“Watchmen” Season 1 – A Solid Sequel That Speaks to Oppression and Justice

Amazon.com: Watch Watchmen - Season 1 | Prime Video

    “Watchmen” is one of my favorite comics of all time. It is a complete story that I’ve gone back and re-read multiple times and each time I notice more details or layers in the story. Alan Moore is truly a genius warlock. “Watchmen” was always going to have more stories come out of it though. Alan Moore never owned it so DC incorporated the characters into the rest of the DC Universe and did a whole “Before Watchmen” series that I have yet to read. So knowing this I was curious to see what Lindelof and HBO would do. Suffice to say, overall I think they did a good job. “Watchmen” never needed a sequel or prequel but this at least tells a story that matters.

This is a flawed and really good series. Like the original “Watchmen” it tackles matters of oppression and power of the past and present and gives us the evil and insidiousness of white supremacy as well as exploring how we face and deal with trauma. Without getting into spoilers this is a show I would recommend. The main parts where it falls is when it tries to incorporate too much from the original comics and where it stands strongest is where it tells it’s own powerful story.

The series was created by Damon Lindelof and produced by HBO.

The story follows Angela Abar / Sister Night (Regina King) as she works to uncover and stop a white supremacist organization known as the Seventh Kavalry who take their inspiration from Rorschach.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros:

The Soundtrack – Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross and an amazing job on this soundtrack. They give this series a dark and fantastic feel to it and it was part of what kept me involved in the story through all the different events that happen. The music is intense and blends so well with the events that take place.

The Universe – This is the Universe of “Watchmen” a world of superheroes, high technology and that reflects the problems of our own world. Like the original comic this is a world meant to reflect the oppression in our own and this show’s universe captures that beautifully.

Wade Tillman / Looking Glass – Wade Tillman was a Jehovah’s Witness who was there during the event of the Giant Squid that stopped the Doomsday clock. After he is conned and left naked in a carnival he leaves the hall of mirrors to the apocalypse from the event. This changes everything about his character and he becomes a person seeking truth as part of the police force and becoming the vigilante Looking Glass who wears a tin foil mask (and has it in his hats) to protect from psychic attacks. He is played so well by Tim Blake Nelson and seeing his arc payoff as he takes off the mask as he confronts his trauma and film is powerfully executed in the narrative.

Will Reeves / Hooded Justice – Will Reeves’s story is the main overarching narrative and the strongest arc in the show. Will’s family was killed by Klan during the Tulsa Massacre of 1921 where white supremacists burned Black Wall Street to the ground and massacred the residents living there. Will and a baby he rescues are some of few survivors of the event. After this he becomes a cop in New York City and attempts to take on the Ku Klux Klan as a cop but due to systemic racism and white supremacists on the police force he is nearly lynched and adopts the identity Hooded Justice to fight against them. Eventually this costumed identity and his own repressed sexuality lead to his relationship ending between his wife and son (He has a relationship with Captain Metropolis like in the comics) and he stops being Hooded Justice until Dr. Manhattan pulls him back into the story in order to protect his Granddaughter from the Klan who are active in Tulsa. During his time as Hooded Justice he also has to pretend to be white under the mask due the racism and prejudice of those around him with Captain Metropolis being the only one who knows his true identity. 3 different actors portray Will Reeves and each of them do a fantastic job. Louis Gossett Jr. plays him when he is 100, Jovan Adepo plays him during his time in the Minutemen and

The Pasts Revealed – The strongest parts of the story are the backstories of the characters. I loved getting Angela Abar’s backstory growing up in Vietnam and how the murder of her parents inspired her to be a cop. Looking Glass’s story as a victim of the psychic attack on New York with the giant Squid was fantastic too as was Will Reeves’s story. These stories are all told in flashback and are the strongest narratives in the show as a whole.

Systemic Oppression – Systemic Oppression through white supremacism and colonialism are major themes in the show. The story begins with Will surviving the massacre of Tulsa by the Klan and we see how entrenched racism is within the police force and politics of the United States as he grows up. In each part of his life it is revealed in a different way. From the cops being members of the KKK and protecting the KKK, from having to pretend to be white among the Minutemen and the Police Chief and Senator from Tulsa also being members of the KKK and his working with Lady Trieu to stop them from getting Dr. Manhattan’s power. Will Reeves and Angela Abar reveal these stories. We also see colonialism in the death of Angela’s parents as Vietnam is made the 51st state and it is a man fighting for Vietnamese Independence who kills them by setting off a bomb. I wish the colonial narrative had been explored further but how it explores systemic racism and white supremacy in the United States is done extremely well.

Tulsa, Oklahoma – The greatest stories in this show are the ones that tackle the oppression in the past and present. We start with the Tulsa Massacre and how that shapes Will Reeves and see that oppression in White Night when white supremacists attack Angela Abar and her family. Tulsa holds the history of so much oppression in the United States and the show doesn’t shy away from that reality as well as also giving us the story of African-Americans who fought to stay against racism and oppression and make a life after it was taken away from them and their ancestors. Tulsa is the heart of the show as all the events of the show transpire here and the ways it explores oppression and justice are part of what lends so much power to the story.

Okay:

Trieu Industries – Trieu Industries is one of my the major players of the story as Lady Trieu is trying to capture the power of Dr. Manhattan and is the one pulling the strings behind many of the events of the story. She is daughter of Adrian Veidt and wants to use the power of Dr. Manhattan to end injustice. We get some of her motivation in her mother’s story Bian, who was a Vietnamese immigrant who was a cleaning lady who worked for Veidt and stole a semen sample to get back at him. From this we can see her aims and she wipes out the Klan who are under the guise of Cyclops and the Seventh Kavalry but we don’t get more beyond this. I hated the fact that they made her Veidt daughter as she didn’t need that “Watchmen” connection to be a compelling character and it made the world of the show so small as everyone was connected to a member of the Watchmen in some way which limited the original stories that were being told. Trieu Industries wasn’t bad but there was so much unused potential and Lady Trieu’s desire to become a God needed much more exploration.

The Cons:

Dr. Manhattan and His Use – Dr. Manhattan functions as a McGuffin in the story whose very prescence ruins the stakes. He causes a paradox when his conversations with Angela Abar cause events to happen that already happened and the fact that he is only defined as those wanting his power causes him to be ildefined. We get to see him become a God and create a civilization on the moon Europa but that doesn’t go anywhere beyond getting Adrian Veidt out of the story for a bit until he can be there to save the day and be held accountable for the original Psychic Squid attack. Dr. Manhattan’s only purpose seems to be to connect characters together (Will and Angela) and to be the McGuffin all the enemies want. This is a shame as the time he is the human Cal are quite compelling. It is once he becomes a God again that things fall apart and in turn reveal the weakness in the plot.

The Final – The final ends with Adrian Veidt returning back to Earth after his daughter rescues him from his asked for exile on Europa (where he simply entertains himself until being rescued). He stops his daughter with the squids as he freezes them and breaks Lady Trieu’s machine, keeping her from ascending to godhood. After that he is taken in by Laurie Blake and Wade Tillman to stand crimes for the 3 million he killed with the psychic squid attack on New York and we get the suggestion that Angela, who was in a relationship with Dr. Manhattan may have inherited his power. Given how his power was useless for saving people so much of the time I wonder if this is really a rewarding ending. Being Dr. Manhattan is a curse and this show does little to show that it would not be the case for whomever became him next. Veidt being brought to justice and killing his daughter felt tacked on and as great as Jeremy Irons is as Veidt, his story was the weakest.

This is a series that isn’t perfect and I think telling it an anthological way would lend to the strengths inherent in the writing. This is Angela Abar and Will Reeves’s story is the best part of the show and speaks to oppression in the past and present. It is the times that it gets cosmic with Dr. Manhattan and Ozymandius that it really falls apart. This is a show I would still highly recommend. HBO made it free to watch over Juneteenth to educate people about the Tulsa Massacre and to remind people of the ongoing oppression of African-Americans here in the United States as well as the impacts of colonialism in the world. This is a powerful show that is well worth your time. I hope it inspires action as the fight for equity and justice is ongoing and it is only through action and work that anything will change.

8.6 / 10 The ending issues bring down the solid character narratives.

In the ongoing fight for justice and equality here is the Tulsa Justice Fund.

https://www.tulsajusticefund.com/

Avatar: The Last Airbender – Book 3, “Fire” Retrospect – Finding Peace in the Flames of Conflict and an Amazing Ending to one of the Greatest Shows

BOOK 3: FIRE 4: Amazon.co.uk: DVD & Blu-ray

 

        It has been a while since I’ve returned to “Avatar: The Last Airbender,” and it was an amazing return to one of my favorite shows after so long and finish up reviewing the Books. Book 3 is the only season I have yet to review. This is easily the best of the 3 Books and there are very few issues I have with the overall execution of the narrative. I’ll get into those problems below but if you need a spoiler free recommendation I highly recommend this show and this is easily the strongest season of them all. Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko truly created an amazing story.

    The premise picks up where we left off, as an injured Aang recovers from his defeat by Azula and Zuko last season. Team Avatar helps Aang recover as they help the rebellion prepare for the invasion of the Fire Nation.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros:

The Consequences of “Book 2” – Part of what makes this season work so well is it plays directly off last season. Nothing is retconned and we have the consequences of last season explored. Aang is disconnected from the Avatar state after Azula killed him and the invasion fleet is making their way to the Fire Nation to attack during the Eclipse when Firebending will no longer work. We learn it has been weeks since Aang was brought back by the Moon Spirit Water and Katara and eventually he tries to leave to take on Ozai on his own. He quickly discovers how broken and weak is. This accumulates in events that force Aang to complete his training and learn Firebending as the threat of Ozai and Sozen’s Comet hangs overhead as a ticking clock. It is beautifully done. We have the Fire Nation victorious and our rebels barely holding onto hope.

A Return of Old Allies – This season we see a bunch of old allies return. We have all the Earth Nation folks from the Swampbender Tribe, the wrestlers who Toph defeated, the Southern Water Tribe army, the mechanist and others. Each of them plays a part in the Invasion and we see just how competent the rebellion is. Sadly, what ups the stakes is that all these old allies lose to Ozai and his forces. We also have the return of June the Bounty Hunter and the different Elemental Masters and Suki as the season progresses further. Seeing the return of these old allies in the roles they play against Ozai and is forces is absolutely fantastic.

The Failed Invasion – The Invasion is a brilliant plan. Attack the Fire Nation Capitol and defeat the Fire Lord when his entire nation cannot Firebend for the minutes the Eclipse is active. We know that our allies are strong enough as Team Avatar has taken on powerful foes before and we see the Rebellion use all their tools to defeat Fire Nation forces until their retreat is eventually cut off by the secret Airship Armada that Ozai was holding in reserve. All the men surrender and we have Team Avatar and the kids of the rebels leave together as the original plan is forced to take place. Aang needs to train and become a fully realized Avatar in order to defeat Ozai.

Order of the White Lotus | Avatar Wiki | Fandom

The Order of the White Lotus – This is the season where we finally learn about the Order of the White Lotus. The White Lotus are a secret organization that believes knowledge belongs to all and seek philosophy, beauty and truth. It is this order that Bumi, Iroh, Jeong Jeong, Pakku and Piandao are members of. All are masters within their craft and it they who see their role as the liberation of Ba Sing Se while the Avatar faces Ozai. It is wonderful seeing the return of the masters who taught members of Team Avatar through the series and in turn we get the motivation of why they did this in their role as members of the White Lotus.

Iroh – Iroh is my favorite character in the series and this episode illustrates so many reasons why. He breaks himself out of prison after warning the guard who was kind to him to not be around when he does (he does creating enough heat in his body wreak havoc and defeat the guards and breakout). Once he is out Zuko eventually seeks him out and the resolution of this relationship is so beautiful. He tells Zuko that he never hated him and was only wanted him to find his way. In the end he says he cannot defeat Ozai either as even if he could defeat Ozai it would keep the old system in power and that only the Avatar’s defeat of Ozai gave the possibility for the Fire Nation to change. God, what an amazing character. His logic makes sense and the apolitical goal of the Order of the White Lotus follows this philosophy.

Consequences of the Fire Nation Threat – The Fire Nation victorious is a story of consequences as we learn that Ozai wants to do what Sozen did during the last comet. His goal is extermination as we learn in the Fire Nation War Room that the Fire Nation will need to send far more troops to the Earth Nation in order to sustain the occupation. Azula also controls the Dai Li who help prevent the invasion from becoming successful. The Southern Water Nation loses their entire army during the invasion as well so the only ones standing against Ozai’s extermination are Team Avatar and the Order of the White Lotus. One small note, I wish we could have witnessed more of the occupation. This would have been a great side story to see what the Fire Nation victorious is like. But, we do see a lot of the occupation in the past 2 Books so I get why they focused purely on Team Avatar and the Fire Nation during this Book.

An Exploration of Forgiveness and Justice – One of the most powerful themes of the show is that of forgiveness. Katara near the end of the series goes on a quest with Zuko to find the man who murdered her mother. We see her freely use bloodbending (showing how much she’s changed since learning it) and it is after she sees how pitiful she is that she chooses not to kill. She does not forgive him but she refuses to be changed by him. This was so beautifully done and I love how it isn’t clear cut. She doesn’t forgive the man who murdered her father, but she grows from the experience. The same applies to Zuko when he confronts Ozai and refuses to kill him and calls him out for the scar he gave him. He holds him accountable and says the Avatar will be the one to defeat him after sticking around long enough to show Ozai that he is standing against him in his own way.

Team Avatar – Team Avatar grows this season and is made all the stronger for it. We have Suki after her rescue from “Boiling Rock” and we have Zuko when he leaves the Fire Nation during the eclipse and becomes a friend and mentor to Aang and the Team. Sokka is the glue and it is his plan that initially fails during the Eclipse. He makes up for this though when he, Suki and Toph stop the Fire Nation airships meant to destroy the Earth Kingdom. Katara has one of the best arcs this season as we see her face the loss she’s dealt with as she was Sokka’s mother figure because of the Fire Nation’s killing of her mother and her father leaving to fight the war. This abandonment arc ends with peaceful resolution with her dad and confronting her mother’s killer. Toph is around as the strongest member of the party in battles as she saves our heroes on multiple occasions and also helps characters grow as she is the one who first tells Zuko that Iroh probably doesn’t help him since he’s helping Team Avatar now. We also have Aang who has to finally deal with the fact that he has to face Ozai. This arc of him learning Fire Bending and finding peace within himself is very well done as he finds the strength he needs to confront Ozai and find a way to defeat him without ending his life.

The Final Battles – We have Aang versus Ozai, Katara and Zuko versus Azula (now made Fire Lord when Ozai named himself Phoenix King). the Order of the White Lotus liberating Ba Sing Se, Toph, Suki and Sokka against the Ozai’s fleet and Aang against Ozai. Each of these battles is compelling enough on it’s own and the direction is has them flow together seamlessly. We have consequences from the battle too. Sokka is injured as they take the Fire Nation airships and Zuko is nearly killed by Azula when he saves Katara from Azula’s lightning strike. This is the accumulation of 3 seasons and the end of 4 episodes and the payoff is truly one of the best parts about the show. When we come down from this we have Zuko’s coronation as the new Fire Lord and his call for peace and Iroh’s Tea House where Team Avatar celebrates the end of the war.

The Cons:

Ozai | Avatar Wiki | Fandom

Setting Up Fire Lord Ozai – Fire Lord Ozai is the mastermind between the events of the last few books post. His presentation in the final fight is fantastic. His power and cruelty are fully on display but…we never see him raise the stakes prior to this. All past victories could be attributed to Azula or his troops. Like Palpatine in the original Trilogy of “Star Wars” he doesn’t show up until the end, and it hurts the overall threat of him. This is a shame as Hamill does a great job voicing him but even he gets quickly knocked back when Zuko leaves the Fire Nation to join Team Avatar. We needed more setup to really see that this is a man who can take on the Avatar. We don’t get that, as good as the final battle is. Ozai needed victories he could call in before this as it was Sozen who exterminated the Air Nomads not Ozai.

Deus Ex Dragon Turtle – I get Aang’s moral dilemma of refusing to kill, but we needed setup of Energy Bending prior in the series. Like Ozai the concept of Dragon Turtles and ancient beings with a connection to the Avatar could have saved this out that is given to Aang. The Dragon Turtle even drops him off at the final battle making his role as Deus Ex Machina complete. The Dragon Turtle is a cool concept and has a beautiful design, we just needed to know more of what it could do and it’s existence earlier.

There is so much to explore about this show and I only touched on it. I’ll do a full series overview at some point. This is the kind of show where you’ll notice something new in each rewatch. The characters have amazing arcs, the overarching plot is one of the best and the world is so rich that you could deeply explore any single point of the world. I look forward to returning to this world again and writing the full series overview.

Final Score: 9.6 / 10 A near perfect season that only had a few things holding it back.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Star Trek: Enterprise – Season 2, Episode 4, “Dead Stop” – Welcome to the Haunted Station

Ware repair station | Memory Beta, non-canon Star Trek Wiki | Fandom

     “Dead Stop” is the first episode of “Enterprise” I remember loving when I first watched the show in Middle School. You know what, it still holds up. This is a streamlined story where no character acts like a jerk. We get a great mystery and the rising action through the piece is handled beautifully. Suffice to say, before I get into spoilers that this is a story I highly recommend.

The episode was directed by Roxann Dawson and written by Mike Sussman and Phyllis Strong.

After extensive destruction from the Romulan mine the Enterprise finds itself in dire need of repairs and far away from any help. Their distress call is soon answered by a mysterious station. But all as is not as it appears to be.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros:

The Premise – A mysterious station offers to help and spares no expense in helping the crew be comfortable as the ship is repaired after damage from Romulan Mines. First, I love the continuity. The ship isn’t just fixed the next episode. Second, the mystery of the station that adapts to their needs and will trade to make the repairs. This is an immediate draw that is only enriched as the story moves forward.

The Station – This station has replicator technology, which for the humans is their first time experiencing it. The station also appears to be meeting all their needs. This until Travis goes missing and when they find him he is dead. We soon learn his body was perfectly replicated minus the vaccine that the Station was unable to replicate. This is where the horror factor of the station comes in as Travis and aliens bodies are connected to the station. The Station is also self-repairing and even after it is defeated, it isn’t. The one thing against this episode is I did want to know a little bit more. For such an amazing antagonist, I wanted more lore.

The Crew – This is an episode where every crewmember has a moment. For Travis it is sadly getting captured. For Hoshi it is a touching moment recalling a memory with him. Phlox discovers the Station is lying. Trip distracts the Station. T’Pol and Archer go to rescue Travis and Malcolm fights the Station when it tries to prevent the rescue and escape.  The action and relationships are handled beautifully.

The Escape – The escape is a great use of action. Malcolm in the ship fight the Station and even have the chance to lose. Within the Station the stakes are high too and it is only through the plasma the Station wanted being used as a bomb that the crew escape with Travis. There are so many moving parts and they all work making this one of the best action sequence in “Star Trek.”

Roxann Dawson did a beautiful job directing this. The action flows, I cared about the characters and you can feel the tension in scenes. It was also great seeing her work outside of “Voyager” where she plays B’Elanna Torres. This was such a fun episode. Every member of the cast got the chance to be a part of the story and the story was all the more richer because of it. The mysterious station that is self-repairing was also a fantastic threat. This is an enemy I would not mind seeing in a more evolved more in future “Trek” if any of the writers remember it.

Final Score: 9.6 / 10 Would have been perfect with even hints of the Station’s intent or origin.

Star Trek: Voyager – Season 2, Episode 23 – “The Thaw” – Facing Fear

The Thaw (episode) | Memory Alpha | Fandom

     “The Thaw” is an example of quality early “Voyager.” This episode does a lot with less and manages to be both creepy and unsettling. For any person who is afraid of clowns, this is not an episode I’d recommend. As far as vibes, quite a bit of this episode feels like “Twin Peaks” and that only strengthens the overall narrative and stakes. This is an episode where a fantastic antagonist, drives the action of the story. Before I get into spoilers, I definitely recommend this episode to any “Voyager” fans.

The episode was directed by Marvin V. Rush and teleplay by Joe Menosky and story by Richard Gadas.

The story involves the crew following a distress signal and attempting to rescue 3 aliens caught in Stasis. They soon find themselves trapped with them as they face off against the A.I. created by the minds of the aliens and feeds off their fears.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros:

The Premise – The premise is really neat as the idea of alien minds running a computer and from creating the threat that must be faced immediately has stakes. All the Clown that is fear needs is one mind and he can continue living forever and he is far more willing to kill than Voyager. The presentation of fear as being an ongoing carnival run by a clown and his minions is also sufficiently spooky.

The Aliens – The aliens we meet don’t have a name but they are the last of their race as their planet is desolate. All signs point to them being the last of their species making their plight all the more sad. For years all they’ve known is the terror of the clown and I enjoyed their interactions with one another. The biggest issue I have is also tied to them too. This species wasn’t even given a name.

Harry Kim – Harry Kim is active in this episode and is hostile to the clown. He gets punished for it having to relive his fear of being old and sick but he forever fights on. He is willing to die to defeat the clown and we get see just how brave the ensign is as he is the one who has to stay with the Clown when Torres is left out. I enjoyed learning about his past as it was visiting the sick with his mom as a child that made him fearful of it in the first place.

The Doctor – Robert Picardo is masterful in this episode. As a hologram the Clown can’t read his mind and this is used to a fantastic degree. The Doctor shuts down the Clown’s to control the situation and at one point serves as a distraction when Janeway tries to shut down the system. It doesn’t work but he continues to be the negotiator and remains the only being unphased by the Clown and his antics.

Captain Janeway – Captain Janeway is the one who outsmarts the Clown in the end as she comes up with the plan to connect her brain to the A.I. but send in a hologram in her place. It is here that it is revealed she has no fear and that her philosophy as relates to fear is revealed. She tells him he wanted to be defeated as in the end fear is there to be stopped and go away. It was well done and I love how she knows the embodiment of fear is afraid to die as the episode goes back. Kate Mulgrew gives such a fantastic heir of cold confidence, that works really well against the Clown.

The Clown – Michael McKean is brilliant as the A.I. created by the minds in stasis connected to the computer. He is fun, threatening and creepy. Creepy Clowns are popular in horror and his Clown is a great example of why this works. He has a guillotine he uses to execute people and by the time the crew discovers the survivors he had already killed 2 of 5 aliens who had died from fright. His final defeat is rewarding too as he trades the hostages for a chance to gain control over Captain Janeway. It is really well handled and how he negotiates for his survival makes him a great threat.

This is an episode that I’d highly recommend to any “Voyager” fan. The use of tension, horror and the strange work wonders here and McKean’s performance is compelling enough that he can play off any character from the crew. The only con I can really see against it is the fact that the aliens don’t have a name. If they’d been fleshed out a bit more we’d have a better idea of how the tech. came around in the first place, which in turn could give more elements to the Clown. Regardless, this is an episode I highly recommend.

Final Score: 9.6 / 10 A favorite “Voyager” episode.

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine – Season 5, Episode 24 – “Empok Nor” – A Return to a Past War

Empok Nor (episode) | Memory Beta, non-canon Star Trek Wiki | Fandom

     “Empok Nor” is a great episode and definitely one of my favorites in “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.” This episode has stakes, history, tension, character development and is simply a wonderful thriller episode. I’m also a bit biased in that Garak is one of my favorite characters and this episode has a lot of Garak. This is one of my favorite episodes in “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine,” and I highly recommend it.

The episode was directed by Mike Vejar with teleplay by Hans Biemler and story by Bryan Fuller.

The story involves Miles O’Brien leading a squad to the abandoned Cardassian Space Station Empok Nor in order to get supplies to repair Deep Space Nine. All is not as it appears to be as their arrival wakes up two Cardassian Soldiers who were left behind.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros:

The Premise – The premise of an abandoned station full of threats is really cool. You get the haunted house meets slasher vibes and the characters we follow are good. We have Garak to undo the traps, Nog who volunteered and Miles controlling the mission along with a few redshirts for good measure.

The Horror – The horror is really great in this episode. As said above we get the haunted house vibe with the slasher vibe as the Cardassians who wake up begin killing the Starfleet officers on the mission. Eventually Garak is infected by the same compound the other Cardassians are infected with that has made them killers and now it is him against Miles and Nog. It is really well handled and you feel how trapped our heroes are.

Nog – Nog is the eager cadet on this mission who ends up being the most prepared. He comes fully armed and sticks with the chief. This doesn’t stop him from being captured by Garak when Garak goes insane, but we see how committed he is to the mission and is willing to die to save Miles and complete the mission. His courage is admirable and I was grateful that he was one of the three survivors. Aron Eisenberg truly did a fantastic job.

Garak – Garak is fascinating in this episode as he kills the enemy Cardassians but finds himself infected with the same thing that they were infected by, making him psychotic. What keeps him from simply killing Nog and Miles though is his fascination of Miles being the hero of Setlik III during the Federation-Cardassian War. He has respect for the Chief and wants to face him in combat. In the end this leads to his defeat and regret as hates the fact that he killed one of the Federation Officers when he got infected. Andrew Robinson continues to give this former Obsidian Order agent so much nuance and this episode is a great example of why he is one of m favorite characters.

Miles O’Brien – This is very much a Chief O’Brien episode and Colm Meaney does a great job carrying it. In this we see the man he’s evolved into since the Cardassian-Federation War as no matter how many times Garak brings up the past, he insists he’s an engineer. We see this mindset in his problem solving with both getting help from Deep Space Nine when Terok Nor loses all communication and the enemy cardassians destroy the shuttle and in how he outsmarts Garak by using the tech. he as the create a bomb. He keeps the crew focused and even though most of them die, O’Brien does complete the mission and manages to save both Garak and Nog.

The Past Lives On – Terok Nor is an abandoned Cardassian Station with soldiers left behind the kill anyone who tries to enter. The moment they activate it is like the Cardassian-Federation War all over again. This echo of the past eventually consumes Garak as the drug that made the enemy Cardassians crazy, also does the same to him. Once more Cardassians and Federation soldiers fight and die as the past war lives on in the present and with it the wounds caused by this excursion for the needed Cardassian Technology.

Okay:

The Redshirts – The Redshirts are all given base personalities but aren’t developed beyond that. They also don’t survive the episode as they are either killed by the Cardassians left behind, or Garak when he goes mad. This was a shame as if even one of these characters had survived we could have had a redshirt giving us more of the experience of the “Dominion War.” I didn’t put them as a negative as they do have personalities, but they aren’t a pro as they weren’t developed beyond that.

“Deep Space Nine” is one of my favorite shows and that is largely due to it tackling themes of politics, war and trauma as this episode does. This episode is perfect in tone and the stakes are consistent through the entire run. We also get some amazing Garak and Miles development. I can’t wait to see how they play off each other again when I watch future episodes. This episode is a favorite and I highly recommend it to any fan of the show.

Final Score: 9.6 / 10 One of my favorite “Star Trek” episodes. If the redshirts had been developed further it would have been perfect.

Star Trek: The Next Generation – Season 6, Episode 5 – “Schisms” – The Horror of Abduction

Schisms (episode) | Memory Alpha | Fandom

   “Schisms” is an episode that is good at building tension and stakes. We get to see the day in the life of the crew as mysterious things keep happening, and get a ticking clock of the consequence of what the abductions are having upon the crew and ship. I appreciate how this mystery is handled as we see the daily life of the crew who are affected as things continue to feel off and the stakes grow.

The teleplay was written by Brannon Braga and directed by Robert Wiemer.

The crew of the Enterprise experiences losses in time as a subspace anomaly forms inside the Cargo Bay.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros:

The Premise – The premise of the crew losing time, going missing and in the end being abducted is fascinating. This is a crew that is seeking out new life and new civilizations and now it is being done to them on an inhumane level.

The Crew Come Together – This is a good ensemble episode as at one point all the people who have been experimented on by the aliens meet with Troi in the holodeck to recreate the experiment. We have La Forge, Riker, Worf and Kaminer. Seeing them realize that the cold table they were feeling was a lab table is haunting. To go with this we discover from their recounting that the aliens communicate in clicks add an even greater disconnect of what they must be feeling. After we have the meeting room and using a pulse to track a crewmember when they are taken as we have one member of the crew still missing, and another returned who dies shortly after from the experimentation. The stakes are high so the crew has to act fast.

Commander Riker – This is an ensemble story overall but Riker still manages to remain one of the main focuses. The episode starts with him and he is the one the aliens are taking the most often. The crew uses this as he is given a sedative by Dr. Crusher to remain awake and saves the Ensign from the aliens who were experimenting on the two of them. It is a good Riker episode as we see how driven he is by his job and also his care for the crew.

The Threat – The treat is fantastic. We have a mysterious alien species that is causing an anomoly through their experiments that will eventually destroy the ship. Beyond this ticking clock of the anomaly they are experimenting on the crew and it understandably causing trauma. Them being unknown serves to elevate things too as the crew doesn’t know the intentions of these enemies only that they need to stop them.

The Cons:

Pacing – The episode starts out really slow and in turn we only get to see the enemy threat briefly. I wish they could have cut Data’s poetry session out and given us more time with this new threat or more time with the crew problem solving. It is Data’s poetry session that sets the stage of the slow burn and it takes time for the episode to really pick up, which is a shame given the stakes of the episode.

Developing the Aliens Further – This episode has another of the one-off aliens that we never see again. We know they are experimenting on people, but we never learn why or how they function beyond mad scientists. This is the biggest con against the episode as they have a really cool design, looking like reptilian birds and they feel like a threat through the entire episode. I wanted more lore on them and that is a common criticism you’ll find from me in most of the episodes that include one off species.

This is a solid episode that gives a fascinating problem to be solved and an interesting threat. This isn’t a favorite episode but so much about this episode works that I can’t help but recommend it. Creating tension and horror is hard in the best of circumstances but “Schisms” pulls it off once the pace picks up. We have stakes and consequences and in the end are given a quality mystery story.

Final Score: 8.4 / 10

Star Trek: The Original Series – Season 2, Episode 7 – “Wolf in the Fold” – Scotty on Trial

Star Trek S02E07 Wolf in the Fold - video dailymotion

   “Wolf in the Fold” provides an interesting premise and even has some good moments of tension before it fails as a story. This is an episode that focuses on Scotty, but we learn almost nothing about him, and even the main threat ends up not feeling like a threat. This is all besides the misogyny that runs through the episode. The premise had a lot of promise but absolutely fails and I’ll get into why below.

The episode was directed by Joseph Pevney and written by Robert Bloch.

The story involves Scotty being blamed for a murder when the crew visits Argelius II.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros:

The Politics – In this story we see the politics between Argelius and Starfleet. Argelius is a free love society that hasn’t experienced a murder until the one that kicks off the episode. This gives an interesting dynamic as Kirk wants to do it by their laws but ends up offering up the computer as an answer when the Prefect is willing to try it after his wife is murdered during a seance to find the truth. From this, I wish he’d pushed back against more. He is the final judge on Scotty’s fate but he is very agreeable with Starfleet, even after his wife is murdered.

The Computer – The idea of using the computer to find the truth is really neat. It has all the information and can track if a person is lying or not. It is from the computer they found out the spirit of Jack the Ripper is the one responsible. This part of the episode is slow but I liked the computer being used the solve the mystery. It fit the theme of tech. solutions over supernatural which has always been a theme of “Star Trek.”

The Premise – The idea of a member of the crew being framed for murder on an alien world is fascinating. This base premise alone would have been enough if the politics between Argelius II and the Federation had been played up. Sadly the idea of the premise is not paid off.

The Cons:

Misogyny – Everyone woman we meet in this story is either being ogled by the crew (the belly dancer who gets killed) or is responsible for a problem. Scotty is on shoreleave because a female crewman caused a problem that lead to him hitting his head. This is so weak and isn’t helped by the text of the episode as all the other woman who we meet end up needing rescuing from Jack the Ripper or are killed by him.

The Enemy – Jack the Ripper is the enemy and his main host ends up being Mr. Hengist, an Argelian who is played by John Fiedler who voices Piglet in “Winnie the Pooh.” This does not work. Piglet’s voice is not ever threatening and the spirit taking control of the ship is for such a short time we don’t even see what the enemy is capable of. The moment the killings end on Argelius II all tension is gone and that is largely through how Jack the Ripper is presented. He just isn’t scary.

The Ending – The crew ends up fighting Jack the Ripper and him existing through fear by being pumped full of drugs that induce happiness by McCoy. This causes such whiplash that I don’t know why it was even included in the episode and focused on. Everyone is laughing, which takes away what tension there was by Jack the Ripper taking control of the ship.

This was an episode full of interesting ideas that it can’t execute. No ideas are delved into deeper and the supernatural threat just isn’t threatening. I appreciate that the episode is about someone outside of Kirk, McCoy or Spock but Scotty just doesn’t get enough exploration. This episode is reactive when it could have been so much more. There are the seeds of good ideas here, but failure to explore any of those ideas deeply leads to a bad episode.

Final Score: 5 / 10

Star Trek: The Next Generation – Season 4, Episode 11 – “Data’s Day” – Defining Data and Relationships

Data's Day (episode) | Memory Alpha | Fandom

  “Data’s Day” was an unexpected gem. I must have watched this episode years ago but I did not remember any of the events of the story so the relationships and reveals lead to this becoming one of my favorite episodes in “Star Trek: The Next Generation.” This is an episode told completely from Data’s point of view and it is beautifully handled as we see him navigate many intriguing and complicated situations. I’ll get into more of what I mean deeper into the review.

The teleplay was written by Ronald D. Moore and Harold Apter and the episode was directed by Robert Wiemer.

The story follows Data recounting his daily routine as he faces preparation for Keiko and Miles’s wedding and working with the Captain as they work with the mysterious Vulcan Ambassador T’Pel.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros:

Data’s Correspondence to Bruce Maddox – The episode is told through correspondence that Data is having with Bruce Maddox from “The Measure of a Man.” I love that they became friends and that Data is still helping him with his research and understanding androids. This gives a personal nature to Data’s musings and what is going on in his mind. We get to see his connection to crewmembers and how his journey to be more human is going.

The Neutral Zone Mystery – Ambassador T’Pel is having the crew scan the Neutral Zone and after them meet up with Admiral Mendak’s Warbird. We learn that the idea was a secret meeting to establish a thawing of relations between the Romulan Star Empire and Federation. All as not as it appears to be though as it looks as if T’Pel dies in transporting over to the Warbird. I loved how much tension this mystery creates through the episode as T’Pel only gets along with Data and Picard.

Data’s Relationship to Members of the Crew – One of the strongest parts of the episode are Data’s relationships. In this he is “Father of the Bride” for Keiko because he was the one who introduced Miles and Keiko to one another and he navigates the conflict they are having before their wedding. He also comments how Worf is an outsider like him, Geordi is his best friend and he because of this he can try out new ideas with him. Dr. Crusher teaches him how to dance in one of the most wholesome scenes in “Star Trek.” He discusses relationships with Troi and comments on how Riker’s relationships and Picard’s advocacy has shaped him and the respect he has for them. We see how all are connected to Data before the wedding takes place and it is beautifully done. The crew and their relationship to Data is truly what made this episode stand out and the episode could have stood on this plot alone.

The Romulan Reveal – Ambassador T’Pel was a Romulan Agent Sub-Commander Selok the entire time. This reveal is done and gives us a Romulan victory as when Picard goes back to the Warbird her true identity is revealed. Picard has to retreat though as many Warbirds are coming to make sure she makes it back to their space safely. Admiral Mendak is an awesome antagonist and it was great seeing the Romulans get a win that was built on espionage and their intelligence.

Data Learns to Dance – Data learns to tap dance from Dr. Crusher first and it is adorable and wholesome. Once Dr. Crusher learns he is learning to dance for the wedding she teaches him Waltz, which takes more time for him to learn where tap he could pick up fast because he could see the foot movements and didn’t have to lead. I loved this entire sequence. It was so innocent and showed the little nuances that made Data so human. His relationship to Dr. Crusher is great in this too. She’s like his older sister and mentor and this scene illustrates it really well.

We get a great Romulan plot and an amazing plot showing Data’s relationship to all the members of the main crew. I could not find a single con in this episode and this episode illustrates what makes Data one of my favorite characters in “Star Trek.” As someone with autism I can relate to his analytical view of relationships and the disconnect he must feel sometimes. But I also get putting all the work into making those relationships last and work because they matter. Suffice to say, I highly recommend this episode. This is easily one of my favorite episodes in all of “Star Trek.”

Final Score: 10 / 10

Star Trek: The Original Series – Season 1, Episode 4 – “The Enemy Within” – The Jekyll and Hyde of Kirk

Watch Star Trek: The Original Series (Remastered) Season 1 Episode ...

    “The Enemy Within” is a good thriller episode of “The Original Series.” This series explores identity in a fascinating way and gives us a good ticking clock for the tension. The episode also has some major problematic elements that I’ll be getting into below. I’m going to give a trigger warning as well for what happens in the episode.

The episode was directed by Leo Penn and written by Richard Matheson.

The story follows the problem of a transporter malfunction that separates Kirk into a good and evil version, neither who can live without the other. The crew must stop his doppelganger and save Sulu and the archaeologists trapped on the planet below.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros:

The Premise – The premise of a Captain forced to deal with both sides of himself and have the ticking clock of saving his crew is such a great premise for creating tension. The stakes are immediately apparent and gives a chance to explore human nature and identity.

Scotty – Scotty is engineer and transporter chief and spends most of the episode trying to solve the problem of the separated Kirk. In the end he does find a technical solution and they are able to make Kirk whole again and rescue the crew.

Sulu and the Trapped Crew – Sulu is on the planet and we see him holding onto hope as the situation on the planet continues to get worse as the temperature drops. I loved how he was still able to joke and was looking out for those around him. We got to see him problem solve as well as at one point he warms a rock with his phaser which helps give himself and the archaeologists more time.

Exploration of Identity – The exploration of identity is key to the episode. Kirk has to take his selfish side as it helps him make decisions and be decisive. Without it he is passive and in flight mode versus his evil which is permanent fight mode. It takes time for him to accept that side of himself though and it is only through Spock expressing how his intelligence is what helps him make peace between the Vulcan and Human sides of himself. The dynamic between Kirk and Spock works really well in the episode.

The Cons:

Shatner Ham – Shatner’s evil side doesn’t have any subtly until moments at the end where he is much more cool headed. I get Shatner was going for pure Hyde animal but it was over the top on more than one occasion. This is definitely a Shatner ham episode and it overall doesn’t work. Because he is so over the top his doppelganger never fully comes off as a fully realized threat as Kirk is not superhuman, his other half is just animal crazy and not a smart animal.

Rape Apologism and Yeoman Rand – We have Spock at the end saying how the Doppelganger had “interesting” aspects to Yeoman Rand, who the doppelganger tried to rape and we have Rand makes excuses for the Captain after she was violated. I hated this so much. Within the progressive future of Gene Roddenberry you still had this crap from the era of the woman being blamed for what was done to her. The whole scene has more worry for Kirk than Rand when she comes forward. God I hated it so much.

If this episode wasn’t trying to apologize for the doppleganger’s attempt to rape Yeoman Rand than I would be rating this episode higher. We get some amazing exploration of Kirk’s identity and a good ticking clock problem to be solved. I would recommend this episode but with a warning about how Rand is handled in the episode. She should have never had to apologize for what was done to her and I hated how even Spock seemed to make light of it in the final scenes when Kirk is whole again. She deserved so much better than her treatment in this story.

Final Score: 8 / 10 Elevated for how it explores identity. Could have been great if Rand had been respected as a person and character.

Star Trek: Enterprise – Season 2, Episode 3 – “Minefield” – An Exploration of Reed as we Introduce the Romulans

Minefield (episode) | Memory Alpha | Fandom

   “Minefield” is in early season 2 of “Enterprise.” This was an enjoyable episode that is largely based around Malcolm Reed and what motivates him. This episode also introduces a classic “Star Trek” antagonist who I’ll go into further below. Overall, I enjoyed this episode and recommend it to anyone who likes “Enterprise.”

The episode was directed by James Contner and written by John Shiban.

When Enterprise is damaged in a cloaked mindfield, Malcolm must disarm a mine that has attached itself to the ship while the crew must tend for the wounded and make first contact with the forces who control the minefield.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros:

The Crew Working Together – This is an episode where all the crew are working together. We have an injured Hoshi translating the communications from the mysterious threat, we have Reed preparing to detach the area where the mine is, Travis navigating through the minefield, Archer saving Reed when he is trapped by the mine and T’Pol commanding the ship as Phlox treats the wounded. Everyone is involved and it lends strength to the story.

Malcolm Reed – In this episode we learn that Reed was raised in a military family and because of that was always taught to keep distance in relationships on the ship. Archer is anti-thetical to this and over the course of the episode they come to understand one another. It is really well done as Reed is ready to die as one of his relatives did for the safety of the crew and ship. Dominic Keating is fantastic in this role.

First Contact With the Romulans – I really like that this mysterious threat are the Romulans who think that Archer was there to sabotage them. This fits the Romulan paranoia and how ruthless they are as they don’t get why the crew doesn’t just let Reed die as it is what they would do. We never see them on screen but their beautiful green ships show up to threaten Enterprise over the course of the episode.

The Cons:

Captain Archer – Archer is really annoying in this. He doesn’t care that Malcolm is uncomfortable when they are eating together and clearly has trouble empathizing with perspectives outside of his own. He is the weakest part of this episode as someone who came off as more understanding would have had the peace with Reed at the end feel more believable. Bakula is a good actor so my guess it is writing and direction that make him come off as so dismissive. Him also being the one to go save Reed was very stupid as he is the Captain of the ship.

This was a great introduction to the Romulans and really shows how well the crew can function together in a crisis. The weak link is really only Archer and I blame that more on the writing. “Enterprise” is my least favorite of the “Star Trek” shows but I think it still has a lot of good and enjoyable stories within it. This is one of those stories and shows what can happen when you have the crew working together to solve problems.

Final Score: 7.5 / 10 Enjoyed the story and would have rated it higher with better writing for Archer.