Bloodshot (2020): Cliche Elements Make For an Enjoyable Ride

Bloodshot (2020) - New Poster : comicbookmovies

  “Bloodshot” is a film I went into expecting to find as bad. Vin Diesel is pretty one note as an actor and “Bloodshot” is from an era of comics that are all about extremes. Hell when those characters showed up during Grant Morrison’s run on the “Justice League” in a crossover was my least favorite story arc done in that amazing run. So going in, I did not have hope that it’d be good. If anything I’d thought I’d enjoy it by how bad it might be. Suffice to say, I was surprised by how much I enjoyed this film. It is full of stupid cliches but there are some performances that stand out and made it a fun rental.

The film was directed by David S.F. Wilson and written by Jeff Wadlow and David Heisserer.

The story follows Ray (Vin Diesel) who finds himself resurrected by a company called Rising Spirit Tech after a failed operation in Mumbasa. He begins to find his purpose once more as his memories of who he was comes back as he realizes his newfound powers.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros:

The Premise – The premise of a soldier with lost memories trying to find out his past is interesting. It gave me “Memento” vibes when the reveal is what is really going on behind the memories which made me appreciate what the story was trying to do all the more. The premise is a solid action movie and how the action scenes are setup is artfully done.

The Action – The action is largely a positive. There is one aspect of the action that isn’t positive that I’ll get into below but once Ray discovers that the person in his recalled memories killed his wife we get some fantastic action sequences. Ray takes down entire squads as the nanites in his blood regenerate him. He’s basically Wolverine.

The Fights – There are a few sequences where we get some really good action as Ray/Bloodshot faces off against other supers. Specifically when he’s facing off against the two military guys who are working for Rising Spirit Tech. The main guy gets a suit that gives him an extra pair of arms in the fight and they neutralize Ray in their first fight against him.

The Supporting Cast – KT and Wigans were the only characters handled completely well in this film. KT is another Super who is being controlled by the organization but rebels and uses Wigans to do it. Wigans is a scientist who invented the code that was used to create Bloodshot. Together they liberate Ray and help take down the Rising Spirit Tech. KT is one of the prime manipulators initially before her change of hearts and Wigans doesn’t want to fight until he is pulled into it. This arc they both have is what really drives the story and I wish they’d been more central. Eiza Gonzalez is awesome as KT (she was fantastic as “Darling” in “Baby Driver”) and Lamorne Morris gives dimension to Wigans who is initially played as a joke. Besides the action they are really what made the film work.

The Cons:

Slow Down Action Scenes – For all the great action scenes there were some that really sucked. We get a few slow down sequences that make an already long movie feel longer while lending nothing to the narrative action. They could have cut down these slow down scenes and the film would have been better for it.

Pacing – The pacing is really off in this film as the first half is Ray’s mission and ends with him being used as we figure out the truth at that point that he is given artificial memories with a different person as his wife’s killer each time. Due to how drastically the film changes this reveal should have happened in the first third of the film, not halfway through given how much story there is to tell. The reveal of him being used also turns complex characters into one-dimensional villains, which is my final issue with the film.

When Complex Antagonists Lose Dimension – Dr. Emil Harting played by Guy Pearce is first presented as an ally, until you learn he’s been playing Ray the entire time and using him as a weapon. The complexity in the character act he is put on is entirely gone after the reveal. This is awful as the complex mad scientist was so much more interesting than the selfish sociopath. The same thing applies to his minions too as one turns upon the other when he sees a chance to take out Ray. Both characters were deeper initially but just became stock one-dimensional baddies by the end. If they’d been better this could have been a good or even great film.

If you are looking for a fun and dumb action movie you should check this out. It doesn’t reach the levels of good but as someone who went in expecting to hate it, I had an enjoyable time. Vin Diesel is fine even if he doesn’t elevate the role and it is worth it for the minor characters and the scenes they have. This is a film that could have been truly awful. Awful is what I was expecting but there is enough here to elevate the film to fun.

Final Score: 7 / 10 Supporting character performances and some of the action sequences saved it from being a 6.

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

Vivarium (2020): Dystopian Suburbia and the Cuckoo Bird

Amazon.com: Movie Poster Vivarium (2020) 13 in x 19 in Poster ...

     “Vivarium” feels like an episode of “The Twilight Zone” or “Black Mirror.” The film is just over an hour and a half, so it is comparably short while providing an interesting premise worth checking out.  It could have been more if it had developed the premise and antagonists further but I would recommend this to anyone looking for a good sci. fi. thriller.

The film was directed Lorcan Finnegan and screenplay by Garret Shanley. Shanley also co-wrote the original story with Finnegan.

The story follows couple Gemma (Imogen Poots) and Tom (Jesse Eisenberg) who find themselves trapped in a strange suburb called Yonder when their real estate agent mysteriously disappears after introducing them to their new home.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros:

The Premise – The premise of a couple being trapped in the suburbs and physically unable to leave as it is an infinite loop is fascinating. This turns into their only out being offered an out when a mysterious child is dropped in a box for them to raise. The mystery of why they were brought here continues and is explored through the length of the film. This is illustrated by the Cuckoo chick tossing the original young out of a nest as the new mother raises it in the opening credits.

Cinematography – The cinematography in this film is beautiful. It does a good job of showing how trapped the characters are with the use of shadow and is used amazingly in scenes of intensity where the color pallet goes red or green depending on the situation. MacGregor captures the alienness of the couple’s situation and it lended strength to the narrative.

Gemma and Tom – Poots and Eisenberg do a great job together. They clearly have chemistry with Tom being a blue collar guy who enjoys solving problems with his hands, while Gemma is a teacher and clearly has empathy for those around her. This leads to them clashing when the mysterious baby is deposited for them to raise and in how they have no way to escape the suburb. We see moments of joy with them, such as when they turn on the car and dance in the light and moments of connection in the hell. They also fight and you can see that the reason they are still together is there ability to work through things. Imogen Poots’s Gemma is manages to survive to the end as chases after their “son” and even gives a final act of protest before she dies, repeating her refrain that she isn’t “his” mother. This entire story is how Gemma and Tom resist the situation they are in while trying to deal and it could have easily failed as it is their performances that have to carry the piece.

The Parasite – The aliens who created the suburbs function like the Cuckoo bird. They deposit their young to humans they entrap looking for a home and force them to raise the children. It is a messed up system and the threat of these aliens is constant as they are the only hope the couples who enter the world are offered as an escape. I do have an issue tied to this though that is a con. Beyond them being Cuckoos we don’t have a deeper motivation or an understanding of how they tick beyond this.

The Cons:

The Motivation of the Aliens – As mentioned above these aliens have advanced technology that we never see beyond what they present us with. I wanted to see how they run the illusion that raises their children to bring in more humans to raise their young. We don’t know how long this has been going on and even in the final reveal doesn’t quite delve deep enough into how what they do works. We see the basic of the illusion and motivations but given how short the film is, we should have got more.

This is a film that had the potential to be great with just a bit more development. I could see the theme of life in the suburbs being critiqued but it never felt more than surface so wasn’t worth commenting on. The potential was there, just like the motivation of the aliens beyond using humans to raise their young. This film is still worth your time if you are looking for a good thriller sci. fi. I’m curious to see what this writer and director do next.

Final Score: 8.5 / 10 I would have rated it higher if the motivation of the Parasite Aliens had been explored further. We get hints but not enough on how they work beyond them using humans to raise their young.

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.