Star Trek: Voyager – Season 4, Episode 14 – “Message in a Bottle” – When Comedy and Action Align

     “Message in a Bottle,” is a fantastic Doctor episode and I was glad it was the next one I chose as I review an episode for each doctor in “Legacy Trek” (TOS to ENT in time of release). Robert Picardo’s EMH is my favorite character on “Voyager” besides Seven of Nine and this episode really illustrates all the reasons that he is. Andy Dick and Picardo have such amazing chemistry in this episode and I like how the story ties “Voyager” to the Alpha Quadrant. Without saying anymore this is an episode I highly recommend for Picardo’s performance alone.

The story was written by Rick Williams with Teleplay by Lisa Klink with the episode being directed by Nancy Malone.

Using the Hirogen’s arrays Voyager has found a way to contact a Federation ship in the Alpha Quadrant. Due to the limited time they decide to send the Doctor over to send their messages to Starfleet.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros:

The Romulan Threat – When the Doctor transports over to the ship he finds it has been taken over by the Romulans. This threat is constant as they are paranoid and right not to trust the Doctor. He has to use all of his adaptability to get around them and even after the crew is defeated there is still the Tal Shiar forces that arrive. I’m a huge Romulan fan and this episode does a wonderful job of illustrating why they are such a threat. The Romulans are taking a prototype Starfleet Advanced Vessel called Prometheus, the fact they almost win shows just how great they are as a threat and the fact that they’d captured this advanced ship in the first place.

The Call of Home – When 7 of 9 figures out how they can use the array to send a message to Starfleet we get some wonderful moment of Chakotay, Janeway and members of the crew talking about the letters they want to send home. There are so many beautiful moments that really capture how long they’ve been away and how strong their desire is to return home.

EMH-2 – Andy Dick is fantastic as the EMH-2. He’s arrogant and smart but is completely driven by his programming and rules and regulation. It takes the Doctor to get him out of this. They clash originally but in the end the EMH-2 saves the Doctor when the Romulans find him out. The comedic timing is fantastic and he still feels so human too.

Captain Janeway – This is a good Captain Janeway episode. In this we see her holding out to the last minute to be sure the Doctor gets back and the message is delivered, we see how much she misses home and also how much she cares about the crew. This is a great episode that captures why she is the Captain.

Seven of Nine – Seven of Nine is one of my favorite characters in “Voyager” and this episode helps capture part of the reason why. She is very much the Spock or Odo as she disconnected from the crew by her being a former Borg but she still cares deeply for them and getting them home. She is the one who discovers how to use the arrays and she calls the senior staff immediately to act on it. She also shocks a Hirogen who tries to stop them from using the array when “Clearly diplomacy wasn’t working.” She’s amazing and Jeri Ryan continues to own the role.

The Doctor – This is the Doctor’s episode and seeing him play off the EMH-2 and help the EMH-2 find courage while at the same time outsmart the Romulans and contact Starfleet are the amazing things he accomplishes this episode. Robert Picardo brings a lot of nuance to the role too as we see his fear when he is found out by the Romulans and also his brief moment of gratitude when he is saved, before the EMH-2 rubs it in his face.

The Cons:

Torres – Torres is the worst part of this episode. She starts out dehumanizing Seven and proceeds to do so throughout the episode. She even uses the fact that Seven was a former drone to hurt her. It is awful and I usually like her. This struck me as pointless drama and did nothing but make Torres look like an awful person.

This was a near perfect “Voyager” episode with only the writing of Torres bringing it down. I loved seeing the Doctor take on the Romulans and spend time on the Prometheus. This episode gives us the theme of “Voyager” with the quest for home along with the exploration of self through the Doctor. This is easily a favorite and is one of the best episodes “Voyager” has to offer. Suffice to say, this is one I highly recommend.

Final Score: 9.6 / 10 Would have been perfect if Torres had been written better.

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: 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.

“Star Trek: Picard” Season 1 – Good Characters That Needed a Further Developed World

STAR TREK: PICARD - REMEMBRANCE - PhantaNews

      Season 1 of “Star Trek: Picard” is flawed but has more that works than doesn’t in the end. This is a series that is willing to explore quite a few different factions that are at odds and still focus on the characters who drive the story. It doesn’t all work, I would not call this series great but it is good and has the potential to be great in future seasons. This is a review that will include SPOILERS so warning you now, I’m exploring what works and doesn’t work about this season for me so I will be in the details. Continue reading at your own risk. In the end, more worked for me than didn’t and I really hope we see characters and the world developed further in Season 2.

This is a season reflection so will contain SPOILERS as it covers what I liked and hated in the narrative.

The Pros:

Premise – The premise of the show is really strong. You have a Federation that has retreated from the world and outlawed the building of synthetics after synthetics destroy the shipyards on Mars. This in turn leads to a refugee crisis as Mars was building ships to help get Romulans out of the blastzone of the Hobas Supernova. Picard resigns in protest against Starfleet, which brings us to the present and Dahj, an android made from Data’s postaron seeking out Picard’s protection after an attempt is made to kindap her.

Soundtrack – Jeff Russo’s soundtrack is beautiful and reflective and has a hint of melancholy about it. This worked really well as what drives the show is Picard facing is own mortality and what he wants to make of the rest of his life as he comes out of retirement. The theme song reflects this well as well as the underlying mystery as Dahj and Soji discover they are androids slowly and the soundtrack captures that.

Cinematography – Picard is a good looking show. The cinematography is movie quality and the use of sets and green screens are blended together really well.

Star Trek: Picard's Best New Characters Are Laris and Zhaban

Laris and Zhaban – Laris and Zhaban are former Tal Shiar and Picard’s carekeepers at the winery. Laris is one of my favorite characters on the show and both of these characters bring a human face to the conflict. They believe in Picard and helping the refugees and are the ones who tell Picard about the Zhat Vash. I wish we had gotten more time with both of them as we saw they have given up their old ways but still use their training to protect.

Zhat Vash – The Zhat Vash are a secret order that seeks to destroy all synthetic lifeforms as due to a beacon left on a planet they saw that advanced synths will destroy all life. The members of the order we meet are Oh, Narissa and Narek. Oh is half-Vulcan while Narissa and Narek are adoptive siblings. All of them are damaged in different ways and see their desire to protect the universe from the synths above all else. I’m really curious to see if we will learn more about them in Season 2 as they do not succeed in destroying Soji’s people and the new Synths made from Data.

Seven of Nine – Seven of Nine has changed since the last time we saw her, and I appreciate the direction it took. She is part of the Rangers who are a group fighting criminals in the area that was once the Neutral Zone. Seven finds her story tied to Picard as she gets revenge against the woman who killed Icheb. After she is pulled back to Picard when Elnor uses Hugh’s emergency beacon and she and Elnor fight the Romulans with Seven even taking control of the Cube as a Queen at one point. After she and Elnor are taking care of the Ex-Borgs until they rejoin Picard. I’m curious to see her relationship with the Ex-Borgs explored further and her relationship to whatever form the Borg are now. Jeri Ryan did an amazing job.

Ex-Borg Hugh's Character Arc in 'Picard' Embodies the Best of ...

Hugh – Hugh was my favorite character besides Laris and Jonathan Del Arco returned to this character beautifully. He is the Director on “The Artifact” and is helping Ex-Borg also called xBs heal from the trauma of assimilation. The fact that the Romulans are good with him until he tries to get to the Queen’s room says a lot for Federation influence and the impression he left. He reminds Picard of how all xBs were victims of the Borg Collective and Picard doesn’t have to ask twice for him to help. He is only killed when is scene as breaking the treaty by helping Elnor and the Zhat Vash agent “Narissa” kills him. I hated this death initially and but on further reflection, him dying fighting to help another is fitting as that was his final act in “Descent” Part 2 which was his final appearance on “The Next Generation” and lead to him leading the free Borg who had been under Lore’s control. I do hope they bring him back in some capacity, flashbacks of how he knew Seven of Nine would be very fitting or if Seven gets a show have it be during the time when he was alive.

The Crew – I liked the crew though it is hard for me to really choose one who I like more than the characters mentioned above. Soji brings a curiosity and presence as Data’s daughter, Raffi brings empathy and cynicism, Caption Rios is broken with hidden idealism and Agnes, Elnor is the young innocent and ruthless bodyguard and Agnes is the torn over honest doctor. Each of them bring something reveals a part of Picard as his relationship to them also reveals aspects of them. It is a good crew and if I had to choose favorites it’d probably be Elnor and Captain Rios.

Riker and Troi – Riker and Troi offer relief for Soji and Picard from the Zhat Vash and Riker arrives with the Federation fleet to protect the Synths from the Zhat Vash. Seeing how much all of them had grown and their relationship to one another was powerful. Sirtis and Frakes truly inhabit their roles and they brought much needed wisdom that Picard needed. I hope this isn’t the last of them we see on the show.

Picard – This main story on the show is that of Picard and him facing his regrets, trauma and mortality. He faces his regrets in his going into retirement rather than seeking to change Starfleet, he faces his trauma in once more facing his history with the Borg and what was done to him and his mortality in his illness and death. In the end he is granted a chance to live without the illness, though it involves finally saying good-bye to Data and granting his last wish for death.

Data and his Legacy – Data’s legacy lives on the synthetics and the society they created when Maddox and Alton Soong used his positrons to make them. In the end it is one of his “children” Soji who saves his people and lives his idealism over the fear that is felt towards him and his people. We also see that he has been living in a holographic world since his psyche was saved out of B-4 after “Nemesis.” In the end he wants to die to complete his quest to become human and like a human his life lives on in the society made from him. It is beautifully done and Spiner finally gave Data the sendoff he deserved.

Brent Spiner And Patrick Stewart: Saying Goodbye To Data On 'Star ...

Confronting Fear and Persecution of “The Other” – Another theme of the series was fear of the other and facing it. Hugh had become the Director on “The Artifact” to protect and take of the xBs as he told Picard, they had no home and everyone feared them. Those same rules applied to synthetic from their outlaw by the Federation and the Zhat Vash quest to exterminate them. We see Soji’s people and herself fear and experience first hand. I hope this thread isn’t dropped as it as all the more important today.

The Cons:

Dropped Plot Threads – There are quite a few dropped plot threads that hurt the narrative. We have the xBs and them forming a civilization with Seven of Nine and Elnor and it is just forgotten as we see Seven and Elnor as member’s of Picard’s new crew in the final shot. We never learn why Maddox left the Synthetic homeworld, which given he would have been protected there made no sense why he’d leave. These are just a few of the dropped plot threads that could have easily been wrapped up with more dialogue at the very least.

Lack of Starfleet Perspective – Everyone in the crew and even Picard are all former Starfleet. This I think is a disservice as Starfleet comes to save the day at the end but no one within Starfleet is picked up as a part of Picard’s crew. This was a missed oppurtunity and would have been a great oppurtunity to have someone who contrasted with the rest of the crew. They wouldn’t even have to be “Next Generation” cast, just someone who still believed in Federation but also felt they had to help Picard and his mission.

Actual Political State of the Romulans – We learn about the Zhat Vash, meet a Romulan Refugee planet and that the Romulan Free State was in control of “The Artifact” which was the Borg Cube. Is the Romulan Star Empire gone? Is the Romulan Free State the only organized faction or are there others? The Romulan Star Empire was huge but I had no idea if they even had an Empire anymore as we only have the Free State who the Zhat Vash seem to control. This would have been such an easy fix and could have been solved in showing us a map of the region.

The Synthetic Threat – The Reaper like Synethic threat are a faction we get a glimpse of but are never taken on directly. We learn that they exterminate organic life and apparently come from another dimension and not much more than that. We even see one coming through the portal but that threat is never addressed. They are put away when at the very least I wish we could have learned more about this threat that caused the Zhat Vash to destroy the Romulan rescue fleet when they hacked the synths on Mars.

This was a flawed show but in the end it was good. I liked the moments the show slowed down and we got to know where Riker and Troi were. When we got to know the villains they became compelling and the characters who returned had lives that took fascinating directions. The show was flawed and as a whole I would consider it good but not reach great. It had a great ending and I loved how it explored the characters and themes, but too many unexplained plot and world elements held it back. Regardless, I can’t wait to see where the story is explored from here.

Final Score: 8.2 / 10

Watch Star Trek: Picard - Stream Full Episodes on CBS All Access

Star Trek: Picard – Season 1, Episode 6 – “The Impossible Box” – Of Facing Trauma and Self-Discovery

Image result for The Impossible Box Star Trek Picard

  “The Impossible Box” is a fantastic episode. We get wonderful character development from nearly everyone on screen and only one con really stood out for me. This episode gives a reunion I’ve been wanting to see and much of the episode gives room to breathe before it really increases the stakes and tension. Before I say anymore, if you’ve been liking the show so far, you’ll probably enjoy this one a lot.

The episode was written by Nick Zayas and directed by Maja Vrvilo.

The story involves Picard getting onto “The Artifact” and reuniting with an old friend as Narek get’s closer to his goals as Soji starts putting the pieces together about who she is.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros:

“The Artifact” – This episode we learn just how prestigious this Cube is, as Picard ends up needing diplomatic papers to enter the Cube and can only talk to the Director, Hugh. This episode we feel the threat of it all as Narek and Narissa cause problems for our heroes and the claustrophobia of the clear and what it is capable of is revealed. We get to see the Queen’s room, which has a gate that allows for far escape and see how former drones xB’s who aren’t Romulan are used for labor. It is a sad state of affairs and Hugh mentioning that their Borg Queen has been replaced by a Romulan shows that much darker purpose that might be in store for the xB’s and the Cube.

Soji’s Self-Discovery – Soji’s self-discovery involves her analyzing all she brought with her, and finding it is only 3 years old. This ends with her trusting Narek as he shows her a Romulan meditation ritual where she discovers the Synth homeworld in pushing past her re-occuring Nightmares, and fully realizes she was created. At this point Narek tries to kill her and she goes into fight or flight, escaping with Hugh and Picard.

Hugh and Picard – Hugh is the first person since Laris and Zhaban who has greeted Picard with kindness. He hugs him and the xB’s help steady him when he is having a panic attack in the Cube. He backs up Picard all the way and puts together that he is there to save Soji. After this he sticks around with Elnor to defend against the oncoming Tal Shiar. I wish he could have shared more with Picard as it he who reminds Picard that the xB’s are victims of the Borg, just as they were. This reminder is profound and it changes how Picard interacts with them after that.

Picard’s PTSD – Picard’s PTSD is first represented when he is going through files on the Borg and pulls up a picture of his time as Locutus. The picture blends together and he holds the area where an implant once was. This trauma carries over when he arrives on the Cube as he feels trapped and blames the xB’s until Hugh reminds him he is safe and that they are there to look after him, and victims, just like him. We haven’t seen this explored since “First Contact” and I thought this episode handled it really well.

The Cons:

Narissa Rizzo – Narissa is just an evil Romulan at this point. We don’t know her motivations beyond destroying all Synths. This needs to change if she is to be the main antagonist. Narek I can at least see as interesting because he cares for Soji even though his loyalty to the mission matters more to him. Both antagonists deserve that level of writing and depth.

I really liked this episode. Hugh is one of my favorite character and Del Arco is just fantastic in the role. He is my favorite character on “Picard” besides Laris. Both of them are complex characters who are at their core good. I hope we can see more characters like this in “Picard.” Right now the show is over halfway through, so there is potential for the overall arc to not work out. I’m curious about what will happen with “The Artifact” and when Picard will get some allies in Starfleet, as he will need them in the final I think.

Final Score: 9.6 / 10 If Narissa were given any depth this would have been a perfect episode of “Picard.”

Star Trek: Picard – Season 1, Episode 3 – “The End is the Beginning” – Damage and Stories

Image result for The End is the Beginning Picard

    “The End is the Beginning” is a good episode that give us more development of the Romulans and more information about the Borg Cube “Artifact.” This is the first episode where I really liked Soji as a character and liked how we also got to know of the support characters, as well as the return of a character from old! This story covers a lot and I’d say succeeds in it. The two plots (Soji’s and Picard’s) are very well balanced and I can’t wait to see what happens next.

The episode was written by Michael Chabon and James Duff and directed by Hanelle Culpepper.

The story begins with the Executive Director of the “Artifact” taking an interest in Soji’s work as Picard continues his recruitment of his new crew.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros:

The Romulan Former Drones – An aspect of the episode I really liked is our time with the former drones. In this case we see how the former Romulan drones are barely being held together. It takes Soji delving deep to get an anthropologist to talk and that in turn leads to all the former Romulan drones panicking and calling her “The Destroyer.” The fact that this “Artifact” is to help former drones heal is compelling and I loved that we got to see and talk to at least one of them.

Laris and Zhaban – Laris and Zhaban show their Tal Shiar training when Zhat Vash agents attack their home. One of the attackers survives and we learn that we are fighting the Zhat Vash before the attacker kills himself. In this we see that Laris and Zhaban do everything to not kill and I loved that. They have left the Tal Shiar life behind and you can see they’d love to just spend the rest of their life here with Picard. With Picard leaving though, they accept it and support him on his adventure while they watch over the Chateau.

Raffi and Captain Rios – Raffi’s relationship to Picard is explored in this episode and we get introduced to Rios. In both we see how Starfleet has burned them. Raffi wanted to find anyway to help the Romulan Refugees while Picard thought his resignation would be enough and is resigned to present. She lost everything after that and is escaping into drugs on an isolated area on Earth. She does connect Picard with Rios though and in him we see a man whose entire record in Starfleet has been erased due to the mission but still keeps up the habits he learned from the organization. Picard, Rios and Raffi have all been hurt by Starfleet actions so seeing them in this “Firefly” like crew is an interesting dynamic to explore. There is much history still to explore.

Hugh – Hugh is the man in charge of the artifact. He is Soji’s mentor and notices when she speaks to a drone in a dead language. After this he takes her to the Romulan drones who have all gone mad and witnesses as they call her “The Destroyer.” He never stops defending the former drones or Soji and the emphatic man we met back in “I, Borg” is clearly still present. He is Soji’s mentor and it awesome to see how much he’s grown since “The Next Generation.” He’s firm but empathetic and you can see why he is the Executive Director of “The Artifact.” Jonathan Del Arco is wonderful in his return to his role.

Damage and Stories – The main theme of this episode is one of damage and the stories we tell to deal with that damage. We see this in the broken former drones and in Captain Rios and Raffi as well as Picard himself. All of these characters are broken and their stories are the one thing that motivates them and keeps them going. It was staying focused on this theme that really elevated the episode for me.

Okay:

“Rizzo” and Narek – These are the two Zhat Vash spies and their relationship is weird at this point. They refer to each other as siblings but there is a weird sexual undertone to their interactions. It is strange and their relationship really needs more development. I didn’t put it as a negative because they are both good actors, but it isn’t a plus either. Right now it is simply a strange element of the show.

The Cons:

The Soji Questions – The questions of how much Soji knows about who she is and her role in all of this is the biggest question and right now feels like a bit of a con. When I heard her called “The Destroyer” my first fear is that they’ll make her part Borg Queen. That strikes me as a trash idea in more ways than one given the Borg Queen ruined the threat of the Borg for me. A single ego is not as threatening as a collective mind that can adapt. This con might turn into a pro if the questions are handled well, but right now it is one of the biggest things that could hurt the series.

“The End is the Beginning” is another enjoyable outing in “Picard,” and gives us some amazing character development. I loved how Hugh has grown and more Laris and Zhaban made the episode for me. The other new characters have potential so it is hard to say if I like or dislike them yet. I’m hoping that their arcs are handled well and that the big ideas explored in “Star Trek” of old make more of an appearance as they did in the first episode.

Final Score: 8.4 / 10

 

Star Trek: Picard – Season 1, Episode 2 – “Maps and Legends” – Exploring Romulan Secrets

Image result for Maps and Legends Picard

   “Maps and Legends” is an episode that feels like a part of a whole more than a single story far more than the pilot “Remembrance.” We are introduced to more characters and the plot moves forward but it doesn’t feel as complete as the pilot. I still enjoyed the episode, especially the lore we get on the Romulans but I would have preferred a more whole story, though I know with the format of the show this is going to be less common. Taking that into account, this is an enjoyable continuation that shows more of the show’s potential.

The episode was written by Akiva Goldsman and Michael Chabon and directed by Hanelle Culpepper.

Picard seeks out knowledge behind who Dahj was and those who destroyed her, as well as seeking support from Starfleet on his investigation.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros:

The Attack on Mars – The episode begins showing us a flashback to the attack on Mars. It is hear it is established that the Synthetics are looked on with fear by most of the humans they work with and that they were hacked to cause the attack. It is very well shot and shows that the Synthetics had no intention of living beyond the attack.

A Retreating Starfleet – Picard talks to the Commander-in-Chief of Starfleet, Fleet Admiral Clancy. It is hear we get Starfleet’s perspective and learn that member states within the Federation were threatening to leave if the Romulans were helped (showing how deep the fear of them still was, even with being allies during the Dominion War). You can see her predicament and Picard denouncing the Federation response had probably lead to her putting out even more fires. It is great getting the perspective and her voicing sorrow at the great man Picard once was shows that she doesn’t hate him, she just represents a very scared Starfleet trying to hold all the member states together.

Layers of Romulan Plots – One of the first things we learn in the episode is that the Romulan Tal Shiar had horror stories about an organization called the Zhat Vash. During this we learn Laris and Zhaban are former Tal Shiar operatives and that it is believed that Zhat Vash want to destroy all synthetic life and that is why Romulans don’t use A.I.

After Admiral Clancy talks to Picard she calls Commander Oh who we discover is most likely an undercover Romulan operative as she calls out “Lt. Rizzo” for her actions of killing Dahj, saying that they need to find out where the rest of the Synths are and that it was brutal and sloppy. Seeing how deeply the Romulans are in Starfleet and no Section 31 to be seen makes me wonder who these different factions are. Is this Tal Shiar vs Zhat Vash? What is their relationship? Rizzo and Oh clearly don’t get along so maybe they aren’t part of the same faction? This was intriguing and I can’t wait to learn more.

The Cons:

The Writing on the Borg “Artifact” – The writing on the Borg cube is very tell and not as much show. From the Romulan agent Narek saying he can go anywhere to himself (but more to us) and Soji telling us how much she cares about the “nameless” drones. There are interesting things happening and it is compelling but I wish the writing had much more show. We don’t need to be told everything that is happening.

This was an enjoyable but outing that didn’t reach the levels of good or great. Most of it was fleshing out the lore so we don’t get that compelling of the story. I would have liked Picard to have at least one ally in Starfleet he could have turned to (ideally one we’ve met prior) before asking to be a member of Starfleet again. I liked being in San Francisco again but we don’t meet anyone there who isn’t antagonistic to Picard in some way, so that was a major missed opportunity. Laris and Zhaban continue to be one of the strongest parts of the show as well as anything having to do with the Romulans.

Final Score: 7.5 / 10

Star Trek: The Animated Series – Season 1, Episode 6 – “The Survivor” – Choice of the Outcast

Star Trek The Animated Series Season 1 Ep 6

  “The Survivor” is a fun episode that doesn’t reach it’s full potential. We have a unique alien, Romulan intrigue  and a character who most of the crew respects…within all of these ideas none of them are fully fleshed out. This is an episode that could have easily been a two-parter and deserved a full hour and the shortness of an animated show worked against the story hidden within.

    The episode was directed by Hal Sutherland and written by James Schmerer.

    The story involves the discovery of a man who was supposed to be dead named Carter Winston. All is not as it appears to be as the alien who has taken it’s form leads them into the Neutral Zone and into a dire confrontation with the Romulans. The crew must outsmart it and stop it before the Federation plans can get to the Romulans.

The Pros: The Romulans – The Romulans use an exiled shape-shifting Vendorian to get them the Enterprise and all the knowledge on the ship. They do a good job and almost succeed but in the end their worry about hurting the Vendorain keeps them from doing more damage to the Enterprise. This showed them as noble which I liked though their plan never felt fully fleshed out.

Captain Kirk and Spock – Kirk and Spock are great in this as the outsmart their opponent and force it to make a choice to defend the ship as well as calling the Romulans bluff which leads to the crew surviving and getting out of the Neutral Zone.

The Vendorian – The Vendorians have a great design! They look like a giant jellyfish and are pretty dangerous. I like the fact that they can shape-shift but wish they’d been fleshed out more. Still, this is a species I want to see again.

The Battle – The Battle is pretty great! 2 on 1 with Enterprise being sabotaged from within. The Romulans feel like a threat and nearly win and it is only from Kirk and Spock’s quick planning that force the Vendorian to make a choice and change sides.

Okay: Carter Winston and Anne Nored – This relationship doesn’t feel real and ends up being cliche. Nored sees past the alien whose form her husband took and she doesn’t shoot it and gets to stand guard over him at the end and the alien falls in love with her because of the form of it’s host. This would work better if it established the Vendorians took on more than just the appearance of another.

The Ending – The Vendorian decides that it will stand trial before the Federation because it is what Carter Winston would do and he was inspired by the man he took care of before he died. This would work a lot better if not for the question of why he was working for the Romulans? This makes it feel very incomplete.

   This was a good episode but not great. As stated above there was so much more that could have been explored. Why was the Vendorian exiled from his Species and how did the Romulans get it to join them? How did being Carter Winston change him? Who was Carter Winston? What did the Romulans want in the end? These are all questions that remain unclear by episodes end, though the journey here is a lot of fun.

Final Score: 8 / 10

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

Romulan_commander_and_Centurian

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Final Score: 10 / 10.