Top 5 Favorite Factions in “Star Trek”

We continue “Star Trek Week” with my Top 5 Favorite Factions in “Star Trek.” In this case I’m taking factions beyond just government though government is listed and not just specific species either as some of these factions contain multiple species within them. I’m also counting factions that allied with others seperatley like The Cardassian Union and Breen Confederacy in regards to the Dominion as they were allies but still function as their own government and group within the Dominion.

First honorable mentions to The Federation, Cardassian Union, Tholian Assembly, Vidiians, and Hirogen all of whom are interesting and have compelling members within them but weren’t enough to make the list as far are my interest goes.

Also talking about these factions will contain SPOILERS related to said factions.

So without further ado here they are:

5) The Klingon Empire

I was torn between whether the Klingons and the Klingon Empire should be 4th or 5th on the list. Their honor driven culture and politics are fascinating but they also lack the dynamism and mystery of the others on the list. The Klingon Empire seems to always be at war as it is in battle honor is won and this has made peace treaties difficult or not long lasting as the Klingons went to war against the Federation for helping the Cardassian leaders escape during the Klingon-Cardassian War. This makes them complicated allies as the easiest path to honor in Klingon culture is war, which Gowron knew all to well and used to keep power as Chancellor through both “The Next Generation” and “Deep Space Nine.” This war does have a cost though and so far the series hasn’t shown us an alternate path beyond war for this warrior people. Worf as diplomat might help but it is no garauntee as his adopted father Chancellor Martok is very much defined by war as his rise came as a General and at the end of the Dominion War failed to see the tragedy in all the dead on Cardassia. I’m curious to see where their story goes next with Martok and Worf shaping their people moving forward and if a post-war Klingon Empire will be found.

4) The Borg Collective

I’m not a fan of the Borg Queen as the Borg were always most interesting as a Collective will assimilating and adapting because of the multiple minds as one not driven by a single ego. I do think she can still work though and she was shown to be good in “First Contact” and “Dark Frontier Parts 1 and 2.” The big question is where are the Borg now? Are they defeated or have they adapted and chosen a new Queen to lead after the failures of the ones in “Unimatrix Zero Part 1 and 2” and “Endgame” on “Voyager.” I think they can as the limits of beings and technology is vast as is the Borg power in the Delta Quadrant. They are constantly consuming, adapting and assimilating and it makes them a terror even with a flawed ego at the helm of the Collective. We see how much they’ve incorporated into them as they continue to assimilate across the universe and I’m intrigued to see what plan they will have next and what their next form in adaptation will be. They are one of the most alien factions and it makes them fascinating and I’m curious to see what stories come next.

3) The Breen Confederacy

The Breen are one of the factions who are filled with the most mystery while remaining active on the galactic stage. We don’t know why they wear their suits as Weyoun says their worlds are habitable and Confederacy implies an alliance among them in a way which is interesting as after they join the Dominion 2 different leaders are leading one after the other. Was the past one killed or defeated in some way? We see how ruthless they are with their dissipator technology and attack on San Francisco and in each appearance they are shown to be one of the more physically powerful of the aliens in “Star Trek.” I’m curious to see what we learn next. I love their ship designs and how independent they functioned within the Dominion, even going over Weyoun’s head to ask worlds of the Founders. They don’t care and everyone fears them. Can’t wait to see where their story goes.

2) The Dominion

The Dominion are interesting as they are founded by changelings who fear solids after how they were hunted who are spoken for by the Female Changeling. This lead them to shape the members who they could control making loyal soldiers in the Jem’Hadar addicted to Ketracel-white and the Vorta their kind face to put to the worlds they conquer and to govern over their domains with the most iconic being those of the Weyouns. Their military machine is unstoppable and their infiltration of governments weakens the Alpha Quadrant powers before the armies even arrive from the Gamma Quadrant. The stories around the Dominion and how they relate to the Alpha Quadrant powers eventually leads to the best story arc in “Star Trek” in the Dominion War arc. Now with the war over I’m hoping we get more stories as I’m curious how Odo rejoining the Founders may have changed their perspective or how they might have changed him. I can’t wait to see what stories come next from this fascinating faction.

1)The Romulan Star Empire

The Romulans have been the most interesting faction since their first appearance in “Balance of Terror” in “The Original Series.” This is a people who have clashes between the civilian government of the senate, the military and the Tal Shiar who also aren’t a unified force. All groups are united though in believing they fight for the Romulan people. This has lead to some great espionage plots over the course of the show and the Romulans being an offshoot of Vulcans adds even more depth as their passion contrasts with the dispassionate Vulcans. The Romulans are usually potrayed as powerful without being stupid. They are also cautious too which is one reason they’ve probably held onto their territory for so long. They never had the most iconic of individual villains but as a faction I’ve always loved seeing their stories play out and the power plays they make in different regions. I can’t wait to see more as well and where the Romulan story is taken fully after the Romulan Supernova and all we learned in “Picard.” I want more Romulan characters and more of their independent desires and plans as they are and continue to be my favorite faction in “Star Trek” as a whole.

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine – Season 6, Episode 26 – “Tears of the Prophets” – Bittersweet Victories and Tackling Purpose

“Star Trek Week” continues with “Tears of the Prophets.” “Tears of the Prophets” is a great episode but not a favorite. This is a story with some great ideas and consequences but doesn’t fully explore what those exactly are. This is in Season 6 so the Dominion War is in full swing so we see what cost the war is having on our characters. Both the heroes and villains have moments to shine and the action is fantastic and an episode I recommend.

The episode was directed by Allan Kroeker and written by Ira Steven Behr and Hans Beimler.

The Federation has an opportunity to turn the tide in the Dominion War but the choice to do so may lead to unintended consequences in the War.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros:

The Premise – The idea of a chance for a great victory for the Federation but at a cost both known and unknown is compelling. We are deep in the war and the episode doesn’t shy away from that.

The Action – The action in Chin’toka against the Dominion fleet and Cardassian orbital weapons platforms are great. We see so many ships destroyed and victory is won through intelligence and outsmarting the weapon platforms. The united fleet is shown to be needed too as Klingons, Romulans and Federation all lose ships in the battle to win.

The Defiant Crew – We got Garak onboard who expresses that not everyday one can liberate one’s own homeland. He also finds the vulnerability to the platforms as Nog is at the helm and O’Brien is the ones ro come up with the plan to trick the weapons platforms to destroy their own power source as Major Kira leads after Captain Sisko needs to leave the battle. The crew are all fantastic and Captain Sisko is great at leading the initial battle.

Weyoun and Damar – Combs’s Weyoun and Biggs’s Damar continue to be two of my favorite characters on the show and it was fun to see them in action this episode. We see Weyoun doubts about the Cardassians as allies (they were losing to the Klingons and had lost to the Federation in an earlier war so that should have always been there to some degree I’m guessing). I loved Damar doubting the Founders and continuing to try and show-up Weyoun who was consistently trying to find reasons to put him down. They really have a great dynamic and I love where their story ends up.

The Federation Alliance – We have Senator Letant and the Romulan Star Empire as the cautious party that is needed to win, General Martok who is reckless and Admiral Ross and Captain Sisko as the middle perspective of the need to win against the Dominion to stop their production of ships and soldiers. The Alliance politics are handled well and I like how Letant and Martok both get the chance to throw in some good barbs against each other as the Klingons and Romulans really do hate each other.

Gul Dukat – Alaimo continues to be amazing as Dukat as after “Waltz” he has become a Pah-Wraith cultist seeing them as his way to destroy Bajor and Captain Sisko. He clearly wielded influence still too as Weyoun and Damar both agreed to help him get the artifact and Damar still believes in him to some degree as you see Dukat as his mentor still meant something. He is very much a villain but it was the Pah-Wraith who wanted Jazdia dead not Dukat, which was an interesting touch and showed Dukat still was complex.

Jazdia Dax – This is Jazdia’s last episode and in this she has so much hope before here death as she learns her and Worf can have kids together. It is so sad that she dies and Terry Farrell owned this character so well. She captured her brains, caring, passion and drive so well and I like that Jazdia got moments with her friends through the episode before a Pah-Wraith possessed Dukat killed her. Dax does still live on though as Dr. Bashir does save the symbiont.

Captain Sisko – Avery Brooks plays a Captain conflicted so well as in this the Prophets warn him not to lead the mission to take Chin’toka. In the end he does after Admiral Ross forces him to choose though as we learn he’d been covering for Sisko being both Emissary and Starfleet Captain. Jazdia’s death breaks him though as he takes his baseball and leaves to his father’s restaurant on Earth as the Prophets have gone silent and he sees himself as the reason why.

The Cons:

Lovesick Quark and Dr. Bashir – I thought they were over this and good with being her friend. This is a writing cliche I hate and I didn’t like seeing Quark and Dr. Bashir being so immature. The hologram lounge singer Vic Fontaine was right to call them out for being clueless in the episode.

The Powerplay of the Pah-Wraiths – So Jazdia died and the Orbs stopped communicating with the Bajorans. I get this should feel bigger but it doesn’t given we just saw the Federation Alliance get deep into Cardassian and Dominion Space from the victory Captain Sisko was around for. For this reason they needed more of a win as they’ve done a lot less than the Prophets.

This is a great and flawed episode and one I highly recommend. This is the final of Season 6 and it has to accomplish a lot, most of what it does. It is really only the lovesickness plot and the Pah-Wraith consequence needing to be more that hold it back from being a favorite episode. “Deep Space Nine” is one of my favorite shows and the ideas and conflicts in this episode are a big reason why that is.

Final Score: 9 / 10 If Dr. Bashir and Quark had not been annoyingly lovesick and the Pah-Wraiths victory had done more this could have been a favorite episode. Still a great episode though.

Star Trek: The Next Generation – Season 4, Episode 7 – “Reunion” – The Honor of Klingon Ascension

What initially brought me to this episode was wanting to see Gowron’s introduction again. He’s my favorite Klingon and most Klingon episodes involve interesting politics and drama, which is a thing in Trek I’m a fan of. Suffice to say I was not disappointed. Without getting into spoilers this one is well worth your time and an important part of Klingon history.

The episode was directed by Jonathan Frakes with teleplay by Ronald D. Moore, Brannon Braga, and Jo and Thomas Perry.

The story follows the Enterprise when Chancellor K’mpec chooses Captain Picard to oversee the right of succession as he knows he is dying and he wants Picard to investigate why. The Federation Ambassador K’Ehleyr arrives as well and her history with Worf is revealed.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros:

Chancellor K’mpec – Chancellor K’mpec reminds me King Robert in “Game of Thrones” at the time of the show. This is a long serving King who is far beyond his years and resting on his laurels. He is a bit more clever than Robert though as he knows he is being played and once to be sure he gets the last laugh. Charles Cooper is great in the role and I wish he’d had more time to interact with Picard or had the chance to interact with K’Ehleyr or Worf.

Ambassador K’Ehleyr – K’Ehleyr and Worf were nearly married but K’Ehleyr was against it at the time. After having their son Alexander her mind has changed though. Her history is fascinating as she is a Federation Ambassador and half-Klingon. I wish we’d gotten more of her history but I loved seeing her investigation and discovering Duras’s lies. She also motivates Worf to be a good father and she stands up to Duras but is sadly murdered for it.

Investigations – Investigations are a theme of the episode. The crew of the Enterprise is investigating a bomb that went off when K’mpect was confirmed dead and K’Ehleyr is investigating Khitomer and why Worf was dishonored. These actions drove the episode.

The Bomb – The first investigation is a bombing that kills a Klingon from both Duras and Gowron’s faction. It is revealed that was Romulan made and eventually that it was planted in Duras’s soldier’s arm. How the crew gets their is gradual and it lends to the drama well.

Khitomer – The second investigation is K’Ehleyr’s investigation of Khitomer where she figures out that Duras’s family is guilty of the massacre because of Duras’s burying of all the evidence. In the end she sadly dies for finding out the truth.

Duras – Duras is obviously bad but he is a fun villain. He’s a traditional Klingon in how aggressive he is and he is obsessed with posturing. He has a level of politicking though as shown by his carrying on the alliance with the Romulans. Worf killing him is well deserved too, he is a villain who is fun to hate.

Gowron – Gowron is also politically savvy as he tries to offer K’Ehleyr power to support him and he never reveals his hand. Robert O’Reilly does an amazing job as my favorite Klingon. My one wish is that he’d interacted with more characters. This story is much more about Worf, K’Ehleyr and Duras but Gowron carries the scenes he is in and he is eventually made Chancellor.

Worf and Picard – Worf and Picard have an interesting dynamic as Picard reprimands Worf for killing Duras (In revenge combat) and he asks why Worf doesn’t relcaim his family honor now that Duras is dead? Worf rightfully calls out how the High Council was in on the lie so would not give it back. It is powerful and I really liked their dynamic.

The Cons:

Stories Unexplored – Who was Gowron beyond a political outsider? What is K’Ehleyr backstory beyond being Worf’s ex? How did she become a Federation ambassador? This episode could have answered these if it was a two-parter.

Alexander – Alexander is annoying. I get why he exists as it solidifies the K’Ehleyr and Worf relationship and shows their history but Worf isn’t a good dad and he only exists to show that Worf can be a dad sometimes, even if isn’t good at it. At least Wesley was more realized as a character, can’t say the same for Alexander.

K’mpec’s Lack of Long Term Planning – K’mpec’s only planning was having Picard investigate his murder…part of it seemed like he was ready to let the Federation gain power over the Federation to spite his enemy. He also did nothing to root out who his enemy might have worked with. It was a very simple plot and for a long lived ruler I’d thought he’d be smarter.

I thought this was a really good episode. It was written by 4 people so I’m surprised the story still managed to be so focused. I enjoy politics in Trek and the Klingons are usually a lot of fun in those political stories. This really should have been a two-parter though. K’Ehleyr, Gowron and K’mpec deserved more time and greater explorations of who they were and are.

Final Score: 8.5 / 10

Star Trek: Picard – Season 1, Episode 10 – “Et in Arcadia Ego, Part 2” – The Legacy of Data

Star Trek: Picard': S01.E10. “Et in Arcadia Ego: Part 2”

     “Et in Arcadia Ego, Part 2” gives us satisfying end to the first season of “Picard.” This is an episode that is long and has to accomplish a lot, which it manages to do. We get the resolution to multiple plot lines and have some good use of fanservice near the end. This is an episode that sets up the future of the show and captures the inherit optimism about the future that is so intrinsic to “Star Trek.” Without getting into spoilers, it was great and flawed and a satisfying ending for the season.

The episode was directed by Akiva Goldsman with teleplay by Michael Chabon who co-wrote the story with Akiva Goldsman.

Part 2 picks up where we left off, with Picard trapped by the Soong Synthetics, Raffi and Rios repairing the ship and Seven and Elnor taking care of the Ex-Borg. The Romulan fleet is on the way as Sutra and Soji build the tower to summon in the ancient and powerful synthetics for protection.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros:

Narek Teams Up with the Crew – After Sutra freed him last episode we see him team up with Rios, Elnor and Raffi giving us one of the best lines in the episode, “I choose to live.” It great and shows that even though he is an enemy he thinks the grew is the best bet from stopping the arrival of the powerful synths and stopping Sutra and Soji. The dynamic is wonderful and we see him recount the legend of the last time the Synths came and wiped out everything. It sets the stakes and you get why he chose to ally.

Seven of Nine – Seven of Nine is taking care of the xBs for most of the episode until “Narissa” arrives leading to them fighting and Seven getting the chance to avenge Hugh for his death. She has a great dynamic with Elnor where he mentions he would miss her if she died and how she is a mother figure to him. By the end of the episode she is part of the main crew and might have a romantic relationship with Raffi. During the time where Picard might be gone for good she mentions how Picard pulled her back into the past she thought she’d left behind and Rios says Picard caused that same change in him. It looks like she is main crew by the end of the episode and I hope we get more of her Season 2.

Captain Riker and Starfleet – Captain Riker arrives with a Starfleet armada to protect Picard’s first contact with the Synth civilization. It is an awesome moment as he calls out Commodore Oh for her betrayal and says he wants her to fight. Given his inspiration in Kirk, it was a very Kirk like taunt and I loved their face down. I was expecting one of Picard’s allies to arrive and it made sense that it was Riker given he was still a Reserve Captain in Starfleet.

Picard and Soji – What saves the day in the end is Picard’s relationship with Soji and a Picard speech. It is here that he stalls the Romulans until the fleet arrives and uses the last of his strength to stand up for Soji and her people. It is very well done as we see courage win out over fear and as Picard dies he knows he saved Soji and her people.

Peaceful Resolution – We have a standoff between the Romulan and Federation fleet and I was worried that we’d get a big battle “Discovery” Season 2 style…thankfully we didn’t. Diplomacy is what defined “The Next Generation” and the final episode captured this beautifully. This also leads things open as Oh was in charge of Starfleet Intelligence so she knows all their secrets and may have future plans because of it. This resolution leaves things open in all the best ways as this new society can now develop further under Federation protection.

Data’s Legacy – One of the last scenes is when Picard’s consciousness is downloaded into a realm where Data’s also is. They talk and Data asks Picard to die as he knows mortality is a huge part of what defines humanity. It is a powerful scene and I loved their last interactions together as Picard finally gets to say good-bye to his friend and to honor his final wish. In this Synth civilization we see Data’s legacy live on and with the choices made by one of his children, Soji…they have a future.

Tying Things Back to Episode 1 – The show began with Picard and Data playing cards as “Blue Skies” played and ended with them having the conversation and closure Picard always wanted as Data finally got to die as his life ends to Isa Briones, his daughter singing “Blue Skies.” It was poetic and one thing I liked as the theme of mortality was one of the consistent themes for Picard through the series.

The Cons:

What Happened to Narek? – Narek is captured by Synths and we have to learn in interviews that Starfleet pics him up as prisoner. It would have been good to see that given Picard was around to make first contact with this Synth Civilization.

Copy and Paste Starfleet Armada – The new ships from Starfleet look really cool…they also were clearly all copy pasted. This was a shame as a diverse fleet could have gave us a good idea of the Federation military in this era. Instead we got the lazy copy and paste of the new flagship a hundred times. Come on CBS, you have money and can do better than this.

The Synth Threat – The Synth threat is still out there. Soji may have destroyed the tower but any member of her species could rebuild it. We also know that the powerful synths know about the cry for help and could take the long way around or build something like the beacon potentially on their end. If we had a fight this episode I was hoping it would be with the new threat and with it us hopefully learning more about them…instead they are in the wings as a potential threat for later.

I thought this was a great final that really made up for how weak “Part 1” was. We finally see a noble Federation ready to defend new life and new civilizations. We have a problem that is solved by diplomacy rather than violence and we get some wonderful character moments and fanservice to end the season. Overall, I would recommend “Picard” to any fan of “Star Trek.” It is clearly it’s own thing and I appreciate what it has added to the lore. I look forward to any future seasons.

Final Score: 9.2 / 10

Final Score for “Part 1 and 2” together: 8.3 / 10

Star Trek: Picard – Season 1, Episode 7 – “Nepenthe” – Exploring Home and a Mistake

Image result for nepenthe Picard

     “Nepenthe” is an episode that feels organic. This could have easily turned into fanservice with the reunion between Picard, Riker and Troi and I felt like it didn’t. The characters have all changed and grown from the people they were before, while still remaining true to their core selves. In lesser hands they could have easily been caricatures of the people they were before. This isn’t a favorite episode though due to two things that happen, that I’ll get into below.

The episode was directed by Douglas Aarniokoski and written by Michael Chabon and Samantha Humphrey.

The story picks up with Picard and Soji meeting up with Kestra, daughter of Riker and Troi. As they go to them for safety Elnor attempts to escape with Hugh from the Cube and Agnes Jurati begins to face what she did to Bruce Maddox.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros:

Soji and Kestra – One of the relationships that shows us more of who Soji is, is her relationship with Kestra, the daughter of Riker and Troi. Kestra invents langauges and hunts and is very open. This openness and honesty puts Soji at ease and helps her sort through all she’s been through. Kestra is also Soji’s ally. Soji ends up being an older sister of sorts and I really enjoyed how their friendship grew.

Riker and Troi – Riker and Troi are awesome in this. They are supportive of Picard, while still holding him accountable. When Picard mocks Soji’s doubting of all she knows to be true Troi reminds Picard that as Captain he was better, while Riker said he just could have invited her to dinner. We see more of the people who they are as Troi is the glue of the family, we learn they lost a child and because of it she can’t go back into Starfleet again, while Riker is still on reserve within Starfleet. They are a contrast to Picard and help him only to grow. It was wonderful seeing them again.

Events on the La Sirena – On the ship Agnes is having mental breakdown as she accepts she killed Bruce Maddox and as the Narek tracks them with the tracking device Commodore Oh had given to her. It is very well done as her being treated as innocent is too much to take and she attempts to kill herself to get Narek off their trail. The episode handles this arc really well.

The Theme of Home – Home is a major theme of the episode. Soji realizes that was what the Romulans were using her for, and we see how home is safety for Riker, Troi and Kestra and in that adopted home is also a safe haven for Soji and Picard. This theme was beautifully handled.

The Cons:

Attribute Marina Sirtis as Guest Star – I don’t know why she wasn’t given guest credit, but it annoyed me. She is just as central to the episode as Jonathan Frakes and the producers should have known better.

Death of Hugh – Hugh is killed when he decides he is going to help Elnor get to the Queen’s Chamber. I wish he’d been leading the xB’s in revolt against the romulans who were controlling them at least. There is always the chance he could be brought back, Seven has resurrected the dead with nano-probes in the past and she is set to show up next episode. We’ll see what happens. Hugh is my favorite character on the show besides Laris and deserved a better death at the very least.

This was a good episode. Things finally come to a head with Dr. Jurati and what she did, we get some more time with Hugh and the reunion with Picard, Riker and Trio was beautifully written. This episode has a lot happen but doesn’t feel rushed and it is this pacing that helped it remain as strong as it did. I’m curious to see what will happen and if Riker will come to Picard’s rescue in the end.

Final Score: 8.5 / 10 My issues with the episode where elevated by the solid writing going on everywhere else but “The Artifact.”

Star Trek: The Animated Series – Season 2, Episode 1 – “The Pirates of Orion” – Race to Save Spock

Orion_pirate_ship-Enterprise_faceoff

    “The Pirates of Orion” was a good episode. There were stakes with the race against time to get the drugs to save Spock as well as dealing with a pretty awesome threat in the Orions, where there isn’t an easy answer. I’ll get into more of what I mean deeper into the review.

   The episode was directed by Bill Reed and written by Howard Weinstein.

   The story involves a virus infecting Spock and a race to get the drugs when the ship that was transporting the drugs to the Enterprise gets robbed by Orion Pirates forcing Kirk into a faceoff against the Orion Captain and negotiating under dangerous circumstances.

The Pros: The Premise – The premise is great! I like the fact that the one who saves others (Spock) has to be saved and that the Federation has to deal with a species that is neutral but acts like pirates.

The Orions – The Orions are a cunning foe and are willing to kill themselves so that Orion nuetrality will not be broken. They nearly succeed too with both a superweapon and the Captain trying to poison himself.

Doctor McCoy – McCoy’s humanity comes out in this as we see him beat himself up as he can’t find a way to save Spock without the drugs. He is kind to Spock the entire time and doesn’t joke around sarcastically with him until he is healed.

Captain Kirk – Kirk is great in this! We see how far he is willing to go to save his friend and he has to think fast when dealing with the Orion captain and the threat. This is a Kirk episode and it works…we see how lost he is without Spock in this.

Okay: The Freighter – The Freighter crew is just kind of there. They only exist to send out the emergency call to the Federation when the Orions attack them. There are only there for the plot and don’t really feel like characters, they aren’t bad though.

The Cons: Pacing – Pacing was kind of slow, especially at the beginning. That is one thing that could have easily been fixed with more time with our heroes rather than the Freighter.

    This was an enjoyable episode I’d recommend! The Orion ship has a great design, and they were good threat to face! Spock having a limited amount of time before he dies also raised the stakes so it keeps the story moving forward and characters are always making choices.

Final Score: 9 / 10