Utterly Star Trek Review

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Star Trek: The Next Generation 1.16 (When the bough breaks)

Wesley and another annoying Enterprise child.

Cast:
Philip Waller (Harry Bernard)
Ivy Bethune(Duana)
Jerry Hardin(Radue)
Brenda Strong(Rashella)
Paul Lambert(Melian)
Amy Wheaton (Tara)
Jeremy Wheaton (Mason)
Jandi Swanson (Katie)
McKenzie Westmore (Rose)
Dan Mason(Accolan)
Vanessa Bova (Alexandra)
Jessica Bova (Alexandra)
Michele Marsh (Leda)
Connie Danese(Toya)
Dierk Torsek (Dr. Bernard)

Writer: Hannah Shearer

This is another extremely clunky episode from this very very average first season of The Next Generation.  A planet called Aldea (which is a myth rather like Atlantis) appears out of nowhere – it seems that they have hidden behind a cloaking device.  Now, they are ready to be found as they cannot reproduce anymore and they want the help of the Federation.

Rather than asking for medical help though, they decide to just take a selection of children from the Enterprise, including Wesley Crusher.  They are not cruel to them (apart from the fact of their kidnap) and they want to nurture their latent talents (one finds out that he has a gift for art, another for music and so on).

The problem with this episode is that there is no real threat.  The Aldeans are not nasty people, just deperate, and you know that at some point everything would get sorted out.  So when you watch this you don’t really care because you know exactly what is going to happen.  Even when they throw the Enterprise across space as a minor demonstration of their power you know by the end everything will be okay.

Add to all of that, you have “The Custodian”.  The whole planet is run by a computer, so the citizens of the planet don’t have to do anything.  It is not all powerful and it does not rule them, so it is not quite a crappy classic Trek supercomputer.  And by the end we find out that the shield that has protected them is what is causing them to be sterile, and the Enterprise children will also be unable to reproduce. 

Also, this is the first of a handful of appearances by Jerry Hardin (Deep Throat in various X-Filesepisodes) and I also noticed for the first time that two of the other Enterprise kids are played by the younger siblings of Wil Wheaton (Wesley Crusher).  None of this makes the episode any better though!

Everything gets talked down nicely and the Enterprise gets their kids back, including Wesley.

Very poor and rather dull.

Crew Deaths: 0
Total Crew Deaths So Far: 1
Score: 3/10

July 25, 2008 Posted by | cloaking devices, disease/sickness, super computers, thrown through space | | 1 Comment

Star Trek: The Motion Picture

Cast:
William Shatner (Kirk)
Leonard Nimoy (Spock)
DeForest Kelley (McCoy)
James Doohan (Scotty)  
George Takei (Sulu)
Majel Barrett (Chapel)
Walter Koenig (Checkov)
Nichelle Nichols (Uhura)
Persis Khambatta (Ilia)
Stephen Collins (Decker)
Grace Lee Whitney (Rand)

Writers: Gene Roddenberry, Alan Dean Foster, Harold Livingston

A great cloud is heading for Earth.  It has already destroyed three Klingon vessels that investigated it, and a Federation Space Station that happened to be in the way.  The only ship in range is the Enterprise, nearing the completion of a refit but not quite ready…

I think it’s fair ro say that this film is either a love it or hate it kind of film.  The people tht criticise it claim that it just doesn’t feel like Star Trek as we knew it, but I have to say that I disagree.  Although made ten years after the series was cancelled in 1969, I get the impression that it is meant to be set 2 and a half years after the five year mission ended, so about four to five years after the show.  The Enterprise has been gutted and rebuilt, and now hardly resembles the original, certainly internally, and the outside looks a lot more streamlined.  In fact, our first look at the scrubbed up Enterprise is that magnificent sequence where Scotty takes Kirk over to it via shuttle, as the transporters are not working.  You are teased with shots through the side of the space dock, but that first full head on shot is very emotional – no doubt partly due to Jerry Goldsmith’s amazing score.  This sequence alone tells you it’s Trek, but not quite as you know it.

Captain Decker is the new boss, but most of the rest of the crew (apart from McCoy and Spock) are doing their old jobs.  It was nice to see Janice Rand again, after she vanished half way through season one.  And I loved the fact that Kirk used the crises as an excuse to get out of his stuffy Admirals office at StarFleet and take command of a ship again.  You get the impression that he has been bored out of his mind these last two years or so.

The sets are okay – some of them are too recognisable as the sets that get reused for The Next Generation.  In particular, the Engineering set is very similar indeed, as is the basic look of the corridors.

The new characters – Decker and Ilia – work well, but their relationship is rather similar to that of RIker and Troi on The Next Generationbut there’s a good reason for that: when this film was being put together, it was actually the pilot episode of the new TV series, and as Nimoy didn’t want to appear, Decker was the new first officer and Ilia a navigator (Checkov seeming to havce moved to security).  There would have been a Vulcan science officer, Xon.

This is Star Trek done on a grand scale – for it to work it had to feel big, and it did.  Never has planet Earth felt like it was going to be destroyed in the series – in fact, we never visited 23rd Century Earth on the show, though we did visit the past on numerous occasions.  Some of the effects look excellent – for example the detail on Vulcan, and also the Golden Gate Bridge by StarFleet HQ.  All good stuff, and the sequences inside the cloud – everything looked enormous.  Some argue that this all went on for too long, that the sequences inside the cloud were boring.  I can see that point of view, but I don’t agree – they helped build the tension very well.

This is a very adult Trek – I don’t mean language and violence, I just mean in the seriousness of it.  There is very little humour in it – unlike the TV show and most of the other movies.  Again, this put a lot of people off, but I really like it.  Had all the films been this heavy, then it would have become boring, but this was pitched just right, for me anyway.

I also liked the ending, the revelation that is was an old Voyager probe that has been picked up by a race of computer beings, souped up, and helped on it’s way.  Some fans suggest that the sequence at the end is the start of the Borg, and whilst I would love to think that it true, it cannot be – the Borg did not know about us until much later, and has they been formed from a StarFleet commander and a drone with the memories of a navigator, they would have got here a lot quicker!

A couple of minor nigges: why did Kirk draft a retired McCoy back into the service?  He didn’t really need him as a Doctor (Chapel is now fully qualified) it just felt like he wanted to bring him along for tha sake of it!  And how come Spock was able to fix the Enterprise engines just like that when StarFleets finest couldn’t?

So, all in all, a really confident start to the series with great effects and a real sense of scale.  And, incidentally, the introduction of Jerry Goldsmith’s excellent theme that went on to be used in another three films and every episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation.

Crew Deaths: 4
Total Crew Deaths So Far: 56
Score: 8/10

May 28, 2008 Posted by | andorians, doubles or duplicates, exes, klingons, mind meld, set on earth, set on vulcan, space station, super computers, transporter problems, vulcans, wormhole | | 2 Comments

Star Trek 3.17 (That Which Survives)

Cast:
Kenneth Washington (John B. Watkins)
Brad Forrest (Ensign Wyatt)
Booker Bradshaw(Dr. M’Benga)
Naomi Pollack(Lt. Rahda)
Arthur Batanides(Lt. D’Amato)
Lee Meriwether(Losira)

Writers: John Meredyth Lucas, D.C. Fontana

Oh God.  Another really bad episode.  I almost can’t be bothered to go into detail, however…

Kirk, McCoy, Sulu and D’Amato beam down to investigate a very new planet.  The Enterprise is then thrown almost 1000 light years away from the planet.  Then a mysterious female appears to people both on the planet and on the Enterprise, and the result is the same on both: the person she picks on (male) dies.  First the transporter technician on the Enterprise, then D’Amato, then one of the engineering crew, then Sulu.  Luckily Kirk intervened when she went for Kirk so Sulu didn’t die, but the other three do.

The Enterprise heads back to the planet at maximum warp, lots of silly stuff happens (the ship is sabotaged to it won’t slow down and will warp itself into destruction, but as you can guess, they fix it before that happens).

This is another cheap episode.  As well as the Enterprise set, they use the standard soundstage of a crappy rocky bouldery planet (there is an awful moment in the early part of the episode when there is a quake, and clearly different bits of the set are put on a gimble, but they shake in different directions and it just looks highly shit.

Eventually, the crew on the planet go into a cave thing.  This happens far too far into the episode for you to really care – we are into wrist slitting territory here.  Even the sequence where Scotty has to repair the ship against terrible odds, you know that he is going to manage, there is no tension at all (despite that dreadful bit of reused incidental music that desperately tried to ramp up the nonexistent tension).

The only good thing about this episode is that, in terms of my crew death count, this episode is a veritable bloodbath!  Three whole members of the crew!  In fact, this season has been quite reserved about killing the crew – it was getting a bit silly at one point, even now Kirk has lost over ten percent of his crew in less than three years!

Oh, and for the record, the women who killed the crew were controlled by another super computer.  And the original inhabitants of the planet have all died of a disease. Another pair of cliches in a totally crappy episode.

PS The only good bit was the second and final appearance by Doctor M’benga. But that doesn’t make up for the rest of it.

Crew Deaths: 3
Total Crew Deaths So Far: 49
Score: 2/10

May 16, 2008 Posted by | disease/sickness, doctor m'benga, super computers, thrown through space | | Leave a comment

Star Trek 3.8 (For the world is hollow and I have touched the sky)

Cast:
Katherine Woodville(Natira)
Byron Morrow(Adm. Westervliet)

Writer: Hendrik Vollaerts

Oooh, within six weeks of the last one we have another asteroid heading for an inhabited planet!  Only this time it is hollow and people live inside the asteroid.  Oh, and McCoy has a terminal disease ( he has a year to live).

Now, I have no problem with the idea that a major character has a terminal illness.  The problem is that in this show you know that it is thrown in arbitrarily.  They will not deal with the consequences if the illness over many episodes: you know that McCoy will be cured by the end of the show.  Which eliminates any threat at all.

So Kirk, Spock and McCoy beam down to this asteroid (which is really a spaceship) and the people who live there don’t realise that is what it is.  Initially treated with suspicion, they are soon allowed to roam freely,  McCoy falls in love (very quickly indeed) with Natira, and admits that he has had a lonely life.  I suppose that it is nice that McCoy gets something to do, it is just that it all seems to spur of the moment, it doesn’t seem real that he would fall in love et al so quickly.  He decides to stay, even after Spock and Kirk are sentenced to death for entering the Oracle control room.

The main problem with this episode is that the planet appears to be run by a(nother) supercomputer called The Oracle.  The people have control devices placed inside them, and it seems that people are executed when they break the laws (although you get the impression that this doesn’t happen too often).  McCoy pleas for the lives of his friends, and they are allowed to leave, McCoy remains, even though the ship is on a collision course for another planet.  As he explains to Kirk, in a line I actually like, “I’m on a kind of collision course myself”.  He even agrees to have the control device in his body.

It plods on.  The end is nothing special, they stop the computer and fly the thing off course so there will be no collision.  McCoy gets his cure.

Crew Deaths: 0
Total Crew Deaths So Far: 45
Score: 6/10  

May 5, 2008 Posted by | asteroid, disease/sickness, saving a planet, super computers | | Leave a comment

Star Trek 2.24 (The Ultimate Computer)

Cast:
William Marshall (Dr. Richard Daystrom)
Barry Russo (Commodore Robert Wesley)

Writer: D.C. Fontana

On paper, this sounds like another rubbish episode.  Doctor Richard Daystrom is the person who invented the computer systems that starships are based on now.  His latest invention is the M5 computer – a machine that is capable if running a Starship with a minimum crew.  It eventually goes slightly insane and attacks an ore freighter and ultimately other ships.

Why do I like this?  Well, there is quite a nice and intelligent conversation at the start.  Kirks initial reaction is that he thinks it’s a bad idea and doesn’t trust it, but after that he has a chat with McCoy about why he doesn’t like it, and asks his friend if it could simply be that a machine that leaves a Starship Captain redundant gives him a lack of prestige.  It is a nice moment, and makes the whole set up seem less hokey.

The computer thinks like a person because it has been programmed to mimick the human mind – sadly, Daystrom has used his own mind and this is the fatal flaw.  He made a breakthough that changed the face of computing in his mid twenties (ah, got it, he’s a nerd!) and had nowhere to go after that.  Now in his mid forties he wants something that is a revolutionary, and this is supposed to be it.

There is just enough of a glimpse into Daystrom’s background (he felt like he was laughed at behind his back when he was a young genius, he also believes in God, which is a rare admission in Trek) to make his breakdown and fall from grace realistic.  The M5 kills lots of people aboard the four ships sent to take him out, eventually Daystrom gets through to the machine and convinces it that it is guilty of murder, a sin.  So it shuts down, and everyone survives.

The action is tense, and this one is a lot of fun.

Crew Deaths: 1
Total Crew Deaths So Far: 43
Score: 7/10

April 21, 2008 Posted by | inside another stafleet ship, ship/station taken over, super computers | | 1 Comment

Star Trek 2.5 (The Apple)

Cast:

Shari Nims (Sayana)
David Soul (Makora)
Celeste Yarnell (Yeoman Martha Landon)
Keith Andes (Akuta)
Mal Friedman (Hendorff)
Jerry Daniels (Marple)
Writers: Gene L. Coon, Max Ehrlich
This is the kind of episode that I dread when watching a large number of original Star Trek episodes. Indeed, my dread of stuff like this actually account for why I it is taking me so long to get through these original episodes.
The crew of the Enterprise encounter a giant paper mache dragons head thing that contains a massive computer thing that is running the lives of all of the people on the planet (not that there are many, and no children). The computer stops the population from shagging and has put crap antenna in their heads that look rather like twisted bits of tin foil glued just behind their ears.
Some of the scripting is just awful as well. Before the opening titles, a member of the crew is killed by a plant that shoots poisanous spikes. So rather than beam back up to the ship and continue in some form of environment suit, they carry on and it is actually Kirk who nearly falls foul of them again. Add to these rocks that are chemically so unstable that treading on them makes them explode like a land mine and you are somewhere unfit for humans. After the death of a second crewmember (who trod on the wrong type of rock) Spock says that Kirk has behaved correctly and there was nothing else he could have done. Yeah, right.
Add to it the “it came from Russia” gag that is already wearing thin and the fact that the race on the planet learn about physical contact from watching Checkov snog some Yeoman… just skip this one. It’s crap.
Crew Deaths: 2
Total Crew Deaths So Far: 32
Score: 3/10

February 12, 2008 Posted by | primitive cultures, super computers | | 1 Comment

Star Trek 2.3 (The Changeling)

Cast:

Barbara Gates (Astrochemist)
Blaisdell Makee (Lt. Singh)
Arnold Lessing (Lt. Carlisle)
Meade Martin (Engineer)
Arnold Lessing (voice of Security Guard)
Writer: John Meredyth Lucas
On paper, this episode does not look all that good. A machine that left Earth hundreds of years ago is on its way back, looking for it’s creator. Now, from that bried synopsis you might think that I am talking about Star Trek: The Motion Picture but obviously I am not. The computer (Nomad) has a mission to destroy anything that is not perfection, (including the Enterprise) although, unlike V’ger in the aforementioned film, it does not wish to kind it’s creator.
Another similarity is the mind meld that Spock performs on the machine (though how a Vulcan can meld with this I am not sure!) And we finally get some crew deaths in this episode – I am not bloodthirsty but we have not had a crew death in many episodes and in this one four rouge-cladded extras are sent to their graves!
Although in the end Kirk talks the machine into suicide, I don’t dislike this episode as much as I should. The main part that I hate is the fact that Uhura seems to have her brain totally erased, but five minutes later she is reading basic english and within a week she will be fit to return to duty! So that means that StarFleet Academy should be able to turn out officers in the same amount of time. Also, if her brain was erased then surely she is no longer the Uhura that we know? I am assuming that the brain erasure is not as complete as made out in the episode (she tries to speak Swahili at one point, suggesting that not everything is gone) but that part is still nonsense!
Crew Deaths: 4
Total Crew Deaths So Far: 30
Score: 7/10

February 10, 2008 Posted by | super computers | | Leave a comment

Star Trek 1.23 (A Taste of Armageddon)

First Aired: February 23, 1967

Cast:
David Opatoshu (Anan 7)
Gene Lyons (Ambassador Robert Fox)
Miko Mayama (Yeoman Tamura)
Sean Kenney (Lt. DePaul)
Robert Sampson (Sar 6)
Writers: Gene L. Coon & Robert Hamner

This episode starts with something that I have in my head as a bit of a Star Trek cliche – the overbearing official that demands that whatever he says goes, something that is backed by law, usually despite the fact that he is leaving someone to die or putting the ship in grave danger. In fact, I am sure there has been another but I wasn’t thinking about it at the time. This is the second story strand, and it is utterly annoying.

The first strand is that a war is being fought, but there is now a kind of gentlemans agreement not to send actual missiles, just that when the computer calculates that there would have been a hit, the number of people that would have died have to step into disintegration booths and die for real. The opening scene where the city is under “attack” is quite good, especially with Kirk trying to work out what the hell is going on and why there are no explosions.

Then of course the Enterprise is “destroyed” and the crew have 24 hours to report to the planet to be disintegrated. They, naturally, don’t.
The only bad thing is that you know by the end that Kirk will have saved the day and the suicide ritual will be a thing of the past. So the end of the episode is a little predictable.
It’s okay, but it isn’t great.
Crew Deaths: 0
Total Crew Deaths So Far: 25
Score: 6/10

September 2, 2007 Posted by | super computers | | Leave a comment

Star Trek 1.21 (Return of the Archons)

First Aired: February 9, 1967

Cast:
Ralph Maurer (Bilar)
Christopher Held (Crewman Lindstrom)
Morgan Farley (Hacom)
Charles Macaulay (Landru)
Sid Haig (First Lawgiver)
Brioni Farrell (Tula)
Torin Thatcher (Marplon)
Harry Townes (Reger)
Writer: Boris Sobelman
The episode starts with an officer called O’Neil running away from what looks like a pair of Ori from Stargate SG1. I checked, but I had indeed put the correct disc in.
It was a bad start. The planet looks rather like Earth from the past, so the main cast get to wear historical Earth costumes and walk around what looks like the same back lot that Miri was filmed in. Then everyone starts banging on about The Red Hour. Which is at exactly six o’clock, and we see the clock. So they even have the same clocks as we do, and presumably 24 hour days.
I can remember most episodes of the classic Star Trek series. Yet somehow, this one had vanished into the murky recesses of my brain. (I read the blurb on the sleeve notes, and that really didn’t help either. I had a thought in my mind that it might be the Fizzbin episode, but it wasn’t). Now they are going on about Landru all the time. I think it’s coming back to me – this is the first episode about a crappy supercomputer.
The hooded guys (The Ori-alike) speak with echoey voices likes computers. They kill people. They keep going on about Landru. It is starting to piss me off.
I really struggled with this. I kept losing interest (oh the dangers of having an internet connection nearby when watching a crap episode) and had to start again three times! (I only bothered because I didn’t want to miss any crew deaths. Not that there were any in the first half!)
Well, nearly two hours later (what with the rewatches) yes it turned out to be a shitty computer. This is one of the worst pieces of crap that I have watched so far!
Crew Deaths: 0
Total Crew Deaths So Far: 25
Score: 3/10

August 31, 2007 Posted by | super computers | | 1 Comment