Category Archives: Star Trek

Star Trek Beyond (2016): The Reboot Series Finally Captures Classic “Star Trek”

Star Trek Beyond

    “Star Trek Beyond,” is a film that best captures the spirit of the Star Trek Franchise than probably “The Undiscovered Country.” That film has a better story and is one of my all time favorite Star Trek Films but this film is still really good and I enjoyed it a lot more than “Star Trek Into Darkness,” which at the end of the day depended way too much on conspiracy and fan service rather than showing the spirit and cost of adventure the way this film does. Non-spoiler thoughts…this film has great action, comedy and characters and is well worth your time to see it on the big screen.

    “Star Trek Beyond” was directed by Justin Lin, written by Simon Pegg and Doug Jung and produced by J.J. Abrams, Roberto Orci and Bryan Burk.

     The story takes place 3 years into the 5 year mission and Kirk (Chris Pine) finds himself at a crossroads with the possibility of promotion and Spock (Zachary Quinto) is pulled back into Vulcan after a major death.  They and the crew are put to the test though when they are lead into a trap and must face Krall (Idris Elba) who destroys their ship, forcing them to adapt to the planet and keep him from getting the superweapon he seeks.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros: The World – This movie captures the wonder of the World of Star Trek. We get the Utopia of Yorktown, the horrors of war via Krall and tons of alien species and first contact opportunities.

Yorktown – Yorktown is a like a giant snowglobe in space and looks like how I always imagined a advanced space station actually looking (in the tv shows they never were able to capture it like it is on film, they are just stations, this is a city). I loved this area and I like that we spent time here to humanize our crew and see how the Federation has achieved Utopia.

The Writing – Minus the writing of Krall, the writing is a major pro. Every character is given things to do, characters change and aren’t just rehashing the same story (Kirk, Spock and Uhura had the same story twice in the last two reboot films). Simon Pegg being a Trekkie and one of the writers is one reason I think why this worked so much.

Cinematography – The cinematography is beautiful and stunning and captures the old look of the show while modernizing it for the screen. It feels dreamlike and from it the adventure of this great series.

The Comedy – The comedy is gold, especially anything with Jaylah and Scotty and McCoy and Spock. The dialogue is quick and witty and always moves the action forward.

Use of Ensemble Cast – The cast all has things to do and it keeps the story strong! Uhura and Sulu are protecting the hostages and the device, Chekov is with Kirk, McCoy is Spock and Scotty is with Jaylah. Each of them are working to find one another and defeat Krall and it leads to great comedic and dramatic moments.

The Cast – The cast is the strongest part of this film, these actors have come to inhabit these characters.

Chekov – R. I. P. Anton Yelchin…you really inhabited this role. This is a film where Chekov is with Kirk for a lot of it and later teams up with Scotty since he knows tech. almost as well. We see him be the hero and the problem solver and his relationship with Kirk is pretty great. You’ll be missed Anton…

Sulu – John Cho is fantastic as Sulu and in this we get to meet his husband and daughter at Yorktown and from there see the reason why he is fighting so hard to defend it. In this he get to see him fly the Franklin, fight with the Enterprise until Krall’s drones destroy it. It is great seeing him and Uhura team up.

Uhura – Uhura is the primary protector of the hostages and the device that Krall is trying to get. She only loses when Krall threatens a crew member forcing the crewman to reveal her hand and where she’s kid the device. Uhura is ready to die to protect it though. We also see that her and Spock still have a great relationship even though they may or may not have broken up. Zoe Saldana is fantastic.

Scotty – Simon Pegg is really great in the role of Scotty and in this we see him as the major problem solver, whether it is fixing the Franklin, finding the crew and Krall or working with Jaylah on traps.

McCoy – Karl Urban really owns the role of McCoy and in this we get to see his friendship with Spock grow as they are stuck together for most of the film. It is great seeing their dynamic as McCoy’s cynical optimism is contrasted beautifully with Spock’s cold clear logic and duty driven decisions. This eventually leads to them taking on Krall by kidnapping one of the drone ships since Spock needs someone to monitor his injury he received when the Enterprise was destroyed and McCoy is the only one who knows about it.

Spock – Spock is faced with a decision in this…to stay with the crew or to return to Vulcan to help create more Vulcans. Ambassador Spock has died and no Vulcan is once more lacking limited leaders and there still aren’t very many of them. Over the course of the film he decides to stay for the crew though, not because of future Spock and I really like that. He discovers that it is out on the frontier he can protect Vulcan best and the realization that the entire crew is his family now and will be (he sees a picture of the crew when they are older that Ambassador Spock was keeping).

Kirk – Kirk like Spock is faced with a decision to stay or get a promotion and go as when we first meet him his life on the ship has become mundane and he expresses how trapped everyone feels out in space for so long. It is powerful as he is really talking about himself. Krall reminds him of why he is out there too and even though he loses the Enterprise he decides to stay to Captain and because the Captain of the newly built Enterprise-A we see being built at the end of the film.

Jaylah -Sofia Boutella is awesome as Jaylah and I hope she becomes part of the main crew. She is the one who helps them all team up as her home is Krall’s old Federation ship the Franklin. It is thanks to her and Scotty that they get it running and are able to use it as a base to free the hostages and to confront Krall and his drone forces. She also has a somewhat romantic thing with Scotty and is an orphan whose been fighting Krall all her life. Suffice to say she is awesome.

The Idea of Krall – The idea of Krall as a former Space Marine turned alien warlord is cool. Peace doesn’t work for everyone, especially those who gain honor from combat and live from it (one reason the Federation fights the Klingons every generation even after the treaties). There was so much more that could have been done with this idea if he had just been fleshed out more as a character.

Remembering the Dead – R.I.P. Leonard Nimoy and Anton Yelchin. Both of them were given time to be remembered as Spock remembered Ambassador Spock and the final scene was fade to black with “For Anton” in memory of Anton Yelchin. The two of them were amazing and have left a legacy on this universe and the world.

Okay: Krall/Balthazar Edison – Idris Elba is good at humanizing this ex-marine turned alien Warlord and his acting is great, it is just the writing for Krall is only so-so so I’m putting him at okay. We never get explanations of why he turned into an alien or how using people turned him back into a person.

The Cons: Villain plan – The villain plan is to destroy Yorktown, which if Krall want the Federation at war, that isn’t going to help…since there is no way could escape, it was do the most damage and die…which I expected more from a man who had lived hundreds of years. He should have had a better plan.

How did Balthazar become Krall and Revert Back? – Balthazar was a M.A.C.O. (Pre-Federation Marine) who is maid captain after the Xindi and Romulan wars and finds himself abandoned on the planet. Something happens that causes him to become the alien Krall and he is using people to turn back into a person. This is never explained.

Pacing – The pacing can be a bit jarring at times. Sometimes everything is going too fast and we have no time to really soak in what our characters are going through, and other times we linger too long. This is most true at the beginning but by about a third of the way through the film this isn’t as much of an issue.

   The villain isn’t bad but he is where most of the holes in the plot are. Sometimes the pacing can be a little jarring, and I was bored at one point because of it…but the payoff when they arrive on Krall’s world is fantastic and almost everything after that works. This is a film that reminded me why I’m a Trekkie and I can’t wait to go back and review the other films so I can rate them all against one another. This a film well deserving of it’s place in the Franchise and some of the most fun I’ve had at the movies this summer.

Final Score: 8.5 / 10

Star Trek: The Animated Series – Season 1, Episode 1 – “Beyond the Farthest Star” – Capturing the Wonder and Adventure of “The Original Series”

Star Trek The Animated Series Season 1 Ep 1.

   “Beyond the Farthest Star” is the Pilot of “Star Trek: The Animated Series” and in my opinion it does a good job of capturing what “The Original Series” so good. In this we have a mystery, a problem to be solved and humanity shown in an enemy with most of the crew at work and active in order to solve the problem. This to me, is part of what made a good Star Trek episode.

     The episode was directed by Hal Sutherland and written by Samuel A. Peeples.

     The story involves the Enterprise being caught around a Negative Star Mass who find themselves dealing with another threat when they go to the other alien vessel trapped where they are and find it was carrying dangerous cargo which escapes onto the Enterprise. From here the crew must outsmart the creature and escape from orbit.

The Pros: The Conflict – The two conflicts are done really well. The Questar M-17 feels like a threat in how it is pulling them towards it and the malevolent being nearly kills Scotty and many members of the crew as it tires to blackmail them into getting off the planet so it will be free in the Galaxy.

The Voice Acting – The voice acting is great in this episode! Shatner, Nimoy, and the others speak like they are doing the actions and they feel invested in the events being animated.

The Ancient Alien Race – There is an ancient alien race that destroys itself in order to trap the entity around the Questar. They are cool looking and look like giant bugs and their vessel looks like a giant purple plant. This was the reason I chose it as the photo for this episode review as it captured the great creative things you could do with designing an alien species.

The Malevolent Entity – The Entity starts out as a troll and has the voice of Dalek and manages to nearly get its way until Kirk is about to manually take control of the ship and in a desperate gambit force it out onto the Questar where we alone part of it’s issue is it is alone and that is why it has always acted out from it’s isolation.

The Crew of the Enterprise – The crew is fantastic and all of them do things. From Sulu being in control when McCoy, Scotty, Spock and Kirk explore the alien vessel, to Spock figuring out the calculations in his head to get them out of the Questar and get rid of the alien and finally Kirk’s gambit to control the vessel and to risk it all to get rid of the Entity. Most of the crew has things to do this episode.

The Cons: The Animation – Filmation cuts corners and it shows. The crew walks very stiltedly and the eyes don’t feel fully real. It’s serviceable but it’s hard not to notice how cheap it is.

Too Short of Length – This episode could have been an hour long so we learn what the Entity is who the Ancient Alien race was and to raise the stakes of them being trapped. The episode only being 30 minutes made things feel a bit rushed.

   This was a good episode and it captures the wonder of space travel and shows the crew as a Team which is what usually made a good “Star Trek” episode from any series. I’m looking forward to seeing the rest of the series and after this reviewing “The Original Series” on a more regular basis as this episode reminded me so much of all I enjoyed about the very first “Star Trek.”

Final Score: 8 / 10

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine – Season 6, Episode 13 – “Far Beyond the Stars” – The Ongoing Struggle For Justice and Equality

Ds9 Far Beyond the Stars

      “Far Beyond the Stars” is a masterpiece on so many levels and an episode where the trials and struggles of the 1960’s reveal themselves to sadly be just as true today. We are so far from the world of “Deep Space Nine” in not just our television but our science fiction books too, even if things have improved in some ways. This is an episode that has such a powerful point with some of the best writing and acting to come out of this series. The fact that Avery Brooks (Captain Sisko) was also the director also lends more power to it when you look how focused on justice so much of Avery Brooks’s passion has gone towards post “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.” On a final note before I get into the details, it is also a very meta and philosophical episode of Trek.

      “Far Beyond the Stars” was as stated above, directed by Avery Brooks with the teleplay by Ira Steven Behr and Hans Beimler with story by Marc Scott Zicree.

     The story begins with Captain Sisko’s Father Joseph Sisko visiting the station as Ben is rethinking what difference he is actually making, as his friend died in a routine patrol of the Cardassian Border and the Dominion War looks as if it has no sign of ending. His father tells him he should think on it as he begins seeing people from the 1960’s before he is transported into the world of Benny, an African American Science Fiction Writer during the 1960’s where his story unfolds and realities keep colliding as they try to find out what’s going on “Deep Space Nine” as he faces the reality of the past in the life of Benny.

The Pros: Benny’s World – I love that they set in the 60’s and unlike the “Mad Men” version of the 60’s we get to see the lives of the middle class, the poor and people who aren’t of European descent. The world doesn’t pull any punches with every character being flawed and discrimination being widespread and enforced by the law. I’ll get into more of the details when I explore the characters though.

The Soundtrack – There is so much great jazz in this episode and so often the episode knows when to be silent, it isn’t standard recycled music and that really made the episode just that much stronger in the presentation and story.

The Characters – I’m only referring to the characters of Benny’s world in this instance since the only people really explored in Captain Sisko’s time are himself and his father. The characters of Benny’s world (played by the same actors who make salutes to their counterparts in personality and actions) are wonderful. They are distinct while still having the inspiration of “Deep Space Nine” (or vise versa as I’ll go into later).

Willie Hawkins – Michael Dorn plays the baseball player who shows us that it doesn’t matter if you are star athlete, housing ordinances are still just that and even though some whites want to see you play they don’t want you around (most housing ordinances weren’t ended until the 90’s and 80’s even). His way of dealing with it is flirting with everyone. His character is very confident and it’s fun to see. He knows he’s a star and Dorn does it very well.

Jimmy – Jimmy is a young African-american guy and friends with Benny and a bit of a hustler. The day he gets the opportunity for wealth the detectives Burt and Kevin murder him. They say it was for breaking into a car but based of their reaction of beating up Benny for even asking questions I sincerely doubt that. R.I.P. Jimmy. Sad thing is this still happens today. This scene is given more power given the actor plays Jake Sisko…Benjamin Sisko’s son in the series as a whole.

Cassie – Played by the actress who plays Captain Sisko’s wife Kasidy she is great in this as the woman who accepts discrimination (and Willie’s creeping) and wants to build a life that she feels is practical with Benny. To this end she’s working at owning the restaurant she works at and trying to get Benny to see it too. She’s super supportive of him and his writing though and takes care of him after the cops beat him up.

Kay Eaton – Kay is played by Nana Visitor who plays Major Kira and she is an author who writes under a name K.C. so people will think she is man. She is aware of the prejudice and inequality around her and can relate to Benny in that way. She’s more resigned than Benny though and doesn’t fight Pabst over the injustice of the Editors.

Herbert Rossoff – Rosoff played by Shimerman (who plays Quark) is the one person always clashing with Pabst (played by Rene who plays Odo) and is most vocal against the injustice of Benny’s story not being published and the editors shutting down the magazine for a month because of Benny’s black protagonist.

Douglas Pabst – Played by the actor who plays Odo, like Odo Pabst is all about the rules, even if they are unjust. He doesn’t care about injustice he cares about money and fires Benny when the Publishers choose not to run the stories. He isn’t even well intentioned he is all about the rules, just like Odo. He is the status quo and those who do nothing.

Benny Russell – Benny Russell is the one dreaming “Deep Space Nine” and the one being dreamed by Captain Sisko. He has victories like when Pabst accepts the story of “Deep Space Nine” being a dream. He is inspired by Delaney a gay African American writer whose story was rejected because his protagonist was mixed race. Benny the character is different in that he is working to be married with Cassie but his role becomes bigger after “The Preacher” reminds him of his role as a a symbol of the future and justice and making the story of “Captain Sisko” real by telling the story. This ends with him being put in a hospital though as he stands up to Pabst and cries out to be recognized as a human being.

Joseph Sisko – Joseph reminds his son Ben of how important it is to fight, which makes sense that he’d be the Preacher in Ben’s dream of Benny as he is calling Captain Sisko back to the struggle and making sure a just world remains or can come about…that life is bigger than those he has lost and himself.

Captain Sisko – Sisko is mourning the loss of his friend but after he dreams of Benny and realizes that Benny could have dreamed one another into reality realizes how important it is to fight and struggle against injustice, be it discrimination or the tyranny of the Dominion.

Honorary Mentions – Alamo (Dukat) and Combs (Weyoun) play corrupt detectives who are the ones responsible for killing Jimmy…and Meaney played a bumbling writer who liked robots. They weren’t bad characters but they weren’t explored some of the other characters were, which is why I’m giving them honorary mentions.

Easter Eggs – The Magazine they are writing for has “Star Trek: The Original Series” stories in it’s pages. Ranging from “The Cage” to “Where no One has Gone Before.” It’s a really cool salute to the past early science fiction as well as the ripple “Star Trek” created by it’s existence as a show during this time period.

The Meta Moments – The whole idea of “Deep Space Nine” all existing in the mind of Benny is very meta as “Deep Space Nine” existed in the writers who wrote the show. Benny is almost a stand in for them and the story they all sought to tell.

The Message – There are quite a few messages in this that stands out. The dreams of the present can become the dreams of the future and the dreams of the past remind us of what we still need and can accomplish. There is also the fact that injustice must be fought if anything is ever going to change and the power of story and how ideas can never die.

Representation and racism in the Past and Present – Delaney was an African-American Gay Black Science Fiction writer whose story was rejected by his racist publisher. Here is a great article that explores it and the lack of representation of people of color today: http://www.newrepublic.com/article/121554/2015-hugo-awards-and-history-science-fiction-culture-wars

This article shows that Delaney’s story is still true in many ways today and it is certainly true on television and other forms media. Now I don’t know how much talking about it changes it, but sometimes it is the stories that do. Look at the influence “Star Trek” has had on the culture and with that the same potential other science fiction shows can have. What is the future we want to create?

The Potential Future – There will always be problems I think, maybe and hopefully not the same ones even if echoes of those same problems remain…but it is in our power to change them, for each generation to make those changes in how they live, the laws they make and how they and we treat our fellow human beings. I don’t know if it will ever happen, but I hope for the future that “Deep Space Nine” represents.

Final Score: 10 / 10. One of the greatest stories to ever come out of “Star Trek” and still relevant to this day.

Star Trek: The Next Generation – Season 5, Episode 25 – “The Inner Light” – Remembering a People

Star Trek The Inner Light

“Seize the time, Meribor – live now! Make now always the most precious time. Now will never come again.”

– Captain Jean-Luc Picard

We continue “Trek Requests” with “The Inner Light,” hands down one of the best stories to come out of “Star Trek” and “Star Trek: The Next Generation” that really highlights the high concept sci. fi. ideas that the show could bring and explore while giving us the chance to explore an entire new culture and civilization as well as the man of Jean-Luc Picard.

“The Inner Light” was directed by Peter Lauritson with the teleplay and story by Morgan Gendel and Peter Allan Fields as the other co-writer of the teleplay.

The story involves the Enterprise-D investigating a probe that is following them that sends Captain Picard into sleep. When Picard awakens he finds himself as the man Kamin in the community of Ressik on the planet of Kataan. From here he seeks to figure out the nature of the state he is in and if it is real, while his crew tries to get him out of the state that was brought about by a beam from the probe.

The Pros: First Contact – When Picard wakes up as Kamin he is fully Picard. The first thing he does is ask computer to “End Program.” He later goes outside and he questions everything. He does this for 5 years before finally accepting the reality of the life he’s living at Kamin is real but in doing so he gets all the information he can first such as when he asks Batai who he is, the planet and the town they are in. It’s powerful and shows why Picard is the diplomat and one of the smartest of the captains. He works to understand wherever he is so that first contact can go well.

The Life of Kamin – Kamin’s life is a full one. He is a scientist who inspires his daughter to become a scientist, and a musician who plays the flute who inspires his son to play the flute. In both cases they are studying the ongoing drought on their world and what to do about the water supply. He is politically connected as his friend Batai is on the city council, and his youngest son he names after Batai and he is a fighter. He stands up to the Administrator about the dying of their planet and learns they’ve known for the last 2 years. After his full life with his family and wife in which he is around for the death of his friend Batai and his wife Eline he is a grandfather and his story comes to an end as the rocket is launched which was the probe that shared the story of these people with whoever would discover it.

Picard and Kamin – Was Kamin fully like Picard in that the fever had made him believe he was in a Starship? Was Kamin a musician or was it Picard’s embracing of the flute to get used to living a life another that was key? The issues of identity are never fully resolved though we know Kamin had a family as they tell Picard to remember them at the end when he watches the probe launch into space. This is part of what makes the episode so good. Picard lived a full life that was both his and the life of another that gave him the glimpse into the world of a civilization that died 1000 years ago.

Politics of Water – In this episode the planet Kataan is dying but those in power in denial over it, even though we learn years later that they knew all along that the heating of the planet was causing water problems. This was a great showing and not telling in regards to Global Warming as we see this same denial today by those who profit from not changing the status quo. Change is hard even if the status quo is difficult with water being rationed (Like in California currently). This was one of the great moments in the episode where the trials of an alien species mirrored our own and were ones that we could relate to.

The Crew of the Enterprise-D – The crew is very involved at the beginning with Geordi, Worf, Data and Riker having lines about the probe before Riker catches Picard before he falls. We later see them stop the beam and reestablish it when Picard begins to die. Beverly is on the bridge during this time trying to help resuscitate Picard but to no avail. The scenes are powerful on the bridge since the crew is powerless and can’t do anything while their captain is going through an experience they have never dealt with before and know nothing about.

Remembrance – A huge theme of this episode is Remembrance, which is what we see when Kamin’s family talks to Picard at the end. The probe was sent out so their people would not be forgotten as the civilization knew it would be dead by the time the probe reached anyone. From this though they found hope in being remembered and did it by sharing Kamin’s life and the memories of their people. The experience is so powerful that Picard learns how to play the flute while there and when he returns and receives the flute in the probe plays a song to remember the life he lived with the people who are no more.

The Message – There were quite a few messages in this. Not ignoring a problem until it becomes impossible to deal with (the heating of the planet and water usage in the case of the Kataan), and the importance of remembering the past and those who have gone, cause even though no civilization and culture are perfect we can still take the good from the past and apply the lessons from it to the future.

This episode is everything that is great about “Star Trek.” It’s a meditative episode with Captain Picard living the life of another people and culture and from that experience coming to love and remember them. It’s an experience only he receives and it defines him in a way as to express himself through music and be left speechless before the crew. This profound discovery of new and new civilization (even if the civilization has long been dead) is part of why I am a Trekkie. The aliens of “Star Trek” when they are written right teach us more about ourselves and reveal our own shortcomings and strengths and with it give us the ability to empathize better, as Picard did when he became a part of a people before the probe breaks contact…and also that as long as people remember those who have been lost, they have life again in our hearts and minds.

Final Score: 10 / 10. Perfect “Star Trek: The Next Generation” episode.

Star Trek: The Original Series – Season 1, Episode 19 – “Arena” – The Dilemmas of War and Power of Mercy

Star Trek Arena

   “Arena” is the first of a few “Star Trek” episodes I’ll be reviewing this week. On Facebook I did some “Trek Requests” and this was the episode requested for “The Original Series.” The other two episodes will from “The Next Generation” and “Deep Space Nine.” I’ll save which ones they are until I review them. Suffice to say “Arena” was very enjoyable though it still has the same problems I noticed when I first watched the episode as a young child.

    The episode was directed by Joseph Pevney with the teleplay by Gene L. Coon and story by Fredric Brown.

    The story involves the crew of the Enterprise arriving on the outpost Cestus III which is under attack from the Gorn. A dying survivor tells them how they were attacked leading Kirk to pursue the Gorn ship until they are stopped by the Metrons who transport Kirk and the Gorn Captain to the Arena where they can face each other using the resources on the planet so the conflict between the two ships will no longer be happening in Metron space. From here the story unfolds as Kirk must MacGyver his way out the situation and learn what bigger purpose he it being put up to by the Metrons.

The Pros: Cestus III – Cestus III is a warzone. We see that chemical weapons were used on Federation troops and the Outpost is a wasteland we also hear about the slaughter of women and children but due to the nature of the episode we aren’t able to confirm it. It is war and like war there is a fog. Luckily through quick thinking by Kirk, he and Spock are able to fight back though the red shirt is killed. It’s a very strong start to the episode and shows just what is at stake and what motivates Kirk in his desire to stop and destroy the Gorn vessel.

Sulu – Sulu is in charge of the Enterprise at one point when Kirk and Spock go down to Cestus III and he does a great job protecting their ship and keeping the Gorn at bay until Kirk and Spock are able to be beamed back aboard again. Sulu was eventually made Captain for a reason, the guy is great in a crisis.

Spock – Spock not being emotional is good as he points out that Kirk doesn’t know what happened or why they became under attack, what he misses is that the enemy has never communicated with them at all. Spock is implied to be right though on not destroying the vessel when it is found that the Outpost might have been placed in Gorn Territory and that it will be a situation for diplomats to handle.

McCoy – McCoy sees the consequences of fighting the Gorn too and makes an appeal to civilization to the Metrons to stop the fighting of Kirk and the Gorn Captain. They are ignored but when they are shown the fight the Gorn Captain says the Outpost was in their territory which changes McCoy over to Spock’s perspective of not attacking first.

Captain Kirk – Captain Kirk shows what he is famous for in this episode (no he doesn’t sleep with the Gorn) he MacGyvers a makeshift gun that defeats the enemy Gorn Captain after he’s exhausted all other traps against the Gorn…and after he shows Mercy which impresses the Metrons who appear to him and which later leads to a Kirk Speech where he tells Spock that in 1000 years maybe they will be an enlightened species, so they’ve got a little time. Kirk’s humor, passion, anger (the destruction of the outpost) and compassion (sparing the Gorn Captain) are on display here and show why he is one of the most popular Captains in “Star Trek.”

The Gorn Captain – The Gorn Captain has a great design and he is clearly alien. For him mercy is giving Kirk a quick death and any intrusion into their territory warrants a threat. The Captain is strong and powerful and is only stopped by a diamond fired from a gun. It’s a shame the Gorn weren’t used more as they have a great design and are one of the more intriguing lesser used species in “Star Trek” along with the Tholians.

The Message – The message is that mercy is important when you’ve defeated your enemy and to not leap to conclusions in war. The message is kind of wrong in regards to the outpost though as we never see the Gorn communicate with the Enterprise and to reason with another to understand a person you have to talk to them. The Gorn do not talk to the Federation as far as we can see until the Metrons force their captain onto the planet. Also, if there were women and children slaughtered on Cestus III than the Gorn involved were evil. There is nothing that can justify the killing of innocents and that is where mercy can be missed, as we have no guarantees the Gorn wouldn’t do it again elsewhere. The core message of not rushing to judgement is important though as the Outpost wouldn’t have been built if the Federation had known it was Gorn space (assuming the Gorn are telling the truth, just like have to assume the Federation soldier was telling the truth about women and children being slaughtered…we don’t know fully yet in either case).

Okay: The Metrons – Another God Species trying to teach the “lesser” species a lesson about compassion towards one another and mercy. I really don’t like the transcended species trope as it simplifies the issues and in most cases the folks like the Metrons stand by while real life atrocities are going on so all their talk of Enlightenment usually doesn’t mean much in regards to their actions outside those who enter their sphere. Still, one of the earliest uses of this trope so I’m putting them down as okay and not a con.

The Cons: Pacing – The episode is really slow. It starts out strong when Kirk and Spock are on Cestus III under fire but most of the action on the Enterprise is passive watching of either the Gorn ship or of the Gorn Captain and Kirk fighting on the planet. This episode should have been 35 minutes ideally or given us more character moments like when Kirk and Spock were discussing the attack and what might have lead to it and what must be done. Those were the strongest moments in the episode outside of Kirk’s ingenuity.

  This is classic “Star Trek” and well worth watching, even though it isn’t my favorite episode and I do take issue with the Metrons approach to life, the pacing and that the Gorn are just presented as bad guys if we only take how they react to Kirk and what happened on the outpost. There was the potential for much more complexity this episode than we got, though I really like the idea and watching Kirk MacGyver his way out of a situation is always fun to watch…and the horror of Cestus III really raises the stakes in the episode and kept me interested even with how slow the episode felt at times.

8 / 10. Solidly good.

Star Trek: The Original Series – Season 1, Episode 14 – “Balance of Terror” – Seeing Yourself in Your Enemy

Romulan_commander_and_Centurian

  We continue Leonard Nimoy Week with my favorite episode so far of “Star Trek: The Original Series.” The episode is “Balance of Terror” and is the episode that got me into the “Original Series” in the first place, as the first time I’d seen it I hadn’t been impressed. In this we learn about the Vulcans, Romulans and Humanity’s past and present…and Nimoy’s performance as Spock is a major part of it.

   “Balance of Terror,” was directed by Vincent McEveety and written by Paul Schneider.

     The story begins with outposts going silent along the Romulan Neutral Zone, where Humanity and Romulans had once fought a war with Nuclear Weapons and have never seen one another as they communicated the treaty. As one of the last ouposts is attacked the Enterprise Crew glimpse the Romulans and one of them suspects Spock as the enemy. From here the crew must stop the Romulan Warbird before it returns to Romulus as it’s victories could re-ignite the war.

The Pros: The Romulans – The Romulans are awesome and this was the episode that made them a favorite to me. They are honor bound, clever, hierarchical and driven to be the best in all things. They are also extremely passionate showing that they left Vulcan because they rejected the Philosophy of Vulcans and went their own way. They are independent and powerful. They are my favorite Empire and Species in “Star Trek,” and it’s a shame they have yet to have a good movie where they are the great antagonists they deserve, like they were this episode.

The Cinematography – The cinematography is really great in this episode, especially in regards to the ship combat where we are shown what each ship is seeing and from it how they are balanced. Both have strengths and weaknesses and those play a part in how the Commanders strategize against one another.

The Newlyweds – There is a couple getting married at the beginning of the episode, and the husband dies in the battle against the Romulans. You feel it too as they have chemistry with one another and we are given time to know them over the course of the episode. He was a good red shirt…and his death establishes just how deady the Romulans are.

The Battle – This is related to the cinematography but both ships are limited in the same way the ships were in “Wrath of Khan.” The Romulans only have impulse power but can cloak, they have one powerful shot but it doesn’t have the extended range federation lazers do, and the Enterprise has speed that the Warbird lacks. This makes for a great battle especially since it has costs in the end with Centurion dying first and later the crew of the Romulan Warbird and of course the husband of the newlyweds on the Enterprise.

Lieutenant Stiles – This guy is the hothead who hates Spock for looking like the enemy as his family was killed in the Earth-Romulan War and he sees this as his chance for revenge. In the end he changes though when Spock saves his life making him realize how small minded he had been.

Centurion – Centurion is the Romulan Commander’s mentor and similar in role to how Bones is Kirk. They are old friends and it seems like their families know each other. They discuss what was done and the risk of war as well as the benefits and fallbacks of what was accomplished.

Spock – Leonard Nimoy is great in this role as he takes on Stiles bigotry by educating Stiles that he is right to fear as the Vulcans were once warlike and similar to humans. He also saves Stiles life and justifies it as the logical thing to do showing that even when he was heroic he was humble and reserved to Stiles who was always arrogant and angry. He is Stiles’s teacher this episode and also helps Kirk in the battle against the Romulan, and sadly due to one of Spock’s mistakes nearly costs them the ship too. We see in this just how imperfect he is, though he is a great person and officer. I chose this episode for Leonard Nimoy Week for a reason.

Captain Kirk – This episode has some of  William Shatner’s best acting range. We see the sympathetic happy man who is about to be the overseer of a wedding, we see the good when he stands up to Stiles’s prejudice with, “Leave any bigotry in your quarters; there’s no room for it on the bridge.” we see the conflicted soldier facing off against an equal adversary, we see his goodness when he offers to save the Romulan survivors before the ship is destroyed and when he mourns the loss of life. This is really a fantastic Kirk episode.

The Romulan Commander – This guy deserves his own section and is on par with Kirk as the focus of this episode and rightfully so. In this man we see a man who is driven by duty to commit wrongs (destroying the outposts) when he wants nothing more than to return home. Everything he does is so they won’t be defeated but that they will arrive back to Romulus safely. Sadly it is duty that does him in though he realized how similar Kirk and he were and mourns the friendship that could have existed in another world and time.  “I regret that we meet in this way. You and I are of a kind. In a different reality, I could have called you friend,” So glad that Mark Lenard played Sarek later in the series and in “Star Trek: The Next Generation.” The guy is an amazing actor and was a huge part of why this episode was unforgettable.

The Message – There are a few messages this episode. One is the wrongness of prejudice (the Stiles and Spock arc) and the other is that even enemies may find just how similar they are and that war happens when that is forgotten and they only exist as the enemy. It is powerful and we see in the Romulan Commander and Kirk a friendship that might have been as both as seasoned commanders who rule by more than duty and see the bigger picture of all that is at stake in how they act in the Galaxy.

    This is my favorite episode of “Star Trek: The Original Series,” and to any person into sci. fi., is the episode I usually recommend. Leonard Nimoy is fantastic at Spock and we come to know the Romulans through him when he reveals the Vulcan’s Colonial past and the wrongness of prejudice in how Stiles treats him. We also see the price of conflict and war with the death of the husband on the Enterprise and the death of the Romulan crew of the Warbird. This is “Star Trek” at it’s best and is a must see for anyone who is a Trekkie and loves the show.

Final Score: 10 / 10.

In Memory of Leonard Nimoy – Leonard Nimoy Week

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     Leonard Nimoy was an amazing man, that much has been obvious for a very long time. From his military service, music, directing, writing and acting and what he did outside of his work he touched the lives of so many people.

       I know him largely from his work with “Star Trek” as I grew up watching “The Original Series” and “The Original Series Films.” It was his death in “Wrath of Khan” that first made me tear up during a “Star Trek” film and it was his character Spock who I could relate to, as an autistic kid who I was felt outside of things and could relate to his analytic approach to all things.

    This week I’m honoring him by reviewing some of his earliest work, some of his last work and of course an “Original Series” episode. Anytime I’d been given the ‘Choose your own Crew?’ Question in regards to Star Trek, I always chose Spock as the First Officer. He was the best and grounded everyone around him, much like Nimoy himself did. Nimoy was and wasn’t Spock, he wrote two books on the matter and both were right. He was bigger than this role that really put him on the radar for me and so many other people. He was talented beyond the screen and within the screen itself as he produced, wrote and directed films and television. If you hear about what was going on during the films, it was Nimoy who reminded the writers that it wasn’t about Kirk and Spock, it was about the crew and that dialogue should be given to all. You see this especially in “The Undiscovered Country,” where the crew is victorious because everyone is involved, versus “The Final Frontier” where it is the Kirk and Spock (though mostly Kirk) show. This was a huge reason he was respected by those who knew him…because he lived respect towards others.

   For what I’ll be reviewing of Nimoy’s filmography…going to start at the beginning with “A Quality of Mercy,” from “The Twilight Zone,” next doing “Balance of Terror” from “Star Trek: The Original Series,” “The Transformers: The Movie” and “There’s More Than one of Everything” from the tv series “Fringe” which was his last television show he was a part of.

     Nimoy influenced those who knew directly and those who didn’t like me, through the life he lived. He was truly an amazing Renaissance man who will be missed greatly. Though, even in death he gave us something to remember.

   “A life is like a garden. Perfect moments can be had, but not preserved, except in memory. LLAP”

   As we will remember you. This week is to honor you and all that you’ve done.