Marvel: Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. S01E04 Eye-Spy

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This week’s episode, scripted by Jeffrey Bell, who’s writing credits include Angel, Alias and The X-Files, is the strongest episode of the series so far. It seems to be improving every week, so my hopes are starting to climb for the rest of the season. Directed by Star Trek alumni Roxann Dawson (who played Torres on Star Trek: Voyager, as well as directing episodes of it, Enterprise and Charmed)

Pascale Armand plays Akela Amador, a former S.H.I.E.L.D. agent, Coulson’s (Clark Gregg) protegé, who has some special gifts, and is being ordered around by someone who watches everything she does through an implant in her eye. Coulson uses his team to go after her, instead of bringing in back-up, because he feels responsibility for her,  as well as believing they police their own.

May (Ming-Na Wen) doesn’t Akela is so innocent and thinks she should be taken out.

Skye (Chloe Bennet) hacks the tech (which she does a lot better than handling a gun), and Ward (Brett Dalton) pretends to be Akela, which leads to a nice comedic moment when Akela’s watchers give him instructions.

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It allows Ward to have some nice little action sequences, and it’s nice to see that I’m starting to like his character a little more.

Fitz (Iain De Caestecker) and Simmons (Elizabeth Henstridge) have some nice moments, with the nite-lite gun, as well as operating on Akela, while Coulson attempts to hunt down her controller, known simply as Englishman (Dominic Burgess), who also may not be all that he seems to be.

Ward infiltrates a think tank, and photographs a rather odd display that didn’t look like equations, but who knows…? Alien writing?

I like that Akela is well aware that something has been done to Coulson, he’s not the same person she knew. I don’t see them keeping that secret for longer than the season, in fact if they get past the halfway mark and still haven’t revealed what’s happened to him I’d be surprised.

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Of the four episodes so far, this one has the best balance of action, comedy and procedural, that we are led to believe will be the standard for the show. The references to the Avengers, are becoming less prominent now that the world has been established, and the characters are slowly coming into their own.

Their interactions are getting better, the humor is working, and the show is gearing up to do what we want it to, entertain, letting us spend more time in the Marvel Universe, without having to wait years for the next installment. Right now, each episode seems to want to make sure that each character gets a beat or a moment, without focusing too much on any one character. I’m looking forward to seeing some solo stories a little further on, like Coulson, or May…

But for now, I am entertained and glad I stuck with the show, as I hope it will get stronger and stronger each week, until it becomes can’t-miss television.

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. airs Tuesdays on CTV.

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Top Gun (1986) – Tony Scott

topgunThe 101 Action Movies brings this flag-waving American classic back into my life.

With Tony Scott’s typical super colour-saturated framing, quick editing, fantastic rocking score, Lt. Pete “Maverick” Mitchell (Tom Cruise), struggled to prove his the best of the best at the fighter pilot school known popularly as Top Gun.

Tons has been said about this film over the years, not all of it kind, but I’ve always had a place in my heart for it, simply because of the experience I had in watching the film.

I was living in Bermuda at the time, and made regular jaunts to the nearby American base to watch the first run films they screened there for a whopping $2.

So let me say that again, the first time I saw Top Gun, was on an American base with a bunch of Naval officers. Can you conceive of the adrenaline and machismo that was not only coming off the screen, but being sent right back to it as the entire audience whooped and cheered? It was a pretty heady experience. The entire theater was PACKED! I didn’t even get a seat, I was sitting on the stairs leading up to the projection booth, every bit of space was filled with folk who wanted to see how they were being portrayed on the screen.

cruisekellyOf course, the Navy actually let the film shoot on location, at Miramar, and had a lot of influence on the film as they wanted to make sure they were shown in the best light possible. They saw it as a recruitment film, a propaganda piece, and a huge bucket of popcorn entertainment.

And that is exactly what it is, yes, there are some fine actors backing Cruise up, Kelly McGillis as his love interest, Anthony Edwards as Goose, his RIO (Radar Intercept Officer), Val Kilmer as Iceman, Tim Robbins as Merlin, James Tolkan as Stinger, and Captain of the Enterprise, Meg Ryan as Goose’s wife, Tom Skerritt as Viper and the always cool Michael Ironside as Jester, but the film is really about one thing only…

The planes, and the aerial photography.

Both of which are stunning! From the first leap off the deck to the final dogfight, the aerial photography is front and center and looks stunning. Sure, a few minutes into the film my fellow film-goers were yelling at the screen that those weren’t MiG-28s but were in fact F-5s, (they also called bull on the inverted sequence, but roared happily at the maintaining of foreign relations) but you better believe they were cheering and hooting when they blasted those nasty Russkies out of the sky at the end of the film.

icemavTop Gun doesn’t pretend to be anything it isn’t, it’s a glossy, fast-paced bit of film making that isn’t big on story, with a bit of romance shoe-horned in, and a kick ass soundtrack, which along with the Lost Boys soundtrack, got a lot of play on my walkman as I was whipping along the roads to work on my moped.

If you’ve never seen it, don’t expect too much from the story, Edwards steals scenes from Cruise every chance he gets, but the planes and the way the actors on cockpit sets are cut into the action, are still some of the best I’ve seen.

It’s loud, a no-brainer, and yes, still, undeniably fun.

It was pretty sweet to fly back into the Danger Zone.

Do you remember when you saw this movie?

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Star Trek: Into Darkness (2013) – J.J. Abrams

star_trek_into_darkness_poster_enterpriseThis is a summer blockbuster first and foremost.

Since Trek made the leap to the bug screen, they’ve had to eschew some of the material that inherently made Gene Roddenberry’s Star Trek what is was when it was a weekly television show. After The Motion Picture, which I still love, the series began to shift to more adventure and action oriented films, leaving a lot of the social commentary that the series had done behind.

I’m not saying it was gone completely, but it was taken down considerably.

Which from a business angle, makes sense. Movies screening in a theater are about bums in seats, and you have to make the film appealing on the broadest levels. Consequently, there is a loss of some of the higher concepts to push more of an adventure story. Yes, we had Trek IV which was about our treatment of fellow species, V dealt ever so peripherally with the concepts of god and religion, VI dealt with the collapse of the Russian state and the end of the Cold War, but more often than not they were supposed to be an entertaining ride.

kirk_large_verge_medium_landscapeThat’s the tradition Abrams continues in the new series. With a script by Robert Orci (who is serving as exec producer on the IDW comic series, which for now are being treated as canon), Alex Kurtzman and Damon Lindelof, Abrams sends our crew racing headlong into danger; there are hints of bigger ideas, but most of them take a sidecar next to the hurtling trajectory of the adventure.

I do hope that Trek finds its way back to the small screen for adventures, social issues and science again, but for now, I was happy to see the Enterprise on the big screen again.

But, it’s still not the high-minded ideals and concepts of Star Trek. It’s a ride. And a fun one.

There are nods to all manner of things, the continued use of the TMP uniforms for the admiralty, you can see models of Zefram Cochrane’s warp ship, and Archer’s NX-01 Enterprise on Admiral Marcus’ (Peter Weller) desk. There’s a brief reference to Harry Mudd, tribbles, Gorns, and of course Kirk’s (Chris Pine) legendary way with the ladies.

star-trek-into-darkness-chris-pine-bruce-greenwood-1After a fumbled, but successful mission that opens the film, resulting in Kirk violating countless Federation laws, particularly the Prime Directive, the Enterprise returns to Earth where Jim is raked over the coals by Admiral Pike (Bruce Greenwood).

At the same time, in London, Mickey The Idiot (Doctor Who ref) actually, Thomas Harewood (Noel Clarke) is presented with the opportunity to return his daughter to complete health, instead of the vegetative state she currently exists in, by the villain of the piece John Harrison (Benedict Cumberbatch).

After two devastating attacks, Kirk is given permission to hunt Harrison down… But is he just a pawn being used to further a darker agenda?

Karl Urban Leonard McCoy Star Trek Into DarknessThe film is fun, loud, tries to give moments to all of its characters, who have some wonderful interplay.

Karl Urban’s McCoy is still dead-on and he remains my favorite character in this new version of events.

Abrams makes good use of the 3D, especially when the Enterprise is being attacked by the Vengeance, and there is debris floating everywhere, there’s a really excellent use of depth of field.

The pacing is good, the script, as mentioned, is more interested in given a big space action film than commenting on anything, so knowing that going in may save some people grief…

I had fun with it, am looking forward to adding it to my collection when it comes out on blu-ray, but of course, we can’t really talk about the film without mentioning the entire second half…

So…

*****SPOILERS – STOP HERE IF YOU WISH TO REMAIN FREE OF REVELATIONS****

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Waiting….

Waiting…

Oh and I loved the score, I’ve been whistling Michael Giacchino’s themes for weeks, it’s amazing how quickly this one has fallen into my go-to tunes.

I love the fact that not only is Kirk raked over the coals, he’s demoted and loses the Enterprise,

star-trek-into-darkness-villain-benedict-cumberbatch-433x330The rumors had been spreading for a while about who Cumberbatch was playing, if you’ve heard them you know what I mean.

So when it was first mentioned that he seemed to be superhuman, and was working for the nefarious Section 31 (which first reared its head in Deep Space Nine). It kind of seemed obvious who he was, especially after he starts telling the tale of his crewmates in hibernation and how Admiral Marcus found him.

Everything begins to feel a little similar as we race towards the climax of the film, as familiar scenes, dialogue and moments begin to play out but in a completely new way. So for Trek fans they’ll get all the nods and variations (and some people won’t like it, and others will embrace it), where as there will be others who are coming into the theater for the first time, and seeing that these characters are willing to sacrifice themselves for one another, particularly Kirk and Spock (Zachary Quinto).

The film is chockfull of dialogue recognizable to fans, which some would say are ripped off, but I like to think of it as more of a mirror effect, there are things that will still have to be constant between the universes, incidents, character reactions, mentalities. So of course sometimes they say the same things, or variations there of.

Star-Trek-Into-Darkness-Carol-MarcusKirk’s sacrifice, after being finally made to realize how overconfident and arrogant he can be actually means something, nor is it lessened by the film’s resolution, as the seed is planted for it fairly early own, and of course Kirk doesn’t have the benefit of being able to transfer his katra.

I was a little angered by Pike’s death, though it does galvanize Kirk, I kept thinking about the Talosians and Vina. Which then led me to thinking about the imminent conflict that warhawk Marcus says is coming with the Klingons, apparently we this universe hasn’t come across the Organians.

The introduction of Carol Marcus (Alice Eve) as the new science officer, which rather bothers Spock is a nice touch, and it’ll be interesting to see how that plays out , especially as we know what happened between Carol and Kirk in the Prime Universe.

Section 31′s development of the massive Vengeance makes sense in the realm that this Trek universe exists in, they’ve been pushed into interstellar conflict by the arrival of Nero, so of course they’re going to be developing ways to safeguard the Federation. It’s not a happy thought, but it is also a valid point.

scottyScotty (Simon Pegg) gets some wonderful moments and I love that he brings up that they are supposed to be a ship of exploration, not war. Sulu (John Cho) gets a shot at the big chair, Chekov (Anton Yelchin) makes the perfect face when asked to put on a red shirt and go to engineering, and Uhura (Zoe Saldana) gets to kick some ass!

The themes running through all of the film is the concept of family, Pike and Kirk, Harrison and his crew, Kirk and Spock, Kirk and his crew. It’s watching what these people would be willing to do for those they love, for their family. Which is nice, but in the end, this still isn’t the Trek of any of the television series, but it very much is kindred to the theatrical films before it. It is a huge popcorn-filled romp of a film that will hopefully bring more fans to the series, who will then continue to explore the strange new worlds that the Enterprise sought out by going back and seeing how all of this began.

I’m even going back to see it again tonight in IMAX 3D!

The second viewing I enjoyed a little more, as I wasn’t going in with expectations this time, and some nice use is made of the IMAX format.

 

Have you seen it? What are your thoughts? Is this and the 2009 Trek your first introduction to the universe, if so, have you gone back and watched any of the classic shows?

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Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982) – Nicholas Meyer

trekSpace… The final frontier…

The 101 Sci-Fi movies brings me a chance to revisit one of the Enterprise’s most successful screen adventures.

Nicholas Meyer last seen on this blog with 1979′s Time After Time, brings new life to the Star Trek series, by bringing back a villain from the television series, Khan Noonien Singh (Ricardo Montalban) from the episode Space Seed, handing him a passion for vengeance to equal that of his oft-quoted Moby Dick. He wants to wreak havoc on Admiral James T. Kirk (William Shatner) for marooning him on a planet that fell to ecological disaster not long after they were left there.

Keeping the spirit of the original series, but upping the action ante, with a healthy dose of naval language and feel to it a la Horatio Hornblower, heightened by a majestic tall-ship evoking score by James Horner, Trek II works not only as classic Star Trek, but also as a fantastic sci-fi/action movie.

trioThe Enterprise, now under command of Captain Spock (Leonard Nimoy) is on a training mission full of raw cadets, including Spock’s protegé, Saavik (Kirstie Alley), overseen by visiting flag-officer, Kirk, with the stalwart Doctor Leonard McCoy (DeForest Kelly) at his side.

When the ship intercepts a message from Dr. Carol Marcus (Bibi Besch) about his ordering the removal of Genesis, a terraforming device that could be perverted into a weapon, Kirk takes emergency command of the Enterprise and races to the remote space station to learn what’s going on.

He races right into an attack by Khan, whose crew has seized the Federation starship Reliant.

The two men lock themselves into mortal combat with their ships, and the cost is more dear than either could have imagined.

khanEven as Kirk and company are thrust into danger, there is reflection on aging. Kirk isn’t the same captain he was, having been promoted to Admiral and flying a desk, his life has come to a grinding halt, and even McCoy can’t rouse him as Jim begins to feel his age.

Despite the fact that all the familiar faces are there, Sulu (George Takei), Chekov (Walter Koenig), Uhura (Nichelle Nichols) and Scotty (James Doohan), they don’t get a lot of moments to themselves. Our trio of Kirk, Spock and McCoy are the story’s center, as the wicked Khan circles them as a vengeful Captain Ahab.

George Lucas’ company ILM supplies the visual effects and they are stellar, one of my favorite sequences is the battle in the Mutara Nebula, as the ships, unable to track one another, move about in the stellar clouds, hunting one another. It also leads into the genesis weapon being set off, accompanied by a fantastic music cue, known on the soundtrack as Genesis Countdown.

This film saw the introduction of the red-jacketed uniforms, eschewing the uniform of the previous film (which I quite like but for the feet). They look great, and as mentioned, with the big belts, the boots, the piping and insignia on breast and sleeve give everything a more naval feeling.

star-trek-iiAnd then of course, there is the cost for our crew at the film’s end, that the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few, or the one.

I remember seeing this movie in the theater, and was just completely stunned by the film’s ending. I had no context for dealing with something like that in my life at the time. It felt as if I’d been ripped apart inside, I stumbled out of that theater completely stunned.

I was the lucky one, I remember a couple of women, I can’t recall ages or faces, making their way out of the theater beside me in complete tears over what had happened, not necessarily wailing, but surely not far off.

I like all the Trek films, I can even find things I like in the less successful odd-numbered ones, especially The Motion Picture, but Star Trek II will always be the best of the bunch, new or old.

Which of the film series is our favorite?

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Star Trek Into Darkness – Trailers and Thoughts

tosI am a Star Trek fan, from that first Saturday morning when I discovered the show in the late 70s, but before The Motion Picture came along. I can find things I like about every single one of the television series, as well as the movies. I love the world and the future Gene Roddenberry envisioned for us. I found hope there.

I have some of the Gold Key comics, I missed the Marvel run (but plan to pick it up thanks to Dark Horse), I’ve read the DC launches, I’ve read countless novels, I’ve lost myself in the soundtracks and the toys. Anyone who grew up with me, will tell you that I love my Trek.

And know what else, I love the new universe that J.J. Abrams brought to the screen in 2009. And right there, I know there are people who have stopped reading the article. Because if it’s not how they see Star Trek, then it’s not Star Trek.

I will be the first to admit that Trek 2009 is not the Star Trek I grew up with, but I did recognize in it the universe that I loved, the sense of adventure that could permeate it. Yes, it is missing a bit of the sense of exploration, and the way the television series dealt with social and political issues, but this is the big screen. There is a finite sense of time, you don’t have 24 to 26 episodes to tell a story anymore, or explore different characters and facets of the universe.

When Star Trek has explored bigger issues on the big screen, they’ve never performed well (Voyage Home being the exception). As much as I love Star Trek: The Motion Picture, and I do (at some point I need to get a costume made of that uniform!), it didn’t work the way Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan worked because there were no space battles (not to mention the wonderful idea of investing a more Naval feeling to Starfleet) and Trek V, well, I still believe if Bill Shatner had been able to make the movie he wanted we would’ve seen something interesting, but again, I think it wouldn’t necessarily put bums in seats.

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And that is what Paramount and Abrams are doing with this new series, putting bums in seats!  Paramount, to my eyes, has always seemed to see Trek as a bit of a bastard child, they don’t quite know what to do with it, because they don’t get it. But there are quite happy to make money off of it.

But they may work out to the benefit of the fans… If the new film series continues to be a success, can a new series on television really be so far off? And at that point, perhaps we can get back to exploring, seeking out new life and new civilizations and boldly going on the Human Adventure. Until then, we’re going to get more Horatio Hornblower Star Trek, and less social commentary.

And honestly I’m ok with that, if I need a little more of the sociopolitical Trek, I’ll read one of the novels, or the new Trek comics from IDW, which according to those in the know, is considered canon for the new universe. Does it suck that I can’t get those stories on the big screen or even the small screen? Yes. But for now, I am enjoying any Star Trek I can get.

I’ll openly admit things aren’t perfect in the 2009 Trek, but I had a helluva time watching it, and it still makes me smile when I watch it, or hear its score on my iPod. But know what else, not all of the original episodes were perfect, some of them were simply abysmal, so I’m willing to give the New Universe a little leeway.

And for all those haters, if you think you can do better, get out there and do something about it! Instead of whining and complaining. Make your own Trek, create a fan series, write a novel and submit it to Pocket Books, be proactive in changing it, if that’s what you want instead of sitting at your computers whining.

I’m tired of hearing, “Ohh. the lens flares… ugh. J.J. Abrams is ruining Star Trek.” I’m ok with the lens flares, they never bothered me, and if you think J.J. is ruining Trek, see my previous paragraph. We’ve all spent a long time hoping and wanting new Trek, and each time one comes along (and no matter what anyone says, Enterprise was really coming into its own in its fourth year) everyone has to jump on and hate it, instead of embracing it, and the suggesting ways it can be improved, instead of harping and whining and trollling.

st2Star-Trek-Into-DarknessI will say that the new poster sucks. I am sick of this style of poster that seems to be a template the photoshop departments of the studios are sharing with one another. I miss poster art, but I’ve ranted about that in a previous post.

Someone needs design and paint posters again, but why pay people for something lovely and artistic when you can whip up some generic crap in an afternoon. That’s just sad.

I’m also not a fan of the title, Star Trek Into Darkness? But we don’t have a lot of context to judge the title, because we’re not sure how it applies to the film itself. Is it great? No, but I’ll go on record that it sounds a lot better than The Phantom Menace.

Then of course there are people whining about the things they’ve seen in the trailer so far… But before I jump into that, let me just say that in the 2009 film as good as Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto and all the others were, Karl Urban seemed to be channeling DeForest Kelley. Kirk was always my favorite growing up, but over time, I’ve kind of leaned more towards McCoy as my favorite character, he can be grumpy, a charming Southern gent, and he’ll tell you the truth each and every time. Karl embodies everything De brought to the series, and in my opinion set the standard by which to judge his fellow actors in the series.

enterpriseenterprise2009The biggest complaint I’ve heard about the new trailer, and the early images we’ve glanced is how can the Enterprise be underwater? She could never do that. I’m argue that one right away. We know she’s airtight, she has to be she travels in space, and if you open a cargo bay or two to take on ballast, I’m sure that would help keep her submerged. And you know what, the Enterprise has moved and traveled through fluid before. In the Original Series! In The Immunity Syndrome the Enterprise is sucked inside an enormous amoeba, and you know what, that contains fluid! And no doubt thicker and more viscous than water. So you know what, I’ll let them have that. Oh, but that means she had to go through the atmosphere and the planet’s gravity…. Again, been done before. We know she can travel in a planet’s atmosphere, because she did it in Tomorrow is Yesterday. I’m sure it’s not ideal, but Kirk is pretty good at doing the unexpected… so why not go with it and enjoy it?

We do know that this time around Alice Eve (who looks fantastic in the blue mini-skirt) has joined the cast as Dr. Carol Marcus, and fans of the Prime Universe knows what that means, but what if she’s a victim… Project Genesis may never happen!

There’s still much debate over who Benedict Cumberbatch is, his character’s name is said to be John Harrison. But for now, I think it’s safe to say he is NOT Khan, but what if he was a member of the Botany Bay’s crew that infiltrated Starfleet and worked his way up?

I’m a Star Trek fan, I loved Bill Shatner as James T. Kirk, Leonard Nimoy as Spock, and DeForest as Bones, and the rest of the cast are legend, and I love every single one of them, But that doesn’t mean I can’t love a new imagining of them.

I love my Star Trek.

That’s why I’ll be there opening day for this one. Because I love it.

And I do believe the Human Adventure is just beginning…

What are your thoughts?

IDW Star Trek (Ongoing) – Issues 5 & 6 – Operation: Annihilate

The IDW re-launch and re-imagining of classic Trek continues in isssues 5 and 6, with a retelling of the Season 1 episode Operation: Annihilate.

As Roberto Orci, the comic’s creative consultant, and one of the writers of the 2009 film has said in interviews, these comics are the canon for this series, and tie in directly with the film or any novels that are set in this new universe. And the further we get on these re-imagined original voyages, the more they begin to differ from the original episodes.

One of the most notable differences is the fate of Kirk’s brother, George, last seen in the film – hitch-hiking. It changes the dynamic of Kirk’s future, and I’ll be interesting to see how.

I had a minor stickler with this story, but maybe, starfleet is introducing tech to their crews sooner than in the prime universe…

There’s a scene, where Kirk taps his command insignia, just like the Next Generation crew do with their universes… but if they’re introducing this communicator, why are they still carrying around the other ones on their belts? Perhaps one is for more long-distance communication?

As in the original episode, the Enterprise and her stalwart crew arrive at Deneva to find most of the colony dead, and others seemingly possessed by a unifying mind, and disturbing parasite creatures!

The reimaginings continue to be top-notch, with the stories adapted by Mike Johnson, using the original teleplay by Oliver Crawford and Steven Carabatsos as a leaping off point.

The art and coloring, by Joe Corroney and John Rauch respectively, is still top-notch, capturing the likeness of the new actors and combing the familar elements of the original series with the look of the alternate timeline.

Loving it.

The next two issues are a completely new story in the universe which I’m looking forward to, dealing with the destruction of Vulcan!

It’s also been hinted that they are already planting tie-ins for the new film… still too many months off, scheuled for summer 2013, but I am scouring these images and these stories, for hints, ideas, and enjoying each new trip as continue to boldy go!

Keep it up IDW!!!

Star Trek: The Next Generation S1 – Blu-Ray

One word and one word only to describe the blu-ray release of Star Trek: The Next Generation Season 1…

Wow.

I’ve been with Next Gen since the beginning, I was a huge Trek fan before it, and I was clamoring for more and more and more. I ate up every little bit of the new series before it started, I read Starlog to see the designs, I watched Entertainment Tonight for brief glimpses of actors, costumes and VFX. I bought magazines, read every book I could get my hands on…

And oh that redesigned Enterprise. Amazing. It was the familiar shape that I knew and loved so well, but modified, elongated, more… 24th century.

1987.

What a year that was. I was going to high school in Bermuda, at Mount Saint Agnes Academy, and my maths teacher, Mr. Simpson, was a Trek fan as well. And we had a bit of an agreement. At least the way I remember it.

I was struggling with my Advanced Math program, and honestly, I had selected it so I could be with my friends Michael, David and Jean-Marc. By year’s end I had fought for my passing grade 63% (a 60% was a pass), had been to early morning workshops for extra help, and struggled and fought each step of the way. Mr. Simpson recognized this, and as a reward, would hand me over, every couple of weeks, a VHS tape with the most recent episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation. Thanks for that Mr. Simpson! You rock!

So consequently, I have seen Next Gen in every format that I could, VHS taped from satellite, Paramount released VHS tapes, Paramount released DVDs, Netflix.

And not one of them, has ever come to actually capturing the beauty of the series the way this blu-ray collection has.

I will admit that I am occasionally a sucker for the double-dip, picking up the intitial release, and then re-buying it the next time it’s released because it’s been updated, new commentaries, extra features, extended cut, what have you…

But this time, it’s totally worth it.

When the series was originally shot, it was shot on film and then converted to SD videotape where all the VFX were added. As soon as you converted it to tape you lost some of the image, no matter how good it was. The image became flatter and lost some of its detail.

In a brilliant move, they’ve gone back, found the original film negatives, including all the model work, and scanned it all into computers, and recreated the special effects for each and every shot. They brought in the wonderful Okudas, Michael and Denise to help on the project, reviewing their meticulous episode notes to make sure that the effects matched and no liberties were taken – the exception being the crystalline entity, which gets a lovely CG update.

The colours and details on the modelwork alone are amazing! (The remastered image is on the left, and imagine that on your big television!)

The first couple of shots made me sit up and simply stare at the Enterprise – D as she moved across the screen repeating “Wow” over and over. There were rows of lights, tiny details on the plating, variations in plate color, indicator lights, depth and design that I had never imagined on each of the ships. They’d gone from a flat image on the television, to a real object.

AMAZING!

There are details in the costumes and sets I never noticed, and the colours for each are crisp and clear. You honestly wouldn’t believe that the first season was shot 25 years ago – the image is that impressive. (The upper image is the previous DVD image, beneath it is the blu-ray image.)

I honestly couldn’t take my eyes off the screen, in fact, 30 seconds into Encounter at Farpoint, I got off my couch, got into my computer chair, and put it right in front of the television, and just stared at the whole thing in awe.

Now, I’m the first one to admit that there are a number of clunkers in the first season, but that’s a given for any series as they find their feet (something that isn’t given to a lot of shows anymore – if you don’t perform right out of the gate you’re done). However, even that won’t stop you from sitting there and marveling at the images on the screen.

They’ve also remastered the sound expanding it out to 7.1, thank you!!

All of these things added up and make for an amazing Next Generation experience, reinvigorating it, in fact it’s a brand new show!

From a total make-Tim-geek-out perspective, I love that the episode promos are included before each episode, I get chills everytime I hear …”Next time on Star Trek The Next Generation!”

The conversion for this project will no doubt be the gold standard for any such future projects that any studio undertakes, and I offer my hearty congratulations to each and every person involved. Your efforts were noticed, appreciated and loved. Thank you!

Now, let’s boldly go!!!

 

IDW Star Trek (Ongoing) – Issues 3 & 4 – The Galileo Seven

It’s hard to reinvent the wheel. It’s hard finding new ways to tell stories that people know already.

And yet, IDW, with their new Trek series, set in the alternate universe created in the 2009 movie, seems to be doing a fine job with it.

This time around, in issues 3 and 4, they revisit the 16th episode of Star Trek season 1 – The Galileo Seven.

Once again, Mike Johnson is writing, adapting and working from the original script by Oliver Crawford and Shimon Wincelberg, with Stephen Mollnar and Joe Phillips continuing to serve as artists, with John Rauch adding colors.

On the whole, I really enjoyed the adaptation, there’s enough familiar dialogue interspersed with the character behavior and talking patterns of the new universe to shake it up.

Spock is leading an expedition to explore a quasar-like formation while the Enterprise is transporting Commissioner Ferris and supplies to Makus III (under a very strict time-table of course).

An ionic disturbance causes the ship to crash-land on a barely hospitable world, leaving Spock in command of the group as they struggle for survival and get off the planet before the Enterprise is beyond their reach.

I like the fact that they’ve introduced Rand, and she’s aboard the Galileo along with Spock, McCoy, Scotty, Latimer, Gaetano and Boma. Soon enough, they discover they aren’t alone on the planet, and trouble is headed their way.

There are a lot of moments I like in these two issues, I love the chat McCoy has with Spock about this being his first real command, after Kirk was promoted around him to ship’s captain. It’s the same talk as featured in the original ep, but just that little bit different.

There’s some wonderful by-play between McCoy and Scott, and you can see a real friendship starting to develop there, which is great. And I can totally hear Simon Pegg and Karl Urban saying those lines in my head, so I would say the writing is true to the new characters.

There was one thing I didn’t care for.

Uhura goes after Spock, by commandeering a shuttlecraft. I’m actually ok with that part. But it takes away the brilliant course of action Spock comes up with in the original episode. In the comic they are trying to get enough height to reach orbit, but are still too heavy, and they are deciding who will jump, fall to their death and lighten the load (they can’t land and launch again, they only have enough power for the one attempt).

I’m still ok with that. Mostly. Although Spock figures they were too heavy before takeoff and did anyway. Not the best decision, even with that aggressive species knocking at the door.

They don’t have enough power to make orbit, and ignite their exhaust trail like in the episode, in effect, making a flare. Instead, Uhura arrives to save the day.

Yay Uhura, great character moment for her. But it doesn’t let Spock have his shining moment yet, to show he’s ready for command.

It’s not enough to ruin my read of the story, and being a Vulcan, we know Spock doesn’t have to prove himself a strong and capable leader, but we know he’s going to sooner or later.

I love that Kirk is thinking of his crew and his ship first and foremost. It’s obvious that now that he’s in the captain’s chair, he’s staying there (I don’t see this one being promoted to Admiral by anything short of blackmail).

All the characters are easily identifiable, and resemble their actor counterparts, the writing is fun, and like I said, it’s fun seeing old adventures in new ways, but I’m looking forward to brand new adventures too.

Cause you know, space is really big…Really big. You just won’t believe how vastly, hugely, mindbogglingly big it is. I mean, you may think it’s a long way down the road to the chemist’s, but that’s just peanuts to space…

Sorry got off track there…

But I’m ready for more adventures in the final frontier!

Let’s boldly go!

Star Trek: Phase II

We’ve established that I’m a huge Trek fan, even as I type this the blu-ray is in my player, and I’m finishing up the episode “Shore Leave,” I’m reading the second book in the Lost Years series, A Flag Full of Stars, I’m making my way through DS9 and am hunting down the new IDW Trek series.

I’ve yet to overdose, so that’s good!

I’ve also decided to take a look at the fan series originally called Star Trek New Voyages, but updated and changed to Star Trek: Phase II, the name of the Star Trek series that wasn’t right before the launch of the theatrical adventures with Star Trek: The Motion Picture.

I know it’s been around for a number of years now, but there are only about 8 episodes currently. This is not a commentary on slow production, it’s difficult putting a fan series together, one must consider cast availability – including some very familiar guest stars, pre-production, new set design (happily they have some wonderful standing sets, including a replica of the original Enterprise bridge), scripts, and of course, there’s probably a fairly lengthy post-production schedule in terms of SFX and CG elements.

There is a lot of love in this series, you can see that those involved are fans and happy to be doing what they are. I only have a few small quibbles that won’t deter me from watching the series…

And I need to preface that with this statement… I don’t expect the characters to look like their predecessors, I only ask that they convey the spirit of who they are.

James Cawley has taken over the role of James T. Kirk, and while he seems to be the driving force behind the series, to my mind he just hasn’t gotten the idea or persona of Jim Kirk down yet. I, do hope I’m wrong, and that I can see his performance grow and change over the series. But for now, my first thoughts are, every line he delivers seems angry, even when it’s supposed to be lighter, or even flat out humorous, he’s lacking a bit of that flair, and tongue-in-cheek that made Bill’s performance of Kirk so likable.

Now, I’m not asking Cawley to mimic Shatner, that way leads to parody. I realize he’s bringing his own interpretation to the character, but currently (admittedly I’ve only seen the vignettes, the pilot and the first episode), he’s not likable. But like I said, I’m willing to let his character evolve as he finds his feet in the role… He just seems so mad all the time. Mr. Cawley… You’re Jim Kirk! Enjoy it!

I’ve braced myself for the changes in actors that I’ve seen listed when it comes to other characters, I can work with that, but I want to take the gentleman aside who’s playing Scotty in the first episode and explain to him that Scotty is a Scottish… not Irish.

But those are minor quibbles, like I said, and I’m willing to let them pass, as no doubt, all of these things will change and grow as the series goes on. They’ve already had the involvement of Walter Koenig, George Takei, D.C. Fonatana, and David Gerrold – so they are obviously doing something right!

They seem to be well on their way, and I am looking forward to exploring this new realm of fan films, and no doubt, once I’m caught up, waiting impatiently for the next one…

Perhaps they’ll let me submit a script??

Until that moment, Mr. Cawley, Captain, I’ll be signing aboard and enjoying the continuing adventures of Kirk and Company. Thanks for bringing them to life in your own way!

Star Trek: The Bantam Books

I finished navigating my way through the original Bantam novels this weekend. As stated in my previous post there were 15 of them altogether in addition the episode adaptations (some of which I still own).

I will say this, I may not be suffering from Trek overdose, but it’s never been easier to see all these stories in my head as I read them. I can see the way they would be broadcast as episodes, the camera moves, the special effects, the way the dialogue would be delivered.

It was nice to read these books, and live in the 23rd century with some dear friends. Not all of the stories were keepers though.

Here’s my rundown on them though…

1)Death’s Angel by Kathleen Sky. This was the second Trek novel written by Sky, and while for the most part she has a good handle on the characters, I was a little anxious about the psychological screenings she puts the characters under. It’s called a Sigmund. Draw from that what you will. But the rest of it is good fun.

Kirk, and some of his landing party are recovering from an infection, when they are alerted that they will be ferrying diplomats to meet the Romulans to discuss a détente. While some of the diplomats are just absurd characters, there’s one that simply makes me think of the alligators in the original Fantasia. There’s also a giant koala bear. Yup. However, Sarek is present as well, and it’s kind of interesting, as he tries to get everyone to the table, to discuss the détente, saying if he could do that he may retire. It’s interesting that Spock actually does that in Next Generation. There’s also a hint that Sarek isn’t feeling his best. Everyone thinks it may be the events that are going on around them, you see, someone is murdering the ambassadors who oppose the detente, possibly James Kirk himself, but knowing that Sarek is suffering from a degenerative disease, once again, as seen in Next Generation, it was kind of neat. Good fun.

2) Planet of Judgement by Joe Haldeman. On a planet that seems to defy the very laws of physics, Kirk and some of his crew are stranded when their shuttles are grounded, and unresponsive. Their technology refuses to work, and there are vicious creatures in the jungle, including a plant which literally rips the face off a poor red shirt. They slowly learn that there is more going on here than they thought, and the strange telepathic inhabitants, need their help to stave off a galactic invasion.

Some of the ideas had been presented before in Trek, and honestly, most of the stories just revisit previous themes, but staged in new adventures, maybe another reason it was so easy to see them in my mind’s eye. I did like how this tale was told however.

3) The Galactic Whirlpool by David Gerrold, who wrote the beloved The Trouble With Tribbles, as well as the Animated Series sequel, More Tribbles, More Troubles. This book felt a lot like Trek’s take on the Disney movie The Black Hole. The Enterprise comes across a lost city ship traveling at sub-light speed, that without a course correction will tumble into the galactic whirlpool, two black holes in orbit of one another.

They are shocked to find life aboard. But not just life, humans! They refuse to believe that the Enterprise crew comes from outside their ship, and Kirk and company must convince them before it’s too late to save them.

The best part of this story was it made the fan favorite, Kevin Riley, one of the central characters, which makes it a lot of fun!

4) Vulcan! by Kathleen Sky. This was Sky’s first Trek novel, and introduced the Sigmund idea (psychological testing I am all for but I think it may need a better name. But perhaps, to paraphrase, a name is just a name).

Dr. Katalya Tremaine is assigned to travel aboard the Enterprise to investigate a planet that is sliding into Romulan space. The mission is to ascertain whether or not the life on it is sentient, and if so give them a chance to join the Federation before the Romulans claim them.

She’s sharp, bright, and beautiful, and hates Vulcans. It gets worse, when she is forced to work with Spock, and both of their lives are endangered when they are trapped on the surface together, unable to return to the Enterprise.

5) Devil World by Gordon Eklund. The Enterprise is traveling to a world called Heartland, to find the long-lost Kell the Traitor. His daughter, Gilla is desperate to find him.

Kirk as always starts to fall in love with her, but she warns them off, as they arrive at a planet that is under quarantine by Starfleet orders.

That is because the inhabitants look like demons, called Danons, and the colonists that traveled to live there have all gone mad. All but for Kell.

The crew has to investigate, and learn the dark secrets of the planet, and the Danons themselves.

6) Starless World by Gordon Eklund. This was Eklund’s first Trek novel, and was a lot of fun. The Enterprise comes across an asteroid traveling through space. It’s revealed that it is in fact, a Dyson sphere, and our stalwart crew is pulled inside, ship and all. They learn that they aren’t the only ones who’ve been pulled inside. The Klingons are here as well!

Yet on the interior surface there is a sentient species, who may have the answers about how to escape. But first you have to avoid those who walk at night.

I quite enjoyed both of Eklund’s books, and I’m a little saddened he didn’t write more, especially when Paramount and Pocket Books launched the new series of  novels.

7)Perry’s Planet by Jack Haldeman. The Enterprise arrives at Perry’s Planet, a planet of perpetual peace. The landing party is initially intrigued, but then find that they are unable to have violent thoughts themselves, or commit violent actions.

Which leaves them in peril, as the Klingons have arrived. But with all of the crew infected with this ‘peace bug’ they are unable to fire back at the Klingons, who are there to destroy the Enterprise and then the Captain.

It’s up to Kirk and Spock to unearth the secret of Perry’s Planet, and how a long dead ruler still controls it.

8) Spock Must Die by James Blish. Taking a page from Enemy Within, a transporter mishap results in two Spocks!

The Klingons have somehow been able to circumvent the Organian peace treaty. Jury-rigging the Enterprise transporter for a long-range beam, Spock attempts to beam himself to Organia, but nothing happens, until a second Spock, perfectly identical, steps out of the transporter with him.

As they race through Klingon space to reach Organia and stop the war, it becomes evident that one, or both of the Spocks may be working against Kirk and his crew!

9) Trek to Madworld by Stephen Goldin. The Organians are center stage again. Well, one of them, and he seems to be a bit of a cross between Trelane and Q. Apparently, he left the Organians to live on his own.

But he’s missing something from his world, and if the Federation, the Klingons, or the Romulans can tell you what he’s missing, he promises to grant them one wish, and Kirk is afraid that it may be a weapon of incredible power.

He must solve the riddle of Madworld, stop the Klingons and Romulans, and get back on course, to save the lives of colonists who are dying from radiation.

10)World Without End by Joe Haldeman. The Enterprise discovers the artificial world of Chatalia, which though it isn’t called as much, it sounds like another Dyson sphere scenario to me.

The interior is inhabited by creatures that look like, larger, and uglier, sentient flying squirrels. You did read that right. It’s mentioned once, and never talked about again in the rest of the book.

But the planet has a secret, and if Kirk and his landing party can survive long enough, they may just solve the riddle of the world without end.

11) Star Trek: New Voyages 1. This is one of two collections of fan written short stories introduced by the cast of the original series. There is some interesting ideas here, and some fun stories, including one that sees James Kirk as a mental patient in the late 1950s, hidden there by the Klingons.

Some however, I found not quite as enjoyable, specifically the one entitled Sonnet from the Vulcan penned by Shirley Meech. Believe me, it’ll become clear when I get to similar themed material in the last two books of this list.

12) Spock Messiah! by Theodore Cogswell & Charles Spano, Jr. The Enterprise is studying the culture of the planet Kyros, using implants to allow the crew to shadow the natives. Something goes terribly wrong in Spock’s implant, and he becomes a self-proclaimed prophet and messiah for the people of the planet.

Unable to beam Spock to the ship, it’s up to Kirk and company to infiltrate his followers, and stop Spock before it’s too late.

This was the only one I had read prior to taking these Trek books on, and it’s apparent I didn’t remember it at all, which does not speak highly for it. The idea isn’t terrible at all, but some of the actions of the crew, including a female crew member’s tampering with the device in an effort to sleep with Spock, didn’t ring true (you could argue she was under the influence of her own implant but it’s demonstrated fairly early on that one has a large measure of control over one’s actions). There was also the way Kirk and everyone refers to this crewmen’s feminine wiles and attributes that was a little bothersome as well. I thought we were in the 23rd century?

13) Star Trek New Voyages 2. A second collection of fan material, as well as unproduced script for Star Trek The Animated Series, presented in script format.

However, the stories here just don’t have the same vibe as the first collection, and in fact some of it gets weighed down by the same problems that haunt the last two books on this list, so I’ll talk about that more in a moment.

There must have been other stories you could’ve used, ones to excite the imagination about strange new worlds, and seeking out new life, and new civilizations… oh well.

And then we come to 14 & 15) Price of the Phoenix and its sequel Fate of the Phoenix. Both of which were penned by Sondra Marshak and Myrna Culbreath.

All I could think while I read these books was “Did anyone at Paramount even read these???”

Because both of them, for want of any better description, are simply put… slash fan fiction.

It posits that Kirk and Spock’s relationship was a lot more on the physical side. Now, slash fiction has its place, and its audience, but there was no warning that this was where the book was headed. Consequently, it wasn’t really for me, and I barely got through it.

I’m now getting ready to beam over to the Pocket Book series, but as there are so many of them, I’ll keep my future lists to the top ten of each series, and collections.

It was an interesting collection of novels, in a time before we had so much Star Trek! Most of the novels were published before the very first movie! Whereas nowadays there seems to be a new Trek book every other month or so, from the various series, these were few and far between.

Different times…

But even then, The Human Adventure was just beginning…