Chaos on the Bridge (2014): A Documentary Exploring the Conflict Behind Starting “Star Trek: The Next Generation”

Chaos on the Bridge poster

    I’m not the biggest fan of William Shatner. The stories of how he treated the cast, and his pet project film of “The Final Frontier” was just awful as it was all about Kirk and he even had the crew of the “Enterprise” turn against him just so he could be the center of attention…so yeah, I’m not the biggest fan. This is a decent documentary though and I really liked seeing him explore other egos and the mess that was the first 2 season of “Star Trek: The Next Generation.”

      Shatner directed the film and it aired on HBO.

      The story involves the drama behind the creation of and initial failure of “Star Trek: The Next Generations” through interviews to give the different sides of the story in the conflicts that took place on getting the new “Star Trek” off the ground.

The Pros: Roddenberry’s Story – Roddenberry’s story is sad as you have a man who lost his art since it was owned by Paramount and the studio didn’t give him anything until the films. This lead to him being very selfish both during “The Original Series” and his attempt to micromanage “The Next Generation,” which made the early stories suck as he could change his mind at any point and had surrounded himself with “yes” men. It wasn’t until he left that the show was really able to find it’s footing, though he gave us some great ideas like the Holodeck and of course “Star Trek” which made “The Next Generation” and my favorite of the Treks, “Deep Space Nine” possible.

Interviews with the Actors – The interviews with the actors and team are a lot of fun as you get an idea of how the personalities clashed and it gives a taste of how close so many of them were. Gates McFadden (Dr. Crusher) and Jonathan Frakes (Will Riker) were great examples of this, as was Denise Crosby who sadly got shafted (like McFadden did by Hurley).

Patrick Stewart – Patrick Stewart being cast as the Captain is a really cool story as he was wearing a wig at first but was accepted by Rodenberry after he took it off and he convinced everyone that in the future hair doesn’t matter. It was a cool moment! Later Stewart got in a fight when he thought what he was doing was being mocked but was able to resolve it with one of the Producers.

The Turn Around – After Maurice Hurley leaves and Roddenberry leaves the show gets back on task. Hurley gave us the Borg, which was a great idea but he held to closely to Roddenberry’s vision of human perfection so there was no character conflict….this was a big reason the first 2 season sucked. Our characters were just bland and didn’t have characterization.

William Shatner – Shatner showed class in this. He was sad at not being asked to be involved with starting “The Next Generation” but he moved on and he clearly had a lot of respect for the people he was interviewing. It truly felt that he did this project out of a genuine care for Trek and curiosity of what came after him.

The Cons: The Animation – The animation looks like a comic book and clashes with drama that unfolded. Which is a shame since the animation isn’t bad, it just tonally felt very jarring.

The Soundtrack – It is very jokey and clashed with the Rodenberry story and a new creation finding it’s footing.

This was a good short documentary that I’d recommend. Shatner’s ego doesn’t really come out and he comes off as genuine and sincere throughout the entire project, so he’s clearly grown at least somewhat from the past. The animation and soundtrack detract from it but learning about the drama and the interviews really carry it and made it an enjoyable watch.

Final Score: 7 / 10

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Galaxy Quest (1999): A Comedy that Celebrates Sci. Fi. and Nerd Culture

Galaxy Quest poster

   “Galaxy Quest” is one of the greatest honoring of sci. fi. and nerd culture to come out of cinema. It works because it’s characters are mostly fully fleshed out and the situations are comedic without doing away with tension, and the main cast is a lot of fun. As someone who is a huge Trekkie you can see the inspiration drawn from “Star Trek” in the characters and situations the characters are in, as well as the sci. fi. convention where a lot of the story takes place. These are just some of the elements I really enjoyed about the film, I’ll get into more depth later.

    The film was directed by Dean Parisot and written by David Howard and Robert Gordon while being produced by Mark Johnson and Charles Newirth.

     The story is about a cast of a once famous sci. fi. television show called “Galaxy Quest.” They soon find themselves in over their head when Jason Nesmith (Tim Allen) the Commander on the show makes a deal that they will help a group of aliens called the Thermians who are being hunted to an extinction by an evil alien warlord called Sarris.

The Pros: The Convention – The convention felt like many of the ones I’d been to as a child and do hope to visit again. There is an excitement and celebration of characters and story that make a great convention great. The ending entrance into the largest convention was awesome too.

Brandon – Is the convention goer who cosplays being a captain in the “Galaxy Quest” universe. He and his friends know the ins and outs of all the missions and episodes which leads to him helping the Commander through the situations he is under.

The Missions – Take place after the crew have been taken in by the Thermians. From getting another Sphere, to repairing the ship and using the mines in the minefield against Sarris. Most of the crew get to use their skills to their greatest ability.

The Thermians – The Thermians are a naive octopus like people who can give themselves the illusion of human form. They have

Mathesar – Mathesar is the Thermian leader and is a kind and good officer. He rises to the challenge and defends himself (his species is a peaceful one) showing how they’ve grown beyond that and can defend themselves when they need to.

The Crew – The crew is largely fantastic and has arcs that are greater than themselves. Alan Rickman (R.I.P.) as Dr. Lazarus is my favorite of them.

Guy Fleegman – Sam Rocwell is great as the character was a redshirt (side crew who dies on an away mission, there are many throughout “Star Trek” and other sci. fi. shows). Luckily he is able to subvert this trope and his awareness helps save them and he ends up becoming the security chief on the rebooted show. His story is awesome.

Tommy Webber / Lt. Laredo – Mitchell plays the Wesley Crusher wiz kid who didn’t get scarred by being on the show. He’s pretty down to Earth as a character and we see him get involved with helping where he can as well as learning how to actually fly the ship properly so that they can defeat Sarris.

Fred Kwan / Tech. St. Chen -Tony Shalhoub is awesome! He is the only character who is fine when meeting the Thermians and ends up hooking up with one of them. For him the strange is normal and it leads to some great interactions as he takes over as Engineer on the ship without a second thought while the rest of the crew is panicking and torn between their roles as actors versus those on the show.

Jason Nesmith / Commander Taggart – Nesmith is a Shatner type narcissist whose arc involves him getting pride in his work and not looking down on himself as well as appreciating his crew. He goes from only caring about being the star to knowing that they only survived because of the roles all his crewmembers played. Allen does alright.

Alexander Dane / Dr. Lazarus – Rickman does amazing as the actor who was into drama before his role as Dr. Lazarus ruined his career. His arc is making peace with the fact that people see him this way (as Nimoy had to do with Spock) and when he sees his famous quote bring hope to people fights for them and helps the Thermians rise up against their enemies. He mellows out a lot by the end too as before he is really wound up and anxious at the conventions and when he’s with the cast.

Celebrating Science Fiction – This film celebrates sci. fi. from beginning to end. From “Galaxy Quest” having a rich lore and people who celebrate it’s fandom…the the actual lore of the Thermians taking inspiration from the show.

Celebrating the Fans – The film also celebrates the fans. Brandon saves the crew with his friends as it is their knowledge of past episodes that helps them rescue the Thermians and stop Sarris. At the end Nesmith thanks them all as well and in the end they what they wanted…a rebooted “Galaxy Quest.”

Okay: Gwen DeMarco / Lt. Madison – She is sadly sidelined and her arc is her love story with Nesmith. On the show she just says what the computer says and is sexed up and it’s done even more-so in the reboot. This is an issue with television that could have been addressed but never is. Everything she does is in Nesmith’s shadow versus the other crewmembers who each get their own individual chance to shine.

Cons: Sarris – He’s a one-dimensional baddy who tortures for the sake of torture and doesn’t even seem to conquer since he only has one ship. This character had no motivations and even though he had a cool insect like design, that does not make a compelling villain.

    This is a solidly good comedy outing that pays tribute to science fiction while celebrating some of the best aspects of it and the passion that has come to surround the shows. It also is one of Alan Rickman’s greatest performances and my friends and I watched this show to honor him. This is a show that manages to work both as a comedy, a sci. fi. show and even on some level a drama with the only cons being the villain and how Sigourney Weaver’s character. Suffice to say, I highly recommend this film.

Final Score: 8.4 / 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 3 – “One of Our Planets is Missing” – New Life and New Contact

The Cloud

   “One of Our Planets is Missing” is one of the best stories to come out of “Star Trek.” “Star Trek” is all about making contact with new life and new civilizations and the dilemmas sometimes presented by that. This one explores that thoroughly and shows the hope that there is for mankind when we truly seek out every new possibility before destruction of life. Suffice to say, I really enjoyed this episode.

    The episode was directed by Hal Sutherland and written by Marc Daniels.

    The story involves contact with a mysterious cloud that devours all life around it and ends up eating the Enterprise. From here it is up to the crew to stop or kill it before it can reach the furthest Federation world of Alondra, destroying all life there.

The Pros: Captain Kirk – Captain Kirk does all he can to protect the Federation while also exploring all ways to speak to the Cloud. This is partially on prompting of Spock who reminds him that it is against the code of the Federation to end new life…but in the end he finds away, giving Spock until the final minute to convince the creature to turn away from the planet.

Scotty – Scotty shows how resourceful he is when he improves the ship to survive the interior of the cloud. It is a great moment and we see him thinking fast when they are devoured on how to keep them alive and keep them from being digested.

Spock – Spock is the one who makes contact with the Cloud and is able to show it that they are life and should not be destroyed. It is that convinces the creature to return to it’s place of origin. It is powerful conversation and sharing of minds that feels Spock with wonder.

The Cloud – The Cloud does not perceive things that are small until the ship is able to amplify Spock’s mind to communicate with it. Once it sees the Ship and Universe through Spock’s eyes it leaves though since it does not wish to do harm to others, only to survive.

The Dilemma – The dilemma is whether to end something that is possibly a new life form before and if unable to make contact and in turn save the planet or to do everything and try to make contact first. It ends working out and they were lucky the Cloud was a benevolent life form.

This is an episode that showed “Star Trek” at it’s best. Not all life is humanoid or like us, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t capable of thought or feeling or that it is incapable of being made aware of others. It’s a powerful episode that shows the risks and possibilities in first contact with life that is truly alien from us.

Final Score: 10 / 10

Star Trek: The Animated Series – Season 1, Episode 2 – “Yesteryear” – Spock’s Search for Peace

Star Trek The Animated Series Season 1 ep 2

    “Yesteryear” is a great Spock and Time Travel episode. It is also one of the few times we get to see an Andorian character explored outside of the horrible “Enterprise” series. It is a subtle episode that manages to bring a lot depth and show a lot without having to say much. It’s focus on Spock also lends it a lot of strength too as there aren’t any side plots to distract from that core story.

    The episode was directed by Hal Sutherland and written by D. C. Fontana.

      The story involves the crew traveling to the planet of the Time Vortex in order to help some archaeologists explore the past of the Federation. When Kirk and Spock return though they find no one recognizes Spock and that he died as a child in this timeline forcing Spock to travel back to the past in order to prevent his death.

The Pros: The Archaeologists – The archaeologist team has a great look! We have a woman of color in charge and an alien with a beak and wings working with her. They have a minor role but they work with Spock in order to restore the Timeline.

The Guardian of Forever – The Guardian is haunting, just like the episode it first appeared in in “The Original Series.” It also lays down the rules too that Spock can only change one big event, illustrating that actions will have consequences before he even goes back in time. James Doohan plays the voice of the Guardian and other characters in the episode.

Kirk – Kirk is the only one who remembers Spock and it is he working with Spock to learn what happened in the timeline where Thelin is now his First Officer in order to bring Spock back to life and save his mother. He is supportive and we see just how deep the friendship is, from them exploring Orion together before the Timeline was changed and afterwords where Kirk is the only one who knows what happened.

Thelin – Thelin is the First Officer in the Timeline that Spock died as a child. He is a cool character and I would have liked to see more of him. He is a warrior but supports Spock in restoring the Timeline since Spock’s desire to save his mother from dying is something he finds admirable. He is one of my favorite minor characters and I wish Andorians made more appearances on “Star Trek.”

Amanda Grayson – Majel Barrett does a wonderful job as Spock’s Mom. She is the outsider on Vulcan and is doing all she can to support Spock on a path she cannot take. I feel bad for her character as she is powerless to do anything for Spock beyond show him love. She in many ways is just as much an outsider as she is, except she has chosen not to become Vulcan wholly in philosophy, much like Spock does later.

Sarek – Sarek is a harsh father and complex character. He is very much a man of Vulcan who sees the Vulcan way as the purest way to peace. It is for this reason I get why he is the ambassador to Vulcan. Sadly he does not hold other Vulcans accountable for when they bully his son though he supports Spock in setting things right for himself. When old Spock pretends to be his cousin he listens to him as well when old Spock tells him to seek to understand his son. It is a touching scene and Sarek keeps having the feeling that he knows Old Spock even though Spock is going by a different name. Mark Lenard is once again fantastic in this role.

Spock – Spock is the outsider who is choosing the Vulcan way though as a child that is hard. It takes old Spock showing him the good in the Vulcan way in harsh choices (to keep his pet alive and let it suffer after it saved his life, or to let it die with dignity) that make him see why logic is so important. It is after this that he stands up to the bullies and shows them the Vulcan Neck Pinch he learned from Old Spock. At the end he mourns the choice he made to kill his pet so it wouldn’t suffer but is grateful that the timeline is reestablished and that he can once again fulfill his role as First Officer living the Vulcan Way in the Federation.

    This episode shows the pressure that was on Spock to conform to Vulcan society and how his father never gave him any other choice. This causes conflict in their relationship later as Sarek’s refusal to show affection and only anger or disappointment mostly pushed Spock away and it really wasn’t until Sarek’s death in “The Next Generation” that they were able to resolve these differences. We see that he does love Spock though, and tried to show it as best he could.

Final Score: 10 / 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

Star Trek: The Animated Series – Upcoming Reviews

Star Trek The Animated Series

     “Star Trek: The Animated Series” is a series that I’ve been planning to review since I did “Star Wars: The Clone Wars.” “Star Trek” and “Star Wars” are two of my favorite franchises with both having some rather horrible things tied to their name (For “Star Wars” it’s the first 2 Prequels and “The Christmas Special” and for “Star Trek” it’s “Enterprise” and some of “Voyager.”

From what I understand this series isn’t fully considered canon (much like some of the “Star Wars” animated EU) but still is an important part of “Star Trek.” For one the original voice actors from “Star Trek: The Original Series” played the voices of their characters on the show and even though the terrible Filmation produced it (lazy is another word I’d use) Gene Rodenberry did produce it and penned some of the stories as well. For this reason I’d consider it more lore than the Abrams reboot series as it is still within the “Star Trek Universe” and main timeline.

It was fan love for the revival of the “The Original Series” after it’s cancellation that lead to this shows creation from 1973-1974 which in turn helped give us “The Original Series” films and a reboot of the live action franchise. In this way it is a powerful part of history and showing just how much power a fanbase can have in reviving something they love.

I am a Trekkie and have been since Middle School but I have never watched this series. So I am looking forward to what I’ll discover and if it is able to capture the wonder, mystery and some of the great messages that made “The Original Series” so great.

I’ll be reviewing the episodes individually with a series assessment at the end and my “Top 5 Episodes” for people too. Suffice to say, I am looking forward to it.

Lets Explore the Final Frontiers.