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.

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

Star Trek Beyond

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

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

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

SPOILERS ahead

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Final Score: 8.5 / 10

Star Trek: The Animated Series – Season 1, Episode 14 – “The Slaver Weapon” – A Political Situation

The Slaver Weapon Star Trek TAS Season 1 ep 14

   “The Slaver Weapon” is a lot of fun. The episode is okay but doesn’t seem to have any major focus beyond escape, which really brings it down. Plus the Kzinti have a lot of potential as an antagonist but we they weren’t fully explored as a threat.

    The episode was directed by Hal Sutherland and written by Larry Niven and adapted from his story “The Thought Weapon.”

     The story involves Spock, Sulu’s and Uhura’s search for Slaver technology as we learn the things the Federation discovered lead to new discoveries in their own sciences. During the search for one of the Slaver Boxes they are kidnapped by antagonist Kzinti who wish to establish their old Empire that once existed.

The Pros: Uhura – Uhura gets captured a few times but at least she is always resisting the Kzinti. I wish she could have had a bigger role but she is still great here being a nice contrast to the sexism of the Kzinti.

Sulu – Sulu is a strong character and we see him do a great job against the Kzinti and the moment they go into his mind they revolt as he imagines eating vegetables which they hate. He has strong mental will and manages to escape with Spock when they successfully leave the ship.

Spock – Spock is the one who figures out the Slaver A.I. and lets the Kzinti make their own destruction as they try and control the A.I. which believes it’s still at war and destroys the Kzinti ship. This is his episode as his lack of foresight lead to them getting captured by the Kzinti in the first place and he takes responsibility for that.

The Kzinti – These guys have a cool design. They are a mixture of bat and cat and can read people’s minds (a lot of aliens in “Star Trek” can apparently). I wish we could have got to know them more though, they have so much potential as a threat and militarizing again.

Okay: The Slavers and the Weapon – The Slavers are a now extinct species that once ruled the Universe and look like a one-eyed reptilian species. We don’t know much about them but the weapons and the Slavers weren’t all that fleshed out (less so than the Kzinti) which was a major con…all we know is they were advanced technically, ruled the galaxy and are no longer around anymore.

The Cons: The Animation – This is a problem with the show in general but it is really bad here as the running is really blocky and the repeated shots are really obvious.

Uhura the Victim – She keeps getting captured and in the end needs to be rescued. So much for the future.

    This story had a lot of potential but just didn’t make it good. It was enjoyable to say the least but that doesn’t make a good story. Uhura was the victim way too much and the Kzinti just didn’t feel wholly alien, which was a shame. Still, there was a lot of good here.

Final Score: 7 / 10

Star Trek: The Animated Series – Season 1, Episode 11 – “The Terratin Incident” – Adapting to Size

Star Trek TAS Season 1 ep 11

      “The Terratin Incident” was an episode that could have easily been terrible. Shrinking people is generally a weak story unless something creative is done with it. This episode actually deals with consequences along those lines, and gives us a faction that isn’t all that sympathetic giving our heroes more of a dilemma.

    The episode was directed by Hal Sutherland and written by Paul Schneider.

     The story involves the crew being shrunk after investigating a planet full of dilithium and volcanic activity. The crew must find out who did it and restore themselves to normal size before they are destroyed.

The Pros: Captain Kirk – Kirk saves the day and figures out going down to the planet will be the way to figure out how to restore them to normal size. He also makes a splint for Sulu when Sulu is knocked off his post and he rescues Nurse Chapel. This is very much a Kirk episode. He is also merciful and saves the people who were attacking them.

Spock – Spock is the planner and Kirk is the doer. He figures out that they are shrinking first and works with Kirk to try and figure out a way to get them back to full size again.

Sulu – Sulu wants to attack the planet and is one of the first people who notices that something needs to be done about the planets attack on them.

Scotty – Scotty uses his men to use the transporter and is always active and creative throughout the episode. He doesn’t let size stop him from being productive and planning.

The Terratins – The Terratins were shrunk when they settled on the world and were lost to time. They chose not to seek help until the very end and steal others to get help. They are a great antagonist force in the episode.

The Cons: How Women are Handled – The women on the ship panic, especially when their jewelry shrinks and Nurse Chapel has to be rescued from drowning. This brought the episode way down and kept it from being better.

   Minus how women are handled in the episode it is a lot of fun and great. We get to see the crew think creatively, there are stakes and the Terratins though they were once human are now more alien as they do not know how to admit they are wrong and are so driven by pride and having to be right. It’s really cool and creates a great episode.

Final Score: 9 / 10

Star Trek: The Animated Series – Season 1, Episode 9 – “Once Upon a World” – Star Trek’s Hal 9000

Control_computer

“Star Trek” has a Hal 9000 and it is is the Master Computer. I was actually very entertained by this episode and want to see the original series episode that inspired this episode (“Shore Leave”). The Master Computer, seeing Uhura do something and Spock were once again the best part of this episode. This was a good episode.

    “Once Upon a World” was directed by Hal Sutherland and written by Chuck Menville and Len Janson.

    The story involves the crew returning to the “Shore Leave” planet and Uhura being captured by the Master Computer who wishes to take control of the Enterprise and escape from the planet his creators have confined it too.

The Pros: Captain Kirk – Kirk is the one who manages to infiltrate the Master Computer when Spock fakes sickness using one of McCoy’s concoctions to force the Nurse Bots to bring him in for healing. It is he and Spock together who reason with it and help it realize it can grow and learn and that organics are equals to sentience life be it machine or otherwise.

Uhura – Uhura fights the Master Computer on multiple occasions and shows why she is such a valued member of the crew. She is never the damsel in distress even though she needs to be rescued.

Sulu – Sulu has a minor role in this but he manages to escape a bunch of threats and he makes possible Spock and McCoy’s infiltration. Takei is as usual amazing as the very flirtatious Sulu. He was a lot of fun in this.

McCoy – McCoy is the humanity in this and is the one who fears while Spock is fascinated with the robots and the Master Computer. He is also willing to risk it all to save everyone and is a great contrast to Spock per usual.

Spock – Spock is the one who uses logic to get the Master Computer to see that what it is doing is illogical and that it can coexist with organic life. He does a great job and it is he who risks getting sick to get inside the Master Computer’s headquarters. He also stops Kirk from risking himself as logically Vulcan’s bodies are stronger than humans.

The Cons: The Ending – The ending is a bit too corny. The robots that have been trying to harass the crew have a picnic with them. It just feels too cliche even if they are outcroppings of the mind of the Master Computer.

   This was a great episode because it wasn’t just the Kirk, Spock  and McCoy show. Sulu and Uhura are acive too and we see them be active in every scene they are in. There is no passiveness in this episode and the Master Computer feels like Hal, an actual threat that has no respect for humanity or organics but in this case is able to learn that respect, which is very “Star Trek.”

Final Score: 9 / 10

Star Trek: The Animated Series – Season 1, Episode 7 – “The Infinite Vulcan” – New Purpose

Spock_2,_Keniclius_5,_and_Enterprise_crew

  Walter Koenig (the actor who plays Chekov) is a great writer! He has a lot of big ideas he deals with in this (the survival of a dying species and how to change ideals) and does a really good job with it! This was an episode that could have been terrible. Clones generally are a bad idea, especially cloning a major character, but this episode rises above this generally bad idea.

   “The Infinite Vulcan” was directed by Hal Sutherland and written by as stated above, Walter Koenig.

      The story involves the Enterprise being ordered to a planet at the far reaches of the galaxy where a dying plant species called the Phylosians has made a deal with a man from the Eugenic Wars who has chosen Spock to clone in order to create his Master Race to bring peace to the galaxy. It is up to the crew to stop him.

The Pros: Phylos – Phylos is a really cool planet. It is entirely made of plant life with both predatory flying plants as enemies and the dying race of the Phylos as the dominant species. It is colorful, green and dangerous and I wish the planet would make appearance in other “Trek” things.

The Phylosians – This species is fascinating as they latch onto the man Dr. Stavos who almost killed them from his germs but did everything to save him. They were once a war making species but now only want to be peacekeepers…much like humanity and Dr. Stavos.

Uhura – Uhura has a minor but great role in this. She researches the Eugenic Wars and finds that Stavos fought in it and it is from her research they are able to reason with the man and Spock 2 in order to save Spock and keep Stavos’s ideals from becoming a nightmare. 

Sulu – Sulu also has an active role in this as it is the Phylosians who save him from a plant that poisons him and it is he who later defends them when they are attacked by the Phylosians by easily throwing one. He shows that he is adapt, witty and can match wits with any crewmember or alien. He’s a lot of fun in this and Takei brings his charm.

Scotty – Is the acting Captain and does a good job as we see that he is the one who tries everything to reach Kirk as he doesn’t want to cause a war during first contact. He truly is the best engineer in “Star Trek.”

Dr. Stavos – Stavos is the idealist run amok who has lost all faith in humanity so wants to create a master race to enforce peace between worlds. He ran away from the Eugenic Wars because of the ashamed he was of his people and the war and that shame rubbed off on him when he nearly wiped out the Phylosians from simply being part human. This makes it possible to reason with him though and in the end he becomes an ally of the Federation.

Spock and Spock 2 – Spock 2 is Spock’s Clone who has Stavos’s ideals but also the Vulcan logic which leads to him stopping further clones from being created and mind melding with the original Spock in order to save him. He later stays to help Stavos further his research and save the Phylosians.

Spock agrees with the Clone and calls out Kirk for his aggression while complimenting him for when he acts with a cool head.

Kirk –  This is a good Kirk episode as we see him deal with threats in a reasoned way while still using force when absolutely necessary. He is convincing too and manages to turn the Phylosians and Dr. Stavos who were once enemies into allies of the Federation.

    This was a really great episode with the only cons being the fact that what Dr. Stavos did during the Eugenic Wars is never gone into. In a way it isn’t needed but it would have made the episode perfect if we had more time. I really recommend this episode. I had no idea Walter Koenig could write, but he did a great job.

Final Score: 9.5 / 10

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

Star Trek The Animated Series Season 1 Ep 1.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Final Score: 8 / 10