Star Trek: The Next Generation – Season 1, Episode 20 – “Heart of Glory” – Exploring What it Means to be Klingon

    “Heart of Glory” is our first time seeing the Klingons since the “The Original Series” films and it is from this that we begin to see the people they will become in “The Next Generation” and “Deep Space Nine.” This episode shows a lot of the problems of early TNG though as most of the cast is stilted and acts snobbish or condescending, especially Riker and Picard. This is an overall enjoyable episode, but it is still Season 1 and all the problems that came with that.

The episode was directed by Rob Bowman with teleplay by Maurice Hurley and story by D.C. Fontana and Herbert Wright.

The story follows the Enterprise when they investigate the site of a battle and a damaged freighter in the Neutral Zone.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros:

The Damaged Freighter – The set of the damaged freighter is fantastic. You have fog and tubes everywhere and sections that only Data can reach or get past. It is dangerous and there is a timer. All of this is handled beautifully and the soundtrack complements the mysterious and dangerous dying ship.

The Soundtrack – The soundtrack is one of the few great parts of season 1 and this episode does a good job with that. The Klingons theme involves war and drums, the ship has this mystery riff in the song and tension is consistent. I wish this had been a through line in all the series.

The Klingons – The Klingons feel like they are becoming the ones we will know later in “Deep Space Nine” and the Klingons from the film. The makeup is similar to the TOS films but we begin to see the more combative honor that would define them in TNG and DS9. Korris played wonderfully played by Vaughn Armstrong is fantastic as a Klingon fanatic who with two others could not grow with the Klingons to finding honor beyond finding war everywhere. He help Worf realize that part of himself though and in him and Konmel you see what Klingon fanatacism looks like in this century.

Worf – Worf is great in this. He remains professional and for the first time we get to see him explore his Klingon side. We learn about his adoption by a Federation officer and how he views battle as one of control and an internal battle. This episode really encapsulates what honor means to Worf versus the external honor that Korris and Konmel crave by fighting foes of the Klingon empire. Michael Dorn does a really great job and his scenes with Vaughn Armstrong’s Korris are gold.

The Cons:

Seperate the Saucer Section Obsession – The saucer section is immediately suggested when the crew is off to go to the place of a battle. This strikes me as such a waste and also that we never see the saucer section used well. There is an obsession with the battle station throughout the episode that leads nowhere.

Captain Picard – Picard spends a good few minutes exoticizing Geordie’s eyes when he is seeing from them. He even says, “I feel I understand him now.” If I was Geordie in this I’d feel so used and talked down to. He is an experiment and we never get his perspective beyond his eyes it is all Picard’s perspective and voice. This was peak cringe season 1 of “The Next Generation.” We see this again when he questions Worf’s loyalty on multiple occasions. It is awful.

This is one of the few episodes in Season 1 that works on some level. The Klingon stuff is all good but it is brought down by how awful the human characters act. This is an episode that truly could have been great if Riker and Picard had acted with some level of empathy towards those around them. Their stilted disconnect that Tasha Yar demonstrates at one point as well just illustrated how poorly nearly all the people were written. The Klingons deserved and a better episode.

Final Score: 7.5 / 10 Enjoyable and carried by cool sets, soundtrack and all the Klingon characters.

Star Trek Continues – A Beautiful Continuation and Honoring of the Best Parts of the Original Series

This is the first fan series or project that I’ve reviewed on the blog, and honestly after this, the standards for what fan films or shows I would watch is pretty high. A friend at work recommended it to me and I’m grateful he did. This is a professionally made production that looks just as good if not a little better than the Star Trek: The Original Series and has writing on par with the good and great episodes from that series.

The show was created by Vic Mignogna, who also stars as Captain Kirk in the series…and you can tell he’s a fan of the series. So much love and quality was poured into the making of this that I honestly wish CBS would show it. This is more than just a love letter to the series as it takes the lore seriously and expands on it, rather than going through the same beats.

The story picks up where the Original Series left off with the continuation of the 5 year mission of the Enterprise.  As part of that mission they are first to try out the Counselor test program (on whether starships should bring on full time counselors) bringing lieutenant Dr. McKennah to the crew.

The Pros: The Universe – This is “Star Trek.” The characters act how they do in the Original Series, the ships and galactic powers are in action, the Enterprise is exploring strange new worlds. Nothing feels out of place.

The Cinematography – The cinematography in this series is beautiful and it looks like a more polished version of how the Original Series was filmed of old. Whether it is fighting a Romulan Warbird or destroying a tiny object in space, or a fight on the ship or a planet…the sets look raw and real and it gives life to the show.

The Writing – The writing team and directors (who were largely Vic Micnogna working with a few other people but usually always at least directing) did an amazing job. The stories catch the morality of what make “Star Trek” great, whether it is feminism, equality and peace and understanding aliens and other beings. This is the through line through the series and it was one thing the Original Series didn’t always do (seriously, the sexism in some of the early episodes of TOS are horrifyingly bad). I won’t give away any spoilers but these episodes are so amazing I do plan individual reviews of them down the line, as well as a Top 3 post.

Connecting to Past and Future Treks – This is a series that connects the threads between TOS and The Motion Picture really well (and even ties into TNG with the Counselor program). In this you see what happens to the psychics, the Romulan Star Empire after the Klingon Alliance, Apollo, why we never seen any female captains and how things went down in the Mirror Universe. It is all done artfully while keeping the progressive strength of what made Star Trek so great in how it saw humanity’s potential in the future.

The Guest Stars – There are some pretty great guest stars, even though some of them I wish had gotten better writing. Colin Baker shows up as an alien leader, as does John De Lancie, Rekha Sharma shows up a scientist who Kirk had a relationship with, Marina Sirtis voices the Enterprise computer and Michael Dorn voices the Mirror Universe’s Enterprise computer. The guest stars in this are gold and they do a good job with what the writers give them.

Spock and Kirk – Spock and Kirk are the strongest part of this show and that is largely due to the chemistry between Vic Mignogna and Todd Haberkorn. Both have done anime voice work so my guess is that is how they must have met and formed the rapport. These are the two who receive the most exploration as we see both of their regrets as well as their dreams and aspirations. I won’t say anymore than that as the reveals of what those things are handled really well. Even when certain episodes were just good or fun these two kept me coming back as their acting was the strongest even in weak scenes.

Okay: The Rest of the Crew – Chris Doohan (James Doohan’s son) is fine, hell most of the crew outside of Kirk and Spock who aren’t guest stars are fine but none of them really capture the characters the way Kirk and Spock do. Part of the reason is they changed the McCoy actor after two episodes and Chekov, Uhura and Sulu really don’t get any more exploration than what they did in the Original Series, so that was a wasted opportunity and kept them from ever being good.

This is a series I highly recommend to any fan of “Star Trek.” This is a series that develops the characters further, introduces new threats and situations that have to be solved, is full of hope and inspiration for the future and beautifully captures all the good that has come out of “Star Trek.” Here is the website:

http://www.startrekcontinues.com/index.html

I highly recommend you check it out if you are a fan of the series. Seriously, Vic Mignogna created something wonderful that I will be coming back to again and again.

Final Score: 9 / 10 Solidly great fan series that connects TOS to The Motion Picture.

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

Ds9 Far Beyond the Stars

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gargoyles – Season 1, Episode 13 – “Reawakening” – The Purpose of a Gargoyle

coldstone

We end Season 1 of Gargoyles with the 13th and Final Episode of the season, “Reawakening.” This is a great episode for many reasons, as it brings together the loose threads from a few of the stories, gives a hint of things to come and establishes a higher purpose and point. Suffice to say it is amazing and a favorite. Also, Michael Dorn (Worf from “Star Trek”) guest stars in this as Coldstone.

“Reawakening” was written by Brynne Chandler Reaves and directed by Saburo Hashimoto and Kazuo Terada.

The story is that Demona uses magic and Xanatos uses technology to ressurect Coldstone into a cyborg gargoyle body. From here they use him as Demona blames Goliath for the extinction of the Wyvern Clan from the vikings. Ashamed of his form and feeling hatred Coldstone joins with them as they target Goliath and the Manhattan Clan in a final showdown. From here the story unfolds.

Gargoyles Reawakening

Here is the assessment of the Season 1 Finale:

The Pros: Coldstone – Michael Dorn is an amazing actor and voice actor and he has the chance to play a complex gargoyle who was once Goliath’s Rookery Brother. You see how conflicted he is after Demona gives him the half-truth of the Vikings killing of him being Goliath’s doing and we see him choose to live rather than survive when he finds that all Demona is offering him is survival, which is no way for a gargoyle to be. We understand his distrust of humans too as the Sorcerer runs in fear of them from the castle tower in the flashback.

Demona – We see that hatred once again dominates her feelings as she shoots to kill at all times, even when Xanatos tells her he wants the Gargoyles alive. We also see her influence as she easily makes Coldstone their pawn when the episode begins. She would have killed more people too if Xanatos hadn’t used the rocket pack in the Red Steel Clan suit to run off with her after the battle. She shoots Coldstone and feels nothing, showing just how far gone she’s become.

Brooklyn – We see his hatred for Demona here for being used as a incapacitates her at the beginning of the fight, but still sees the bigger picture as he and Lexington save Broadway from the Steel Clan.

Lexington – Manages to take out two Steel Clan members through his wits and teams up to save Broadway from Xanatos. He is finding his confidence and how to use his small size to his advantage.

Elisa Maza – Grabs Hudson and Bronx and turns the tied against Demona and Xanatos, forcing them to run away. She also helps Goliath and the Gargoyles find their purpose once more as defenders once more.

Xanatos – Xanatos changes in this episode as he sees that he is working with someone he shouldn’t be as she doesn’t listen and is only after retribution where he is thinking long term. It’s powerful when he surrenders and reveals himself beneath the Red Steel Clan helmet as the Gargoyles didn’t know he’d been fighting with his robots and when he makes the escape rather than standing and fighting you see in his eyes him rethinking the whole of the situation. He also has a comedic laughing moment where he says “It’s alive! It’s alive!” When they ressurect Coldstone, which was something he always wanted to say.

Goliath – Goliath expresses the purpose for the Gargoyles as he is the one who reminds Coldstone of his, that there are things more important than survival or only caring for your own. He learns from from Elisa Maza and he and the Gargoyles swear to protect Manhattan, which in a way is when they officially become the Manhattan Clan. Manhattan is now their castle. It is powerful and we see how much Goliath has grown versus the lack of growth from Demona. Also a cute romantic moment at the end when he tells Elisa Maza. “All I need is a Detective.”

The Message – Look beyond yourself and look out for other people, do not hate those who are different but strive always for good. Protect. This the gargoyle way and is expressed fully in this episode.

Okay: Broadway and Hudson – They are there in the final battle, but Broadway needs to be saved and Hudson tells us what we already learned from Detective Maza. They aren’t bad, just redundant as all needed rescuing at one time or another and Detective Maza already gave us the message much better than Hudson.

This is an amazing episode, the only thing that is left in the air is if Coldstone is now undead so cannot die, what do Xanatos and Demona plan to do now? Where is Macbeth? These questions leave so much open for Season 2, which I remember Season 2 exploring quite well. Will see first hand when I get to it, for now we’re taking a break from “Gargoyles” and ending on a high note, as this season did. What compelling villains and characters and what great stories and messages…These are the things that made this show memorable beyond the premise, art and voice actors. This is a season I plan to watch again, as these stories are timeless. Timeless, as Gargoyles made of stone.

Final Score for the Finale: 10 / 10. I just wish it had been longer and been a two-parter to give us more time with Coldstone and more development for Broadway and Hudson.

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