Tag Archives: Sci Fi

A Second Year of Watching Star Trek (Sort Of)

Two years ago, I realized that if I watched an episode a day, I could get through all the many Star Trek series in two years, and decided to try it. Grad school and life continued to happen, so I didn’t get anywhere close to an episode a day, but in that first year I got through the whole original series, read a few things, went to a convention, and generally had a great time. I thought it would be reasonable to watch all of The Next Generation in 2017, and maybe do some more cons or events, but haaaaa, I didn’t. I got halfway through TNG season one and every month swore up and down that I’d get started again, and now it’s 2018 and I haven’t.

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Instead, I’ve been reading and playing games and watching documentaries and all kinds of other peripheral things. You can tell from the kinds of monthly posts I’ve been putting up:

 

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Look at this stinkin’ cute Q-Pop Spock

My favorite post from last year was Data, Spock, and Star Trek Emotions, and that also began as a response to a Trek-related nonfiction book. Plus I’ve been reading original-series cast memoirs and funny books (Star Trek Cats) and buying merch when I can. And, if I’m honest… I’ve still been generally having a great time. There are advantages to being in a huge fandom, and one is all the stuff you can do besides just watch the same thing over and over. I loved Trek novels when I was a kid, but it had probably been a decade since I’d read any, and this is the first time I’ve really branched out into the comic books.

 

I talked about my favorite comic books in the “Where can I get more episodes” and “comic book crossovers” posts above, and Killing Time is definitely a new favorite novel, but I also started Diane Duane’s Rihannsu series about the Romulans and am loving not only the Romulans (my favorite Trek race) but also the sense of strangeness and mundanity she gives to Starfleet. It’s like a more-realistic version of the original series and it’s great. Not to mention the Vulcan travel guide, which I reviewed on my book review blog and am still trying to convince other fans to read because it’s amazing.

Anyway, I’m happy to have read all the books I got through last year, but I miss the actual show and I still want to see everything. I’ve seen precious little of the later series, to be such a Trekkie. 2018 is, once again, the year of TNG! Wish me luck!

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Really Strange New Worlds: Star Trek Comic Book Crossovers

Most of the time, crossovers between fictional properties are the stuff of fanfiction. In comics, though, they’re a longstanding tradition. In some cases, like with Star Trekthere are comics based on a TV show or movie, and the medium allows for some interesting mashups we’d never get to see otherwise. These can be a little tricky to find or hear about, but Star Trek has five that I know of, ranging from natural teamups to more unexpected combinations:

  1. Star Trek: The Next Generation / Doctor Who: Assimilation2 by Scott and David Tipton – This 2012 crossover comes in two collected volumes, although the second is a little harder to come by. It’s probably the most natural combination on this list, being two of the most famous sci-fi TV shows ever, and seeing as how the Doctor can appear pretty much anywhere and have it pretty much make sense. The dialogue is in character and the art actually looks like the people, plus I love that they worked in a Tom Baker/TOS crossover flashback and how the art changed for the “past.” I haven’t been able to read the second volume, though, so I can’t say how it works as a whole story.
  2. Star Trek/Green Lantern: The Spectrum War by Mike Johnson – Six issues, collected in one volume in 2016. MY FAVORITE of all five, because it’s not just an interesting crossover, it’s a fantastic book. I expected the usual thing where everyone misunderstood each other and Hal punched the Enterprise or whatever, but it’s more thoughtful than that. It starts simple and slowly adds characters so you can appreciate the different dynamics involved. You get to see the Trek characters with rings, of course, and it never gets hung up on how “unlikely” it is or sucks up time with characters demanding explanations, it just happens and tells a whole story. It goes big stakes, but simple plot, which is ideal for a limited-time thing like this, BUT it actually doesn’t reset to normal at the end, it starts its own continuity! I haven’t read the second volume yet, it only came out in September.
  3. Star Trek/Legion of Superheroes by Chris Roberson – Six issues, collected in one volume in 2013. I’m a little disappointed in this one, because it could’ve been a really interesting exercise. Both stories are about hopeful, technological futures driven by humanism. Plus it puts both sets of heroes into a universe new to both of them, a creative idea that works really well here, but there’s no depth to the character interactions. And Kirk is gross to Shadow Lass, which is not cool at all. They do the usual reset to status quo at the end.
  4. Star Trek/Planet of the Apes: The Primate Directive by Scott and David Tipton –  This one is a five-issue volume from 2015, and it starts off great. The Tiptons do a great job of creating a TOS-episode atmosphere — after all, discovering incredibly Earthlike planets with slightly different development is par for the course in TOS. Unfortunately it spends a lot of time on buildup and then just fizzles out into nothing (although I did like the little twist at the end). This is the comic that provided this post’s entirely appropriate featured image.
  5. Planet X by Michael Jan Friedman – The oldest and perhaps oddest of the bunch, this is a 1998 novel crossing Next Generation with the X-Men. I’m including it here not only because it started my childhood obsession with the X-Men and later love of comics, but also because it follows on early TOS/ and TNG/X-Men one-shot comics, which I haven’t been able to purchase as yet. It’s kind of a boring book re-reading it now, but I loved it back in the day, and it avoids all the comic book problems of not enough characterization and no continuity or lasting effects. So, it’s worth a go for novelty alone.

Did I miss any? And which unread items are worth pursuing? Info-share in the comments.

Star Trek: The Next Generation, First Impressions

Author’s Note: I watched all the original-cast movies with gusto, but have nothing to add. I suggest this series of articles on EW for insightful commentary on each one.

I love Star Trek: The Next Generation almost as much as the original series, but I’m much less familiar with it. I’ve seen seasons in bits and pieces, mostly when visiting family members who had cable when I was younger — some big swathes of episodes, some random ones here and there. I’ve just started watching the series from start to finish as part of my grand Star Trek watchthrough, and it’s cool to be coming to it straight off the original series. Here are my first impressions of Encounter at Farpoint, informed by memories of the rest of the show.

  • It’s awful. Painfully eager. The cast members hadn’t yet found depths for their characters, and their reactions are comically intense. But trying too hard is, perhaps, better than just being bad, or going off on the wrong track entirely. I do like the idea of having a new crew starting on a new mission, unknown to each other as well as the audience.
  • farpoint_hd_469Those long, lingering shots on their diversity — Vulcan down in engineering, Klingon on the bridge, female security chief. The “no one” replacing “no man” in the opening monologue. A scene describing Geordi’s visor usage in detail. They’re proud, and I’m proud they’re proud.
  • They’re already doing a better job of being an ensemble show, in the newer style that followed “permanent status quo” structures of the 1960s. Even with the one-note acting, they already give the impression of a crew of people with distinct interests, and there are glimmers of the strengths they’ll show later.
  • Picard is weirdly hardass…? He and Riker almost remind me of Gibbs and DiNozzo from NCIS. Which is fine, I love NCIS, but I like them better as themselves. We associate Picard much more with inspiring humanistic speeches. Again, we see some lovely hints, though: “If we’re going to be damned, let’s be damned for what we really are.”
  • Data is actually pretty well-formed. They’re not advertising “here’s our Spock,” but rather the newness of an android and what he’ll be able to do on the show. He has a childlike interpretation of events rather than a logical one.
  • farpoint_mccoyADMIRAL MCCOOOOY at age 137! The symbolic handoff is so important to legitimize the show, and Data was a great choice to represent the new generation. Data would be the last person to understand anything McCoy’s ever said, and as a childlike character listening to his elder, his presence creates a sense of newness and hope for the new show.
  • Long, lingering shots of the new set and ship, planets, the holodeck, people using the chest badges… and they disconnect the saucer in the first thirty minutes. They want to show off what the show can look like now.
  • The inclusion of families on the ship is a major change. I’ve always thought it was very unsafe, but I think it’s supposed to indicate Starfleet’s exploratory focus in a more believable way. But the leadership don’t have families, that’s still for scientists and extra people, not really compatible with Starfleet. (Except Dr. Crusher, and Wesley was awful at the beginning just because the lines seemed scripted for a much younger child… And she’s a female character consistently treated in a sexist manner in the early years). Picard makes a point to say he’s not comfortable with children, even. So it’s kind of mixed messages.
  • The plot recalls Star Trek’s first (successful) pilot, with themes of godhood and humanity. But it brings a greater sense of exploration, too. The core plot has that “classic sci-fi” feel, a little sterile but basically about discovering life forms incomprehensibly different from ourselves.
  • This episode is really boring, which makes the conclusion unintentionally funny: “Riker: Just hoping this isn’t the usual way our missions will go, sir. Picard: Oh no, Number One. I’m sure most will be much more interesting.”

Conclusion: The show doesn’t feel grounded yet, and the pace often lags, but it’s got a lot of promise and a genuinely hopeful tone. Can’t wait for more!

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Rogue One Trailer Watch

I think we’re all a bit in need of a Friday distraction, so let’s watch some awesome looking trailers for Rogue One, which is coming out in December! I know personally I really need a break from crazy news, politics, and Twitter hashtags that make me want to pull my hair out at the idiocy of people (did anyone see Repeal the 19th trending?) Yeah, it’s been that kind of week. So instead, here’s the first trailer for Rogue One in case you missed it a while back when it premiered:

Ooo, did you catch that glimpse of Darth Vader at the end? So exciting.

And now, here’s the second trailer, released yesterday:

My first thought was that Mads Mikkelsen is about to have a busy couple of months since he is also appearing as the bad guy in Doctor Strange, it seems. But my other takeaways are that this looks absolutely amazing and like it will give the Star Wars fandom what they’re looking for. I know I’m incredibly happy with their continued but more pronounced portrayal of Badass Chicks in the Lead. First Rey and now Jyn? Okay, technically first Leia, and then Rey, and then Jyn, but that’s my point. And Felicity Jones is a superb actress. I think we’re all in for a treat come December.

Also…they said the name of the movie! Roll credits!

What are your thoughts? Are you excited to see Rogue One in December?

4 Reasons Kirk is the Best Captain

Well friends, I’m finally exiting the original-series portion of my epic Star Trek rewatch. What better way to mark the occasion than a post on the great Captain James T. Kirk? If I’m still blogging by the time I get through the rest of the shows, then the other captains will get their turn in the spotlight too. But I’ve gotta say, Kirk is pretty darn awesome, and I struggled to find a format for this post that wasn’t a recap of every episode ever. I’ve got four reasons/categories, with three or four episode examples under each one.

 

Charisma & Leadership

I’ve gotta mention the Kobayashi Maru. An exercise meant to represent a no-win scenario has, thanks to Kirk, come to signify refusal to accept the conditions and parameters provided. This can mean cocky smarminess, as in Star Trek: Into Darkness, or it can mean the best kind of stubbornness, idealism. A good example from the original series is “Operation: Annihilate,” when he insists there must be a way to kill the infestation but save the civilians.

There’s daily activity too. “Balance of Terror” is one long case study of Kirk as military captain, and it shows him both taking advice and rejecting it, as a commander should. And, before the movies came along, you see him dealing with Romulan, Klingon, and other alien captains as equals despite being on opposite sides.

And another obvious one, “The Corbomite Maneuver,” with Kirk and Balok bluffing each other like pros. His repeated attempts to negotiate, and his speech to the Enterprise, are all perfectly done too. But this episode is especially important because it shows how Kirk deals with problems from his crew. Bailey is basically the most annoying character in the show, but Kirk handles him calmly and patiently, refuses to condone bigotry on the bridge, and relieves Bailey of duty without further comment when Bailey is clearly unable to handle his job. This is entirely typical — another example is “Space Seed,” when he deals with Lt. McGivers’ egregious away-team mistakes swiftly, but with firmness appropriate to the mistake and no more.

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“The Corbomite Maneuver”

Politeness

In “What Are Little Girls Made Of,” he asks Spock to beam down “two security men” — and when they arrive, he knows their names.

A paraphrase of events in “The Man Trap”:

Bones- *expresses curiosity at Nancy’s varying appearance*
Kirk- *snaps at Bones and storms out*
Kirk- *walks back in one scene later* I’m sorry Bones, you were totally right, let’s head down there and ask some questions!”

Kirk snaps-and-apologies happen a handful of times, but at no time are the snaps any more than what one might expect from a captain being bothered at a high-pressure moment, and they’re never personal. It’s the apologies which, although warranted, are out of the ordinary for a captain and a sign of respect for his crew. “Elaan of Troyius,” while problematic on several levels, give us a nice insight into Kirk’s approach: “Courtesy is for everyone.”

In “The Conscience of the King,” Kirk thanks a cocktail waiter, and I think we all know that how one treats waiters indicates how one behaves the rest of the time.

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“The Conscience of the King”

Egalitarianism

Kirk uses his manly wiles to get of scrapes. That’s fair. But even then he treats the lady in question like a person. Under normal circumstances, he treats every crewmember like a professional and that’s that. My favorite moment is in “Tomorrow is Yesterday,” when 1960s pilot John Christopher expresses confusion about a woman being on the Enterprise. “A woman??” he asks. “A crewman,” says Kirk patiently. And if the situation allows him to reason with someone, male or female, he’ll do everything he can to create a peaceful, rational solution to a problem.

In “Charlie X,” when Charlie is harassing Yeoman Rand, she goes to Kirk to intercede and he does. He initially thought Charlie’s crush was cute, but when he hears how it’s going, he steps in and makes a clear statement that Charlie has to consider his crush’s needs, that it’s not going to happen with Rand, and that everyone struggles and things can’t always be the way you want. He doesn’t minimize Rand’s concerns, he doesn’t say “boys will be boys,” he listens and intervenes because Charlie’s being inappropriate.

There are any number of interactions showing Kirk’s opinion about bigotry in general, but these are often in Spock’s defense, so I wanted to find something that couldn’t be chalked up to friendship. There’s a lovely moment in “Plato’s Stepchildren” where they’re talking about telekinesis and Kirk describes the Federation:

Alexander: As far as I know it just comes to you sometime after you’re born. They say I’m a throwback, and I am, and so are you. I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have said that.
Kirk: Don’t worry about it. We’re happy without it.
Alexander: You know, I believe you are. Listen, where you come from, are there a lot of people without the power and my size?
Kirk: Alexander, where I come from, size, shape, or colour makes no difference, and nobody has the power.

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“Plato’s Stepchildren”

Intelligence

Of course Kirk can create a rudimentary gun-cannon thing out of bamboo and rocks in “Arena,” he’s the captain! And he’s a nerd. I don’t know where people got the idea he was a big goof in his Academy days, because it wasn’t from the original series. His academy buddies make fun of him for being an overachiever — “Where No Man Has Gone Before,” “Shore Leave” — and he’s constantly recognizing public figures or old-fashioned machines from his studies.

“The Naked Time” and other episodes show Kirk can flick the necessary switch on anyone’s station at any time, when they’re distracted by alien parasites and whatnot, and in “Court Martial,” he fixes the engine sabotage right there and then by himself.


In summary, Captain Kirk is awesome, and I honestly don’t know where all the stereotypes about him being dumb/sexist/reckless/generally a goof came from, because he wasn’t like that. However, if you have another favorite captain, feel free to make your case in the comments!