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Star Trek Coda: Book Three: Oblivion’s Gate

With David Mack’s Star Trek Coda: Book Three: Oblivion’s Gate, the two-decades-old Star Trek literary universe comes to an end.  This Coda series has gotten better and better as it’s gone on.  I enjoyed book one, Moments Asunder by Dayton Ward, and I thought book two, The Ashes of Tomorrow by James Swallow, was even better.  This final novel, Oblivion’s Gate, is easiest the best of the bunch.

David Mack is one of my very favorite Trek authors, and he’s crafted a great book here.  Oblivion’s Gate is a dense story, packed-full of characters and situations.  Mr. Mack has done his best to incorporate as many characters as possible from the Star Trek literary universe, including characters from all the 24th-century Star Trek series (including Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, and Voyager) as well as many characters who have been created over the years in the novels.  Mr. Mack does a good job at giving so many of these characters who I know and love their small moments, without ever allowing the story to get too unwieldy or too confusing with too many characters.  Most importantly, this is a rollicking adventure story that moves along at an incredible pace.  Mr. Mack has always been great at writing page-turner novels with exciting sustained tension, and while I thought the first two Coda books were occasionally a little light on exciting suspense and tension, this book is a barn-burner in which the momentum just builds and builds and builds.  I was happy that, finally, our heroes aren’t just playing aimless defense, but actually have a plan and go on the offensive.  Mr. Mack always writes great action; and I loved the structure of the story here withe exciting parallel action unfolding with the Defiant on the Borg-assimilated Earth while Mirror Luc Picard and the  jaunt ship Enterprise in the “First Splinter” timeline are trying to evade Riker and the Titan who are on the hunt for them.

While I liked the idea in theory of bringing back the Devidians (the alien villains from the TNG “Time’s Arrow” two-parter) and expanding upon them, I felt they were underwhelming as the “final” villains of the Trek lit-verse.  These faceless aliens just didn’t have the personality to feel BIG enough to warrant being the unbeatable threat that brought down our heroes and this entire timeline.  They just didn’t feel interesting enough or dangerous enough.  I loved the idea in this novel that back in First Contact, the Borg on the assimilated Earth (glimpsed by Picard & co. briefly after the Queen goes back in time and changes history) would have detected the Enterprise and the time-warp and tried to stop them.  That’s a … [continued]

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Josh Reviews The Center Seat: 55 Years of Star Trek

December 24th, 2021

The Center Seat: 55 Years of Star Trek is a ten-episode documentary series exploring the vast history of Star Trek!  The series is overseen by Brian Volk-Weiss, the creator of the documentary series The Toys That Made Us and The Movies That Made Us

I’m a huge Trek fan, so of course I was intrigued by this series when I read about it.  I’m always up for a new documentary exploring the rich history of Star Trek, and I liked the idea that this would be a multi-episode series, providing the real time needed to delve into Trek’s lengthy 55 year history.  On the other hand, I didn’t love Mr. Volk-Weiss’ series The Movies That Made Us.  I felt that series had a super-goofy tone that I found annoying and disrespectful to the movies being chronicled.  I worried that The Center Seat would take that same approach.

I’m pleased to report that I quite enjoyed this ten-episode series!  There wasn’t too much new information for an uber-fan like me, but it was fun to go on the ride of this journey through the franchise’s long history.  Is was cool to see how in-depth this look back at the vast Trek franchise was.  I quite enjoyed seeing all of the new interview footage with so many major players from throughout Trek’s history and all the different movies and TV shows.  I particularly enjoyed hearing from David Gerrold and the late D.C. Fontana (two of the most important writers on the Original Series), Harold Livingston (the screenwriter of Star Trek: The Motion Picture, who hilariously recounts his famously vicious feud with Gene Roddenberry), Nicholas Meyer (writer/director of Star Trek II and IV and writer of Star Trek IV), Robert Salin (the producer of Star Trek II, who was a critical yet often unheralded player in that movie’s success), Rick Berman (who oversaw almost twenty years of modern Trek TV shows and movies, from The Next Generation through Enterprise), Ronald D. Moore (an important writer on TNG and DS9), Brannon Braga (an important writer on TNG who would go on to run Voyager), Jeri Taylor (the brilliant TNG writer who would go on to co-create Voyager and who is seldom interviewed), and so many more.  The series boasts decent participation from the main actors from across the Trek series.  Many of the biggest stars are missing (no William Shatner, to Patrick Stewart, no Avery Brooks, no Scott Bakula), but we still get to hear from a LOT of the main cast-members from all of the shows, including Leonard Nimoy, Walter Koenig, Jonathan Frakes, Will Wheaton, Denise Crosby, Nana Visitor, Cirroc Lofton, Kate Mulgrew, Jeri Ryan, Robert Beltran, Robert … [continued]

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Josh Reviews Woman in Motion

December 13th, 2021

Woman in Motion shines a spotlight on Nichelle Nichols, who, of course, played Lt. Nyota Uhura on Star Trek.  The documentary film specifically explores Ms. Nichols’ remarkable work, beginning in 1977, to recruit men and women of color to be astronauts, scientists and engineers for NASA’s space shuttle program.  (Click here to watch the documentary now!)

Woman in Motion is a wonderful documentary, shining a well-deserved spotlight on Nichelle Nichols.  She’s an extraordinary woman who has lived an extraordinary life.

It’s incredible to get to hear Ms. Nichols tell her life story in her own words.  The spine of the film is a collection of interviews from different points in Ms. Nichols’ life, woven together to allow her to walk us through her life.  One of the interviews looks relatively recent; I assume it was done specifically for this film.  (In this lengthy interview which we cut back to throughout the film, Ms. Nichols’ still seems to be in complete possession of her voice and faculties.  I assume this was filmed before the sad conservatorship battle happening now…)

I was fascinated to hear Ms. Nichols speak of her dreams of becoming a ballet dancer, and to hear her reminisce about dancing and singing with Duke Ellington.  I didn’t know any of that about her early life in career.  Nor did I know that, later in life (post-Star Trek), she’d become the first woman to run her own STEM education company.  But what’s of central importance here is that I had no idea that, in 1977, Ms. Nichols was hired by NASA to help them recruit astronauts who wouldn’t just be more white men.  This began a decades-long association between Ms. Nichols and NASA, which this film explores.

One of the best moments in the film is a simple montage of Ms. Nichols laughing!  What a woman.  I also loved getting to hearing her sing “Fly Me to the Moon” over the closing credits.

The film is also a love letter to NASA.  I was fascinated to learn about the challenges NASA faced shifting from the Apollo missions of the sixties and seventies into the era of the space shuttle.  I must admit, I got a little misty-eyed when we get to the announcement that the first space shuttle would be named Enterprise.  (I’m still struck by what an incredible moment that was; what an extraordinary acknowledgement of the impact of Star Trek.)  I loved the amazing sequence in the film in which we get to listen to an astronaut describe the first few minutes of a shuttle launch.

Watching the film, I wondered if they’d address the loss of the Challenger.  They did, of course.  It … [continued]

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Star Trek Coda Book Two: The Ashes of Tomorrow

I’ve been reading Star Trek novels since I was a kid.  For the past two decades, these books have gone to the next level, and I’ve been captivated by the vast interconnected universe of Star Trek stories that has developed.  What began as a few books set after the events of the last canonical on-screen Star Trek adventures (the finale of Deep Space Nine and the movie Nemesis… and later also the Voyager and Enterprise finales) has grown over the years into a tapestry of interconnected stories, an epic saga that I love dearly.  But the Picard show presented a very different version of events in the Star Trek universe, thus suddenly rendering all of these wonderful stories out of continuity.  Rather than abandoning this universe immediately (as happened with the Star Wars books when Disney started making new Star Wars product), I am pleased that the authors and readers were given an opportunity for closure with this three-book Coda series.

In book one, Moments Asunder, an alien threat from the TNG series returned, attempting to destabilize and eventually destroy the entire timeline in which these Star Trek novels have taken place.  An aged Wesley Crusher from the future returned to attempt to warn his friends and family.  Captain Picard and the crew of the Enterprise E attempted to mobilize their allies to mount a defense, but at the end of the first book, things looked grim.  Here in The Ashes of Tomorrow, the scope of the story expands even further.  Captain Picard and the crew of the U.S.S. Aventine (the starship formerly commanded by Ezri Dax, as established in previous novels) attempt to rally Starfleet to the cause, only to be stymied by Captain Riker and the U.S.S. Titan, who unexpectedly find themselves in opposition to Picard.  Meanwhile, Benjamin Sisko (once again a starship commander) and Kira Nerys (now a Vedek on Bajor) both receive warnings from the Prophets that the Celestial Temple/Wormhole is about to become a critical battleground in this time-spanning conflict.  Sisko and Kira return to Deep Space Nine and attempt to gather their friends and comrades to do what they can to protect Bajor… and the Prophets themselves.

The Ashes of Tomorrow is a terrific book, even better than Book I: Moments Asunder.  I love the epic scope of this story, featuring a wealth of characters from across the various Trek TV shows as well as many characters created just for the books.  Author James Swallow really knows how to build tension, as he tightens the screws on our heroes as the story unfolds.  I couldn’t turn the pages fast enough.

My main two complaints about this novel are the same I had … [continued]

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Josh Reviews Star Trek: Lower Decks Season Two

The animated Star Trek comedy series Lower Decks focuses on the lower-ranked crew members aboard the small, not very well thought-of Starfleet vessel the U.S.S. Cerritos.  I enjoyed the first season of Lower Decks, but I absolutely LOVED this second season!  All the pieces fit into place here in the second series, resulting in a show that brought me tremendous joy.  This is by FAR the best of the current Star Trek series, and season two of Lower Decks was my favorite season of any Star Trek show since the fourth (and, really, only great) season of Enterprise back in 2005.  (That was almost two decades ago!)  I can’t stand most of what passes for Star Trek these days, but for someone who loves TNG and DS9 — and who has a deep nerdy knowledge of those series, as well as the Original Series — Lower Decks feels at times like it’s been made just for me.

I’ve really grown to love all four main characters over the course of these two short (10 episode) seasons.  That’s not a lot of time, but these characters have gotten way more development then, say, anyone on Star Trek: Discovery.  The standout for me in season one was Tawny Newsome as Beckett Mariner, the self-described “Kirk-style free spirit who kicks butt”, but who has trouble following the rules and operating within Starfleet protocols.  Beckett continues to be a hoot in season two.  It’s been fun to watch her struggle with finding some sort of way to understand and work with her mom (who just happens to be the Captain of the Cerritos).  It’s been satisfying to watch the bumbling “everyman” Brad Boimler (Jack Quaid) actually grow a bit into a better, more confident officer here in season two.  I loved the scenes early in the season with him on Will Riker’s U.S.S. Titan — where Boimler actually sort of did an OK job!  I loved getting to see him give a rousing captain’s speech in “The Spy Humongous” and then to save the day at the end (albeit in a perfect Boimler fashion, by taking repeated pratfalls)… and then he actually shows some true bravery in the season finale, down in Cetacean Ops.  I didn’t feel as connected to Tendi and Rutherford in season one, but that quickly changed here in season two.  I loved how the show has explored and developed those two characters, and now I love them just as much — if not more!! — than Mariner and Boimler.  Noël Wells is fantastic as Tendi, giving her a wide-eyed optimism and infectious goodness, combined with a deep nerdiness, that is incredibly endearing.  I loved getting to learn more about … [continued]

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The Star Trek Literary Universe Appears to Draw to a Close with Star Trek Coda Book One: Moments Asunder

Back in 2001, I read the novel Star Trek: Avatar, by S.D. Perry, which picked up the story of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine following the events of the series finale.  I loved the book, and I was delighted to see a continuation and exploration of the DS9 story and characters beyond the events of the finale.  It was particularly cool that, right from that first book, the story wasn’t contained to just the DS9 characters, but involved Captain Picard and TNG characters as well.  Avatar turned out to be the first step in an extraordinary series of novels.  (Actually, multiple interconnected series!)  First it was a series of post-finale DS9 books.  Then there was a series of post-Nemesis TNG books and post-finale Voyager books (and even post-finale Enterprise books, set two centuries earlier), as well as a number of Original Series books that also were connected to these continuing stories.  These series of novels could be read separately, but to my delight the books wove in and out of one another, with characters crossing franchises and the books referencing one another.  This vast and ever-growing tapestry of Star Trek novels has continued for the past two decades, and has resulted in one of the greatest and most consistently entertaining sci-fi narratives I have ever come across, in any medium.  These authors (and editors) clearly have a deep, deep love for Star Trek, and it’s been incredible to see how they’ve been able to explore these characters (in many ways, far more deeply than had ben done in the canonical on-screen adventures) and push the stories forward — both the personal stories and the epic galactic stories — in a way that they couldn’t do within the framework of a TV show with its necessity of maintaining a status quo structure and a realistic budget.

For the past few years, however — ever since the Picard TV series was announced — I worried that the end of this wonderful continuing story was nigh.  Even before I’d seen a minute of Picard, it was obvious that show would contradict the events of the novel series.  In 2017, the novel series suddenly ceased publication.  I assume this was not a coincidence.  I was relieved when the books resumed in the spring of 2019 (with Dayton Ward’s TNG novel Available Light), but after only a few more books came out, it looked like David Mack’s 2020 novel Collateral Damage might be the last one we’d get.  Collateral Damage was a great book, but it didn’t feel like a true conclusion to this two decades-plus interconnected novel series.

And so I am delighted that, a year later, we’re getting the three-novel … [continued]

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News Around the Net!

September 22nd, 2021

For a huge sequel coming out in just a few months, we’ve seen surprisingly little promotion for The Matrix Resurrections… but here now at last is a trailer:

Color me intrigued!  I quite like the first Matrix film (though perhaps I didn’t love it as much as as most of the rest of the world seemed to, back when it was released), and I was disappointed by the two sequels (though I didn’t loathe them as much as much of the rest of the world seemed to, back when they were released).  It’s difficult to mount a successful sequel so many years later — many have tried and failed — but I’m certainly interested to see whether this sequel/reboot will be any good…

Here’s the first substantial trailer for Amazon Prime’s adaptation of Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series:

I’ve never read the books, though I’ve long thought I should give them a try.  So I have no connection to the source material, but I’m intrigued by the trailer and I’ll probably give this series a watch…\

I love this first trailer for the next Disney+ Marvel TV show, Hawkeye:

That looks so fun!  I’m all in on these Marvel Disney+ shows.  I can’t wait for Hawkeye.

Speaking of Marvel, I somehow missed this new trailer for The Eternals that was released a couple of weeks ago:

I’m so intrigued that Marvel has chosen to adapt this very obscure title as their next big thing.  The cast is fantastic, and there are some gorgeous visuals in that trailer.  (And we finally get to see a true Jack Kirby style Celestial!!!  Amazing!!)  I can’t wait.

I didn’t know Robot Chicken was still in production, so I was delighted to see this trailer for their upcoming eleventh (!!) season:

I’m intrigued by this trailer for Among the Stars, a documentary series coming next month to Disney+…

I’m a nut for stuff regarding NASA and the space program, so I’m definitely interested in checking that out.

Last week was the 55th anniversary of the premiere of Star Trek.  Wowsers.  Paramount used that “Star Trek Day” to promote many of the currently in-production Star Trek shows.  Here’s a trailer for season two of Picard:

Here’s a look at the in-production first season of the Original Series era show, Strange New Worlds:

And here’s the first full trailer for the animated Star Trek: Prodigy:

Oh how I wish I could be excited about all of this new Star Trek product.  The wild thing is that Paramount is doing what I’ve for decades been wanting to see happen with the Trek franchise: instead of being locked into one single show in one single era, … [continued]

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Star Trek: Death in Winter

After reading the nine-book “A Time To…” series, which was set in the year prior to the events of Star Trek: Nemesis, the (very terrible) final TNG film, I decided to continue on and re-read one of Pocket Books’ first TNG novels set immediately AFTER the events of Nemesis: Michael Jan Friedman’s Death in Winter, which was originally published back in 2005.

While the Enterprise is in drydock, getting repaired after the terrible damage the ship suffered in the battle with Shinzon in Nemesis, Dr. Crusher has gotten started as the new head of Starfleet Medical.  Only a week later, however, she’s swept up in a secret mission to the Romulan-controlled planet of Kevratas, which is suffering from a terrible plague that Dr. Crusher had been involved with handling decades ago.  The Federation is hopeful that Dr. Crusher can help the Kevrata, which would be a humanitarian accomplishment and also help the Kevtarans to embrace the Federation and lift off the shackles of Romulan control.  But those hopes are dashed when Dr. Crusher is captured by the Roman Sela.  And so Captain Picard and several of his and Jack Crusher’s old colleagues from the Stargazer set off on a rescue mission… and Picard and Crusher will finally confront their long-submerged feelings for one another.

I didn’t at all like this book when I first read it.  The book was billed as being the story that would finally move the Picard-Crusher romance forward.  (Although their sexual tension was introduced right at the beginning of TNG, the show mostly ignored it after those early episodes.  And when the show did finally address their romantic interest in one another again, in the seventh series episode “Attached,” they STILL refused to develop any sort of actual romantic relationship between these two.)  But I was disappointed that in this book, this nothing actually happened between Picard and Crusher (who spend most of the novel separated) until the final pages.  So the book felt like all build-up but no payoff!  On top of that, I wasn’t that interested in all of the goings-on with Picard’s old Stargazer crew-members; I felt Worf and Geordi were ignored; and I have never found Sela to be an interesting or credible threat.  (She’s defeated here just as easily as she was in every on-screen TNG appearance.)

Re-reading this book now, though, I liked it a lot more than I originally did!

I really liked the look into Beverly’s past, especially the chapters of her as a young girl, which showed not only the start of her interest in medicine, but also her personal connection to the plague affecting the Kevratans.  (I also enjoyed seeing Beverly’s grandmother Felisa Howard, who was … [continued]

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The Director’s Edition of Star Trek: The Motion Picture is coming to 4K!

July 12th, 2021

Good news, everyone!

At long last, Paramount has FINALLY greenlit the process needed to restore and update the Director’s Edition of Star Trek: The Motion Picture into 4K!  Click here for more info!

Star Trek: The Motion Picture was famously produced on an incredibly rushed schedule, because Paramount had committed to a release date (and would have had to pay a huge financial penalty to theaters if they failed to provide the film by the agreed-upon date).  As a result, director Robert Wise did not have the time required to properly complete the film.  He did not have the time needed to polish the edit, nor to complete the sound mix.  I am not the hugest fan of The Motion Picture (I far prefer the tone and style of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan), and there are plenty of flaws baked into the movie (the dreadful pastel costumes, for one).  But there’s no question that this rushed production is to blame for many of the film’s flaws — most particularly the way I feel the pace sags dramatically in the middle of the movie, once the Enterprise actually encounters V’Ger.

(Like many Trek fans, I grew up watching a VHS recording of the ABC TV extended cut of the film, which incorporated many deleted scenes back into the film.  That version is fun, but it’s even more of a mess than the theatrical version.  It’s cool to see many scenes that were left out of the theatrical version.  But several of those unfinished scenes contain obviously unfinished special effects — you can clearly see the scaffolding at the edge of the set, for instance, in shots of Kirk donning a space-suit to go after Spock — and the pacing is even more sluggish than the theatrical edition.)

Back in 1999, David C. Fein and Michael Matessino contacted Robert Wise, and then Paramount, and proposed the creation of a true Director’s Edition of Star Trek: The Motion Picture. The result was one of the first truly great director’s cuts of the early DVD age, as Star Trek: The Motion Picture The Director’s Edition was released on DVD in 2001.  The team worked with Robert Wise to properly incorporate some of the great scenes from the ABC TV extended cut, while also trimming footage and scenes throughout the film in order to tighten up the pacing.  Visual Effects Supervisor Darren Dochterman and Foundation Imaging created a number of new VFX shots — meticulously designed to match the original visual effects work from 1979 — that expanded the film’s scope, corrected production errors, and better clarified certain story points.  (Highlights for me include a far better depiction of Vulcan than … [continued]

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Star Trek: Serpents in the Garden

The second season Original Series episode “A Private Little War” is, in my opinion, one of the most compelling and at the same time one of the most disappointing episodes of the Original Series.  The episode sets up a wonderful conundrum for Captain Kirk, as he returns to an eden-like world, Neural, that’d he’d visited as a younger officer, only to discover that the Klingons have secretly begun arming a tribe of the natives.  These “villagers” have used their Klingon-given flintlock rifles (primitive compared to Starfleet’s phasers, but beyond anything else found on this formerly peaceful planet) to war with the pacifist “Hill People.”  Kirk, believing that he has to maintain a balance of power on the planet, makes the controversial choice to arm the Hill People with similar weapons.  It’s a powerful Cold War analogy, a great example of the way that Star Trek would use its sci-fi day to tell stories that were profoundly relevant to the time.

But the episode ends on a shockingly unresolved note.  Kirk seems to, at the end, realize that he himself is the serpent in the garden of Eden, and that an escalation of violence will not solve anything.  But then the Enterprise just leaves and nothing is resolved!  We never learn what happened down on the planet.  Were the Klingons exposed and forced to leave, or did they stay?  Were the Hill People and the Villagers able to make peace, or did they use their newfound weapons to continue to war with one another?  And what of Kirk’s friend, Tyree, the Hill People’s leader?  When last we saw him, his wife had just been murdered by the Villagers, and this formerly peace-loving man had run off with murderous vengeance in mind.  Whatever happened to him??  “A Private Little War” always felt to me like a great episode missing its final ten minutes.

As such, it was ripe for a follow-up, and I quite enjoyed Jeff Mariotte’s “Serpents in the Garden.”  Set a few months prior to the events of Star Trek: The Motion Picture, Kirk returns to Neural to see what has happened there and to try to undo some of the mistakes he’d made in his previous visit.  As might have been expected, things have gotten worse on Neural, not better, and the Klingons are more of a threat there than ever.

I enjoyed reading this fun extrapolation of what might have happened on Neural after the credits on “A Private Little War” rolled.  It’s great to see Tyree again, and I enjoyed the way Mr. Mariotte developed several new characters among the Hill People, as well as how he brought back the Villager leader Apella and also the Klingon … [continued]

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Star Trek: A Time For War, A Time For Peace

Keith R.A. DeCandido’s A Time for War, A Time for Peace is the ninth and final novel in Pocket Books’ “A Time to…” series, released back in 2004, that depicted the year leading up to the events of the final TNG movie, Nemesis.  I’ve been enjoying this series, and Mr. DeCandido’s book brings the story to a very satisfying end.

This might be my favorite book in the series, despite the fact that not much that seems that momentous happens in the book.  All of the big, actiony, universe-shaking stuff happened in David Mack’s A Time to Kill, A Time to Heal duology.  This novel feels like an epilogue to the series.  But perhaps that’s why I enjoyed it so much.  This is a much less intense book than Mr. Mack’s previous two, but that allows Mr. DeCandido room to explore these characters as we dig into the repercussions of the events chronicled in the previous eight books.

My favorite aspect of this book was its focus on the behind-the-scenes politics of the United Federation of Planets.  Following the resignation of Federation president Min Zife at the end of the previous novel, we follow the campaign between two candidates for the presidency: Nan Bacco and Fel Pagro.  Now, going into this book, I knew who won.  One of my favorite Star Trek novels of all time is Mr. DeCandido’s Articles of the Federation, which chronicles the first year in Nan Bacco’s presidency, and was written a year after this book.  Articles of the Federation is an astonishing novel, one that explores a whole universe of Star Trek that we’d never before seen.  All of the Trek TV series focused on Starfleet and Starfleet officers, but Starfleet is just one branch of the United Federation of Planets.  Articles of the Federation digs deeply into an exploration of how the government of the Federation actually operates.  It’s magnificent.  I’d assumed that Nan Bacco, her Chief of Staff Esperanze Piniera, and many of the other characters in her administration were created for Articles of the Federation, but lo and behold, Nan and many of these characters actually originated here in A Time for War, A Time for Peace.  Wow!  I loved getting to read this previously unknown (to me, at least!) chapter of their story.  I love how Mr. DeCandido started building the stories here that he’d later explore more thoroughly in Articles of the Federation.

We hadn’t seen too much of Worf in this series so far, but this book gave him some great stuff, particularly the way he was able to single-handedly thwart a terrorist assault on the Federation embassy on Qo’noS.  It’s a great spotlight for Worf, the greatest … [continued]

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Star Trek: A Time to Kill and A Time to Heal

Last year, I decided to finally go back and read the nine-book “A Time To…” series, originally published in 2004.  This series came out after the final TNG movie, Nemesis, and was designed to help explain many of that film’s choices regarding the status of the main TNG characters.  (Click here for my review of books 1 and 2: A Time to be Born and A Time to Die, by John Vornholt; click here for my review of books 3 and 4: A Time to Sow and A Time to Harvest, by Dayton Ward & Kevin Dilmore; and click here for my review of books 5 and 6: A Time to Love and A Time to Hate, by Robert Greenberger.)

The penultimate duology, A Time to Kill and A Time to Heal, were written by David Mack.  These days, Mr. Mack has become one of the very best Star Trek novel writers; I was surprised to discover that this duology represented the first full Trek novels that he had written!  (He’d previously written a few Trek short stories and S.C.E. e-books.)  You’d never know it; these two books are completely polished and professionally-written.

Finally we’ve arrived at the events in this series that would have the most powerful repercussions in the Trek novels that would follow.  Although I’d never before read these books, I was familiar with the broad strokes of the events that took place therein, because these events would often be referred back to by other novels.  A planet on the Klingon border, Tezwa, has begun threatening the Klingons and threatening to annex a local system.  The Enterprise and a group of Klingon warships are sent to Tezwa to mediate the situation, and are promptly blown out of the sky by advanced planet-based defense weapons that the Tezwans shouldn’t have.  (The Klingon ships are destroyed and the Enterprise is badly damaged.)  It turns out that Federation President Min Zife and his chief of staff Koll Azernal secretly armed the Tezwans during the Dominion War, as a last-ditch defense against the Dominion.  If the Klingons discovered this betrayal by the Federation, it could start an interstellar war.  So Zife and Azernal have been endeavoring to keep the existence of the guns under wraps, but that plan went to hell when the crazed Tezwan Prime Minister, Kinchawn, used them to annihilate the Klingon starships.  Picard, not knowing any of this, attempts to keep the peace between the Tezwans and the Klingons, and also between the different Tezwan factions erupting into civil war following Kinchawn’s violent actions.  He must do this without Riker, who has been kidnapped by the Tezwans, who torture him in an attempt to extract information that … [continued]

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Click here for part 1 of my list of my favorite TV series of 2020, and click here for part two!

15. Curb Your Enthusiasm season 10 — Ok, sure, the best days of Curb Your Enthusiasm seem to be in the past.  And I thought the first few episodes of this season, in which Larry runs afoul of the #metoo movement, were misguided.  But come on: the episode in which Jon Hamm slowly morphs into a Larry David duplicate was an all-time great.  And that was just one of the season’s many comedic delights, which included (but were by no means limited to): Larry’s wearing a MAGA hat in order to prevent people from coming up and chatting with him; Larry’s getting seated in the “ugly section” at a restaurant; Jeff’s being mistaken for Harvey Weinstein; side-sitting, yo-yo-diets, texting while driving, and all sorts of other shenanigans.  (Click here for my full review.)

14. Disney Gallery: The Mandalorian This behind-the-scenes look at the making of The Mandalorian is a lot of fun for a major Star Wars fan like myself.  The series is a delightful mix of after-the-fact roundtable discussions as well as lots of behind-the-scenes footage.  I was particularly delighted by the fourth episode, which took a deep dive into the revolutionary technology utilized to create the astoundingly beautiful and photo-real visual effects of the show, and the eighth episode, which explored all the myriad fun connections to obscure corners of the Star Wars universe that Jon Favreau, Dave Filoni and others incorporated into the show.  (Click here for my full review.)

13. Star Trek: Lower Decks This animated half-hour Star Trek comedy, exploring the lives of the lower-ranked “lower decks” characters on a Federation starship, is an enjoyable new version of a Star Trek show.  The animation is beautiful, and the show is very funny and packed with endearingly nerdy references to the vast breadth of the Star Trek universe.  It’s a pleasure to be back in the familiar 24th century setting of The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, and Voyager, and over the course of this first ten-episode season, I grew to quite enjoy this series’ cast of misfits.  The triumphant inclusion of Captain William T. Riker and the starship Titan in the season’s final moments gave me a lot of joy.  This isn’t exactly the type of new Star Trek show I most want to see (I’d have been more interested in a straight, dramatic telling of most of this season’s stories), but dang if I didn’t grow to appreciate it nonetheless.  Bravo to creator Mike McMahan and his team.  I can’t wait for season two.  (Click here for my … [continued]

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Part 3 of Josh’s Review of Star Trek: Discovery Season Three!

Click here for my overview of Star Trek: Discovery season 3, and click here for the beginning of my episode-by-episode review.  And now, let’s dive back in and wrap up my analysis of the season!

Episode 7 — Unification III — Well, they had me with the cheeky title (which harks back to TNG’s “Unification” two-parter), and the rest of the episode was pretty solid as well!  I like the idea that Vulcan and Romulus did finally achieve Spock’s dream of unification, and that Vulcan is now known as Ni’Var.  It’s interesting to see this joined Vulcan/Romulan society is on the outs with the Federation (they left the Federation 100 years ago).  It makes sense that Spock’s sister might be a figure of some importance to them.  It’s interesting to see Ethan Peck as Spock again… and of course it was a delightful surprise to see a clip of Leonard Nimoy as Spock (from “Unification II”) — though, of course, that’s also a continuity problem because there’s no way there could have been a recording of Picard’s conversation with Spock on Romulus.  I like the idea that the Qowat Milat (the brutally honest Roman warrior-nuns from Picard) were essential for the Vulcan-Romulus reunification.

I liked seeing Burnham and Book together.  I liked their sweet post-coital conversation early in the episode.  It’s a fun surprise to see Burnham’s mom again, now somehow a Qowat Milat.  I don’t understand the time-travel plot mechanics of how this could be, nor the character reasons of why a time-travel scientist would become a monk on Vulcan, but it’s always great to see The Wire’s Sonja Sohn again.  I like the scenes between Burnham and her mom.

But I HATE when the show has Burnham’s mom wonder how much of who Spock became was because of who his sister was.  This is really insulting and undermining to the character of Spock, and represents an absurd attempt of elevating the importance of Michael Burnham.  I like Burnham!  She’s an interesting character all on her own!  The show doesn’t need to suggest that she’s also responsible for making Spock into the great character he was!  That’s so silly and unnecessary.  It has the reverse effect intended and, for me, totally undermines the Burnham character.  It frustrates me that in this episode, yet again, Michael and her feelings are at the center of an event of galactic import.

Also: why have all of the scientists on Vulcan, who HAD all of the info from the mysterious SB-19 data, thought for a CENTURY that the Burn started on Vulcan… while Burnham discovers in two seconds that that’s not what happened??  That’s so silly!  It makes the Vulcans look … [continued]

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Part 2 of Josh’s Review of Star Trek: Discovery Season Three!

Yesterday I posted my review of the third season of Star Trek: Discovery.  Today I’m back with a more detailed episode-by-episode analysis.  Let’s dive in!

Episode 1 — That Hope is You, part 1 — For the most part I quite enjoyed this season premiere.  I like the decision to focus solely on Michael Burnham, with no appearances from any other Discovery character.  That’s unusual for Trek, and I like the focus that gave to this episode.  I enjoyed our initial glimpses of this far future into which Michael (and the series) has jumped.  I liked the enigmatic “searching for signals” opening.  I liked the chase through the ruins of starships in orbit of the planet onto which Burnham crashes.  I loved the beautiful vistas of this alien world.  (The location shooting combined with high-quality CGI effects created a very memorable new alien planet.)  I really enjoyed meeting Book (though I hate that his name is a rip-off of a beloved character from Firefly) and his crashed ship was beautifully realized.  I’m glad Burnham sent the time-travel suit away, so she and the show can’t easily return to that magical get-out-of-plot-problems device again.  (Though I’m confused where/when Burnham sent the suit?)  The “Mercantile” trading post looked cool.  I liked seeing Andorians and Orions, and I liked hearing mention of the Gorn.  I loved seeing an alien of the same species as Morn from DS9!

What drags the episode down is the usual Discovery plot problems.  Why can’t the bad-guys track transporters through water??  Why does Book’s ship have enough power to cloak the entire huge vessel but not to beam over to Mercantile?  Also, why does the man seen in the opening have a box with the unqiue-to-Discovery emblem (the split arrowhead design that was never seen before this show) as opposed to the standard Starfleet symbol?  It doesn’t make any sense that this man (who we’ll learn is a Starfleet officer) would have that only-ever-seen-on-Discovery emblem (which, according to this very show, was declared a forever secret by Starfleet in the 23rd century).  It’s laziness by the props department… perhaps combined with an arrogance in declaring that this show’s visual choices should outweigh all previous Trek history.  It’s the same sort of arrogance I saw in Picard, in which we saw, for example, a future Starfleet that didn’t contain a single recognizable starship design — instead, every single ship was a generic Picard redesign.  It’s a missed opportunity.

Episode 2 — Far From Home — After an episode with Burnham, it was fun to step away from Burnham for an entire episode (the first time in the show’s history!) to catch up with the rest … [continued]

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Josh Reviews Star Trek: Discovery Season Three!

I am an enormous Star Trek fan.  Of all the many stories and franchises that I love (in movies, TV shows, novels, and comic books), I don’t think there is any that I love more than Star Trek.  And yet, as a Trek fan, I have been suffering for many years, waiting for good new Star Trek to arrive.  I love The Original Series, and I grew up on Star Trek: The Next Generation.  Starting with season three of TNG (which still stands as one of the greatest seasons of Trek ever made), I was spoiled by regular new Trek that just got better and better, through the seven seasons of TNG and then the seven seasons of Deep Space Nine (which still stands as my very favorite of all the Trek series.)  I expected Trek to continue to get greater, and yet, after the finale of DS9 in May 1999, I have repeatedly been disappointed.  The final two TNG movies (Insurrection and Nemesis) disappointed.  The next two spin-off shows, Voyager and Enterprise, both disappointed.  (Although Enterprise did finally find its legs in the middle of season three.  The end of season three, followed by season four, were terrific, the best Trek in years.  Sadly the show was cancelled at the end of season four.)  The true successor to DS9 was Ron Moore’s Battlestar Galactica, which built upon DS9 in almost every way.  The three J.J. Abrams Trek movies disappointed.  (The first one is enjoyable, but it gets a lot wrong and is full of lazy plot-holes and contrivances that drive me nuts.  Star Trek Into Darkness is an abomination before the Lord, and Star Trek Beyond is forgettable.)  I was excited for the potential of Trek’s long-awaited return to TV, but the first season of Discovery was terrible and the second season wasn’t much better.  Picard started strong but tumbled into ridiculousness.  The animated comedy Lower Decks has been a sole bright light (I found it mostly delightful), but that’s not really what I’m looking for in Trek.  I went into Discovery season three with very low expectations, but also, as always, hope in my heart that maybe the show had course-corrected.

Well, I’ll say this: I didn’t hate it!

That represents a huge improvement over Discovery seasons one and two… though this series is so far below the quality of almost any Trek series from the Original Series through to Enterprise that it’s sort of hard to believe… and in fact I really don’t consider this to be Star Trek at all.

What’s good in Discovery: season three?  Well, at the end of season two, the series jumped … [continued]

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Star Trek: A Time to Love and A Time to Hate

I’ve gone back to read, for the first time, the nine-book “A Time To…” saga of Star Trek novels published in 2004, designed to bridge the gap between Star Trek: Insurrection and Star Trek: Nemesis, the last of the TNG movies.  (Click here for my review of books 1 and 2: A Time to be Born and A Time to Die, by John Vornholt, and click here for my review of books 3 and 4: A Time to Sow and A Time to Harvest, by Dayton Ward & Kevin Dilmore.)

Robert Greenberger has written a variety of  Star Trek projects over the years, but he is best known to me as the editor of DC Comics’ wonderful Star Trek comic book series in the eighties/nineties.  I have warm memories of those comics (most especially Peter David’s long run on the main Star Trek series), and Mr. Greenberg regularly wrote/“hosted” the letters page, which I always loved reading.  It was a delight to read these two novels which he’d written!

These books were, I think, the shortest books in the series.  Mr. Greenberg’s writing style felt different to me than many/most other Pocket Books Trek novels.  For example, Mr Greenberg seemed to favor shorter scenes, with his chapters often jumping quickly from one character/location to another.  And he often summarized parts of conversations or other events, rather than taking the reader through those scenes in full.  It’s interesting to read a Star Trek novel written in something different from the usual “house” style.  That’s not necessarily bad, but the books were sometimes choppy and hard to understand.  There were several times reading these books when I had to stop and flip back a few pages to make sure I understood what was happening.  Sometimes there were apparent contradictions or discrepancies in the writing that I couldn’t figure out.  Here’s just one example: about 100 pages into book one, a second murder is reported and Riker is sent to investigate.  I expected him to arrive at a crime scene, but instead we read about a calm farm.  When Riker talks to the main witness, we read that the man “sat back and considered the question, summoning up memories of the events a few weeks past.”  A few weeks past??  I thought the second murder had just happened!  How can it have taken place weeks ago?  Why wasn’t it reported at the time??  If these questions were explained in the book’s text, I missed them.

(Frankly, the books contained several examples of what seemed to me like blatant mistakes that surely should have been caught during the editing process.  At one point, we read: “‘Chip off the old block,’ Kyle said sardonically.  … [continued]

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Star Trek: A Time to Sow and A Time to Harvest

I’ve gone back to read, for the first time, the nine-book “A Time To…” saga of Star Trek novels published in 2004, designed to bridge the gap between Star Trek: Insurrection and Star Trek: Nemesis, the last of the TNG movies.  (Click here for my review of books 1 and 2: A Time to be Born and A Time to Die, by John Vornholt.)  Today I’ll take a look at books 3 and 4: A Time to Sow and A Time to Harvest, by Dayton Ward & Kevin Dilmore.

When A Time to Sow opens, Captain Picard and the crew of the Enterprise-E are facing the repercussions from Starfleet of what is perceives as their failures at Rashanar (as depicted in the previous two novels).  Starfleet sends the Enterprise on a mission that is generally perceived as a waste of time: investigating the origins of a distress call transmitted by a probe that was first found two centuries earlier, during Captain Archer’s time.  However, Picard and the Enterprise succeed in locating the last survivors of Dokaal…

I enjoyed this duology!  It was an interesting move to bring back the Satarrans from the TNG episode “Conundrum”.  That’s quite a deep cut!  I enjoyed seeing those aliens again, and giving them some more development.  However, it stretched my credulity at how they all seemed to be computer geniuses (able to determine a method of incapacitate Data within just a few hours, and also able to wreak all sorts of havoc with the ship’s supposedly secure computer that even Data and Geordi had extreme difficulty detecting and undoing.)  I also found it unlikely that all three Dokaalan probes were found in the Federation’s part of the galaxy (one by the Vulcans and another 200 years later by the Federation, and the third by the Satarrans) … wouldn’t the Dokaalans have launched the three proves in entirely different directions, towards different parts of the galaxy?

I quite liked the way these books explored Data’s loss of his emotion chip, as seen in the previous duology, and Geordi’s fear that loss has undone much of Data’s personal growth that we followed on the show and movies.  Nemesis was vague as to whether Data did or didn’t still have his emotion chip.  Looks like this series is confirming that he didn’t, and trying to explain why the Data in Nemesis felt like an early version of the character (one of many flaws in Nemesis’ script).  Nicely done!  (The authors should get a Marvel-style no-prize!)  I liked seeing attention paid to the Geordi-Data friendship, and to Geordi himself, who got a nice spotlight at various points in this story (most notably managing to escape capture, along … [continued]

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Josh Reviews Star Trek: Lower Decks Season One!

Star Trek: Lower Decks is the second Star Trek animated show (the first was Star Trek: The Animated Series, which aired in 1973-74) and the first Trek comedy.  The series focuses on four low-ranked crew-people on a Federation Starship, the U.S.S. Ceritos, during the era of Star Trek: The Next Generation.  I enjoyed the first episode, and I’m pleased to report that I continued to enjoy the entire 10-episode first season!

There’s a lot that the show does very well.  First off, after suffering through two seasons of Discovery and one season of Picard on CBS All-Access, both of which made a complete mash of Star Trek continuity, it is an absolute delight to see this show which relishes in Trek continuity.  Just being back in the familiar 24th century TNG era (the subsequent Trek shows Deep Space Nine and Voyager were both also set during this time-frame) is a pleasure.  It makes me so happy to see the look of these TNG-era Federation starships (particularly in contrast to the very ugly starships seen in the J.J. Abrams “Kelvin-verse” movies, and Discovery and Picard), to see the look of TNG-era Federation corridors and computer interfaces and costumes, to hear the familiar sound-effect of the warp drive or the phasers or the turbolift or the computer… and on and on.  Even beyond that, I don’t think I exaggerated when I wrote, above, that this show relishes in Trek continuity.  Each episode has been jam-packed with all sorts of sight gags and background details and jokes in the fast-paced dialogue that reference a myriad of obscure details from across the Star Trek universe, eras, and shows and movies.  It’s fun, as a hard-core Trek fan, to try to spot all of these references, and it’s a pleasure to know that this show is clearly being made by people who know and love Star Trek.  Creator and show-runner Mike McMahan is obviously an enormous Star Trek fan!  This makes me very happy.

This initial ten-episode first season has done a wonderful job of fleshing out all four main characters: the nerdy, stick-to-the-rules Boimler; the audacious, resistant-to-authority Mariner; the joyful, tech-loving Tendi; and the equally tech-loving Rutherford, who is still struggling sometimes to adapt to his cyborg implant.  I loved Mariner and Boimler right from the first episode, though I didn’t feel I got a handle on Tendi and Rutherford in that premiere.  But over the course of this season, I really enjoyed how well-developed all four characters became.  By the end of the season, I loved all four of these characters!

The look of the show was terrific in that first episode and stayed consistently excellent throughout this first season.  … [continued]

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Star Trek: A Time to be Born and A Time to Die

Back in 2004, Pocket Book published a connected series of nine Star Trek: The Next Generation novels, designed to bridge the gap between Star Trek: Insurrection and Star Trek: Nemesis, the last of the TNG movies.  Nemesis introduced several changes to the status quo of the TNG crew (Riker and Troi were engaged to be married and Riker was finally moving on to his own command; Worf and Wesley were apparently back in Starfleet, etc.), and this book series was designed to explain those new developments and to give Nemesis more of a context that fit with pre-established Trek continuity.

I didn’t read the “A Time To…” series back when it was first released.  While I was hooked into the interconnected series of DS9 novels that continued the DS9 story past the events of the finale, “What You Leave Behind,” the Pocket Books Trek line hadn’t yet merged into the very-cool tapestry that I have been following and enjoying for the past decade and a half, weaving together characters and story-lines from all the Trek series.  So at the time, I didn’t view this new TNG series as a must-read.  But the primary reason I didn’t read it was that I hated Nemesis.  I thought it was a failure through and through, and while it was a delight to see Riker and Troi’s storylines finally moving forward in that movie, many of the other changes felt like annoying reversals of character developments that I had enjoyed.  Worf’s unexplained return to a Starfleet uniform was the most galling.  I was delighted by the way Deep Space Nine developed Worf’s character, and I thought that the place where they left Worf at the end of the series, as the new Federation ambassador to the Klingon empire, was a perfect next step for the character.  And so I was super-annoyed at Nemesis for undoing that development without any explanation, and dropping Worf right back where he had been long ago on TNG, as security chief for the Enterprise.  (Adding insult to injury, Nemesis’ general stupidity and carelessness of storytelling led me to believe that this change to Worf might have just been an accidental oversight, rather than a change made with a good reason at heart.  Or at least, any reason beyond: we want Worf in the movie so let’s just put him back on the Enterprise and assume the fans won’t notice or care that we’re undoing all of his development from DS9.)  And so I was not exactly chomping at the bit at the prospect of reading nine books devoted to explaining these changes.  I preferred to ignore Nemesis to the best of my ability.

But in the years since, Pocket … [continued]

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News Around the Net!

Let’s start with our first look at The Mandalorian season two!!

I am super-excited!!  We don’t have long to wait…

I am also over-the-moon excited by this magnificent first trailer for Denis Villeneuve’s Dune adaptation:

That is a gorgeous trailer.  The visuals are every bit as epic and weird as I’d have hoped.  The cast they’ve assembled is extraordinary.  The sandworm looks amazing.  I am pumped!!  I deeply love Dune, and I am incredibly excited for what I hope will be a faithful adaptation of Brian Herbert’s novel.  I love Arrival and Blade Runner 2049, so Mr. Villeneuve has my trust.  It’s only the “only in theaters” tag at the end that makes me sad.  It’s unimaginable to me that a Dune movie might exist and I wouldn’t go see it in the theaters; but if the world keeps going in the direction it’s in, that might very likely be the case…

Here’s another spectacular trailer, for Aaron Sorkin’s The Trial of the Chicago 7:

Wow.  Could this film be more relevant??  I can’t wait for this one and I’m delighted that it’ll be on Netflix (rather than only in theaters) next month.

I wish I was as excited for the trailer for Star Trek: Discovery season three:

That’s a solid trailer.  It looks gorgeous, and I like this cast.  But I am so down on modern Star Trek I can’t muster up too much excitement for this.  I’d love to be proven wrong.  We’ll see.

Sacha Baron Cohen was great in the above trailer for The Trial of the Chicago 7, and now in related news, word has leaked out that Mr. Cohen has apparently secretly shot a sequel to Borat!  I cannot wait to see what he’s cooked up.  (I wonder if this is connected to Mr. Cohen’s recent prank of Rudy Giuliani??)

E.W. has a fascinating look at the first, failed pilot that David Benioff and D.B. Weiss made for Game of Thrones.  This is an excerpt from the upcoming book Fire Cannot Kill a Dragon: Game of Thrones and the Untold Story of the Epic Series.  It’s an oral history of Game of Thrones by James Hibberd, and I bet it’ll be an interesting read.

WOW, this is a surprise — after previously renewing Stumptown for season two back in May, ABC has cancelled the show, citing concerns and delays related to COVID.  I enjoyed the first season of Stumptown and I was under the impression the show did well in the ratings, so this is a shock and a disappointment.

Click here to read an interesting interview with Noah Hawley, in which he shares fascinating tidbits on Fargo season 4, Lucy in [continued]

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It’s been a week but I still am having difficulty accepting that Chadwick Boseman is no longer on this earth.  There have, of course, been a wealth of tributes to him online.  Not to be missed is this beautiful remembrance penned by Black Panther director and co-writer Ryan Coogler.

King T’Challa has rejoined his ancestors, the great kings of old.  I hope he finds peace there.

Before I continue, please: allow me to ask all of you wonderful readers out there to help support this website by taking advantage of my being an Amazon affiliate.  This means that if you click through to Amazon from any of the links on this site, I’ll get a tiny percentage of the price of ANY purchase you make on Amazon for the next 24 hours.  You can use the Amazon banner ad at the top of the home page, or any specific Amazon link within one of my blogs (such as the links you’ll find at the bottom of this post).  You don’t have to purchase the specific item I linked to!  Just use one of my links to get to Amazon, and then purchase whatever you normally would.  So please, allow me to ask: when you’re thinking about doing some online shopping, please click through to Amazon through one of my links.  It’d be a huge help to allowing this website to continue!  Thank you!

Moving on… here’s the new trailer for No Time to Die:

That’s a very exciting trailer.  The film looks great.  My concerns?  Well, Spectre burned me so badly, I get nervous seeing the returning characters played by Christoph Weitz and Léa Seydoux.  Part of me wants to forget that terrible Spectre film ever existed.  On the other hand, I’d love for this new film to redeem Spectre by actually making Blofeld into the great scary villain he should be, and doing something interesting with Madeleine.  We’ll see.  (I also have to admit that closing card reading “IN THEATRES NOVEMBER” makes me wince.  Even if the film actually does get released to theaters, I find it hard to believe I will think it’s safe enough to go out and see it.  This just makes me sad.)

I’m intrigued by this trailer for the upcoming HBO Max sci-fi show Raised by Wolves, overseen by Ridley Scott.  (I only watched the first minute of this externes trailer, because I didn’t want to have too much spoiled.)

Color me intrigued; what I watched of that trailer certainly looked visually stunning.  Ridley Scott is the Executive Producer and he directed the first two episodes (of the 10-episode series).

This is pretty wild: Between 1985-1987 George Takei was involved in filming … [continued]

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Star Trek: The Latter Fire

As James Swallow’s Original Series Star Trek novel opens, Captain Kirk and the crew of the USS Enterprise are en route to the planet Syhaar Prime to begin the process of welcoming them into membership of the United Federation of Planets.  A year previously, the Enterprise crew had made first contact with the Syhaari, when they came across one of their damaged ships and assisted with repairs.  But now, as the Enterprise reaches their world, they discover that the Syhaari have made astounding advances in warp technology, far beyond what would naturally be expected.  The Federation’s ranking diplomatic officer suspects that Kirk or a member of his crew violated the Prime Directive by giving the Syhaari advanced technology when they assisted them in their repairs, but Kirk & company soon discover that something else is at work…

The Latter Fire is a great novel.  It’s a fun, fast-paced read.  Mr. Swallow has developed some intriguing new alien races and characters, and presented Kirk & co with some exciting new challenges that elevated this book.

I was particularly taken with the concept of the planet-sized life-form.  This reminds me of some silly sci-fi concepts, such as Ego The Living Planet from Marvel Comics (though Ego was brought to on-screen life remarkably well in Guardians of the Galaxy vol. 2) and Unicron from Transformers: The Movie.  But the life-form presented in this book is entirely different from those sort-of silly antecedents, and I was impressed by how carefully Mr. Swallow presented and developed this sci-fi concept.  There is some precedence in Star Trek for this type of giant, space-faring life-form, from the giant amoeba from the Original Series Episode “The Immunity Syndrome” (which is referenced in this book) to the cosmozoan creature from the Next Gen episode “Tin Man”.  But Mr. Swallow has managed to acknowedge and build upon those previous stories to create something unique and interesting.

The novel is set after the third season of the Original Series, and the very first chapter is a fantastic scene with Chekov, showing us the moment that he departed the Enterprise in order to begin an advanced security training course.  Chekov’s absence from the Enterprise at some point between the end of the Original Series and start of Star Trek: The Motion Picture has been much speculated upon in various Trek books, comics, fan-films, etc. over the years, because the navigator Chekov suddenly was a security officer in TMP (and because Chekov was sadly excluded from Star Trek: The Animated Series, which most fans identify as taking place during year four of the Five Year Mission).  We’ve seen many versions of Chekov’s journey/promotion/departure before (for example, the fan-film series Star Trek: New [continued]

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Josh Reviews the Series Premiere of Star Trek: Lower Decks

Star Trek: Lower Decks is the new animated series on CBS all access.  It focuses on four low-ranked crew-people on a Federation Starship, the U.S.S. Ceritos, during the era of Star Trek: The Next Generation.  The series is a comedy, in the vein of Rick and Morty.  (The series’ creator, Mike McMahan, was a writer for Rick and Morty for several years, and was show runner of that show during its fourth season.  He’s also the person behind the hilarious TNG Season 8 twitter thread.)  Is this type of show what I wish new Star Trek would be like?  No.  But that being said, I’m open to a humorous take on Trek, and I thoroughly enjoyed this first episode!

First off, it is a DELIGHT being back in the TNG era of Trek.  This was the era of Star Trek I watched and enjoyed for almost two decades, through the eighties and nineties.  This is the era of Star Trek: The Next Generation,  the four Next Gen movies, Deep Space Nine, and Voyager.  After suffering through the two other recent Trek shows, Discovery and Picard, both of which made a hash of established Star Trek continuity and seemed to demonstrate zero interest in making their shows visually — or in any other way — consistent with the previous decades’ worth of Star Trek history, it is an absolute pleasure to watch a show that seems so attentive to the details of the Star Trek universe.  There are a million visual details that are all PERFECT for this TNG era.  I love the look of the Ceritos’ primary hull.  I love the look of the corridors.  I love the look of the computer consoles.  I got an inordinate amount of delight from seeing the very-specific look (and sound!!) of the Holodeck doors.

In the places where the show chose to strike new ground with its designs, it did so in a manner that fit extremely well with established continuity.  It’s a new Trek show, so of course they wanted a new take on the uniforms, but unlike the ugly uniforms of Discovery or Picard, I love the Lower Decks uniforms!  I love how they took the diagonal opening flap from the Original Series movie-era uniforms and merged that with the general look and layout of the TNG uniforms!  So clever!  (In a similar vein: it’s a new Trek show, so of course they want a new take on the transporter effect: but here again, the new effect 1) looks good and 2) is completely plausible and feels correct for this era of Trek.)

The show is also JAMMED full with a million references to Trek continuity.  One could almost say … [continued]

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News Around the Net!

In recent months we got new installments of Parks and Recreation and Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt... and tonight there will be more 30 Rock???  I can’t wait!!

The first trailer for the new Star Trek animated series, Lower Decks, has dropped:

I’m cautiously optimistic.  I am all for the idea of a humorous Star Trek show.  This trailer is pretty funny.  (The holodeck waste removal joke is gold.)  But Discovery and Picard both had great trailers, and look how they turned out.  As always for a new Star Trek show, I want this to be good.  But I just don’t have much faith that the people behind Star Trek these days have any idea what makes a good Star Trek show.  (Also: why can’t any of the designers working for the Trek movies or series these days design a decent-looking new starship?  Ever since the horrible-looking J.J. Abrams Enterprise it’s been one mess after another.  This new ship is no better.  The TNG-looking saucer looks great.  But what’s with those awkward, ugly pylons connecting the nacelles to the primary hull?  They look terrible — and also don’t make any logical sense.  How could a crew-person get from the saucer section into the engineering section when the two aren’t connected??  Sigh…)

In Star Wars TV news, they’ve announced a new animated series: The Bad Batch.  This will be a spin-off from the animated Clone Wars series, focusing on the group of Clones introduced in the final run of episodes.  I am super-excited for a new Dave Filoni executive produced Star Wars animated series, and the prospect of picking up story and character threads left hanging from the Clone Wars series is very exciting.  On the other hand, I wasn’t so wild about the “Bad Batch” four-part episode of The Clone Wars, and those characters don’t seem to me like such an interesting focal point for a new series.  But I have faith, and I’m excited to see what this will be all about…

Wow!  The Far Side cartoonist Gary Larson has released his first new cartoons in 25 years!!  And they’re great!  Check them out here.

This is cool: a great deleted scene from Avengers: Endgame, in which Natasha gets to meet the Smart Hulk.  I’m not certain where exactly this scene would have fit into the movie (it looks like it takes place in Wakanda at the end of Infinity War, but Smart Hulk wasn’t around until after the time jump in Endgame) but it’s a great scene and worth watching.  (Why wasn’t this included on the blu-ray of the film?  The special features on the recent Marvel discs have been disappointing…)

Is there really … [continued]

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Star Trek: Crisis of Consciousness

I’m a big fan of author Dave Galanter, and I can’t believe it’s taken me so long to catch up to his most recent Star Trek novel, Crisis of Consciousness, which was published in 2015.  Mr. Galanter has written a number of great Trek books, including Troublesome Minds, which is one of my favorite stand-alone Original Series novels of the past several years.  He was also involved, for a while, with the Star Trek fan-film project Star Trek: Phase II (also known as Star Trek: New Voyages).  Mr. Galanter wrote the script for the excellent Phase II episode “Enemy: Starfleet!”  (He was also involved in other Phase II projects that sadly never saw the light of day, as the project has dissolved in the aftermath of CBS/Paramount’s draconian “fan film guidelines.”  I’d been particularly excited to see a Phase II adaptation of Troublesome Minds, which was rumored for a while.  Oh well!)

As Crisis of Consciousness begins, Captain Kirk and the Enterpise crew have just overseen the induction of a new species, the Maabas, into the Federation.  This formerly xenophobic culture has begun to embrace the wider universe around them.  But just as the Enterprise is about to deliver Ambassador Pippenge and his team back to their planet, they encounter another species, the Kenisians, who angrily declare that the Maabas’ world used to be their own, and they demand it back.  The Kenisians are Vulcanoids, sprung off from main Vulcan society uncounted millennia ago, who have now evolved into “multividuals.”  When one of their kind passes away, their katra is absorbed into a new host mind.  Zhatan, the Kenisian commander, contains hundreds of her ancestors within herself.  How can long-ago grievances ever be forgotten when one’s long-dead ancestors are not dead at all, but alive within you?

Mr. Galanter has crafted a wonderful story that feels new and original, and yet perfectly of a piece with classic Star Trek.  Crisis of Consciousness presents a number of new sci-fi situations and moral dilemmas for Kirk, Spock, and the crew of the Enterprise to wrestle with.

I loved the concept of the “multividuals.”  It reminded me, intriguingly, of Dune, and the way certain characters such as Aliya and the Bene Gesserit contained the consciousnesses of their ancestors within them.  In this novel, Mr. Galanter expands upon that idea in a number of fascinating way, as we see both the positive aspects of this unique mental situation, and the way the Kenisians have constructed their society upon this methodology, and also the challenges of trying to exist as an individual person with hundreds of other personalities roiling within you.  I particularly enjoyed the novel’s depictions of Spock’s interactions with Zhatan and the … [continued]

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I am delighted by this first trailer for AppleTV’s upcoming adaptation of Isaac Asimov’s Foundation:

Mr. Asimov’s Foundation series is one of my very favorite works of sci-fi in any medium.  I love those books and have longed for years for a top-notch adaptation.  Will this be it?  Hard to say, but that trailer is great.

I’m also, like the rest of the world, very excited for the upcoming release of Hamilton on Disney+…!

Josh Gad has pulled together another fantastic Reunited Apart episode with this Ghostbusters reunion:

Star Trek: Voyager was, for quite some time, my least-favorite Trek series (though it looks amazing, now, compared to Discovery and Picard), but I nevertheless quite enjoyed this recent reunion of the Voyager cast on Stars in the House, raising money for The Actors Fund:

I enjoyed this podcast interview on “Off Panel” with comic book author Brian Michael Bendis, looking back on his incredible career.  Comic book fans might also be interested in this lengthy interview from “Comic Book News with Dan Shahin” with Dan DiDio, who was recently outside from his long-held position running DC Comics:

Click here for a lengthy interview with Dave Filoni, looking back on the conclusion of Star Wars: The Clone Wars.

In other Clone Wars news, a terrific Star Trek podcast I listen to called Inglorious Treksperts recently did a rare non-Trek episode, interviewing Henry Gilroy, who was a key creative player on both Clone Wars and Rebels.  Dave Filoni tends gets most of the spotlight for those Star Wars animated shows, so it’s fun to hear from Mr. Gilroy.  Give it a listen here.

If you like that and want to listen to other episodes of Inglorious Treksperts, I recommend this fantastic remembrance of Leonard Nimoy with his long-time assistant Kirk Thatcher, who also played the “punk on the bus” in Star Trek IV!!  It’s a terrific conversation.  Click here to find it.

I was so sad to see the news of the passing of the great Ian Holm, who was so magnificent in so many films from Alien to The Lord of the Rings.  Bilbo Baggins now resides forever in the Grey Havens.  Click here to read Peter Jackson’s moving remembrance of this wonderful actor.

Click here to read about Mad Magazine’s Al Jaffee, who has apparently drawn his final “fold-in” at age 99!! Wow!

J.K. Simmons has already shot his next Marvel movie cameo as J. Jonah Jameson??  Fantastic!

I very intrigued and excited by this rumor that Michael Keaton will return as Batman/Bruce Wayne in the upcoming Flash movie!  Will this be a “Flashpoint” style reboot of the current DC cinematic universe?  I don’t know, … [continued]

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Star Trek: The Shocks of Adversity

A while back there was a lengthy interruption in the publication of new Star Trek novels from Pocket Books, a situation only recently resolved.  During the break, I went back to catch up on a stack of Trek books that’d been published over the past five or so years that I’d never gotten around to reading.  Mostly these were stand-alone Original Series books, because I’d tended to prioritize reading the new Trek novels that were connected to the expanding continuity of 24th century-set novels, taking the characters of Next Gen, DS9, and Voyager beyond the last-seen events of the on-screen shows and movies.  After reading a whole swath of Original Series novels by the great Greg Cox, I moved on to several other books by a variety of other authors.

First up was The Shocks of Adversity, by William Leisner.  While investigating a planet surrounded by a dense field of crystyalline asteroids that are nearly-invisible to sensors, the Enterprise is attacked and seriously damaged by a group of aliens using those asteroids as brute-force weapons against the ship.  With their warp drive crippled, the Enterprise is rescued by representatives from the Goeg Domain, who offer to bind their ship to the Enterprise and escort her to one of their facilities for repair.  During this ten-day journey, the Enterprise and Domain crews work together and get to know one another.  Captain Kirk, in particular, begins to form a strong connection to the Domain ship’s captain, Laspas.  Kirk is delighted to discover that the Domain is an alliance of worlds just as the United Federation of Planets is, and he enjoys the company of a fellow officer who understands the unique pressures and loneliness of command of a starship.  But what had seemed to be a new friendship turns sour when Kirk and the Enterprise discover that the Goeg are embroiled in conflict with a group of rebels from within the Domain, and that the Domain might not be as similar to the Federation as they’d thought.

The Shocks of Adversity is a crackerjack novel, wonderfully written, exciting and engaging.  Mr. Leisner has devised a terrific story.  There have been so many Star Trek stories over the years — hundreds of hours of TV shows and movies, not to mention countless books, comic books, and more.  It’s hard to tell an original Trek story that doesn’t feel like a retread, but I was pleased at how fresh Mr. Leisner’s story felt, and how he avoided predictability as the tale unfolded.

I was especially pleased at how well Mr. Leisner was able to use the entire Original Series crew.  Original Series episodes tended to focus on the triumverate of Kirk Spock and … [continued]

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Last week I went down a rabbit hole of watching fan-edited “modern trailers” for classic films.  Check out this terrific trailer for The Empire Strikes Back:

I also absolutely love this trailer for Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan:

I’m a huge fan of the Paley Center and everything they do.  They have lots of great content available online — I encourage readers of this site to take a look.  It’s a treasure trove!  Here are a few examples of recent material that I’ve enjoyed:

This Parks and Recreation reunion from 2019:

Alan Sepinwall interviews Hank Azaria and Amanda Peet, discussing the final season of Brockmire:

Here’s a great hour-long interview, from Collider, with Ronald D. Moore, in which he discusses his work on Star Trek, Battlestar Galactica, For All Mankind (the recent Apple TV series that I loved), and Outlander:

And here’s another great Collider interview, this one with Paul Feig:

So, wow… after years of rumors, Zack Snyder will be completing and releasing his version of Justice League!  I never thought this would actually happen.  Mr. Snyder directed Man of Steel and Batman v. Superman, building towards a planned two-film Justice League epic.  But following the poor reviews of Batman v. Superman, his plans were curtailed… and then he would up leaving the post-production of Justice League following a family tragedy.  Justice League was completed by Joss Whedon.  There were aspects of the film I enjoyed, but not enough to say I thought it actually worked.  For several years we’ve heard rumors about Mr. Snyder’s original almost four-hour cut, and all of the storylines he’d filmed that were excised from the theatrically released version.  While I am unconvinced that Mr. Snyder’s original version will wind up being much better than the theatrical version (many/most of the problems in Man of Steel and Batman v. Superman can be laid squarely at his feet), I am certainly very interested in seeing what he’d planned.  It’s also cool that this release on HBO Max won’t necessarily be edited down to a two or three hour version.  The articles suggests a four-hour-long version, perhaps separated into chapters, might be what they release.  I’m intrigued!

(Interesting aside: not long after the news of Zack Snyder’s cut of Justice League broke, Suicide Squad director David Ayer tweeted that a nearly-completed version of his original cut of that film also exists!  Suicide Squad went through a famously difficult post-production period, and the film was apparently dramatically re-edited late in the game in an attempt to strike a lighter, more humorous tone.  It’s hard to say who is ultimately responsible, but the finished film was terrible.  Would … [continued]

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Star Trek: The Antares Maelstrom

Star Trek: The Antares Maelstrom, the new Star Trek novel by Greg Cox, is set in the later days of the Five Year Mission.  As the novel begins, Captain Kirk and the U.S.S. Enterprise are summoned to assist the colony of Baldur III.  A rare and valuable material known as pergium has been discovered on the planet, leading to a “gold rush” as prospectors from across the galaxy rush to the colony, hoping to make their fortune.  This has overwhelmed the infrastructure of the small, independent colony, as well as the local space-station, and tensions are rising as the colony’s locals fight with the newcomers and all are frustrated by breakdowns in power, supplies, and other necessities of life.  And so Captain Kirk is forced to divide up his leadership team: Scotty works to keep the colony’s power station operational; McCoy helps assist the beleaguered medical staff; Uhura coordinates with the local civilians; and Sulu assists the security team on the space station.  Spock and Chekov, meanwhile, head off to a neighboring world on a mission of their own: they fear that smugglers are interfering with the pre-industrial society there in order to obtain a rare tea that is popular on Baldur III, a tea for which demand has skyrocketed due to the influx of newcomers.

Mr. Cox has written quite a number of terrific Original Series Star Trek novels.  (When Pocket Books temporarily halted their publication of new Trek books, I took the opportunity to read a variety of older Trek novels I hadn’t gotten to; quite a few of Mr. Cox’s stand-alone Original Series novels were among that number.)  The Antares Maelstrom is a fine addition to his oeuvre.

I like the idea of a “gold rush” in the 23rd century.  This is a fun and original hook for the novel.  And I particularly enjoyed the way Mr. Cox was able to give an important, meaty story-line to every single one of the Original Series characters.  This was a true ensemble story, and I loved that.  It’s especially nice to get to see Uhura, Chekov, and Sulu.  I loved how Uhura’s story-line allowed her to use her people-skills to great advantage, while also showing off her competency under pressure and her organizational and leadership skills.  As a bridge officer on the Starfleet flagship she would surely possess those qualities, but many Original Series adventures don’t really allow her to show them off.  I also liked how her musical skills were also utilized.  Sulu, meanwhile, got to show off his piloting skills, his scientific acumen, and his leadership skills, when he’s forced to basically take command of a huge city in space.  Chekov’s story, meanwhile, builds on the … [continued]

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How to Start Watching (And Fall in Love with) Star Trek — The Conclusion!

We’ve arrived at the end of what history shall surely judge the most important blog series I will ever write: a guide to how a newbie should discover Star Trek!  In part one, I recommended fifteen stand-out episodes of the Original Series.  In part two, I recommended that, as a next step, a newbie watch the following four original Trek movies: the informal trilogy of Star Trek II, III, and IV, and then skip to Star Trek VI for the grand finale of the adventures of Kirk, Spock, McCoy, and the rest of the Original Series cast.  In part three, I gave detailed instructions for what to watch and what to skip when diving into the first great Star Trek spin-off, Star Trek: The Next Generation.  In part four, I gave a guide for watching my VERY FAVORITE Star Trek show: Star Trek: Deep Space Nine!

After completing Deep Space Nine, you should definitely watch the 2019 documentary What We Left Behind: Looking Back at Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.  This beautiful, heartfelt look back at Deep Space Nine, overseen by DS9 show runner Ira Steven Behr, is a terrific salute to the show.  Click here for my full review.

What’s next?

The Deep Space Nine series finale aired in June, 1999.  There’s been a lot of additional Star Trek made in the subsequent years, but sadly there’s nothing that I can wholeheartedly recommend to you.  (However, if you’re impatient, scroll down to see another sci-fi show that I STRONGLY recommend you watch after Deep Space Nine…!)  Meanwhile, let’s take a look at the other Star Trek series and movies:

Star Trek: Voyager The next Trek spin-off aired from 1995-2001.  I don’t care for Voyager.  For a long time, I considered it by far the worst of all the Trek shows (though the most recent Trek makes Voyager look great by comparison).  The show had an interesting premise — enemy crews (the U.S.S. Voyager and the Maquis rebels they were chasing) are flung 70,000 light-years from home, and must work together in order to survive in an uncharted, dangerous area of space.  The idea of throwing off the familiar to tell new stories with new aliens in an entirely new part of the galaxy seemed like a great idea, and the story conflict between the two crews seemed ripe.  But the series immediately abandoned its premise.  The Maquis rebels are all wearing Starfleet uniforms by the end of the pilot episode.  The series never actually explored the realities of life all alone, decades away from home or support.  The premise seemed designed to embrace the continuity of storytelling that had made DS9[continued]

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How to Start Watching (And Fall in Love with) Star Trek — Part Four!

May 7th, 2020

Welcome back!  We’re drawing to the end of the most important blog series I will ever write: a guide to how a newbie should discover Star Trek!  In part one, I recommended fifteen stand-out episodes of the Original Series.  In part two, I recommended that, as a next step, a newbie watch the following four original Trek movies: the informal trilogy of Star Trek II, III, and IV, and then skip to Star Trek VI for the grand finale of the adventures of Kirk, Spock, McCoy, and the rest of the Original Series cast.  In part three, I gave detailed instructions for what to watch and what to skip when diving into the first great Star Trek spin-off, Star Trek: The Next Generation.  And now, in part four, we arrive at my VERY FAVORITE Star Trek show: Star Trek: Deep Space Nine!

I adore Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.

I think DS9 seasons 4-7 are my favorite seasons of a Trek show (only rivaled by TNG seasons 3 and 4), and they for sure the best extended run of episodes that Trek ever had.  It does take the show some time to arrive at the greatness it would become, but I will guide you around the potholes.

Season One:

Here in season one, I think the pilot episode is fantastic. When I first saw it, back in 1993, I found it a little “talky”, but now it is my very favorite of all the Trek pilot episodes.  I think it’s emotionally rich and complex and does a great job of introducing all of the characters.  These days, when I want to rewatch a DS9 episode, this is my go-to episode (even before some of the huge action episodes of later years).

What follows that pilot episode is a run of six of seven decent stand-alone episodes.  The show falls back, here, on a TNG model of stand-alone sci-fi adventure stories each week.  Compared to today’s TV, and also to where the show will go in the 2nd half of its run, it feels like a very old-school style of storytelling.  But I think the first half of the season has fun stories, and they do a nice job developing and exploring the characters.  I think the second half of season one is a mess, and I will mostly have you skip those episodes.  The season ends very strong, with two terrific episodes. “Duet” is, I think, one of the best Star Trek episodes of all time, of any series.  This strong ending will lead into a fantastic three-part opening of season two (Trek’s first three-parter!), and we’re off to the races.

I will say … [continued]

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How to Start Watching (And Fall in Love with) Star Trek — Part Three!

May 6th, 2020

Welcome back to the most important blog series I will ever write!!  This is a guide to how a newbie should discover Star Trek!  In part one, I recommended fifteen stand-out episodes of the Original Series.  In part two, I recommended that, as a next step, a newbie watch the following four original Trek movies: the informal trilogy of Star Trek II, III, and IV, and then skip to Star Trek VI for the grand finale of the adventures of Kirk, Spock, McCoy, and the rest of the Original Series cast.

If you’ve followed my instructions so far, I highly suspect that, by this point, you will be hooked!!

After watching Star Trek VI, you could go back and watch more of the Original Series.  (In part one, I listed many additional great Original Series episodes.)

But my general recommendation would be to buckle up and take a deep dive into the first live-action Star Trek TV show spin-off: Star Trek: The Next Generation.  Produced between 1987 and 1994, TNG ran for seven seasons and a total of 178 episodes.  That is a LOT!  The first two seasons were very rough, but by season three TNG had developed into a magnificent show, and there is SO MUCH amazing storytelling in seasons three through seven!  If you read on, I’ll give you my detailed instructions as to how to watch TNG, skipping all of the bad episodes to get quickly to the great stuff.  Be warned, though, whereas my initial list of Original Series recommendations was relatively short — 15 episodes out of the full run of 79 — I think it’s worth spending a lot more time with TNG.  But don’t worry — I suspect that, at this point, you’ll be into Star Trek and well-primed for the amazing journey that awaits you watching TNG.

First, an overview.  Star Trek: The Next Generation is a terrific Star Trek show.  For many fans, it’s the best of all the series.  It is certainly the most popular of all the Trek spin-off shows that came after the Original Series.  (Personally, I feel – correctly! – that Deep Space Nine is the best of all the Trek spin-offs.)

Just as I was upfront about some of the flaws in the Original Series, let me be honest about the problems with TNG.  First off, the first season is TERRIBLE and the second season is also PRETTY STINKY.  It doesn’t really become the show it would be until season three.  (Therefore, as you’ll see below, I’m going to suggest you skip most of those first two seasons!)  Second, aspects of TNG haven’t aged so well.  Interestingly, as a kid watching … [continued]

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How to Start Watching (And Fall in Love with) Star Trek — Part Two!

Yesterday I posted part one of this, possibly (probably!) the most important blog series I will ever write!  It’s my guide to how to start watching (and fall in love with) Star Trek!

Yesterday I suggested that a newbie begin by watching a select group of episodes from the Original Series.  I listed fifteen stand-out episodes.  My general recommendation is to move on to the movies at that point… but for anyone who’s really digging the Original Series, I also listed about 20 more episodes that you could watch and enjoy before diving into the film series.

(Interlude: But what about The Animated Series?  Many people don’t know this exists, but from 1973-74, twenty-two episodes were made of a half-hour, animated version of Star Trek!  The animation was done on the cheap, but the series was overseen by talented Original Series Trek writer D.C. Fontana, and many other key Original Series people were involved behind the scenes.  In my opinion, this is absolutely canonical Trek.  It’s aimed for kids, but there are still a number of very watchable episodes in the mix.  For newbies, I recommend skipping this and moving straight on to the films, but its something you might want to revisit at some point.  If you want to watch just one episode to get a taste for the series, I’d recommend “Yesteryear,” which in my mind is the clear stand-out of the series.)

And now, on to the original six Star Trek films!

For a newbie, my advice is to skip Star Trek: The Motion Picture.  This is somewhat painful for me, because I have a lot of love in my heart for this film.  There is a lot that is interesting and enjoyable in this film, but there’s no question that it’s a misfire.  The tone is off.  It’s a very cerebral, intellectual story — which I like, actually, but it’s missing the warmth that Trek should have, and large chunks of it are, let’s admit it, boring.  TMP, made in 1979, was far more influenced by 2001: A Space Odyssey than by Star Wars.  Actually, I love the boldness of that very unusual choice, but it results in a film that is somewhat unsatisfying and, for long stretches, dull.  The visuals shift between amazing (I love the redesign of the Enterprise, with the story reason being that the ship was refitted following the conclusion of the five-year mission — the refit Enterprise is my favorite spaceship design of all time; how’s that for a bold statement!!) and terrible (whoa boy are the new uniforms horrific).

(If you do watch TMP, the best version is the Director’s Edition, made in 2001.  This was one of … [continued]

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How to Start Watching (And Fall in Love with) Star Trek — Part One!

May 4th, 2020

Welcome to the most important blog post I might ever write!

I love Star Trek.  

I think that, of all of the series/franchises/stories/universes that I love, whether they be in movies, TV shows, novels, comic-books, or whatever the media, Star Trek will always be my favorite.

I love Star Trek for its optimistic, utopian vision of the future.  I love Star Trek for its strong focus on humanistic values and moral messages.  I love Star Trek for its respect for science.  I love Star Trek for its many beloved characters.  I love Star Trek for its complex continuity, for its world-building, for the feeling that all of these different stories, told over more than fifty years, matter and fit together into a cohesive universe.  I love Star Trek for its heady intellectual ideas and also for its kick-ass space action/adventure.  And that’s just a start; I love Star Trek for so many more reasons.

Over the years, I have frequently talked with fellow lovers of movies, TV shows, novels, comic books, etc., who weren’t big Trek fans like me.  For many of them, they were potentially interested in Trek, but they didn’t know where to begin.  At this point, there have been thirteen Star Trek movies and eight different TV series (Star Trek, Star Trek the Animated Series, The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, Voyager, Enterprise, Discovery, and Picard).  Not to mention a wealth of spin-off materials in other media like novels and comic-books.  Where should someone begin when trying to discover Star Trek?  It can feel overwhelming.

Rest easy, friends!  I am here to give you my expert guidance on how to start watching (and fall in love with) Star Trek!

I strongly suspect that, if you are a reader of this site but you don’t yet consider yourself a Star Trek fan, if you gave it a try, you will like (and probably love!) Star Trek.  

With my guidance, I can show you how to dip your toes into this vast ocean.  There is a whole universe of amazing story-telling out there, just waiting to be discovered!!

Several times in the past few years, I have tried variations on the approach that I will outline here.  It has not failed yet!  That statement is not about tooting my own horn, but rather as evidence of how great Star Trek is — even (or maybe I should say, ESPECIALLY) the Original Series, which is now more than fifty years old.

OK, so where to begin?

Part One: Star Trek: The Original Series

I suggest that, to begin your journey into Star Trek, that you start by watching between about 15 episodes of the Original Series.

It’s astonishing how … [continued]

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Checking out the Star Trek: Picard Backstory

I was very lukewarm on the first season of Star Trek: Picard.  It was amazing seeing Patrick Stewart back in this role, something I never ever expected to see.  The rest of the cast was strong, and the production values were great.  But I thought the story-telling was, mostly, a mess, and I was disheartened by both the overall lack of attention to continuity and also by many of the choices made by the show’s creators regarding what happened to these beloved characters, and the overall Star Trek universe, in the decades since the end of Next Gen.  When I read about the comic-book series Picard: Countdown, and the new novel Picard: The Last Best Hope, I was interested but dubious.

I have read and loved many Star Trek comics and novels over the years.  In the comics world, Peter David’s long run on DC Comics’ Star Trek series in the eighties and nineties is spectacular, and the amazing graphic novel Debt of Honor by Chris Claremont and Adam Hughes is one of my favorite non-canon Trek stories of all time.  In the novels world, readers of this blog likely know that I deeply love the interconnected series of Trek novels that Simon & Shuster has been publishing for the past decade-plus.  But one of the reasons those novels have been so great is that they were free from having to adhere to the status quo of in-production new Trek shows or movies.  I have usually found that books/comics/etc. based on shows that are currently running tend to be lame, for the most part, because they’re not free to risk contradicting anything the show might do in the future.  But I have enjoyed IDW’s previous Countdown mini-series (which connected Spock’s appearance in the 2009 Star Trek film with the post-Nemesis status quo), and I was excited that Picard: Countdown was co-written by Kirsten Beyer, a talented Trek novelist who is also one of the Picard series’ co-creators.  And Una McCormack, who wrote Picard: The Last Best Hope, is one of my favorite Trek novelists.  So I gave both a try.  I’m glad I did, because both are terrific reads, and both are far more successful at telling an original story that fits well into pre-existing Trek canon, in my opinion, than the Picard TV series was!

Let’s start with the three-issue comic-book series Picard: Countdown.  This mini-series, written by Kirsten Beyer & Mike Johnson, and illustrated by Angel Hernandez & Joana Lafuente, tells the story of how Jean-Luc Picard met the two Romulans, Laris & Zhaban.  This is a key piece of backstory that I was shocked the series never gave us, after introducing the intriguing notion of two … [continued]

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Josh Reviews the Season Finale of Star Trek: Picard

Star Trek: Picard has been a very mixed bag for me.  I’ve enjoyed watching it, and I think it’s been far better executed than the two seasons of Discovery we’ve gotten so far on CBS All Access.  On the other hand, in my opinion Picard contains many of the same flaws that Discovery has had: plots that doing make sense; storytelling that moves too fast to adequately explain what is happening; thinly-developed characters, many of whom have motivations that either are kept secret from us or that don’t make sense; and a lack of continuity with previously established Star Trek.  The Picard season finale, “Et in Arcadia Ego” part 2, is very much of a piece with the first nine episodes of this season.  There are some wonderful individual moments; the cast is great; Sir Patrick Stewart in particular shines as always; and the visuals are beautiful.  I just wish it all came together in a more satisfying way.

Let’s start with what works.

The show, as always, is beautiful.  The production values on this series have been extraordinary, and it’s awesome to see television Star Trek realized with feature film caliber attention and budget.  There are lots of great locations in this episode: the crashed Borg Cube, the crashed La Sirena, the androids’ utopian complex, and the bridges of several starships.  Seeing the Orchids take on the Romulan fleet in orbit is particularly spectacular.

There are some delightful character moments: Riker’s triumphant return, back in uniform and back in the Captain’s chair on a starship.  (I wish it was the Enterprise.  The series never revealed what happened to the Enterprise...!  I’d love to see her in season two…!)  Picard bidding Riker adieu.  Rios’ and Seven’s sharing a drink, looking out at a gorgeous vista.

And, of course, the scene between Picard and Data.  I’m thrilled that Brent Spiner was back as Data in the finale, beautifully bookending his appearance in the premiere.  (Mr. Spiner also appeared in these last two episodes as Dr. Alton Soong, however that character wasn’t very successful in my opinion.  I just don’t buy that Dr. Soong had a song about the same age as Data who we never heard of before and who never had any interaction with Data while he was alive.)  The survival of Data’s consciousness doesn’t make any plot sense to me, but the scene is so emotionally moving that I can mostly forgive the show for this.  (Though, seriously, as I’d commented at the start of the season, the idea that Data’s consciousness could be reconstructed from one fragment of his positronic net is the sort of magic fake-science I hate to see on Trek.  Also, if Alton … [continued]

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Josh reviews Episodes 7-9 of Star Trek: Picard!

We’re almost at the end of the first season of Star Trek: Picard.  I enjoyed the premiere, but then I felt episodes 2 and 3 were very mediocre.  The show has been better since then (click here for my reviews of episodes 4-6), and I am enjoying watching it.  At the same time, I continue to be disappointed by some baffling story choices that just don’t sit too well with me.  Let’s dig in.  (Beware some spoilers below.)

Episode 7: “Nepenthe”

* There’s a lot to enjoy in this episode.  Seeing Riker and Troi again is an absolute delight.  Both Jonathan Frakes and Marina Sirtis are great, so comfortably reprising their beloved characters.  There were so many wonderful moments between them in the episode.  I loved hearing Riker yell “shields up!” just like old times when he realizes Picard might be in danger.  I love how Troi immediately senses Picard isn’t OK.  I love how quickly Riker puts everything together about Soji.  (I loved that the actress who played Soji mimicked the way Brent Spiner would tilt his head as Data — I recognized that immediately, and I was pleased that Riker did as well.)  I loved hearing Riker call Troi Imzadi.  I also quite enjoyed Lulu Wilson as Riker & Troi’s daughter, Kestra.  (I love the deep cut that their daughter is named Kestra, the name of Deanna’s dead sister as revealed in the TNG episode “Dark Page”.)  This precocious kid could have easily been very annoying, but I quite liked her and I enjoyed the way she and Soji developed a quick and easy bond.  (It’s reminiscent of the way Data connected so easily to children.)  I loved hearing Kestra question Soji about whether she could play the violin, if she liked Sherlock Holmes, etc. (all things Data loved).

* On the other hand, I’m speechless at the incredibly dumb plot point that Riker and Troi’s son Thaddeus died because, after the Federation’s ban on synthetic life forms, they couldn’t get what used to be an easily-acquired cure from something cultivated in a positronic matrix.  Whaaaa…???  How/why could a medicine be cultivated in an android’s brain?  Do the writers even know what a positronic matrix is??  This is ludicrous, a dumb way of trying to connect Riker-Troi to the series’ over-arching story about synthetics.  (If they HAD to make this sort of larger thematic connection, why not say the medicine that could have cured Thaddeus was from Romulus, and so unavailable after the Federation abandoned the Romulans when their sun went super-nova?  That would have made a lot more sense, right?)  (By the way, I’ve been saying all along that Picard’s leaving Starfleet in … [continued]

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Star Trek: Child of Two Worlds

Recently, I have been enjoying catching up on the many great Star Trek: The Original Series novels that author Greg Cox has written over the past several years!  I’ve arrived at last at the last one that had been waiting patiently on my book-shelf: Child of Two Worlds.

This story is set shortly after the events of “The Cage” (the original, unaired Star Trek pilot, that was later repurposed as the flashback sequences in “The Menagerie”).  Captain Christopher Pike is in command of the Enterprise, “Number One” is his first officer, and a young Lieutenant Spock is science officer.

As the story begins, the Enterprise crew is being cut down by a virulently contagious Rigelian fever.  The only known cure within range of the ship can be found on the independent world Cypria, near the Klingon border.  En route, the Enterprise responds to a distress call of a small Cyprian ship being attacked by Klingons.  Pike intervenes and rescues the ship’s two passengers: a Cyprian woman named Soleste and an angry Klingon woman, Merata, who angrily claims to have been abducted by the Cyprian.  Soleste claims that the Klingon is no Klingon at all, but actually her sister Elzura, who was kidnapped by Klingons when she was just a girl, following a violent raid on a Cyprian outpost.  Starfleet science quickly confirms this.  Soleste has been searching for her sister for a decade, and is desperate to bring her back home.  But Merata/Elzura has been raised as a Klingon and now sees herself as Klingon.  Captain Pike and the crew of the Enterprise quickly find themsleves caught between the Cyprians, who refuse to share their cure for Rigellian fever unless Elzura is returned to them, and Merata’s adopted Klingon father, who stands poised to attack and shatter the tenuous peace between the Federation and the Klingon Empire if his daughter is not returned to him.

Between the book’s title (which references a line spoken by Sarek to young Spock in 2009’s Star Trek reboot film: “you will always be a child of two worlds”) and the cover (which features a close-up on a “The Cage”-era Spock), I’d assumed that this novel would be a deep dive character study of young Spock.  (In much the same way that Margarent Wander Bonanno’s novel Burning Dreams, which had a similar-looking cover, focused on Captain Pike.)

That’s not the case.  While Child of Two Worlds does have a fantastic story-line for Spock, who sees in Merata/Elzura similarities to the way he himself is torn between his Vulcan and Human sides, the book gives wonderful attention to all of the major Pike-era characters, including Captain Pike himself, Number One, Doctor Boyce, Yeoman Colt, etc.  … [continued]

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Josh Reviews Episodes 4-6 of Star Trek: Picard

I enjoyed the premiere of Star Trek: Picard but I thought episodes two and three were very mediocre.  Thankfully, I thought the next three episodes were a significant improvement, though the show is still far more flawed than I would have hoped.  Let’s dig in.

Episode 4: “Absolute Candor”

* I liked the time given to the lengthy opening flashback, and I enjoyed the sweet scenes seeing Picard’s connection with these Romulan women and especially with the young boy, Elnor.  It could be seen as out of character for Picard to be so close to a child — since the character, when first introduced on TNG, famously hated children — but Picard had already significantly mellowed by the end of TNG, and this flashback is set many years further after “All Good Things…”  So this works for me.  The real problem, though, is that Picard is coming off as worse and worse with each subsequent episode-opening flashback!  It’s HORRIBLE to think that Picard would abandon these people, and that child.  He never once even tried to come back to that planet ever again??  He never once even contacted them on subspace after he left Starfleet??  That’s what’s out of character for Picard (not his friendship with the boy)!!  The backstory for Picard on this show is a huge problem for me.

* I love the idea of Romulan warrior nuns!  And I really loved the actress, Amirah Vann, who plays the main Romulan woman (Zhani).  I loved the young kid who played Elnor as a boy.  Grown-up Elnor seemed OK, too, but it was hard to judge in this episode since we didn’t spend much time of him.  (Between his name and his look, he’s a little too Lord of the Rings elf-ish to me, at first glance…)

* I love hearing Picard say “Jolan Tru”.  (Nice callback to TNG episodes like “Unification”.)

* While the plot is still moving glacially slowly, I was, for the most part, more involved with this episode because the dialogue was better/more interesting than what we got in episodes two and three. If the plot isn’t progressing, I at least want good character moments, and we got some good stuff here.  I really liked the “secret meeting” scene on the holodeck (though, wow, what a transparent way to continue using the set of Picard’s home built for the first episode), and all of the character interaction there.  I enjoyed the funny banter among the characters.

* The idea that the rule of law is breaking down on the edges of Federation space is interesting.  But here again, the show needs to do the work of better developing the backstory of what’s been happening … [continued]

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Star Trek: The Captain’s Oath

Christopher L. Bennett’s fantastic new Star Trek novel, The Captain’s Oath, serves as something of an origin story for Captain James T. Kirk.  But whereas J.J. Abrams’ rebooted Star Trek movie, and its sequels, told a story outside of established Star Trek continuity, The Captain’s Oath embraces continuity, beautifully weaving between established backstory to tell an exciting new tale.

The Captain’s Oath is wonderfully structured to take place across several different points in the career of Captain Kirk.  In 2265, we see Captain Kirk just after assuming command of the U.S.S. Enterprise from Christopher Pike (so this part of the story is set after the events of the first Star Trek pilot, “The Cage,” and before the events of the second pilot, “Where No Man Has Gone Before”).  In 2262, we see that Kirk is posted to the Vega colony, following a disastrous mission on board his first starship command, the U.S.S. Sacagawea.  It is here that Kirk first meets Leonard McCoy, who will become his stalwart friend for the rest of his life.  And in 2261, we see Kirk as the newly-minted Captain of the Sacagawea, with his old friend Gary Mitchell at his side.  As the novel unfolds, we see how these events in different times & locations draw together, and we’re given a fascinating picture of how Kirk built the skills, and close circle of friends and comrades, that would serve him so well as the captain of the Enterprise.

This is a fantastic book, and as a long-time Star Trek fan I particularly love how this story doesn’t toss out established continuity in order to tell its story, but instead how it pulls together the pieces of established canon to create a story that is new and unexpected while at the same time being perfectly in synch with pre-established continuity.  It’s a beautiful balancing act, one that Christopher L. Bennett has made look very easy.

It’s fun to see characters from the early days of Star Trek brought into the novel.  We read of the retirement Dr. Piper (Captain Pike’s Chief Medical Officer from “The Cage”), which of course creates the opening that Leonard McCoy will fill.  I quite liked the small story given to Lee Kelso (the helmsman from “The Cage”), and how he reacts poorly to Kirk’s assignment as his new commanding officer.  I thought that the character of Janet Miller, with whom Kirk has a brief fling in this novel, was a new character created for the book, but after reading Mr. Bennett’s fantastic annotations to his novel, I was pleased to discover that was was the Janet referred to in the TOS episode “The Deadly Years”.  I also enjoyed seeing … [continued]

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Josh Reviews Star Trek: Picard Episodes 2 & 3

I quite enjoyed the premiere episode of Star Trek: Picard.

Unfortunately, the next two episodes (“Maps and Legends” and “The End is the Beginning”) were rather disappointing.  The same thing happened with Star Trek: Discovery — I really enjoyed the premiere and then things immediately took a downward turn.  I’m hoping Picard can rally.

I have two main problems so far.  First, almost nothing significant has happened in these last two episodes.  Picard at the end of episode three is in basically the exact same place he was at the end of the premiere: ready to leave Earth in an attempt to find and protect Dash’s twin sister.  Yes, we’ve met a few new characters (Raffi, Rios), but basically it’s been two episodes of narrative wheel-spinning.  That’s a LOT of wasted time in an eight-episode season.

More problematically, I’ve seen what to me feels like the exact same sort of lazy, muddled storytelling that so often beset Discovery.  What do I mean?  Here are a few examples:

* Why are the Romulan bad guys having trouble finding Soji when she is WORKING AT A ROMULAN FACILITY??

* We have all sorts The Force Awakens type of problems with the show being unnecessarily muddled with regards to the status quo of the universe and the characters.  Why is the secretive, paranoid, militaristic Romulan empire allowing Federation civilians to operate inside their salvaged Borg cube?  Wouldn’t they keep that technology to themselves?  What in fact is the status of the Romulan empire following the destruction of Romulus?  Does the Romulan empire even still exist?  Who are the Romulan bad-guys and what are they after?  Why do they hate Synthetics?  Have the Romulan bad guys infiltrated Starfleet or are they working with Starfleet?  (I have grown very weary already of the mustache- twirling Commodore Oh and her EVIL Romulan side-kick.)  (Also, do the writers know what a Commodore is?  That rank doesn’t make sense to me for the head of Starfleet Security.)  It’d be helpful to have some clarity on these story-points; I’d enjoy the stories more if I better understood what was going on and who wanted what.

* The idea of another Romulan secret organization hidden inside the Tal Shiar (a Romulan secret organization) seems silly and unnecessary to me.  (And the idea that they have hated Synthetics for “thousands” of years seems like a mistake to me.  “Thousands” sounds cool, but really that should have been “hundreds” of years, right?  The Romulan are at about the same level of technology as the Federation, so does it make sense they’d have had Synthetics on their world to hate and fear THOUSANDS of years ago?  On the other hand, the Romulan did … [continued]

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Star Trek: Collateral Damage

David Mack’s new Star Trek novel, Collateral Damage, looks to me like it might represent the conclusion of an amazing, almost two-decade-long experiment on the part of Pocket Books to create a connected continuity of Star Trek novels.

It began in 2001 with the publication of S.D. Perry’s Avatar, which launched a series of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine novels that carried forward the characters’ stories, following the DS9 finale, which aired in 1999.  It continued with the “A Time To…” novels, a nine-book series published in 2004, that were set in the months prior to 2002’s Star Trek: Nemesis, the final Star Trek: The Next Generation film.  In the years that followed, a vast tapestry of connected novels developed, and grew to include novels set across all the Trek series, including the Original Series, Voyager, and Enterprise.  Characters from different series would appear in various books, and character arcs and other storylines would continue from book to book, sometimes crossing between series.  Most of the novels were stand-alone stories, but together they fit into a wonderfully expansive tapestry.  I have written about a great many of those novels on this site.  I love continuity and I love epic stories, and these Star Trek novels have together represented a hugely entertaining saga that has given me so much enjoyment over the past two decades.

After November, 2017, Pocket Books temporarily ceased publication of new Star Trek fiction.  No formal explanation was ever offered, to my knowledge, though comments from some sources indicated that the contract with Paramount/CBS was being renegotiated.  I wonder if, behind the scenes, with the new Picard series in the works, there was also a question of how and if these Star Trek novels could continue.  I am excited for Picard (I thought the first episode was great) but I am certain that this new show will contradict huge swaths of the post-Nemesis story that has been crafted for Picard and the other TNG characters in these novels.  After a lengthy hiatus, I was delighted when Pocket books began publishing new Star Trek fiction again last spring, with Dayton Ward’s novel Available Light.  However, while new Trek novels will apparently continue, David Mack’s novel Collateral Damage looks like it might be that last novel set within this post-Nemesis continuity.  None of the Star Trek novels I see on the 2020 schedule seem to be connected to this continuing story.

I can certainly understand hitting pause while we all wait to see what story Picard will actually tell.  But I do hope that Collateral Damage is not the last Star Trek book in this continuity.  I’d hate for two decades of … [continued]

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Josh Reviews the Premiere of Star Trek: Picard!

Set decades after the events of Star Trek: The Next Generation, the new series Star Trek: Picard reintroduces us to Jean-Luc Picard.  No longer the captain of the Enterprise, or indeed a Starfleet officer of any kind, Picard lives out his days overseeing his family winery, assisted by two gentle aides.  But when a young woman on the run seeks him out, and Picard discovers that she shares a connection to one of his former Enterprise crew-mates, the former captain must re-enter the world he has been hiding from for so long.

I grew up with Star Trek: The Next Generation.  I remember being so excited for the premiere, “Encounter at Farpoint,” and I watched every episode of the series as it came out.  (Many of those episodes I have rewatched at least a dozen times, likely more!!)  I loved that show and I loved those characters.  I was disappointed that the movie franchise never really took off.  (I get a lot of enjoyment out of Star Trek: Generations and Star Trek: First Contact, even though I think both films are deeply flawed.  Star Trek: Insurrection is forgettable and Star Trek: Nemesis is an abomination before the Lord.)  I never expected to see Patrick Stewart back in this role ever again.  But the creative and critical success of Logan, in which Mr. Stewart returned to portray an elderly version of Professor X, surely paved the way for his return, here, to the character of Jean-Luc Picard.

I was excited for this show, though very dubious.  I can’t say I have much faith in Alex Kurtzman, who is the current steward of the Star Trek franchise.  I didn’t love any of the three rebooted Trek films that Mr. Kurtzman was involved with (they’re fun but deeply flawed, and even when I love them they don’t really feel like true Star Trek to me); I have found Star Trek: Discovery to be a huge disappointment; and the “Short Trek” short films have been very hit-or-miss.

But I am pleased to report that I thought the first episode of Star Trek: Picard, titled “Remembrance,” was pretty great!!

It’s a pleasure to see Patrick Stewart back in this iconic role, and Mr. Stewart is, as always, fantastic.  He still has an incredible magnetism that is on full display whenever he is on-screen.  His commanding presence reaches out and grabs you.  It’s fascinating and sad to see Mr. Stewart play this older, damaged version of Picard.  This is still Picard — Mr. Stewart shows us Picard’s intelligence and empathy and warmth.  But this Picard has been changed by the events that have transpired since last we saw him.  Mr. Stewart … [continued]

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Josh’s Favorite Movies of 2019 — Part Four!

We have arrived at the conclusion of my list of my favorite movies of 2019!  Please click here to read numbers twenty through sixteen, click here for numbers fifteen through eleven, and click here for numbers ten through six.  And now, without further delay, here are my FIVE FAVORITE movies of 2019:

5. The Irishman The Irishman tells the story of Frank “The Irishman” Sheeran, who was a hitman for the Bufalino crime family.  Frank claims to have been the man who killed Jimmy Hoffa.  The film chronicles decades of Frank’s life, from his first involvement with the Bufalino family, through his close friendship with Hoffa, and eventually through Hoffa’s death and the long, lonely years of the rest of Frank’s life.  It is an absolute delight to see Robert De Niro and Al Pacino together on-screen in so many deliciously meaty scenes in this film.  Both men turn in strong performances, and their on-screen chemistry together is everything you’d want it to be.  But Joe Pesci, who hasn’t been seen on-screen in years, absolutely steals the movie right out from under them in his role as Russell Bufalino, a powerful mob figure who becomes Frank’s mentor.  Mr. Pesci is so great!!  I loved the film’s interwoven structure of flashbacks within flashbacks, as we follow Frank and the other characters across the decades.  I was very impressed with the CGI and makeup effects used to age and de-age Mr. De Niro, Mr. Pesci, and others.  For the most part, that work was seamless.  Even in those few moments in which the visual effects trickery doesn’t quite work, I admired the film’s ambition in telling this broad story.  I know some have complained that the film is too long, and that the last half-hour drags, but I loved that last half-hour!  Those final sequences were critical to the film — we need to see the fall-out from Frank’s violent life.  I didn’t find the ending boring at all; I thought it was the most moving part of the film.  What a delight that the master Martin Scorsese is still creating films as epic and engaging as this one!  (Click here for my full review.)

4. Knives Out When wealthy author Harlan Thrombey (Christopher Plumer) is found dead in his home, many of his family members and others in his orbit all seem to have a possible motive. Enter: detective Benoit Blanc (Daniel Craig), who has been hired to get to the bottom of the whole bloody affair.  I have so much love in my heart for this film!!  Knives Out, written and directed by Rian Johnson, is a ferociously entertaining film, a delightfully funny and twisty … [continued]

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Josh Reviews The Latest Short Treks

January 3rd, 2020

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

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

Ephraim and Dot — This short is the first Star Trek animated project since The Animated Series from the seventies!  It tells the cute story of the at-first antagonistic encounter between a space-faring tardigrade (introduced in Discovery’s first season) and one of the Enterprise’s repair robots (seen in Discovery season two).  I hugely hate and object to the existence of Star Wars-like droids in the Star Trek universe.  I was bummed to see one of those robots used as the centerpiece for this short.  But then I was very surprised and delighted to hear audio from “Space Seed” and discover that this short seems to be set in the classic Star Trek continuity of the Original Series!  I loved how the … [continued]

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

November 1st, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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News Around the Net

Two exciting new Star Trek trailers dropped this week!  First up is this look at Picard:

This is a very solid trailer.  Lots to get excited about here.  The production values of this show look spectacular, which makes me happy.  (On the other hand, Discovery also had terrific production values, but that show disappointed me again and again.)  I love the glimpses of Starfleet Headquarters, and the holographic projection of the Enterprise D!  I love the glimpse of Data — and he’s painting!  Nice nod to TNG continuity.  (And also, apparently a confirmation of my theory that Data in this show would only be appearing in Picard’s memories/dreams.  Note that Data is wearing the TNG-era uniform, and not the later uniform of the movies, or what we see of current Starfleet uniforms in the Picard era.)  It’s also exciting to see Riker and Troi, though actually that was the aspect of the trailer that I was least into.  I am not wild about the idea that Riker and Troi have retired to the woods.  Why is everyone from the TNG an old hermit now?  Jonathan Frakes is still vital and working despite his age here in the 21st century (he’s a fantastic director) — so wouldn’t Riker all the more so still be in the thick of things in the 24th century?  I want Riker to be (finally) in command of a starship!  But there is lots here that makes me happy.  I really hope the show is good.

Discovery also dropped a trailer for their third season:

This is also a great trailer.  I’m intrigued for to see this depiction of 1,000 years ahead in Star Trek’s future.  I’ve always wanted these Trek shows to go forward in time, not backwards… and I’ve also often thought that a cool premise for a future-set Trek show would be the depiction of the re-establishment of the Federation after some sort of catastrophe.  That sorts of seems to be what we’re getting here, and I am intrigued.  I love the glimpse of a version of the Federation emblem (albeit with what looks like far fewer stars on it).  I love Burnham’s various new looks.  I love seeing what looks like the return of Craft, from the terrific Short Treks short film “Calypso”, written by Michael Chabon.  I’m VERY intrigued by the appearance of Trills, as well as the symbiont pools — a deep-cut reference to Deep Space Nine!  I don’t have much expectation that I will ever love this show… but hope springs eternal.  (And I continually remind myself that neither Next Generation nor Deep Space Nine were much good for their first two seasons, either…)

I think this … [continued]

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News Around the Net

For the past few months, I’ve been rewatching Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, my favorite of all the Trek series.  It’s very sad to read the news, right smack in the middle of my rewatch, of the passing of Aron Eisenberg, who played Nog. Here’s one of my favorite scenes of Mr. Eisenberg’s, from season three’s “Heart of Stone”:

Such a loss.  The Divine Treasury has a new member.

This is interesting: more than a year in advance of the next Jurassic World film, they’ve released a new short film set after the last film but before the next one:

I strongly disliked the first two Jurassic World films, but that’s an enjoyable, well-put-together little action-adventure short!  The cast is solid — and in particular it’s great to see Moonlights Andre Holland.  And the short validates the point I’d made in my review of Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom that I think the characters who were supposed to be the heroes in that film acted like villains.  This short (and the fun stuff in between the credits) shows the negative consequences of their actions at the end of that film!

This is a fun trailer Marvel Studios put together for “The Infinity Saga,” their first 22 films:

Bring on Phase Four!

Over in DC-land, I’d thought DC/Warner Brother’s attempt at an interconnected movie universe was mostly dead, but that Harley Quinn sequel film (in which Margot Robbie reprises her role from 2016’s Suicide Squad) is really coming!  This is a fun new poster.  Could this film possibly be any good?  Margot Robbie was one of the only good aspects of the dreadful Suicide Squad… and I’m excited to see Rene Montoya on the big screen… we’ll see in February…

I’ve never watched any of the DC “Arrowverse” TV shows, but I might have to sample their upcoming “Crisis on Infinite Earths” crossover.  I’d noted in a previous post that Brandon Routh, from the vastly underrated Superman Returns, would be reprising his role as Clark Kent/Superman for the crossover… now it seems that Smallville’s Tom Welling and Erica Durance will ALSO be reprising THEIR roles as Clark Kent/Superman and Lois Lane!  That is very cool.

The great Paul Feig might be involved with resurrecting Universal’s monster movie franchises?  Ok, that is a bizarre match, but I am intrigued…!

Looks like a SECOND Game of Thrones prequel project might be moving forward… I feel sort of done with this series following the so-so final season… but on the other hand, who am I kidding, I’ll be watching any and all of these spin-offs/prequels if they actually happen…

I’ll leave you for today with … [continued]

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News Around the Net — UPDATED with Bond 25 Title

UPDATE: The Title of Bond 25 has been revealed:

It’s an OK title.  A bit generic, but also sort of classic Bond sounding.  I just hope this movie is better than SPECTRE, which I found to be heartbreakingly disappointing.

Recently I shared the exciting news that Brandon Routh would be reprising his role as Superman from the underrated Superman Returns in the upcoming “Crisis on Infinite Earths” crossover that will be running through the DC “Arrowverse” TV shows in the fall.  Now there’s even more exciting news: Kevin Conway, who voiced Bruce Wayne/Batman on Batman: The Animated Series and who is, for me, the definitive actor to play Batman, will finally be playing the character in live action!  Mr. Conway will ALSO be appearing in this “Crisis on Infinite Earths” crossover, apparently playing the elderly Bruce Wayne from Batman Beyond!  I am so excited for this!!  I have never before watched any of these “Arrowverse” shows, but it sure looks like I’ll be needing to tune in for this one…

The Matrix is heading back to theaters 8/30-9/5 in celebration of its 20th anniversary!  Cool!  Speaking of The Matrix: Lana Wachowski, Keanu Reeves and Carrie-Ann Moss are all apparently involved in making a new fourth Matrix film??  Wow, I did not expect that!!

This is interesting: apparently Stephen King himself has written a new “coda” for the ending of The Stand miniseries adaptation!  I am very curious to see what Mr. King has added to the end of his famous story.  (I’m actually in the middle of reading the novel for the first time, right now!)

Speaking of Stephen King, this is a great look back at The Green Mile, Frank Darabont’s film adaptation of Stephen King’s serialized novel.  I love The Green Mile and think it’s a hugely underrated film.

This trailer for Martin Scorsese’s upcoming Netflix film The Irishman looks spectacular:

Oh, man, that looks like classic Scorsese.  Great cast.  Intriguing story.  I’m excited.

I didn’t know anything about Eddie Murphy’s new film Dolemite is My Name before watching this trailer, but now I can’t wait to see this:

That looks great!  It’s fantastic to see Eddie Murphy back on the big screen in an interesting-looking movie, and the ensemble cast of the film looks amazing.  (By the way, I highly recommend Eddie Murphy’s appearance on the newest batch of Jerry Seinfeld’s Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee Netflix show!)

This is great news: Atlanta has already been renewed for a fourth season, even though season three is still months away from release!  I loved season one and season two, and I can’t wait for more.

CBS and Paramount are merging, which … [continued]

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Star Trek: Foul Deeds Will Rise

For a while now I have been catching up with a bunch of Star Trek novels that I had skipped reading when they were originally published.  With more books on my “to-read” shelf than I had time to read, I often found myself choosing to read the Star Trek novels that were set in the novel series’ wonderful interconnected continuity that moved the Star Trek story and characters beyond the series finales of the 24th century-set Trek shows (TNG, DS9, and Voyager).  This meant that often I wound up skipping the stand-along stories set in Captain Kirk’s era.  Over the past several months I have been finally catching up with those books, the first batch of which were all written by Greg Cox.  Mr. Cox is a terrific writer (his two Eugenics War novels are among my very favorite Trek novels!) and it has been a pleasure catching up with these great books that I had missed reading!

While the past several novels (including Assignment: Eternity, The Rings of Time, The Weight of Worlds, and No Time Like the Past) were all set during the Original Series era of Kirk’s first five-year mission on board the Enterprise, this latest novel, Foul Deeds Will Rise, is set during the movie era, between Star Trek V and Star Trek VI.  It’s an interesting change of pace, and Mr. Cox shows just as much skill at depicting the movie-era of Kirk and the Enterprise as he was at writing stories set during the five-year mission.

Foul Deeds Will Rise is a sequel to the Original Series episode, “The Conscience of the King.”  That episode ends with young Lenore Karidian exposed as a murderer and driven mad by the accidental death of her father at her own hands.  As she is taken away, McCoy assures Kirk that Lenore would get the best psychological care that the Federation could provide.  But what would become of Lenore?  Foul Deeds Will Rise picks up that fascinating question.

Twenty years after those events, the Enterprise-A is called in to help mediate a fierce dispute between planetary neighbors Oyolo and Pavak.  Kevin Reilly, now a Federation Ambassador, is back on board the Enterprise to help broker the peace talks.  While visiting Oyolo, Captain Kirk is shocked to encounter Lenore Karidian, now going under the name Lyla Kassidy.  After many years in a rehabilitation institute, Lenore/Lyla has been declared sane and released; she is now a part of a relief mission to Oyolo, where she attempts to give back to the Federation as a way of atoning for her crimes.  She agrees to join Captain Kirk on board the Enterprise for a reception, but … [continued]

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News Around the Net

I really enjoyed this trailer for Picard, the new show in which Patrick Stewart will reprise his iconic role as Jean-Luc Picard:

That’s a great trailer.  Will the show be any good?  Who knows.  I’m dubious, mostly because I’m just not sure that Alex Kurtzman is the best shepherd for the Trek franchise.  (I haven’t loved any of the J. J. Abrams movies that Mr. Kurtzman was involved with, and I’ve found Discovery to be mostly disappointing.)  But I want to believe.  (Oops, wrong franchise.)  Patrick Stewart looks great in this trailer; just seeing him as Picard again is a joy.  There are some great visuals.  I loved the callback to “Captain Picard Day.”  I LOVED seeing Data again at the end.  (My thinking is that Picard is playing cards with a holographic Data, just as Data often played cards with holographic figures from the past, back on TNG.)  I loved the revelation late in the trailer that this story has something to do with the Borg.  While the Borg were given a terrific finale and resolution in the Star Trek novels (in David Mack’s wonderful Destiny trilogy), they never got a great finale on-screen, so I’d love to see them revisited here.  (I’m also intrigued to hear that Hugh from “I, Borg” will be back in some manner!)

I don’t love the implications that Picard left Starfleet because of something to do with the destruction of Romulus (a rather silly plot point from the first J. J. Abrams Star Trek film).  And while I have nothing against Jeri Ryan and am quite happy to see her character of Annika/Seven again, I think her appearance as the “wow” surprise towards the end of this trailer demonstrates Alex Kurtzman’s misunderstanding of what TNG fans are looking for.  I want to see Doctor Crusher in this show far more than I want to see Seven of Nine from Voyager!!  Well, we’ll soon see what they’ve cooked up.  I am truly hoping for the best.

Marvel had a lot of exciting announcements at San Diego Comic Con.  Click here for a summary.

* Black Widow: The Black Widow prequel film which we all knew was in-the-works was officially announced.  I’m excited for Scarlet Johansson to finally be the lead of a Marvel film, and I’m very curious to know where/how this will fit into the overall timeline.

* The Eternals: This is a very curious choice.  This is a very obscure title from the Marvel archive.  Over the years, I’ve read some interesting stories featuring Eternals characters in the Fantastic Four and Avengers comic book series, but this wouldn’t jump out at me as something I’d long to see in … [continued]

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Star Trek: No Time Like The Past

I am having fun catching up on a number of Star Trek novels from recent years that I have missed.  Most of these books that I had skipped reading are stand-alone tales from the Original Series era, and the first batch I have been reading have all been written by Greg Cox.  I have quite enjoyed every one of Mr. Cox’s Kirk-era novels, and No Time Like the Past is no exception.

During Kirk’s original five-year mission on board the Enterprise, he attempts to mediate a diplomatic conference aimed at curbing Orion piracy.  An Orion attack sends the conference into chaos, but Kirk’s life is saved by a young woman who calls herself Annika Seven.  A century later, in the Delta Quadrant, the starship Voyager detects an obsolete Starfleet distress signal.  Their investigation leads them to a hidden installation set beneath an enormous sculpture of the head of Captain James T. Kirk.

This book has a great set-up, as we encounter the dual mysteries of Seven of Nine’s presence in Kirk’s era, as well as the weirdness with the Starfleet distress signal far beyond where any Federation starship had gone before and the memorable image of the enormous Kirk-head on a planet in the Delta Quadrant.  It’s a great kick-off to the story, and what follows is a fun adventure/mystery as Seven and Kirk attempt to unravel the truth of what is going on.

The idea of Captain Kirk meeting Seven of Nine is a fantastic idea, and a great basis for a novel.  (I am not a big fan of Voyager — I consider it the weakest of the Star Trek series — but I cannot deny that this is a great hook for a story.)  For the most part, the novel follows through on that premise… though I must admit that I was a little surprised that we barely see any hint of flirtation between the two.  That Captain Kirk, who seemed to bed a different beautiful alien woman in nearly every episode of the Original Series, would not engage in some heavy flirting with the beautiful Seven of Nine was a surprise to me!  On the one hand, I like that Mr. Cox took both characters seriously, and depicted Captain Kirk as someone who acted professionally around Seven.  On the other hand, while I wouldn’t want to see Kirk acting like a boor around Seven, I did miss the fun of a little romantic interplay between the two characters.  I felt we missed out on that aspect of the story’s premise.

I enjoyed the way the story dug deeply into several different adventures from the Original Series, bringing the Enterprise back to several well-known locations: Gamma Triangula … [continued]

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Star Trek: Available Light

Simon & Schuster/ Pocket Books have been publishing Star Trek novels on a regular basis for as long as I can remember.  (I believe their first one was The Entropy Effect by Vonda N. McIntyre from back in 1981, and they’ve been publishing Trek books consistently ever since.)  But for the last year-plus, that regular schedule was interrupted by behind-the-scenes issues.  (Click here for more details.)  Thankfully, not only has the publishing of new Star Trek books resumed, but they are continuing, uninterrupted, the inter-novel continuity that I have so loved in these Trek books for the last 10-15 years, continuing the stories of these characters beyond the end of the 24th-century-set Trek shows.

The latest novel, Available Light, by Dayton Ward, picks up the threads left by the end of the last several Trek novels.  In David Mack’s Section 31: Control, from 2017, that secret organization was finally defeated, and all of their misdeeds from the past two centuries were made public.  At the end of Mr. Ward’s previous novel, Hearts and Minds, also from 2017, we learned that this release of information included Captain Picard’s involvement in the heretofore secret removal of corrupt Federation President Min Zife (from the climax of the “A Time To…” series of novels from 2004, that were set in the year leading up to the events of Star Trek: Nemesis).

Available Light tells two parallel stories.  One is an exploration of the repercussions, across the Federation, of the exposure of Section 31 and all its actions.  Federation Attorney General Philippa Louvois (from the TNG episode “The Measure of a Man”) and Starfleet Admiral Akaar (born in the Original Series episode “Friday’s Child”, Akaar has been developed into a major character in the last decade of Trek novels) are working together to track down all known and as-yet-unknown Section 31 agents and those starfleet officers who were involved with Section 31.  This includes Admiral William Ross (established as working with 31 in the DS9 episode “Inter Arma Ainem Silent Leges”) as well as Nechayev, Jellico, and Nakamura (all admirals seen on TNG who the novel series has previously established as being connected to 31).

The second half of the book is a wonderful tale of an encounter with new alien races and a mystery in space in the classic Star Trek style.  The Enterprise-E, continuing their new mission of deep-space exploration, encounters an enormous alien spacecraft, damaged and operating under low power.  The spacecraft seems designed to house an enormous population, but no life forms are aboard.  Meanwhile, a group of salvagers have laid claim to the vessel.  But the Enterprise crew soon discovers that the original inhabitants … [continued]

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Josh Reviews the Amazing Documentary About Star Trek Deep Space Nine: “What We Left Behind”

On Monday night I had the pleasure to see, on the big screen, the extraordinary documentary What We Left Behind, looking back at my favorite of the Star Trek shows, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.  The documentary was directed by Ira Steven Behr, who was the show-runner of DS9 for most of its run, and David Zappone.  It’s a glorious love-letter to the show, to the men and women who worked so hard to create it, and to the fans who loved it (and love it still).

Deep Space Nine is easily my favorite of the Star Trek shows.  I realize it’s hard to argue that any Trek show can top the Kirk/Spock/McCoy Original Series, and if I was ranking the Trek shows in order of importance, clearly the Original Series would be on top.  I love the Original Series.  And I love TNG (Star Trek: The Next Generation, the first spin-off) dearly.  But Deep Space Nine is my favorite.  To me it is by far the most interesting and complex of all the Trek series.  The show was unafraid to feature complicated storylines and complicated, morally grey characters.  The show delved far more deeply into its characters than any of the other Trek shows.  (As someone in the documentary astutely notes, the least-developed DS9 character was far more developed, by the end of the show’s seven-season run, than any character on TNG.)  Many fans were turned off by DS9′s being set on a space-station rather than a starship like all the other Trek shows (before and after).  But that unchanging location quickly became a virtue.  Rather than jumping to a new planet and new characters/situations each week, DS9 stayed in one place, and so was able to dig deeply into its setting and its characters, developing an extraordinarily deep bench of beloved and richly-developed supporting characters and long-running storylines.  The show’s characters were complex and messy and flawed, and it developed a long-running story of interstellar conflict (the Dominion War) that was thrilling and complex and unlike any story Trek had ever told before (or since).  The show was groundbreaking in its continuity in a way that many (fans and the studio) found off-putting at the time, but that I always loved, and that laid the path for all of today’s heavily-serialized shows.  And it is almost always overlooked (a point Mr. Behr makes at one point in the doc) for how groundbreaking it was for having an African American in the lead role, and for its deep bench of characters played by African American men and women.  The show was great back when it aired and it holds up remarkably well today.  (Sadly, no subsequent Star Trek[continued]

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Josh Reviews the Two-Part Finale of Star Trek: Discovery Season Two: “Such Sweet Sorrow”

Well, I’ll give them some credit, the folks behind Star Trek: Discovery did their best to pull out all the stops for this two-part season finale.  There were huge spaceship battles and hand-to-hand combat sequences, there were big emotional moments, and attempts made to not only answer all of this season’s long-running questions but also to tie up some of the continuity issues that have been present since the start of the series.  Unfortunately, as seems to usually be the case for this show, the things that worked were, in my opinion, vastly outnumbered by all the things that didn’t.

Let’s dive right into the big stuff.  (I’m going to dig deeply into spoiler territory here, folks, so beware.)  The core mystery this season was of the seven signals that appeared simultaneously across the galaxy.  That’s how things were set up in the season premiere.  But then, as the season progressed, new signals kept appearing.  That was a contradiction that never made sense to me.  Were there the seven original signals plus the new signals the Discovery kept encountering?  In this episode, we go back and retrace the steps of the signals that Discovery encountered: four in previous episodes and three more over the course of this two-parter.  That’s seven total, so the original set-up of seven mysterious signals that all appeared at the start of the season has been totally contradicted.  It’s shocking to me that the show could fail so completely on even being consistent and clear with its set-up at this most basic, can-you-count-to-ten level.

We learn in the finale that it was Michael Burnham herself who set the signals.  In theory I like the idea that the events we’ve been following this season are a loop, and that the source is one of our characters and not some made-up external new antagonist or protagonist.  But think about this for even just a few seconds and it all falls apart.  How could Michael create these enormously powerful signals (so powerful that they could be detected from across the galaxy) with just her tiny little suit?  Even if I accept the idea that a human in the years before the Original Series could create a perfectly-functioning time-travel suit (and that Michael could build a new one and learn how to operate it in less than a day), how could this time-suit move Michael, not just through time, but also through space, allowing her to journey back and forth across the galaxy in an instant?  The finale explains that while it was Michael’s mother who traveled through time to interact with Spock as a young boy, it was Michael herself who was behind everything else this season and all … [continued]

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Let’s begin with the upcoming movie that I am most excited to see (OK, after Endgame, I guess):

I am so excited to finally see What We Left Behind, a documentary looking back at my favorite of all the Star Trek series: Deep Space Nine!  I backed the kickstarter that funded this project, so I’ll be able to stream this soon.  But I couldn’t conceive of missing the documentary’s one night in theaters, courtesy of Shout! Studios and Fathom Events.  My tickets are purchased!  Will you be joining me…?

Next up: our first glimpse at the next Quentin Tarantino film, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood:

That’s a great tease.  I am excited that a brand new Tarantino movie is only a few months away!

I don’t know what exactly to make of this first trailer for the Joker movie, starring Joaquin Phoenix:

On the one hand, I am always open for a movie that takes superhero/supervillain characters dead seriously, and this certainly looks like a well-made, bonkers piece of work.  So I’m intrigued.  On the other hand, it looks so horrific and joyless that it’s hard to muster too much enthusiasm.  Also, please name one movie that tried to turn a comic book villain into the main character, without the hero, that wasn’t absolutely terrible.  You can’t.  This feels like DC/Warner Brothers having absolutely no idea what to do with their stable of DC characters.  So I’m not sure what to think.

On a lighter note, here’s the first full trailer for Toy Story 4:

I loved Toy Story 3 so much; I felt it was the perfect final chapter for this series.  (Did it really come out almost a decade ago??)  So far all three Toy Story films have been great, and I have faith in the talented men and women at Pixar, so while I don’t feel the need for any more Toy Story films, I have no reason to doubt the quality of this coming fourth film.  This trailer shows a bit too much of the movie, but it suggests that there’s lots of new existential ground for this new film to cover.  I can’t wait.

Stranger Things season 3 is coming on July 4, 2019.  Here’s our first detailed trailer:

That looks like fun!  Some great imagery in that trailer.

For all you Parks and Rec fans out there, here is a report from the Paley Center’s 10th anniversary celebration of the show.  This sounds like it would have been amazing to have been at!

It looks like Amazon’s Dark Tower series might actually happen!  I adore these books, and I’m still bummed that the long-awaited film adaptation was so lame.  … [continued]

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Josh Reviews Star Trek: Discovery “Perpetual Infinity” and “Through the Valley of Shadows”

We’re heading into the home stretch of Star Trek: Discovery season two.  I’m finding things to enjoy in every episode, but the show is far shakier than I’d hoped (and that the stronger episodes at the start of the season had led me to anticipate).

Episode 10: “Perpetual Infinity” — after two episodes I was not that into, things picked up significantly in this installment, which I enjoyed quite a lot.  (For the most part.  As usual, there are some storytelling decisions that make me crazy.)

The heart of this episode, Burnham’s emotional reunion with the mother she thought long-dead, and the story of what happened to Dr. Gabrielle Burnham in the intervening years, is very strong.  While the device of Burnham’s watching her mother’s logs stretched credulity a bit (both that the logs captured all of this critical information and that Burnham would have the time to sit and watch all these hours of logs while a race-against-the-clock crisis was unfolding), emotionally the scenes worked.  I loved the opening flashback of Michael Burnham’s memories of her last happy moments with her parents, and I enjoyed the structure of following Gabrielle’s life in the series of flashbacks interspersed into the episode.  Guest star Sonja Sohn (Kima from The Wire!!!) was fantastic.  The strength and believability of her performance is a huge component of this episode working.  The other component is Sonequa Martin-Green, who is absolutely spectacular in every moment of this episode.  Ms. Martin-Green has, from the beginning, been one of the best aspects of this show.  She is amazingly talented, and while the show has veered perilously close into soap opera territory with the number of reasons they’ve given Michael Burnham to cry this season, I was gripped by the visceral emotion Ms. Martin-Green brought to every moment in this episode, particularly the scenes she shared with her mom.

I was happy that we get a satisfactory answer to why Gabrielle, who was in possession of a time-travel suit, couldn’t have done more to actually affect positive change to the time-line.  I’d been wondering this for weeks, and the answer (that after been shunted a millennia into the future, Gabrielle couldn’t spent more than a few moments in the past before being snapped back to that future time) is reasonably satisfactory.  (There ARE still plenty of problems with this time-travel story; see below.)

Spock is finally acting like Spock, and I found myself enjoying Ethan Peck’s performance more than ever.  This Spock is smart, calm, and kind, the way Spock should be.  Spock had several great moments with Burnham this week, but the best was the their terrific final scene together, in which Spock quietly re-sets the three-dimensional chess … [continued]

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Star Trek: The Weight of Worlds

I have been catching up with a number of stand-alone Star Trek novels telling stories from Captain Kirk’s era that had been sitting unread — for far too long! — on my bookshelf!

After reading Greg Cox’s novel The Rings of Time, I moved on to Mr. Cox’s next book: The Weight of Worlds.  As was The Rings of Time, this book is set during the era of the Original Series and the Enterprise’s five-year mission.  A Federation scientific institute at the edge of space is attacked by invaders from another dimension.  These invaders use gravity-based weaponry to subdue the peaceful scientists and thinkers.  When the Enterprise responds to the institute’s distress call, they are alarmed to discover that the aliens have converted every one of the institute’s inhabitants into true believers in the Truth that they espouse.  Captain Kirk leads a rescue mission, but he and Spock are captured and sent to the aliens’ home dimension, while Sulu and security officer Fawzia Yaseen are trapped on the planet, surrounded by the fierce aliens and their captive converts.  Meanwhile, when the aliens turn their gravity-based weaponry against the Enterprise, Scotty is grievously injured, leaving Uhura in command of the ship.

The Weight of Worlds is another great stand-alone adventure from the Original Series era by Mr. Cox!  I loved his introduction and development of this new alien race, the Ialatl, and their internal struggle between the fanatical Crusade and the dissidents within their society.  It’s great to see a completely new alien race introduced, and I enjoyed the way Mr. Cox brought this culture to life.  Their gravity-based weaponry was a neat new idea, and I loved seeing the glimpses into how this gravity-technology had transformed Ialatl society on their home planet.

It was great getting to see Uhura take center stage in this story.  I loved seeing her in command, and I was pleased that Mr. Cox depicted her as being completely competent when thrust into that role.  There was a moment in which the Crusade leader threatened Sulu as a way to try to get Uhura to give him what he wanted.  I was happy to see that Uhura stood firm, despite the threat to her shipmate and friend.

I also enjoyed seeing Sulu in an important role, as he is forced to fend for himself on the planet’s surface when the rescue mission goes sideways.  It’s nice to see Sulu get to be a hero, showing bravery and cleverness as he fought to stay alive and find some way to turn the tables on the alien invaders.

I also enjoyed the introduction and development of the Middle Eastern Enterprise security officer Yaseen.  It’s great to … [continued]

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Josh Reviews Star Trek: Discovery “Project Daedalus” and “The Red Angel”

Here are my thoughts on the most recent two episodes of Star Trek: Discovery season two.

Episode 9: “Project Daedalus” — The set-up of this episode is just terrible and had me repeatedly rolling my eyes.  But then, out of nowhere, the last fifteen-to-twenty minutes turn into a rollicking good time with great suspense and action and a surprisingly moving ending.  This is Discovery at its best and at its worst.

What’s bad?  Where to begin.  Star Trek: Discovery has demonstrated a complete misunderstanding of Section 31 since the beginning, and things just get worse and worse in the opening of this episode.  Admiral Cornwell reveals that “Control” is a computer system into which Starfleet admirals feed information and from which they get strategic recommendations.  Cornwell describes this system as critical to the successful running and defense of the Federation.  Oy!  I didn’t love the suggestion in David Mack’s novel Section 31: Control that the secretive Section 31 was run by an A.I., though I admit to being tickled that this idea from the books has made it into onscreen canon.  But in the books, the existence of this A.I. was a tightly-kept secret, even from most 31 operatives.  Here, Cornwell describes the entire Federation admiralty taking advice/orders from this A.I. system, which feels colossally stupid.  And now they’re shocked that this A.I. has become sentient (or is… trying to become sentient?  The episode is vague on that point) and is causing problems??  Do the Terminator films not exist in the Star Trek universe?  And then Cornwell tells us that Section 31 is headed up by a Vulcan Admiral who is a “logic extremist,” which the show has established as violent terrorists.  How does it make any sense that a Starfleet admiral is a terrorist?  None of this makes any sense and it’s all very silly, and just serves to make the leaders of Starfleet look extremely dumb.  (Maybe the show-runners think that “logic extremists” are something other than how I’m defining them?  I allow this possibility only because, as I have complained about before, the show has been annoyingly vague about who these people are, despite their having a critical role to play in Burnham’s backstory and in her schism with Spock — because we learned that Burnham fled Sarek and Amanda’s home because she feared that these logic extremists would return to attack there and would put Spock and his family in jeopardy.)

There are moments when I was interested in the tense Spock-Burnham exchanges (and I enjoyed that this played out over a game of 3-D chess, which we first met Spock and Kirk playing in Star Trek’s second pilot “Where No Man Has Gone Before”), … [continued]

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I have watched this most recent trailer for Avengers: Endgame a lot:

I love the nostalgia-focused first half of the trailer, with well-used clips and soundbites from previous films.  (They really tease fans with that Peggy Carter audio!!  That’s from a previous film, but my heart sang for a moment at the thought that maybe she’d appear somehow in Endgame?  Hope springs eternal.)  I love seeing Hawkeye’s daughter (a nice nod to the comics), and I’m intrigued at the glimpses of Hawkeye in the Ronin identity (another nice nod to a story-line from the comics).  (I am guessing that young-girl vanished in the snap, which I’m assuming prompted Hawkeye’s grimness in the trailer and his weird grief-haircut.)  That shot of Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) looking at all the missing photos (having presumably escaped from the Quantum Realm where he was stranded at the end of Ant Man and the Wasp) is heartbreaking.  I’m intrigued by the new white Avengers uniforms glimpsed towards the end of the trailer.  (Are those their going-into-space uniforms?)  And, of course, that last shot with Captain Marvel was fantastic; now that we’ve seen the mid-credits scene in Captain Marvel, it’s fun to imagine what role she will play in Endgame.  I’m impressed at how little we actually know about this film’s story, this close to release.  Note that NONE of the film’s trailers have shown new footage of Thanos, who the Avengers will obviously be confronting, eventually, in Endgame.  But we don’t have any idea how this will all play out, which I find very exciting.  Once again, I am hoping and hoping that Marvel will be able to stick the landing.

In other Marvel news — James Gunn has been reinstated to direct Guardians of the Galaxy volume 3!!!  This is fantastic news, I am overjoyed.  What a relief.  I am excited to see how Mr. Gunn will finish this trilogy of films.  (I’m a bit bummed that we’ll have to wait until after he makes his planned Suicide Squad sequel/reboot, which he’s signed on to do after getting dumped by Disney, but if this is what it takes I am not complaining, and I’m happy these two companies, Marvel and Warners, were able to work this all out.)

Here’s our first true substantial look at Game of Thrones’ final season, now only a few weeks away!

I am excited.  I am hoping against hope that they can stick the landing.  (Here’s an interesting look at the lengthy runtime of the series’ final six episodes!)

Rifftrax is 10 years old!!  Here’s a funny short highlight reel they put together:

For those not in the know, Rifftrax is an offshoot of Mystery … [continued]

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Josh Reviews Star Trek: Discovery “Light and Shadows” and “If Memory Serves”

We’re at the midpoint of season two of Star Trek: Discovery.  I’ve been enjoying these episodes a lot more than I did season one, so that’s encouraging.  (Though the episodes are still burdened by a stunning disregard for Star Trek continuity and frequently lazy storytelling.)  Let’s dig in:

Episode 7: “Light and Shadows” — Burnham returns to Vulcan where she is finally able to locate Spock, while the Discovery attempts to rescue Pike and Tyler, who are trapped on a shuttlecraft within a temporal anomaly.

The biggest event in this episode is that we finally get to see Spock.  I am glad the show has stopped teasing us regarding Spock and that finally he is on the show and Burnham has found him.  It’s hard to judge Ethan Peck’s performance as Spock yet in this episode, as he doesn’t get much to do other than mumble incoherently.  It’s distressing to see Spock in such an out-of-his-mind state, but I’ll withhold judgment until I see where this all is going.  I’m not sure quite what to make of the revelation that Spock, as a child, had to overcome a learning disability similar to dyslexia.  I suppose there’s nothing canonical that explicitly contradicts this, but I’m not sure I understand the point of adding this major element to Spock’s backstory that we’ve never heard of before.

More distressing is the depiction of Sarek and Amanda.  The two have a tense argument over Spock, where all sorts of elements over Spock’s childhood and the difficulties that the human Amanda and the half-human Spock had growing up on Vulcan come into play.  On the one hand, it’s interesting to see an exploration of what I can see would have been the many, many hard aspects of life on Vulcan for Amanda and her half-human son.  On the other hand, I hate the implication that Amanda and Spock were mistreated by Sarek.  Amanda slaps down Sarek by accusing him of never being willing to live with her and Spock on Earth.  I hate this.  It suggests that Amanda was weak and subservient to Sarek’s wishes, that she was forced to live on Vulcan because Sarek wouldn’t live on Earth.  I never ever saw their relationship that way.  Ever since the characters were first introduced, walking side by side, with their fingers interlocked, in the Original Series episode “Journey to Babel,” I always saw them as partners.  Is it weird, perhaps, that the human Amanda chose to live her life and raise her son among the unemotional Vulcans?  Sure!  But I always saw that as HER choice.  My assumption was that she and Sarek made their life choices TOGETHER.  The suggestion here that Amanda was almost … [continued]

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Josh Reviews Star Trek: Discovery “The Sound of Thunder”

Click here for my review of episodes 1 and 2 of Star Trek: Discovery season two, click here for my review of episodes 3 and 4, and click here for my review of episode 5.

Episode 6: “The Sound of Thunder” — Picking up the thread of the Saru-focused short “The Brightest Star,” as well as the events of episode 4, “An Obol for Charon” (in which Saru survived what he thought was the Kelpian death-cycle, thus realizing that his people had been tricked for generations about the nature of their existence), this episode sees the Discovery led to Saru’s home planet by a new red signal.  There, Saru and the audience finally learn the answers to so many of the questions posed in “The Brightest Star” about the true nature of the Kelpians and their oppressors, the Ba’ul.  This was a terrific episode and for much of its run-time I was extremely happy with how much I was enjoying it!  Things fell apart somewhat in the final minutes, but I still think this was an extremely good episode, one of Discovery’s best.

Things start out with a big contrivance.  I’d expected that, following the dramatic end of “An Obol for Charon,” that Saru would be desperate to return home to reveal the truth to his people.  Strangely, Saru’s transformation was ignored in the the following episode, “Saints of Imperfection,” and here, the sighting of a new red signal in proximity to Saru’s homeworld gives Saru and the Discovery a reason to go there.  Wow, that was easy!  I can live with this coincidence for now, because these episodes are strongly suggesting that the appearances of the red signals are NOT random, but are happening for a specific reason that is connected to Discovery.  I hope the explanation for all this, when we get it, is satisfying.

For now, I was OK with this contrivance because I was excited to return to Saru’s homeworld, and the episode did not disappoint.  Things were firing on all cylinders.  We got a lot of wonderful dramatic, character-based scenes.  I loved the escalating tension between Saru and Captain Pike, first when Saru insists on being allowed to beam down to the planet and later when he angrily interrupts Pike’s conversation over the comms in order to confront the Ba’ul.  This is great drama driven naturally from these two different characters and where they come from.  I also loved Burnham’s confrontation with Saru in the transporter room, when he was about to beam down after the Ba’ul threatened to destroy his sister’s village.  I liked that Burnham was smart enough to predict Saru’s actions, and I like that Saru knew … [continued]

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Josh Reviews Star Trek: Discovery “Saints of Imperfection”

Click here for my review of episodes 1 and 2 of Star Trek: Discovery season two, and click here for my review of episodes 3 and 4.

Episode 5: “Saints of Imperfection” — Picking up immediately after the cliffhanger at the end of the previous episode, the Discovery crew bands together to rescue Tilly from the mycelial network.  For the most part, I thought this was a very solid episode, though it was bogged down by the unwanted (by me) return of Ash Tyler and Mirror-Georgiou.  Star Trek novel author Kristen Beyer wrote the script for this episode, and I thought she did a great job.  As with most Discovery episodes, events unfolded at a very fast pace — I enjoyed the tension of the rescue mission (though there were a few moments where I thought there was an incongruity between the slow-paced conversations Burnham and Stamets & co. were having in the Upside Down and the escalating destruction happening on the Discovery back in “our” universe.  I kept almost shouting at my TV: “hurry up, already!!”)

I liked the concept of the Discovery half-jumping into the mycelial network, keeping half of the ship anchored in “our” universe while the other half entered the mycelial network so as to access Tilly.  The visual effects of the ship half-in and half-out of that other universe looked amazing, and I enjoyed the ticking-clock tension of the mission.

As soon as May mentioned a “monster” damaging her home, I knew it had to be Dr. Culber, and sure enough, at long last, the bad-decision of killing him off back in season one was undone.  Was this the plan all along, or did they alter course after the initial fan backlash?  I’ll give them credit and assume the former, though I still think it was a bad decision.  Seeming to destroy the first happy homosexual relationship ever seen on Star Trek was needlessly painful to a lot of fans, and I’m just not a huge fan of these sort of fake-death fake-outs.  But, whatever, I am happy that Dr. Culber is back alive and well, and I am pleased that in season two Discovery seems to be correcting so many of the mistakes from season one.

Two other season one mistakes, though, returned, to my disappointment and this episode’s detriment.  As I have written before, I am just not into the evil version of Georgiou.  They took an interesting and noble character and turned her into a one-dimensional villain.  This episode tries to hint that maybe Mirror-Georgiou isn’t all-evil, but they haven’t taken the time to allow us to explore and get to know this character.  So my assumption is that any seemingly-altruistic … [continued]

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Josh Reviews Star Trek: Discovery “Point of Light” and “An Obol for Charon”

I was relatively happy with the first two episodes of Star Trek: Discovery season two.  (Click here for my thoughts!)  Episode three was a huge step in the wrong direction, but then the fourth episode might have been the best episode of the new season so far.  So things are looking up!  Sort of.  Please read on for my detailed reviews:

Episode 3: “Point of Light” — I had my quibbles with the first two episodes of Discovery season two, but for the most part I thought they were a strong start to the season.  Things took a step backwards in this third episode.  Blech, this one was weak in the extreme.

Though I will freely admit that, for the most part, the stuff in this episode that took place on Discovery was good-to-great.  It was everything else — all that nonsense with the Klingons and Mirror Georgiou and Section 31 was just terrible, just a huge swing-and-a-miss, in my opinion.  This episode also struggled where the first two episodes succeeded in finding a balance of episodic versus the more common every-episode-leads-right-into-the-next approach of many streaming shows today.  I like continuity.  Strike that, I LOVE continuity.  I WANT these episodes to connect to one another, and to fit together as they tell a story-arc over the course of the season.  But I also want each episode to feel like an episode, to feel like it has its own structure and a definitive beginning-middle-end, even if that ending is a cliffhanger leading into the next installment.  The first two episodes of season two found that balance very well.  But this third episode just feels like a lot of random scenes strung together, continuing stories that were mostly begun back in season one (both the Klingon/Georgiou stuff as well as the spore that had infected Tilly), without actually resolving much of anything.

Let’s start with what’s good, which is most of the Discovery stuff.  I’m worried that they’ve already over-used the plot device of “Tilly does something crazy that turns out to be motivated by a good reason, worries she’s going to be kicked out of the Starfleet command training program, and then is reassured by Saru.”  But that being said, I enjoyed this story even as I want the Discovery writers to find new and better ways to use Tilly.  I enjoyed the mystery of her “I see dead people” friend, and I was pleased they didn’t try to milk the idea of Tilly’s being crazy for too long, allowing Burnham to quickly help Tilly figure out that there was a real scientific explanation for her visions of her dead friend.  I’m glad they didn’t let the mystery of … [continued]

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Star Trek: Discovery returns for Season Two!

After a long drought since the cancellation of Star Trek: Enterprise in 2005, Star Trek returned to TV last year with the launch of Star Trek: Discovery on CBS All Access.  I was very excited, and while the new show started off strong, I wound up being quite disappointed by the very uneven first season.  The show looked great and had a strong cast, but I thought the storytelling was a mess, and the show made a hash of established Star Trek continuity (causing me to ask, again and again, why the show was a prequel when they seemed to have no interest in connecting with the look and feel of the Original Series in any way.  Why not just set this show a few decades AFTER Next Gen/DS9/Voyager, thus freeing them up to do whatever they wanted with the show??)  But I thought the four Short Trek short films released in the last few months were all very strong, and so I entered season two with renewed excitement.  Having now seen the first two episodes, what do I think so far?

It’s not bad!

Although the premiere opened with a long “previously-on” assemblage of clips from season one, I was pleased that, for the most part, these new episodes make a clean break with season one’s main stories (the Klingon war and the long journey to the Mirror Universe) to tell a new story, centered on seven mysterious red bursts that have appeared across the galaxy.  (I wish they’d skipped that needless and confusing long “previously on” clip assemblage and began, instead, with the wonderful actual first sequence of the first episode: Burnham’s “space: the final frontier” monologue.  That would have been a much stronger opening and I wish they’d trusted it to be so.)

The main change from season one is that the villainous Captain Lorca has been replaced by Anson Mount as Captain Christopher Pike.  (Captain Pike, of course, was the captain of the Enterprise before Kirk.  Pike was played by Jeffrey Hunter in the original pilot for Star Trek, “The Cage,” which was eventually repurposed into the Original Series season one two-part episode “The Menagerie.”  In J.J. Abrams’ rebooted Trek films, Captain Pike was played wonderfully by Bruce Greenwood.)  What a difference it makes to the entire show to have the captain be a noble, heroic figure, rather than the duplicitous and ends-justify-the-means Lorca!  As a long-time Trek fan, I am sensitive to the strong moral core that has been at the foundation of Star Trek since the very beginning.  I often felt that was missing from Discovery season one (as well as from the J.J. Abrams films), as I was often unsure whether … [continued]

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Josh’s Favorite Episodes of TV of 2018 — Part Two!

On Wednesday I began my list of my favorite episodes of TV of 2018!  Let’s continue…

12. Star Wars: Rebels: “A World Between Worlds” (season four, episode thirteen, aired on 2/26/18) — Star Wars: Rebels developed into a magnificent show, a super-fun expansion of the Star Wars universe.  The entire fourth and final season was terrific, but this episode from the final run of shows was a standout.  Reeling from the death of a major character, the young Jedi-in-training Ezra discovers an ancient Jedi Temple hidden somewhere beyond space and time, where those who enter are somehow able to access all of time at once.  This was a huge leap into new territory for Star Wars, and for our understanding of the Force.  The look of the Temple was striking (I loved the stark black and white, and the designs of all the doors/portals).  The sound-design in this episode was incredible, seeding in dialogue from not just all of Rebels but all of the Star Wars movies, including the new films.  It felt like the entire Star Wars saga came together in this gripping episode.  We got to see a major emotional moment in the growth of Ezra, we got to see the Emperor (voiced by Ian McDiarmid, who played the Emperor in the movies!)… and, of course, the biggest delight was the return of Ahsoka Tano.  Ahsoka was introduced in the very first episode of the animated Clone Wars series, but her ultimate fate was left hanging when that show was cancelled before its timeline could meet up with that of Episode III as had been originally planned.  I was delighted when Rebels brought Ahsoka into its story, but I thought we’d seen the last of her after witnessing her climactic duel with Vader in “Twilight of the Apprentice.”  Seeing her return here was shocking and emotional.  (Click here for my full review of Star Wars: Rebels season four.)

11. Star Trek: Short Treks: “Calypso” (season one, episode two, released on 11/8/18) — Wow, a Star Wars episode and a Star Trek episode, back-to-back on my list??  This is a great time to be a sci-fi fan!  As readers of this blog well know, I was very disappointed by the first season of Star Trek: Discovery.  But I was surprised how much I enjoyed the four Short Trek short films that were released in the run-up to the start of season two.  My favorite was this one, the second of the four, written by Michael Chabon, author of The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay!  It was super-cool to have as talented and high-profile a writer as Mr. Chabon involved in Trek, and even more gratifying … [continued]

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Let’s start with the long-awaited look at the new Hellboy film:

There’s a lot to take in here.  I’m excited for this film, though not nearly as blown away by this first teaser as I’d hoped.  David Harbour’s Hellboy is quite different in look and personality from Ron Perlman’s near-perfect version and, well, it takes some getting used to.  There are moments in this trailer where Mr. Harbour inhabits HB to perfection — such as his delivery of “he’s an asshole” late in the trailer.  But other moments — like his first appearance in the trailer, gesticulating wildly and shouting “I’m on your side!” — that feel a little too over-the-top silly, and where the make-up and prosthetics didn’t look quite as convincing as I’d hoped.  The tone of the trailer isn’t gothic majesty, but hip, fast-paced humor.  That’s not necessarily a bad tone for a Hellboy story, just not quite what I’d expected.  I’m intrigued to see lots of glimpses of what look like story-points from the Darkness Calls saga from the comics (which I discussed at length here).  I caught shots of the “Wild Hunt,” and Nimue.  I grinned wildly when I saw Gruguach (the large pig-creature)!  The saga that stretched from Darkness Calls through The Fury in the comics was a high-point of the long-running Hellboy series, and this could make a cool movie.  I am hoping for a winner with this one…!

I’ve been a reader of Bill Hunt’s The Digital Bits website for about two decades, and I find Mr. Hunt to be one of if not the very best writers covering home entertainment, DVDs, blu-rays, etc.  Last week he published a pessimistic editorial declaring the beginning of the end for physical media.  It’s a great read, albeit a depressing one.  I wish I could disagree with any of Mr. Hunt’s points.  I am a collector, and I love physical media.  Many people ask me why I bother, in the age of streaming.  I love streaming, and I stream movies and TV shows all the time via Netflix, Amazon prime, Verizon Fios On Demand, etc.  But physical media has many advantages over streaming.  Here’s a great editorial by Mr. Hunt from a few months ago explaining why.  Here are the three reasons that are the most important to me:  1) Special features — I love in-depth special features, making-of documentaries, deleted scenes, bloopers, etc.  It’s no coincidence that in recent years as streaming (which comes without those bells and whistles) has risen in popularity, the quality of great DVD/blu-ray special features has dramatically declined.  2) Higher quality and fewer interruptions — My wife and I have streamed a number of movies … [continued]

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The Office’s Rainn Wilson Shines in the Final “Short Trek” Short Film!

Although I was very lukewarm on the first season of Star Trek: Discovery, I have been extremely impressed with all four of the “Short Trek” short films that have been released over the last few months, as a lead-up to Discovery season two.  They stuck the landing with “The Escape Artist,” which focuses on Harry Mudd.  This charismatic scoundrel appeared in two Original Series episodes, played by Roger C. Carmel, and he also appeared in two Discovery season one episodes, where he was played by The Office’s Rainn Wilson.  Mr. Wilson returns in this Mudd-centric short film, which he also directed!

In “The Escape Artist,” we see that Mudd has been captured by a Tellarate bounty hunter, who is eager to claim the reward that Starfleet has put out for Mudd’s capture.  As Mudd attempts to cajole and scheme his way out of this situation, the short keeps flashing back to Mudd in a variety off similarly sticky situations.

I really like Rainn Wilson and thought he was a great actor to reprise the role of Mudd on Discovery, but I didn’t love the way Discovery portrayed Mudd.  On the Original Series, Mudd was a con-man and a thief, but a mostly jovial one… whereas on Discovery, Mudd was a lot more vicious, to the point of being a murderer.  “The Escape Artist” bridges those two versions of Mudd nicely.  This Mudd feels cleverer and more of a threat that the Original Series Mudd, but we get back to a more fun, good-natured Mudd who is more about scheming to get the good life for himself than he is about causing harm to others.  This is cleverly done.

This short is very funny, which I was glad to see!  The writing was sharp, and played well to Mr. Rainn’s comedic strengths.  Mr. Rainn is great in this role, and this short film gave him his best showcase yet.  I’m also very impressed by the skills demonstrated by Mike McMahan in his script for this short.  Not everyone can write comedy, and not everyone can write for Star Trek, and combining the two is even harder.  But McMahan strikes a perfect tone.  (Mr. McMahan is also apparently overseeing the comedic Star Trek animated series, “Lower Decks,” that is in development.  This short gives me hope for that project.  Mr. McMahan also has a very funny twitter account, @tng_s8, that imagines — with a twisted comedic bent — what Star Trek: The Next Generation season 8 might have looked like.)

As with all the “Short Trek” short films, I’m impressed with the visual scale and scope of this short!  These four shorts seem to have been getting more and more ambitious … [continued]

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Star Trek: The Rings of Time

Looking at my “to-read” bookshelf a few months ago, I realized that I had a backlog of unread Star Trek novels from the past few years.  Most of these were stand-alone novels set during the Original Series era.  It wasn’t that I was uninterested in reading those novels.  But I am very busy and so as new Star Trek books have been published, I often had to choose which ones to read first, and I found I always chose to read novels that were a part of the wonderful continuity that Pocket Books and its talented array of Trek authors have created, telling interconnected stories set after the 24th century era of the finales of Next Gen, Deep Space Nine, and Voyager.  Novels from Kirk’s era, that were not a part of this broader continuity and continuing story, were usually the books I chose to put aside and save for later.

But as I’d continued to do that over the past few years, I found I had about ten Kirk-era Star Trek novels sitting unread!  And quite a few of them were by Greg Cox.  Having thoroughly enjoyed reading Mr. Cox’s novel Assignment: Eternity recently, I decided the time had come to finally get caught up on these Original Series novels, and I decided to start with the bunch written by Mr. Cox.  The first one up was The Rings of Time.

The novel is set in two eras.  In 2020, the U.S.S. Lewis & Clark, commanded by Colonel Shaun Christopher, is on a mission to Saturn.  But Colonel Christopher and his crew are surprised to discover that the rings of Saturn are not behaving as they had expected.  Centuries later, Captain Kirk and the U.S.S. Enterprise respond to a distress call from a colony on the moon of the ringed gas giant Klondike VI.  The planet’s rings are beginning to disintegrate, and the resulting bombardment of ring-fragments threatens to destroy the colony.  What is the connection between these two events, taking place in different time-periods and different parts of the galaxy?  And what is the secret of the mysterious probe that appears to be involved in both eras, and both situations?

The Rings of Time is a great book.  I particularly enjoyed the sections set in 2020 onboard the Lewis & Clark.  This section felt like it captured the spirit of the great sci-fi writings of Isaac Asimov and Arthur C. Clarke, in particular Mr. Clarke’s 2001 series of novels.  Mr. Cox’s novel, like Mr. Clarke’s 2001 books, told a fantastic sci-fi mystery focused on one of the planets in our solar system.  That was wonderful, and the mystery really kept me guessing right up to the … [continued]

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Josh Reviews the Third New Star Trek Short: “The Brightest Star”

The third of four new Star Trek short films, dubbed Short Treks, has arrived: “The Brightest Star.”  This short story presents a concise version of the origin of Saru, the Discovery’s Kelpian science officer played by the phenomenally-talented Doug Jones.  The story is set before Saru left his planet to join Starfleet.  For the first time, we get to see Saru’s home planet Kaminar, and we meet Saru’s father and sister.  The short quickly sets up the sad life of the Kelpians, who wait to be harvested by an unseen alien race called the Ba’ul.  (We don’t see exactly what happens to the harvested Kelpians, who we see vanish in a flash of light, but we assume the worst.)  Saru questions why this is the way life must be, but his father, who appears to be some sort of religious figure who oversees these harvests, attempts to squash his questioning.  When Saru gets his hands on a piece of alien technology, he uses it to send a signal off-world.  But who will answer…?

With “The Brightest Star,” these Short Treks are now three for three.  This was a great short film.  It looked absolutely gorgeous, and it provided us with a wealth of fascinating information about Saru’s backstory.

I love how different all three of these Short Treks have been from one another.  The first, “Runaways,” was a great little character piece for Discovery’s Ensign Tilly.  It didn’t feel essential, but it was a great showcase for Mary Wiseman’s Tilly and a lovely chance for her character to step into the spotlight.  The second, “Calypso,” (written by Michael Chabon) was set 1,000 years after Discovery and felt like totally it’s own thing, a complete short-story set outside of current Trek continuity.  I hope this story will be followed up on someday, but if it never is, I’ll be OK with that.  This third short, though, feels like an essential piece of critical backstory for one of Discovery’s main characters, and it leaves so many questions hanging that it feels like a story that demands a follow-up.  (Rumor has it that there will indeed be a Saru-focused episode in Discovery’s second season that will pick up threads from this short.)

I hope that turns out to be the case, because this short film left me with a million questions.  Who are the Ba’ul?  What do they do to the harvested Kelpians?  Why do the Kelpians go along with this so docilely?  What is that obelisk-like device around which the Kelpians gather to be harvested?  What would we see if the camera had ever panned up — does that object connect to a ship, or is … [continued]

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News Around the Net! UPDATED with Avengers 4 Trailer!

UPDATE: The first trailer for Avengers 4 has finally dropped!

First off: the title.  Endgame.  That’s… OK.  Not a bad title, but it’s a bit generic.  I think the phrase “endgame” is a bit overused in genre circles, and Dr. Strange’s line in Infinity War that “we’re in the endgame now” frankly wasn’t my favorite piece of dialogue in the film.  I’m not sure why Marvel felt the need to keep this title so top-secret for the last few years!  After such a build-up, this title is a bit disappointing.  But it’s fine.  The title underlines the importance of Dr. Strange’s line of dialogue in Infinity War that there was only one way in billions to defeat Thanos.  I’d commented in my original review that I suspected that Strange’s choice to give Thanos the Time Stone wasn’t a defeat but, in fact, the key to victory.  From this title, it looks like I was right, big time.

As for the rest of the trailer — excellent!  We don’t actually see very much, but it’s a great tease.  The first half with Tony Stark is fantastic and strikes the right “hopeless” tone.  I like seeing this more substantial clip rather than just fast-paced shots.  I love the way the Marvel logo dissolves just like everyone dying at the end of Infinity War.  I’m delighted to see Hawkeye (who appears to be dressed up as Ronin from the comics — that’s an interesting touch and a nice reference for comic book fans) and Ant Man in the trailer, since they were the two main characters left out of Infinity War.  (Looks like Scott escaped from his perilous situation in the post-credits sequence of Ant Man and the Wasp!)  I love what I am seeing so far.  I really hope Marvel can stick the landing on this one.  I am counting the days.

Ok, back to our regularly scheduled post…!

Stop what you’re doing and please watch Tom Cruise and Christopher McQuarrie’s new short PSA about how the motion-smoothing setting on most HD-TVs ruins movies.  Their life-and-death, super-serious tone is sort of hilarious. But also, I agree!! I am evangelical about this, though most of my friends and family just shake their heads. Turn off this setting so that you can watch movies properly!!

Then, for follow-up reading, this is a great piece on Tom Cruise and Mr. McQuarrie (author of The Usual Suspects)’s many recent collaborations.

This is an inspiring interview with architect Frank Gehry on how he got started.

I’m impressed and awed that, after more than a half-century, Doonesbury continues.  Here’s a great interview by Rolling Stone with Garry Trudeau.

Red alert: Nicholas Meyer, one of the … [continued]

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Star Trek: Assignment: Eternity

After reading several recent Star Trek novels that played with the history of the Star Trek universe, and that involved Gary Seven and the mysterious Aegis agency for which he worked, I decided to go back to an earlier Star Trek novel that focused on the enigmatic Mr. Seven, Greg Cox’s Assignment: Eternity.

I have always loved Mr. Cox’s Eugenics Wars duology, two novels that attempted to merge the hints we got in various Star Trek episodes about the Eugenics Wars that gave rise to Khan, with the actual history of the 20th century as it unfolded in the decades after the Original Series.  (Our actual history caught up to the years in which this global Eugenics Wars conflict supposedly took place!  Mr. Cox’s brilliant novels suggested that the Eugenics Wars had happened under all of our noses, weaving the story of Khan and his conflicts with the actual history of those years.)  Those novels Eugenics Wars novels also involved Gary Seven and Roberta Lincoln, who were introduced in the Original Series episode “Assignment: Earth”.  Mr. Cox had a great handle on those characters, and when I realized that he had written another book involving them, I decided to track it down.

In Assignment: Eternity, a tragedy involving an Aegis operative in the time of Captain Kirk and the Enterprise’s five-year mission leads Gary Seven and Roberta Lincoln to travel forward in time to Kirk’s era.  But Kirk doesn’t trust the mysterious Seven, and with the Enterprise on an urgent mission of mercy, Kirk does not want to divert his ship at Seven’s whims.  But a crisis is brewing on the Roman side of the Neutral Zone…

This was a great book.  Gary Seven and Roberta Lincoln (and Isis!) are terrific characters, and their one on-screen appearance left so much to be explored about all three of them.  It’s great to get to see these characters again, and as before Mr. Cox has a wonderful handle on their mannerisms.  It’s fun to see these characters, and also the mysterious Aegis (and props, by the way, to Howard Weinstein for coining that name in DC Comics’ original Star Trek comic-book series) explored in this story.  I’d wondered whether the Aegis was continuing to operate in Kirk’s era — apparently they are.  (I liked the note that the Aegis is no longer operating within the Federation, since apparently they have gotten onto the right track.  The Romulans, however…)

I enjoyed the way that Mr. Cox developed an entire story out of an offhand line of dialogue in “Assignment: Earth” about the Aegis having the ability to cloak a planet.  The idea of a hidden Aegis base within Romulan space is a … [continued]

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News Around the Net!

WOW — Vince Gilligan is reportedly working on a Breaking Bad movie?!  And it will apparently be set after the events of the series, telling the story of Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul)’s life after escaping from the Neo-Nazis in the series finale?!  That is huge news.  Will this ever actually happen?  Will this be a theatrical release or a TV-movie?  Stay tuned…

In other big news, Disney has announced that in addition to Jon Favreau’s upcoming Star Wars live-action TV show, The Mandalorian, they’re also working on a show featuring Cassian Andor, with Diego Luna reprising his role from Rogue One!  I have mixed feelings about this.  On the one hand, I’m super-excited for these upcoming Star Wars shows and their potential to further expand the Star Wars universe.  Diego Luna was phenomenal in Rogue One, and I’m excited to see more of him.  And I love the idea of a show set in the time period between Episode III and Episode IV.  The reign of the Empire is a ripe period for lots of great stories.  On the other hand — AARGH, yet ANOTHER Star Wars prequel??  Look, as I just wrote, I am all for new stories set between Episode III and IV, and I’d love to see Diego Luna pop up as Cassian in those stories.  But I think it’s a big mistake to make Cassian the main character of a new long-running TV show, considering we already saw him make the most important decisions of his life, and meet his end, in Rogue One.  This feels like yet another example of Star Wars eating its own tail and retreading old ground rather than moving forward and telling new stories with new characters.  I hope I am wrong about this!!  I am rooting for this to be great.

Speaking of TV show spin-offs from beloved movie franchises, Disney has just confirmed the rumored Loki TV show, with Tom Hiddleston reprising his role.  Here too, I am rooting for this to be great, but I’m a bit doubtful.  Mr. Hiddleston is amazing as Loki, but can the character really carry his own show?  Also, I’ve been burned before.  The Marvel CBS shows, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and then Agent Carter, were billed as in-continuity expansions of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.  But the quality was low (the two short seasons of Agent Carter were OK, but Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. was terrible and quickly lost my interest), and the Marvel movie and TV folks quickly split due to internal disagreements, and the series’ didn’t wind up being connected to the movies in the ways fans had originally hoped.  The Netflix Marvel shows also began in continuity … [continued]

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Josh Reviews the Star Trek Short Film “Calypso,” Written by Michael Chabon!

Michael Chabon, author of The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, has written a Star Trek short film!  It’s called “Calypso,” and I loved it.

“Calypso” is the second of four Star Trek shorts, called Short Treks, being released in the lead-up to Star Trek: Discovery’s second season.  The first, “Runaways,” focused on Discovery’s Cadet Tilly, and the other two also look to focus on Discovery characters.  But “Calypso,” although taking place on-board the Discovery, seems to be its own thing altogether.  Set a millennium further in the future than the 23rd-century-set Discovery, far beyond the future of any other Trek story we’ve seen before, “Calypso” tells the story of a man called Craft who is rescued from his battered escape pod by the Discovery’s now-sentient computer, who calls herself Zora.  The Discovery is empty of all life, and apparently has been for a thousand years.  Craft is fleeing a war and attempting to return home to his family.  “Calypso” tells the story of the bond this lonely refugee and the A.I. Zora form with one another.

I loved this short.  It’s a beautiful tale with two complex, interesting characters, a fascinating mystery backdrop, and intriguing mythological undertones.

It’s hugely exciting to see such an enormous talent as Michael Chabon writing for Star Trek.  In addition to writing this short, Mr. Chabon is apparently also on the writing staff of the recently-announced Captain Picard show, which will see Patrick Stewart reprise his iconic role!  This is very, very exciting.  As a Star Trek fan, I love seeing writers of this caliber involved with the franchise.  And “Calypso” shows that Mr. Chabon’s skills as a storyteller make him a great fit for Star Trek.  (The story credit for the short film is given to Michael Chabon and Sean Cochran.)

In less than eighteen minutes, “Calypso” does a great job of introducing and developing two entirely new characters.  Aldis Hodge plays the main character, Craft.  Mr. Hodge is fantastic.  He’s alone on-screen for most of the short’s run-time, but he easily commands the viewer’s attention.  Annabelle Wallis voices Zora, and she is equally great, bringing life and humanity to the (mostly) disembodied voice of this sentient computer.  Mr. Chabon skillfully brings these two characters to life, and makes us care deeply about them, in just the short eighteen-ish minutes of the short.

By setting “Calypso” a thousand years in Trek’s future, this short is pleasingly unburdened with any continuity, and thus is free to tell it’s own stand-alone story.  This works very well for this short film.  This is a character-study that can easily be enjoyed no matter one’s knowledge of Trek lore.  (This is … [continued]

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Star Trek: Hearts and Minds

With his novel Hearts and Minds, author Dayton Ward has returned again to the world of From History’s Shadow, his spectacular novel that explored the secret history of aliens on Earth in the twentieth century.  I adore that novel, which was a masterpiece of Star Trek continuity, weaving together plot-threads and characters from across the many Trek TV series into a fantastic, clever new story.

While I would have loved to have gotten a straight sequel to that novel, in Mr. Ward’s two follow-up books he has chosen not to continue with the main characters from From History’s Shadow, but rather to, for the most part, introduce new characters and situations while telling a similar type of story, with parallel action set in Earth’s past as well as in the present-day of the Trek universe.

And so, in Hearts and Minds, as he did with Elusive Salvation, Mr. Ward has written a sequel that is more of a thematic sequel rather than a direct follow-up.  With the exception of the Vulcan Mestral, a character introduced in the Enterprise episode “Carbon Creek” who has appeared in all three Forgotten History novels, Mr. Ward has again introduced a whole new cast of characters, heroes and villains, for us to follow.  And in another difference, while the Enterprise side of Mr. Ward’s first two stories in this series took place in Kirk’s era, this one is set on board Picard’s Enterprise, at approximately the same time as the events of David Mack’s novel Section 31: Control.  (As such, this book is set at the leading edge of Pocket Book’s post-Nemesis-set continuity of new Star Trek stories.)

Hearts and Minds is a great book.  It tells a fascinating story in which it appears that a secret mission, unbeknownst to the human population of the time as well as 24th century historians, might have led to the nuclear near-annihilation of an alien world.  The way the novel slowly peels back the truth of those events is a great mystery and a wonderful spine for the story, putting Captain Picard in a real tough spot.

While Hearts and Minds fits nicely into Mr. Ward’s own Forgotten History trilogy of books, the novel also feels very much of a piece with the continuing post-Nemesis saga of Star Trek books, moving forward the stories of the characters from Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, and Voyager.  Mr. Ward’s novel found many opportunities for the continued development of the Enterprise command crew, with nice moments for Worf (who has to exercise patience and diplomacy when Picard and the Away Team are taken prisoner), Geordi, Taurik, T’Ryssa Chen, and Dina Elfiki.

Speaking of novel continuity, … [continued]

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Josh Reviews the First New Star Trek Short: “Runaways”

In the next few months, before the launch of Star Trek: Discovery season two, we’re going to get four new “Short Treks,” Star Trek short films.  I love this idea.  The people currently running CBS and Trek these days have made a number of statements to the press about how they want to have lots of Trek on CBS All Access, with multiple different projects in the planning stages.  My hope is that the next few years will see a lot of experimentation in terms of the type of Star Trek product we’ll get.  Rather than just one Star Trek show running for seven seasons, I’d love to see a mix of mini-series, TV movies, short films, and longer-running continuing series.  This would allow for the telling of all sorts of different styles of Star Trek shows, ideally spotlighting a rich variety of different Star Trek characters from across the previous series and eras, as well as the introduction of new characters and settings.  This would be very exciting for me as a Star Trek fan.  And so I was pleased by the announcement of these four short films, a dipping of the toe into the waters of possibilities for this franchise.

This first “Short Trek,” entitled “Runaways,” focuses on Cadet Tilly (Mary Wiseman).  Following a somewhat tense/awkward conversation with her overbearing mother, Tilly stumbles across an alien stowaway aboard the Discovery.  This alien turns out to be a young woman, who has run away from home for reasons that we will discover.  She and Tilly are able to forge an unexpected bond.

I thought “Runaways” was pretty great.  Running less than 15 minutes, “Runaways” tells a compact little story that is very satisfying.  It has a number of fun moments and interesting character beats for both Tilly and the new alien.

I enjoyed the spotlight on Tilly.  I wasn’t wild about this character when she was first introduced on Discovery, but she very quickly grew on me.  (Some day I will rewatch Discovery’s very uneven first season, and I’ll be interested to see if I think more highly of Tilly’s portrayal in those early episodes, now that I know the character better… or if I still feel that it took the show a few episodes to find this character.)  I loved seeing Tilly’s mom here in “Runaways.”  That one conversation sheds a world of light on who Tilly is and where she came from.  And Tilly’s adventure with the young alien woman gives a wonderfully efficient spotlight on everything that is interesting and unique about this character.

The young alien was also great.  Played wonderfully by Yadira Guevara-Prip, she has a great look (terrific makeup and prosthetic effects … [continued]

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Star Trek: Elusive Salvation

I loved Dayton Ward’s 2013 Star Trek novel From History’s Shadow.  That novel took several characters and references from across the many different Star Trek series to aliens having been on Earth in the years between 1947 and 1968 and wove them together into a wonderful story about this secret history of the Star Trek universe.  It was brilliant.

And so I was eager to read Elusive Salvation, Mr. Ward’s 2016 follow-up.

Elusive Salvation is a wonderful book, but despite the back cover’s declaring that the novel would be “an all-new adventure from history’s shadow!”, it is not the sequel to From History’s Shadow that it was billed to be.

In fact, it’s not really a sequel at all.  I had expected that this novel would follow the further adventures of the human Captain Wainwright and the Vulcan Mestral (characters from the DS9 episode “Little Green Men” and the Enterprise episode “Carbon Creek,” respectively) and Allison Marshall and the other main characters of From History’s Shadow, but that did not prove to be the case.  I was surprised and disappointed that Wainwright and Marshall barely appear in Elusive Salvation. (Wainwright in two short chapters, Marshall not at all.)

Elusive Salvation is a sequel to From History’s Shadow only in that it’s a similar type of story, one that tells parallel narratives of aliens on Earth in the past with a connected adventure of Kirk and the Enterprise in the future.

In this book, we follow a group of aliens who, fleeing their persecutors, crash on Earth in 1845 in the Arctic Circle.  These long-lived aliens live for decades in secret on Earth, and we follow their progress over the years, seeing how they are able to successfully avoid being noticed both by the native human beings and also their alien oppressors who continue to pursue them.  Centuries later, Captain Kirk encounters representatives of this same alien race, the Iramahl, who have at last thrown off the shackles of their oppressors, the Ptaen, and who believe that a secret critical to their race’s survival has been hidden on Earth.

I wrote in my review of From History’s Shadow that I loved how that book, along with Greg Cox’s Eugenics Wars novels, had continued to utilize and develop Roberta Lincoln, the woman played by Teri Garr from the Original Series episode “Assignment: Earth.”  I was happy that Roberta appeared again in this novel.  I love seeing more of this character and learning more about her and Gary Seven’s mysterious employers, the Aegis (named by Howard Weinstein in his story for DC Comics’ Star Trek comic book series from the eighties and nineties).

Once again, this novel is, for the most part, … [continued]

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Star Trek: From History’s Shadow

Dayton Ward’s wonderful Star Trek novel From History’s Shadow is a standout in Pocket Books’ wonderful continuing series of Star Trek novels.  This book does exactly what I most enjoy seeing in these Trek novels: it weaves together multiple characters and story-lines from across the Star Trek franchise into a ferociously entertaining tale that expands our understanding of the Star Trek universe as a whole and finds previously undiscovered avenues for fantastic new stories.

The bulk of the novel takes place on Earth between 1947 and 1968.  In the great Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode “Little Green Men,” we saw that the spaceship that crashed in Roswell, New Mexico in 1947 was actually crewed by a time-traveling Quark, Rom, Nog, and Odo.  That episode was a fun romp.  But From History’s Shadow asks the questions that episode left unexplored — what effects would this encounter between several 1947 humans with these aliens from the future have on those people, and on human society as a whole?  One of the main characters in From History’s Shadow is the military man Captain James Wainwright.  Wainwright was a minor character in “Little Green Men,” but Mr. Ward has beautifully explored his character in this book.  We see how Mr. Wainwright came to be involved in Majestic 12, a secret organization working to track down evidence of alien visitors on Earth and to develop methods of defending against them.  (While there is no proof that Majestic 12 ever existed, this isn’t a made-up Star Trek organization — it’s an organization that many UFO conspiracy theorists believe actually did exist in the fifties.  I love how Mr. Ward was able to incorporate tons of real-life details like that into his fictional story.)

For another of the book’s major characters, Mr. Ward turned to the Enterprise episode “Carbon Creek,” in which T’Pol tells Archer and Trip a story about Vulcan visitors to Earth in 1957, and how one of them, Mestral, chooses to stay on Earth when the others are rescued.  That episode plays coy as to whether those events actually happened as T’Pol describes them, but Mr. Ward assumes they did, and picks up the story of Mestral’s adventures on Earth.  The idea that Mestral and Wainwright might one day cross paths is a brilliant one, and it provides one of the key elements of this novel.

The novel follows Wainwright and Mestral’s stories, as well as a number of other characters created for the book, and also a few other surprises from across the vast Star Trek tapestry, weaving in and out of both known events from Star Trek history as well as actual events from real-life human history.  We follow these characters … [continued]

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Star Trek Titan: Fortune of War

For quite a number of years now, Pocket Books has been publishing a continuing series of Titan novels, chronicling the exploits of the U.S.S. Titan under the command of William Riker.  I enjoyed the way the post-Nemesis novels finally allowed Riker to have his own command, and over the many books, the various Titan-series authors have explored and developed a multi-species supporting cast surrounding Riker and Troi.  The Titan has developed a remarkably deep bench in terms of its supporting players, helping to solidify the Titan series as a key piece of the connected series of Pocket Books’ Star Trek novels.

A few years ago, the multi-book series “The Fall” shook things up and we saw Riker promoted to Admiral.  At the time, I wasn’t sure what that would mean for the Titan series moving forward, but I have been pleased that the series has gone on, continuing to follow Admiral Riker as well as the crew of the Titan, now under the command of Captain Christine Vale, who was formerly Riker’s first officer.  Vale was introduced way back in the post-Nemesis “A Time To…” series of Next Generation novels (at least that’s where I first encountered the character, it’s possible she also appeared in the Corps of Engineers e-book series, which I never read) and I am pleased that she has continued to be a major player in these Titan novels.

David Mack’s recent Titan novel, Fortune of War, picks up a thread from a long-ago episode of The Next Generation.  In the season three episode “The Survivors,” the Enterprise crew comes across an elderly human couple living all alone on a planet that has been devastated of all other life.  They eventually discover that the old man is in fact a powerful alien, who was able to survive when an alien race, the Husnock, invaded the planet.  When the Husnock invaders killed his wife, the alien lashed out and, in a single instant, annihilated the entire Husnock race.

Now, two decades later, a Starfleet team has discovered a barren world that they believe once belonged to the Husnock.  Although every last Husnock was wiped out, much of their powerful technology remains.  This discovery starts a chain reaction in which several competing galactic powers begin working to lay their hands on this powerful technology at all costs.

David Mack is a great author and he is particularly skilled at crafting exciting Star Trek action sequences.  This book is right in his wheelhouse, as he has crafted a fast-paced adventure story in which we follow both the Titan crew as well as a number of competing, nefarious interests, as each tries to outmaneuver the other in order … [continued]

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Star Trek and Star Wars in Trouble…?

June 25th, 2018

It’s been something of a rough week for my two favorite franchises with “Star” in their title.

In last week’s big Star Trek news, the show-runners for Star Trek: Discovery were fired mid-way into production of season two, and replaced by Alex Kurtzman… who was then announced as having been signed to a five-year deal to expand his Star Trek work into multiple different Trek projects and platforms.  Well, I’m certainly happy that someone somewhere is working on more Star Trek.  There are so many places this franchise can go.  We’ve been hearing forever that Nicholas Meyer (writer/director of Star Trek II and Star Trek VI, which count among the very best Trek has ever been) had been working on some sort of Khan story, and I’d love for that to see the light of day.  And the idea of Patrick Stewart’s reprising the role of Picard in some way could be cool!

So what’s bad?  Let’s start with, ugh, the idea of a teen-focused Star Trek story set at Starfleet Academy that just won’t seem to go away.  It was a bad idea decades ago when it was rumored to be the plot of the next Trek movie after Star Trek V’s disappointment, and it’s still a bad idea now.

I’m concerned about yet more behind-the-scenes turmoil at Discovery, which is now on its third show-runner.  (The series’ original co-creator and show-runner, Bryan Fuller, was apparently forced off mid-way through production of the first season.)  And I doubt that Alex Kurtzman, announced as running the show now, will stay as show-runner for long since he’s involved with lots of other projects (more on that in a moment).  So assuming he’s soon replaced by someone else, that’d be four show-runners in two seasons.  That doesn’t bode well for a high-quality show!!

Also, I don’t like reading the dreaded “reboot” word in connection to the mentions in the press of Patrick Stewart’s possible return to the character of Picard.  Ever since 2002’s disappointing Nemesis, I have been hoping that future Trek movies/shows would move the franchise forward rather than backwards.  I’m not interested in more prequels like Enterprise or Discovery, and I really don’t want a reboot that will erase the past fifty-plus years of Trek continuity.  (While I was originally open to the idea of J.J. Abrams’ movies rebooting the Trek franchise in order to give us new adventures of Kirk, Spock, McCoy, etc., ultimately now I think we have to look back on that three-film reboot series as a disappointment.)  I’d love to see what Picard is up to a few decades after the events of Nemesis — but a do-over/reboot does not interest … [continued]

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Star Trek: Further Adventures of the Department of Temporal Investigations!

The Department of Temporal Investigations was mentioned in one single Star Trek episode, Deep Space Nine’s “Trials and Tribble-ations.”  But many fans (myself included!) loved what we saw of the DTI, and its agents Dulmur and Lucsley.  Author Christopher L. Bennett must have felt the same way, as he expanded upon those characters and concepts in his two wonderful DTI novels, Watching the Clock and Forgotten History.  I had hoped for many more DTI novels, but I guess that was not to be.  Still, I was happy that Mr. Bennett continued the series in three novellas, which were released as e-books.  I quite enjoyed the first one, The Collectors, and I eagerly continued to read the next two, Time Lock and Shield of the Gods.

Time Lock:

Novella #2, Time Lock, is a fantastic mind-bender in which a Time-Lock security device is activated to slow down times within the DTI’s vault on Eris, when a group of bandits assault the location in an attempt to steal some of the valuable time-travel devices the DTI has found over the years (as discussed in the previous DTI e-book novella, The Collectors).  And so the 90-minute attempted heist within the vault takes place over the duration of nine months in the outside world.  As the story progresses, DTI agents within and without the time locked vault attempt to work together to save the day, with the ever-increasing time-difference alternatively proving an advantage and a disadvantage.

Mr. Bennett’s wonderfully clever, and mathematically precise, story is a delight, and at a short e-book length this novella races along at a gripping pace.

This is a very cool concept for a story, and Mr. Bennett keeps this complicated story clear and easy to understand.

I loved seeing Dulmer get to have a successful romantic relationship.  And I particularly loved that he gets involved with a Denobulan, Dr. Phlox’s race (from Star Trek: Enterprise) which Mr. Bennett had recently explored in his novel Rise of the Federation: Live By the Code.

When reading The Collectors, I had wished that agents Garcia and Ranjea (introduced in Mr. Bennett’s first DTI novel, Watching the Clock) had more to do, a wish that was thankfully granted in this novella.

I enjoyed the reference to the prism stone from Voyager: Eternal Tide, now stored in the DTI vault.

The novella ends on a terrific cliffhanger, which was a big surprise!  Thankfully I had already downloaded Shield of the Gods and could proceed to the conclusion without delay…

Shield of the Gods:

This final novella was a wonderful conclusion to Mr. Bennett’s e-book DTI trilogy.  The kidnapped DTI agent Ranjea attempts to determine the mastermind’s plan, while his partner … [continued]

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Star Trek: Department of Temporal Investigations: The Collectors

Back in 1996, as part of the celebration of the 30th anniversary of Star Trek, Deep Space Nine aired the fantastic episode “Trials and Tribble-ations,” in which Sisko and the DS9 contingent found themselves cast back in time and mixed up in the goings-on between Kirk and the Klingons on board space-station K-7 in the classic Original Series episode “The Trouble with Tribbles.”  (Through groundbreaking-for-the-time special effects, we got to see the DS9 crew digitally inserted into famous scenes from “The Trouble with Tribbles.”  It was, and remains, a hoot.)  In a few short framing scenes in that episode, we were also introduced to the Federation’s Department of Temporal Investigations, through the form of agents Lucsley and Dulmur.

Years later, author Christopher L. Bennett expanded upon those characters and concepts in his two wonderful DTI novels.

First came Watching the Clock, which I feel is one of the best Star Trek books of the past decade. Mr. Bennett took the DTI, and Agents Lucsley and Dulmur, who appeared for less than four minutes in that one single DS9 episode, and expanded the concept and those characters into this wonderfully rich novel that digs deeply into Trek lore from across all the Trek series and many of the books and comics, etc., beyond.  The novel 1) explores the nature, purpose, and history of the DTI, 2) expands upon what we saw on-screen of Lucsley and Dulmur, developing them into three-dimensional characters, 3) references pretty much every single on-screen instance of time travel in Star Trek to create an extraordinary unified theory of Star Trek time travel, explaining how these many different, contradictory stories could actually work together in a coherent manner, 4) picks up the threads of the Temporal Cold War story that ran throughout Enteprise and pulls those many contradictory episodes together to present, for the first time, a clearly thought-out picture of what that Temporal Cold War actually was, who was fighting in it, and what their goals were (none of which Enterprise actually did), and 5) actually brings that Temporal Cold War story to a conclusion.  The novel is brilliant, a rich treasure trove of Star Trek lore.

Mr. Bennett followed that up with Forgotten History.  This sequel novel functions mainly as a prequel, depicting the events that led to the formation of the DTI in Captain Kirk’s era, and the early years in which the Department’s initial key players struggled to shape what the DTI would eventually become.  The novel also delves deeply into the many Original Series episodes that involved time travel and alternate or parallel universes, and, in an incredible example of Mr. Bennett’s creativity and attention to Trek detail, actually pulls those … [continued]

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Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: Gamma — Original Sin

For the last several years, David R. George III has been the author primarily responsible for continuing the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine story in Pocket Books’ continuing series of novels.  Mr. George has crafted a thrilling series of books that, read together, form a fantastic, rich saga that explores interstellar politics and personal drama in the classic Deep Space Nine fashion.

Mr. George’s latest Deep Space Nine novel, Original Sin, follows Captain Benjamin Sisko and the crew of the U.S.S. Robinson on their mission of exploration in the Gamma Quadrant.  In previous novels, we’d seen that Sisko had taken a position as captain of the Galaxy-class Robinson, and , with his wife Kassidy and their daughter Rebecca on board, had set off with the crew of the Robinson on an extended mission of exploration.  But three months into their mission in the Gamma Quadrant, the Robinson is disabled by a group of mysterious aliens, who kidnap nearly a hundred of the children on board, including Rebecca.  As the frantic parents on board seek to recover their missing children, Ben and Kassidy are forced to wonder whether these events connect to the time, years earlier, when Rebecca was kidnapped by a religious fanatic on Bajor…

This novel’s title, Original Sin, is preceded by another title: Gamma. I wonder if the idea is for Gamma to be the title of a continuing series?  I would love to see future Deep Space Nine: Gamma novels that continue to follow the adventures of Captain Sisko and the crew of the Robinson as they explore the Gamma Quadrant.  We’ll see if that comes to pass!

While I liked the idea of telling an all-new adventure of exploration, I was surprised and delighted to see that a significant chunk of this novel was set several years in the past of the Trek novels’ current continuity, telling the story of the kidnapping of Rebecca Sisko by an Ohalavaru zealot on Bajor.

Quite a number of years ago, now, after a fantastic initial run of novels set after the events of the series finale of Deep Space Nine, the book series hit a dry spell for a while.  Some sort of behind the scenes problem led to a lengthy delay between the release of new novels.  Meanwhile, following the success of the DS9 relaunch books, Pocket Books began a Next Gen relaunch series, set after the events of Star Trek: Nemesis.  That initial run of Next Gen novels culminated in David Mack’s fantastic Destiny trilogy of novels, depicting the Borg’s final, full-scale assault on the Alpha Quadrant.  Destiny featured characters from all of the 24th-century-set Trek shows: Next Gen, DS9, and Voyager.  That trilogy of novels … [continued]

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Star Trek Enterprise: Rise of the Federation: Patterns of Interference

I am pleased to have at last caught up with the fifth and most-recently published book in Christopher L. Bennett’s “Rise of the Federation” series of novels.  Set a decade after the end of Star Trek: Enterprise, this series charts the lives of the Enterprise crew following the Romulan War, and tells the story of the establishment and early development of the United Federation of Planets.

The main thrust of this fifth book, Patterns of Interference, concerns Admiral Jonathan Archer’s attempt to convince his fellow leaders of the young United Federation of Planets that Starfleet should adopt a non-interference directive (what will eventually be known in Kirk’s era and beyond as the Prime Directive).  Archer feels that the tragic consequence of the crisis with the Ware (as depicted in the previous two “Rise of the Federation” novels) proves the damage that can be caused when Starfleet officers interfere in alien societies, even with the best of intentions.  And yet, many within Starfleet — particularly Archer’s former enemy turned colleague, the Andorian Shran — fear that this proposed noninterference directive would lead to a damaging isolationism.  Meanwhile, other enemies within and without plot the destruction of this new Federation of Planets, while Trip sets out to find a way to defeat and expose Section 31.

Patterns of Interference is another great book from Mr. Bennett.  I was not a huge fan of Enterprise (though seasons 3 and 4 were very solid), but I am thoroughly enjoying this series of novels.  I love the careful, well-considered manner in which Mr. Bennett has constructed these stories, working backwards from the peaceful, noble Federation we know from Kirk’s era to ask, how did this society come about?  Mr. Bennett is posing — and answering — questions I’d have never thought to have asked.  These novels represent a thoroughly entertaining exercise in world-building.  I generally hate prequels — although these “Rise of the Federation” novels are a sequel to the Enterprise show, they are also a prequel to the Original Series — but this is the best type of prequel, one that provides fascinating (see what I did there?) insight into the world and characters that we know and love, showing us all sorts of surprising things about how this world came to be.  (These novels are terrific prequels in every way that Star Trek: Discovery wasn’t.)

Once again Mr. Bennett has given his novel a clever title.  Patterns of Interference has a nice Original Series ring to it (somewhat reminiscent of the episode “Patterns of Force”), and it alludes to both the Federation’s internal debate over noninterference as well as Trip’s attempt to interfere with the operation of Section 31.

I love the ending … [continued]

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Josh Looks Back on Star Trek: Discovery Season One

I have been thinking a lot about Star Trek: Discovery since the series wrapped up several weeks ago, and I have been having a lot of spirited conversations about the show with my fellow Trek fans.  There is quite a range of opinions about the show among the Trek fans that I know.  I am happy that a number of my friends quite enjoyed the show.  I wish I was one of them.

There is a great Star Trek TV show lurking somewhere inside Star Trek: Discovery.  I know there is.  The elements are there.  The main cast is strong.  In particular, Sonequa Martin-Green is fantastic, a perfect choice to build a new type of Star Trek show around.  The production values are extraordinary — Star Trek has never looked better on TV.

And yet, for the most part, I found this first fifteen-episode season of Star Trek: Discovery to be a big swing and a miss.  I am fundamentally baffled by the creative choices made by the show’s creators.  Repeatedly, while watching this first season, I asked myself: what is this show ABOUT?

At first, based on the pre-show interviews and press, I thought the show would have two major themes: 1) that, unlike all (well, most) previous Trek, the show would not be based around the captain and the main bridge command crew, but instead it would be about lower-ranked officers who weren’t always in the middle of the action, characters like the disgraced Michael Burnham and her new friend Tilly, who was just a cadet, and 2) that it would be about the Klingon-Federation conflict that erupted a decade before the events of the Original Series (which depicted the Federation and the Klingon Empire locked in a Cold War stalemate), but that it would make an effort to depict both sides of the conflict, with several Klingon characters in major roles on the series.  Both of those are great ideas with the potential to be the basis for an exciting new Star Trek show.  But neither panned out.  Discovery IS about the leadership characters on the ship, and Burnham and Tilly, though neither are commissioned Starfleet officers, always found themselves at the center of the action.  And while the first two episodes spent a huge amount of time with the Klingons, we never really got anything more than superficial insight into their characters and/or perspectives, and those Klingon characters quickly fell away as the show progressed.

Then, for the bulk of the rest of the first half of the season (that initial batch of nine episodes), the show seemed to flirt with the idea of being about whether Starfleet ideals and pacifism could be maintained when … [continued]

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Star Trek Enterprise: Rise of the Federation: Live By The Code

Live By the Code is the fourth book in Christopher L. Bennett’s “Rise of the Federation” series of novels.  Set several years after the end of the fourth and final season of Enterprise, after the end of the Romulan war (chronicled in the Romulan War series of novels by Michael A. Martin and Andy Mangels), this series tells the story of the early years of the United Federation of Planets.  After reading the first three novels in this series (click here for my review of A Choice of Futures, Tower of Babel, and Uncertain Logic), I was eager to catch up with the fourth book.

In this novel, we see that Starfleet finds itself on the verge of a crisis as they continue to confront societies that utilize the Ware technology, as introduced in the previous novel.  (This is a follow-up to ideas introduced in the second-season Enterprise episode “Dead Stop,” in which the Enterprise encountered a fully automated space station that used the brains of sentient beings as its core computer-processors.)  At first our heroes are dead-set on wiping out what they see as technology that viciously preys upon unsuspecting aliens, but when they confront a vast society that appears to exist in equilibrium with the Ware, things immediately grow more complicated.  With the involvement of a faction of Klingons, the newly-formed United Federation of Planets risks finding itself in the midst of a war on multiple fronts.

Live By the Code is a terrific novel, another excellent installment in Mr. Bennett’s “Rise of the Federation” series.  I’m glad to see the Klingons enter this story, even in what amounts to be a relatively minor way.  (From what we know of Trek continuity from this era, the Federation and the Klingon Empire maintained a “cold war” setting for decades.)  I have also been enjoying Mr. Bennett’s extrapolation, in these novels, of the alien technology which he has called the Ware.  We never saw that technology again on Enterprise, after “Dead Stop,” but Mr. Bennett has made quite a meal out of exploring the nature of that technology and its effects on multiple different galactic civilizations.

The novel’s title is clever and appropriate, as the “code” refers to both the alien code of the Ware’s technology, the Klingon code of honor, and Admiral Archer’s efforts to develop for starfleet a code of behavior to govern their actions — the first step towards the noninterference directive that we’ll know in Kirk’s era as the Prime Directive.

I have enjoyed the very clever ways in which Mr. Bennett’s “Rise of the Federation” novels have been exploring how all the aspects of the peaceful, beneficent Federation that we know from … [continued]

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Josh Reviews the Final Season One Episodes of Star Trek: Discovery

Well, Star Trek: Discovery has wrapped up its first season.  What did I think of this final run of episodes?

What’s Past is Prologue — This conclusion to the extended Mirror Universe string of episodes was a high-point of the season for me.  I think it’s crazy that this show — theoretically designed to broaden the appeal of Star Trek and attract new fans to the franchise — has wound up spending such a long time in the Mirror Universe (which seems designed to please long-time Trek fans but befuddle newbies), but if you put that baggage aside, this multi-episode romp in the Mirror Universe has been a hoot, and things got even crazier and more fun in this episode.  With Lorca revealed as a Mirror Universe baddie, this episode careened from one juicy action sequence to the next, as Burnham and the Mirror Georgiou fight for their lives on the run from Lorca and his goons.

The episode looked gorgeous.  It was filled with a number of beautifully designed unusual shots (director Olatunde Osunsanmi did a terrific job) which highlighted the show’s production values.  The sets, the props, the costumes, everything looked great.  (Totally wrong for this prequel era of Star Trek, but if you can put that aside…)  And the outer-space visual effects were magnificent, as we finally got a truly great Discovery space-ship action scene as the Discovery attempted to attack and destroy the Empress’ enormous city-ship, the Charon.  Great stuff.

I loved seeing Landry (Rekha Sharma), who was originally killed off way too early and stupidly, back on the show.  I loved seeing Georgiou (Michelle Yeoh) again, and I enjoyed the interplay between her and Burnham.  These are two great, strong female characters.  I loved seeing how competent and effective Saru was, in command of the Discovery.  I liked the idea that Mirror Lorca wound up in the Prime universe via a transporter accident during an ion storm, the same as happened with Kirk & co. in “Mirror, Mirror.”  (And I appreciated that the show actually showed us a glimpse of an ion storm, though I wish that had looked a little cooler.)

It was interesting that Voq/Ash was absent from this episode.  I was surprised that was the case, after all the buildup, but I didn’t miss him in all this Mirror Universe fun craziness.

I’m not sure I understand the nature of the threat to the mycelial network, or why the destruction of this network would destroy all life across the multiple universes.  I wish that had been fleshed out more.  But again, in the short term, I didn’t mind that too much in the midst of all this Mirror Universe fun stuff.

My … [continued]

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I am super-late putting together my Best of 2017 lists — sorry about that!  I’ve been so busy that I wanted a chance to see a few more 2017 shows and movies, and indeed in the past few weeks I have been able to catch up with some terrific entertainment that wound up making it onto my lists.  But as we’ve gotten deeper into January I’ve had to accept that there is way more great stuff than I’ll ever have time to get to, and I didn’t want to wait any longer to get these lists out into the world.

And so, buckle up!  Let’s begin with my Favorite Episodes of TV of 2017!

When I began making these lists, I did this as a Top Ten.  But in today’s era of Peak TV, this has ballooned to a Top Twenty-Five!!  Wowsers!  My apologies!  Is this indulgent?  Well, yes, but there is so much great TV out there that this could have easily been a Top Fifty!!  I tried to limit myself to just one episode from every TV show I loved — though there are a few shows for which I couldn’t resist including two episodes.

Even with a list this long, there were other shows that I quite enjoyed this year that didn’t make the cut, including: Wet Hot American Summer: Ten Years Later, Vice Principals, Orange is the New Black, and American Gods.  I have loved Seth Myers’ “A Closer Look” segments this year, and I wish I’d had a spot to highlight those.  And if this had been a Top Twenty-Six, that slot would have gone to the Star Wars Rebels episode “Twin Suns” (season three, episode twenty, aired on 3/18/17), in which the show visited Tatooine and a pre-Star Wars, in-hiding Obi-Wan Kenobi for an emotional final confrontation with Darth Maul (a character who had been resurrected and surprisingly well-developed by the previous animated Clone Wars series).  It’s an essential piece of the larger Star Wars story that also, stunningly, puts a fascinating new spin on all of that “Chosen One” nonsense from the Prequels.

Reading this lengthy list, you might think that I watched a lot of TV in 2017 — and you’d be right!  But in this era of Peak TV, there are still a LOT of interesting-looking shows that I did not get to this year (and that I hope to catch up with eventually!), including The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel (which I am actually watching now, and loving), The Handmaid’s Tale, The Leftovers, Halt and Catch Fire, Mindhunters, Fargo season 3, Bojack Horseman, Rick and Morty, Review, Glow, Veep, and I am sure there are lots more … [continued]

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Josh Catches Up with Star Trek Discovery’s Journey into the Mirror Universe

It’s a sign of how mediocre I found the first half of Star Trek Discovery’s first season that I didn’t rush to jump back into the show when it returned a few weeks ago.  But I’m caught up now.  Has the show improved?  Read on…

Despite Yourself — This episode doesn’t waste much time in confirming that, as almost every Star Trek fan had already guessed, Discovery has journeyed into the Mirror Universe.  Once again, I find myself confounded by the choices made by this show.  The first question is: why didn’t they give us this reveal at the end of the previous episode?  That would have been a fun way to end the first half of the season, instead of the lame pull-back-to-nothing that we got at the end of episode nine.  Since this episode spilled the beans on the Mirror Universe almost immediately, it seems to me they should have given us that reveal as the final moment before the mid-season break.

But the bigger question is: why is this where the show is going in the back half of its first season?  Look, I love the Mirror Universe.  But 1) it’s another huge continuity bungle for this prequel show to have Discovery discover the Mirror Universe BEFORE Kirk and co. did (yet again, this wouldn’t be an issue if the show was set AFTER the pre-existing Trek shows rather than before), and 2) for a show that feels like it is designed to expand the appeal of Star Trek beyond pre-existing fans (something I support, by the way), why are we already digging into this pre-existing Trek concept only 10 episodes into the new show’s run?  It’s a bizarre choice, in my opinion.  Then they go and bring up the U.S.S. Defiant, which is a VERY deep dive into Trek continuity.  (The Defiant was lost in the Original Series episode “The Tholian Web,” and then decades later the Enterprise two-parter “In a Mirror, Darkly” revealed that the Defiant had wound up in the Mirror Universe, a century earlier.)  I certainly loved hearing about the Defiant, but for a show that has shown a complete disregard to Trek continuity, why this deep-dive reference?  It will totally confuse non-fans, and seems like a weird bone to throw to long-time Trek fans who would have already been very turned off by Discovery’s disrespect of Trek continuity.  I just don’t get it.

What’s good in the episode:  The Mirror Universe remains a pleasingly fun concept.  I enjoyed the Mirror Universe version of the Discovery’s uniforms.  I enjoyed Captain Tilly.  It was great to see the Shenzhou back, in Mirror Universe form, and to see many of her crew … [continued]

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Star Trek: The Original Series Gets the Series Finale it Always Deserved in “To Boldly Go” Part 2!

Star Trek: Continues is a fan-made enterprise (see what I did there?) begun five years ago in an attempt to create the never-made fourth season of the Original Series.  In the past five years, Vic Mignogna and his fantastic team of collaborators have created eleven full-length episodes of classic Star Trek.  These eleven episodes have been a remarkable achievement: staggeringly professionally-made episodes that look and feel exactly, and I mean exactly, like classic episodes of the Original Series. In many cases, they have looked even BETTER!  Not every episode was a home run, and there were a few spots where the creators’ fannish enthusiasm outpaced their abilities.  But the craftsmanship and skill on display in every frame of every episode was extraordinary.  Star Trek Continues is the product of deep love for Star Trek, and as such I love it enormously.  With their tenth and eleventh episodes, “To Boldly Go” parts 1 & 2, Vic Mignogna and his team are not only bringing their fan-series to a close, but they are also attempting to give the Original Series (cancelled by NBC after three seasons) the proper send-off it never got.

Picking up right where the previous episode left off, the Enterprise and the Romulan vessel (commanded by the Romulan Commander from “The Enterprise Incident”) confront the cadre of superhumans who have been enhanced by passage through the galactic barrier (just as Gary Mitchell and Elizabeth Dehner were in the Original Series’ second pilot, “Where No Man Has Gone Before”) and commandeered a starship.  Even the Enterprise and Romulans together prove no match for the super-powered “Espers,” who disable the Enterprise and set a course for Earth, ready to wreak havoc and take control of the Federation.

As with Part one, this finale is packed with surprises and fun Star Trek connections.  This is a fast-paced, action-packed episode that also peppers in some wonderful character moments for members of the Enterprise crew.  The excellent script by sci-fi novelist Robert J. Sawyer and James Kerwin (Vic Mignogna also has a story credit) strikes an excellent balance.

Once again, the visuals are extraordinary.  The starship battles are extremely well-realized.  These CGI effects are far beyond what the Original Series ever showed us, and yet the effects feel like they perfectly belong in an Original Series episode.  This is because the shot compositions have been carefully considered to recreate the look and feel of Original Series shots, and the Enterprise and the other ships move exactly right.  They don’t zip around like Star Wars ships; they move with the grace and elegance that these ships should have.  It is a delight to see the classic Enterprise depicted so beautifully.

This episode proves a wonderful … [continued]

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Josh Reviews the Star Trek: Discovery Mid-Season Finale: “Into The Forest I Go”

The first batch of Star Trek: Discovery episodes came to a close with the mid-season finale, episode nine, “Into the Forest I Go.”  The Klingon “Ship of the Dead” arrives at Pahvo, and Burnham and Tyler sneak aboard in an attempt to locate critical information required to allow Federation starships to penetrate the Klingon cloaking device.  As part of the plan, Stamets is pushed to the breaking point, utilizing the Discovery’s Spore Drive to execute 130 jumps in short succession.

As has been consistently the case with Discovery so far, there is a lot to like in this episode and also a lot that is incredibly frustrating.

Let’s start with the good.  The character stuff between Burnham and Tyler is terrific.  The tender scene between the two of them on the couch in Tyler’s quarters, in which he haltingly finds his way to admit the way he was tortured and sexually abused by the Klingons, is touching and tender.  It’s interesting to see the show embrace this aspect of Tyler’s back-story that had been suggested but not explicitly stated unto this point.

(Of course, that tender scene — which tells us everything we needed to know without getting too explicit with the details — is soon after followed by Tyler’s nightmare-flashback which gives us the Klingon nudity that no one was asking for.  So much for subtlety.  Also, as I have been writing for several weeks now, it’s hard to engage in the Tyler-Burnham relationship when it’s been clear that Tyler is the Klingon Loq in disguise, so none of this was genuine.  This episode suggests that Tyler/Loq is a sleeper agent who doesn’t remember being Loq.  I wish the show had laid its cards in the table and allowed us to follow Loq/Tyler’s story as it unfolded, rather than trying to keep all this as a surprise.  Had I known all along that Tyler really did believe himself to be a human prisoner of war, I would have engaged more deeply with that tragic story, as opposed to doubting every scene that the character was in because I believed him to be Loq telling lies.)

It’s nice to see the Klingon-Discovery stories intersect for the first time since the two-part premiere, and we get some nice Discovery-Klingon combat (both of the outer space and Mekleth variety).  The production values of this show continue to be extraordinary.  It’s great to see Star Trek looking so well-produced on TV!!  The sets are fantastic, and the visual effects are terrific.  There are some particularly gorgeous visual effects shots this week.  My favorite is the scene when you see Kol and the other Klingons on their bridge, while through the … [continued]

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Josh Reviews Star Trek: Discovery Episode 8: “Si Vis Pacem, Para Bellum”

In Star Trek: Discovery episode eight, “Si Vis Pacem, Para Bellum,” Burnham, Saru, and Tyler investigate an alien planet with a unique rock formation that Starfleet believes can be turned into a giant antenna to detect cloaked Klingon ships and help Starfleet win the war.  But the planet turns out to be not quite as uninhabited as the Discovery crew had initially thought…

“Si Vis Pacem, Para Bellum” is a solid episode.  Discovery seems to have settled into a nice groove.  This is not the show I wanted it to be, and each episode continues to be weighed down by narrative inconsistencies that I wish weren’t there, but the characters are interesting, the show is visually gorgeous, and these episodes are entertaining.

It’s nice to see the Discovery crew get to leave the ship and investigate a strange new alien world.  Coming after last week’s time travel episode, I’m pleased to see the show embrace these classic sorts of sci-fi stories.

(On the other hand, part of me wishes that Discovery would lean more in the other direction and forget about these standard types of Star Trek stories.  If this is truly intended to be a different sort of Star Trek series, then maybe they should more strongly resist the urge to give us these familiar time-travel and away-team-investigates-a-mysterious-new-planet types of stories.  For a show that was advertised as being about seeing the Federation at war, we have seen shockingly little of the Klingon-Federation conflict in the series following the two-part premiere.)

But that being said, there was a thrill in getting to see Brunham, Saru, and Tyler investigate a new alien planet, which was gorgeously realized by the show’s visual effects team.  We’ve never gotten to see televised Star Trek executed on this scale before, and I loved the way the show brought to life this beautiful alien planet (and its inhabitants).

It was clear from the first episode that Saru was going to be a standout character on Discovery.  He’s been in the background for the past few episodes, so I was delighted to see him step back into focus in this episode.  The way the events on the planet explore the nature of his character, and how he has lived his whole life in constant fear, was lovely.  It was also fun to learn more about his physicality.  In this episode we see that Saru is super-strong (look how he crushed those communicators in his hands!) and super-fast (we hadn’t ever really seen his feet before!).  It’s interesting to give this fear-filled character such super-human abilities.  I hope this duality is explored further in future episodes.

It was nice to get to see a glimpse of Klingon-versus-Federation … [continued]

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Star Trek Continues Draws to a Close with the Fantastic “To Boldly Go” Part One!

November 8th, 2017

I can’t believe it’s already been five years since Vic Mignogna’s Star Trek Continues fan-film project began!  After releasing three short vignettes, the first of which explored what happened in the moments following the final shot of the final episode of the Original Series, “Turnabout Intruder,” Mr. Mignogna and his team have produced an incredible TEN full-length Star Trek episodes, a whole new season of classic Star Trek.  From the beginning, these Star Trek Continues episodes have been hugely impressive, spectacularly professional-looking creations that are astonishing recreations of the look and feel of classic Star Trek, while telling entirely new stories featuring Kirk, Spock, McCoy, and the rest of the crew of the U.S.S. Enterprise (no bloody A, B, C, or D).  Not every episode has been perfect, but the skill and professionalism on display in this fan-film effort is extraordinary, and the whole eproject has been drenched in a true love for Star Trek that I have found to be continually inspiring.  Now (likely caused by Paramount/CBS’ ridiculous and draconian efforts to extinguish all Star Trek fan films), Mr. Mignogna and his team are drawing their wonderful series to a close with the first of their two-part finale, “To Boldly Go” part one.

In “To Boldly Go,” Captain Kirk and co. have been sent to investigate Starfleet’s recent loss of several of the Enterprise’s fellow Constitution class starships.  They discover that Starfleet has been attempting to recreate the accident that befell Gary Mitchell and Elizabeth Dehner in the (second) pilot episode of the Original Series, “Where No Man Has Gone Before.”  That accident gave Mitchell and Dehner extraordinary psychic powers; an attempt to weaponize these abilities could have catastrophic results.  Discovering that Romulans have kidnapped the experiment’s subjects, the Enterprise takes off in hot pursuit, desperate to prevent these potentially super-powered beings from being used against them.

“To Boldly Go” part one is a superb episode; I think it is my favorite episode of Star Trek Continues so far.  I love that the episode is designed not just as a finale for Star Trek Continues, but for the Original Series as a whole.  As such, it does what most great series finales do: connects all the way back to the series’ first episode.  The idea of picking up the thread of “Where No Man Has Gone Before,” and establishing the idea of someone attempting to use that accident in order to create a cadre of super-humans, is extremely clever.  It’s one of those “I can’t believe no one has done this idea before now!” sort of brilliant ideas.

This is one of the most exciting, suspenseful episodes of Star Trek Continues so far.  One complaint I … [continued]

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Josh Reviews Star Trek: Discovery Episode 7: “Magic to Make the Sanest Man Go Mad”

In Star Trek: Discovery episode seven, “Magic to Make the Sanest Man Go Mad” (I always appreciate alliteration), Harry Mudd, having escaped from the Klingons, is out for revenge on Captain Lorca.  So Mudd sneaks on board the Discovery, determined to learn the secret of the ship and sell it to the Klingons.  While one man might ordinarily have no hope of sneaking on board a starship, Mudd has access to a device that allows him to repeat the same 30 minutes over and over again, thus giving him opportunity after opportunity to achieve his goal (and also to repeatedly murder Captain Lorca and other members of the Discovery crew).  The Discovery’s only hope of stopping Mudd is Lt. Stamets, whose experimentation with the Spore Drive (which is a silly-sounding thing that everyone on Discovery says very seriously) have left him with an awareness of these alterations to the time-stream.

I was worried when I heard that Discovery was doing a time-travel episode so early in its run.  On the one hand, many of the very best Star Trek episodes (and movies) involve time travel, and this is a classic type of Star Trek story.  On the other hand, I felt that by the end of Enterprise, all of the post-Next Gen Star Trek spin-offs had dramatically overused time travel, to the point that it had started to become cliche and boring.  I wasn’t eager to see Discovery go back to that well.

However, my fears were thankfully not realized, as “Magic to Make the Sanest Man Go Mad” was a compelling, fun episode (making that two strong Discovery episodes in a row, after last week’s “Lethe”).  This episode gave a different spin to the familiar type of Star Trek time-travel story.  (We’d seen a lot of “temporal anomalies” and that sort of thing, but this was a story of a villain purposefully manipulating time.  Voyager’s “Year of Hell” two-parter had a similar framework, but that story went in a different direction.  This episode was far more reminiscent of Next Gen’s “Cause and Effect,” but with Mudd as a more dangerous, immediate threat.)  Although this episode presented dramatic, life-or-death stakes for our heroes on the Discovery, I enjoyed how playful the episode was at times, leaving plenty of time for some humorous, enjoyable character interactions, and the entire episode was edited in a wonderfully propulsive, fast-paced style that gave this episode a very different feel than most previous Trek time travel tales.

The Harry Mudd we have met in these two Discovery episodes bares little to no resemblance to the somewhat humorous con-man character we knew from the Original Series.  (I was shocked to see … [continued]

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Josh Reviews Walter Koenig and Nichelle Nichols’ Star Trek Swan Song in Renegades: The Requiem

October 30th, 2017

Tim Russ played the Vulcan Tuvok on Star Trek: Voyager, and I always felt his performance was one of the best things about that show.  Back in 2007, he was one of the early pioneers in the world of Star Trek fan films, directing the feature-length fan film project Star Trek: Of Gods and Men.  Looking back on it now, it certainly has an amateurish feel in some areas, but the project is drenched in a love for Star Trek, and it was super-cool to see so many actual Trek actors reprise their roles, or play new characters, in this story than spanned the Star Trek generations.  (The film featured Mr. Russ himself, along with Walter Koenig, Nichelle Nichols, Grace Lee Whitney, Alan Ruck, Garrett Wang, Ethan Phillips, J. G. Hertzler, Cirroc Lofton, Chase Masterson, and Gary Graham!  Click here for my review, and click here to watch it.)  I was excited that Mr. Russ was getting back into the Trek fan-film game with 2015’s Star Trek: Renegades, co-written by Ethan Calk, Sky Conway, and Jack Trevino.  The Renegades film was intended to be the pilot for a new “independent” Star Trek series, but I didn’t much care for it.  (Click here to watch Renegades yourself.)  However, I was intrigued that the second Renegades episode, called “The Requiem,” was announced as featuring the final performances of Walter Koenig as Pavel Chekov and Nichelle Nichols as Nyota Uhura.

I wish I could recommend “The Requiem,” in the way that I have sung the praises of other Star Trek fan-film projects such as Star Trek: New Voyages (also known for a while as Phase II), Star Trek Continues, and Axanar.  Unfortunately, while I wanted to like “The Requiem,” I was disappointed by the amateurishness of the whole enterprise (sorry) and the lack of anything resembling a coherent plot or interesting characters.

Walter Koenig was one of the first professional Star Trek actors to give his blessing, and lend legitimacy, to Star Trek fan films when he reprised his role as Chekov for the third episode of Star Trek: New Voyages, called “To Serve All My Days.”  That was a beautifully-produced fan-made episode, with a lovely story that provided what might have been the best dramatic work of Mr. Koenig as Chekov in all of Trek!  Few other “official” Trek installments gave Mr. Koenig as much of a spotlight as did that episode.  Take a look, I think the episode holds up extremely well.

Sadly, there is nothing on par with that here in “The Requiem.”  Mr. Koenig has a lot of screentime (Ms. Nichols less so), but none of his scenes mean anything, or … [continued]

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Josh Reviews Star Trek: Discovery Episode 6: “Lethe”

On a mission of peace, Sarek’s shuttle is damaged by a Vulcan extremist’s bombing, leaving him lost and on the brink of death, adrift in a nebula.  His mental link with his ward Burnham allows her to sense his peril, but how can she find him lost in the vast nebula?  Meanwhile, Captain Lorca’s old friend Admiral Cornwell begins questioning his mental state.

Putting aside a lot of the baggage that continues to weigh down this series (the pointless prequel setting, the disregard for Trek continuity) and taken on its own, “Lethe” is a pretty strong episode, probably my favorite episode so far since the opening two-parter.  The episode is anchored by two strong character stories, both of which I found compelling.  This gives this episode both a narrative focus and an emotional underpinning the last several episodes have been lacking.

The episode’s main story is the way Burnham is forced to wrestle with her complicated relationship with her adoptive father Sarek, and the many ways in which she sees herself as having disappointed him.  We have seen hints of this before, such as the early flashback of young Burnham in the Vulcan learning center, and here we see that Burnham’s human heritage led to her being rejected from acceptance into the Vulcan Expeditionary Force.  Time after time Burnham has striven to be the figure of Vulcan perfection she believed Sarek wanted her to be, and time after time she failed.  This episode begins to explore just what that did to her, and how that shaped the broken person she is now.  At the same time, the episode builds to an emotional crescendo in which we also see Sarek’s shame at the ways in which he feels he failed Burnham.  This leads to head-spinning continuity problems, which I will discuss in a moment, but emotionally this is a rich central story for this episode.

The show has danced around the existence of Spock so far, but I loved the way the show dealt with Spock head-on in that climactic scene with Sarek, in which we see that he was forced to choose Spock over Burnham by the Vulcan leadership.  And in a rare example of the show paying attention to Star Trek continuity, it was neat to see how the way Spock would later turn down the Vulcan Science Academy (an established piece of backstory that was a key element of the beginning of the 2009 rebooted Star Trek film) made Sarek feel that his impossible choice was all for nothing.  That is clever, character-based storytelling.

In the secondary story, we see Admiral Cornwell fly out to Discovery to confront her old friend Captain Lorca after he (ridiculously) disobeys and … [continued]

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Josh Reviews Star Trek: Discovery Episode 5: “Choose Your Pain”

In Star Trek: Discovery episode 5, “Choose Your Pain,” Burnham becomes convinced that the “Tartigrade” creature that is the key to Discovery‘s fantastic new drive system is suffering each time the drive is used.  She wants the Discovery to stop using the system until they can figure out a way to use it without harming the creature, but with Captain Lorca kidnapped by the Klingons, the drive is essential to the Discovery crew’s being able to mount a rescue.

Egad, I really want to like this show, and there is a lot in “Choose Your Pain” that I enjoyed.  But the show is continually limited by plot problems up the wazoo and its almost mind-boggling disregard for Trek continuity.

What’s good?  The central premise of this episode, in which our heroes discover that their fantastic new invention might be harming a sentient creature, and yet that invention is critical to their being able to rescue their captain, is a perfect Star Trek sort of premise.  So too is the idea of a crew falling into conflict without their captain, and eventually being forced to put aside their differences to find a way to save the day.  (Echoes of “The Tholian Web.”)  These are classic Star Trek ideas, and yet given a slightly different spin with these new situations with the Tartigrade and the Klingons.  I liked all of that.

There was a lot of great character stuff in this episode.  Once again all the interactions between Saru and Burnham was great.  These are two great characters and the conflict between them feels real and interesting. I am really enjoying getting to know Lt. Stemets more, and this episode gave him a good spotlight as we saw him wrestle with the moral issue of the possibility that his invention is harming the Tartigrade.  I liked that the Doctor, Culber, got some good scenes this week, and I liked that the episode finally confirmed that he and Lt. Stemets are in a relationship.  This is Star Trek’s first major canonical gay couple, and so far I have loved the non-sensational way in which this couple has been presented to us.

Also: I loved getting to see the show’s version of a 23rd century toothbrush!

Aren’t those matching space-jammies absolutely adorable?

Seriously, that scene of Stemets and Culber getting ready for bed was great; this is the type of below-decks stuff that we’ve never seen before in Star Trek, and I am enjoying when Discovery allows us to see what goes on onboard a starship when the main command crew is not on the bridge.  I’d like to see more of this.

As I wrote last week, I hated Ensign … [continued]

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Josh Reviews Star Trek: Discovery Episode 4: “The Butcher’s Knife Cares Not For the Lamb’s Cry”

In Star Trek: Discovery episode 4, “The Butcher’s Knife Cares Not for the Lamb’s Cry,” an important Federation dilithium mine comes under attack by the Klingons.  With no starships in range, everyone in the mine will die and the Federation’s war effort will be crippled unless the Discovery’s experimental drive can allow the ship to arrive in time to defend the mine.  Meanwhile, Burnham is tasked with learning how the monster captured in episode 3 was so effective at killing Klingons, but she suspects the creature might not be inherently violent and, in fact, the key to an important scientific discovery.

This episode is, in my opinion, a stronger effort than last week’s episode.  It flows much better, with a nice Star Trek story at its heart and some exciting action.  But while I mostly enjoyed the first two episodes of Star Trek: Discovery, these last two episodes are forcing me to realize that this is probably not going to be the show I’d hoped it would be.

As I wrote in my first review, what I liked so much about the first episode of Discovery, which enabled me to forgive the show’s rampant disregard for Star Trek continuity and other problems with the narrative, was that I felt the show embraced the humanism and morality that was at the centerpiece of all the best Star Trek.  Here’s what I wrote: “For the first time in a very long time (including the three recent J.J. Abrams rebooted movies, and even much of the previous two Trek shows, Enterprise and Voyager), the Starfleet officers on this show, so far, behave like Starfleet officers.  The first episode emphasizes this repeatedly.  “We come in peace… isn’t that the whole idea of Starfleet?” Burnham states in her very first line of dialogue.  YES.  The opening scene with Georgiou and Burnham has them working to help an endangered alien race without violating the Prime Directive.  YES.  “Starfleet does not shoot first,” Captain Georgiou declares in a tense standoff with Burnham.  YES.”

But after those first two episodes which took place on the U.S.S. Shenzhou with Captain Georgiou in command, Discovery has turned into a very different type of show, on board the U.S.S. Discovery, a ship with a mysterious purpose and a nasty, war-focused captain (Jason Isaac’s Captain Lorca).  I have no objection to war and violence on a Star Trek show.  (My favorite Star Trek series, Deep Space Nine, featured a multi-season-long war arc.)  But a Star Trek show featuring war and violence should focus on Starfleet characters struggling to keep their morality in place while doing what they need to survive.  That’s what so many of the best DS9 episodes were … [continued]

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Josh Reviews Star Trek: Discovery Episode 3: “Context is for Kings”

I seem to be in the minority of the Star Trek fans I know in that I mostly liked the first two episodes of Star Trek: Discovery.  I hate all the continuity problems caused by the show’s prequel setting (ten years before Kirk/Spock/McCoy’s adventures on the Original Series) — I wish dearly the series was set 100 years AFTER Star Trek: The Next Generation, which would make all of these continuity problems vanish.  But putting those continuity problems aside (which is, admittedly, hard to do), I enjoyed Discovery. It looked great, and I was happy that the show seemed to embrace classic Star Trek themes and morality, portraying heroic Starfleet officers behaving (mostly) the way I believe Starfleet officers should (something that the last three rebooted Trek movies, and even the last two TV series Voyager and Enterprise, often failed to do).  I was interested in the new characters introduced and excited to see a Trek series made with modern-era production values and storytelling approaches (such as serialization).  I was intrigued that these first two episode were basically just a long prologue to whatever the main story of Discovery is going to be — it’s nice to see the time taken to explore this backstory — and I was interested to see what episode three would be like, since presumably this would now start to establish exactly what sort of show Discovery is actually going to be.  Unfortunately, I found episode three, “Context if for Kings,” to be very problematic.  If this is what Discovery is going to be, then we might be in trouble.

Six months after the events of the first two episodes, the Federation and the Klingons are at war and Michael Burnham is in prison.  But while being transferred, her shuttle gets into trouble and she is rescued by the U.S.S. Discovery, an enormous new starship.  Burnham is tasked with assisting with some sort of top-secret experiment that the officers on board Discovery are conducting, an experiment that led to the destruction of Discovery’s sister-ship and the loss of all hands.  Yadda yadda yadda, it’s no surprise that Burnham winds up a member of Discovery’s crew by the end of the episode, albeit reluctantly.

I have a lot of problems with this episode, primarily boiling down to these areas:

Number one (see what I did there?), there is a LOT of important information that is withheld from Michael, and therefore the audience, and so for much of the episode we have absolutely no idea what is going on.  I am not a fan of this Lost type of storytelling, in which the viewer is kept in the dark about the motivations of characters and … [continued]

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Star Trek Returns to Television (Sort Of) With Star Trek: Discovery!

The first time I can remember being aware of and excited about Star Trek was when Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home came out in 1986.  I must have been exposed to Star Trek before that, because I was excited to see that movie in theatres.  But I don’t think I’d seen the prior movies, because when I saw it, I was confused as to what was going on (what had happened to Spock?  What had happened to the Enterprise?), and I remember going home afterwards and watching the first three Trek movies on VHS with my father to get caught up.  So I’m not sure when I first actually saw Trek or what made me want to go see Star Trek IV — maybe watching the reruns of the Animated Series on TV? — but seeing those first four Trek movies started my love for Trek, and when Star Trek: The Next Generation launched the next year, I was hooked from the very first episode.  I have been, ever since, an enormous Star Trek fan.  It’s been a long time since Star Trek was last on TV.  Star Trek: Enterprise was cancelled after 4 seasons, and aired its last episode in May, 2005.  I love the big Trek movies, but I firmly believe that Star Trek belongs on TV.  And so I was extremely excited when, at long last, a new Trek series was announced: Star Trek: Discovery.  I was thrilled when names like Bryan Fuller and Nicholas Meyer were announced as being involved with the new Trek show, though my heart sank as the series was delayed again and again and Mr. Fuller left (or was pushed out?).  But I resolved to reserve judgment until I could actually see the show.  Well, I have seen the first two episodes (episode 1, “The Vulcan Hello,” aired on CBS, and episode 2, ” Battle at the Binary Stars,” is available for streaming at CBS All Access), and I am here to share my thoughts.

Let’s cut right to the chase: while I certainly have questions and issues with some of the creative choices made in these first two episodes, overall I am very happy and excited to see more of the series.  The visual effects are spectacular, and the show so far is rooted in interesting character drama and interstellar politics in equal measure, which is exactly how I like my Star Trek to be.  Star Trek: Discovery FEELS like Star Trek (FAR more than the three J.J. Abrams-rebooted recent Trek movies), and that makes me very happy.

Set ten years before the events of the Original Series (Kirk/Spock/McCoy and their adventures on the original U.S.S. Enterprise), Star Trek: Discovery[continued]

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Star Trek Enterprise: Rise of the Federation: Uncertain Logic

Several years ago, author Christopher L. Bennett began a new series of Star Trek novels, subtitled Star Trek: Enterprise: Rise of the Federation.  Set a number of years after the events of the prequel show Star Trek: Enterprise, and immediately after the founding of the United Federation of Planets, this series set out to chronicle the early years of the Federation, showing us the step-by-step journey in which this new interstellar alliance became the peaceful, exploratory organization we would get to know in the classic Kirk/Spock/McCoy Star Trek series, set a decade later.

This is the prequel series that Enterprise should have been, asking the tough, interesting questions about how the benevolent Federation might have come to be, and what challenges this young alliance might have faced.  I loved Mr. Bennett’s first two Rise of the Federation novels, A Choice of Futures and Tower of Babel.  But then I got busy and fell behind.  The recent release of the fifth novel in the series prompted me to go back and start getting caught up.  After rereading the first two books, I dove right into the third novel, Uncertain Logic.

This novel explores the ramifications of the discovery of Surak’s original writings, called the Kir’Shara, and the reformation of Vulcan society chronicled in the fourth season Enterprise three-parter “The Forge,” “Awakening,” and “Kir’Shara.”  Those three episodes were terrific, and they did much to explain how the often-emotional Vulcans seen throughout the Enterprise series could someday become the more emotionless Vulcans we’d seen on previous Trek shows (set 100 and 200 years later).  (It’s possible the Enterprise showrunners always intended there to be an “arc” to their depictions of Vulcans, but I think the bizarre, emotional way that Vulcans were so-long portrayed on the show was one of Enterprise’s many weaknesses; a mark of poor writing and poor acting/directing choices.  I love that this three-parter late in the show’s run was able to finally address this apparent inconsistency.)  But, of course, it’s impossible for any society, even one as based in logic as the Vulcans, to go through a massive change without there being problems and resistance from some quarters.  Uncertain Logic (the book’s title cleverly borrows a line spoken by Spock’s father Sarek in Star Trek III: The Search for Spock) explores this, showing us the debates that still rage across Vulcan a decade after the Kir’Shara’s discovery as to the direction in which their society should go and, specifically, whether their new bent towards pacifism is truly logical.  When the Kir’Shara is apparently exposed as a fraud, and a villain thought long-dead returns, Vulcan society threatens to unravel, leaving Captain T’Pol and the crew of the U.S.S. Endeavour[continued]

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Star Trek Lives! Josh Reviews Star Trek Continues: What Ships Are For

September 15th, 2017

The golden age of Star Trek fan films is over, crushed by Paramount/CBS’ ridiculous lawsuit against the planned Axanar fan-film project and the subsequent draconian fan film guidelines that led to the shutdown of many fan-made productions.  (Read more here.)  One of the last fan-film projects standing is Star Trek Continues, though they too will soon be closing their doors as a result of the new fan film guidelines, concluding their series with a two-part finale to be released later this fall.  This group of talented Trek fans, led by Vic Mignogna, have been, for the past five years, creating their own version of the never-made fourth season of classic Star Trek.  They have created full-length Trek episodes with an astonishing degree of professionalism.  At a glance you’d never know this wasn’t “real” Star Trek.  (I’ve reviewed every episode: click here for the full archive.)  A little more than four months after the release of their previous episode, “Still Treads the Shadow,” they have, incredibly, released another complete episode, and it is as good as this fan-made series has ever been.

In “What Ships are For,” the U.S.S. Enterprise responds to a request from help from the inhabitants of a large asteroid, whose population is being ravaged by a plague.  When Kirk, Spock, and McCoy beam down, they discover that the asteroid’s inhabitants are unable to see color, due to the effects of their sun’s radiation on the cones of their eyes.  Helping to undo the damage from the radiation will both cure the plague and allow these aliens to see the world in color.  But there is a complication: these aliens, the Hyalini, have long been at war with another race, the Ambicians.  The Hyalini fear the Ambicians as dangerous monsters.  But the Enterprise’s sensors discover that, in fact, there are many Ambicians who have lived on the asteroid among the Hyalini for generations, having fled their own radiation-ravaged world.  They are indistinguishable from the Hyalini except for the different color of their skin and hair.  If the Enterprise crew help cure the Hyalini, they fear the Hyalini’s discovery that the aliens they perceive as dangerous “others” are in fact living amongst them will cause their society to tear itself apart with racial strife.

This episode was written by Kipleigh Brown, who has been a supporting character on Star Trek Continues for many episodes playing the ship’s navigator Lieutenant Smith.  She has done strong work here in writing this episode, creating a classic Star Trek moral dilemma for Kirk and co. to wrestle with.  Yes, the episode’s exploration of bigotry and racial divisions is a bit on the nose, but this is the type … [continued]

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Star Trek: Enigma Tales

Una McCormack’s Enigma Tales is the latest Star Trek novel continuing the interconnected series of books exploring the universe and characters of the 24th Century-set Star Trek shows beyond the events of their series finales.  Ms. McCormack has developed into the writer most often turned to when these books feature Cardassia and DS9′s beloved “plain, simple tailor” Garak, and Enigma Tales is another excellent Cardassian-focused novel.  The novel also continues Ms. McCormack’s exploration of the character Peter Alden, a former Starfleet spy (who she created for her novel Brinkmanship) and his unlikely friendship with Dr. Katherine Pulaski (who replaced Dr. Crusher as the C.M.O. on board the USS Enterprise for the second season of Star Trek: The Next Generation, and who Ms. McCormack paired up with Peter Alden in her previous novel, The Missing).

Here in Enigma Tales, Dr. Pulaski, along with Alden, arrive at Cardassia so that Dr. Pulaski can receive a prestigious award.  The blunt Dr. Pulaski almost immediately makes a small mess of Cardassian politics, putting her at odds with Garak, who has (somewhat improbably) ascended to the position of Castellan, leader of the Cardassian Union.  The issue at hand is the debate on Cardassia as to whether any military leaders should be subject to investigation and potential prosecution for war crimes committed during the Cardassian occupation of Bajor.  For Garak, a man with a significant amount of blood on his hands, this debate represents something of a collision between his pragmatism and his morals.  Meanwhile, a minor local issue, the decision as to who will become the new head of a prominent Cardassian university, threatens to explode into a broader scandal when the leading candidate, Natima Lang (the strong-willed Cardassian former dissident, seen in the DS9 episode “Profit and Loss”), is accused of having committed atrocities herself during the occupation.

Enigma Tales is a wonderful next step in the fascinating way in which this continuing series of Star Trek novels has explored the world of Cardassia and the ramifications of where Deep Space Nine left that world and that people following the events of the series finale.  The Cardassians had long been presented as an enemy of the Federation, but the final run of DS9 episodes allowed us to follow the resistance movement on Cardassia, and the men and women there who struggled to throw off the yoke of oppression and be free.  Much of those hopes turned to ash when the Dominion did its best to destroy Cardassia Prime in “What You Leave Behind,” the series finale.  What would become of Cardassia, following those dramatic events?  The post-finale Trek novels have taken great care to explore the subsequent decade, showing us how … [continued]

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News Around the Net!

How great is this first trailer for Black Panther?

This looks like a fun new direction for a Marvel film to take.  I hope they really go crazy in exploring this new corner of the Marvel universe.  I loved Creed and I can’t wait to see what director Ryan Coogler has cooked up here.

Speaking of Black Panther, here is an interesting bit of speculation as to whether the same character will be appearing in Black Panther and the upcoming season 2 of Luke Cage, albeit played by different actresses.  I am sad that the Marvel films and TV shows are no longer coordinating the way they had planned to when Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. was first launched.

I am hoping that by the time you read this, I’ll have seen Spider-Man: Homecoming.  In the meanwhile, this is a pretty great video analyzing the reasons Sam Raimi’s first two Spider-Man movies worked, while Marc Webb’s two Amazing Spider-Man movies didn’t:

I don’t agree with every single point in that video, and I think the “Spider-Man as Jesus” bit in Spider-Man 2 is one of the film’s few off-notes, but for the most part this video hits the nail right on the head.

Oh man, it looks like What We Left Behind, the Kickstarter-funded Deep Space Nine documentary, is really coming together.  I can’t wait to see the finished product!

Sic Transit Vir (B5 fans get the reference): Sad news of the passing of actor Stephen Furst, who played Vir on Babylon 5 and Flounder in Animal House.  This article is a wonderful salute to Mr. Furst’s great work on B5, and here is B5 creator J. Michael Staczynski’s lament for the far-too-long list of B5 cast members who have passed away, all of whom are missed.

This oral history of Austin Powers is a great read and a fun look back at a film that I used to truly love.  (I haven’t seen any of the Austin Powers films in YEARS, but this article makes me want to revisit at least the first one…)

Is Robotech the greatest love story of the 20th century?  As a kid who first saw Robotech at exactly the right age to fall in love with it, I can get behind this idea!

I loved the first season of Vice Principals, and so I cannot wait for the show’s second (and apparently final) season to air:

James Cameron’s Terminator 2 is being released back to theatres?  I am in!!  I don’t need the 3D conversion, but any excuse to see this great film back on the big screen is very exciting.  Can’t wait:

I lost a decent amount of time exploring … [continued]

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Star Trek: Section 31: Control

Late in the run of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, the show revealed the existence of a covert group that had been operating secretly with the Federation for over 200 years called Section 31.  This black ops agency was tasked with doing whatever was necessary to protect the Federation’s interest, but operated without oversight and without any restrictions.  The idea that the Federation, the utopian society created by Gene Roddenberry, might have been supported by such an immoral, whatever-it-takes organization was seen as controversial by some Star Trek fans.  Personally, I loved the idea.  It was just one way in which DS9, in my mind the greatest of the Trek series, confronted the realities of the civilization Gene Roddenberry had originated, and forced its characters to make tough moral choices in a difficult, grey universe.  “It’s easy to be a saint in Paradise,” DS9′s main character, Benjamin Sisko, stated at one point.  It is much harder to be a saint in the real world, and part of DS9′s greatness was that it repeatedly confronted its heroic characters with difficult moral dilemmas.

Section 31 became a major story-point in the series’ last year and a half.  After discovering the existence of the organization, Doctor Julian Bashir and Chief of Operations Miles O’Brien worked to defeat 31 and drag the organization into the light.  In the series’ antipenultimate episode, “Extreme Measures’” Bashir and O’Brien finally strike a major victory against 31 and find the secret to saving Odo from the morphogenic virus that 31 had created to destroy the Founders.  I think DS9′s final run of episodes is the best sustained run of Star Trek episodes ever, though actually I think “Extreme Measures” is something of a weak link.  Section 31 had been built up as such a powerful organization, with its tendrils throughout the Federation, that it felt too easy how Bashir and OBrien were able to outwit them.

And so I have been pleased that Pocket Books’ Star Trek novels have picked up the thread of Section 31, re-establishing them as a major adversary for our heroes.  These post-finale novels have suggested that Bashir and O’Brien’s actions in “Extreme Measures” did mot defeat 31, that it was just a minor setback for the still-powerful organization.  Over the course of the last decade-plus of Trek novels, we have followed Dr. Bashir’s continuing efforts to defeat the insidious Section 31.  Author David Mack seems to have taken chief charge of this story-line in his recent novels A Ceremony of Losses and Section 31: Disavowed.  Forced out of Starfleet following the events of The Fall crossover series, Dr. Bashir and Sarina Douglas have together attempted to infiltrate Section 31 … [continued]

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Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: The Long Mirage

David R. George III’s latest novel, The Long Mirage, picks up exactly where his terrific DS9 duology Sacraments of Fire and Ascendance left off.  Religious unrest is spreading across Bajor with the discovery that the moon Endalla appears to have been artificially constructed as an anchor for the wormhole, casting doubt as to the divinity of the Prophets.  A Bajoran man, Altek Dans, has apparently been brought forward by the Prophets from thousands of years ago, in the past, but no one knows why.  Kira Nerys, thought lost in the wormhole, has also returned, only to discover that Altek is the man who fell in love with her when she was sent to the past by the Prophets (as seen in Revelation and Dust).  Why have both Kira and Altek been returned to Bajor at exactly this moment in time?  Meanwhile, Quark has hired an investigator in an attempt to locate Morn, missing since the destruction of the original DS9 two years earlier (at the end of Mr. George’s novel Plagues of Night), but now that investigator has apparently run off with Quark’s money.  So Quark sets out to track her down, and hopefully also locate his missing friend Morn, with Captain Ro along for the ride, just at the moment that Ro and Quark’s decade-long relationship has come crashing apart.  Finally, Nog’s attempts to restore the program of his holographic friend Vic Fontaine reaches a desperate hour, as Nog discovers he has only days before Vic’s program is corrupted and irrevocably lost.

David R. George III has, over the past few years, become the main story-teller of the continuing Deep Space Nine saga.  His recent novels — from Rough Beasts of Empire (part of the “Typhon Pact” series) to the duology Plagues of Night and Raise the Dawn, to Revelation and Dust (part one of the five-part crossover series “The Fall”) to the duology Sacraments of Fire and Ascendance, and now to The Long Mirage — all connect together to tell a thrilling, expansive Deep Space Nine saga that hopefully is far from over.  (Actually, Mr. George’s tale seems to have started all the way back in his contribution to the “Worlds of Deep Space Nine” series, the novella Olympus Descending.)

Mr. George has a mastery of the Deep Space Nine characters, and it’s wonderful to see the characters and story-lines from DS9, the greatest of the Trek TV shows, continuing on in such an engaging fashion in these stories set far beyond the events of the DS9 finale, “What You Leave Behind.”

In many ways, The Long Mirage functions as something of an epilogue to Mr. George’s past several books.  His recent novels have … [continued]

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News Around the Net

“There’s always money in the banana-stand!”  I am thrilled that, four long years after the release of season 4, Arrested Development season 5 is officially happening!!  Yes, season 4 was a bit of a disappointment, but I’m hoping Mitch Hurwitz and this amazing cast can turn things around with another time at the plate.  I can’t wait.

A brief follow-up to my recent analysis of the teaser trailer for the new Star Trek show, Discovery: I’d noted in my review that it looked like they had adjusted the look of the actual starship Discovery since the initial teaser a year ago, though it was hard to get a good look at the ship in that new trailer.  However, eagle-eyed on-line fans noticed what I didn’t, which is that Jason Isaacs had previously been announced as the captain of the Discovery.  This means that much of what we see in the trailer between the first-officer played by Sonequa Martin-Green and the captain played by Michelle Yeoh all probably happens in the first episode as a prologue to the events of the series itself.  Therefore, the starship seen in this trailer is not the Discovery at all.  So we don’t know yet whether the Discovery is really going to look like that blocky, angular design seen in that first trailer.  (As I commented a year ago, I like the idea of basing the starship’s design off of an unused-by-famous-to-Trek-fans Ralph McQuarrie design for the refit Enterprise in Star Trek: The Motion Picture more than I like the execution as seen in that teaser, which looked chunky and without any of the art of Matt Jefferies’ original Enterprise design.)  Also, this likely means that Michelle Yeoh, who I liked so much in the trailer, is probably going to have a very small role on the show itself, assuming that something bad is going to happen to get first-officer Burnham (played by Ms. Green) assigned as the first officer to another captain on another starship, rather than getting her own command.  That is a bummer, since I really liked the dynamic between Ms. Yeoh and Ms. Green in that trailer.

Ordinarily we’d be well into the new season of Game of Thrones at this point in the year, but we all need to wait two more months.  This substantive new trailer will ease the pain (or make it worse!!):

Let’s also join in lamenting that the shortened seven-episode seventh season will be followed by an even-shorter final season, which will reportedly only be six episodes long.

Jon Williams recently received an honorary doctorate from Harvard University, and one of the school’s a cappella groups, the Din and Tonics, … [continued]

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Josh Examines the First Trailer for Star Trek: Discovery

Yesterday we got our first real look at the new Star Trek show, Discovery:

There’s a lot that is encouraging and also a lot that is worrisome in that trailer.

I am a huge Star Trek fan, and so the prospect of Trek returning to TV is very exciting for me.  I love the spectacle of the movies, but I believe Trek belongs on TV.  I am excited to see a modern version of a Trek TV show, one that takes advantages of modern story-telling devices and structures (shorter seasons, more serialized storytelling) as well as visual effects tools (what can be accomplished today on a weekly TV budget is incredible).  I’ve been encouraged by some of the behind-the-scenes talent involved in this project (most especially Nicholas Meyer, who is responsible for the very best Trek ever made: he wrote and directed Star Trek II and Star Trek VI, and he wrote all the good stuff in Star Trek IV).  While I hate prequels, if you’re going to make a prequel, the idea of focusing on the era of tensions (and perhaps outright war?) between the Federation and the Klingons in the decade before Kirk seems like a ripe area for stories.  On the other hand, this show has had a rocky path to production, with delay after delay after delay, and the staggeringly disappointing departure of original showrunner Bryan Fuller (a hugely talented showrunner who also has strong Trek experience).  I also hate the fact that the era in which this show is set apparently caused Paramount/CBS to sue and crush the fan film Axanar, that was going to be set in a similar time-period.

Putting all that backstory behind me, I was eager to finally get a glimpse of what this show is going to be!  So, what did I think?

Well… my feelings are very mixed.

What’s good?  Visually, that trailer is gorgeous.  The outer-space special effects and the widescreen vistas are all very impressive, far better-looking than Trek has ever-before looked on TV.  I love the sense we get of Michelle Yeoh as the captain.  In these brief clips she appears to be playing my exact picture of a Starfleet captain: smart and noble and cool under pressure.  I love the line that “Starfleet doesn’t fire first.”  YES — I hope this series emphasizes the values of Gene Roddenberry’s utopian vision of the Star Trek future.  (This is something that’s been somewhat lost in the more action-packed recent Trek films.)  I am interested in the idea that this show will focus, not on the ship’s captain, but on its first-officer.  Sonequa Martin-Green seems interesting in the role, though I was far more taken with Michelle … [continued]

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Star Trek: Headlong Flight

Seven years after the events of Star Trek: Nemesis, and after the dramatic events of the five-book Trek crossover series “The Fall,” the USS EnterpriseE under the command of Jean-Luc Picard has set out on a new mission of exploration, investigating the area of uncharted space known as “the Odyssean Pass.”  While observing a nebula, they are astonished to discover the appearance, seemingly from out of nowhere, of an entire planet.  From the planet they receive a distress call from a group of aliens trapped on the surface, warning all ships to stay away lest they be trapped on the planet, too.  Meanwhile, years earlier, Captain William T. Riker and the EnterpriseD witness the incredible disappearance of a planet they had been studying inside of a nebula.  Of course, William Riker was never the captain of the Enterprise-D.  But this William Riker is, having assumed command after the death of Picard at the hands of the Borg several months earlier.  Meanwhile yet again, 100 years earlier, Romulan commander Sarith and her warbird Bloodied Talon are also drawn into the mystery.

Star Trek.Headlong Flight.cropped

I love the complex web of continuity being woven between these post-Nemesis Pocket Books Star Trek novels, and epic crossover series like “The Fall” are always a ton of fun.  But I also enjoy reading done-in-one Trek novels whose main focus is on presenting a compelling new sci-fi mystery (hopefully wrapped around interesting character story-lines).  Dayton Ward’s previous TNG novel, Armageddon’s Arrow, was a wonderful yarn in that style, one that presented interesting new alien races and new mysteries.  This follow-up novel, Headlong Flight, is cast from a similar mold, bringing us another original story of “strange new worlds.”

I thoroughly enjoyed the mystery of the dimension-hopping planet, and the way Mr. Ward’s story developed across three different fronts — on board “our” Enterprise-E, on board the alternate-universe William Riker’s Enterprise-D, and also on board the Romulan warbird from Kirk’s era.  As the story developed, this three-pronged story took on an exciting momentum as we watched characters working together (and sometimes at cross-purposes) across multiple fronts.  This was a lot of fun.

At first, when it became clear that the Enterprise-D section of the novel was taking place in a never-before-seen alternate universe, I wasn’t that enthused with the idea.  Why were we wasting our time with this group of alternate versions of our main characters who we’d never seen before and would likely never see again, rather than continuing to develop and explore the actual main characters of the main-timeline Enterprise-E?  And yet, as I read Headlong Flight, I found that the Enterprise-D sections were my favorite parts of the novel!  I loved … [continued]

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Star Trek Lives! Josh Reviews Star Trek Continues: Still Treads the Shadow

April 12th, 2017

In defiance of CBS/Paramount’s outrageously restrictive new fan film guidelines meant to crush the Star Trek fan films that have flourished over the past decade, Vic Mignogna and the talented team of Trek fans who make up Star Trek Continues have released their eighth episode, “Still Treads the Shadow.”  Star Trek Continues is a fan-made project to create new episodes of the Original Series, featuring episode-length adventures of Kirk, Spock, McCoy, and the crew of the original starship Enterprise, in the style of the Original Series.  After the release of the new fan film guidelines, Mr. Mignogna announced that he would be releasing four additional episodes to wrap up his series.  It’s a shame that the series will be ending, but I am glad that Mr. Mignogna has decided to at least complete and release these final four episodes, of which “Still Treads the Shadow” is the first.

In this episode, while investigating a black hole phenomena, the Enterprise discovers the U.S.S. Defiant adrift in space.  The Defiant was last seen getting lost in interphasic space in the Original Series episode “The Tholian Web”.  But the ship has returned, with a surprising passenger on-board: an elderly James T. Kirk.  Though Captain Kirk was rescued from the Defiant in “The Tholian Web,” somehow a duplicate version of himself remained trapped on the Defiant, and he has lived his entire life in solitude aboard the lost starship, with his only companion being the Defiant’s now-sentient computer, which now calls itself Tiberius.  With both the Enterprise and the Defiant both caught in the singularity’s pull, and a vengeful Tiberius out to destroy the Enterprise in a misguided effort to protect his only friend, will two Kirks be enough to save the day?

As always, I am staggeringly impressed with the enormous skill on display in every new Star Trek Continues episode.  As I have written every single time, this episode is an extraordinarily professional recreation of the look and feel of an Original Series episode.  It is remarkable.  There is almost nothing to mark this as a fan-made undertaking rather than an actual episode of the Original Series.  The sets, the costumes, the props, all are incredibly accurate recreations of Classic Trek.

Once again, Star Trek Continues has attracted an exciting guest star.  This time it is Rekha Sharma (Tory from the reimagined Battlestar Galactica), playing Avi Samara, a scientist assigned to the Enterprise to study the black hole phenomenon, who also has a long-ago connection to Captain Kirk.  Ms. Sharma is phenomenal in the role.  She plays the character with exactly the right amount of naturalism, underplaying her lines enough to make her character feel real (avoiding the tendency of actors … [continued]

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Star Trek: The Face of the Unknown

Set during the latter half of the original Enterprise’s five year mission, Christopher L. Bennett’s novel The Face of the Unknown is a sequel to the Original Series episode “The Corbomite Maneuver.”  That episode introduced the diminutive Commander Balok and his enormous orb-ship, The Fesarius.  “The Corbomite Maneuver” is a terrific early episode of The Original Series, with a wonderful twist ending.  But by leaving the reveal of Commander Balok until the very end of the episode, we don’t actually learn much of anything about Balok or the people he represents, who call themselves The First Federation.  Enter Christopher L. Bennett and The Face of the Unknown.


In the novel, reports of First Federation attacks on nearby planets send the Enterprise on a quest to locate Commander Balok’s mysterious people.  What Captain Kirk and his crew discovers is astonishing: the giant-headed puppet that Balok used in an attempt to intimidate Kirk and the Enterprise in “The Corbomite Maneuver” was in fact a representation of an actual alien race, gone for millennia but now returned to seek vengeance on those in the First Federation who they believe had wronged them.

As I noted above, “The Corbomite Maneuver” gave us only the barest of hints about the First Federation and Commander Balok’s people.  The episode was thus ripe for a follow-up, and Christopher L. Bennett has done an impressive job of exploring this alien society, fleshing out its people as well as its social structures and history.  I have always been impressed, in his novels, by Christopher L. Bennett’s attention to detail, and the way he is able to expand upon those small details to fill in backstory and to answer questions that I never even knew I had.  That talent is once again on fine display here in this novel, as he has used a variety of small references and suggestions from “The Corbomite Maneuver” to flesh out a fascinating new alien culture.  I loved reading about the First Federation’s hidden “Web of Worlds” (a vast, interconnected refuge for countless different alien races, hidden deep within a gas giant planet), and I enjoyed the way that Mr. Bennett developed several of the different races who make up this society.  The Web of Worlds is a fascinating concept.  It fits logically with what we knew of the First Federation from “The Corbomite Maneuver” while also expanding upon Balok’s people in fascinating new directions.  (I also enjoyed how the description of the Web of Worlds sounded, in a very clever touch by Mr. Bennett, very reminiscent of the interlocking dome design of the Fesarius, as seen in the book cover image above.)  I was even more taken by the very interesting idea that … [continued]

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Star Trek: Prey Book 3: The Hall of Heroes

John Jackson Miller’s Klingon-focused trilogy of novels, titled Prey — part of Pocket Books’ celebration of the 50th anniversary of Star Trek — wraps up with book three: The Hall of Heroes.  The menace of the Unsung, that cadre of discommendated Klingons, has mostly been resolved, but now a new and greater threat to galactic peace has emerged.  The Breen have stepped up their manipulation of their fellow Typhon Pact member the Kinshaya, tricking the Kinshaya into launching a full-scale invasion of Klingon space.  With Martok’s hold on power already weakened by the Unsung attacks and the manipulations of Lord Korgh, the would-be heir of Kruge (the Klingon commander killed by James T. Kirk on the Genesis Planet a century earlier), having threatened to tear apart the peace treaty between the Federation and the Klingon Empire, Captain Picard of the Enterprise, Admiral Riker of the Titan, and Captain Dax of the Aventine all find themselves scrambling to keep up with elusive enemies all around and a situation that threatens to spiral completely out of control.


I loved John Jackson Miller’s first two Prey novels.  Click here for my review of book one: Hell’s Heart, and here for my review of book two: The Jackal’s Trick.  I did mention, though, in my review of The Jackal’s Trick, a concern that the plot-twists at the end of the novel felt a bit like an effort to stretch the story out needlessly into a third book.  By the end of book two, I’d felt that the story was mostly over and wasn’t sure there was really a third book’s worth of story left to tell.

I shouldn’t have doubted, because right from the start I thought The Hall of Heroes was terrific, and I was happy with the different directions in which Mr. Miller took the story in this third and final book.  I was not expecting the Breen and the Kinshaya to wind up playing such a major role in a story that had, through the first two books, been very Klingon-centric.  But I loved how Mr. Miller was able to expand the scale of his story, bringing in a number of new threats and challenges for our heroes.  This didn’t feel like plot-driven stretching, these new developments flowed smoothly out of what had come before, unexpected but logical ripple effects from Korgh’s plots and schemes.

Book 2 ended with the twist regarding the Orion, Shift, and I loved how Shift became a major character here in book three.  One of the nice aspects of this story’s being told over three books is that Mr. Miller has had the time to flesh out lots of fascinating nooks and crannies … [continued]

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Star Trek: Prey Book 2: The Jackal’s Trick

I really loved Hell’s Heart, Book 1 in John Jackson Miller’s new Prey trilogy of Klingon-centric novels.  Continuing Pocket Books’ expanding post-Nemesis Star Trek saga, Prey sees the Federation-Klingon alliance frayed to the breaking point.  Discommendated Klingons have banded together, calling themselves the Unsung, to strike out at enemies across the Klingon empire.  They are led by the man they believe to be the Klingon warrior Kruge (who fought Kirk on the Genesis Planet in Star Trek III: The Search for Spock), apparently returned from the dead.  When Klingon nobles under Starfleet protection are murdered by the Unsung, Starfleet is embarrassed and made the target of rage from other Klingons across the Empire.  Facing attacks from the Unsung and a loss of trust from the rest of the Klingon Empire, Captain Picard and Admiral Riker race to track down the villains, but they are continually several steps behind a centuries-long plot for revenge hatched by the Klingon Korgh, the heir of Kruge.


I thoroughly enjoyed Book 1 of Prey, and Book 2 is just as enjoyable.  Mr. Miller orchestrates a vast story with multiple characters and multiple locations across the Alpha and Beta Quadrant.  Despite the book’s constant shifts around the galaxy, Mr. Miller’s story is always easy to follow and a joy to watch unfold.  Mr. Miller allows us to understand and follow Korgh’s complicated plot — as well as the plotting of other characters with competing interests as the story’s scale grows ever more vast — while still being able to enjoy a variety of twists and surprises as the book progresses.

For me, a highlight of the book was a spectacular action sequence, about half-way through the novel, as the Unsung attack Riker’s interstellar peace conference on the Klingon planet H’atoria.  Mr. Miller sets up the scene beautifully, describing a wonderfully unique location: the lava-surrounded island the Klingons calls “Spirit’s Forge.”  Mr. Miller cuts rapidly between multiple locations and multiple characters, allowing us to follow every step of the complex engagement as it unfolds.  This is riveting, page-turning writing, as exciting as the best action sequence in any filmed Trek adventure.

The novel’s climax depicts another complex, riveting space-battle as multiple factions (including the Unsung, loyal Klingon Defense Force ships, the team of con-artists manipulating events, the small ship crewed by Geordi La Forge and Lt. Tuvok chasing those manipulators, The Enterprise, The Titan, and Typhon Pact forces) all converge on a nebula known as Cragg’s Cloud and duke it out.  Mr. Miller juggles this huge assemblage of players with ease, rapidly cutting back-and-forth to allow the reader to follow multiple characters’ viewpoints as the chaos erupts.  It’s masterful story-telling and a tremendous climax to this … [continued]

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Star Trek: Prey Book 1: Hell’s Heart

I must confess that I didn’t start reading the first book in John Jackson Miller’s new trilogy of Star Trek novels, Prey, with great enthusiasm.  Mr. Miller has written some wonderful Star Wars novels, and while I enjoyed his first Star Trek adventure, the short e-book Absent Enemies, I didn’t at all care for Mr. Miller’s first full-length Trek novel, Takedown.  As for Prey, his new trilogy, I wasn’t enamored by the plot description that I’d read on-line — a rift in the Federation-Klingon peace felt like a step backwards for a Trek story, rather than a step forwards — and the cover to book 2 in the trilogy looked ridiculous, one of the worst covers I’ve seen to a Trek book in years.  With the previous Star Trek 50th anniversary trilogy, Legacies, having left me somewhat cold, I wasn’t expecting greatness for this second 50th anniversary trilogy of novels.

And so I must stand and doff my chapeau to John Jackson Miller, who blew me away with Prey book 1: Hell’s Heart, a magnificent Star Trek adventure that I tore through with enormous enjoyment.  This is a terrific novel, one of the best Trek books of the past few years.


Legacies attempted to connect several different generations of Star Trek adventures.  (In that case, it was the era of “Number One,” who was first officer of the Enterprise under Captain Christopher Pike, with the later era of Kirk and Spock.)  Prey is structured with a similar goal in mind, one achieved far more successfully.  Mr. Miller’s story deftly weaves together multiple characters and story-threads from across a hundred years of Trek history.  Set in the post-Nemesis 24th century that Pocket Books’ interconnected series of Trek novels have been so skillfully crafting, Prey explores what happened to the house of the Klingon General, Kruge, who was played so memorably by Christopher Lloyd in Star Trek III: The Search for Spock.  In this novel we meet Korgh, a Klingon who, while not Kruge’s son by birth, considered himself the general’s son and heir.  After Kruge’s death on the Genesis Planet, Korgh found his dreams for the future shattered.  For a hundred years, Korgh nursed his hatred for the Federation and developed a far-reaching plan to shatter the peace treaty that was forged in Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country and that, by the TNG era, had stood for almost a century.

As the book opens, while the newly-promoted Admiral Riker attempts to prepare for an important peace conference between the Khitomer Accord powers (the Federation, the Klingon Empire, and the Ferengi Alliance) and the Typhon Pact, Captain Picard and the USS Enterprise escorts a group of elderly Klingon … [continued]

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Paramount/CBS Succeed in Squashing Star Trek Fans

January 30th, 2017


When I first read the headlines last week that Paramount/CBS had settled their lawsuit with the Star Trek fan film project, Axanar, I rejoiced.  But I quickly realized that, no matter how it’s being spun, the settlement was a big defeat for Axanar and all the makers of Star Trek fan films.

A quick history: the past decade has seen an explosion of wonderful Star Trek fan films, made by passionate Trek fans for other Trek fans.  One of the first and best was Star Trek: New Voyages (who for a period retitled themselves Star Trek: Phase II, after the aborted sequel Trek TV series that eventually morphed into Star Trek: The Motion Picture).  This group, headed up by James Cawley, set out to create the never-made fourth season of the original Star Trek series.  Over the past decade they released ten full-length episodes, with near-perfect recreations of the sets, costumes, and props used in the Original Series and the still-unbelievable involvement of original Trek cast-members Walter Koenig and George Takei as well as many other alumni of the various official Trek shows.  (I have reviewed a number of their terrific episodes, most recently the Klingon-centric Kitumba; Mind-Sifter, an adaptation of a famous Star Trek novella; and The Holiest Thing, which depicted Kirk’s first meeting with Dr. Carol Marcus.)  A competing group with a similar goal to create new Original Series episodes soon emerged, Star Trek Continues, headed up by Vic Mignogna.  This group has released seven full-length episodes, which also boast an extraordinarily impressive degree of accuracy to the look and feel of “official” Classic Trek episodes.  (I have reviewed all seven episodes of Star Trek Continues, including Pilgrim of Eternity, a sequel to the Original Series episode Who Mourns for Adonais?; the Orion-centric Lolani; and the recent Embracing the Winds.)  Then there is Tim Russ (Tuvok from Star Trek Voyager)’s feature-length movie Star Trek: Of Gods and Men, which included a number of actors from the various Trek series reprising their roles (Tim Russ himself, Walter Koenig, Nichelle Nichols, Alan Ruck, Grace Lee Whitney) or playing new characters (J.G. Hertzler, Garrett Wang, Ethan Phillips, Cirroc Lofton, Chase Masterson, and Gary Graham).  (Click here for my review.)  Mr. Russ recently got back into the Trek game with his attempt to launch a new, independently-produced Trek web-series Star Trek Renegades (click here for my review of their Renegades pilot).  There are plenty more Star Trek fan film projects that are much-loved on-line but that I haven’t seen, such as Hidden Frontier, Farragut, and many others.

Then, in 2014, Alec Peters and a talented group of collaborators released … [continued]

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The Top Twenty Movies of 2016 — Part Three!

My list of my Top Twenty Movies of 2016 continues!  Click here for numbers twenty through sixteen and click here for numbers fifteen through eleven.


10. Sing Street Writer/director John Carney, who wrote and directed the marvelous film Once (which was then made into a Broadway show) returns with another fantastically entertaining music-centered film.  Set in Dublin in 1985, the film tells the story of a lonely boy, Conor, whose getting-divorced parents have moved him into a free Catholic school.  To impress a girl, Raphina, who he meets, Conor tells her that he’s in a band, and asks her to appear in one of their music videos.  When she agrees, Conor must now actually form the band he claimed already existed!  What follows is a lovely coming-of-age story as Conor tries to figure out just who he is and what he wants to be, all the while struggling with a group of newfound musician friends to create music that is actually good.  The romance is sweet, and I adored the film’s focus on the relationship between Conor and his older brother, Brendan.  La La Land has gotten all the attention this year, and I really enjoyed that film, but Sing Street is, I think, the superior musical film.  The music is great, and all of the kids are wonderful and instantly lovable.  It’s hard not to fall in love with these kids and this small-scale story about growing up and creating art.  I certainly did.


9. Star Trek Beyond This rebooted Star Trek movie series (begun by J.J. Abrams who directed the first two films) hasn’t ever quite gelled into feeling like true Star Trek for me, but damn if Star Trek Beyond doesn’t come close.  Star Trek Beyond is not a perfect movie, but it is nevertheless a very entertaining new Star Trek adventure that is fun and exciting, with a strong focus on character and a firm grip on Gene Roddenberry’s optimistic vision of the future.  New Trek director Justin Lin, working from a script by Simon Pegg (who, of course, also plays Scotty in the film) and Doug Jung succeeded in crafting a terrific new Star Trek stand-alone adventure.  Set several years into the Enterprise’s five-year mission, Beyond was made to feel like a big-screen version of a classic Star Trek episode.  I love that approach, and there is a lot about Star Trek Beyond to enjoy.  It’s fun to get a brand-new story, set on a never-before-seen planet and with lots of never-before-seen aliens.  There’s a wonderful focus on the Enterprise crew, with every member of the ensemble getting fun stuff to do.  In particular, after two movies that emphasized the Kirk-Spock … [continued]

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News Around the Net

Coming out of the spectacular Rogue One, my excitement for all things Star Wars is riding high.  Coming to fan the flames is this awesome new teaser for the remaining episodes of Season Three of Star Wars: Rebels:

Obviously the huge bombshell is the first animated appearance of Alec Guinness-era Obi-Wan Kenobi, and the tease of a long-awaited rematch with Darth Maul.  But there’s a lot more than just that to get excited by.  There’s Saw Gerrera from Rogue One, with Forest Whitaker returning to voice the character, a super-cool crossover.  We see hints of what looks like an enormous space battle between the Rebel Alliance and a group of Imperial Star Destroyers.  There’s Mon Mothma and Bail Organa and General Dodonna, and I think we get a glimpse of Wedge Antilles, too!  I’m excited by the idea that these upcoming episodes will start to show us the assembly of the Rebel Alliance that we know from the Original Trilogy, and now also from Rogue One.  It’s also cool to see more of Admiral Thrawn.  (Is the show going to allow Thrawn to be defeated to easily?  That’d be a letdown. But, on the other hand, I wonder… the opening crawl of the original Star Wars describes what we just saw in Rogue One as the Battle of Scariff as the Rebels’ “first victory” against the Empire.  Is it possible that Rebels is going to show the Rebels LOSING this fight, and Thrawn coming out on top?  That would be very interesting, and very cool…)

I am super-excited by this first full trailer for Spider-Man: Homecoming:

Holy cow that is a spectacular trailer.  The reinvention of Spider-Man seen in Captain America: Civil War was phenomenal, and this strong trailer only makes me even more excited for Tom Holland to star in the role in his own film.  I love how gently this trailer reminds you that Spidey is now firmly in the Marvel cinematic universe — doesn’t it just feel so perfect?  I love the Avengers bank-robbers and WOW that show of Spidey and Iron Man together at the end was incredible.  I loved the way the Civil War writers crafted the relationship between Robert Downey Jr.’s Tony Stark and Tom Holland’s young peter Parker, and I am so excited that this upcoming Spidey film will explore that dynamic further.  It is super-cool that they got Mr. Downey Jr. to appear in this film.  Also — is that Ganke as Peter’s best friend??  Ganke is a character created by Brian Michael Bendis as the best-friend of Mr. Bendis’ “ultimate” Spider-Man, Miles Morales.  Have they co-opted the Ganke character to be Peter Parker’s best friend for this movie?  I’m beyond excited … [continued]

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Star Trek Legacies: Purgatory’s Key

The Star Trek 50th anniversary trilogy of novels, titled Legacies, comes to a close with Dayton Ward & Kevin Dilmore’s Purgatory’s Key.  (Click here for my review of book one: Captain to Captain, and click here for my review of book two: Best Defense.)


Eighteen years previously, when Captain Robert April commanded the USS Enterprise, he and the young Lieutenant Una (who would eventually become Captain Christopher Pike’s first officer on the Enterprise, as seen in the original Star Trek pilot “The Cage”) came into possession of a powerful piece of alien technology: a “transfer key” that held the secret of travel to another universe.  To prevent the key from falling into the wrong hands, April and Una hid the key on board the Enterprise, and passed the secret on to the Enterprise’s subsequent captains.  But now, Una has stolen the key and used it to travel to that other universe in an attempt to rescue her crew-mates who were banished there eighteen years before.  At the time she believed them lost forever, but now Una believes she can find and recover them.  Captain Kirk agreed to return to the point of transition between the two universes, the planet Usilde, after a set period of time to again use the transfer key to hopefully allow Una and her crew-mates to return home to their universe.  But Usilde is now a planet in disputed territory between the Federation and the Klingons.  Kirk decides to risk upset to the delicate Klingon-Federation negotiations and take the Enterprise into disputed space.  But with the Enterprise badly damaged following their battle with the Romulans in Best Defense, and multiple Klingon adversaries with competing agendas lying in wait for them, the mission seems hopeless.

Purgatory’s Key is a strong conclusion to the Legacies trilogy, and I think it’s the strongest of the three books.  The novel is jam-packed with plot and incident, keeping the story a very fast-paced, brisk read.  I think this book finds the best balance of the books in this trilogy between telling a plot-heavy story while also taking the time to explore all of the many characters involved in the tale.

This trilogy has explored a rich time-period in Trek history, following the creation of the Organian Peace Treaty in the Original Series episode “Errand of Mercy.”  In that episode, we saw the Federation and the Klingon Empire on the verse of war, but the deus ex machina of the powerful alien Organians put a stop to hostilities.  The resolution of that episode presented all sorts of questions for Trek fans.  How did the Organians ensure enforcement of the cease-fire?  How powerful were those aliens?  Could they truly … [continued]

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Star Trek Legacies: Best Defense

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]

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Star Trek Legacies: Captain to Captain

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]

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Josh Reviews For The Love of Spock

October 28th, 2016
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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]

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News Around the Net

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]

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Star Trek Titan: Sight Unseen

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]

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Star Trek: Force and Motion

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]

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Star Trek: Armageddon’s Arrow

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]

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Star Trek Turns Fifty and Other News Around the Net!

September 12th, 2016

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]

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Star Trek Continues: Embracing The Winds

September 9th, 2016

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]

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Star Trek: Takedown

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]

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Star Trek: Absent Enemies

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 – Unspoken Truth , Troublesome MindsCast No ShadowExcelsior: Forged in FireAllegiance in Exile

Star Trek: [continued]

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Star Trek: Typhon Pact: The Struggle Within

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]

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Josh Reviews Star Trek Beyond!

July 25th, 2016

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]

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50 Years of Star Trek: Josh’s Favorite Star Trek Music!

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:

Disc One:

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]

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Star Trek Lives! Josh Reviews Episode 6 of Star Trek Continues: “Come Not Between the Dragons”

June 15th, 2016

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]

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50 Years of Star Trek Music: Josh Enjoys Star Trek: The Ultimate Voyage Concert Tour CD!

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

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?

Disc One:

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]

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Star Trek…Lives?

May 23rd, 2016

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]

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Star Trek: Ascendance

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]

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News Around the Net!

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]

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The Best Not Quite “To Be Continued” Endings of Franchise Films

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]

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The Star Trek Saga Continues with Star Trek: Sacraments of Fire

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]

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Dear Paramount/CBS and Disney/Lucasfilm, Why Won’t You Let Me Give You My Money?

March 25th, 2016

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]

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Can Nicholas Meyer Save Star Trek a Second Time? And News Around the Net!

February 29th, 2016
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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]

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Star Trek Lives! Josh Reviews “The Holiest Thing”


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]

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Analyzing Our First Look at Star Trek Beyond

December 25th, 2015

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]

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News Around the Net!

#BringBackMST3k!!  Joel Hodgman has launched a kickstarter to bring back Mystery Science Theatre 3000!!  I’ve backed the project, I hope you all will too!

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]

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Josh Reviews Tim Russ and Walter Koenig’s Return to the Star Trek Universe — Star Trek: Renegades

October 16th, 2015

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]

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Star Trek Continues: “Divided We Stand”

October 5th, 2015

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:

Star Trek Continues E05 “Divided We Stand” from Star Trek Continues on Vimeo.

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]

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News Around the Net

Prepare to lose the rest of your day.  Mad Men screencaps with Parks and Rec quotes.  You’re welcome.

Who said it: Donald Trump or Lucille Bluth?

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]

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News Around the Net!

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.

(Click here for a wonderfully in-depth analysis of the SPECTRE trailer.)

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]

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Star Trek Continues! “The White Iris”

June 22nd, 2015

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]

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Star Trek Deep Space Nine: The Missing

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]

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Don’t tease me, universe!  I desperately want this news of a possible resurrection of The X-Files to be true!!

The X-Files

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.

Keeping us on a similar topic, I loved this A.V. Club look back at Newsradio, listing their ten favorite episodes of that late great series.

I love listening to comic book author Brian Michael Bendis talk, usually on the wonderful wordballoon podcast.  His recent appearance on the Nerdist podcast is hugely entertaining.

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.

Kevin Smith is making Mallrats 2…?  Okay…  … [continued]

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“Of my friend, I can only say this…”

February 28th, 2015
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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]

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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 EluriaMarvel Comics’ Adaptation of The GunslingerThe 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.

This concept art for an Alien sequel, developed by Neill Blomkamp, is ludicrously tantalizing.  Ripley and Hicks together again??  … [continued]

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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]

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Star Trek Section 31: Disavowed

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]

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Star Trek Lives! Josh Reviews Mind-Sifter

December 5th, 2014


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]

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The Force Awakens and News Around the Net!

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]

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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]

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News Around the Net!

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]

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Star Trek The Lost Era: One Constant Star

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]

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Star Trek The Lost Era: The Buried Age

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]

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Josh Sees a Rough Cut of Star Trek Phase II: The Holiest Thing

August 27th, 2014

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]

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“About the Only Thing We Were Doing to Impress the Klingons was Dying Well” — Star Trek: Prelude to Axanar

August 6th, 2014

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]

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Star Trek: The Light Fantastic

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]

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Star Trek Enterprise: Rise of the Federation: Tower of Babel

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]

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Star Trek Continues! “The Fairest of Them All”

June 27th, 2014

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:

Star Trek Continues E03 “Fairest of Them All” from Star Trek Continues on Vimeo.

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]

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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.

This collection of Lucas Lee’s fake movie posters from Scott Pilgrim vs. the World really made me laugh.  I love that movie!!

This is a great, great list of the five best episodes of Mystery Science Theatre 3000.

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.”

The Wachowskis are working on a ten-episode sci-fi show for Netflix, and the co-showrunner will be Babylon 5 creator J. Michael Straczynski?  OK, I am interested.

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]

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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]

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Star Trek Voyager: Protectors

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]

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Star Trek Voyager: The Eternal Tide

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]

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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.

Now, Brad Bird working to develop The Incredibles 2?  That is a sequel I can get behind!!!  I would love to see that come together.

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]

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Star Trek Voyager: Children of the Storm

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]

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Star Trek Voyager: Unworthy

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]

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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]

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Star Trek: Peaceable Kingdoms

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]

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Star Trek Lives Part 1: “Lolani”

February 12th, 2014

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]

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Star Trek: The Poisoned Chalice

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 Godsclick 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]

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Josh Reviews the Newly-Released Complete Soundtrack of Star Trek: Nemesis

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]

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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]

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Star Trek Voyager: Acts of Contrition

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:  UnworthyChildren of the StormThe 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]

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Star Trek Phase II: Kitumba

January 6th, 2014

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]

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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. 

Amen.  (If you’re interested, here’s my review of Star Trek Into Darkness.)

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]

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Star Trek: A Ceremony of Losses

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]

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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]

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Star Trek: The Crimson Shadow

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]

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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]

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Star Trek Titan: Fallen Gods

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]

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Josh Relishes Listening to the New Collection of Music From Star Trek: Deep Space Nine!

October 23rd, 2013

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]

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Star Trek: The Next Generation — Soundtrack Collection!

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]

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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]

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Josh Reviews the Newly-Released Complete Soundtrack of Star Trek: Insurrection

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]

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From the DVD Shelf: Star Trek: Insurrection

September 27th, 2013
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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 adventu