Fairest of Them All,” and like their initial two efforts (“Pilgrim of Eternity” and “Lolani”), it is a magnificent achievement and a very fun watch. Here is the full episode:
This episode is a direct sequel to the Original Series episode “Mirror, Mirror” in which Kirk, McCoy, Uhura and Scotty found themselves in a twisted alternate universe following a transporter accident. The opening moments of the episode recreate the closing scene of “Mirror, Mirror,” in which Kirk exhorts Mirror Spock to take steps to change or defeat the cruel Terran empire which he serves. The entire rest of the episode takes place in the Mirror Universe; we never see the “real” characters again. Instead, we get to see what happens after Kirk & co. beamed back to their universe and the Mirror versions of Kirk, McCoy, Uhura and Scotty beam back aboard the I.S.S. Enterprise.
I’m pleased that they chose to set the whole show in the Mirror Universe (as did Enterprise’s Mirror Universe prequel two-parter “In a Mirror, Darkly”) rather than trying to find some way to involve the regular versions of the characters. It’s fun that they leaned into this exploration of the repercussions of Kirk & co.’s visit to the Mirror Universe, to try to answer the intriguing question of “what happened next.”
As has been the case since the very first Star Trek Continues vignette, the extraordinary production quality of these entirely fan-made efforts is jaw-dropping. These talented men and women have painstakingly recreated all of the familiar Enterprise sets. The bridge looks perfect. Kirk’s quarters look perfect. Sickbay looks perfect. The Enterprise corridors look perfect. The costumes, the lighting, everything has been recreated extraordinarily faithfully. I couldn’t spot one off-note. Even more impressive for this episode, the production team has exactingly recreated the look of the Mirror … [continued]
Did you know that genius Calvin & Hobbes cartoonist Bill Watterson recently drew a few new comic strips? I sure didn’t!! Here’s the whole crazy story of how master artist Bill Watterson wound up collaborating with Stephan Pastis on his comic strip Pearls Before Swine. And here are the cartoons. Wow. Holy cow am I jealous of Mr. Pastis!! Well done, sir!
In last month’s News Around the Net post, I noted the 30th anniversary of both Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom and Star Trek III: The Search for Spock. This summer also marks the 30th anniversary of Ghostbusters (holy hell, the summer of 1984 was AWESOME), and, to celebrate, the film is getting re-released to theaters on August 29th!! Mark your calendars! I’ll certainly be there. (I love these sorts of revival screenings and wish the studios would do this far more often with their great films of yore. As it happens, I’ve been able to see Ghostbusters a few times on the big screen in the last decade-or-so — click here for my thoughts on a screening of the film from 2011.)
And, sticking with Ghostbusters for just a moment longer, this is an awesome 30th anniversary infographic.
Gillian Flynn (author of Gone Girl) and Dave Gibbons (the artist of Watchmen) have collaborated on a short comic-book story. Here it is, and it’s great.
I love this fantastic look back at two classic Newsradio episodes. My lord that show was great.
Here’s another great stroll back down TV memory lane (as well as another reason to dearly miss the great, late Phil Hartman): a look at one of the very best episodes of The Simpsons, and one of the very best half-hours of television ever: “A Fish Called Selma.”
Speaking of Netflix, is Rosario Dawson going to be playing Karen Page on Netflix’s upcoming Daredevil show? That would be awesome.
This is a fun article: Kramer, Meet Feldman: 19 TV Bizarros.
Joss Whedon has some fascinating thoughts on the state of super-hero movies today. I cannot wait to see what he has in store for us with The Avengers: Age of Ultron. Meanwhile, is Nathan Fillion going to be in Guardians of the Galaxy??? Holy cow that’s … [continued]
Ok, I thought the first Guardians of the Galaxy trailer was awesome, but this new one is even better. I cannot wait for this!!
“The only good human…!!” I can’t wait for July 11th!!
I’m also really loving this peek at Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar:
Oy vey, this is what they’ve decided to call the Batman vs. Superman movie? Devin over at badassdigest has it exactly right. (Devin also has some very smart things to say about the state of the Spider-Man film series here.)
For the longest time it seemed like Marvel Studios was doing everything right with their film series, while the Marvel properties at the other studios (like Spider-Man), not to mention Warner Brothers with all their DC Comics properties, were floundering. But the last week has seen quite a lot of alarming news coming out of Marvel. First was word that Drew Goddard was out as show-runner of the Netflix Daredevil show, which was a huge disappointment to me. (I really loved Mr. Goddard’s collaboration with Joss Whedon: The Cabin in the Woods.) Then came the collapse of Edgar Wright’s Ant-Man film. There’s a behind-the-scenes story that none of us know yet, but whatever went down, Edgar Wright has left the film that he’s been planning for literally YEARS. The only reason Marvel is making an Ant-Man movie is because of Mr. Wright’s passion for the character. (Ant-Man isn’t exactly a big name character!) With Edgar Wright (the talented director behind Shaun of the Dead and Scott Pilgrim Versus The World, a film that I absolutely adore) directing and Paul Rudd cast in the lead, Ant-Man was a film I was super-excited about. But with Edgar Wright out and word that they have also thrown out the script he co-wrote with Joe Cornish, I don’t know why Marvel is continuing with the film. With the movie’s announced release date just a year away, this looks like a huge train-wreck in the making. Is the golden age of Marvel Studios already over? I hope not, but I am definitely worried.
A new Elmore Leonard adaptation? With an awesome cast? Yes, please:
OK, one more trailer for you, an adaptation of Mark Millar & Dave Gibbons’ comic book series The Secret Service:
I’m not quite sure why the film has been re-titled Kingsman, but whatever. The comic book was awesome and that trailer is promising. I’m loving Colin Firth as the James Bond-esque character. This could be a lot of fun.
This past June 1st marked the 30th anniversary of the release of Star Trek III: The Search for Spock. Wow. Here’s a wonderful retrospective piece on the film… [continued]
I’ve had a fun over the last month or two, catching up with all of Kirsten Beyer’s Star Trek Voyager novels that take the characters of that show forward from the events of the TV series’ finale. As I have repeatedly mentioned, Voyager is my least favorite of the Trek series, though I’ve quite enjoyed reading these novels. Ms. Beyer has, in the four books I’ve read so far, given the characters far more depth and development than they got in the seven series of the actual show. Click here for my review of Full Circle, here for my review of Unworthy, here for my review of Children of the Storm, and here for my review of The Eternal Tide. I had some problems with the last book, The Eternal Tide, mostly centered on the decision to resurrect Captain Janeway, but over-all these books have been a very enjoyable ride and a great new sub-series within the broader Star Trek novel universe.
Having now arrived at Ms. Beyer’s fifth Voyager novel, Protectors, I have at last caught up with the story. (Though there’s more to come, as Protectors has been described as the first book in a new trilogy of Voyager novels.) Protectors splits its focus between two main stories. The returned-to-life Kathryn Janeway has returned to the Alpha Quadrant, so that Starfleet Command can assess her fitness to return to duty, and so she can take stock of her life following her dramatic death and resurrection. Meanwhile, with the continuing fate of the Full Circle fleet’s mission in the Delta Quadrant uncertain, Captain Chakotay casts about looking for a mission to prove the worth of their work in the Delta Quadrant. Harry Kim pitches him on an idea to seek out the origin of an anomaly encountered by Voyager years before (in the second season Voyager episode, “Twisted”). The conclusion of that episode raised the intriguing possibility that the anomaly was in fact a life form, trying to communicate with Voyager, but that idea was never followed up on. Ms. Beyer’s story reveals that Kim has been working for years to decipher the anomaly’s attempts at communication, and that he believes he has pinpointed the anomany’s area of origin. Voyager travels to those coordinates, only to discover a deep mystery: a vast area of space shielded by an enormous cloaking device; a planet made up of a variety of lifeforms that appear to have been harvested from other, now-destroyed planets in the system; and powerful wave-forms (versions of the anomaly encountered by Voyager) that just might be sentient.
Once again Ms. Beyer has crafted an intriguing new sci-fi story as a centerpiece for her novel, … [continued]
This Star Trek Voyager novel, The Eternal Tide, is one I’d been dreading.
To my huge shock, I’ve found myself quite enjoying Kirsten Beyer’s post-finale series of Star Trek Voyager novels (click here for my review of Full Circle, here for my review of Unworthy, and here for my review of Children of the Storm). I never much liked Voyager the TV show, but I’ve been intrigued by this series of novels, moving the Voyager characters beyond the universe-shaking events of David Mack’s epic novel trilogy Star Trek Destiny from several years back. These Voyager novels by Kirsten Beyer have had a great mix of strong characters (Ms. Beyer has fleshed out the characters far more than they ever were on the TV show, and thankfully she has moved them all beyond the eternal-status-quo they were trapped in on the show) and some great new sci-fi stories and new concepts for alien species. As opposed to the continuing series of post-finale Next Gen and Deep Space Nine novels, which have been written by a rotating series of authors, it’s interesting that Ms. Beyer has apparently been given full control (for now, at least) of the Voyager corner of the Trek universe. Having one author write this series has given it a tight continuity and cohesiveness that has been particularly enjoyable for me, now, reading these books one after the other.
But while I’ve enjoyed the previous three Voyager books, I was not looking forward to this one. Why? Because of Kathryn Janeway’s face staring out at me from the book’s cover.
I adored the decision made, in Peter David’s Next Gen novel Before Dishonor (one of the books leading up to the big Destiny crossover) to kill off Captain Janeway. It was a shocking move, one I did not see coming, and it was a thrilling raising-of-the-stakes as the threat of the Borg grew in anticipation of the massive Borg invasion of the Alpha Quadrant that occurred in Destiny. More than that, the manner of Janeway’s death — her arrogance allowing her to wind up assimilated by the Borg Queen — seemed to me a support of everything I’d ever disliked about the Janeway character.
One of many reasons why I never took to Voyager was the character of Captain Janeway. I like Kate Mulgrew. She’s a great actress, and clearly capable of terrific work (just look at how amazing she is on Orange is the New Black). So Ms. Mulgrew wasn’t the problem. Nor did I have any issue with a female being the lead of a Star Trek series. I love plenty of female-centric shows and movies, and the strong … [continued]
Is a TV-show adaptation of Brian Michael Bendis & Michael Avon Oeming’s wonderful comic-book series Powers finally going to happen? This project has been developed for YEARS, most recently at FX, but now it seems there’s a 10-episode order from Sony Pictures TV for Playstation, whatever the heck that means. Powers is a phenomenal comic about cops in a world of super-heroes (click here for my detailed thoughts on the series) and, if done right, this could be a fantastic TV show. I hope this actually comes together.
Is the new 24 twelve-episode mini-series going to be more like seasons 1-2 of 24 (good) or seasons 3-8 of 24 (not-so-good)? Dunno. Nice to see this first trailer, though there’s not much here to get me excited, just yet:
We also, at last, have our first glimpse at the long-in-the-works Sin City sequel. The trailer is good but not great. Here too, I need a little more to really get me excited. I desperately want this movie to be good, but I think the time for a sequel may have passed. Crossing my fingers on this one.
Each year, when I read about Paleyfest, I am insanely jealous and wish I could go to all of the panels. Here’s a phenomenal rundown of the Parks and Recreation panel. This is required reading for fans of Parks and Rec. Lord I love that show. I can’t believe it’s survived cancellation as many times as it has, and it was just renewed for another season!
So, they’re really truly going ahead with Ghostbusters 3? Without the participation of Bill Murray? With Harold Ramis having just recently passed away? With Ivan Reitman now saying he WON’T return to direct the film? You know, for years and years I wanted this movie to happen, despite the huge risk that, so many years later, it’d be impossible to recapture the alchemy and make a film that was any good. But now I’ve really soured on the whole idea. Is it in any way conceivable that a Ghostbusters 3 could be any good? Not to me. This lengthy interview with Ivan Reitman is a fascinating look at the process behind this eons-in-development sequel, but I just think it’s a totally misguided notion.
I am absolutely tickled at the idea of Marvel Studios moving to a pattern in which they’d release one new movie each quarter. That is an awesome dream!
Then there’s Fox, who still owns the rights to several Marvel series, including … [continued]
I never much liked Star Trek: Voyager. It was always by far my least-favorite of the Trek TV shows. However, I’m quite enjoying Kirsten Beyer’s post-finale series of Voyager novels. (Click here for my review of Full Circle, and here for my review of Unworthy.)
It’s interesting that Pocket Books has given one single author, Kirsten Beyer, sole control over these Voyager novels for now. The post-finale Deep Space Nine series, as well as the post-Nemesis Next Generation series, have all been guided by multiple authors working in collaboration. It’s an interesting choice to give one author control over the Voyager books, and so far I am enjoying the tight continuity and consistency having a single author, with a single voice, gives to this series of books.
Children of the Storm picks up immediately following the events of Unworthy. Eden Afsarah has replaced Willem Batiste as Fleet Admiral, allowing Chakotay to resume command of Voyager. The Voyager fleet of nine starships is proceeding on their mission of exploration of the Delta Quadrant. Their first order of business: to follow up on Captain Dax and the Aventine’s brief encounter (chronicled in David Mack’s Star Trek: Destiny trilogy) with a mysterious race called the Children of the Storm that was apparently able to defeat the Borg. (When Dax and the Aventine used one of the Borg’s transwarp conduits to journey briefly into the Delta Quadrant, they encountered an enormous field of wreckage from hundreds of Borg vessels, apparently destroyed somehow by the Children of the Storm.) Unfortunately, the Voyager fleet’s return to this area of space does not go well. The xenophobic Children of the Storm destroy one of the fleet’s vessels, capture another, and wreak havoc on a third. This leave Voyager and the rest of the fleet in disarray, struggling to determine how to proceed.
The set-up for this series of Voyager novels is that Voyager isn’t returning to the Delta Quadrant alone, but rather with a fleet of nine vessels. One of my favorite aspects of Children of the Storm is the way Ms. Beyer began to explore the different ships of the fleet, and the different characters on those vessels. Over the course of this novel, we get to know several of these new ships in-depth. There’s the U.S.S. Demeter and its captain, Liam O’Donnell, a brilliant academic who leaves most of the business of actually running the ship to his XO, Lieutenant Commander Fife. That arrangement works well until the Demeter gets captured and the two men disagree strongly on how to proceed, with Captain O’Donnell certain that a scientific solution can be found to their predicament, while Lt. … [continued]
In my opinion, Star Trek: Voyager was by far the weakest of the Star Trek TV series. I felt that the show never lived up to its premise (of the difficulties one lone starship would face, all on their own eighty thousand light-years from home), and even more disappointingly, I felt there was almost zero character development over the course of the series’ seven years. (You could watch a first season episode and then watch a seventh season episode and see little to no difference in the dynamics of the characters.) I watched Voyager all the way through its seven years, but there are hardly any episodes I have ever re-watched. (Whereas I have seen every episode of the Original Series, Next Generation, and Deep Space Nine many, many times… and I have even watched Enterprise through a few times over the years.)
Pocket Books has published some Voyager novels over the years, but I never bought any of them until Kirsten Beyer’s Full Circle in 2009. (Click here for my original review.) I am not sure what prompted me to buy a Voyager book. Maybe the gorgeous cover image (Voyager has never looked so good!). More likely I was excited to read any book picking up the pieces after David Mack’s incredible trilogy Star Trek: Destiny, a story that chronicled the long-feared Borg invasion of Federation space and all of the catastrophes that followed. I was eager to see what happened to all of the Trek characters following Destiny, and I think I was also very interested in reading about the Voyager crew’s reactions to the death of Janeway (brutally killed off by Peter David in his TNG book Before Dishonor).
To my surprise, I loved Full Circle. Kirsten Beyer’s lengthy book spanned several years of Trek continuity, catching up the Voyager crew with the events of the past few years of TNG novels. I enjoyed the character arcs given to each member of the Voyager ensemble. I felt that I got to know and care about the Voyager crew in this book far more than I ever did in the TV series. Full Circle ended with Voyager leading a fleet of nine starships on a mission back to the Delta Quadrant, hoping to confirm what had happened to the Borg following the events of Destiny. I was excited to see what happend next.
But then, though I bought the next several Voyager novels written by Ms. Beyer, I never read them. I think that as the months went on, though I remembered enjoying Full Circle, my over-all dislike for Star Trek: Voyager reared its head, and I just never found myself interested … [continued]
First up, a big thank-you to everyone who has backed the kickstarter for the Jewish Comix Anthology! This 250-page hardcover will feature the work of 47 Jewish artists, including Art Spiegelman, Harvey Pekar, Robert Crumb, Will Eisner, Joe Kubert… and me! There’s only a week left to back the project, so please click here to get in on this! There are some great backer rewards, including a just-added opportunity to own some original Motion Pictures cartoons by yours truly! That’s right! Would you like to own the original version of one of these three cartoons…?
Click here to view the kickstarter and purchase those cartoons! Thanks everyone!
OK, moving on… I have watched this trailer a LOT. I have an excited feeling that this movie is going to take the world by storm. (I hope so!!)
Oh man I can’t wait for this:
And this! (It’s always apey-est just before the dawn…)
As if that Guardians of the Galaxy trailer I posted above wasn’t cool enough, they’ve also just released a new poster with a phenomenal tag-line.
Speaking of super-hero film news, Fox made some headlines recently with the announcement of the cast of their new Fantastic Four film. I for one am crossing my fingers. I have always loved the FF and nothing would make me happier than an amazing Fantastic Four movie. But the casting seems to be rather off the mark. I don’t mind Johnny Storm being black. Michael B. Jordan is an awesome actor, I am happy he is in the movie. And he seems like the only one of these four actors who feels like the right “fit” for his character — in this case the young, brash, fun-loving Johnny. I am more worked up by skinny Jamie Bell being cast as Ben Grimm!! And I like Miles Teller, he was phenomenal in The Spectacular Now (click here for my review), but he is WAY too young for Reed Richards. In fact, ALL of these actors are too young, the FF should all be 30-somethings not 20-somethings. I hope they have something good up their sleeves, but this casting doesn’t seem to indicate they plan on being too faithful to the comic book characters. (At least, not the original FF. Marvel comics’ “Ultimate” universe, created a decade-or-so ago, featured a teenaged FF. But while there have been some great Ultimate universe stories, I was never that taken by that interpretation of the FF.) And in a world where Marvel Studios exists, where they have been making amazing Marvel movies that are VERY faithful to the comics, I have little patience for another bad Fox-made FF movie. Well, hope … [continued]
Since the summer, Pocket Books has been publishing an interconnected five-novel Star Trek series, “The Fall,” which has brought to a head many of the story-lines that have been running through the Trek novels for the past several years. ”The Fall” began with David R. George III’s Deep Space Nine-centric Revelation and Dust (click here for my review), in which a terrible tragedy pushed the galaxy once again to the brink of interstellar war. The story continued with The Crimson Shadow by Una McCormack (click here for my review), a novel that brought together Captain Picard and the Cardassian Garak, a wonderfully unexpected combination of characters. In David Mack’s spectacular A Ceremony of Losses (click here for my review), the Andorian fertility crisis (a story-line that began at the very start of the post-finale DS9 relaunch, a decade and a half ago) came to the head as Julian Bashir’s Starfleet career came to an end (at least for now!). Then, in the fourth book, James Swallow’s The Poisoned Chalice (click here for my review), William Riker was recalled to Earth and promoted to Admiral, only to discover an enemy at the very heart of the Federation.
At the end of The Poisoned Chalice, I was left wondering whether these stories would be resolved in the fifth and final novel, Dayton Ward’s Peaceable Kingdoms. Was this entire five-book series just a set-up for future stories to come? Well, yes, in a way — the end of Peaceable Kingdoms certainly sets the stage for many more stories to be told in the Trek universe of novels. But I was very pleased by the way in which Peaceable Kingdoms brought a definitive resolution to many of the story-lines that have been running through “The Fall.”
Over the course of the past few novels, we’ve read references to the Enterprise’s mission to Ferenginar (where apparently representatives from The Typhon Pact have been attempting to convince the Ferengi to break their alliance with the Khitomer Accord Powers and instead align with them). I wondered if that would be the focus of this final novel, but the Enterprise’s business with the Ferengi represents only the very beginning of this tale. This book picks up directly from the end of The Poisoned Chalice, with Riker and his allies attempting to root out the enemy they have discovered in the highest echelons of power in the Federation.
As the novel progresses, we follow many different characters across the quadrant. The race to the election for President of the Federation is in its final days, and we spend some time exploring the politics of the situation as … [continued]
Forget the dismal Star Trek Into Darkness. It’s a great time to be a Star Trek fan. This week sees the release of not one but two full-length, completely fan-made episodes of “Classic” Kirk/Spock/McCoy Star Trek. First up: the second episode of Star Trek Continues, “Lolani.”
I have written a lot on this site about the extraordinary fan-made series Star Trek: Phase II, a group of dedicated and talented Trek fans who have set out to create a fourth season of classic Trek episodes, releasing about one full-length hour-long episode a year. They released an episode last month, the Klingon-centric “Kitumba” (click here for my review), and, impressively, they have another episode coming out in just a few days. Meanwhile, last year, another group began working to create their own full-length episodes of Classic Trek, called Star Trek Continues. Their first episode, “Pilgrim of Eternity,” was great (click here for my review), and just a few days ago they released their second episode: “Lolani.”
I enjoyed “Pilgrim of Eternity,” but this second episode is even better. What is consistent are the stupendous production values. This fifty-minute episode looks and sounds exactly like an episode of Classic Star Trek, and I mean exactly. The costumes, the props, the sets — it is extraordinary how the men and women of Star Trek Continues have replicated the look and feel of the original 1960′s Star Trek. There is no a single off-moment that I could spot, not a single prop or set that looked wrong to me. And the visual effects, supervised by Daren Dochterman (who worked on the fantastic Director’s Edition of Star Trek: The Motion Picture a decade ago), are absolutely gorgeous. These visual effects are WAY BETTER than anything seen on the Original Series, and also superior in my opinion to the “official” Star Trek: Remastered project overseen by CBS several years ago. What’s particularly great about the visual effects is that, while the CGI shots are much better than any of the primitive model-work used in the Original Series, the effects maintain the “feel” of those original effects shots. These effects look like exactly what the special effects artists of the Original Series would have created had they had the technology. The Enterprise looks and moves exactly the way she should. I was bowled over by the beauty of those shots.
In this episode, “Lolani,” the Enterprise comes across an adrift Tellarite vessel. Its four-person crew is dead, with only an Orion slave girl named Lolani still alive on-board. While the Enterprise crew investigates what happened, Lolani is brought on board. She very quickly requests asylum in the Federation, fearing a return to … [continued]
The latest series of Star Trek novels, subtitled “The Fall,” roars on with the fourth of five books, James Swallow’s The Poisoned Chalice. “The Fall” started off strong with David R. George III’s Deep Space Nine-centric Revelation and Dust (click here for my review), and built with the terrific The Crimson Shadow by Una McCormack (click here for my review) and David Mack’s equally terrific A Ceremony of Losses (click here for my review).
Now, in the spectacular fourth book, James Swallow’s The Poisoned Chalice, everything starts to come together. This novel was billed as focusing on Captain William Riker and his crew on the U.S.S. Titan, and indeed it does, but I was thrilled by how this book pulled together story-threads from the previous three novels and moved the larger story dramatically forward.
Following the tragic events that occurred during the dedication ceremony of the new Deep Space Nine, the Titan’s mission of deep-space exploration has been cut short, and Captain Riker’s ship has been recalled to Earth. Upon arriving home, Riker is called before an array of admirals. But while he fears reprisals from his handling of the Andorian situation (in Michael A. Martin’s Titan novel Fallen Gods — click here for my review), instead he is offered a promotion to admiral. To my surprise, Riker accepts!
It is soon revealed that Starfleet Admiral Akaar (a frequent recurring character in the last decade or so of Trek novels) has been growing more and more concerned with the actions of Federation President pro tempare Ishan Anjar, particularly in light of the events that took place at Andoria (in the previous novel, A Ceremony of Losses). He wants someone he can trust helping him navigate the increasingly treacherous political waters, and so he tapped Riker.
This of course over-turns the whole dynamic of the Titan series, and I was thrilled that Riker’s promotion to admiral and his new Earth-bound post still stands at the end of this book. What that means for future Titan novels I don’t know, but I love seeing these stories move forward and the characters’ lives change.
In the meantime, this leads to a thrilling story in The Poisoned Chalice as Riker and a small cadre of allies work to determine what exactly is going on in the highest echelons of power in the Federation. As the novel unfolds, we follow several connected stories. Now on Earth with her husband, Deanna Troi has accepted a temporary post in the Starfleet Diplomatic Corps, and her first assignment winds up being trying to resolve a tense diplomatic standoff between the Andorian diplomatic contingent and President Anjar, … [continued]
I love movie soundtracks. And I love Star Trek. So these past few years have been fantastic, as we have gradually seen, for the first time ever, the release of the complete, unedited soundtracks for every single one of the Star Trek films. With the recent release of Jerry Goldsmith’s complete score for Star Trek: Nemesis, the last of the pre-J.J.Abrams-reboot Star Trek films, every Trek film’s complete score has been released. (With the exception of the most recent film, Star Trek Into Darkness. But I am trying to forget that dreadful film was ever made, so I’m not counting it.)
After listening to, and thoroughly enjoying, many of the previous Trek complete soundtrack releases, I often went back and re-watched the film whose soundtrack had just been released. Usually listening to the soundtrack made me eager to re-watch the film. I knew that would not be the case, though, with Star Trek: Nemesis. That absolutely dreadful, abysmal film is by far my least favorite of all the Star Trek films (Into Darkness included). (Click here to read my ranking of all the Star Trek films, from worst to best!)
I have only seen Star Trek: Nemesis two times (first in theatres, and then again when it came out on DVD, as I had to verify that the film really was as horrible as my first impression had indicated), and I have no plans to watch the film again any time soon. But I was excited for the release of Jerry Goldsmith’s score. Even before getting the various Trek scores on CD, I knew most of those scores very, very well. One of the best aspects of the Trek films have been their fantastic scores. But because I had only seen Nemesis twice, its score was very unfamiliar to me. I had no recollection of what any of the main musical themes of the film were. So I was eager to get the CD and get to know this score a little better.
Quite a number of fantastic composers have worked on the Trek films over the years. My favorite remains James Horner, whose scores for Star Trek II and Star Trek III are genius-level magnificent. But it’s impossible to deny the extraordinary contributions to Trek music of the late, great Jerry Goldsmith. Mr. Goldsmith established the musical sound of the Trek movies with his rich, bombastic score for Star Trek: The Motion Picture. (Click here for my detailed thoughts on TMP’s score.) His main theme for TMP was later adopted as the theme music for Star Trek: The Next Generation. So it’s appropriate that Mr. Goldsmith returned to the Trek universe to … [continued]
And so, at last, we arrive at my final Best of 2013 list! I hope you all enjoyed the rest of my lists. Click here for part one of The Top 15 Movies of 2013, and here for part two and here for part three. Click here for part one of The Top 10 Episodes of TV of 2013, and here for part two. Click here for part one of The Top 15 Comic Book Series of 2013, and here for part two.
And now, without any further delay, let’s dive into my list of the Top Ten DVDs/Blu-Rays of 2013:
10. The Perks of Being a Wallflower – Had I seen this film in 2012 when it was released, it surely would have made it onto my Best Movies of 2012 list. Since I missed including this touching, heartbreaking film on that list last year, I sort of had to find a way to cheat and include it on one of my Best of 2013 lists! This film has stuck with me deeply since I saw it. It’s surely one of the greatest coming-of-age stories I have ever seen, masterfully adapted for the screen by Steven Chbosky, based on his own novel of the same name (which I now desperately need to read). Each one of the kids in the film is portrayed by a phenomenal actor/actress: Logan Lerman, Ezra Miller, Emma Watson, Mae Whitman, and a score of others, not to mention some great adults in supporting roles such as Paul Rudd, Joan Cusack, Dylan McDermott, and Kate Walsh. No child should have to go through what Charlie has to go through in this story, but should god forbid that happen, I hope he/she is blessed with friends as wonderful as Sam, Patrick, and their gang. And while I referred to “cheating” a moment ago by including this film on this DVD list, the blu-ray is in fact phenomenal, with some great behind-the-scenes stuff and two magnificent commentaries, one by Mr. Chbosky alone and one by Chbosky and all the kids. (Click here for my original review.)
9. The Dark Knight Returns Part 2 & The Flashpoint Paradox – These two direct-to-DVD animated DCU projects were both very strong. At the start of the year we got the second half of the animated adaptation of Frank Miller’s Batman masterpiece, The Dark Knight Returns. Published in 1986, this dark, psychological tale is the seminal “Last Batman Story,” in which an aged Bruce Wayne once again dons the cape and cowl in an attempt to reclaim a Gotham City without hope. Mr. Miller’s work has been heavily mined for inspiration by … [continued]
As I always begin these Voyager book reviews by noting, I never much cared for the Star Trek Voyager TV show. In my opinion it is by far the weakest of all the Trek TV shows. But Kirsten Beyer has done the impossible and, with her series of post-finale-set Voyager novels, actually made me interested in stories of the Voyager crew!
It was David Mack who really set the ball rolling with his Destiny trilogy, which turned over the applecart of the Star Trek universe. In that story, the U.S.S. Voyager was terribly damaged in battle with the Borg, during the Borg’s massive, apocalyptic invasion of the Alpha Quadrant. I was interested in seeing what happened next, so I picked up Ms. Beyer’s lengthy novel Full Circle, which picked up the pieces from Destiny. That was a pretty great book (click here for my review), and suddenly I found myself interested in where the story of these characters would go from there! At the end of Full Circle, the Voyager was sent back to the Delta Quadrant, leading a fleet of starships on a mission of exploration and diplomatic contact (neither of which the crew of Voyager had much time or ability to do on their initial journey). What followed were a series of new Voyager novels, all written by Ms. Beyer: Unworthy, Children of the Storm, The Eternal Tide, and Protectors.
Protectors began a new trilogy of Voyager books, of which Acts of Contrition is the middle chapter. This new novel picks off immediately following the end of Protectors. The Voyager fleet has suffered heavy losses, and is now left with only four ships, including Voyager. They have discovered the existence of a new interstellar alliance, who call themselves The Confederacy of the Worlds of the First Quadrant. Admiral Janeway would like to establish diplomatic relationships with this potentially friendly, powerful Delta Quadrant civilization. But as Janeway and her team learn more about the Confederacy, doubts begin to emerge as to whether they would truly be a suitable partner for the United Federation of Planets. Meanwhile, several of Voyager’s old enemies from their original Delta Quadrant journey have banded together and formed a new coalition of threats to both the Confederacy and the Starfleet vessels. (How and why this diverse, inhospitable bunch of aliens were ever able to ally with one another remains unknown, though we get a big hint at the very end of the novel.)
While these large-scale dramas unfold, Acts of Contrition follows several other narratives begun in Protectors. Tom Paris’ estranged mother has sued the Federation courts for custody of Tom and B’Elanna’s two children, so Tom … [continued]
Star Trek lives! I have written before on this site about the wonderful Star Trek fan-made series, Star Trek: Phase II. Taking their series title from the name of the proposed second Star Trek TV series of the seventies (which was eventually abandoned in favor of a big-screen resurrection called Star Trek: The Motion Picture), this dedicated group of fans have taken it upon themselves to produce episodes of the never-made fourth season of the original Star Trek TV series. Releasing about one full-length episode a year, this series has been getting better and better with each installment. This doesn’t look like any other fan-made effort I have ever encountered. If you were to flash by a Phase II episode on your TV, you’d have no reason to suspect this wasn’t an official, professionally-made Star Trek episode.
After years of anticipation by Phase II fans (this episode was originally filmed several years ago, though various production problems have apparently kept it from being completed until now), the series has released its eighth episode: “Kitumba.” In this episode, the rising tensions with the Klingon Empire are threatening to lead to war. Though the Organians brokered an uneasy truce between the Federation and the Klingons (in the Original Series episode “Errand of Mercy”), those powerful aliens appear to have vanished (indeed, they would never again appear in any future Trek series or episode), and so the war between the Federation and the Klingons that they stopped now threatens to erupt again. To avert catastrophe, the U.S.S. Enterprise is sent on a possible suicide mission to Qo’noS, the Klingons’ home planet, in a desperate attempt to broker a peace. Their only hope for success lies in an unlikely ally — Ksia, a Klingon defector who was a former teacher of the “Kitumba,” the young Klingon emperor. Until the boy comes of age, power is held by a Regent, Malkthon, and Ksia believes it is Malkthon who is beating the drums of war, and he hopes that Kirk can convince the Kitumba to put a halt to the war before it begins.
The idea of James T. Kirk visiting the Klingon homeworld is a juicy notion. (In the Original Series, we never saw the Klingon homeworld. It wouldn’t be until the third season of Star Trek: The Next Generation that the Trek shows would show us Qo’noS and begin fleshing out the Klingon people and culture. Kirk did visit Qo’noS, in less than ideal circumstances, as a prisoner in Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, which was made after those early Next Gen episodes. But the idea of seeing young Kirk in his prime on a mission to the Klingon homeworld is a great … [continued]
In one of my earliest posts on the site, I wrote my own follow-up to the famous Comics Journal article “Martin Wagner Owes Me Fifty Bucks,” in which I listed several comic book series that remained tragically never-completed by their authors. At the top of the list was David Lapham’s magnificent series Stray Bullets. This independently published, black-and-white comic book blew me away as a teenager. I still think it stands as a magnificent achievement, which makes the fact that the series stopped publication in the middle of a story tragically painful. Mr. Lapham is still working in the comic book industry, and for years and years I have been hoping that he would some-day return to this series and complete his story. It looks like that day has finally arrived, as Image Comics has listed Stray Bullets on their publication schedule for March, 2014. I hope this is real!!!
Devin Faraci at badassdigest.com has listed his Ten Most Disappointing Films of 2013, and at the top of his list is Star Trek Into Darkness. What Mr. Faraci wrote about the film so perfectly sums up my feelings that I don’t think I ever need to write another word about that terribly disappointing film. Here is Mr. Faraci:
This isn’t technically a ranked list, but I saved this for last on purpose. There were many months leading up to Star Trek Into Darkness that allowed me to roll with the movie’s punch, but even still this broiling heap of nonsense left me deeply despondant. JJ Abrams had totally proven me wrong with Star Trek 2009, a movie that while not great was filled with heart and adventure and managed to work despite extraordinary script flaws. Star Trek Into Darkness brought back both the cast who made the first film live and the script flaws that almost sank it, except this time the script flaws were not going to get upstaged. Into Darkness is dumb, it’s complicated for no reason, it features reveals that are meaningless to the plot and it pisses away Star Trek‘s most name-brand villain in a plotline that disrespects hardcore fans while being meaningless to the coveted new audience. Star Trek Into Darkness is a movie so bad that it fails on almost every conceivable level, including mewling fan service. This isn’t the worst film of the year… but it’s without a doubt the film that squanders the most talent, money and good will.
Love this trailer for Christopher Nolan’s new film, Interstellar. I don’t have a clue what the film is about, and that’s just the way I want … [continued]
In Revelations and Dust, book one of Pocket Books’ ongoing Star Trek novel crossover series, “The Fall,” the opening of the new, Federation-designed DS9 was marred by a shocking murder. Then, book two, The Crimson Shadow, chronicled upheaval on Cardassia as the greatest challenge to their new democratic government emerged.
And so we have arrived at book 3, David Mack’s A Ceremony of Losses. Julian Bashir, still reeling from the events of Revelations and Dust, is contacted by his old friend and colleague, the Andorian Shar. Shar was a character introduced at the very beginning of Pocket Books’ post-finale series of DS9 novels, in S.D. Perry’s Avatar. It seems that the reproductive crisis affecting Andor — a story-line that has been running through the novels ever since those early DS9 relaunch books from back in 2001 — is reaching a tipping point. If a solution to the fertility problems affecting the majority of Andorians is not found within the year, it will spell extinction for the Andorian people. Shar believes that the solution lies in the Shedai meta-genome, an incredibly-complex piece of alien DNA found by Starfleet a hundred years ago, but classified at the highest level for fear the genome could be used to create terrible weapons. (This is a story-point from the Original Series era “Vanguard” series of Trek novels, and it was brought into the 24th-century-set Trek novels in the “Typhon Pact” novel Paths of Disharmony, in which the Andorians’ discovery that Starfleet had been hiding this information led to an upheaval in the Federation.) Julian is drawn to help the Andorians, but doing so would involve his accessing the classified Shedai information, which would be a crime of treason against the Federation.
A Ceremony of Losses is an excellent book, one that not only presents one of our heroes with a meaty moral dilemma, but that also, in the book’s second half, turns into an edge-of-your-seat thriller as Bashir races against the clock, and against enemies on all sides, even those who were once his friends and colleagues, to do what he feels is right and try to save the Andorian people.
I was particularly excited that A Ceremony of Losses finally brings some resolution to the story of Andor’s fertility crisis, a story that has been running through the Trek books since 2001. That’s a heck of a long time for that story-line to have been hanging, and I was thrilled to see this issue finally addressed head-on in this novel. It’s also great to see Shar finally front-and-center again. He got a lot of focus in the early re-launched DS9 books, but after 2004′s Andor story in Worlds of Deep … [continued]
This is fantastic: The Seinfeld reunion episode from Curb Your Enthusiasm season #7, edited together. Enjoy!
This is a great site that lists the various actors and actresses who played multiple characters in different Bond films. Great fun for the Bond fans out there!
Speaking of Bond, there was BIG NEWS last month that the James Bond movie producers and MGM have finally ended the nearly fifty-year-long legal battle with Kevin McClory, the co-writer of Thunderball. I’ve known about this rights conflict before, of course (it’s what led to another studio being able to make the competing Bond film, Never Say Never Again, that was released the same year as Octopussy), but what I didn’t realize was that this rights situation was what was preventing MGMN’s bond films from using Bloefeld or SPECTRE. My reviews of the Daniel Craig Bond films have been lamenting the absence of those two classic villains, and I am overjoyed at the idea that now the way is open for Bloefeld to be revealed as the head of Quantum, and/or for Quantum to be revealed as a branch of SPECTRE. I desperately hope the next Bond film walks through this now-open door!!
Hey, comic book fans: I’ve recently discovered two comic-book-related tumblrs that I am now obsessed with. First is John Byrne Draws, which is chock-full of absolutely gorgeous scans of Mr. Byrne’s original art from the decades that he has been working in the industry. There was a long, long time during which John Byrne was my very favorite comic book artist (and writer!), so this was a real treat. Then there is comic book writer Brian Michael Bendis’ tumblr, which is a showcase for two things: 1) amazing, extraordinary scans of classic comic book art from across the decades — work by many different artists from many different eras, being linked only by being some of the finest comic book art ever drawn, and 2) Bendis’ incredibly open, honest, funny and insightful Q & As with his fans. Both aspects of the tumblr are equally valuable — together, they’re an irresistible time-suck for me.
This is a fun article on 10 parts of the Indiana Jones films that bother the writer. I hugely agree with numbers 4 and 5. (Don’t worry, the article only focuses on the original Indy trilogy, rightly ignoring The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.)
This Star Trek reference-laden conversation between a Netflix employee and a customer is apparently real, and it is amazing.
This is a great article on two of my very favorite novels: Isaac Asimov’s The Caves of Steel and The Naked Sun. Oh man do I love those two … [continued]
As a humongous fan of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, I am delighted by how central the DS9 storylines and characters have become to the continuing, interconnected series of Star Trek novels, in particular this new five-book crossover series, “The Fall.”
In the first installment, David R. George III’s Revelation and Dust, Starfleet finally brought on-line the new, Federation-designed and built DS9. The celebration, though, was marked by terrible tragedy, an event that threatened to spill the tentative peace in the Alpha Quadrant back over into brutal interstellar war. In the middle of the book, Cardassian Castellan (the head of their government) Rakena Garan was forced to depart DS9, in order to return home to deal with unrest back on Cardassian Prime. She then dropped out of the book. Una McCormack’s magnificent The Crimson Shadow picks up the story from there.
Ms. McCormack has become the go-to writer in Pocket Books’ stable of Trek writers when it comes to dealing with Cardassians. One of her first major pieces of writing for Pocket Books was the Cardassian novella The Lotus Flower, in Worlds of Deep Space Nine back in 2004. That was a terrific story, and ever since then most of Ms. McCormack’s works have focused on Cardassians, in particular her phenomenal novel The Never-Ending Sacrifice.
Like that book, The Crimson Shadow draws its title from a Cardassian novel mentioned on DS9 (and kudos again to Ms. McCormack for that wonderful little bit of continuity). It’s hard to believe, but this book is actually set ten years following the series finale of DS9. I knew that the Trek series of books was moving forward in time — that’ one of my favorite things about Pocket’s Trek novels from the past decade-plus, how they have fearlessly moved the over-all story forward beyond the finales of the 24th century-set Trek TV shows. But I hadn’t quite realized how much time had passed in the books.
The Crimson Shadow is an engaging study of what has been happening on Cardassia in the previous ten years, following the defeat of the Dominion (and their final, great purge that laid waste to most of the planet and killed hundreds of millions of Cardassians). With Federation aid, the Cardassians have slowly been rebuilding, both the physical structures of their cities (buildings, roads, etc.) and their very society. Cardassia has been struggling with democracy, an entirely new concept for its citizens who had been ruled by the military for so long. The road has been rocky, and Ms. McCormack’s story doesn’t gloss over the difficulties this new experiment in democratic self-government represents, nor does she cheat and give us overly-easy answers in the end.
The focus of … [continued]
This is fantastic: Tom Hiddleston (who played Loki in both Thor movies and The Avengers) doing a phneomenal impression of Owen Wilson, had Owen been cast as Loki. Check this out.
West Wing fans! Did you see this clip of Allison Janney performing The Jackal on The Arsenio Hall Show? This is an obscure reference, but one that any die-hard West Wing fan will appreciate:
This blog from Kevin Smith gives an intriguing update on his fast-developed, absolutely bonkers weird-sounding new movie, Tusk. Click here for even more info. Despite being an enormous fan of Kevin Smith, I still haven’t seen Red State. I want to see it, for sure, since I can’t imagine not having seen one of Mr. Smith’s films, but it just doesn’t interest me that much. So far, I am bummed to say that Tusk is trending the same way, but it’s such a loony concept that I am intrigued. It’ll be interesting to see how this develops.
This is a great short little retrospective of Jim Henson’s life and work. I very much want to read Brian Jay Jones’ biography of Jim Henson, it sounds like a really fascinating book.
OK, this is a very geeky link, but I loved this. An enterprising photoshopper has created images showing how awesome the Star Trek: The Next Generation cast would have looked in Original Series uniforms. So great.
There are a lot of stories cropping up about behind-the-scenes issues on the pre-production of Star Wars: Episode VII. Seems Disney is pushing for that 2015 release date, come hell or high water. More info here. I hope it’s all just talk. I don’t have much hope that I will ever again in my lifetime see a great Star Wars film, but that little ember of hope does still exist, deep inside me. Like Fox Mulder, I want to believe!
Chris Claremont is, I would argue, single-handedly responsible for the incredible popularity of the X-Men today. Mr. Claremont wrote The Uncanny X-Men comic book, and a truck-load of spinoffs and mini-series and annuals and other special events, for a jaw-dropping seventeen years, from the ’70s into the ’90s. (In one of the great injustices of the medium’s history, he was sort of pushed off of the series when his work began to be overshadowed by the popularity of the superstar artists working at Marvel in those days.) A new documentary about his career — focusing on that incredible seventeen year run on the X-Men — has just been released, and I am dying to see it. This is a fantastic article about a recent screening of the film, followed by a Q & A … [continued]
Star Trek: Titan has been a continuing series of novels, for the past several years, chronicling the continuing adventures of Captain William T. Riker, following the events of the final Next Gen movie, Nemesis, and Riker’s finally accepting a captaincy of his own. I have very much enjoyed the books in the series, not only for their development of the characters of Riker and Troi but also for their focus on telling stories focused on adventure and exploration, and the development of new alien races and scientific concepts. The series has also been a big part of most of the major multi-novel stories of the past few years, from the Borg invasion of David Mack’s Star Trek: Destiny trilogy (click here for my review) to the recent “Typhon Pact” story-lines. I have loved the way that the last several years’ worth of Trek novels have woven together into an incredible tapestry, freed from having to maintain the status quo of the TV shows or movies, and the Titan series has been a huge part of that.
The Titan book series was begun by Michael A. Martin, along with co-writer Andy Mangels, and after several years and several books written by other authors, I was excited for Michael A. Martin to return to the series with the latest novel, Fallen Gods. But I will also admit to a little trepidation. Together, Mr. Martin and Mr. Mangels have written some of my very favorite Trek novels, including that first Titan novel, Taking Wing (click here for my review) and their magnificent Captain Sulu epic Excelsior: Forged in Fire (click here for my review), a story that shed light on the backstory of Dax and Kor, Kang, and Koloth (the three great Klingons from the Original Series whose connection to Dax was the focus of the DS9 episode “Blood Oath”). Their recent Enterprise series of novels, chronicling the post-finale adventures of Jonathan Archer & his crew, and finally telling the story of the Romulan War (an often-hinted-at piece of Star Trek back-story) started off strong but ultimately fizzled out and ended up as a big disappointment to me. Possibly this is because mid-series their writing partnership seems to have broken up. Mr. Martin finished the Romulan War series by himself, and I did not feel the same magic was there.
To my relief, Fallen Gods is far superior to those “Romulan War” novels. It’s a very solid book, and a compelling new Titan adventure. I will say, though, that the first half is far stronger than the second half, and there was a lot that frustrated me in that second half. I’ll get into more details … [continued]
Following last year’s release of the terrific collection of music from Star Trek: The Next Generation, I was flabbergasted to hear of the release of a similar collection of music from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. DS9 is my very favorite of the Trek TV shows, but it also feels like the most niche of the Trek series, in stark contrast to the more popular, mainstream Next Gen. That we got such an awesome collection of music from Star Trek: The Next Generation was amazing. To get a similar collection of music from Deep Space Nine? Unbelievable!!
This four-CD collection is everything I could have hoped for and more. The first three discs follow a similar patten as did the Next Gen CD set. Disc one contains the work of Dennis McCarthy, disc two contains the work of Jay Chattaway, and disc three contains selections from a variety of guest composers who scored episodes over the course of the series’ run. (As they did for Next Gen, Mr. McCarthy and Mr. Chattaway scored the vast majority of Deep Space Nine’s episodes, regularly alternating episodes.) The fourth disc is an extra cherry on top of this already delicious sundae — extensive music from three very popular episodes: the James Bond parody “Our Man Bashir”; the Classic Trek “Trouble with Tribbles” crossover episode in honor of Star Trek’s 30th anniversary, “Trials and Tribble-ations”; and the series finale “What You Leave Behind.”
This CD set is magnificent, a must-have for every DS9 fan out there. I still can’t believe this thing exists! The track selection is spectacular, as the producers drew a wide variety of music from episodes from throughout the series’ seven-season run. All the classic bits of score that I could have wanted from my favorite DS9 episodes are contained on this set.
Disc One: Dennis McCarthy – In an interesting choice, just as Mr. McCarthy’s disc on the Next Gen collection began with a surprisingly long excerpt from a lame season one episode, so to does Mr. McCarthy’s DS9 disc, in this case from the first season episode “The Storyteller.” That’s not a great episode, but the score is actually quite good! I LOVE how Mr. McCarthy wove the main DS9 theme into his scores for those early episodes. The season one finale, “In the Hands of the Prophets,” has some great suspense music for the climactic sequence in which O’Brien races to stop an assassin headed towards the Promenade, and I was delighted to see that piece of music included. We get to hear some great action music from the season two three-part premiere (in tracks 8 and 9, “The Circle”) and also for the great … [continued]
I have been loving the steady release, over the past several years, of the complete soundtracks for almost all of the Star Trek films. It is incredible to be able to listen to those wonderful Trek soundtracks in their complete and un-edited form.
As a reminder that Star Trek has had just as robust a musical history on TV as on the big screen, we have the amazing three-CD set of music from Star Trek: The Next Generation, released last year by La-La Land Records. What an amazing collection! I have been loving listening to it, and I’ve been meaning to write about it here on the site for months.
The first two discs on the set are focused on two of the three men who scored the vast majority of Next Gen episodes: Dennis McCarthy and Jay Chattaway. For the fifth through seventh seasons of the show, these two men alternated episodes. With only one or two exceptions, they scored every episode. For the first four years of the show, Mr. McCarthy alternated episodes with another terrific conductor, Ron Jones. Mr. Jones’ music is not represented on this CD collection, probably because of the extraordinary, unprecedented, enormous collection a few years back of The Ron Jones Project, a fourteen-CD collection of every single piece of music Mr. Jones wrote for Star Trek: The Next Generation. You read that right, fourteen CDs. It’s crazy.
So anyways, the first two discs of this set focus on the music of Mr. McCarthy and Mr. Chattaway, while the third and final disc focuses on the work of some of the show’s guest composers (two of whom, have gone on to major success in the movies).
This collection is really terrific, an extraordinary collection of great music from this great TV show. It’s an extensive collection of tracks, drawn from throughout the series’ seven-season run. They really covered all the bases of the best of music from the run of the show. It is hard to think of an episode whose music stands out that isn’t represented on this collection.
Disc One: Dennis McCarthy – Mr. McCarthy has been one of the most defining musical voices of the modern incarnations of Star Trek on TV. He scored more hours of Star Trek than any other single composer, working on all of the Star Trek spin-off shows from Next Generation to Enterprise. (He also scored the Next Gen crew’s big-screen debut, Generations.) Mr. McCarthy’s disc begins in a somewhat surprising fashion, with a lengthy series of excerpts from his score from the pretty lousy first-season episode “Haven.” I am not quite sure why the producers decided to include such a large amount of … [continued]
Want to loose an hour of your life? Spend some time reading through the comments section of this article that poses the question: what is the single best episode of any genre TV show ever? I don’t agree with all the responses, of course, but I agree with a LOT of ‘em… and they all make me want to devote the next year of my life to go-ing back and re-watching all of my favorite sci-fi shows…!!
Can you believe The Simpsons is entering its 25th season??? That is just insane! Here is a great interview with current Simpsons show-runner Al Jean. I have about two years’ worth of Simpsons episodes sitting unwatched in my Tivo queue. I still love The Simpsons but somewhere along the line I just lost my eagerness to see the new episodes as they aired each week… and now it’s been many, many months since I have watched one of the latest episodes. It’s hard for me to believe this has happened! Maybe this will get me excited for the show again: the news that Guillermo del Toro directed the opening couch gag segment of this year’s Treehouse of Horror episode, that aired last night. Cool. I haven’t watched the episode yet, but it just might be time to dip into my queue and check it out! Click here to watch the entire opening segment, and to hear more from Guillermo del Toro about creating that elaborate sequence.
This is interesting: Pixar’s in-development film The Good Dinosaur has had its release date pushed back by A YEAR AND A HALF. Wow. That means that 2014 will be the first year without a new Pixar film since 2005. On the one hand, I am pleased to see a major studio taking the time to get a movie done right, rather than rushing to meet a release date. On the other hand, while I don’t know the full story, I feel badly for the original director, Bob Peterson, who was removed off the film he had helped to create and develop.
From J.W. Rinzler’s upcoming book The Making of Star Wars: Return of the Jedi, io9 has collected a fascinating (oops, wrong Star franchise) list of 10 things you probably didn’t know about Return of the Jedi. This is a must-read for all Star Wars fans. Speaking of Star Wars and i09, I also love their list of the 9 least-competent Jedi. I don’t know anything about the expanded universe characters, but they’re certainly right on the money about Qui-Gon Jin. (And Ben Kenobi. And Yoda. And Luke.)
I’ve been very critical of Star Trek Into Darkness on this site. … [continued]
With the recent release of the complete score for Star Trek: Insurrection, we are very close to having available the complete scores of every single Star Trek film. I have been gobbling up these CD releases! As happened with the releases of the scores for Star Trek: Generations and Star Trek: First Contact, after I listened to the Insurrection score a few times, I was compelled to go back and watch the film again, for the first time in several years. I wrote in detail about my thoughts regarding Star Trek Insurrection just the other day, so let’s dive into my reaction to the score!
Star Trek Insurrection was scored by the great Jerry Goldsmith, who had previously scored Star Trek: The Motion Picture, Star Trek V: The Final Frontier, and Star Trek: First Contact. While I wouldn’t count his score for Insurrection among my favorite of the Star Trek scores (I would certainly rank all of the scores for Star Trek II-VI above it, and probably also Mr. Goldsmith’s score for the previous film, Star Trek: First Contact), listening to the complete score on CD I was surprised by how strong a score it is. As with Star Trek V (and possibly also Star Trek: The Motion Picture as well as First Contact), the score is better than the movie.
Here are some of the outstanding tracks on the CD:
Track 1: “Ba’ku village” — Mr. Goldsmith begins his score for Insurrection just as he did all three of the Next Gen films that he scored: with two soundings of Alexander Courage’s classic Star Trek fanfare. Between the two soundings of the fanfare, Mr. Goldsmith wove in his main theme for the film, in this case the pastoral Ba’ku theme. Following a little bombast over the Star Trek: Insurrection title, Mr. Goldsmith’s score then does what no other Trek film’s opening music did. Rather than exciting bombast (or even the lighter but still fast-moving music from Howard Rosenman’s score for Star Trek IV), Mr. Goldsmith gives us a lovely, melodic theme for the peaceful Ba’ku. As a viewer, I still think it’s probably a mis-step, a less-than-exciting way to begin a big-screen sci-fi adventure. But when considered purely on a musical basis, I was stunned listening to the CD by how much I loved Mr. Goldsmith’s beautiful Ba’ku theme! I have found myself constantly humming this music over the past few weeks! It’s a gorgeous piece of music, just lovely.
Tracks 2-4 contain some fun, fast-paced action music. I enjoy how Mr. Goldsmith weaves his Insurrection theme into the music, and we also get a brief reprise of his Klingon theme (which Mr. … [continued]
I recently picked up Crescendo Record’s release of Jerry Goldsmith’s complete score for Star Trek: Insurrection. I’ll have thoughts to share on that soundtrack soon, but after listening to the CD several times I decided it was high time to re-watch Insurrection, a film I hadn’t seen for several years.
Star Trek: Insurrection is the third of the four movies made with the cast of Star Trek: The Next Generation. The Enterprise is drawn into a region of space nicknamed the Briar Patch (due to the stellar phenomena that makes travel in the region treacherous), because Data — on assignment on a planet within the Briar Patch — has apparently gone rogue and attacked a Starfleet research team. It it turns out that Data has uncovered an ugly truth about the Starfleet mission in the Briar Patch. Although officially sanctioned by the Federation Council and supervised by an admiral on-sight, the Starfleet team — working with some local thugs called the Son’a — plans to forcibly remove a peaceful people called the Ba’ku from their planet, so that they can harvest the incredible rejuvenating power of the metaphasic radiation found within the planet’s rings. Picard and his crew take up arms to stop them.
Insurrection is generally considered one of the worst of the Star Trek films (and it definitely was near the bottom of my list when I recently ranked all the Star Trek films from worst to best), but there really isn’t anything all that awful about Insurrection. The film’s biggest crime is that it is a trifle, a fairly light, low-key adventure. Had Insurrection been a two-part episode of the Next Generation TV show, I think we would consider it very solid. But this trite little adventure is not at all what Trek fans like me were looking for in a big-screen movie. When we were only getting a new adventure every few years — and considering that, although the studio seemed supportive of the Trek franchise, there was no guarantee that they’d get to produce movies indefinitely (indeed, the lukewarm business that Insurrection did nearly derailed the Next Gen movie franshcise completely) — fans wanted their Trek movie installments to be BIG, IMPORTANT stories that felt worthy of the big-screen canvass. These adventures needed to depict critical moments in the lives of our characters, and also hopefully be a story with an epic scale and, you know, the fate of the galaxy at issue.
Insurrection is none of those things. It’s a very small scale, low-significance adventure. The whole thing is a big mis-step, seemingly right from its initial conception.
It’s a shame, because coming off of the success of Star Trek: First Contact, the Next … [continued]
I thought the post-finale series of Star Trek: Enterprise books was finished.
Written exclusively by Andy Mangels & Michael A. Martin (and, in the later books, by Mr. Martin solo), this post-finale Enterprise series had gotten off to a great start. They cleverly undid the stupid, pointless death of Trip in the Enterprise finale (while also beautifully unravelling many of the continuity gaffes from that poorly-made finale). Then they began a multi-book story-line to finally tell the untold story of the Earth-Romulan War. But what began so promisingly quickly unravelled, and I felt the last two books fell off significantly in quality. At the end of the last book, The Romulan War: To Brave the Storm (click here for my review), the last few chapters seemed designed to serve as a quick finale to the Enterprise story as a whole, with the ship decommissioned and her former crew scattered to the winds. It seemed clear to me that this story was over.
And yet here we are, just a year later, with a new Enterprise novel that seems poised to be the start of a new series of post-finale Enterprise stories: Christopher L. Bennettt’s Star Trek: Enterprise: Rise of the Federation: A Choice of Futures. (There are a lot of colons in that title. I frankly wasn’t sure how to type it out. But it seems to be that Enterprise: Rise of the Federation is the new title of this series, with A Choice of Futures being the title of this particular installment.)
This novel is set after the events of Mr. Mangels and Mr. Martin’s books, and it is very much in-continuity with those stories. This new book meshes seamlessly with those books (and, indeed, Mr. Bennett makes some great choices to begin unravelling some of the problems with where the narrative had been left at the end of those books), but you definitely don’t have to have read those books to enjoy A Choice of Futures. It is very successful as a new beginning for these post-finale Enterprise stories.
There are two main story-lines in the novel, both of which cleverly highlight the questions the newly-formed United Federation of Planets must face. In one story, a Federation starship, the U.S.S. Essex, is negotiating with different factions on the planet Sauria (as in Saurian brandy — nice nod to the Original Series there) for trading rights to minerals on their planet. As the story progresses, it becomes apparent that the involvement of these Federation officers has dramatically affected the balance of power among the indigenous peoples of the planet. Should the Federation have stronger guidelines in terms of what they can or cannot do when contacting people … [continued]
This is an old clip (it’s from 2012), but I just saw it for the first time and loved it: a revival of “Who’s on First” with Jimmy Fallon, Billy Crystal, and Jerry Seinfeld!
This made me laugh a LOT. Ladies and gentlemen: Good Will Batman.
This is an interesting article on the production of season two of Aaron Sorkin’s The Newsroom, a show I find enjoyable though frustrating. (I was fascinated to learn the reason that season two only ran nine episodes, rather than ten.)
Bill Hunt runs one of my very favorite web-sites out there, The Digital Bits. He recently wrote a phenomenal editorial calling Paramount to task for their terrible treatment of the Star Trek films on DVD/blu-ray, specifically the disappointing blu-ray release of Into Darkness (in which Paramount created all sorts of special features for the movie but, instead of putting them all on the blu-ray, released individual featurettes to different vendors to be exclusive material just for them… making it impossible for Trek fans to get all of this material unless they wanted to go out and buy eight different copies of the blu-ray, each from a different vendor). I agree 100% with everything Mr. Hunt wrote. Well done.
Speaking of Star Trek Into Darkness, Devin Faraci at Badassdigest has written a brilliant evisceration of the film and a disturbing analysis of how co-screenwriter Bob Orci’s conspiracy “Truther” theories about 9/11 made it into the film’s story-line. The idea that those sorts of nonsensical ideas about 9/11 made it into any big-budget blockbuster would be concerning, and the thought that these notions are a part of a Star Trek film — a series justly known for its progressive, liberal tackling of modern-day issues — is hugely upsetting to me.
This is a terrific interview with the show-runners of the new Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. show, Jed Whedon and Maurissa Tancharoen. This husband and wife pairing can be overshadowed by Jed’s more-famous brother Joss (who is executive-producing the show), but I have loved their work on Dollhouse, Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog (Maurissa KILLS on the musical commentary track!), and even some terrific Terminator comic books they wrote for Dark Horse comics a year or two ago. I have a lot of faith in their talents. I hope all the ingredients come together for this to be a great TV show.
Can this be true? The blu-ray release of Paul Feig’s The Heat (click here for my review) features a commentary track by the original MST3K guys?? Well, I am definitely buying that blu-ray now!!
So…R.I.P. Futurama… again. In honor of the show’s recent cancellation … [continued]
On Wednesday I began ranking the Star Trek films, from worst to best. Here is the rest of my list, numbers 4-1. These are, by far, my favorite Star Trek films. These films are not only head and shoulders above the seven other Trek films in quality, but all four of them rank among my very favorite films, period. Here we go:
4. Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home – Until J.J. Abrams’ 2009 Star Trek reboot, I believe Star Trek IV was not only the most successful Star Trek film, it was also the one most well-known and liked by non-fans. (The latter went hand-in-hand with the former, obviously!) While I prefer the intensity of Star Trek II and III, it is undeniable how much fun the lighter Star Trek IV is. Particularly in the decades since, when we have seen how badly the other two light/funny Star Trek films (Star Trek V and Insurrection) have stumbled, the success of Star Trek IV is even more impressive. There is no question that the film is a joyous romp, with a lot of big laughs. Even more impressive is that this comedic adventure is wedded not only to a film with real stakes — both physical and emotional — for our characters, but also that like the best episodes of the original series, this was a story with a strong message (in this case, about environmentalism). The script is incredibly tight, with even throwaway lines (like Spock’s comment “judging by the pollution content of the Earth’s atmosphere, we appear to have arrived in the latter part of the twentieth century”) being so sharp and funny. There are great moments for the entire ensemble cast (something many of the Trek films have struggled with), and one classic moment after another. Also impressive: despite being designed to appeal to a wider audience than the usual Star Trek film, the movie is steeped in Trek lore. Not only does the film take the time to explore the repercussions of the events of the previous film (with the terrific “there will be no peace as long as Kirk lives!” scene in the Federation Council, something we’d never before seen), but we get the return of Sarek, Amanda, and Saavik (albeit only briefly, my biggest regret with the film). (I wrote a lot more about Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home here.)
3. Star Trek III: The Search for Spock – I think this is the most under-rated of all the Star Trek films. I adore Star Trek III! It’s a terrific adventure, and a terrific continuation of everything that was great about Star Trek II. I love how of-a-piece … [continued]
Quite a lot of websites picked up the story of how, at a recent Star Trek convention, fans ranked the twelve Trek films from worst to best. Badass Digest’s Devin Faraci wrote a terrific piece on the ranking, sharing his thoughts on all the films. It’s a hoot to read, and well worth your time. There were a few things out of wack in the fan ranking (Star Trek: First Contact is better than The Undiscovered Country?? Madness!!) but for the most part it’s a decent ranking of the films.
Here is my personal ranking of the Trek films, from worst to best:
12. Star Trek: Nemesis – a heartbreaking disappointment, all the more so because this wound up being the final Next Generation film. I have often lamented on this site how often great stories (be they movies, TV shows, books, comics, etc.) fail to get a proper ending. (With exhibit A being The X-Files. Sigh.) I think it is a huge shame that Star Trek: The Next Generation, a hugely popular and successful TV show, didn’t ever get the dignified wrap-up it deserved. Instead, we got this mess, a misguided attempt to remake The Wrath of Khan (seriously, the last 30 minutes of this flick is almost an exact duplication of the ending of Wrath of Khan). The whole story about faux-brothers (Picard/Shinzon, Data/B-4) was ill-conceived. Shinzon as a clone of Picard never made any sense (and though Tom Hardy has proven to be a magnificent actor, Shinzon is a whiny brat and a terrible villain) and the imbecilic B-4 was a dumb retread of the Data-Lore stories that had already been done on The Next Gen series. The plot was stupid (what was the point of that crazy dune-buggy chase early in the film? Just who were the aliens shooting at Picard and co.??) and most of the ensemble was wasted (Dr. Crusher had zero to do, and the mind-rape of Troi was just terrible). Add the pointless death of Data on top and you get the worst Trek film, by a wide margin.
11. Star Trek Into Darkness – What was I just saying about misguided attempts to remake The Wrath of Khan? After the flawed but fun 2009 Star Trek reboot, this was a big bucket of cold water on the heads of Star Trek fans. A stupid, stupid script (I defy you to explain to me why Khan does anything he does in this film. Why does he go to the Klingon home-world? Why does he put his frozen friends into torpedoes? Why does he let himself get captured by Kirk and then sits and does nothing while Admiral Marcus almost … [continued]
I have written often on this site about Pocket Books’ spectacular series of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine novels, that continued the story of the characters from that great TV show (the best of the Star Trek series, in my opinion), beyond the series finale. There were about a dozen novels published between 2001 and 2005, and they basically formed an eighth season of the show. Together they were a spectacular series of books, brilliantly continuing many of the story-lines and character arcs from the series while also weaving in many rich new characters and stories. But after a while, the series seemed to hit something of a snag, and several years passed without any new DS9 adventures. In 2008, David Mack wrote his phenomenal Destiny trilogy of novels (click here for my original review), which featured characters from all the 24th century-set Trek shows (Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, and Voyager). That was an amazing story, and it lead to several more phenomenal novels that explored the Trek universe following the destructive events of Destiny.
I loved all those books, but I was a little sad to see the lack of DS9-centered novels. Then came the “Typhon Pact” series from two years ago. That crossover was pleasingly Deep Space Nine centered, with two of the books, David Mack’s Zero-Sum Game (click here for my review) and David R. George III Rough Beasts of Empire (click here for my review) focused on DS9 characters and story-lines. Those books were followed by last summer’s duology Plagues of Night and Raise the Dawn, also written by David R. George III. Those two novels were also published under the “Typhon Pact” heading, but they were unquestionably Deep Space Nine stories, as Mr. George masterfully pulled together countless DS9 story-lines that had been dangling — some of them for years — while also moving forward the political “Typhon Pact” story-line, in which the Federation found itself threatened with a new alliance of many of its deadliest enemies. I loved those books when I read them last summer (click here for my review), and this past summer, I re-read Rough Beasts of Empire followed by those two books, and I found myself even more impressed by the rich, compelling Deep Space Nine story-line that David R. George III had written.
Very recently, Mr. George’s latest Star Trek novel was published: Revelation and Dust. Like his previous books, this new novel did not appear with a Deep Space Nine heading on the cover. Instead, this book was labeled Star Trek: The Fall, kicking off a new five-book series, with each book written by a … [continued]
So Ben Affleck will be playing Bruce Wayne/Batman in the upcoming Man of Steel sequel (currently titled Superman vs Batman). How about that? I have very mixed feelings about this announcement, but this isn’t coming from a place of being an Affleck hater. Quite the contrary, I have been a fan of Mr. Affleck since the beginning of his career (I’m talking School Ties days!). I’ve always enjoyed his work. I think he’s a terrific actor, equally adept at playing comedy or drama. I’ve always thought so, but what really made me a fan of Mr. Affleck was listening to his candid and hysterical participation in the commentary tracks for Kevin Smith’s early films, specifically Mallrats and Chasing Amy. Mr. Affleck is OK in Mallrats and superb in Chasing Amy, but he is so funny, so genuine and so likable on the commentary tracks that I was solidified as a huge fan of his. When considering Mr. Affleck as a superhero, one must of course consider Daredevil. I am in the minority here but I am a big fan of that film. I think it’s great, a nice serious take on the Daredevil character, and I thought Mr. Affleck was terrific in the title role. I have always been bummed we never got a sequel (particularly since the narrative was positioned, at the end of the film, for a sequel to take on the classic Frank Miller Daredevil story-line “Born Again,” which I would KILL to someday see on a movie screen).
So why am I having a hard time imagining Mr. Affleck playing Batman? To be honest, I’m not sure. It might be that he is just too big a name for the role. He’s a great actor, but not necessarily the type who vanishes into his different roles. I am wondering if he as Ben Affleck is too well known to portray this character — will be be able to see Batman when watching him, rather than Ben Affleck? Or is the issue that I have always found him to be a very likable performer — might he be TOO likable to portray Batman, a very grim character?
I am dubious, but on the other hand I am pleased that Warner Brothers are shooting high and looking to assemble a high-profile cast for the Superman sequel. We’ll all see how it turns out on July 17, 2015…
In other news:
This could be one of my favorite articles I’ve ever read on-line: Devin Faraci at badassdigest.com on How Lost and The X-Files Are Exactly Like All His Failed Relationships. So funny, and his analysis of those two shows that both collapsed in the ninth inning is … [continued]
New production video for The Hobbit! Yay!
Do you have $275 burning a hole in your pocket? Then why not consider buying yourself (or me!) a print of Drew Struzan’s gorgeous Dark Tower painting (originally featured in Frank Darabont’s vastly underrated adaptation of Stephen King’s The Mist)?
Star Trek geek red alert! This is an outstanding, in-depth article about the special effects of Star Trek: The Motion Picture, including a focus on the brilliant redesign of the USS Enterprise for that film (which still stands, in my mind, as the definitive version of the Enterprise).
Speaking of Star Trek, this is an interesting — albeit completely wrong-headed — defense of Star Trek: Voyager. The writer is correct in lamenting the complete absence on TV these days of the type of optimistic, humanistic sci-fi that Star Trek embodied. And he is also correct in praising the strong female characters of Voyager, and the way that, on the show, “female authority was assumed and unquestioned.” That’s still a surprisingly forward-thinking and not-all-that-common point of view for a mainstream TV show. Unfortunately, I wish Voyager was actually the groundbreaking show that writer remembers. I’m afraid to say that Voyager was derivative and boring, a show that totally failed to follow through on any aspect of its strong premise, instead presenting us with rehashed, watered down versions of Trek stories we’d seen done before, and far better. It’s the worst of the Trek series by quite a wide margin, in my opinion.
Boy, I loved Ender’s Game when I first read it a decade or two ago, but the more I learn of Orson Scott Card’s political views, the more disappointed I become. Meredith Borders at badassdigest.com has written a concise and powerful evisceration of Mr. Card’s most recent anti-gay rights statement, and I think it’s worth a read.
As a weirdly connected follow-up piece, allow me to recommend this spotlight on the life of Conrad Veidt. I didn’t think I knew who he was, until I ready the article and realized that I did (and I bet you do too, if you’ve ever seen Casablanca), but I didn’t know about his incredible life. Very cool short article.
Nothing particularly revelatory in this first teaser poster for Captain America 2. I’m excited that they will be adapting Ed Brubaker’s fantastic Winter Soldier storyline — I hope they don’t stray too far from his original story. We’ll see.
Oh, I love this possible premise for a sequel to This is the End! I can’t imagine we’ll ever actually see that, but if they made that movie I’d be there.
Let’s end with the most awesome thing I have seen … [continued]
I have been having a great time diving back into Peter David’s terrific Star Trek: New Frontier series of novels. Click here for my overview of the series, and here for my thoughts on several of Mr. David’s most recent New Frontier novels. Having caught up with the New Frontier story, I was eager to move on and read the two most recent books that I had not yet read: Treason and Blind Man’s Bluff.
Treason – One of the earliest New Frontier story-lines involved the unlikely relationship between the hermat Burgoyne 172 and the Vulcan Dr. Selar. That romance immediately turned sour, sadly, and in the background of the last decade-plus worth of New Frontier books we have seen the tension between the two characters. Finally, with Treason, the Burgoyne/Selar story returns to the forefront. Dr. Selar has become increasingly isolated and bitter due to her inability to solve the health situation of her son with Burgoyne. The young Xy has been developing at an incredible rate, so that now at age four he is already an adult and the science officer on board the Excalibur. But Selar knows that his rapid aging will soon, inevitably, lead to his death. As her logic begins to crumble over her increasing rage at the hand fate has dealt her, Selar abandons the Excalibur in a desperate attempt to find a cure for her son.
Meanwhile, Robin Lefler has fled the New Thallonian Protectorate with her young baby, seeking shelter on board the Excalibur. Captain Calhoun has granted her asylum, but things become rather more complicated when the spirit of Robin’s dead husband, Si Cwan, seems to inhabit and take control of Si Cwan’s sister, Kalinda, and Dr. Selar kidnaps Robin’s child, for reasons unknown. This begins a frantic chase across the galaxy to a thought-to-be-uninhabited world, where the Excalibur and their sister ship, the Trident, will encounter a powerful new foe.
After a little shakiness with Missing in Action, Treason is a confident return to form for Mr. David. I am loving the return to focus, in these recent New Frontier novels, on several of the side characters and sub-plots that have been in the background for the past decade-or-more of books. The character-arcs of supporting players like Selar, Burgoyne, Xyon, Moke, etc. are compelling and very enjoyable. The novel itself is tense and fast-paced, and as usual with Mr. David I found myself enjoyably clueless as to where the story was going. I am not wild about the name of the new race of villains, The D’myurj (just say it out loud and perhaps you’ll see why this particular new alien race’s name was a little too on-the-nose … [continued]
As I wrote about earlier this week, I have recently re-immersed myself in Peter David’s terrific Star Trek: New Frontier novels!
Stone and Anvil – This novel, published back in 2003, is one of my very favorite of Mr. David’s New Frontier novels. It proved to be a wonderful culmination of the New Frontier story at the time, wrapping up a number of long-running story-lines while also bringing the series back full circle to tell the story of Captain Mackenzie Calhoun’s days at Starfleet Academy and his original romance with Elizabeth Shelby. The book jumps back and forth between the two stories, with one chapter being set “Now” and the next being set “Then” (I always love the fun ways Mr. David structures the chapter headings in his books) and the strength of the novel is that each of the two stories is equally strong and compelling. I never found myself, reading one of the story-lines, wishing that I was back in the other story.
In the present day, the book picks right up from the minute the brutal cliffhanger of the previous book, Gods Above, had ended: with Calhoun and Shelby discovering the brutally murdered body of Lieutenant Gleau in one of the ship’s turbolifts. Gleau is a Selelvian (a race created by Mr. David) and over the previous few books Mr. David had been weaving a fascinating though unpleasant story in which Lieutenant M’Ress (one of two characters from Star Trek: The Animated Series that Mr. David has incorporated into New Frontier) felt that Gleau was using his race’s heretofore unknown mental powers in order to seduce her and then, when she turned down his advances, mentally torture her. Of course, M’Ress is the first suspect when Gleau is found murdered, but the investigation quickly turns to another character, Ensign Janos, a huge, bestial, but fiercely intelligent character introduced by Mr. David several New Frontier novels back. Mr. David has kept Janos’ background shrouded in mystery, though hints have been given that he is a Mugatu (one of the iconic alien monsters from the Original Series, seen in “A Private Little War”). In Stone and Anvil we finally get Janos’ true story, and, well, it doesn’t end well.
Meanwhile, the very first New Frontier book had introduced us to the notion that Calhoun and Shelby (newly assigned as his first officer back in that first New Frontier adventure) had had a romance that had turned sour somewhere back in their past. In the flashback chapters of Stone and Anvil, we finally get to see how they met, fell into a romance, and how that romance ended with their going their separate ways. It’s a pretty sweet story, … [continued]
About twenty years ago, I started reading the Star Trek novels published by Pocket Books. At the time, Star Trek: The Next Generation was on the air, probably in the second or third season. There were no other spin-off shows, and only four Trek movies. I’d seen those four movies many, many times, and the new episodes of Next Gen weren’t enough to satiate my cravings.
When I discovered the novels, I was delighted. Not only was there a big backlog of new Star Trek adventures to discover (each of which took me a lot longer to consume than an hour-long TV episode) but a new book was published almost every month. As I recall, at the time the books alternated: one month there would be a classic Star Trek adventure (featuring Kirk/Spock/McCoy), and the next month a new Next Gen adventure (with Picard, etc.).
I enjoyed all of the books, but quickly there was one author whose work stood out to me. One author who, when I saw his name on the cover, I knew to be excited because his name was a guarantee of a particularly entertaining book. This author was Peter David.
Some of those Next Gen books that Peter David wrote back in the late eighties/early nineties remain my very favorite Star Trek books ever written. There was Q-in-Law, in which Mr. David brilliantly combined Next Gen’s two most popular guest-star characters, Q and Lwaxana Troi, in a hilarious romp that was so much funnier and sexier and fun-filled than even the best Trek episode. There was Imzadi — still considered by many to be the very best of the Trek novels — which not only told the story of Will Riker and Deanna Troi’s love-affair on Betazed, years before they would meet again on the Enterprise D in “Encounter at Farpoint,” but which also wove a terrifying alternate-universe story in which a premature end to that relationship lead to catastrophic consequences. Then there was Vendetta — my personal favorite Trek novel — in which Mr. David told what still, twenty years later, stands to me as the ultimate Borg story. Set just about a year after the events of “The Best of Both Worlds,” in which Captain Picard was assimilated and one Borg cube nearly succeeded in destroying Earth, the Borg return to Federation space, this time with three cubes. It’s a ferocious, epic-scale but also deeply personal story that has never been topped by any of the canonical on-screen Borg stories we have seen in the twenty years since “The Best of Both Worlds.”
After writing so many great Next Gen books, in the early nineties Mr. David created his own spin-off series … [continued]
Last week I wrote about the first two books in Pocket Books’ re-launch of the Star Trek: The Next Generation novel series, set after the final canonical on-screen Next Gen adventure, the (truly terrible) film Star Trek: Nemesis. Here are my thoughts on books two and three of that re-launch!
Before Dishonor – when the early books in the TNG relaunch were originally announced, I was especially excited because it seemed that Pocket Books had assigned some of their best heavy-hitters as authors of the first wave of books. Some of the very best long-time Trek authors (Michael Jan Friedman, J.M. Dillard, and Peter David) were being mixed with some of the very best of the newer Trek authors (Keith R.A. DeCandido and Christopher L. Bennett). I was particularly excited for Peter David’s book, as Mr. David has always been one of my very favorite Star Trek authors. (I mentioned in my last post that his magnificent Borg novel, Vendetta, might be my very favorite Star Trek novel of all time.). So I was very eager to read Mr. David’s book in this new TNG series.
Unfortunately, like the books that preceded it, Before Dishonor is rather a mixed bag. There is a lot that I love about it. As always, Mr. David’s prose is fantastic, very funny and very compelling. I love that aspects of the book’s story are intended as a direct sequel to the events of Vendetta. (Not only do we return to the great idea that the planet-killer seen in the Original Series episode “The Doomsday Machine” was originally designed as a weapon against the Borg, but the book also refences the storyline in Vendetta in which Geordi tried and failed to restore a rescued Borg woman to her individuality. (It’s a story that is very similar in essence to what would, years later, be told on Voyager with Seven of Nine, just with a much less happy ending. By the way, I have heard Peter David say that people at Paramount originally nixed his idea because they insisted that there was no such thing as female Borg, a ludicrous idea that Mr. David humorously references in this book.) I love that Mr. David involved Spock in the story. And I love love love the very controversial fate given to Admiral Janeway. I could rant for days on how poorly Janeway was characterized on Star Trek: Voyager. I love the idea of a woman captain, but I felt that Janeway as written was unbelievably arrogant and blindly stubborn. I love that in this book her hubris finally catches up to her. I know that Voyager fans were upset, but I loved it.
So what doesn’t … [continued]
Well, Star Trek Into Darkness was a disaster (click here for my full review), but luckily there are still a lot of incredibly devoted, creative Star Trek fans all over the world keeping the fandom of Star Trek alive.
I have written a lot on this site about the amazing fan-produced episodes Star Trek: Phase II (formerly Star Trek: New Voyages). Over the past decade, they have been producing incredible full-length Star Trek episodes, intended to be the fourth season that never was of Star Trek the Original Series, featuring the continuing adventures of Kirk, Spock, McCoy, and the crew of the Enterprise. These Phase II episodes haven’t been perfect, but boy have I been impressed with the extraordinarily high quality of their productions — with amazing special effects, costumes, sets, lighting, and props, these episodes really look and feel like professionally produced episodes of Star Trek, and each episode seems to get better and better. (Here are links to my reviews of their last two episodes: 2011′s Enemy: Starfleet! and 2012′s The Child.)
Last year, another group of Trek fans, made up of several who had been associated with Phase II, as well as several associated with another series of Trek fan-made films, Star Trek Farragut, announced their intention to produce their own new series of Star Trek episodes entitled Star Trek Continues. As with Phase II, Star Trek Continues was announced as an attempt to realize the never-made fourth season of the original Star Trek series, featuring new full-length Star Trek episodes featuring Kirk and co.
After releasing three short vignettes (of varying quality — I loved the first one that picked up seconds after the last shot of what turned out to be the final classic Trek episode, “Turnabout Intruder,” but I was not wowed by the other two), Star Trek Continues has released its first full-length episode, “Pilgrim of Eternity.” It is fantastic. (Watch it here!)
First of all, let me say that I am suitably impressed with how quickly the Star Trek Continues folks were able to produce and release this episode! I am loathe to criticize the wonderful Phase II productions, but there are episodes that they shot (and fans like me started reading about and anticipating) YEARS ago that still have not been completed and released. Yet Star Trek Continues produced and released this episode in less than a year. That’s fantastic — I really hope they are able to keep up that pace!!
“Pilgrim of Eternity” picks up the story from the original series Trek episode “Who Mourns for Adonais?” in which the Enterprise crew encountered what appeared to be the Greek god Apollo on … [continued]
First of all: Arrested Development. Sadly for me, life has intervened and, despite my years-long anticipation, I have not yet seen a single second of the new Netflix season. But rest assured, friends, that very shortly I will be devouring these new episodes and I will be back here, of course, with my detailed thoughts. Hopefully very soon!!
This will take some time to read, but boy is it worth it: the Onion A.V. Club’s in-depth, career-spanning interview with comedian Patton Oswalt.
I wasn’t nearly as in love with Skyfall as the rest of the world seemed to be (click here for my original review), but I am excited by the news that, contrary to reports from late last year, Sam Mendes just might return to direct the next Bond film. I hope that happens. No let’s bring back QUANTUM and make them a real, SPECTRE-like threat to Bond!
This is hilarious and I have never loved George Takei more. Click here to see Mr. Takei’s written responses to various bigoted anti-gay marriage protesters.
Speaking of Star Trek, I love this piece about a non-Star Trek fan who discovered Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. I still feel strongly that the under-loved Deep Space Nine is the strongest of the Star Trek series. Sigh. I miss the days of great new Star Trek on TV every week…!
Still speaking of Star Trek, this is a fantastic piece that dissects crazy, ill-advised efforts that J.J. Abrams went to in order to mislead folks (OK, flat-out lie) about the identity of the character Benedict Cumberbatch was playing in Star Trek Into Darkness. I was tremendously disappointed by the Trek sequel (click here for my review) and this article supports and further fleshes out many of the points I made in my review.
I posted the first teaser for Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. TV show, but I don’t think I ever posted the longer, three-minute version. Check it out.
Same goes for this deliriously huge trailer for Guillermo del Toro’s new film Pacific Rim. This was released a few weeks ago already, but if you haven’t seen it yet, you should take a look:
I lamented the cancellation of Star Wars: The Clone Wars a few weeks ago, so I am happy to see that many of that show’s key creative players are involved in a new, in-the-works Star Wars animated project, set between Episodes III and IV. I still feel terribly disappointed that the Clone Wars story was cut off unfinished. Dare I hope that this new series will resurrect some unfinished story-threads and characters from the Clone Wars series…?
I’ll leave … [continued]
As readers of this site clearly know, I am something of a Star Trek fan. Grin! Ever since I was a kid, I enjoyed reading the various Star Trek novels published by Pocket Books, but over the past decade I have found the Trek books to be particularly enjoyable, and they have become my main avenue for consuming new Star Trek adventures. Ever since the flop of Star Trek: Nemesis in 2003 and the cancellation of Enterprise in 2004, Star Trek novels have been pretty much the only way to enjoy new Star Trek stories! Luckily, without having to worry any longer about having to maintain consistency with continuing TV series, the authors of the Star Trek novels have had the freedom to move their stories forward, shaking up the status quo in exciting ways. The one-two-punch of a) that newfound fearlessness in breaking free of the old status quo of the TV series, allowing the characters to grow and change, while b) also establishing a very tight inter-book continuity between the novels, with characters and story lines continuing from book to book, has made the Trek book series particularly enjoyable to me. I don’t read every new Star Trek book that is published, but I probably read six to eight new Trek books each year, and taken as a whole they form an enormous tapestry, an epic continuing adventure. I love sagas. I love them in any form, be they books (like Isaac Asimov’s Foundation series, or Frank Herbert’s Dune, or JRR Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings) or comic books (like Chris Claremont’s two-decade run writing X-Men from the late seventies into the nineties) or TV shows (like The X-Files, or Ronald D. Moore’s Battlestar Galactica) or movies (the Planet of the Apes series, the Star Wars films, etc.). One of the things I love about official, televised Star Trek is that aspect of the Trek universe being a cohesive whole, an expansive, ever-expanding saga. Now, more than ever, that is also true of the Trek books.
Over the last several years, I have enjoyed writing about the various Star Trek novels I have read. Recently, I decided to go back and re-read some of the old Trek books that I really enjoyed, such as as Excelsior: Forged in Fire and some of The Lost Era books (Serpents Among the Ruins and The Art of the Impossible). I had fun doing that, so I then decided to go back and re-read some of the earlier books in the relaunch of Star Trek: The Next Generation, the new adventures of Captain Picard and his crew following the events depicted in Star Trek: Nemesis. My recollection was … [continued]
I enjoyed J.J. Abrams’ 2009 Star Trek reboot (click here for my review), though not nearly as much as most of the rest of the world seemed to. I loved seeing Star Trek brought to life, finally, under the big-budget it always deserved, and I was incredibly impressed by how successful they were at recasting the iconic roles, something which I had believed to be impossible. But the script was a mess, full of plot holes you could fly a Constitution class starship through.
Star Trek Into Darkness is more of the same. The film is gorgeous to look at, epic in scale and realized with extraordinary skill and craftsmanship. The cast is terrific, every single member of the ensemble is great, and getting to once again watch Spock and Bones bicker and a million other little moments of interaction between the members of the classic Enterprise crew is a delight.
Sadly though, this film’s story is even more nonsensical than the previous film’s was. It’s catastrophically bad. Star Trek Into Darkness is not only hugely inconsistent with Star Trek canon (even when you take into account the “alternate universe” setting of his rebooted film series), but it is also inconsistent with its own story-telling and narrative logic. Even when you forget all previously established Star Trek lore, and only consider this film’s story on its own, it is wildly inconsistent and contradictory.
I am not going to reveal every beat of the movie in this review, but I will be heavy with SPOILERS as I dig deep into the film’s problems. So if you’re going to see Star Trek Into Darkness, I suggest you hold off on reading this review until you’ve seen the film, then come back here and we can see where we agree or disagree.
The film’s opening sequence encapsulates much of what works and what fails in J.J. Abrams’ two Star Trek films. The Enterprise crew is attempting to contain a volcano explosion that threatens to wipe out the pre-industrial inhabitants of an alien planet. Things go wrong immediately, with Spock trapped inside the active volcano while Kirk and McCoy are being chased by the angry natives. Things quickly build to a classic Prime Directive conundrum in which the only way to save Spock is to break the Prime Directive and reveal the existence of the Enterprise to the natives. This is an extraordinary sequence, as beautifully realized a Star Trek action scene as I have ever seen. It’s incredibly fast-paced, as we bounce between the Kirk/McCoy chase scene to action inside the volcano with Spock and Sulu/Uhura on an Enterprise shuttlecraft. The visual effects are gorgeous, the action and suspense are compelling, … [continued]
Holy cow, this sneak peek (first shown at Wondercon) of Guillermo del Toro’s new film Pacific Rim is spectacular:
AAAARGH — Futurama has been cancelled AGAIN?? Sad news. I definitely consider myself blessed that Matt Groening’s show has risen from cancellation not once but twice already, but that’s not stopping me from hoping that the still-fantastic sci-fi comedy will somehow resurrect itself yet again.
I was also bummed by the news that Star Wars: The Clone Wars has been cancelled. Not a shocker that the show was a casualty of Disney’s purchase of Lucasfilm, but still a disappointment. I haven’t been a die-hard fan of the show, but I have watched quite a few episodes, particularly of the later seasons. The show came a LONG way from the embarrassingly terrible animated film released a few years back. The animation has become quite spectacular — the action scenes are out of this world amazing, and even the character animation has become really quite good. I have enjoyed the show’s explorations of the sci-fi universe, and it’s been a pretty adult, action-packed show. Not GREAT Star Wars, but very very good Star Wars. I can understand Disney’s wanting to start fresh, but it seems like a huge wasted opportunity to not allow the show to finish its run and wrap up its stories. After five seasons, it really felt to me that The Clone Wars was building to something — and that the series was cut off mid-stream, with story-lines and character arcs unresolved, means that the show won’t have much of a future life. Who’d want to start watching the show’s hundred-some odd episodes, now, knowing that the show ends unfinished? It seems crazy to me that Disney didn’t allow the show to have at least one more season to complete its story. It’s a shame and a waste, both creatively (because the story is left incomplete) and financially (because wouldn’t Disney be able to make a lot more money off of the show in future years, through syndication, DVD/blu-ray sales, etc., if it had been completed??).
This is a fantastic, well-reasoned article comparing Marvel’s currently-running big crossover series, Age of Ultron, very favorably with what is happening these days with DC’s “New 52.” I agree wholeheartedly.
I also agree wholeheartedly with this piece by Devin Faraci, arguing how wrong-headed the depiction of James T. Kirk’s taking of the Kobayashi Maru test was in 2009′s Star Trek. That film showed Kirk brazenly cheating on the test, which Devin argues is a complete misunderstanding of what was suggested in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. I think Devin is 100% correct, and that Kobayashi Maru scene is one of … [continued]
In a very cool effort to promote the release of Star Trek: The Next Generation on blu-ray, Paramount/CBS/Fathom Events have held a few events screening some of the newly-remastered episodes on the big screen, in select theatres around the country. I wasn’t excited by the two season one episodes they chose to screen last year, and while I wanted to see the two season two episodes shown in the fall, I wasn’t free the night of the screening. But when they announced a few months back that they would be screening the two parts of “The Best of Both Worlds,” edited together into a movie-length presentation, I made damn well sure to arrange my schedule so that I could be there. This past Wednesday night, I was delighted to join fellow Trek fans in enjoying one of the high-points of televised Star Trek, gorgeously presented on the big screen.
Part one of “The Best of Both Worlds” was the moment when Star Trek: The Next Generation exploded. Star Trek had never before done a season-ending cliffhanger, and while some shows certainly had before (the famous “Who Shot J.R.?” being one of the most well-known examples), those sorts of cliffhangers where no where near as ubiquitous back in 1991 as they were today.
After two shaky seasons, in its third year Star Trek: The Next Generation really came into its own. Under the hand of new show-runner Michael Piller (who deserves almost all of the credit for the lasting success of Next Gen) and a group of phenomenal new writers, many of whom would go on to extraordinarily successful careers in Trek and elsewhere (Ronald D. Moore, Brannon Braga, Ira Steven Behr, Rene Echevarria, Naren Shankar, and more), suddenly The Next Generation transformed itself into a confident, ambitious sci-fi series. Season three of Star Trek: The Next Generation is arguably the best season of a Star Trek show ever. (In fact, back in one of my very first blog posts for this site, I sang the praises of Next Gen season three!) There is not a clunker in the bunch, and many of the very best Next Gen episodes come from this season. There’s “Sins of the Father,” in which we visit the Klingon homeworld for the first time as Worf returns to challenge the accusation that his dead father committed treason. There’s “The Offspring,” the heart-wrenching story of Data’s failed attempt to build an android child for himself. There’s “Deja Q,” in which Q becomes mortal. There’s “The Defector,” a phenomenal Cold War-type tale of a possible Romulan defector. There’s “Hollow Pursuits,” the episode that introduces the wonderfully flawed, holodeck-addicted Lieutenant Barclay. There’s “Sarek,” in which Spock’s father appears and … [continued]
The great Dick Cavett has a phenomenal piece up at nytimes.com on all of the recent Tonight Show silliness. This is definitely worth a read.
Also worth your time: the moving words of tribute posted at AICN in remembrance of the great Roger Ebert.
I LOVE LOVE LOVE these Arrested Development posters!! May 26th just cannot come soon enough!
And speaking of things I love love love — this trailer for Man of Steel:
That is just spectacular, action-packed and emotionally rich. Kevin Costner’s delivery of the line “you are my son” just kills me. If the film delivers on half of the promise of this trailer, we are in for a hell of a ride this summer.
And here is the final full Star Trek Into Dark Knight (I mean, Into Darkness) trailer:
That’s a very solid trailer, showing us more than we saw before though still keeping most of the film’s major plot points under wraps. We still don’t know if Bennedict Cumberbatch is playing Khan or not, which frustrates me but I guess we’ll all know for sure pretty soon! I am also interested to see how they undo all the damage we see poor old Enterprise taking in this trailer. Are we already going to see a refit-Enterprise in this rebooted film series? (That actually gives me hope that the next Trek film will see fit to bring the design of the Enterprise back a little closer to the classic original or, even better, to the refit-Enterprise of the first six Trek movies, which to me still stands as one of the most gorgeous space-ship designs ever, far superior to the bulky monstrosity of the Enterprise in J.J. Abrams’ films. We’ll see…!)
I always get excited when an original sci-fi film (not an adaptation, not a sequel or prequel or re-imagining) is released, and Neil Blomkamp’s Elysium — his follow-up to the phenomenal District 9 — looks absolutely dynamite. Take a peek:
Here’s a terrific Q & A with Ronald D. Moore, a long-time Star Trek writer (he was a key creative force on Star Trek: The Next Generation and Star Trek: Deep Space Nine) and the creator/show-runner of the re-imagined Battlestar Galactica. (Part two of the Q & A is here.) Mr. Moore has been absent from television for too long now, I hope the series he is working on for Sy-Fy comes together.
This is a great behind-the-scenes pic from Ridley Scott’s original Alien. And these are also great, showing off the gorgeous model-work used to bring the refit U.S.S. Enterprise (still the greatest of all the Enterprise designs) to life in Star Trek: The Motion Picture.… [continued]
I have really enjoyed all of the Star Trek novels written by David R. George III. Just a few weeks ago, I heaped enormous praise upon his “Lost Era” novel, Serpents Among the Ruins, that depicted “The Tomed Incident” and a story of the Enterprise B. I also really loved his recent two-part Deep Space Nine-centric “Typhon Pact” duology, Plagues of Night and Raise the Dawn. So I was eager to read Mr. George’s new novel, an adventure set during the original five-year mission of Captain Kirk’s Enterprise.
Allegiance in Exile is a very interesting, unusually structured Star Trek novel. The book doesn’t just depict one adventure. Instead, it is set over the course of the entire fifth and final year of the five-year mission. I really enjoyed that approach, as it allows Mr. George to tell a more expansive story than I had expected.
On the other hand, I had a hard time shaking the continuity implications of this novel taking up the full final year of the five-year mission. Even before reading this book, I always found it hard to imagine that the events of all of the 79 original Star Trek episodes could have happened during the span of the five-year mission. The Enterprise crew would have been on a new adventure in an entirely new and different region of space practically every week! Wouldn’t there have been travel-time between adventures, not to mention time to prep for each new mission, and to repair the ship after each time they ran into trouble? And that’s just thinking about the 79 aired original Star Trek episodes, not to mention all of the other books and comic books that depicted countless additional adventures set during the five-year mission. It definitely stretches the imagination to think that all of those events could have happened within the span of five years.
But Allegiance in Exile muddies those waters even further, because this novel suggests that the final year of the Enterprise’s five-year mission was spent mapping a particular region of unexplored space. That is logical, and it also makes sense that, rather than having a new adventure every few days, that weeks or even months might pass between new adventures with new alien life-forms. That is the scenario as presented in Allegiance in Exile, in which year five of the five-year mission passes fairly uneventfully, with only a few adventures every few months (adventures depicted in the book, and which wind up connecting as Kirk and his crew attempt to solve a mystery). That means that all of the other adventures of the five-year mission didn’t just happen during the course of five years, but rather during … [continued]
So… ok then! A new international trailer for Star Trek Into Darkness just dropped this morning, full of new footage. It’s available in HD here — click on “International Trailer — UK.”
Like all the glimpses we’ve gotten so far of Star Trek Into Darkness, it’s a very solid trailer. This is big-budget, visually stunning Star Trek. (For the zillionth time, I wish the “Classic” Trek films I so cherish had had half of the budget that J.J. Abrams and his team have been given by Paramount.) And while I know that some are tiring of the “grim and gritty” tone prevalent in a lot of our fantasy/super-hero/sci-fi films ever since the success of Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy, I have no objection to my Star Trek being intense and serious.
But, that being said, am I the only one getting a little bit of a worrisome vibe from these Trek trailers? I am intrigued by the terrorism angle, but a) it seems a little behind the times, as sci-fi/fantasy adventures like the re-imagined Battlestar Galactica and the aforementioned Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight have already so effectively explored terrorist and post 9-11 anxiety, and b) I feel like Star Trek stories should be set primarily in outer space, not on Earth. Now, obviously, I haven’t seen the movie, so maybe there is plenty of outer-space adventure in this new Trek film. (I have heard that some of the action will be set on the Klingon homeworld. So that should be interesting. Though here again, I have some worries as I have heard rumors that the chase scene — in which we see Kirk piloting a shuttle through a tight spot — is set on Chronos, but neither the ship nor the city architecture looks at all Klingon to me. But we’ll see.)
Interesting to see Peter Weller finally make an appearance in these trailers. To this point we’ve had no idea what role he would be playing — guess it’s a Starfleet admiral. OK then.
Still no confirmation as to whether Benedict Cumberbatch is or isn’t playing Khan. His character seems from the trailer to have been a Starfleet agent or officer, which doesn’t square with Khan… though he does seem to display some super-heroic powers (possibly consistent with Khan’s genetically-engineered super-strength and endurance). I don’t get this cat-and-mouse game Mr. Abrams is playing with the fans. If Khan is indeed in this film, as rumored, wouldn’t you think they’d want to get people excited for the return of this classic Trek villain?
I didn’t need the cheesecake shot of Carol Marcus in her underwear.
Nice visual effects extravaganza at the end. This could be an example of a trailer … [continued]
This high school-set Game of Thrones parody, School of Thrones, is fantastic. Worth it for the awesome opening credits alone.
I often wax poetic about my love for the great, much-missed The Larry Sanders Show. My buddy Ethan e-mailed me this link to a terrific interview with Jeffrey Tambor (who played Hank “Hey Now!” Kingsley), filled with stories about his work on the show. A great read.
Louis C.K. has a new stand-up special on HBO in April. Love this trailer:
I must say I am shocked that, despite the BIG success of 2007′s The Simpsons Movie (I can’t believe it was that long ago, already!), they are not working on another one. That’s a shame.
I have spent a long time looking at this awesome infographic that lays out the entire backwards-and-forwards structure of Christopher Nolan’s fantastic film Memento. Wild.
I was VERY excited to read that an extended cut has recently been discovered of “The Wounded” and several other episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation. I hope some of this footage eventually makes it onto the blu-rays! I LOVED the extended cut of “The Measure of a Man” on the season 2 blu-ray, and I would kill to see some more extended cuts of episodes in the future… And “The Wounded” is one of my favorite TNG episodes! (I love O’Brien!)
Speaking of Trek, a new teaser trailer was released a few weeks ago:
Solid trailer. God I hope this movie doesn’t let me down.
Speaking of trailers — I still can’t believe they really made a movie of the deliriously unhinged, profane comic book Kick Ass. And now they’ve made a sequel? This new red-band trailer is great. The kids have grown up, but this could still work. (Though holy cow, how huge is Aaron Taylor-Johnson — who plays the titular geek kid turned super-hero, Kick Ass — now?? It’s weird to see puny Dave Lizewski so pumped.) I LOVE that they used Christopher Mintz-Plasse’s super-villain name from the comics! And Jim Carrey is in this??? This movie is going to be crazy. I can’t wait.
I’ve never seen Veronica Mars, but if this is true that a Kickstarter campaign has successfully lead to the show’s revival as a movie, that is super-cool. I am all for the rescue of fan-favorite, cult properties. Serenity 2, anyone?? (No, says Joss Whedon. Sigh!!)
Christopher Guest (A Mighty Wind, Best in Show, Waiting for Guffman) is masterminding a new show for HBO? Yes, please!
Hmmm… are there any other HBO shows coming up that I’m looking forward to? Oh, yeah, there is one:
After re-reading Excelsior: Forged in Fire (the story of how Hikaru Sulu became the captain of the USS Excelsior, as well as the backstory behind Kor, Kang, and Koloth’s connection with Dax as seen in the DS9 episode “Blood Oath”) and Serpents Among the Ruins (the story of “The Tomed Incident” with the Romulans, and the end of Captain John Harriman’s command of the USS Enterprise B), I was eager to continue reading the next adventure of “The Lost Era” (the years between Captain Kirk’s final adventure in Star Trek: Generations and the beginning of Star Trek: The Next Generation). I remember loving the next book in Pocket Books’ “Lost Era” series of novels, The Art of the Impossible, by Keith R.A. DeCandido, when I first read it about a decade ago, and I was excited to read it again.
The novel is every bit as spectacular as I remembered it being, a real highlight of Pocket Books’ series of Star Trek books. As opposed to the other novels of the “Lost Era” series, this novel doesn’t take place during one specific year — instead, it spans eighteen years. I commented that the previous “Lost Era” book, Serpents Among the Ruins, dug deeply into geeky Star Trek lore. Well, the event that forms the basis of this novel is even more obscure than the Tomed Incident and the Treaty of Algeron that were depicted in Serpents. The Art of the Impossible depicts the Betreka Nebula Incident. This event was only mentioned once, in a jokey (but very memorable!) exchange from the fourth season premiere of Deep Space Nine, “The Way of the Warrior.” After getting beaten up by some Klingons, the Cardassian Garak remarks that he has no idea why the Klingons might not like him. Doctor Bashir reminds Garak of something called the Betreka Nebula Incident. ”A minor skirmish,” Garak scoffs. ”That lasted eighteen years!” Dr. Bashir replies. The whole thing is just a joke, for the punchline of Garak being so dismissive of some sort of conflict that lasted almost two decades, and it’s never mentioned again.
But in this novel, author Keith R.A. DeCandido takes that one little line of dialogue and expands it into an epic tale of interstellar intrigue, weaving together characters and references from across all of the many Star Trek series into a phenomenally entertaining novel. A small conflict between a Cardassian ship and Klingon ship over the rights to the salvage of a crashed vessel on a planet in unclaimed space threatens to turn into a shooting war. Diplomat Curzon Dax is brought in to mediate the conflict. Drawing upon Federation history, and the technique the Organians used to mediate … [continued]
I am absolutely loving this new Iron Man 3 trailer:
This movie looks fantastic from what we have seen so far. I love seeing Tony really challenged. I love the idea of connecting this film to the Avengers not by featuring other super-heroic characters, but by exploring the psychological ramifications of what Tony went through in that film. I love what we have seen of Ben Kinglsey’s interpretation of the Mandarin as a media-savvy terrorist. I love the teases of what looks to be some great action set-pieces. It’s Shane Black working again with Robert Downey Jr. I am in.
I am intrigued by this announcement of The X-Files Season 10 in comic-book form. And I wholeheartedly agree with Mr. Faraci’s statement that the time is ripe for an X-Files revival. I posted a lament when the date for the alien invasion came and went a few months ago, with no sign of the massive X-Files third movie I had been hoping for. I would love to see that remedied someday, before all the actors get too old. A man can hope…
I am always too busy over the summer to watch The Daily Show, a fact which eased my initial dismay when reading this announcement that Jon Stewart is taking 12 weeks off from the show to direct a film. What’s particularly fascinating is that Mr. Stewart isn’t planning on directing a comedy, but rather an adaptation (that he has written) of the book Then They Came For Me: A Family’s Story of Love, Captivity, and Survival. The book was written by Maziar Bahari and Aimee Molloy, and tells the true story of the detention and torture of Mr. Bahari, a BBC journalist, for 118 days in Iran. Viewers of The Daily Show might recall Mr. Bahari, as he appeared on the show both before and after his ordeal. One of the pieces of evidence used against him by the Iranians, who accused him of being a spy, was a previous comic appearance he had made on The Daily Show.
The fact that Warner Brothers seems to have no idea what to do with all of the DC Universe super-hero franchises they own, exhibited by their inability to get a Justice League movie off the ground, would be hilarious if it wasn’t so disappointing to folks like me who would love to see a whole slew of kick-ass DC movies. Here’s hoping Zack Snyder’s Superman film doesn’t disappoint. Going back to Christopher Nolan and Christian Bale seems like a desperation move to me. Though I would rather see Christian Bale back in the bat-suit than Joseph Gordon-Levitt, as had been rumored. Look, I think Joseph Gordon-Levitt … [continued]
Well over a year ago, I re-read The Sundered, the first book in the Lost Years six-book series, published by Pocket Books about a decade ago, that set out to depict events of the “lost” seventy years or so between the last on-screen adventure of Captain Kirk and co. (the launch of the Enterprise B in Star Trek: Generations) and the beginning of Star Trek: The Next Generation (with the launch of the Enterprise D in the series’ pilot episode, “Encounter at Farpoint”). After re-reading The Sundered, I had intended to go on and re-read the next several books in the Lost Years series, which I had remembered loving. But I never got around to it! Last month, though, after re-reading the Captain Sulu adventure Star Trek Excelsior: Forged in Fire, which was also set during those “Lost Years,” I decided to move on and re-read the Lost Years Book Two: Serpents Among The Ruins, written by David R. George III.
As with Forged in Fire, this novel is absolutely phenomenal, an exceedingly well-writen, epic saga that weaves together numerous strands of Star Trek history, hints and pieces drawn from many different sources from among the different Trek movies and TV shows, to create a sprawling, exciting adventure. This novel, even more than Forged in Fire, is drenched in Star Trek lore. This is exceedingly geeky stuff (and I love it!), as the novel draws upon a few very minor lines of dialogue from a couple of TNG episodes (“The Neutral Zone,” “The Defector,” and “The Pegasus” of something called “The Tomed Incident” and “The Treaty of Algeron” (which made the use in the Federation of a cloaking device illegal, and was the Federation’s last formal contact with the Romulans for almost almost a century) and creates from those two events a huge story.
The novel centers on John Harriman, Captain of the Enterprise B. Peter David’s novel, The Captain’s Daughter, did a great job of rehabilitating Captain Harriman from his cartoonish, borderline idiotic depiction in Star Trek: Generations, and this novel builds strongly on that work (and indeed references it several times). David R. George presents us in this novel with the strong captain that Harriman should always have been — a man deserving of captaining the Federation’s flagship, now a seasoned veteran, right smack in the middle of a flashpoint of conflict between the Fedeation and the Romulans, a conflict that, by the time of the events in this novel (2311, eighteen years after the events of Star Trek: Generations), has been boiling for years. The novel also focuses on another member of the Enterprise B’s crew — Demora Sulu. No longer the ensign … [continued]
At last! Our first glimpse at footage from Game of Thrones season three!
This is a very funny article: Six Horrible Aftermaths Implied by Movies with Happy Endings.
Here is a terrific, in-depth interview with the show-runner of the phenomenal Parks and Recreation, Mike Schur. It’s no coincidence that the first half-hour of last week’s Parks and Rec double-episode felt like it could have been a series finale — that’s because it was designed to have served as such, had NBC not ordered nine additional episodes for this season.
Kristen Wiig will be appearing in the new episodes of Arrested Development?? And she is playing a young version of Lucille Bluth? Brilliant!!
I just wrote about Layer Cake the other day, and I am excited that Matthew Vaughn — who also directed Kick Ass (click here for my review) and X-Men: First Class (click here for my review) – in addition to producing the next X-Men film (the adaptation of the seminal Days of Future Past that will be directed by Bryan Singer, returning at last to the franchise he began) has also signed on to produce Fox’s upcoming Fantastic Four film (which will thankfully be a total reboot, scrapping the two lame films directed by Tim Story). I love that crazy comic book writer Mark Millar (who wrote the comic book Kick Ass, which Mr. Vaughn directed as a film) will be overseeing Fox’s upcoming super-hero films (X-Men, Fantastic Four, etc.) and I really love that his frequent collaborator Mr. Vaughn also seems to be stepping into a larger supervisory role. It’s obvious that Fox is attempting to shamelessly imitate the success of Marvel Studio’s crossover Avengers film, but if it results in more great super-hero films for us, then I have no problem with that!
Speaking of Bryan Singer’s upcoming X-Men film, Days of Future Past, I really hope he’s serious about fixing what Brett Ratner did to the franchise in the catastrophically disappointing X3. If they’re playing around with time-travel and alternate timelines, this is a golden opportunity to at long-last course-correct this franchise back to what worked in the first two X-Men films. I home Mr. Singer can pull it off.
Sticking with super-hero movie news for a second, this is an interesting comparison of the Spidey-Suit in this past summer’s The Amazing Spider-Man and the far superior, re-designed look for the sequel. (And I agree with the author of that post — MY cooler of haterade for Marc Webb’s The Amazing Spider-Man ALSO runs deep! Here’s hoping the sequel is better.)
Michael A. Martin and Andy Mangels have, together, written some of my very favorite Star Trek novels (such as Taking Wing, the excellent attempt to pick up the narrative pieces left by the train-wrech that was Star Trek Nemesis that also launched the Titan series of novels, chronicling William T. Riker’s first command) and some of my least favorite (such as The Red King, their follow-up to Taking Wing, and the Kobayashi Maru/Romulan War series of novels that began with such promise but ultimately disappointed). But one of their very best novels –if not THE best — was their 2008 novel Star Trek Excelsior: Forged in Fire.
Set mostly in the year 2289/2290, several years before the events of Star Trek VI, Forged in Fire tells the story behind the events of the Deep Space Nine episode “Blood Oath.” That awesome episode brought together, for the first time, the three most well-known Klingon characters from the Original Series, amazingly played by the three original actors: Kang (Michael Ansara), Kor (John Colicos), and Koloth (William Campbell). That episode revealed that the three Klingon warriors, along with Jadzia Dax’s forebearer, Curzon Dax, had decades ago sworn a blood oath to avenge the deaths of the three Klingons’ first-born sons (one of whom was Dax’s god-son) at the hands of a brigand known as the Albino. Forged in Fire fills in the backstory behind that event. In this book we see how the Klingons first crossed swords with the Albino, and how it came to be that a young Federation diplomat became so close to a group of Klingons that one of them eventually named him godfather to his first-born son.
Why did I decide to re-read Forged in Fire now? Actually, I wanted to re-read it ever since re-reading the first The Lost Era novel, The Sundered, which also featured Captain Sulu and the USS Excelsior, and was also written by Michael A. Martin and Andy Mangels. But life got in the way, and I hadn’t gotten to it until now. But what a delight it was to re-read this terrific book!
Forged in Fire is gloriously drenched in Star Trek continuity. I love how cleverly the authors fleshed out the vague hints of back-story given in “Blood Oath” into an enormous tapestry, an epic asventure spanning many years (the dense novel cleverly hops all about in time) that turns out to depict a critical event in the history of the Federation’s relationship with the Klingon Empire, setting the stage for the rapprochement that would arrive following the events of Star Trek VI.
I love getting to spend time with Kor, Kang, and Koloth. … [continued]
Well, a few months ago I reviewed the newly-released complete soundtrack to Star Trek: First Contact, and that immediately made me want to go back and re-watch the film, which I did. After reviewing the soundtrack to Star Trek: Generations last month, I had the same compulsion! It was fun to go back and re-watch Star Trek: Generations.
First of all, let me say that I cannot believe that this movie is already almost twenty years old. That is insane!!
It’s all the more disappointing to consider that almost two decades have passed since the release of Generations because I feel, looking back on it, that the powers-that-be totally screwed up the Next Generation film series, and what began with such promise really fizzled out. The Next Gen gang never got their truly great big-screen adventure. I wrote in my soundtrack review that I think that Star Trek: Generations – flawed though it most certainly is — just might be the best of the four Next Gen films. Perhaps First Contact is better (that film is far more action-packed and intense, though it too is chock-full of problems), but certainly I think the hour-long middle-section of Star Trek Generations – the section after the Enterprise B prologue and before Picard enters the Nexus — is the best representation of the Next Generation TV show on the big screen. First Contact is fun, but it doesn’t really reflect the tone or style of the Next Generation TV show (not to mention the fact that with a whole new Enterprise, new sets, and new uniforms, it LOOKS very different). But that middle hour of Star Trek: Generations is Next Gen realized on the big screen in a glorious way, full of exciting new twists and flourishes but very faithful to the TV show, and I love it.
OK, buckle up, let’s dive into my analysis.
The film gets off to a terrific start with a 20-25-minute prologue set at the christening and launch of the Enterprise B. Although I never thought it was necessary for the first Next Gen film to in any way cross over with or even acknowledge Classic Trek adventures — after seven successful years on TV, I felt Next Gen could more than handle its own feature film all on its own — I absolutely love this lengthy prologue section on board the Enterprise B. First of all, it’s very cool to finally see the “missing” Enterprise realized on-screen. The Enterprise A was in Star Trek IV-VI, the Enterprise D was the Enterprise of The Next Generation, and we saw the Enterprise C in the classic Next Gen time-travel episode “Yesterday’s Enterprise.” So we’d never … [continued]
Star Trek: Generations is a film that has really grown on me over the years, to the point where I might argue today that it’s the best of the four Next Generation movies. Despite the film’s Kirk/Picard crossover aspect (which makes the film an epilogue to the Classic Trek adventures as much as it is a kick-off to the Next Generation film series), the middle hour-plus of Generations feels like the best big-screen representation of the Star Trek: The Next Generation TV show that I loved so much as a kid.
The score for Star Trek: Generations was composed and conducted by Dennis McCarthy. Mr. McCarthy was one of the Next Generation’s main composers for much of its TV run (according to the liner notes, Mr. McCarthy has scored more hours of the modern-day Star Trek TV series than any other composer), and he was tapped to score the series’ first feature film.
I think Mr. McCarthy did terrific work, and that the score for Star Trek: Generations is vastly under-rated. OK, it surely doesn’t rival the very best of the Trek movie scores: Jerry Goldsmith’s iconic themes from Star Trek: The Motion Picture, James Horner’s magnificent work on Star Trek II & III (which I think are two of the very best film scores of all time), or Cliff Eidelman’s haunting, somber music from Star Trek VI. But the score for Generations is nonetheless terrific, far more subtle and complex than many film scores, and possessing some wonderful new themes and some terrific action cues.
Here are some of my favorite tracks from the complete soundtrack:
Track 1: “Main Title” — In a wonderfully unexpected move, Mr. McCarthy forgoes the tradition from all the previous Star Trek films (and so many other movies) of presenting the film’s main theme or themes in a bombastic march at the opening of the film. Mr. McCarthy holds this for much later. Instead, here at the opening of the film, he presents us with a quiet, melodic, mysterious melody that gently builds as we see a mysterious object tumble through space. The track builds to a triumphant crescendo and an ebullient presentation of Alexander Courage’s classic Star Trek theme when the about-to-be-launched Enterprise B is revealed. It’s a wonderful moment, one of my favorite beats in the movie, and a terrific beginning to the film. From the liner notes: “‘I insisted on that,’ McCarthy says of the Courage theme… ‘I wanted it to be the payoff, both of the champagne bottle hitting and then the end where Picard is standing on the top of the mountain [at the end of the film]… When it’s the big ships taking off, boy, I want … [continued]
Sad news that actor Robert F. Chew, who played Proposition Joe on The Wire, has passed away. Close your eyes, Joe.
In another piece of sad news, writer Peter David recently suffered a stroke. Mr. David is a prolific author of novels and comic books, and I have been loving his work for well over twenty years. His run on DC Comics’ Star Trek series in the eighties is one of the things that got me into comics, and I still think those comics rank among the very best Star Trek stories ever told, in any format. He’s written a number of Trek novels, as well, with Q-in-Law (with the inspired pairing of Q and Lwaxana Troi) and Vendetta (the best Borg story ever told, and what I so wanted First Contact to be) being my favorites. For any fellow fans of Mr. David out there, here is how you can help.
In my review of Django Unchained, I compared Quentin Tarantino’s film to Mel Brooks’ Blazing Saddles. A recent “behind the scenes pic of the day” at aintitcoolnews featured a wonderful shot from Blazing Saddles, and if you’re looking to waste some time, I encourage you to scroll down and read that article’s really fun talkback section, which is filled with quote after quote from that spectacular film. (Puts me in the mood to pop Blazing Saddles into my DVD player right now…!)
Speaking of Django, apparently there is a teensy tiny connection between Django Unchained and Pulp Fiction. OK then.
Trekcore has posted an extraordinarily in-depth seven-part interview with Roger Meyer Burnett, one-half of the duo responsible for the wonderful special features on the new Star Trek: The Next Generation blu-ray sets. Here is part one. Mr. Meyer is absolutely correct in that, until now, the Star Trek films and TV shows on DVD/blu-ray have NEVER had the type of quality special features that they deserve. The feature-length documentaries on the TNG season 1 and 2 blu-ray sets are a big part of why they scored so high on my list of the Top 10 DVDs/Blu-Rays of 2012. They are amazing, and interesting and informative even for a long-term, hard-core Trek fan like myself. This interview with Mr. Burnett is phenomenal, and will be of interest to all Trek fans out there. GREAT WORK, Trekcore guys!
With the return of Arrested Development inching ever closer, some great new info has been coming out about the new season. I CAN’T WAIT!!! ”One giant 700-minute Arrested Debelopment”??? Bring it!
Speaking of the return of beloved TV shows… a Bored to Death movie??? PLEASE LET THIS HAPPEN!!!
And so, at last, we arrive at my final Best of 2012 list! I hope you enjoyed the rest of my lists. You can follow these links to see my Top 15 Movies of 2012: click here for part one, here for part two, and here for part three. Click here for part one of my Top 15 Comic Book Series of 2012, and here for part two. And finally, you can click here for part one of my Top 10 Episodes of TV of 2012, and here for part two.
And now, my final list: the Top 10 DVDs/Blu-Rays of 2012!
10. Great documentaries for not-so-great films: Prometheus and The Dark Knight Rises – Both of these films disappointed me when I saw them. The Dark Knight is an extremely well-made film and a great super-hero epic, but it’s a big let-down after the magnificence that was The Dark Knight. And Prometheus was just a catastrophe. Nevertheless, the blu-rays of both films contained terrific feature-length documentaries. Prometheus’ special features are particularly compelling — the 220-minute documentary “Furious Gods: The Making of Prometheus” (directed by Charles de Lauzirika) is extraordinary. Is it crazy to be so interested in the behind-the-scenes stories of two films that ultimately disappointed me? Maybe, but I loved these glimpses behind the curtains.
9. Jay and Silent Bob Get Old: Tea-Bagging in the UK – Every few years, Kevin Smith releases a DVD collection of some of his Q&A sessions, and I always gobble them up. None have topped the original An Evening With Kevin Smith DVD from 2002, but Mr. Smith’s skill as a spinner-of-yarns is unparalleled, and I adore listening to his lengthy, raunchy, hilarious answers to the audience’s questions about his life, his film-making, and all sorts of other details of his personal life. (I even saw Mr. Smith live, in Boston, a few years ago!) This latest DVD is a recording of some of the “Smodcast” podcasts that Mr. Smith recorded with his “hetero life-mate” Jason Mewes, on tour in England. These shows are nowhere near as great as some of the previous Q&A DVDs — I like Jason Mewes, but I think Mr. Smith is much funnier solo — but these shows are still a lot of fun, and I enjoyed the frank, friendly interplay between Mr. Smith and Mr. Mewes.
8. Batman: The Dark Knight Returns Part 1 – This animated adaptation of Frank Miller’s seminal comic book from 1986 is one of the best of Bruce Timm’s recent direct-to-DVD animated films. With solid (though not spectacular) animation and a phenomenal voice cast, I was very impressed … [continued]
I loved The Persistence of Memory, book 1 of David Mack’s new Star Trek trilogy, “Cold Equations,” and I was a little more lukewarm on book 2, Silent Weapons. Book 1 dug deeply into Star Trek lore, bringing Data and his creator, Dr. Noonien Soong, back front-and-center in the continuing Star Trek story. The book followed up on many ideas begun in Jeffrey Lang’s novel from a decade ago, Immortal Coil, a story that referenced almost every single previous incident in Star Trek involving an android or any other kind of machine life, and that introduced the idea of a galaxy-spanning Fellowship of Artificial Intelligence. Book 2 shifted the focus to the continuing Typhon Pact story-line, and the tense, ongoing cold war between the Federation and this new enemy alliance.
In book 3, The Body Electric, David Mack returns his focus to Data and the Fellowship of Artificial Intelligence. Building directly on story-lines begun in Immortal Coil (which really should be considered book one of this four-novel story), we see that Data is still attempting to track down the Immortal (the man known as Flint, from the original series episode “Requiem for Methuselah”), because Flint has discovered the ability to repair android brains following a cascade failure. That is what caused the death of Data’s android “daughter,” Lal (from the third season Next Gen episode “The Offspring”), and Data is convinced that the Immortal can bring Lal back to life. With the Immortal captured by a violent offshoot of the Fellowship of Artificial Intelligence, Data has no choice but to allow himself to be captured, too, with the hope that he can free the Immortal. While in their custody, he discovers the android woman, Rhea McAdams, with whom he fell in love (back in Immortal Coil), is also being held by these androids. Meanwhile, Wesley Crusher has discovered an awful enemy feared by the Travelers — a planet-sized machine wreaking havoc at the center of the galaxy. With entire solar systems being destroyed every minute, he appeals to his old allies aboard the Starship Enterprise to try to help him avert destruction on a galactic scale.
As always, Mr. Mack spins a ripping yarn. (Though I will comment that his tremendous skill with maintaining tension seemed to fail him at a few points, in my opinion. The early part of the book establishes that the machine is literally destroying whole solar systems every minute, yet as the book unfolded over the day or two that the Enterprise was dealing with the problem, I often felt that things were moving at a surprisingly slow pace considering any second it could be Earth being demolished. For example, after bringing the … [continued]
I really enjoyed The Persistence of Memory, the first book in David Mack’s new Star Trek trilogy, “Cold Equations,” so I was very excited to move on to book two. In Silent Weapons, Captain Picard and the crew of the USS Enterprise find themselves entangled in a complex web of politics between the Federation and the Typhon Pact, the new alliance of many of the Federation’s enemies. Federation President Bacco is engaged in a secret meeting on Orion with representatives of the Gorn Hegemony, members of the Typhon Pact. A peace treaty between the two powers would drive a wedge amongst the Typhon Pact powers, but are the Gorn negotiating in good faith, or are they attempting to lure the Federation and Starfleet into a trap of some sort? The already complicated situation is worsened when the peace talks are disrupted by an attempted attack by a Soong-type android.
In writing about book 1: The Persistence of Memory, I commented that while the book was set firmly in the continuity of Pocket Books’ 24th-century-set Star Trek novels, most of which have been dealing with the advent of the Typhon Pact and its repercussions on the Federation, I enjoyed that the book wasn’t focused on the Typhon Pact. The novel didn’t have the “Typhon Pact” subtitle, it had the “Star Trek: The Next Generation” heading, and with good reason — the book delved deeply into Next Generation story-lines, focusing on trying up many dangling plot-lines concerning the seemingly-deceased Data and his cyberneticist “father”, the also-seemingly-deceased Dr. Noonien Soong.
Book 2, however, is very much a “Typhon Pact” novel. While Data and Soong-type androids factor into the plot, they are not nearly as significant elements of the story as I had expected. Instead, this book is really focused on the politics of the Typhon Pact situation — especially as concerns the Gorn and the Breen — and Federation President Nanietta Bacco’s attempts to find a diplomatic solution to the rising tension. Silent Weapons is also very much a mystery novel, as Captain Picard and President Bacco attempt to sort out a byzantine scheme before their enemies can get the better of them.
Ever since his fantastic DS9 novel Warpath, I have always been impressed by Mr. Mack’s ability to build tension, and there’s a terrific sequence about mid-way through the novel in which it becomes increasingly clear that something really bad is going to happen at the peace talks. The fifty-or-so pages leading up to the event are, together, probably my favorite part of the whole novel — it’s a real white-nuckle sequence. And, when things do come to ahead, we see that once again Mr. Mack is pretty brutal … [continued]
The Persistence of Memory, book 1 of David Mack’s so-far-great new Star Trek trilogy, Cold Equations, made repeated reference to events in a previous Star Trek novel: Jeffrey Lang’s 2002 book, Immortal Coil. Before continuing on to read book two of Mr. Mack’s trilogy, I decided to track down and read Mr. Lang’s book. I am glad I did, because it is fantastic.
Set after the events of Star Trek: First Contact and during the time of conflict with the Dominion as told in the latter seasons of Deep Space Nine, the story of Immortal Coil focuses on Data, still struggling to adapt to the emotions given to him by the emotion chip installed into his system during the events of Star Trek: Generations. At the start of the novel, Dr. Soong’s wife (and Data’s metaphorical mother), Juliana Tainer (introduced in the Next Generation episode “Inheritance” and played by Fionnula Flanagan, so memorable to fans of Waking Ned Devine and Lost) has died. This forces Data to confront the hard truth that he will likely outlive every one of his friends and ship-mates. The prospect of seeing them all die, one by one, dooming him to an unending life of loneliness sends Data into an emotional crisis, one he finds himself ill-equipped to handle. Meanwhile, it turns out that Commander Bruce Maddox (introduced in the classic second season Next Generation episode “The Measure of a Man”) has been continuing to work on creating another Soong-type android. Partnering with the genius Emil Vaslovik and Reg Barclay (I love Barclay!), Commander Maddox has all but succeeded — until his lab is destroyed, Maddox is left in a coma, and their android prototype is stolen. What follows is a terrific adventure/mystery, as Data seeks to uncover the truth about the android prototype, along the way learning far more than he ever suspected about machine-life in the galaxy as well as the past of his creator/father, Noonien Soong.
Immortal Coil is an absolutely marvelous book. The book is deeply immersed in Star Trek continuity, but also totally compelling as a story in its own right. In addition to picking up on myriad dangling story threads from Star Trek: The Next Generation, Mr. Lang’s story directly deals with the events from two classic Trek episodes: “What Are Little Girls Made Of” and “Requiem for Methusaleh.” On top of that, Mr. Lang cunningly connects just about every example of machine-life ever seen in Star Trek, from the Exocomps from the Next Gen episode “The Quality of Life” to Norman from the Classic Trek episode “I, Mudd” to, in one of my favorite moments in the book, the M-5 computer from “The Ultimate Computer.” It’s … [continued]
Have you seen the fake Arrested Development shows that have been popping up around Netflix? (Mock Trial with J. Reinhold, anyone?) Brilliant!!
I have long ago lost all faith in M. Night Shyamalan, but my goodness this trailer for his new sci-fi film, After Earth, looks terrific:
“Fear is the mind-killer.” Heh heh.
Here’s a trailer for the new end-of-the-world comedy, This is the End, featuring Seth Rogen, James Franco, Jonah Hill, Jay Baruchel, Craig Robinson, Danny McBride, and a heck of a lot of other very funny people (Paul Rudd, Michael Cera, Jason Segel, Martin Starr, Mindy Kaling, and more), apparently all playing themselves:
Steve Carrell and Jim Carrey are dueling Las Vegas magicians? And the film also stars Steve Buscemi and Alan Arkin? OK, I’m in! Here’s the trailer for The Incredible Burt Wonderstone:
Well, I wrote about the first one-minute “announcement” teaser for the new Star Trek film, Star Trek into Dark Knight (ahem, I mean, Into Darkness), and I wrote about the nine-minute IMAX preview that was shown before The Hobbit. But I didn’t write about the first full official teaser trailer that was released a week or so ago:
That’s because there’s not that much more to say. There’s not much in here that’s too terribly different than what we saw in the announcement teaser. It’ll be interesting to see the full context of Pike’s ominous declaration that “there’s not an ounce of humility” in Kirk. Pike was Kirk’s biggest champion in the first film, and while I agree that the Kirk we saw in that film DIDN’T have an ounce of humility in him — he thought he was the smartest/toughest guy in the room at the beginning of the film and all the way through — it’ll be interesting to see how/why Pike changes his view. I hope this results in some growth and mellowing for this version of Kirk. The Captain Kirk I remember was definitely an alpha male, but that didn’t often tip over into outright arrogance.
Boy, for five seasons of Lost I thought Damon Lindeloff was the MAN. Then came that last season of Lost. And Prometheus. And so I think it’s good news that he will not be returning to script the Prometheus sequel (if that ever actually gets made).
I’ve got lots and lots of new movie reviews coming soon, my friends! See you back here soon!… [continued]
As excited as I was to see The Hobbit this past weekend, I was equally excited to take a gander at the first nine minutes of J.J. Abrams’ upcoming Star Trek sequel, being released this summer! Certain IMAX showings of The Hobbit had the first nine minutes of Star Trek Into Darkness attached at the beginning, and, no surprise, I made sure to catch one of those showings.
Without ruining anything for anyone, a brief description: The sequence opens playfully, with the same “binging” Star Trek sound effect that opened the 2009 Star Trek film, but this time the sound doesn’t herald a starship in space but rather something much more mundane. The next two minutes had me wondering whether this really was the Star Trek clip, as we see a husband and wife visiting a sick child in a (rather futuristic) hospital. It is here that we get a glimpse of Benedict Cumberbatch’s character. Of course, when he is asked “who are you?”, we don’t get an answer — instead, we cut away to Kirk and Bones in jeopardy on an alien planet. The rest of the nine minutes is an extremely fast-paced, frenetic sequence in which Kirk and Bones use themselves as bait to lure a group of primitive aliens away from an about-to-erupt volcano, while Spock dives into the volcano itself in an attempt to use some sort of Starfleet doohickey to de-activate the volcano and rescue the primitives. Of course, things immediately go wrong, and the sequence builds to a classic Prime Directive choice, a Star Trek II-esque no-win scenario. The clip ends on a vicious cliffhanger. It’s going to be a LONG wait until we get to see what happens!!
Overall the footage was fantastic. Visually it was stunning, made all the more-so on a huge IMAX screen. As a long-time Star Trek fan I am giddy at seeing Star Trek adventures told on a broad canvas, with a BIG budget. (Most of the classic Trek films were made on shockingly low budgets.) There are some fantastic shots in this sequence, and I found it impossible to tell where the sets and costumes ended and the CGI began, which is just as it should be. The sequence is gorgeous, it’s intense, and it’s fun, which is exactly the tone that Mr. Abrams and co. struck so well in their first Trek film.
My worry is that we’re going to see in this film the type of carelessness in the script that I felt plagued the 2009 Star Trek film. That film sacrificed science for “cool,” and as I argued back in my initial review, the over-all plot was filled with holes. Trek… [continued]
Well, I had less-than-happy things to say last week about the teaser posters for Star Trek into Dark Knight (ahem, Into Darkness) and Man of Steel. But both films have shut me up for now by unveiling pretty awesome teaser trailers, first Trek and now Man of Steel:
That’s a pretty fantastic trailer. I’m not wild about having to sit through Superman’s origin yet again, but so far it looks like it’s being presented with class, and with some new imagery. I am a bit surprised that this Zack Snyder Superman trailer is so light on action. I had assumed that the reason to hire Zack Snyder to direct your Superman picture would be so it’d be chock-full of great super-hero/super-villain punch-em-ups. But so far both trailers for Man of Steel have struck the same reverential tone as Bryan Singer’s Superman Returns. I loved Superman Returns (I know, I am the only one) so this doesn’t bother me, it’s just a bit surprising.
Here’s another awesome trailer, for Guillermo del Toro’s long-awaited next film. It seems to be about giant monsters fighting giant robots. I am there.
I am not a huge kaiju fan, but I did grow up watching Tranzor Z on American TV (a Japanese cartoon about a huge robot piloted by a young boy who controlled the robot from a control-ship in the robot’s head) so I’m down with the whole people-controlling-huge-robots-to-fight-evil sub-genre. And with del Toro at the helm, I think we’re assured of some spectacular action and weirdness.
Here’s another interesting trailer, for Oblivion:
OK, Tom Cruise is playing Wall-E and Morgan Freeman is playing Morpheus, but that could be interesting. Original sci-fi = good. From the director of Tron: Legacy = worrisome. We’ll see…
With The Hobbit so close I can taste it, here’s a great article on the ways in which J.R.R. Tolkien pulled a George Lucas and ret-conned his original version of The Hobbit after writing The Lord of the Rings.
Sticking with Peter Jackson for a moment, this is very pleasant news that he is still planning on directing a second Tintin film! (The plan was always that Steven Spielberg would direct the first film with Peter Jackson producing, and then they would swap roles for the second film. But with Mr. Jackson working on The Hobbit for the past few years, I had thought that plan had been abandoned. I loved the first Tintin so I’d be delighted to see a sequel…!)
Someone made a bookshelf shaped like the Guardian of Forever?? Why is this not in my home right now???
That’s all for me today, my friends. Sorry the Skyfall cartoons have been a bit … [continued]
Want more? Fast-forward to the very end of the Japanese trailer to see two seconds of extra footage, mimicking an ICONIC MOMENT from the FIRST Star Trek II from 1982…
David Mack’s 2006 DS9 novel Warpath made me a fan of the author’s forever (boy, I can’t believe that novel is almost a decade old!) and his epic 2008 trilogy Star Trek: Destiny (click here for my review) surely proved Mr. Mack to be one of the finest Trek authors working today. That status-quo toppling trilogy has set the shape for all the Star Trek novel stories that have followed, as various authors (including Mr. Mack himself, in the novel Zero Sum Game) have set about to explore the wonderful chaos left in the wake of Destiny. The news of a new trilogy of Star Trek novels written by Mr. Mack had me very excited, and I am pleased to report that the first book in this new trilogy, The Persistence of Memory, is absolutely stellar. (I will refer to this novel as The Persistence of Memory, rather than its incredibly wordy actual title, which seems to be Star Trek: The Next Generation: Cold Equations Book 1: The Persistence of Memory. Sheeesh!!)
Set four years after the events of the final “official” on-screen adventure of Captain Picard and co., the dreadful movie Star Trek: Nemesis, Mr. Mack’s main purpose with this new novel seems to be to make right one of the worst mis-steps of that film, and let me say, it’s about damn time. (More details in the spoiler section, below!)
Most of the recent 24th century-set Star Trek novels (such as David R. George’s magnificent Deep Space Nine-centric duology Plagues of Night and Raise the Dawn, and Una McCormack’s recent Brinkmanship) have been focused on the story of The Typhon Pact, the new interstellar alliance of several of the Federation’s fiercest alien enemies (the Romulans, the Breen, the Tholians, etc.). Intestingly enough, David Mack’s new trilogy appears not bearing the “Typhon Pact” sub-header, but rather that of “Star Trek: The Next Generation.” While Persistence of Memory certainly moves forward the story of these post-Nemesis Star Trek novels, and the book does deal heavily with a Typhon Pact race, the Breen, I loved that this novel really was focused on the cast and story-lines from Star Trek: The Next Generation.
We get to spend some excellent time with Captain Picard, Geordi, and Worf in specific, as well as with several introduced-in-the-novels members of the Enterprise E’s command team. (With Will Riker and Deanna Troi off on their own ship and series of novels, Titan, Data dead as of Star Trek: Nemesis, and Wesley off exploring the universe as a traveller as per one of the final episodes of Next Gen’s TV run, they did need some new characters!)
And boy, … [continued]
Pocket Books continues to weave a tight continuity between their Star Trek novels, particularly those set in the post-Nemesis time-frame. For the past year or so, all of these new 24th century novels have fallen under the “Typhon Pact” banner, named for the new alliance of bad-guys that threatens the Federation. It’s neat to see a new, long-term, serious threat to our heroes being developed, and I’ve really enjoyed how liberally all of the Typhon Pact books have mixed characters from the various Star Trek series. After David R. George III’s absolutely spectacular DS9-focused duology Plagues of Night and Seize the Dawn (click here for my review), I was eager to read the next installment in this continuing Star Trek saga.
In Una McCormack’s new novel Brinkmanship, the Typhon Pact’s Tzenkethi Coalition (who were so memorably developed in the afore-mentioned David R. George III’s Typhon Pact novel Rough Beasts of Empire – click here for my review of that book) again step into center stage. When they form an alliance with the (created-for-the-novel) Venette Convention to lease bases near the borders of the Federation, the Cardassians, and the Ferengi (newly allied as a result of the end of Seize the Dawn), the three allied nations immediately suspect that the Tzenkethi plan to militarize the bases to use against them. So they launch a diplomatic initiative to convince the Venette to ally themselves with the Federation and its allies, rather than with the Typhon Pact. When that fails, and the Tzenkethi send ships to deliver supplies (supplies that might be weapons) to their newly-leased starbases, the Federation demands the ships be halted before they can arrive at the bases, or there will be war.
It didn’t take me long to realize that Brinkmanship was Una McCormick’s Star Trek version of Thirteen Days, the famous story of the Cuban Missile Crisis. It’s a clever parallel, and the idea of a cold-war story set in the Star Trek universe has a lot of potency. (Certainly several classic Original Series adventures had strong Cold War parallels — I’m thinking of “Balance of Terror” in particular — and of course the final adventure of Kirk & co. in Star Trek VI was all about the post-Cold War world.) I did feel that Ms. McCormack hit that nail a little more on the head than she needed to, as a slightly subtler approach might have worked better in my mind. (When one character declares that the Tzenkethi must “turn those ships around!” I thought that was a bit too on-the-nose.)
Star Trek and movie-soundtrack fans have been spoiled over the last few years, as we’ve seen the complete, unedited scores from almost every single Star Trek film released to CD. I have previously written about James Horner’s score for Star Trek III: The Search for Spock, Leonard Rosenman’s score for Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, Jerry Goldsmith’s score for Star Trek V: The Final Frontier, Cliff Eidelman’s score for Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, Jerry Goldsmith (again)’s score for Star Trek: First Contact, and Michael Giacchino’s score for J.J. Abrams’ 2009 Star Trek.
A few months ago saw the release of a third Jerry Goldsmith Star Trek soundtrack on CD — his first project for the franchise: the complete score for Star Trek: The Motion Picture.
Mr. Goldsmith’s score for Star Trek: The Motion Picture was groundbreaking, filled with themes that are now iconically associated with the series. First and foremost, of course, is his main theme. Heard over the opening credits (and throughout the film, most notably during the minutes-long introduction of the newly-refitted Enterprise), this theme was later re-purposed as the main theme for Star Trek: The Next Generation, and Mr. Goldsmith used it extensively in all of his future Star Trek scores (including Star Trek V and the last three Next Gen films: First Contact, Insurrection, and Nemesis).
Running a close second in terms of iconic staying power is Mr. Goldsmith’s beloved Klingon theme, which was also introduced in TMP. We hear it right away, in the film’s opening sequence (in which three Klingon warships are destroyed by V’Ger). The CD’s liner notes describe the theme as a “repeating open-fifth figure… [that] establishes an aggressive, tribal atmosphere for the warlike characters.”
For the most part, each Star Trek film has had a distinct musical identity, and each composer has created new themes. James Horner created his own Klingon theme (which I happen to love) for Star Trek III, and Jerry Golsmith’s Vulcan/Spock theme for Star Trek: The Motion Picture was different than James Horner’s Vulcan/Spock theme for Star Trek II, which was different than Cliff Eidelman’s Vulcan/Spock theme for Star Trek VI, which was different that Michael Giacchino’s Vulcan/Spock theme for 2009′s Star Trek. But Jerry Goldsmith’s main Star Trek theme, and his Klingon music, both “stuck” in a powerful way. That Klingon theme was heard in Star Trek: The Next Generation and also recurred in the other Trek TV shows and future films. (Mr. Goldsmith certainly had a hand in that, as he used that Klingon theme prominently in his scores for Star Trek V and Star Trek: First Contact.)
Listening to the complete score for Star … [continued]
Arrested Development lives!! This photo of Buster from the upcoming new episodes (I’m hearing Spring 2013?) really made me laugh.
Rumblings of a Dr. Horrible sequel continue to, well, rumble. Could this actually become a reality next year? Hoping hoping hoping.
Yeahbutwha? The star of the new S.H.I.E.L.D. TV series will be the killed-off-in-The Avengers Agent Phil Coulson?? I love Clark Gregg and love the idea of him headlining a new Marvel Universe TV show, but how is this possible? Does this mean the S.H.I.E.L.D. show is set in the past? Very curious…
This is a fascinating article by screenwriter Jon Spaihts on his original ideas for Prometheus, back when the film was without-question an Alien prequel. (Mr. Spaihts apparently wrote five drafts of the film, before handing it over to Damon Lindelof for further revisions into the film that was actually shot.) Hindsight is of course twenty-twenty, but boy Mr. Spaiht’s ideas as he describes them sound far superior to the film we actually got.
I love the idea that Emily Blunt (originally in the running to play the Black Widow in Iron Man 2, and I must say I think she would have been FAR better casting that Scarlett Johansson) is rumored to now be up for a role in Avengers 2. I hope this happens.
I am fascinated by the massive HD remastering project necessary for the release of Star Trek: The Next Generation on blu-ray. (I loved the sample disc, though I haven’t yet shelled out for the complete season one, released a few months ago.) Because Next Gen was edited on videotape, each individual has had to be re-edited from the original film negatives — the scale of the endeavor just boggles my mind. Trekcore has posted a fantastic interview with the re-mastering team. Here also is an interview with the CBS producers overseeing the project.
Speaking of Star Trek: The Next Generation, last month marked the 25th anniversary of the premiere of Next Gen. Here is a fantastic interview with Ronald D. Moore (one of the key writers for Next Gen and then Deep Space Nine, and of course also the creator and show-runner of the re-launched Battlestar Galactica) on the occasion of Next Gen’s 25th anniversary.
Back in 1990, fans went crazy when they noticed an Alien skull hanging as a trophy in the Predator’s ship in Predator 2. Here is a much less-cool sort of inter-sci-fi-movie crossover. (Well, the idea does have a crazy sort of inspiration, I guess, but the problem is it just doesn’t really make any sense…)
Edgar Wright, Nick Frost, and Simon Pegg’s third film together (after … [continued]
The latest Star Trek: Enterprise novel, The Romulan War: To Brave the Storm, brings to a conclusion the finally-told story of the Earth-Romulan war that lead to the founding of the United Federation of Planets, and also serves as a finale to the series of five Star Trek: Enterprise novels written by Michael A. Martin (the first three of which were co-written by Andy Mangels). I have recently written about the last two of those books: Kobayashi Maru (click here for my review) and The Romulan War: Beneath the Raptor’s Wings (click here for my review).
To Brave the Storm is a frustrating novel. There is a lot about the book that I really enjoyed. It’s a very fast-paced read. The story is exciting and gripping, and I tore through the book’s pages at rapid speed. There are none of the digressions I complained about in Beneath the Raptor’s Wings (such as the lengthy chapters dealing with the two news-reporters Gannet Brooks and Keisha Naquase). The story is galaxy-spanning, with the stakes extremely high: nothing short of the survival of Earth and the human species itself as the Romulans’ assault intensifies and the newly-formed Coalition of Planets (the alliance formed between humans, Vulcans, Andorians, and Tellarites in the final episodes of Star Trek: Enterprise) shatters. I love how epic the story is in scope, and I appreciated that the book takes place over the span of over five years. That gives the Earth-Romulan war a believable scale. I’m glad this mysterious, much-discussed conflict in Earth’s past wasn’t depicted as having been resolved in just a few weeks.
On the other-hand, To Brave the Storm feels in many ways like the cliffs-notes version of what should have been a much-lengthier saga. I read that this book was originally planned to have been books 2 and 3 of a Romulan War trilogy, but that for reasons unknown those last two books wound up being compressed into one novel. It certainly feels that way. There’s a lot of plot in the book, but little time spent fleshing out the characters of the story and how the galactic events effect them — which should, of course, be at the heart of any good story. Why don’t we get a single scene of Captain Archer’s grief at the disappearance of his former lover Captain Erika Hernandez and the Columbia (an event — key to the trilogy Star Trek: Destiny — that seems like it happened right at the end of the events of the previous book, Beneath the Raptor’s Wing)? Why don’t we get to see Hoshi Sato’s reaction to serving on Enterprise during wartime, something which she said in … [continued]
After re-reading Michael A. Martin & Andy Mangels’ Star Trek: Enterprise novel Kobayashi Maru (click here for my review), I started right into Michael A. Martin’s follow-up novel The Romulan War: Beneath the Raptor’s Wing. This is the first book of a duology chronicling the events of the Romulan War, a momentous event in Earth’s history referred to in the Original Series but never actually depicted on-screen. In the fourth and final season of Star Trek: Enterprise, fans grew excited that the show seemed to be planting the seeds of that conflict, but the show was cancelled before they ever got to actually show it. Luckily, the authors of Pocket Books’ Star Trek novels are here to pick up those tantalizing story threads.
Whereas Kobayashi Maru was mostly build-up, Beneath the Raptor’s Wing is “the good stuff,” so it’s not surprising that I felt this was a slightly stronger novel than the previous. I’m not sure why Mr. Martin is no longer writing with Andy Mangels (with whom he had partnered on numerous previous Star Trek books). When I saw Mr. Martin’s name alone on the book’s cover, I worried there would be a noticeable change in style, but I was pleased that this book flowed very smoothly from the previous novel.
As the novel opens, the newly-formed Coalition of Planets (the alliance between Earth, Vulcan, Andor, and Tellar) is being forced to deal with a threat to all their worlds. The Romulans’ involvement in the attacks on their ships (under the guise of the Coalition planets attacking each other, because the Romulans had discovered a way to remotely take control of Coalition ships and use them to attack others, as seen in Kobayashi Maru) has been revealed, and the coalition is now embroiled in a shooting war with their unseen enemies. Unfortunately, they still have no way to defeat the Romulans’ telecapture weapon, so the Coalition finds themselves defeated at every turn by the Romulans, who are able to turn the Coalition’s own starships into weapons against them.
Beneath the Raptor’s Wing takes place over a full year. I like how the novel is stretched over a much longer time-period than Kobayashi Maru was — it helps give an epic feel to the dramatic interstellar events being depicted. I also appreciated how one of my major complaints about Kobayashi Maru seems to have been addressed. (In my review of that previous book, I commented that all of the planets in the story — Earth, Vulcan, Chronos, etc. — seemed way too close together, with Archer and Enterprise able to zip from one center-of-government to another in just days, whereas I would have expected … [continued]
Did you enjoy the new Hobbit trailer I posted last week? If you haven’t seen them, here are all of the other alternate endings to that trailer.
Uh oh. Looks like Rise of the Planet of the Apes director Rupert Wyatt has dropped out of work on the sequel, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, apparently because Fox is rushing the film to meet the release date the studio had chosen. This is not a good sign.
This past weekend, on the eve of Treme’s season 3 premiere came the good news/bad news that HBO had renewed the show for a fourth and final season (four seasons was apparently David Simon’s ideal length for the run of the show), albeit a shortened season. The exact length of this shortened fourth season, what Mr. Simon refers to as “season 3.5,” is TBD. I’m bummed the show couldn’t swing a full final season, but I’m thrilled that HBO is at least giving Mr. Simon and his team some episodes to bring their television masterpiece to a conclusion of their choosing.
Well, now I know why Robot Chicken did a DC Comics special this year, rather than a fourth Star Wars one. It’s because Seth Green and many of the rest of the Robot Chicken gang are working on a whole new Star Wars parody show, Star Wars Detours. This first trailer is funny, though I’m not sure why this is a whole new show and not just more Robot Chicken…
Speaking of Star Wars, it looks like Episode II and Episode III will be getting a 3-D theatrical re-release in 2013. I sat out the Episode I re-release (I must admit I was a little tempted, but that film is just so bad I couldn’t see spending the money, even though I was curious about the look of the 3-D), and I’m not that much more interested in seeing Episode II. But seeing Episode III back on the big screen, and in 3-D? That just might have my ticket. But I am really waiting to see if they re-release the Original Trilogy. Any excuse to see those films on the big screen again is exciting for me, no matter how much new digital fiddling Mr. Lucas and his minions have done…
This is an interesting list of the Top 5 Best-Acted Moments in a Steven Spielberg Film. I definitely agree with numbers 5, 4, and 1, not so sure about 3 and 2…
I was already interested in Judd Apatow’s new film, This is 40, and this interview with Robert Smigel and Albert Brooks, both of whom are appearing in the film, has … [continued]
The last of the Star Trek TV series, Star Trek: Enterprise, was over-all a disappointment but the biggest tragedy of the show was that it was cancelled just as it was starting to get good. The series left a number of plot-threads unresolved. Luckily, the authors of Pocket Books’ Star Trek novels have taken it upon themselves to pick up and resolve those dangling threads in a very entertaining fashion. Christopher L. Bennett resolved the Temporal Cold War story-line (that had been an aspect of Enterprise since the show’s very first episode) in his novel Watching the Clock (click here for my review). That novel was set in the 24th century, but Michael A. Martin and Andy Mangels have been, in a series of novels, continuing the adventures of Captain Archer and the crew of the Enterprise NX-01 in the 22nd century, depicting the adventures we might have seen had the show gotten a fifth season.
In their novels Last Full Measure (which I haven’t read) The Good that Men Do (which I did read, and really enjoyed) and in Kobayashi Maru, which I have just re-read, Mr. Martin and Mr. Mangels have set about to do several praiseworthy things. First of all, they have ret-conned the ridiculous, stupid death of Trip, the Enterprise’s chief engineer, that was seen in the series’ final episode “These Are the Voyages”. Second, they have focused in on the story-line begun in the show’s fourth and final season of the first, tentative steps towards the formation of the United Federation of Planets with the creation of a new coalition between Earth, Vulcan, Andor, and Tellar. I was fascinated by that story-line in the show, and in these novels Mr. Martin & Mr. Mangels dig deeply into the politics and struggles of this burgeoning interstellar alliance. Lastly, with Kobayashi Maru in particular, they have begun telling the story that fans of Enterprise always hoped the show would eventually get to: the Romulan War hinted at in the Original Series.
I had read Kobayashi Maru when it was originally published a few years ago, but I hadn’t yet gotten to the two “Romulan War” novels written by Mr. Martin (no longer collaborating with Mr. Mangels, I’m not sure why). Before reading those two books, I decided to go back and re-read Kobayashi Maru. It’s a solid though not quite spectacular novel.
My favorite aspect of the book is its focus on interstellar politics. I love the glimpses we get into the discussions and debates between the ambassadors of the various Coalition planets, as well as the struggles and disagreements between the leaders of each individual world. I love that Mr. Martin … [continued]
So the new Star Trek film is going to be called Star Trek Into Darkness.
Really? That’s not a joke?
Ho boy, that is a bad title. I respect them from trying to shy away from the “Star Trek colon title” model that the Trek sequels had been following for a while now (Star Trek: First Contact, Star Trek: Insurrection, etc.). But making the words Star Trek be the first words in a phrase as a sort of pun is just silly. It makes the title into a lame joke, which seems like the opposite intent when one of the four words of the title is “darkness,” which seems to indicate a shift into a more serious tone. (I suppose that “darkness” could also refer to space, making Star Trek Into Darkness a sort of parallel to Gene Roddenberry’s famous original concept of the show as a “Wagon Train to the stars.” But a) that seems like I’m giving the title way more merit than it deserves, and b) it still sounds silly, and making the title of one’s big-budget action-adventure film into a dumb joke cannot be what the filmmakers really wanted to do.)
So what approach should the Trek filmmakers have taken with the title for their sequel? They couldn’t just go with numbers, since there already is a pretty famous movie called Star Trek II. Besides, numbering one’s sequels gets lame quickly. Since audiences have been conditioned to expect diminishing quality with sequels, surely the Trek filmmakers didn’t want to start down another countdown to the inevitably lame Star Trek 5.
I love what Chris Nolan’s Batman films did, creating different titles for each film rather than a numbered series. The Dark Knight is a pretty perfect sequel title, since it is not only an iconic phrase very recognizable as belonging to Batman (as is The Man of Steel, the title for the latest Superman film, and a title of which I wholeheartedly approve), but also one that is given great thematic weight due to the events of the film. When the end credits roll, you’re given a whole new perspective on the title. It’s pretty perfect. (Sadly, I don’t have quite the same amount of praise for the title of film 3, the lazily-named The Dark Knight Rises. I think it’s too similar a title to film 2, I think it has a much sillier and superficial connection to the story, and I think it was a cruel what-might-have-been tease to fans like me who would have really preferred a more direct adaptation of Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns – a title that would have worked perfectly coming after a film … [continued]
I’ve written lots about my enjoyment of the Star Trek fan film series Phase II. At a rate of about one new episode a year, the Phase II gang have been releasing extraordinarily well-made new episodes of the original Star Trek. The idea is that they’re creating the fourth season of the show that we never got because of it’s cancellation in 1979. Phase II apparently has about four episodes still in their production pipeline (filmed but not yet edited and released), but they’ve been making a lot of noise about a new direction the series will be taking after the release of the next three episodes. Fans of the fan-series got a jumping-ahead tease of that new direction with their just-released vignette, “Boldly Going”:
The early going of this new vignette is quite slow, and feels more like something made for Phase II’s production team, rather than its fans (since several of the Enterprise crew-members being mourned are actual Phase II participants who recently passed away). Still, I love the look of the newly-refitted Enterprise, a cross between the Original Series design and that of Star Trek: The Motion Picture. (Creating a hybrid version of the Enterprise was an idea that the Phase II team had floated several years ago, and then abandoned. I guess they changed their minds! I think the idea of this hybrid half-refit Enterprise is a bit of a kooky notion, since it seems clear to me that TMP suggested that the Big E had just been through a complete refit and redesign, but I can go with it.) I ADORED the transition from Original Series music to James Horner’s wonderful Star Trek II heroic theme. I was THRILLED to see the CGI realization of Arex, a character from Star Trek: The Animated Series. And I loved the transition between James Cawley’s narration to seeing Phase II’s new actor playing James T. Kirk, Brian Gross. I am far from sold on Mr. Gross’ performance (his voice is so high, it seemed very un-Kirk to me), but we’ll see how he grows into the role in future episodes. It’s nice to get a little dose of Phase II, though I eagerly anticipate their next full episode, the Klingon-focused “Kitumba.”
Meanwhile, a new fan series has emerged that is also setting out to create a fourth season for The Original Series. It’s called Star Trek Continues, and features several actors and behind-the-scenes folks formerly associated with Phase II. They’ve just released their first short film:
I think it’s super-cool that they begin by recreating the final shots of the final Original Trek episode: “Turnabout Intruder.” … [continued]
I really loved Christopher L. Bennett’s first Department of Temporal Investigations novel (click here for my review) that fleshed out the Federation’s timeline-policing agency, first seen in the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode “Trials and Tibbble-ations,” so I was excited to see the release of a follow-up novel: Forgotten History.
This new book is a sequel, but really it’s a prequel, as the novel focuses on the origins of the DTI. I love Mr. Bennett’s enthusiasm for asking the logical follow-up questions to aspects of the Star Trek shows. In this case, Mr. Bennett was clearly intrigued by the idea of how an agency like the DTI (which was used for mostly comic effect in “Trials and Tribble-ations”) might have come to be, and this wildly entertaining new novel is his attempt to answer that question.
One of the DTI agents comments, early in the book, that the beginning of most time-travel stories somehow always seems to wind up back with James T. Kirk. The origin of the DTI is no exception. In the early part of the novel, probably my favorite part of the book, Mr. Bennett retells aspects of various Original Series episodes that involved time travel. In the book, we see how Kirk’s early misadventures through time planted the seed for the necessity for a time-policing agency. But more interestingly than that, I loved how, in re-telling the stories from those Classic Trek episodes, Mr. Bennett found a way to explain away the ridiculous fake-science and inconsistencies of every single one of those early time-travel episodes.
It’s an extraordinarily fascinating and entertaining feat, and I really delighted in reading Mr. Bennett’s explanation for why, for instance, Spock might have lost his emotional control when traveling back in time through the Atavachron in the episode “All Our Yesterdays.” (The explanation given in the episode, that Spock had traveled back to before the time when Vulcans had mastered their emotions, hence he could no longer control his emotions, was totally ridiculous.) Or, for another example, Mr. Bennett’s explaining of the opening of the episode (“Tomorrow is Yesterday”) which begins with the Enterprise having (seemingly with no effort) traveled back in time to the 1960′s to observe a pivotal moment of Earth’s history. I also loved his willingness to address the totally-unexplained appearance of a duplicate Earth in “Miri” (a plot point that I still find unbelievable that it wasn’t really explained or much-discussed in that episode) or the Earth-like planet seen in “The Omega Glory” (in which the United States of America and the people’s Republic of China apparently formed just like they did on our planet, only thousands of years in the past)…
Forgotten History,… [continued]
After far, far too long a hiatus, the Deep Space Nine saga has come roaring back to the forefront of the Star Trek literary universe with David R. George’s magnificent, epic duo of novels: Star Trek: Typhon Pact Plagues of Night and Raise the Dawn.
It was the post-DS9 finale series of Star Trek novels that drew me back into the world of Star Trek novels well over a decade ago. I have written many words on this site praising the extraordinary series of post-finale novels that picked up on the many story-threads and character arcs left hanging by the end of the television series (in my opinion the greatest of the Trek television series). I have also written about how frustrated I have been by the way the DS9 series of novels has floundered in the years after David Mack’s fantastic 2006 novel Warpath. We got a few short, sub-par DS9 novels (Fearful Symmetry and The Soul Key — click here for my review), a great DS9 novel that was fairly disconnected by the main stories of the post-finale series (Una McCormack’s The Never-Ending Sacrifice – click here for my review), and several novels set years later that featured some DS9 characters but felt separate from the main DS9 storyline (I’m thinking of Ezri Dax’s story-line in the Destiny three-parter — click here for my review — and the two recent Typhon Pact novels Zero Sum Game — click here for my review — and Rough Beasts of Empire — click here for my review). Rough Beasts, in particular, was a great novel and featured several meaty DS9-centric story-lines, but because all of those novels were set several years after where the DS9 series of books had left off, they felt weirdly disconnected from the DS9 saga I’d been following for so many years. It was cool seeing DS9 characters involved in this new major series-spanning Star Trek story-line (the emergence of the Typhon Pact as a major new interstellar alliance threatening the Federation), but still somehow unsatisfying to me as a fan of Deep Space Nine.
Finally, though, FINALLY, the DS9 saga has returned in full force. David R. George’s duology isn’t given the Deep Space Nine sub-header — the two books are instead both labeled as Star Trek: Typhon Pact novels. This is appropriate, as these two novels connect and move forward the stories begun in last summer’s four-book Typhon Pact series. Just like those novels, this duology features characters from many of the Star Trek series, both the different TV shows and the various series of novels from the past decade-or-so. But make no mistake, Plagues of Night and … [continued]
After enjoying the newly-released complete soundtrack to Star Trek: First Contact, I decided to re-watch the film itself. Star Trek: First Contact terribly disappointed me when it was first released (I can’t believe that was over fifteen ago!!). It’s grown on me in the years since, and I think it’s probably the strongest of the Next Gen films. (Which indicates the low quality, over-all, of the four Next Gen films. What a tragic failure of a film franchise. But I digress.)
When First Contact was originally announced, I was overjoyed. A big-screen feature film focusing on the Borg seemed to promise the type of epic confrontation with that great group of villains that we’d never gotten to see on the small screen. (After the amazing two-parter, “The Best of Both Worlds,” we only got a few more glimpses of the Borg on Star Trek: The Next Generation, and they always seemed disappointingly small-scale.) But now, at last, we’d be getting a great Federation-versus-the-Borg story that I’d always wanted to see. (Something on-screen to match the amazing Federation-versus-the-Borg story I’d already read, in Peter David’s magnificent Star Trek novel Vendetta.)
But that’s not at all what we got with First Contact. Yes, there’s a big battle with the Borg, but it’s just two-minutes long and is quickly dispensed with at the very start of the film. Instead, the film turns into a time travel story, in which the defeated Borg try to destroy humanity by traveling back in time and disrupting the beginning of humanity’s journey to the stars and the eventual founding of the Federation: Zephram Cochrane’s first warp-flight.
Not only is that a pretty naked attempt on the part of the producers to smush together two previously-popular Star Trek story-devices, the Borg and time-travel, but it is totally contrary to the whole idea of the Borg. The Borg are great villains because they are merciless and unstoppable. They don’t strategize, they don’t scheme, they just roll over you like a bulldozer. If one Borg cube is destroyed, they wouldn’t then use a time-travel plot to destroy humans. They’d just come back with another cube, and another, and another, until the humans are defeated.
So the whole story of First Contact never made any sense to me, and always seemed like a big-cop out to the fact that, as created, the Borg really were pretty unstoppable bad-guys.
If I can put that aside, which is hard to do, there’s a lot to enjoy about First Contact. There are some great sequences of mounting terror as the Borg gradually assimilate the Enterprise, and I love the idea of the familiar Enterprise turning into a dangerous house of horrors. (Those … [continued]
There have been some very exciting Star Trek soundtrack releases over the past few months! Recently I have written about the complete soundtrack for Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, and the complete soundtrack for Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country. I also recently picked up GNP Crescendo’s complete soundtrack for Star Trek: First Contact, composed and conducted by Jerry Goldsmith. I think that First Contact has the strongest score of all the Next Generation movies (with Generations coming in a close second), so I was very excited to finally have the complete soundtrack on CD.
First Contact is Jerry Goldsmith’s third of five Star Trek film scores. He inaugurated the Trek film series with Star Trek: The Motion Picture, and then returned with Star Trek V: The Final Frontier. (Click here for my thoughts on Mr. Goldman’s score for Star Trek V.) Before First Contact, Jerry Goldsmith had never written music for The Next Generation, although actually in a way he had, since his main title music for Star Trek: The Motion Picture was used as the opening credits music for all seven seasons of Star Trek: The Next Generation. According to the wonderful-as-usual liner notes (by Jeff Bond & John Takis), Rick Berman, who oversaw all of the 24th century-set Star Trek TV shows as well as the four Next Gen movies, got connected with Jerry Goldsmith when Mr. Berman hired Goldsmith to compose the main title music for Star Trek: Voyager. Though Mr. Goldsmith had often proven to be too expensive for the low-budgeted Star Trek films, Mr. Berman and director Jonathan Frakes were set on bringing Mr. Goldsmith in to score their film. According to the liner notes, Jonathan Frakes recalled that “They made sure there was a line item in the budget to pay Jerry’s fee — that was part of the original budget of First Contact and I remember that specifically. That was how strongly Rick felt about it and I certainly shared that feeling.”
Thank goodness for that, because much of the flavor of First Contact is given to the film by the rich and epic score by Jerry Goldsmith, who was assisted by his son Joel in the score’s creation. Though I enjoy the heroic bombast of Mr. Goldsmith’s score for Star Trek V, I tend to find myself more drawn to the darker Trek scores such as James Horner’s work on Star Trek II (probably my very favorite Star Trek score) and Star Trek III, and Cliff Eidelman’s score for Star Trek VI. What’s so wonderful about Mr. Goldsmith’s work on First Contact is that it weaves together the epic and the ominous, the dark and … [continued]
Earlier this month, the Alamo Drafthouse held an event I wish desperately I could’ve been at: as part of their Summer of 1982 series of events, they screened a 35 mm print of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. (This past June 4th was the thirtieth anniversary of the release of Khan — can you believe that??) One of the writers for Badassdigest.com, Meredith Borders, had never seen Wrath of Khan before attending that screening. She’s written a marvelous love-letter to the film that encapsulates all of the reason why Khan is not only my favorite Star Trek film, but one of my all-time favorite films. (It’s definitely in my top five.) Here’s an excerpt:
I saw Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan for the first time last weekend…. It was a tremendous way to experience this movie for the first time, and I feel incredibly lucky. And holy shit, you guys. That movie destroyed me.
Here’s the thing: the only Star Trek material I’d ever seen before Khan was the J.J. Abrams movie which I quite liked. I knew these characters by their names and actors, but certainly not by who they are or what they represent. And I thought I didn’t care. So many people had recommended this film to me in the past, but none of them said the one thing I needed to hear to be convinced:
It doesn’t matter if you know anything about the Star Trek universe. The Wrath of Khan is an extraordinary movie on its own.
Well, now I know.
Here’s more from Meredith:
The action is stunning, and the effects are imaginative and aesthetically pleasing despite a limited budget. The plot is so brilliantly structured; each of the several acts builds and climaxes and resolves before seamlessly transitioning into the next act, and I was riveted until the very end. There is no fat on this movie. Every scene, every line feels crucial. But not only crucial for character development or plot advancement – every moment is entertaining. That balance of enthralling yet necessary is almost impossible to manage, and I cannot believe how well the writers and director accomplished it.
I have written about Star Trek II quite a lot on this site. Click here and here for my thoughts on the film’s blu-ray release. Click here for my series of cartoons having fun with Wrath of Khan.
Or, better yet, just go watch Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan and experience one of the great action-adventure movies ever made, never mind the Star Trek label. That’s … [continued]
Yes, this really is an enormous oil painting depicting The Death of Jennifer Sisko at Wolf 359. Love it.
I’ve really been loving the first season of Lena Dunham’s HBO show Girls. For anyone out there who is similarly digging this weird, funny show, allow me to direct you to this fabulous in-depth interview with Ms. Dunham and her fellow show-runner Jenni Konner.
I agree with pretty much every selection on this list of 15 superheroes who deserve a great reboot. I’d have the Fantastic Four as number one on my personal list.
Speaking of super-heroes: this is old, but somehow I just recently stumbled across this wonderful depiction of Peter Dinklage as Wolverine. Genius.
Parks and Recreation is my favorite comedy on TV right now. The show just wrapped up a great fourth season, and I’m pleased it was renewed for a (short) season 5. Here’s a great interview with show-runner Mike Schur on season 4.
I think it’s super-cool that, to promote the upcoming release of season 1 of Star Trek: The Next Generation on blu-ray, they’re screening two season 1 episodes in theaters around the country. I love that idea, and I wish it was something studios did a lot more of. But why oh why did they choose to show “Datalore” and “Where No One Has Gone Before”??? Urgh, those are two very weak episodes. Ordinarily I would jump at this sort of thing, but I don’t think I’m that interested in seeing those two episodes. Two bad. (For the record, if we’re picking first season Next Gen episodes — which is tough, because that first season is VERY rough — I’d have gone with “Hide and Q” and “Conspiracy.”)
Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country is one of my very favorite of the Star Trek films. (Possibly my very favorite — depending on my mood, sometimes I consider it better than The Wrath of Khan, other times a close second. Click here to witness my waxing poetic about the greatness of Star Trek VI!) One of my favorite aspects of the film — and a subtle but critically important key to its greatness — is the marvelous score by Cliff Eidelman. I was thrilled that Intrada recently released the complete score on CD.
Director Nick Meyer is responsible, pretty much single-handedly, for a huge percentage of the greatness of the Star Trek film series. He wrote and directed Star Trek II, co-wrote Star Trek IV, and co-wrote and directed Star Trek VI. Time and again, Mr. Meyer demonstrated an unswerving ability to make just the right decisions where the Star Trek films were concerned. His choice of Cliff Eidelman as the composer for Star Trek VI is just one example.
Poor Mr. Meyer had quite a few difficulties pulling off Star Trek VI for the minuscule budget offered by the studio (thirty million dollars, an astoundingly low sum for a sci-fi epic and the exact same amount that the ugly, small-scale Star Trek V had been made for two years previously). In his memoir, The View From the Bridge (click here for my review of that wonderful book), Mr. Meyer recounted his difficulty in finding a composer who could work for the small amount of money he had available to pay. ”I continued to exhaust myself trying to find ways to skin the cat. I could not afford Jerry Goldsmith to write our score; I couldn’t even afford James Horner, who had risen in prominence (and price) in the years since The Wrath of Khan.” (Mr. Meyer had hired a young James Horner to compose the score for Star Trek II, because the budget had been slashed on that sequel and he couldn’t afford to bring back Jerry Goldsmith, who had scored Star Trek: The Motion Picture. Deja vu all over again.)
Luckily, Mr. Meyer was able to connect with another talented young composer, Cliff Eidelman (who was 28 years old at the time). The two agreed on a key creative choice — that it would be fruitless to try to equal the dramatic bombast of the previous Star Trek films’ scores, and that, furthermore, such an approach wouldn’t suit the dark, somber story being told in Star Trek VI. In his fantastic (as usual) liner notes for the complete score CD, Jeff Bond notes: “From its opening bars, Eidelman’s music for Star Trek VI exhibits … [continued]
I’ve been really enjoying the releases, over the past few years, of the complete soundtracks for the original Star Trek films. (Click here for my review of James Horner’s complete score for Star Trek III: The Search for Spock, here for my review of Jerry Goldsmith’s complete score for Star Trek V: The Final Frontier, and here for my review of Michael Giacchino’s complete score for J. J. Abrams’ Star Trek.) Recently, Intrada released Leonard Rosenman’s complete soundtrack for Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home and Cliff Eidelman’s complete soundtrack for Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country. I’ll be back here soon with my thoughts on Trek VI — for now, let’s dive into Mr. Rosenman’s wonderful score for Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home.
After James Horner’s glorious scores for Star Trek II and Star Trek III, director Leonard Nimoy and composer Leonard Rosenman decided to go in a totally different direction for the soundtrack of Trek IV. To fit the lighthearted film, Mr. Rosenman produced an equally lighthearted, joyous score.
It’s a score that is unique among the Star Trek films for many ways. There are not a lot of different themes for all the different characters, as we hear in the scores of the other films (by James Horner, Jerry Goldsmith, and Cliff Eidelman). There’s no main love theme and no real “bad guy” theme (though there is an ominous motive used for the Probe). The score is also incredibly short. This complete version of the score clocks in at 40 minutes and 5 seconds long, and it includes several minutes of music that Mr. Rosenman wrote but that were not included in the finished film. Much of Star Trek IV plays without any score at all — after the crew of the Enterprise arrive in San Francisco, there’s no music whatsoever until Chekov’s run across the flight deck of the U.S.S. Enterprise aircraft carrier. It’s funny, I’ve watched Star Trek IV countless times and it’s never ever occurred to me that there is so little scoring in the film. It’s a testament to the skill and craft with which Mr. Nimoy and Mr. Rosenman spotted the music for the film, and a perfect example that sometimes a little really does go a long way.
We hear a triumphant rendition of Mr. Rosenman’s main theme for the film in the disc’s first track: “Logo/Main title.” I absolutely love the soaring, ringing main theme for this film — it sets the perfect tone of fun-filled adventure. The liner notes describe the music as “upbeat, heraldic, and heroic,” which I think sums up the main theme perfectly. It’s totally different from the nautical … [continued]
If you’ve ever watched an enjoyed Star Trek: The Next Generation, then you must read this short blog post by Wil Wheaton about his e-mail exchange with a former Next Gen castmate. So funny!!
Speaking of Wil Wheaton, this behind-the-scenes pic from Stand By Me is wonderful. Makes me want to go re-watch that spectacular film right now.
I am counting the minutes until The Avengers opens. For all the Marvel Zombies out there, this interview with Marvel Studios head Kevin Feige is full of intriguing hints at the next few years of the Marvel movie universe. It’s a good read. Also a good read: this Q & A with Joss Whedon on reddit.
So, they’re really making a sequel to the 1988 film Twins? And Eddie Murphy will play the newly-discovered third sibling to Arnold Schwarzenegger and Danny DeVito? This is a joke, right? That can’t possibly be real, right??
I had quite a lot to say about Disney’s adaptation of John Carter. (Click here for my review.) I enjoyed the film far more than the horrible reviews and terrible box-office performance would suggest, but the film had some serious problems. I cited the senseless withholding of the tragedy in John Carter’s past until late in the film as an example. It would have FAR strengthened the story and the character had the audience UNDERSTOOD the reasons for John Carter’s behavior right from the beginning. Well, FILM CRITIC HULK over on badassdigest.com had a similar reaction, and he wrote a magnificent (albeit LENGTHY) dissection of John Carter’s story problems that focuses on precisely that example. It’s a great piece about film screen-writing and narrative, and is well worth a look.
My buddy Rabbi Ethan Linden has written a great review of The Hunger Games film, which you can check out here. My review will be posted on Friday!
I really dug the “Franchise Me” (from CHUD.com) look back at the four Lethal Weapon films that just wrapped up. These articles are fantastic. Boy, I loved those Lethal Weapon films as a kid, but I haven’t seen them in years. I just haven’t had any real interest in re-watching them. Mel Gibson’s recent shenanigans haven’t helped. But reading those articles makes me wonder whether I’d still like those films if I watched them today…
Here in the long winter of our many-years-without-new-Star Trek TV shows or movies, James Cawley and his magnificent band of fellow Star Trek fans are keeping the Trek flame alive. As I’ve written about before, Star Trek: Phase II is a completely fan-made series (no one gets paid for any of their work) attempting to create, one episode at a time, the fourth season of the original Star Trek show. The production releases about one full-length episode a year, and they’ve just been getting better and better, to the point where if you stumbled across an episode of Phase II on TV late at night, you could absolutely believe it was a real Star Trek episode. The production quality is that amazing.
Phase II has just released their seventh full-length episode: “The Child.” (Watch it here or here!) This episode was written and directed by Jon Povill, and it has a fascinating history. The story was initially developed by Mr. Povill back in the 70′s for the aborted Star Trek: Phase II television series. (That series-that-never-was, from which this fan series draws its name, was intended to be a second Star Trek series starring Kirk and co. The proposed TV show was eventually abandoned in favor of the idea of making Star Trek: The Motion Picture.) Mr. Povill’s story for “The Child” was eventually used by Star Trek: The Next Generation. That version, which was credited to writers Jason Summers, Jon Povill, and Maurice Hurley, was Next Gen’s second season premiere. It’s a pretty lousy episode, and apparently Mr. Povill was (rightly) unhappy with how his original story was realized. Two decades later, he hooked up with the Phase II crew to bring something much closer to his original vision to light.
Although I’m always tremendously excited by the prospect of the release of a new Phase II episode, I can’t say that I was all that much anticipating “The Child.” The Next Gen version was so lame. It wasn’t a story I was excited to revisit. Well, I am happy to report that “The Child” is another phenomenally entertaining episode from the Phase II gang. It’s not my favorite of the Phase II episodes, but it’s marvelously well-done and FAR more watchable than the professionally-made Next Gen version.
It’s neat to see the Phase II crew tackling so many different kinds of episodes. Their previous episode, “Enemy: Starfleet!” was a fast-paced action adventure. ”The Child” is something else entirely, a much slower character study and sci-fi mystery. But I wasn’t at all bored — no, I was quite taken by the episode. The main story (in which the Enterprise’s Deltan officer, Lt.
I own every episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation on DVD. So does that make me a sucker for purchasing Star Trek: The Next Generation: The Next Level, a three-episode sampler blu-ray disc of the series’ conversion to high definition? Well, probably. But I just couldn’t resist checking out the series’ much-ballyhooed blu-ray high-definition upgrade. And I was not disappointed!!
Some back-story: Many wondered whether Star Trek: The Next Generation would ever see a blu-ray release, and if it did, what sort of a mess it would look like. Because while the show was shot on film (which of course contains the resolution necessary to look dynamite on blu-ray), Next Gen was edited on video and the special effects were created on video in standard-def. To up-convert that standard-definition footage would most likely look, well, probably pretty darn dismal. So CBS and Paramount have decided to take a radically unprecedented step.
A team lead by Michael and Denise Okuda (vidual effects geniuses who have been involved with Star Trek since all the way back to “Encounter at Farpoint,” the pilot episode of Next Gen) have gone back to the original film elements (which, thank heavens, have all been preserved and meticulously archived by Paramount) to re-edit all of the episodes from the ground up and re-composite every single one of the visual effects sequences (every outer-space shot, every transporter beam, every phaser, etc. etc. etc.) in high definition. The amount of work that will be needed to do that for each and every one of the 176 episodes of Next Gen is mind-boggling. (For more information on this process, click here for a great interview with Michael and Denise Okuda or here for a detailed blog entry by Michael Okuda.)
Trek fans know that The Original Series was already released on blu-ray a few years back. That was apparently a much easier job because the episodes were shot on film and edited on film, meaning that the completed, edited episodes could then be scanned at high-def for the blu-ray release. (That’s in contrast to Next Gen that was edited on VIDEO and so the actual episodes only existed in standard-def.) Before the blu-ray release, the Okudas were also involved in a project to upgrade the Original Series episodes with new, snazzy CGI effects. (These revamped episodes were shown in syndication for about a year, before the blu-ray release.)
For that project, the Okudas and their team had carte blanche to create entirely new visual effects. So whereas an episode from 1967 might have used the same stock shot of the U.S.S. Enterprise five times, for the revamped versions those shots would be replaced with five new, … [continued]
I’ve gotta open with Alan Moore’s article about his feelings on the Guy Fawkes mask from V for Vendetta (his brilliant comic book series, published in 1982) is now being used by protesters of the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement. The piece is a fascinating read (and if any of you haven’t read the brilliant V for Vendetta, do so immediately!! The film adaption is OK, but the original graphic novel is genius.).
Alan Sepinwall on Hitfix posted an article in honor of The Simpsons’ 500th episode (a ludicrously incredible milestone) asking fans to pick their favorite Simpsons episode. The article currently has nine pages of comments and is still going strong. You’ve got to read them — it’s a wonderful trip back down through memory lane, remembering classic Simpsons episodes. By the way, my pick? ”Homer the Heretic” (in which Homer decides not to go to church and winds up having the best day of his life, then starts his own religion, then finds himself trapped in a fire from which he must be rescued by his friends of other faiths, “be they Christian, Jewish, or… miscellaneous.” ”Hindu! There are seven hundred million of us!”).
And if you’re looking to kill any MORE time, check out Mr. Sepinwall’s follow-up post asking fans to pick their favorite Simpsons quote: “Pick Only One Favorite Simpsons Quote? That’s unpossible!” That article has NINETEEN pages of comments and they’re all so much fun to read through. My favorite Simpsons quote? ”Man alive! There are men alive in here!”
Capone at AICN has posted the start of a fascinating interview with David Wain. I am very excited for his new film, Wanderlust, starring Paul Rudd and Jennifer Aniston. Here’s the red-band trailer and here’s the green-band trailer. They’re quite different and both are very, very funny. (I especially love the green band trailer for including lots and lots of Party Down’s Ken Marino, who co-wrote the film with Mr. Wain.)
If you have eight minutes and forty-two seconds to spare, I encourage you to check out this video montage of Nic Cage’s 100 greatest quotes.
I’ve been watching this slightly-extended version of The Avengers’ Super Bowl spot a LOT lately. I REALLY hope this movie is good! In all of these trailers it still looks pretty small-scale to me, which has me worried… and I think the new versions of both Thor’s and Captain America’s costumes both seem a little more “costumey” and less real than the versions in their individual films. Still, it’s nice to finally see a glimpse of the extra-terrestrial bad-guys (please let them be Skrulls please let them be Skrulls) and that circular pan of all the heroes … [continued]
Now that’s what I’m talking about!! I just finished reading David Mack’s novel Rise Like Lions, the phenomenal, long-awaited conclusion to the Mirror Universe storyline begun back in the second-season of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and continued in several terrific Star Trek novels which have been published in the last half-decade or so.
But let’s back up. Back in 2006, David Mack wrote the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine novel Warpath. It was a magnificent novel, a fast-paced, rip-snorting adventure yarn that really shook up the post-finale DS9 literary universe Pocket Books had been crafting. It was one of the best Star Trek novels I’d ever read.
And also one of the most frustrating.
A huge chunk of the novel was a depiction of some-sort of alternate-world dream of the near-death Kira Nerys. It was hinted, at the end, that this was a vision given to Nerys by the Prophets, and at the time I loved this oblique glimpse at what story-lines were lying ahead in the Deep Space Nine world. As the years have gone bye, though, that glimpse given in Warpath has grown more and more frustrating to me, as those story-lines have not yet been continued. Warpath is also notable for its absolutely brutal cliffhanger ending. At the time, I was delighted by the boldness of the ending, but here again that delight eventually grew to frustration as the months and eventually years passed and no new DS9 novel ever appeared. (The cliffhanger was eventually resolved in Olivia Wood’s 2008 & 2009 novels Fearful Symmetry and The Soul Key.)
But the reason I’m bringing up Warpath is because of the other twist found in the novel’s closing pages. As the events reached their climax, suddenly the story we were following shifted direction, and for a few pages we were taken back into the Mirror Universe and witnessed the death of a major character.
I’m not sure whether this was all planned before Warpath or not, but the next few years gave us several new Pocket Book Star Trek novels that explored the Mirror Universe. There was the excellent duology Glass Empires and Obsidian Alliances (click here for my review), each of which contained three novellas which explored the history of the Mirror Universe, from the time of Enterprise to the days immediately after the first crossover (in the Original Series episode “Mirror, Mirror”), to the post-DS9 finale time-period. That duology was followed by a short-story collection called Shards and Shadows (click here for my review), which further explored the back-story of the Mirror Universe. The key story, to me, in all of those novels was David Mack’s novella The Sorrows … [continued]
Let’s kick the day off with a wonderful analysis on AICN about Why Star Trek II Works So Well. The piece is a wonderful love-letter to Star Trek II (which happens to be one of my very favorite films of all time), and it’s a very thoughtful analysis of why the film is so ridiculously awesome, even thirty years later. (THIRTY years! That’s crazy, right??)
Speaking of Star Trek, I’m starting to get excited about the high-def upgrade of Next Gen for blu-ray. This before/after comparison video is pretty staggering. (Follow the site’s advice and expand the video to full screen, so you can get the full effect.) If Farpoint looks that good, I can’t wait for the later seasons. (And Deep Space Nine!!!)
Did you know there was an alternative, rejected main song for Quantum of Solace? And it was sung by Shirley Bassey?? Give this a listen:
That is a fun case of cinematic might-have-been. ”Where is the solace that I crave?” That makes me laugh and laugh.
I love movie posters. I have quite a few hanging in my home! So I really enjoyed this look at the top ten movie posters of 2011.
Speaking of cinematic might-have beens… I enjoyed the first six-episode season of The Walking Dead, but for some reason all of the season two episodes are still sitting unwatched in my DVR. Maybe show-runner Frank Darabont’s outster the news of all the apparent behind-the-scenes turmoil has cooled my interest. This detailed letter from Mr. Darabont to AICN reveals a major story that Mr. Darabont was planning that will now never come to be, and it’s a damn shame.
Is there a possibility that there might actually be a Party Down movie??? I highly doubt it, but man would that be great. Click here for my reviews of season one and season two of this brilliant, tragically cancelled-before-its-time TV show.… [continued]
In the new novel by James Swallow, seven years have passed since the events of Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country. The Klingons and the Federation have begun to take their first, tentative steps towards a lasting peace. However, there still exist many, on both sides of the Neutral Zone, who have no interest in seeing peace emerge between these two intergalactic powers. When a series of devastating terrorist attacks wreak havoc across Klingon space, it seems that the last surviving member of the Chang/Cartwright conspiracy may hold the clue to unravelling the identity of the terrorists: Valeris, formerly of Starfleet, now in prison with little possibility of parole.
I adore Star Trek VI, so right away this novel had my interest piqued. The years immediately following the final adventure of the original Enterprise haven’t been that well mined , so I really enjoyed this look at how the Klingon/Federation political situation progressed following the ending of Trek VI. Mr. Swallow digs deeply into the Star Trek mythos to present a compelling tale of intergalactic espionage that addresses several meaty story threads left hanging by Trek VI.
The focus on Valeris is long overdue. Though it wasn’t all that risky of the makers of Star Trek VI to make the one new character be the traitor, Nick Meyer’s sharp script and Kim Cattrall’s tart performance combined to create a very memorable character. I enjoyed having the chance, reading Cast No Shadow, to peel back some of the layers of this enigmatic Vulcan. It’s fascinating (ha ha) to dig into Valeris’ point of view, and I enjoyed the novel’s periodic flashbacks into Valeris’ history. We learn how and why she became involved in Admiral Cartwright’s conspiracy, and in the devastating final flashback, we uncover the source of her un-Vulcan-like enmity for the Klingons.
Although he is featured extremely prominently on the cover, Spock is not that central to the novel’s story. This was a big disappointment to me. I assume that Mr. Swallow cannot control the content of his book’s cover art, but when I pick up a novel with Spock and Valeris on the cover, I assume that the novel is going to focus on the relationship between Spock and Valeris! While their contentious relationship is addressed, it is not at all the novel’s focus.
Instead, in addition to telling Valeris’ story, the novel also focuses on the tale of a young Elias Vaughn’s first mission in the field. Devoted fans of Pocket Books’ Star Trek novels of course know that Vaughn, a created-for-the-novels character, was a key player in the post-finale Deep Space Nine novels. Several Trek novels, over the years, have explored the long-lived Vaughn’s early history … [continued]
Check out this sneak peek at Game of Thrones season two! AARRGH, I can’t believe we have to wait until September! (But I’m intrigued by the rumor that seasons 3 and 4 will shoot back-to-back and will comprise a two-season adaptation of the third book, A Storm of Swords.)
Speaking of waiting, looks like Star Trek 2 (or whatever they’re gonna call it) finally has a release date: May 17, 2013. That’s a long four years after the 2009 release of the first (or eleventh, depending on how you’re counting) film (which was itself delayed from its originally scheduled release in December, 2008). Here’s hoping the film is good after such a long wait, and that Paramount can get the third (or thirteenth!) film rolling with a little less down-time…
While we’re on the subject of Star Trek, check out these fascinating early-draft versions of the famous “space… the final frontier” opening monologue.
I love Devin Faraci’s recent piece on the increasingly crazy Frank Miller. Click here to read The Devin’s Advocate: Frank Miler is an Asshole, but I Still Like His Work. I wholeheartedly agree.
Interesting the hear that David Simon feels that four seasons is his ideal length for Treme. God, I love that show. Season three is definitely happening, so I really hope HBO give sMr. Simon and his team their desired fourth and final season.
There’s a new trailer out for John Carter (of Mars). I wish I was more excited about this film. The trailer looks absolutely gorgeous, but I am really not loving the glimpses we’ve seen of Taylor Kirsch so far in the lead role. Maybe I am letting bad feelings from his appearing in X-Men Origins: Wolverine (as Gambit) get to me. Or maybe it’s that Disney’s butchering of the title (it should be called John Carter OF MARS!!!) that has me uneasy. We’ll see. I’m crossing my fingers big-time on this one.
Speaking of movies coming out this spring, Joss Whedon’s film Cabin in the Woods looks like it’s finally, FINALLY getting released after sitting on the shelf for two years. Love the new poster. I don’t really know anything about this film other than the fact that Joss Whedon directed it, but that’s enough to get my butt in the theatre. (UPDATE: A trailer was just released and now that I’ve watched it I know MORE about this film than I wish I did!! BEWARE SPOILERS, and watch at your own peril.)
A few years ago, Pocket Books released a terrific two-book series entitled Star Trek: Myriad Universes. (Read my review here!) Each book featured three novellas, each written by a different author, and each featuring a fascinating “what-if” tale set in a different era of the Star Trek universe. These were stories set in alternate universes, in which the events of Star Trek’s history (as depicted in all of the movies and TV shows) unfolded differently. That two-book series was phenomenal, containing some of my very favorite Star Trek stories from all of Pocket Books’ novels. So I was absolutely thrilled when I heard that a new Myriad Universe collection, once again featuring three novellas, was being released last year. It took me longer than I thought to get to reading the book (I’m a busy guy!), but I finally was able to read it last month. While this new collection, Shattered Light, isn’t quite the home-run that the original two books were, it’s still a supremely entertaining series of stories.
The Embrace of Cold Architects, by David R. George III — In this universe, William Riker, in command of the Enterprise following Captain Picard’s abduction by the Borg and transformation into Locutus, is able to defeat the Borg by using the Enterprise’s deflector array to destroy the attacking cube, killing Captain Picard and all the Borg on-board. That’s a dramatic hook for the story, but the novella’s focus is actually on another change: that Data’s attempt to create a daughter, Lal (which we saw in the TNG third season episode “The Offpsring”) was delayed by several months, so that shortly after Lal’s creation, Data found his creator, the cybernetics genius Dr. Noonien Soong (as seen in the early fourth season TNG episode “Brothers”). Dr. Soong is able to prevent the cascade failure in Lal’s positronics brain, thus saving her life. But as we saw in “The Offspring,” many in Starfleet grow worried by the presence of a second android on-board the Enterprise, and an Admiral from the Daystrom institute (an advanced Starfleet research facility) begins pressuring Captain Riker to remove Lal from the Enterprise and bring her to their facility. I think David R. George III is one of the very best authors working on Star Trek novels these days, so I was really excited for his contribution to this collection. And The Embrace of Cold Architects starts out quite strongly, as we follow the ripple effects of Lal’s presence — and Picard’s loss — through the events of the early fourth season of The Next Generation. But, ultimately, this novella wound up being my least favorite story in the collection. It ends incredibly abruptly, … [continued]
Sign me up.… [continued]
It’s difficult for me to believe, but Star Trek is 45 years old! On September 8th, 1966, NBC aired the first episode of Star Trek, “The Man Trap.”
In celebration of Star Trek‘s 45th anniversary, I’m posting again this terrific video that was actually created for the 40th anniversary back in 2006. It’s a look back at the history of Trek…
Nothing’s wild, and the sky’s the limit…… [continued]
Click here for a wonderful look at the films of the Coen Brothers. This fellow re-watched all of the Coen Brothers’ films (which sounds like a wonderfully fun project, by the way), and writes about his impressions of their body of work. It’s an impressive article, and I love his assessment of the Coens’ wonderful characters, who “verge on caricature yet have a vivid particularity that makes them hard to forget and easy to return to.” That’s a good a description as I have ever seen!
I love this look at Six Comedians We Wish Would Return to Stand-Up! I wholeheartedly agree. (There are some wonderful video clips embedded in that article.)
This fascinating oral history of the very short-lived Dana Carvey Show makes me want to track down those episodes and watch them immediately.
I am a big, big fan of Dave Sim’s sprawling comic book epic Cerebus, the unprecedented “300 issue limited series.” It gets pretty crazy (and, at times, pretty unreadable) near the end (I am a subscriber to the theory that Dave Sim went insane while working on his magnum opus), but the vast swaths of the story that are good are REALLY REALLY GOOD, some of the finest comic books ever created. It’s fun to see some writers giving Cerebus some much-deserved attention these days. Click here for a lengthy excerpt from the Comics Journal’s recent look back at the series, and I also am really enjoying the series of pieces running at comicbookresources.com, written by a writer who is reading through the complete epic for the first time. Click here for part one, and here for the even stronger part two. Although I personally choose to believe that the Cerebus story ends on the final page of Rick’s Story, I appreciate this author’s debunking the commonly-held notion that the last hundred issues of Cerebus are entirely without merit. He writes, and I agree, that it’s only in the series’ final stretch of issues — Dave Sim’s bizarre exegesis of the Torah — when the comic really becomes unreadable.
This is a great piece by A. O. Scott of the New York Times about three summer 2011 movies worth debating. I’m sad to say I haven’t seem any of them yet, but this wonderful article reinforces the desire I already felt to try to track all three films down as soon as possible. (The fact that I haven’t seen Terrence Malick’s Tree of Life but I have seen Cowboys and Aliens makes me feel a little sad inside.)
When Star Trek: Enterprise was cancelled after four seasons, it left several story-lines hanging. Many Star Trek fans, myself included, had been hoping that Enterprise would one-day chronicle the events of the Romulan War hinted at in episodes of the Original Series. (And, indeed, several episodes from Enterprise’s fourth and final season hinted that the show might indeed be heading in that direction.) Fortunately, Michael A. Martin (along with, on the first novel, Andy Mangels) has been telling the story of the Romulan War in a series of Star Trek novels. (Click here for my review of the first novel in that series, Kobayashi Maru, and I’ll have reviews of the other two novels in the series coming soon.)
But there was an even bigger story-line left painfully unresolved at the end of Star Trek: Enterprise. Ever since the show’s pilot episode, “Broken Bow,” we’d been hearing about a mysterious Temporal Cold War, apparently being fought throughout time by time-travelers from the future. Factions of this Temporal Cold War were repeatedly seen to be interfering in events of Captain Archer’s time, but to what end was never clear. We saw some apparently heroic characters (Daniels, who appeared to be from a future Starfleet), and apparently villainous characters, such as the mysterious figure glimpsed throughout the series whose identity was never revealed (leading to his being nicknamed “Future Guy” by many fans). I write “apparently” since various episodes offered sometimes contradictory information as to who was really trying to do what. (At one point Future guy helped Captain Archer, and at other times Daniels appeared to be less than totally truthful.)
I have been waiting for the Star Trek novels to address this enormous dangling story-line, and I am very pleased to report that Christopher L. Bennett has done so with gusto in his latest novel Star Trek Department of Temporal Investigations: Watching the Clock. (It’s a lengthy, sort of confusing title, but I gather that the hope is that there will be future installments of novels, under the Department of Temporal Investigations heading. I join in this hope!)
The Department of Temporal Investigations is, of course, an agency seen in only one single Star Trek episode: the Deep Space Nine episode “Trials and Tibble-ations,” in which Sisko & co. accidentally travel back in time to the events of the Classic Trek episode “The Trouble with Tribbles.” In that episode, we were introduced to DTI agents Lucsly and Dulmur, who were sent to investigate the time-travel events on behalf of their department, which was the Starfleet agency tasked with protecting the integrity of the time-line. Agents Lucsly and Dulmur didn’t have a lot of screen-time, but they … [continued]
Last spring I wrote a very positive review of the latest Star Trek: Phase Two episode, Enemy: Starfleet!, which was written by Dave Galanter. (If there are any Star Trek fans reading this who have not yet watched this awesome completely fan-made episode, you should do so immediately!) After reading the review, Mr. Galanter was kind enough to drop me a line. In the course of our e-mail exchange, he asked if I had read his latest Star Trek novel: Troublesome Minds. I admitted that I had not. Though I’d purchased it about a year ago, I kept putting aside this stand-alone adventure, set during the Enterprise (no bloody A, B, C or D)’s original five-year mission, in favor of the Trek novels that were pushing the Star Trek story forward with adventures set following the events of the 24th century-set movies and TV shows.
But after that e-mail exchange, I decided that I should really find the time to give Troublesome Minds a read. I’m really glad I did, because it’s a ripping Star Trek yarn and a really great novel.
In his e-mails to me, Mr. Galanter described Troublesome Minds as the Star Trek episode he’d always wanted to write. That’s a great description of the novel. I could totally see it as an episode. (And damn, would it make a GREAT Phase Two episode! Are you listening, Phase Two folks??) The story is a completely stand-alone adventure, unburdened by any involvement with long-running story-lines. It requires no detailed knowledge of other Star Trek novels or adventures. It’s just a fun, fast-paced piece of speculative fiction, with some great sci-fi concepts, tough moral dilemmas for Kirk & co., and some tense action. As I said, it would have made a terrific episode!
Captain Kirk and the Starship Enterprise respond to a distress call and rescue the life of an alien named Berlis, whose ship was about to be destroyed. This simple act of kindness turns incredibly complicated, however, when it is discovered that Berlis belongs to a race of powerful telepaths known as the Isitri. Every several generations, an Isitri emerges whose telepathy is so powerful that, without intending to do so, he/she can control the minds of every other Isitri he/she comes in contact with, thus mentally enslaving an entire race until that Troublesome Mind dies or is killed. Berlis is just such a mind. Will Captain Kirk and the Enterprise crew follow the wishes of the Isitri ruling council, and murder the man they just saved? Or will they allow him to return home, and thus enslave an entire planet for a generation?
It’s a wonderfully inventive, thorny sci-fi dilemma that Mr. Galanter has … [continued]
Although I was a bit lukewarm on the first two novels in the four-book Star Trek crossover series, Typhon Pact, I loved the third installment (Rough Beasts of Empire, by David R. George III), and having just read the fourth and final installment, Paths of Disharmony, I am pleased to report that Dayton Ward stuck the landing. I thought this novel was a terrific Next Generation book in its own right, and also a compelling finale to this four-novel series.
Although I have complained, repeatedly, over the past few years about the dearth of new Deep Space Nine novels, I was thrilled by how DS9-centric this Typhon Pact series has been. The first novel focused on Ezri Dax and Julian Bashir, the third novel focused on Benjamin Sisko, and in Paths of Disharmony I was thrilled to discover that we were finally returning to the story-thread that was so-prominent in the early post-finale DS9 novels: the reproductive problems afflicting Andorian society (with fewer and fewer Andorian children being born each year), and the personal journey of young Andorian Starfleet officer Thirishar Ch’Thane.
It’s been many long years since Shar has appeared in a Star Trek novel (I believe his last appearance — certainly his last PROMINENT appearance — was in Worlds of Deep Space Nine: Andor: Paradigm, by Heather Jarman, from back in 2004). In the timeline of the Trek novels, it has been four years since the events of Paradigm. Shar has been working on Andor, and the need to solve his people’s reproductive crisis has only been exacerbated by the planet-wide destruction wreaked by the Borg during their invasion of Federation Space (in the series Star Trek: Destiny).
In this new novel, Andor’s story intersects with that of the growing Typhon Pact storyline. Captain Picard and the crew of the Enterprise E are sent to Andor to help ensure security for a conference of scientists working to solve the Andorian reproductive crisis. But Andor is still reeling from the havoc caused by the Borg attack, and the population is in turmoil over the various scientific solutions being proposed in order to attempt to solve their reproductive issues. Anti-Federation sentiment and anti-alien hatred collide with fears over scientific tinkering with the Andorian genetic code leading to the possible eradication of everything that makes Andorians, as a species, unique, and though the current Andorian Presider (their top governmental official) hopes that the conference will help spark a scientific breakthrough, the gathering also has the potential to turn into a flashpoint for violence.
In addition to complaining about the dearth of recent DS9 novels, I have also written repeatedly about how I felt the … [continued]
I have had to reevaluate my opinion of Adam Carolla after listening to his marvelous interview (well-over an hour long) with the great Albert Brooks. This is a MUST-LISTEN, friends.
Attorney General Eric Holder has challenged David Simon to produce a sixth season of The Wire?? That is awesome.
This expose on the dramatically underlit images found at many big-chain Boston-area movie theaters is very frustrating to read. Every time I read about an amazing theatre chain like the Alamo Drafthouse, I wish there were better movie theatres in my area.
This is a great article about when to show Star Wars to one’s kids. I’m going to face this dilemma in a few years! The follow-up piece is great, too: when to show the Indiana Jones films to one’s kids!
Io9 has weighed in on the 10 Best Star Trek Episodes. It’s an interesting list. I’m thrilled by how well-represented Deep Space Nine is, but having an episode of Voyager on the list really nullifies any credence the writer might have. And “The Void” of all episodes? Decent, but I could name about a hundred Trek episodes from the other series that are superior. For my own list of my favorite Star Trek episodes of all time, click here.
I am very excited by the report that the phenomenal comic book series 100 Bullets just might become a TV show on Showtime! 100 Bullets is one of the finest comic book series of recent memory. Click here for my thoughts on the series. Now, I’m not holding my breath for this proposed TV show to actually happen, but damn would it be cool…
In my review of Super 8 last week, I mentioned that I felt the monster in the film (directed by J.J. Abrams) was quite similar to the monster from Cloverfield (produced by J.J. Abrams). Don’t agree with me? Then check this out. Case closed, I think!… [continued]
Now this is more what I’m talking about! David R. George III’s new Star Trek novel, Rough Beasts of Empire, is by far the strongest installment in the Typhon Pact series so far, and one of the best Trek books I’ve read in years.
This third Typhon Pact novel only enhanced the comment I made in my review of the second book, Seize the Fire by Michael A. Martin: that this Typhon Pact series was not turning out to be at all what I had expected. Since the idea of the Typhon Pact — an alliance made up of most of the United Federation of Planet’s major adversaries — was established a few years ago in A Singular Destiny by Keith R.A. DeCandido and Losing the Peace by William Leisner, I had assumed that this four-novel Typhon Pact series would now tell the story of the Pact’s confrontation with the Federation.
But having read three of the four books of the series, it hasn’t turned out that way at all. The novels haven’t been about a conflict between the new Typhon Pact and the United Federation of Planets. (The Typhon Pact was locked in an interstellar cold war with the Federation at the start of the series, and remain exactly in the same place here at the end of book three.) Rather, the first three novels have focused on the character arcs of various characters from across the Star Trek series (Julian Bashir, William Riker, Spock, and Benjamin Sisko) while also exploring the cultures of the various Typhon Pact races.
It’s certainly not the fault of the authors that I had different (though I think reasonable) expectations for what the series would be. And, indeed, I don’t mind at all that the novels have been more about character and world-building. My complaints are more that the first two novels in the series were not all that exciting. But while I was somewhat lukewarm about both Zero Sum Game and Seize the Fire, this third novel, Rough Beasts of Empire, is a real winner.
First of all, I was very pleasantly surprised that, despite the Typhon Pact label on the book’s cover, this novel is actually the meatiest Deep Space Nine focused novel to have been published in YEARS, and easily the best DS9 novel since David Mack’s Warpath from back in 2006. (I did love Una McCormack’s The Never-Ending Sacrifice, but that novel didn’t advance any of the main DS9 story-lines — which was also a complaint I had about Zero Sum Game which, despite featuring Dr. Bashir and Ezri Dax, in my opinion frustratingly skirted all of the big lingering DS9 stories.) But … [continued]
As a big fan of Star Trek and of movie soundtracks, I’m starting to get spoiled. In the last few years we’ve seen the release, on lovely new CD sets, of the complete versions of James Horner’s amazing scores for Star Trek II and Star Trek III (click here for my review), as well as Michael Giacchino’s complete score for J.J. Abram’s Star Trek (click here for my review). Then, a few months ago, Jerry Goldsmith’s complete score for Star Trek V was released on a double-CD set.
Jerry Goldsmith was one of the finest film composers who ever lived. He composed the scores for a veritable boatload of famous, successful films, including Planet of the Apes, Chinatown, Alien, Poltergeist, Gremlins, Hoosiers, and so many more. Star Trek V marked Mr. Goldsmith’s return to the world of Star Trek — he had composed the score for Star Trek: The Motion Picture – and Mr. Goldsmith would go on to score three of the four Next Gen movies (Dennis McCarthy scored Star Trek: Generations).
Say what you will about the quality of Star Trek V (and I’ll say that I think it pretty much stinks), Mr. Goldsmith composed a terrific score. It’s rousing and heroic and a great return to classic Star Trek adventuring. ”Return” is an interesting word, as Mr. Goldsmith’s work for Star Trek V would mark something of a turning point for Star Trek, musically. Mr. Goldsmith composed a number of iconic themes for Star Trek: The Motion Picture, including the main title theme (which was then used as the main theme for the opening credits of Star Trek: The Next Generation) and his theme for the Klingons. But James Horner’s scores for Trek II and III didn’t utilize any of Mr. Goldsmith’s material. Instead, Mr. Horner composed his own themes for Kirk and the Enterprise, and he also wrote his own themes for the Klingons when they appeared in Star Trek III. But now in Star Trek V, Mr. Horner returned to his music from The Motion Picture, and (with the exception of Cliff Eidelman’s wonderfully dark, ominous music for Star Trek VI) those themes would come to define Star Trek musically for many years to come. Whenever you heard a Klingon musical theme playing over an appearance by the bumpy-headed warriors in a future Trek TV show or movie, they never used James Horner’s theme — they’d always use Mr. Goldsmith’s.
Now, personally, I prefer James Horner’s scores for Star Trek II and III over Mr. Goldsmith’s work in Star Trek V. I’m not a musician, but as a fan I have always found Mr. … [continued]
I’m finally ready to catch back up with this year’s four-book series of crossover Star Trek novels from Pocket Books: The Typhon Pact. This series represents the latest installments in Pocket Books’ exciting efforts from the past few years to push the 24th century Star Trek adventures forward past their last on-screen appearances (the movie Star Trek: Nemesis and the ending of Deep Space Nine and Voyager). In Keith R.A. DeCandido’s excellent 2009 novel A Singular Destiny (read my review here), we learned that a number of the Federation’s deadliest enemies — the Romulans, the Tholians, the Gorn, the Breen, and others — had banded together to form a new interstellar alliance called the Typhon Pact. This was obviously going to lead to trouble for our heroes, particularly with the Federation still reeling from the decimation wrought by the Borg invasion (chronicled in David Mack’s also-excellent 2008 trilogy of novels, Star Trek: Destiny — read my review here). The new Typhon Pact series focuses on characters from many of the different Star Trek series, and explores the repercussions of the creation of this new alliance.
Book one of the series, Zero Sum Game, was DS9-centric. It followed Julian Bashir and Ezri Dax (who now commands her own starship, the USS Aventine) on a mission to infiltrate the Breen. (You can read my review of Zero Sum Game here.) After a few months away, I’ve finally found the time to move on to book two of the series: Seize the Fire,which is written by Michael A. Martin. This novel shifts the focus to Captain Riker and the crew of the USS Titan, and explores the society of the Gorn.
At the start of the novel, a terrible natural disaster completely destroys Sazssgerrn, the only planet in the Gorn Hegemony on which their warrior caste were able to lay their eggs. While the Gorn political structure struggles to find a solution to this species-threatening problem, several radiation-damaged Gorn warriors who survived the planetary catastrophe begin forming their own mad plans for the future of their race. When they discover a massive, ancient structure that appears capable of terraforming an entire world in an instant — just like the long-lost Genesis technology could — they appear to have found the instrument by which to achieve their plans. Unfortunately, in eco-sculpting an entire planet, this device would also completely destroy any life already existing on that world. When the Gorn attempt to test this new device on the inhabited planet of Hranrar, only Captain Riker and the USS Titan appear to stand in the way of the annihilation of the millions of Hranrarii.… [continued]
Some of the earliest Star Trek books I ever read as a kid were written by Margaret Wander Bonanno (one of these days I really have to go back and re-read Strangers from the Sky to see if I still like it as much as I did back then). After the mess with the novel Probe (which is a fascinating and horrifying tale — head to Margaret Wander Bonanno’s web-site and click on “Probe: The Novel I didn’t Write: The Whole Story” on the right-hand side of the page for all the gory details), though, Ms. Bonanno was unable to continue writing Trek novels. Thankfully, a decade later, editor Marco Palmieri (a phenomenal editor of the Star Trek line who was sadly fired himself a few years ago) brought her back into the fold. Her first new novel, Catalyst of Sorrows, was OK, but her next book — an exploration of the life of the Christopher Pike called Burning Dreams — was phenomenal. When I heard that she was working on a new novel that would explore what happened to Lt. Saavik after her brief appearance in Star Trek IV, I was very excited.
The main story of Star Trek: Unspoken Truth is set in the days following the events of Star Trek IV. But the novel continually jumps around in time, allowing us to get glimpses of Saavik’s terrible childhood spent on the Romulan outpost nicknamed Hellguard, her early days on Vulcan (after having been rescued from Hellguard by a young Spock), her time at Starfleet Academy, and the events of Star Trek II-IV. I particularly enjoyed the way the narrative wove in and out of familiar moments from those three films. In particular, Ms. Bonanno makes a real meal out of Saavik’s one brief scene in Star Trek IV. That scene in the movie has always disappointed me. While I was glad she at least got that one moment (even though the creators of the Trek films had clearly decided to jettison the character), it always struck me as a poor finish to the rich character who had received so much on-screen time and development during Star Trek II and III. Ms. Bonanno really fleshes out what was going on in that scene, what Saavik was thinking, why she blurted out that comment about David Marcus, and more. Her writing really redeemed that scene for me in a wonderful way.
Much of Unspoken Truth — particularly the first half of the novel — is made up of short scenes. I found this story-telling style to be quite engaging. Through an accretion of vignettes, Ms. Bonanno is able to build in our minds … [continued]
Following up on my review of Source Code, which I posted yesterday, click here for a wonderfully spot-on assessment of all of the myriad problems with the film’s ending. It’s a sweet ending that felt right when I walked out of the theatre, but like the rest of the film, if you think about it for more than five minutes, it totally falls apart.
Here’s another trailer — this is for the very low-budget indie sci-fi movie Another Earth. I don’t know anything about this film, but my curiosity is piqued. It’s always interesting to see sci-fi elements mixed with drama (rather than action).
This is awesome. Lucasfilm Animation’s new building is shaped like a Jawa Sandcrawler.
It’s really happening! The Avengers has begun filming!! Here’s what Joss Whedon had to say on the matter. Funny as always. Boy, The Avengers is happening, The Hobbit is happening… this is all very exciting! Now if we could just get the next James Bond film into production, then I’d be over the moon.
I’ve written before about how I think the way some people defend bad movies by saying “oh, it’s not a movie you’re supposed to think about” is incredibly stupid. Here’s a well-reasoned support of my opinion.
This is a beautiful article but it also made me kind of sad. No matter how much we might try to read all the books we want to read, or watch all the films we want to see, or listen to all the music we want to listen to, the simple mathematical truth is that we’re all going to miss almost everything.
I’ve always thought that the next Star Trek TV show needs to move the story forward (the same way Next Gen did after the original Star Trek), not backwards. Apparently I’m not alone in that thinking. Trekmovie.com has put together a fascinating piece on the pitch for a new Star Trek TV show that Bryan Singer, Chris McQuarrie, and Robert Meyer Burnett put together in 2005-06 put never actually presented to Paramount. I would have watched that show!
This is a great defense by Nordling of AICN on the experience of seeing movies theatrically. I agree with him wholeheartedly, but I wish there were theatres like the Alamo Drafthouse here in Boston. It kills me to go to a movie and have people talking on their cell phones or texting or doing other annoying things that distract from actually watching the movie.
Finally, … [continued]
After a long, long, looooong wait, a new full-length episode of Star Trek: Phase II has been released on-line. It’s called Enemy: Starfleet! and it is dynamite. Watch it here! If you’re any sort of fan of Star Trek, this is well-worth your time.
I’ve written before (here and here) about the amazing fan-produced series Star Trek: Phase II (formerly Star Trek: New Voyages). Masterminded by James Cawley, this series (created and produced top-to-bottom by people who love Star Trek, working for no money whatsoever) is an attempt to create a fourth season of the classic Star Trek series (which was famously cancelled after three seasons), continuing the adventures of Kirk, Spock, McCoy, and the gang. This isn’t a reboot like J.J. Abrams’ movie, or any sort of modernization of the classic Trek concept. No, this is a loving attempt to replicate the look and feel of the 1960′s sets, costumes, music, etc., and to create full-length episodes that look and feel and sound like they really could have been episodes from a fourth season of the original Star Trek!
In that attempt, James Cawley and his incredible group of collaborators have been astoundingly successful. The production values of these episodes (Enemy: Starfleet! is the sixth episode created, not counting the series’ original pilot) have improved by leaps and bounds with each new installment, to the point now that they are simply jaw-droppingly amazing. Every aspect of what one sees on-screen is flawless. The look of the bridge. The sound effect when someone opens their communicator or fires a phaser. The music. The costumes (both the Starfleet uniforms worn by the Enterprise crew as well as the attire of the guest-stars). The attention to detail is astounding. Take a look at Peter Kirk’s quarters, for instance, and be dazzled by the United Federation of Planets emblem on his bed-spread, or the familiar-looking bottle seen on the shelf behind his bed.
In many respects, Enemy: Starfleet! looks even BETTER than the original Trek ever did. The visual effects, for instance, are amazing — a universe more advanced than what was possible in the 1960′s. But what’s really neat is that, while the effects are much more elaborate and far cooler than anything seen in an original Trek episode, all of the effects still feel RIGHT. They integrate organically with the rest of the episode. A large reason for that is because, even if we’re now able to see things we never could before, all of the details are correct. The Enterprise moves just the way it should (even as we’re getting to see the old girl engage in far-more spectacular outer-space combat than we’ve ever seen … [continued]
WOW — Happy 80th birthday, William Shatner!
For the last two years, now, talented voice-actor Maurice LaMarche has spearheaded International Talk Like William Shatner Day, in honor of the Shat’s birthday! Click here for his first video from 2009 in which he unleashes his phenomenal Shatner impression (“saboTAGE”), and here for last year’s video accompanied by the hilarious Kevin Pollak, who also does a phenomenal Shatner impresson.
This year, Mr. LaMarche partnered with the fine folks at TrekMovie.com to run a contest for the best fan Shatner impersonation. Here is Mr. LaMarche’s video. It’s not quite as good as the last two years’ videos, since he spends most of the time assessing his favorite fan videos (and also, the video is weirdly out-of-sync), but we still get some great Shat right at the beginning.
David Mack’s novella The Sorrows of Empire appeared in the Star Trek: Mirror Universe anthology Glass Empires back in 2007. It was the highlight of the anthology, and one of my favorite pieces of Star Trek fiction in recent memory. (Read my review of Glass Empires here.) Last year, Mr. Mack expanded his story to a full-length novel, and it is a real winner.
The Sorrows of Empire is set entirely in the Mirror Universe introduced in the Classic Star Trek episode “Mirror, Mirror,” and picks up very shortly after the events of that episode. The Spock of the Mirror Universe has been swayed by his mind-meld with “our” universe’s Dr. McCoy (in which Mirror Spock gained a glimpse of a United Federation of Planets made up of worlds peacefully joined towards their common benefit) as well as by his final encounter with Captain Kirk (in which Kirk argued that the tyrannical Mirror Universe Terran Empire was doomed to eventual collapse, and so Spock’s continued loyalty to that empire was wasteful and illogical). So Spock decides to murder the Mirror Kirk and assume command of the I.S.S. Enterprise, but this is merely the first step in a much greater plan to eventually seize control of the Empire itself and begin to introduce reason and Democracy into the structure of the Empire’s society. But even that is merely the beginning of a much bolder, long-term plan that by which Spock would attempt to reshape the galaxy.
I love Mr. Mack’s conceit of casting Spock as the Harry Sheldon of the Mirror Universe. The first Deep Space Nine Mirror Universe episode, “Crossover,” painted Mirror Spock as a fool whose reforms lead to the weaking of the Terran Empire and its eventual conquest by a Klingon/Cardassian alliance. But Mr. Mack’s story completely reinvents and redeems the Spock character as one who knew that his actions would eventually lead to the Terran Empire’s collapse and the brutal subjugation of Humans and Vulcans. But Spock’s careful actions would ensure that this would not be the end of their civilization — quite the contrary, he saw that this was the only way to transition the galaxy to a much more benevolent, long-lived societal structure, and he carefully planted the seeds to ensure this ultimate outcome. Spock is presented here as the ultimate tactician — always prepared for his adversaries’ moves, and thinking decades and even centuries ahead into the future. It’s a wonderfully compelling and heroic depiction of this familiar character.
The novel also sets up Marlena Moreau, the “Captain’s woman” introduced in “Mirror, Mirror” as an equally compelling partner in Spock’s ambitious undertaking. I love that she is presented as truly being … [continued]
The second film in my EZ Viewing movie marathon is Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country!
I respect J.J. Abrams for what he accomplished with his Star Trek reboot. (Click here for my review.) I enjoyed the flick, and am thrilled that Trek is exciting and “cool” again. But THIS — Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country — is my kind of Star Trek: dark, sophisticated, and adult. This vies with Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan for the position of my favorite Star Trek film, depending on my mood.
An ecological disaster on the Klingon homeworld leads them to make the first gesture of peace towards the United Federation of Planets, their bitter enemies for so many decades. Captain Kirk and the Enterprise are sent to escort the Klingon chancellor to a peace conference on Earth, but a brutal assassination sends the two galactic super-powers once again hurtling towards war.
Star Trek VI is a serious, dark film. Yes, there is some action/adventure to be had, but for the most part it’s a rather somber film. The film is brave in presenting our hero, Captain Kirk, in a pretty unsympathetic light: Kirk is still filled with anger at the death of his son at the hands of the Klingons (in Star Trek III), and is shown to be remarkably cold and callous at the prospect of the terrible fate about to befall their empire. “Let them die,” he quietly tells a shocked (and disappointed) Spock, early in the film. I love this portrayal of Kirk – it’s a very human depiction of this heroic character, and it gives Kirk a real journey to go on over the course of the film that has nothing to do with warping across the galaxy. It’s a potent, emotional core to the film.
Trek VI has an incredibly smart, literate script. The film is filled with references to literature and history. Some of those are obvious (such as the Shakespeare-spouting Klingon villain, General Chang) while others are much more subtle. (One of my favorite moments is when, during Kirk and McCoy’s trial on the Klingon homeworld, General Chang angrily shouts at them “Don’t wait for the translation! Answer me now!” This, of course, is a nod to Adlai Stevenson’s speech to the UN during the Cuban Missile Crisis.) Even the film’s title, I probably don’t need to point out to you, is a reference to a famous line in Hamlet’s “to be or not to be” speech. The film’s central story – the prospect of peace between long-time enemy super-powers, and what that means for the “Cold Warriors” so used to hating their enemies – was inspired by the … [continued]
In the introduction to my review of Time After Time, I wrote that the true reason for the supposed Star Trek odd-numbered movie curse (the phenomenon in which the even-numbered classic Star Trek films seem to be of a far higher quality than the odd-numbered ones) is because of the coincidence that Star Treks II, IV, and VI are the three films that benefitted from the involvement of Nicholas Meyer. Being a long-time Star Trek fan, I have long-held Mr. Meyer in great esteem. Even years ago, when I first learned of his roles as writer/director of Star Trek II and Star Trek VI (by far my two favorite Star Trek films — and that stands to this day) and as a writer of Star Trek IV (Mr. Meyer wrote all of the 1986-set portions of the film, while Harve Bennett wrote the framing sequences set in the 23rd century), it was clear to me that Mr. Meyer’s was one of the key creative voices behind GOOD Star Trek.
What little I knew of Mr. Meyer himself (mostly from interviews I had seen or read — including his lengthy comments in William Shatner’s much-underrated chronicle of the making of the six classic Star Trek films, Star Trek Movie Memories* — and also from his terrific commentary tracks on the special edition DVDs of Star Trek II and Star Trek VI) supported the conclusions that I had drawn from his work: namely, that Mr. Meyer was a bright, erudite fellow whose ideas about Star Trek, and about quality movie-making as a whole, quite mirrored my own.
That opinion was further supported by Mr. Meyer’s wonderful memoir: The View From The Bridge: Memories of Star Trek and a Life in Hollywood. This is a fascinating chronicle of Mr. Meyer’s years in the business, and it’s of interest to anyone fascinated by the nuts and bolts of how Hollywood works and how movies do (and don’t) get made, and of course of particular interest to anyone curious for tons of behind-the-scenes info on the making of the Star Trek films.
Mr. Meyer has an honest, hunorous writing style in evidence right from page one. In these sorts of memoirs, I often find the early chapters (devoted to the subject’s youth) to be deadly boring. As a reader I’m usually eager to get to “the good stuff” — that is, the subject’s adult work and achievements that were the reasons I picked up the memoir to begin with. However, in this book, a) Mr. Meyer is bright enough to know what we’re really interested in, and so keeps those early chapters brief, and b) posesses such … [continued]
This is a must-watch, my friends. Thank me later.
Best part of today’s Rally to Restore Sanity (and/or Fear)? Why that would be Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert’s reference to The Corbomite Maneuver!!
Long-time Trekkies like myself know, of course, that The Corbomite Maneuver is a classic episode of the original Star Trek series. Check out this clip:
Note Uhura’s gold uniform, which Stewart and Colbert mentioned. Well played, sirs!… [continued]
Quint over at AICN has posted an amazing, career-spanning interview with the extraordinarily talented Drew Struzan. Mr. Struzan has illustrated many of the most iconic movie posters of the last several decades — posters I’m sure you’d recognize for all of the Indiana Jones films, the Star Wars films, the Back to the Future films, and so many more. The man is an incredible talent. I have already ordered my copy of The Art of Drew Struzan, and I can’t wait for it to arrive!
The AICN seaman has also been posting a really fun series called The Behind the Scenes Pic of the Day that is definitely worth checking out if you haven’t already been following it. Maybe you’ll want to start with this one that has done far worse than kill you, he’s hurt you, and he wishes to go on hurting you. Heh — fits right in with my current run of cartoons!!
A fun animation test for the abandoned Roger Rabbit 2 project, from 1998, has recently surfaced on-line. Worth checking out.
This recent brief interview with Joss Whedon, discussing his work on the upcoming Avengers film, has been making the rounds of the net but it’s worth reading if you haven’t seen it yet. I love Mr. Whedon’s comment that “I would like to put these actors in a room and just make Glengarry Glen Ross.” Boy would I happily pay to see that!!
This is an interesting list of the 33 Greatest Movie Trilogies of all time, as voted for by readers of Empire magazine. There are some weird choices (I think the terrible fourth entries in the Die Hard and Indiana Jones series would disqualify those as trilogies — and what the hell is the Star Wars prequel trilogy doing on that list???) but it’s a fun read.
So actor Robert Wuhl, who once played a sports agent on the TV show Arliss, is now hosting an actual sports radio show? That’s pretty funny.
I love this:
I am a big, big fan of the Star Trek: Ships of the Line calendars. I was checking out some on-line Ship of the Line images the other day and came across this magnificent creation by Doug Drexler, entitled “No Bloody A, B, C, or D.” (The title, of course, is taken from Scotty’s line in the TNG episode “Relics.”) Gorgeous.
Click here for a full-screen version.
Here’s another awe-inspiring image of the Big E. Why couldn’t the Enterprise in J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek film have looked more like this??
Click here for a full-screen version.
Moving forward along the Trek time-line, check out this amazing depiction of the Enterprise-D by long-time Trek concept artist/illustrator Andrew Probert. (He’s the man who designed the refit-Enterprise from the Star Trek films, as well as the Enterprise-D from The Next Generation.)
Click here for a full-screen version.
Cool stuff.… [continued]
Not long after the release of James Horner’s complete score for Star Trek III: The Search for Spock (which I reviewed here), Varese Sarabande released Michael Giacchino’s complete score for J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek (2009).
I have been a big fan of Michael Giacchino for years now. I love his TV work (for Lost, Alias, etc.), and I think his score for The Incredibles is one of the most perfect film scores ever crafted. So I was very excited by the news, back in 2009, that he’d be scoring J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek relaunch. I have mixed feelings about the finished film, and I can’t say that I was totally in love with the score either. Still, when news of this CD release reached me, I was excited by the prospect of experiencing Mr. Giacchino’s score on its own.
Sadly, as I listened to this double-CD set, I felt as luke-warm about the score as I had when first experiencing it with the finished film. Mr. Giacchino is a terrific composer, there is no doubt, and he’s certainly created a fast-paced, energetic score. But it all feels a little bland to me. There aren’t a lot of distinct, dramatic themes for the viewer/listener to hold on to (as there were, for example, in James Horner’s phenomenal scores for Star Trek II and Star Trek III).
Mr. Giacchino did create a dynamic new main Star Trek/Kirk theme. This music (which plays over the opening titles, and which builds to strong crescendos as the film progresses and young James Kirk begins to become the man he is destined to be) is pretty great – it’s eminently memorable, and provides a strong back-bone for much of the film’s action sequences. Mr. Giacchino also created a lovely, quiet new Spock/Vulcan theme. It’s hard to out-do Mr. Horner’s iconic Spock/Vulcan music, but I quite enjoyed Mr. Giacchino’s take on this material.
Other than those two themes, though, I found most of the rest of the score to be – while pleasant to listen to – rather generic. I was particularly disappointed by the lack of the famous Alexander Courage Star Trek theme from the score. Mr. Giacchino makes us wait all the way to the end credits until we get to hear any of those familiar themes. True, when that moment comes, we get a wonderfully rocking re-orchestration of the full classic Star Trek TV theme (presented on this CD set on disc two, tracks 15 “To Boldly Go” and 16 “End Credits”). But there were so many moments during the film – such as Kirk and McCoy’s first glimpse of the U.S.S. Enterprise, and Kirk’s first … [continued]
On September 8th, 1966, NBC aired the first episode of Star Trek, “The Man Trap.” In celebration of Star Trek‘s 44th anniversary, here’s a wonderful video (that was actually created for the 40th anniversary in 2006):
Pretty great, huh? (I LOVE the orchestral suite from “The Inner Light,” and I’m not embarrassed to admit that it gets played regularly on my ipod.) Bravo to the fellow who created this retrospective. And happy birthday to Star Trek! I eagerly await the next adventure.… [continued]
The fine folks at Retrograde and Film Score have followed up last year’s release of James Horner’s complete score to Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan with Mr. Horner’s complete score to Star Trek III: The Search For Spock. Since I am a) an enormous Star Trek fan, and b) very into film scores, I immediately snapped up this two-CD set when it came out at the beginning of the summer.
I think James Horner’s scores for Treks II and III stand as two of the finest film scores ever made, and this new complete presentation is phenomenal. Just as Star Trek III continues the story begun in II, so too does Mr. Horner’s score reprise many of the key musical themes that he originated in Trek II. Most notably, the rousing Enterprise theme, as well as the somber Spock theme, form a key back-bone to the Star Trek III score.
There are a lot of new musical motifs created for the Star Trek III score as well, the most significant being the percussion-based music for the Klingons. I love Horner’s Klingons theme and wish that it had been used more in future Trek films and TV shows. (The Trek productions that came after favored, instead, Jerry Goldsmith’s Klingons theme which originated in Star Trek: The Motion Picture. That’s a terrific musical theme as well, but I do have a soft spot for Horner’s Trek III Klingons music.)
Mr. Horner’s score for Star Trek III is filled with iconic musical moments that have always thrilled me when I watch the film. These are moments when the music is so wonderfully distinct and evocative that, when listening to the score, I can clearly see the images from the film in my mind. These moments powerfully demonstrate the critical role that effective film scoring can play in creating an iconic scene or image in a movie.
My favorite moments from the score include the bit at the end of track one, “Prologue and Main Title,” in which the opening credits end and Kirk’s Captain’s Log entry begins. Horner’s melancholy cue (played on celli, according to the liner notes), perfectly establishes the somber, dark place in which we find our characters at the start of this film. Speaking of melancholy, I also adore the moment found half-way through track two, “Klingons,” when the film cuts away from our introduction to Kruge and we see the Enterprise’s approach to spacedock. There’s a powerful moment in the sequence, in which we see Janice Rand (in a cameo appearance) shake her head sadly as she looks out from the spacedock windows to see the terribly damaged Enterprise. Mr. Horner’s music for … [continued]
If you’re a member of facebook, check out this list (compiled by a key contributor to The Digital Bits, my favorite DVD/blu-ray-related web-site) of films that he’s still waiting to be released on DVD. It’s a hoot. While I’m discussing the Digital Bits, here’s something cool: In anticipation of the upcoming release of all four Alien films on blu-ray, they have posted an extensive look at the making of Fox’s amazing Alien Quadrilogy DVD box set from a few years back. This was originally published in the book The Digital Bits: Insider’s Guide to DVD. Since all of this material will appear on the blu-ray set, this is well-worth a read, if you’re a fan of these films.
The deleted scene from Return of the Jedi that was shown at Star Wars Celebration V has been taken down from youtube, but as of this writing it can still be seen here, so check it out. It’s a cool moment showing Luke’s constructing his new lightsaber, and Vader trying to speak to his son through the force.
Speaking of Star Wars, I have waxed poetical many times on this site about the magnificence of Adywan’s e-edit/restoration of Star Wars: A New Hope. (I am sick of referring to it as Episode IV.) Here is a phenomenal visual guide to over 500 of the changes/fixes that Adywan has made. If you have any way of getting your hands on this film (and fanedit.org is a good place to start), then do so immediately.
This is an interesting article about a new book about the Bond films: The Man With the Golden Touch: How the Bond Films Conquered the World. This is a book I need to read! By the way, I don’t agree with the author of the article’s closing thought that the recent films have been entirely without artistic merit. I was disappointed by Quantum of Solace, but didn’t think it was a complete catastrophe. I also am not nearly so down as that writer on Pierce Brosnan. I love Brosnan as Bond. He was just in some bad Bond films. (His first two were strong, but his last two — The World is Not Enough and Die Another Day — were TERRIBLE.) But I don’t blame Brosnan for what went wrong in those films. It’s a shame that MGM’s financial woes have put a halt to the series for now. But James Bond Will Return. Someday, I guess.
There’s a nice defense of Tom Cruise by Nick Nunziata over on CHUD, and I must say I agree wholeheartedly. Speaking of CHUD, I was very sorry to read of Devin Faraci’s … [continued]
It’s taken me a few months longer than I had originally planned, but after completing James Swallow’s novel Synthesis, I am finally caught up with Pocket Books’ Titan series, which chronicles the post-Nemesis adventures of Captain William T. Riker and his new command, the U.S.S. Titan.
Continuing to explore uncharted space far beyond the borders of the United Federation of Planets, the Titan enters an area of severe spatial disruption. Finding evidence of a terrible battle, they find only one survivor: what appears to be a sentient computer from a race of artificial intelligences. Captain Riker offers to help, and tries to learn more about the mysterious enemy that the machines have apparently been fighting for centuries. But he is met with hostility and mistrust from the A.I.s – and then he too is forced to wonder if it is possible to trust the machines when the actions of the one they rescued (who identifies himself as SecondGen White-Blue) cause the main computer of the Titan itself to become sentient! Making matters even more awkward, the computer chooses as it’s avatar form an image from Will Riker’s past – the woman named Minuet.
The authors of the Titan series have really been living up to the series’ mandate of creating new species and new cultures for the Titan crew to encounter, rather than relying on familiar alien races. Mr. Swallow does an excellent job at presenting us with this look at a society of A.I.s – their history, how their society functions, and more. Mr. Swallow also continues to explore and richen the many faces of the Titan crew. I’ve been very pleased at the book-to-book continuity, and have enjoyed watching the development of the Titan characters (many of whom were created for this series of novels). This, more than anything else, is what leaves me eager for further Titan adventures.
There some instances in this novel, though, where I felt Mr. Swallow stumbled a bit. There were a few places where I felt his prose was a bit awkward (a reference to Serenity, in which a Titan character utters the phrase, “I’m a leaf on the wind,” felt particularly out of place to me). And after the complex world-building of previous Titan author Christopher Bennett, our investigation of the machine culture presented in this novel felt a bit superficial.
What was most disappointing to me was the use (or lack thereof) of Minuet. It seemed totally random to me that the newly-sentient Titan would choose this image – out of all of the billions of images in the ship’s computer – to take as it’s form. And … [continued]
Author Christopher Bennett returns to the Star Trek: Titan series of novels (chronicling the continuing adventures of Captain William T. Riker and the diverse inter-species crew of his new command, the deep-space exploration ship Titan) with the fifth installment in the series, Under a Torrent Sea. (Click here for my review of book four, Sword of Damocles.)
The Titan crew discovers a water planet that, despite apparently having no land masses whatsoever, seems to contain sentient life. Titan‘s navigator, Aili Lavena, takes the lead in the investigation of this strange new world (which the Titan crew quickly nicknames Droplet), since she comes from a water planet and is fully comfortable exploring Droplet’s oceans without the aid of a shuttlecraft or environmental suit. Guess what, things go wrong, and she soon finds herself stranded on the planet along with the injured Captain Riker.
Following on the heels of book four’s investigation into the background and character of Bajoran science officer Jaza Najem, Under a Torrent Sea provides us with a similarly detailed look at another Titan crew-member, the Selkie Ensign Lavena. It’s great fun to read along as these novels explore these fascinating created-for-the-novels characters, while also continuing to throw lots of new wrinkles towards the from-the-TV-shows characters like Riker and Troi, and even the Elaysian Melora Pazlar (who appeared in one second season Deep Space Nine episode).
What I enjoy most about the novels written by Christopher Bennett is the time and space that he devotes to fully investigating and exploring the alien societies that he creates. His previous Titan novel featured his extrapolations about the workings of an entire society of space-faring Cosmozoans, while Under a Torrent Sea contains a wealth of details about the conditions on a water-planet and the type of life that might be found there. Of course this is all science fiction, but Mr. Bennett has clearly devoted time and attention to researching the scientific underpinnings of his story. This brings his novel closer to speculative fiction than it is to pure fantasy, and enhances the engaging nature of the story being told.
All of this wouldn’t amount to much if he didn’t have a strong story to tell within that framework, and as always Mr. Bennett does not disappoint on that score. I really enjoyed getting to know Ensign Lavena over the course of the novel and (spoiler alert!!) I was pleased that she wasn’t written out of the series at the end of the book, the way the focus of the previous novel was! The strength of this main story keeps the book moving along at a quick pace. It may be why I found myself enjoying this … [continued]
It’s been a bit of a while since my last review of a novel in Pocket Books’ Star Trek: Titan series, chronicling the post-Star Trek: Nemesis adventures of Captain William Riker and his new command. After reading the first four novels when they were originally released, earlier this year I realized that I had fallen behind on the series. Since a few years had passed since the series began (the novels have been published at a rate of about one or two a year), I decided to go back and re-read the first four novels before moving on to the fifth and sixth installments (which were published this year). However, after finishing book three, Orion’s Hounds, I got a bit distracted by my project to re-read all of Arthur C. Clarke’s Odyssey series, and various other things. But now I’m back in the saddle!
Entering a region of space never-before explored by manned Federation starships, the Titan encounters the planet Orisha, whose denizens have been menaced for centuries by a celestial phenomenon that they call “the Eye” which periodically wreaks havoc on their planet. Many Orishans worship “the Eye” as a deity, one which sits in judgment of their society and regularly punishes them for their sins. As the Titan crew attempt to investigate this phenomenal, things (predictably) go awry and the landing party is separated from the Titan and presumed dead.
Far from being deceased, the landing party find themselves stranded on the surface of a planet Orisha that seems much different from the planet they had observed from orbit. As the crew (both on the planet and back on Titan) attempt to extricate themselves from the situation in which they have become enmeshed, they must struggle with aspects of the Prime Directive while also confronting questions about fate and destiny.
Sword of Damocles, written by Geoffrey Thorne, is another strong, enjoyable installment in this series of novels. I’ve been pleased by how well the different authors have been able to maintain consistency in the voices of the many new-to-the-novels characters that make up the diverse Titan crew. Mr. Thorne has a terrific grasp on the characters, giving each of them a distinct personality even as he weaves scores of alien Titan crew-members in and out of the narrative. It was nice to see several members of the Titan crew — such as science specialist Jaza Najem, chief engineer Dr. Xin Ra-Havreii, and head of Stellar Cartography Melora Pazlar — get a lot of attention in the story, though I must confess some disappointment (small spoiler alert!) that one intriguing character was written out of the series by the novel’s conclusion, just when … [continued]
There’s a great article about Mel Brooks up at Boston.com, because his musical Young Frankenstein is coming to Boston for a two-week run. I was disappointed by Young Frankenstein when I saw it on broadway, but this brief piece about one of our comedic legends is worth a read.
Here’s a fascinating article about the many different versions of Fritz Lang’s Metropolis. I’m a big fan of this groundbreaking film, and I’d love to see the newly-restored 147-minute version.
One of my very favorite web-sites, thedigitalbits.com, has posted a very informative interview with DVD Producer Michael Pellerin. Mr. Pellerin has been involved with the DVD releases of The Lord of the Rings since the very beginning, and he has some fascinating comments on the recent blu-ray release of the trilogy as well as the material that Peter Jackson has been saving for the eventual ultimate blu-ray super-duper box set. (Can’t wait for that!)
Speaking of Peter Jackson and The Lord of the Rings, December 2012 needs to hurry up and get here already!!!
Artist Ron Miller has created a series of breathtaking images entitled the Eight Wonders of the Solar System. Gorgeous.
I am starting to believe that Ridley Scott is actually going to make the Alien prequel that has been rumored for years. Mr. Scott spills a lot of beans in this interview with MTV, although it was the folks at HitFix that revealed that he’s actually planning to create TWO prequels. OK, color me cautiously intrigued. I’m excited to see Ridley Scott return to the Alien universe for the first time since 1979, though as a rule I think prequels are stupid.
Here’s a great profile of comic book genius Jeff Smith. Bone is one of the masterpieces of the medium (if you haven’t read it — you really must), and I’m really digging his new series Rasl.
Star Trek geeks: check out this incredible opening movie from the 2009 FedCon Science Fiction Convention. This gorgeous 4-minute short film, created by Tobias Richter, features an action-packed sequence featuring the U.S.S. Kelvin & redesigned U.S.S. Enterprise from J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek film. Pretty awesome stuff. (Though I still hate the redesigned Enterprise…)
Speaking of Star Trek, I am giddy with excitement over the next batch of episodes in the phenomenal fan-film series Star Trek: Phase II. (I’ve written before about Phase II here, and here is my review of one of their recent episodes, “Blood and Fire.”) There’s a great series of teases for these upcoming episodes up at Trekmovie.com, including the revelation that these mad geniuses are planning on including Arex (the … [continued]
Today I’m continuing my look at Pocket Books’ series of Star Trek: Titan novels, chronicling the post-Nemesis adventures of newly-minted Captain William T. Riker and the starship Titan. (Click here for my review of Book 1: Taking Wing, and here for my review of Book 2: The Red King.) While authors Andy Mangels & Michael A. Martin wrote those first two books, with the third novel in the series, Orion’s Hounds, they hand things off to Christopher L. Bennett.
The basic premise of the Titan series is that, following the cataclysmic events of the Dominion War and the other crises that followed, Starfleet has decided to attempt to return to its basic principles of peaceful exploration. As such, they have commissioned the creation of a new class of starships, the Luna class, designed for deep-space exploration. Will Riker commands the Titan, one of those new Luna class vessels, and he and his crew have been sent on a mission beyond the boundaries of the Federation (specifically towards the Gum Nebula, one of the largest astronomical landmarks in the Orion Arm of the Milky Way galaxy) to attempt to seek out new life and new civilizations.
As they travel into unexplored space, Deanna Troi and the other telepaths on board Titan find their minds touched by powerful consciousnesses that, while alien, nevertheless, feel somehow familiar to Troi. The reason for that familiarity is soon made clear as the Titan discovers that the telepathic contact originated from a school of “star-jellies” — the same type of beautiful (and enormous) space-faring creatures that the U.S.S. Enterprise-D first encountered in the pilot episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation, “Encounter at Farpoint.”
However, along with the star-jellies in their natural habitat, Titan also encounters the Pa’haquel, a species that hunts the star-jellies as well as many of the other space-dwelling life-forms found in that part of the galaxy. The Pa’haquel are actually able to manipulate the dead corpses of the jellies, turning them into their own ships in which they’re able to live and which they use as vehicles for their hunts. Riker, along with many members of his crew, are horrified by the actions of the Pa’haquel, but as per Starfleet regulations they are reluctant to interfere in the culture of an alien race.
Of course, events (which I won’t spoil here) soon force their hand, and a member of the Titan crew commits an act that dramatically upsets the balance between the Pa’haquel and the star-jellies. The repercussions of that event makes plain to the Titan crew that things aren’t quite so simple as Star-jellies=good and Pa’haquel=bad, and they discover that their actions have caused … [continued]
After being catapulted clear of the Milky Way galaxy at the end of Taking Wing (The first Star Trek Titan novel — read my review here), Captain William T. Riker and the crew of the U.S.S. Titan find themselves in the Small Magellanic Cloud, one of the Milky Way’s satellite galaxies. This area of space also happens to be the home of the Neyel, the mysterious race of aliens with centuries-old ties to humanity first introduced in the novel The Sundered (read my review here).
While Taking Wing was focused on introducing Riker’s new ship and its extraordinarily varied interspecies crew, as well as wrapping up a number of dangling story-threads left by the end of Star Trek: Nemesis, The Red King (written by Andy Mangels & Michael A. Martin) is more of what the Titan series was billed to be: a story of exploration, in which Riker and his crew encounter strange new worlds and new life forms. At the same time, The Red King is a direct sequel to both Taking Wing and The Sundered, as Riker and his crew work to locate Romulan commander Donatra’s missing fleet, figure out how to return to Federation space, and unravel the mystery of a terrible new threat to Neyel space. (Readers, meanwhile, get to learn about what has happened to the Neyel since we last met them 100 years earlier during Captain Sulu’s time in The Sundered.)
My recollection was that The Red King was my least favorite of the Titan series, but in re-reading the novel I found quite a lot to enjoy. Mangels & Martin have a nice, easy-to-read writing style that I always find very engaging. The Red King is a fast-paced yarn, and it continues the exploration of the unique natures and backstories of the members of Titan’s diverse inter-species crew that was begun in the previous installment. Most interestingly to me, we finally learn the details of the event that caused the thirty-years-and-counting rift between Starfleet Admiral Leonard James Akaar and Lt. Tuvok (who had been close friends aboard the Excelsior during the events of The Sundered).
But the novel does have some weaknesses. Primarily, the emerging sentient protouniverse that is destabilizing space in the Small Magellanic Cloud doesn’t really present that compelling a scientific mystery (the Titan crew seem to figure out what’s going on pretty quickly) nor that compelling a challenge/adversary. As a result, the novel sometimes seems to be without a central narrative thrust. Riker’s crew comes up with a plan to contain the protouniverse about halfway through the novel, meaning that the whole second half of the book is without any real twists. Oh, … [continued]
Back in 2003-2004, Pocket Books released a terrific series of novels entitled The Lost Era that chronicled the approximately seventy-five years between Captain Kirk’s death in Star Trek: Generations and the launch of the Enterprise-D in “Encounter at Farpoint,” the pilot episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation.
I thoroughly enjoyed this series when it was initially released, and I’ve been wanting to re-read these novels for several years now. Since the cliffhanger at the end of Taking Wing (the first novel in Pocket Book’s Star Trek Titan series — read my review here — following the exploits of Captain William T. Riker’s new ship) referred directly to the events of the first Lost Era novel, The Sundered, I decided to go back and re-read that novel before proceeding on to Titan book 2, The Red King.
Set in 2298, five years after Star Trek: Generations, The Sundered presents us with an adventure of Captain Sulu and the U.S.S. Excelsior. Star Trek VI introduced the idea that former U.S.S. Enterprise helmsman Hikaru Sulu had been promoted to captain of the Excelsior, and The Sundered picks up his story as the veteran master of that vessel. Also aboard the Excelsior are several familiar faces: Pavel Chekov is Sulu’s first officer, Janice Rand is his communications officer, and Christine Chapel is his chief medical officer. As established in the Voyager episode “Flashback,” the young Vulcan Tuvok is also on-board, though struggling to deal with the illogical nature of all of the non-Vulcans in Starfleet. We also learn that a young Leonard James Akaar (born in the Original Series episode “Friday’s Child” and re-introduced in the last several years of Star Trek novels as a stern elderly admiral in the post-Nemesis Next Gen era) is on board as well, and had at the time a close friendship with Tuvok.
At the risk of repeating what I have written in previous Trek novel reviews ad nauseum, I am continually delighted by the interconnectedness of the last decade’s worth of Pocket Book’s Trek novels. Though set almost a hundred years earlier, The Sundered fits in perfectly with the current batch of post-Nemesis Next Gen novels and with the new Titan series, providing a number of interesting pieces of backstory for characters featured in those other novels. (It of course helps that The Sundered was written by Michael A. Martin & Andy Mangels, who also wrote the first two Titan novels, Taking Wing and The Red King.)
I haven’t even mentioned the main thrust of The Sundered‘s story yet. Tenuous peace talks with the violent, xenophobic Tholians (enigmatic aliens first introduced in the classic Original Series … [continued]
I’ve written a lot on this site about Pocket Books’ series of post-finale Deep Space Nine novels, as well as the series of post-Nemesis Next Generation novels. But I haven’t made much mention of another top-notch series of novels that has been a big part of Pocket Books’ exciting efforts to move the Star Trek universe forward: the continuing adventures of Captain William T. Riker and the starship Titan.
There have been six Titan novels published so far, with more on the way. Before beginning the latest novel (set after the cataclysmic events of David Mack’s Destiny trilogy, which I reviewed here), I decided to go back and re-read the series in its entirety. Over the next few weeks (hopefully it will be weeks, and not months!) I’ll be bringing you my thoughts on all the novels in the series.
Today, we’ll start with Taking Wing, the novel that kicked everything off, by Michael A. Martin and Andy Mangels.
After almost a decade of near-constant conflict with alien races such as the Borg, the Cardassians, the Klingons, and, of course, the Dominion, it seems that the United Federation of Planets has finally returned to a state of peace. As such, Starfleet decides to return to its central mission of peaceful exploration and commissions the construction of a new class of starships, the Luna class, to be sent out into the unexplored regions of the galaxy to seek out new life and new civilizations.
Newly-promoted Captain William Riker (whose promotion to captaincy was one of the only decent story-points to be found in the final Next Gen film, Star Trek: Nemesis) is filled with excitement for this new mission of exploration, and he sets out to assemble the most biologically and culturally diverse crew in Starfleet history. (More on the Titan’s crew in just a moment.) Unfortunately, the events of Star Trek: Nemesis (in which the clone Shinzon led a Reman plot to murder the Romulan Praetor and every member of the Senate and usurp control of the Romulan Empire for himself, before he too perished in conflict with the U.S.S. Enterprise) have left the Romulan Empire fractured and in chaos. Titan‘s mission of exploration is postponed so that Riker and his crew can travel to Romulus in the hopes of mediating some sort of power-sharing agreement and stave off a catastrophic civil war.
Taking Wing is an absolutely phenomenal novel — probably the strongest of the Titan series, and one of my favorite Trek novels from the past several years. I really loved the Romulan storyline. I enjoyed the way Mr. Martin & Mr. Mangels picked up the pieces from Nemesis — they … [continued]
Let the Best of 2009 lists continue! I hope you all enjoyed my list of the Top 10 TV Episodes of 2009.
Now let’s dive into my list of the Top 10 DVDs (or Blu-Rays) released in 2009!
First, I’d like to give Honorable Mentions to the complete series sets of three amazing TV shows that I had just about given up all hope of ever seeing on DVD: It’s Garry Shandling’s Show, Andy Richter Controls the Universe, and Andy Barker, P.I. So why aren’t these shows on my list? Because I can’t put anything on this list that I haven’t actually watched, and I’ve been way, way too busy to get through any of these sets. Of the three, the only one I own is Andy Richter Controls the Universe. (That one came out first, and I’m not going to purchase the other two sets until I actually have time to watch them.) But I take great delight in knowing that these three DVD sets exist here on planet Earth, and I know that I’ll get to them all in good time.
10. Watchmen: The Ultimate Cut (Blu-ray) — I’ve seen Watchmen quite a few times since it was released early in 2009, and while the film certainly has some weaknesses, I remain overwhelmed by the enormity of its successes. It’s hard to believe that Zach Snyder brought this seminal graphic novel by Alan Moore & Dave Gibbons, which long had been considered unadaptable, to life. It thrills me to see such a faithful take on the material and that the filmmakers had the confidence to craft a super-hero film that was aimed squarely at adults. The Ultimate Cut of the film is Zach Snyder’s longest version, stitching together his Director’s Cut with the animated Tales of the Black Freighter sequences. It’s pretty astounding. This Blu-Ray set would be much higher on this list were it not for the paltry special features. Not only are the special features lame (this is a movie that cries out for a full-fledged making-of documentary), but this set just reproduces the special features that were already released on the Director’s Cut set. (I guess I’ve been spoiled by the amazing extended editions of the Lord of the Rings films, which came not just with phenomenal extended versions of the films but with extraordinarily elaborate making-of documentaries that didn’t duplicate the special features on the theatrical version DVDs.) (Read my review of the theatrical version of Watchmen here, and of the Director’s Cut here.)
9. Contact (Blu-Ray) — A beautiful film that manages to combine a serious, cerebral sci-fi tale with an effecting story of the personal journey … [continued]
In addition to highlighting some of the very best comic book series that are out there (click here to read about 100 Bullets or here to read about Planetary) I’ve also been having fun writing about some of the great books that I’ve been following on a monthly basis (or semi-monthly basis, as the case may be) when I make my weekly visits to the comic book shop. Click here to read about books like Incognito, Kick-Ass, and The Nightly News, and here to read about books like Hellboy, Ultimate Comics: Spider-Man, The Dark Tower, and Batman: Streets of Gotham.
What else have I been reading?
Detective Comics — I am all for female heroes in my comic books (as well as TV shows and movies, for that matter) but generally I tend to think that female versions of male super-heroes (She-Hulk, Supergirl, etc.) are pretty lame. So when I read that Detective Comics was going to start focusing on the newly-introduced character of Batwoman, I was less than overwhelmed. However, when I heard that Greg Rucka and J. H. Williams III were the creators coming on board the title, I quickly changed my tune and decided to sample the series. Boy I’m glad I did, because the first five issues of their run have been terrific. Mr. Rucka is spinning a taught, tense mystery/adventure story (something at which he excels), and Mr. Williams III’s art is absolutely jaw-dropping. I’m baffled as to how exactly he produces the art I’m seeing before me (and surely colorist Dave Stewart is a key player), but it seems to be a constant mix of different media and styles, presented in wonderfully eccentric panel layouts (no simple panel grids to be found here). Each page is truly a work of art. Really wonderful.
Star Trek Romulans: Schism — The very first time, as a kid, that I paid any notice to the names of the creators behind the comic books I was reading was because I noticed that there was one guy whose work I was enjoying way more than anyone else’s. That was John Byrne. He was the first artist I really followed, and I made it my business to track down back-issues of his famous work (his lengthy runs on Uncanny X-Men and Fantastic Four) as well as his less-famous work (Alpha Flight, Namor, etc.). About the time that he was writing and illustrating the magnificent series John Byrne’s Next Men, I was convinced that he was the greatest comic book creator of the time. Lately, Mr. Byrne seems to have fallen somewhat out of favor within the industry — he’s a name I … [continued]
OK, so this is about the craziest thing I’ve ever heard of — Star Wars fans worldwide are uniting on a project to re-make the original film (A New Hope), 15 seconds at a time. Fans can claim individual 15 second moments of the film, recreate them in whatever for they desire (re-enactments, animation, etc.), and then the whole thing will ultimately be strung together. Wild. Click here for all the details on Star Wars Uncut, or just watch this bizarre trailer below!
After watching Julie & Julia with my wife Steph recently (you can read my review of the film here) I was interested in learning more about Julie Powell, so I tracked down her Julie/Julia Project blog and her current blog (since she ended the Julie/Julia Project blog in 2003, with only one additional post in 2004 after Julia Childs’ death). Both blogs were fun to read through after having seen the film.
Not a week goes by, it seems, that I don’t read about Ridley Scott being attached to yet another movie-in-development. I’m not the only one who’s noticed, it seems. Check out this helpful guide: Know Your Ridley Scott Projects That Will Probably Never Happen.
I am an enormous Beatles fanatic. Thus it is really painful for me that I have not yet had an opportunity to sample the newly remastered versions of all of the Beatles albums that were released last month. Scorekeeper from AICN’s detailed run-down of each Beatles album, and how the new versions match up against the original CD releases from 1987, has only further whetted my appetite.
CHUD (Cinematic Happenings Under Development) has been running a ridiculously entertaining series of posts entitled “Bad For Us, Worse For Them.” What is it about? Let me quote from their intro: This is a list of forty deaths in cinema, twenty of which that have a profound affect on the viewer whether by the sheer tragedy of it, how emotionally impactful it is, or how it is a catalyst for a real descent in the progression of the story. The other twenty are deaths that go beyond the call of duty, not because they’re cool or really well executed FX, but because they are just knee-capping in their immediacy, brutality, or simple visceral impact. Kills that will probably leave a mark. The whole list is fantastic, but I was particularly pleased to see that Spock’s death in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan merited inclusion.
The fourth film that we showed at this year’s EZ Viewing movie-marathon was Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, and we wrapped up the evening with Lola Rennt (Run, Lola, Run).
Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home – We screened Star Trek II two years ago at EZ Viewing II (the year I highlighted my favorite movie sequels) and Star Trek III last year, so how could I not complete the mid-series trilogy by including Star Trek IV in this year’s EZ Viewing??
Following Kirk and crew’s mutiny and theft of the Enterprise in Star Trek III in their attempt to find and revive Spock, the opening of Star Trek IV finds Kirk and Co. still stranded on Vulcan, preparing to face the consequences of their actions. The Enterprise has been destroyed, and they don’t know if they have careers in Starfleet to return to. Spock is alive, but struggling to fully piece together his memories and personality. But the gang is spurred into action when a mysterious alien probe threatens all life on Earth, seeking a species of whales that has long-since been extinct.
Star Trek IV was, until this year’s new film by J.J. Abrams, the most financially successful of all the Star Trek movies. And it was by far the most popular outside of hard-core Trek fandom. If you’ve seen only one Star Trek film, this is probably the one you’ve seen. There are a number of reasons for that, I think. This is a much more accessible film than most of the other Star Trek movies. Much of the story takes place on Earth (in what was the present day when the film was released back in 1986). There’s a pretty simple (but still compelling) hook to the story – go back in time to find humpback whales – that I think is easier for general audiences to grasp than a lot of sci-fi elements of aliens, politics, etc.
The environmental message, I think, also enabled this film to be successful with a broader-than-usual audience. Many of the episodes of the original series dealt with difficult issues (such as racism, class struggles, involvement in foreign countries, etc.) – sometimes subtly, sometimes not. But the allegorical nature of classic Trek was sort of abandoned by the film series (not entirely mistakenly, in my opinion) in favor of more exciting action/adventure. Star Trek IV, though, gets back to those sorts of ideas, and that added a depth to this particular endeavor (bet you thought I was gonna say enterprise) that captured people’s attention.
Finally, Star Trek IV is by far the lightest, in tone, of all the Trek films, and I think people found … [continued]
My faith in the continuing DS9 saga is restored!
Last week I week I wrote about my disappointment with how the spectacular DS9 novel series has sort-of petered out over the past few years, but after reading the other DS9 novel published this year, Una McCormack’s spectacular The Never-Ending Sacrifice, I am again reminded about just how amazing this series can be.
The Never-Ending Sacrifice is a sequel, of sorts, to the intriguing second-season DS9 episode “Cardassians.” In that episode, an elderly Bajoran man arrives on the station with his adoptive son, Rugal, a Cardassian child who was left behind when the Cardassian occupation of Bajor ended. Allegations emerge that the Bajorans are raising Rugal to hate his own kind, and when his actual father arrives on the station, relieved that the son he believed dead still lives, the Cardassian government demands that Commander Sisko turn the boy over to them. It’s a complex episode that fleshes out a lot of the show’s back-story — including a look at what went on during the Cardassian occupation and the reasons for their withdrawal (indeed, this was the episode that revealed that the Cardassians’ name for the station was Terok Nor), as well as a lot more about the deceitful web of Cardassian politics (including more information than we’d learned at that time about Garak and Dukat) and how life on Bajor was proceeding after the Cardassian withdrawal. Despite all those great qualities, though, I was always troubled by the ending of the episode. After all that build-up, Sisko’s decision is revealed in the closing moments in a simplistic commander’s log (it’s as if the writers just ran out of time and realized that they had to end the episode), and I couldn’t believe that Sisko actually decided to take the boy from his adoptive parents, with whom Rugal had expressed a clear desire to stay.
It was an episode that demanded a follow-up, but none ever came during the seven-year run of the show. Luckily, Una McCormack has stepped in to fill that void. The Never-Ending Sacrifice follows the life of Rugal from the moment he was taken by his Cardassian father-by-blood, Kotan Pa’Dar, back to Cardassia Prime, all the way through the tumultuous events of the series and through the post-finale series of novels as well. Ms. McCormack has masterfully woven together the intimate story of Rugal’s young life with the epic tale of the rise and fall of Cardassia.
Both aspects of the story are extraordinarily compelling. Rugal is an interesting protagonist. Following the events of the episode “Cardassians,” I expected him to be depicted as an angry, hateful young man because of his forced separation … [continued]
Deep Space Nine remains, by an order of magnitude, my favorite of the Star Trek series. Not surprisingly, then, it was the terrific DS9 relaunch of novels set after the series finale (which I wrote about in depth here) that rekindled my interest in (and love for) Pocket Books’ Star Trek novels.
But after the publication of David Mack’s phenomenal novel Warpath in April, 2006, the DS9 relaunch series hit something of a snag. Warpath ended on a brutal cliffhanger, bur for whatever reason the next installment in the series, Fearful Symmetry, wasn’t scheduled to be published until a year later. Unfortunately, it was actually over TWO years until that next novel was finally published (written by Olivia Woods, a different author than the one originally announced) in July, 2008. Fearful Symmetry wound up being one of the shortest DS9 novels published (in the relaunch series, at least), and then we all had to wait still another year for the next novel: The Soul Key, also written by Olivia Woods, released this past August.
Such a long a wait put a lot of pressure on The Soul Key. Things were exacerbated even more (in my mind, at least), when, a few months ago, Pocket Books released their schedule of novels for 2010. Only one DS9 novel was included, and according to the description it will be set several years after the events of the entire DS9 relaunch series of novels, so that it can be a part of next year’s “Typhon Pact” Next Gen crossover story. That sounds like a cool novel, but one that will be much more about the post-Destiny Next Gen stories as opposed to all of the DS9-centric stories of the DS9 relaunch. So it might be another two years at least before more actual DS9 proper novels are published. All of that means that Ms. Woods’ two novels (Fearful Symmetry and The Soul Key) could conceivably be the only new DS9 relaunch stories published for FIVE years.
That means that The Soul Key would have to be really magnificent to live up to all of the expectation placed upon it. Sadly, it is not.
Although not as short as Fearful Symmetry, The Soul Key is still a fairly short novel — and it feels even shorter than it actually is. That might be because, while there is a lot of PLOT covered in this novel (we do, at last, get some resolution to several of the story-lines that have been running through the past several DS9 novels, which means the last several YEARS of my life), there doesn’t seem to be a whole heck of a … [continued]
The post-Nemesis Star Trek: The Next Generation adventures continue in the latest excellent novel from Pocket Books, Losing the Peace, by William Leisner.
Following the calamitous destruction that the Borg have wrought throughout the Federation in David Mack’s terrific Destiny trilogy (see my review here), Starfleet’s exploration programs are all put on hold as every surviving starship is called upon to help pick up the pieces. Whole planets have been destroyed, leaving countless displaced survivors stranded across space. The surviving Federation worlds quickly find themselves overwhelmed by an enormous flood of refugees who have lost everything, and dramatic shortages of food and materiel strike everywhere.
Captain Jean-Luc Picard and the crew of the U.S.S. Enterprise bounce about the quadrant, attempting to help where they can and put out whatever “fires” they might come across, but the enormous problems facing the Federation seem much larger than anything that can be addressed by one lone starship. Meanwhile, Picard’s command crew (many of whom are new faces who have been introduced in Pocket Books’ post-Nemesis novels) each must face personal struggles as they try to come to grips with the tragedies they have survived.
Losing the Peace may be a unique Star Trek novel in that there is no villain. There is no alien threat to be overcome, no unique science-fiction mystery to be solved. Rather, the problems that beset Picard & co. this time are of a much more mundane — though no less perilous — nature. It would have been easy for Mr. Leisner to have added in some sort of more traditional antagonist — an alien race trying to take advantage of the chaos in the Federation, or something like that — and he is to be commended for avoiding that somewhat obvious way to add drama to the story. Instead, Mr. Leisner takes the time to draw the reader into a variety of much smaller-scale dramas taking place amongst Picard’s crew and all around the devastated Alpha Quadrant. These aren’t “fate of the universe” stories of a galactic scale — they’re very “human” tales. One might think that could make for a rather dull Star Trek novel. Quite the contrary — I thoroughly enjoyed this very realistic take on what the Federation would logically be facing following the galactic upheavals that took place in Destiny, and all of the “small” stories to be found in Losing the Peace accumulate into a tense novel in which the Federation seems to be in far greater peril than it ever has been before.
I was also pleased at how well Mr. Leisner was able to characterize both the familiar Next Gen characters who appear (Picard, Beverly, Worf, … [continued]