Sunday, November 3, 2013

A Review of "Battlestar Galactica: Saga of a Star World"

Here's a review I wrote for a different blog back in 2009:

I’m going to be looking back at each episode of the original Battlestar Galactica [Bryant's note: this did not happen...but will eventually], and I’m going to try very diligently to not mention the much better-executed remake…in fact, I’m going to try very diligently to not even think about the remake.  Comparisons between the two are inevitable, but that seems like a different article altogether; an episode guide isn’t the place for that type of thing.  Instead, for the time being, let’s try and put ourselves back in 1978 and see where things go from there.

This episode is a good example of a pilot that almost utterly fails to capitalize on a good concept.
If we’re back in 1978, then Star Wars is very fresh in our minds.  It certainly seems to have been on the minds of the producers of this series.  You can practically hear the network executives frothing at the mouth when the pitch for this show came in.  “It’s set in outer space?  And there are WWII-like dogfights in space between fighter pilots and robots?  Can they have swords that are made out of light and cut through things?”  There followed some brief pouting when that last idea was shot down, but negotiations resumed quickly and productively.
But, truth be told, the comparison between Star Wars and Battlestar Galactica is not a particularly fruitful one.  Apart from some design elements being similar (some of them due to the presence of John Dykstra in the credits of both properties), the notion of war as a catalyst for the story, and the willingness of both to reach into mythology for inspiration, there isn’t much in common between the two, or at least not enough for this to feel like a straight-up ripoff, which it has occasionally been accused of being.
That said, I’m sure many people tuned in to the premier on September 17, 1978 simply because it looked a little like Star Wars.  I would guess that younger members of the audience – and if memory serves me well, I was one of them – were probably pleased with what they saw.
There is some significant razzle-dazzle on display here, with a number of space battles that must have looked awfully good for a television show back then.  The Galactica itself was a cool design, with those launch bays and the dramatic red lighting of the command center set.  Starbuck was a good-looking rogue, vaguely reminiscent of one H. Solo from some other space opera whose name I’ve apparently just forgotten.  Later on in the premiere episode, there are weird alien lounge singers, and scary Doctor Whoesque bug-eyed monsters.  Heck, there’s even a robotic dog.
Most importantly, there were also the Cylons.  They have often been referred to as “walking toasters” in the intervening years, and it is absolutely true that in execution, these killer robots are lumbering and unthreatening when they really ought to be sleek, fast, and brutal.  But children would not have noticed any of that.  This might help explain why even thirty-plus years later, I think these Cylons are kinda awesome.  Those mohawk-and-sideburns helmets with scrolling red lights for eyes…?  Awesome.  Those monotone voices…?  Awesome.  Those attack ships, which apparently require three pilots, all of which are well-trained at craning their necks to see passing Vipers…?  Awesome.  And that weird-as-hell Imperious Leader who sounds like Patrick Macnee…?  Awesome as hell, so awesome that he had to sit twenty feet up in the air.  You’ll get little complaint from me about the Cylons.

The screenplay, on the other hand…?  Not awesome.  And the direction doesn’t help it out a bit.
In point of fact, this pilot episode is mostly a tedious affair.  We are told that the Cylons wipe out the twelve colonies of man, but apart from seeing one city strafed by a few Cylon ships, we don’t see how this is actually accomplished, nor are we told much of anything about it.  Hell, we don’t even really see the other Battlestars get wiped out; we certainly don’t get any indication of why the Galactica was able to avoid that fate.  It feels mostly coincidental.  Now, I get that the television landscape in 1978 was a vastly different beast than it is today, so let me admit that it’s unfair to expect a show from that to wallow in such a conceit as the genocide of the human race.  However, this episode doesn’t appear to even try, so points off.  For a bit more counterpoint, I’ll admit that fleshing out a story wouldn’t have been as important back then as would have been establishing a conceit: namely, the conceit of the fleet of ships fleeing toward a new home on the mythical planet of Earth.  And on that score, I guess this episode does okay.

The cast is decent.  Lorne Greene, still a household name in 1978, would have been a major selling point for the series, and sure enough, there he is, it’s Lorne Greene on the bridge of a spaceship.  You’d think he would exude authority.  He doesn’t, exactly, but that’s because the screenplay doesn’t do much to capitalize on having a star of his magnitude in the role.
Richard Hatch plays Adama’s son, Apollo.  He’s okay.  Dirk Benedict plays rakish Starbuck.  He’s okay, too.  Maren Jensen and Laurette Spang play a couple of babes; Jame Seymour plays a third.  They’re all okay (though Jensen is utterly awful in at least one scene).  Terry Cater plays Tigh, Adama’s next-in-command; Herbert Jefferson Jr. plays Boomer, another Viper pilot.  They’re both okay.  Rick Springfield has a small role as Apollo’s brother Zak, who is killed pretty quickly, and if you’re paying attention, you might spot a young Ed Begley Jr. as yet another Viper pilot.  John Colicos is the villainous Baltar; Lew Ayres is the gullible President Adar; and Ray Milland is the slimy Sire Uri.  They give the performances you’d expect from veteran actors who feel as if they’re slumming: they range from competent to disinterested to brazenly hammy.  I’ll leave it to you to decide which is which.
All in all, this is just not a terribly interesting episode.  I could dwell on some of my specific problems, but that would take more time than I’m interested in spending on an essentially mediocre project.

John Colicos

Jane Seymour

Friday, November 1, 2013

A Review of "Star Trek Into Darkness," Part 2: A Non-Review

Way back in May, when I published my initial review of Star Trek Into Darkness, I promised that there would be a Part 2, one that delved into the movie with no spoiler-phobic gloves on.  I put that review off, and put it off, and then put it off some more.  Then, I forgot about it, remembered it, put it off, put it off, put it off some more, and decided to wait for the Blu-ray to come out so I could watch it again.

Well, the Blu-ray came out, and I opted to not buy it.  Paramount did a stupid, stupid thing and decided to split the various bonus features up over various releases (such as the Target and Best Buy exclusives, and the iTunes digital-download edition).  That was a bridge too far for me, and so I simply opted to wait for a better edition to come out in two or three years.  

Ultimately, I decided that that was probably saying all that needed to be said about the movie, right there.  On the one hand you have mistreatment of the fans by a mercenary studio; on the other you have a movie that I liked, but not enough to want to shell out money on a Blu-ray that struck me as being unsatisfying.

I enjoyed the movie upon its initial release, and I still think there is way more to like about than to dislike.  However, as time has passed, I've grown less happy with the decisions made regarding the character of Khan.  The Khan of Into Darkness simply does not measure up to the Khan of "Space Seed" and its motion-picture sequel; for all intents and purposes, they are not even the same character.  And don't get me started on the character's ethnicity, which a lot of people will call a non-issue; I am not in that group.

I've got room in my heart to live with that, though.  I've got less room for the movie's issues regarding the amount of time it takes to get places.  Warp speed, here, seems to be some sort of Harry Potter-style magic, where the ships reach their destination more or less in whatever amount of time the screenplay requires.  I understand that decisions like that get made to add to the excitement; in an action-movie setting, you don't want to slow things down unless there is a really good reason for it.  And apparently, following established series continuity is not considered a really good reason.  I can live with a certain amount of it.  But at some point, it becomes obvious that what's happening is that the filmmakers are refusing to engage with Trek on its own terms.  They've only committed that foul a few times, but it's makedly more of a problem in Into Darkness than it was in the first film.

And so, it takes a few minutes to reach the Klingons.  And so, there's a vast conspiracy inside Starfleet.  And so, Khan is a British dude.  And so, Spock can scream whenever the writers feel like making him scream.

Don't misunderstand me.  I like the movie.  But as time has gone by and my interest in writing the review I intended to write has waned, an inescapable conclusion has been reached: I simply don't like the direction these movies are taking.  I've liked both movies; but that seems, now, to be an aberration.  I like them not because of what they are doing, but in spite of it.

I blame J.J. Abrams for part of this.  His bizarre, counter-productive obsession with keeping everything A Secret from fans is simply not paying off.  And as rumors mount of behind-the-scenes dissension between Abrams, Lucasfilm, and Disney on the pre-production for the new Star Wars film, you have to begin asking whether Abrams' approach is more harmful than it ought to be.

Mostly, though, I blame the writers.  I'm tired of Orci and Kurtzman, and, to a lesser degree, Lindelof.  I would love to see Paramount fire the lot of them, and replace them with people who have more of an ability to make Trek work based on what it is, without having to fundamentally alter certain aspects of it.  They did a good job of making the movies something that can be cool again, but I think their approach showed its failings the second time around, and if I had a vote, I'd vote against seeing them get a third try at bat.  And I damn sure hope they are nowhere near it when and if a new television series is made.

So, that's my review.  I like the movie, and hope all the people involved in writing it are fired.  An odd conclusion, but so be it.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

A Review of "After Earth"

Last night, I watched Will Smith's new sci-fi extravaganza After Earth.  I wish I could say I enjoyed it, but if I said that, I'd be lying through my teeth; this is by no means the worst movie I've ever seen, and even calling it a bad movie might be unjust.  But it doesn't work, not as a whole, and not even in terms of its individual component.

The culprit?  Director and co-writer M. Night Shyamalan.

At one point in time, I was a massive Shyamalan fan.  And lest you think I broke with my fandom at the same time the rest of the world did, here's my bona fides: not only do I think The Village is his best movie, I think it's close to being a masterpiece.  I also love The Sixth Sense, Unbreakable, and Signs, so that's four consecutive movies from the man that I'm very, very fond of.

Since then, it's been nothing but dreck: Lady in the Water has its moments, but is filled with terrible acting and weirdly self-aware subplots; The Happening also has good moments, but in other scenes is bad on an Ed Wood level of ineptitude; and The Last Airbender is a complete misfire on ever level.

Why make a poster where your stars look this grumpy?!?

The good news is that After Earth is an improvement on all of those films.  The bad news is that it still isn't very good, and most of the blame for that must be laid directly at the feet of Shyamalan.

Friday, May 17, 2013

A Review of "Star Trek Into Darkness," Part 1: No-spoilers-allowed edition

This is a difficult review to write, not because I have nothing to say, but because I have so much to say that I feel as if containing and structuring my thoughts is going to be difficult. As a result, I'm going to write at least two different reviews, and possibly more, each focusing on a different aspect of the movie.  This, the first, is going to be a simple thumbs-up-or-thumbs-down type review, completely free of spoilers; it is designed with people who have not seen the movie in mind.

The second will be chock full of spoilers; it will be a broader and all-encompassing contemplation of the question of whether the movie does or does not work; answering that question fully really can't be done without discussing certain aspects of the plot that the filmmakers obviously do not want viewers to know beforehand.  That review will be for people who have already seen the movie, or for people who don't mind knowing all of the plot points prior to actually seeing it.
I might or might not vomit up a third review that examines the movie's place in relation to the 48 or so years of Star Trek that have come before it.  If the first review is for those who haven't seen the movie and the second is for those who have, then that hypothetical third one will be for Trekkies.  But let's not get ahead of ourselves; those later reviews aren't even written yet, and technically, neither is this one; so let me stop the preamble and start the review!

To answer the most immediate question with no further delay: yes, the movie is good.  In fact, I think I'd go so far as to say it is great; I would say it with reservations, but I'd still say it.  This is a wildly entertaining sci-fi/adventure flick that deftly balances excellent character work with strong action setpieces.  This is grand, high-concept blockbuster-style filmmaking, and if you like that sort of thing, this movie delivers.  

Monday, May 13, 2013

A Review of "Virtuality"

This review originally appeared on Loaded Couch Potatoes in 2009.  For the record, I am still bitter that this series did not happen.

Fox, oh Fox, why do you taunt us so?
Seriously, guys … wasn’t it bad enough that you commissioned one of the best sci-fi shows in history, Firefly, only to pull the plug on it before the season had even ended?  Why did you then feel the need to, years later, when faced with another series that showed signs it could be as good or better (a series created by the main creative force behind the new Battlestar Galactica, a.k.a. big-time serious contender for the title of Best Sci-Fi Show Ever), cut it off at the knees by failing to even make a series at all?
I’ll give you guys a few points for sticking by Dollhouse, which, after all, is a Joss Whedon show; I know you figure the Whedonites will worship you for that.  Well, as much as I like that show, it looks to me like you guys bet on the wrong horse.  Again.
As you can probably tell, I kinda loved the pilot for Virtuality.  In fact, I kinda flipped out for it a little bit.  All that said, with due respect to Fox, I can understand why they might have taken a look at this and said, “Huh … well, now, there’s a Nielsen disaster waiting to happen.”  This is dense stuff, with a cast free of star power, an emphasis on talk in favor of action, and a concept that is not easily summarized so that it can be pitched at Bubba … or at the people who want to advertise to Bubba.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

A Review of "Star Trek: New Frontier" Books 1-3 [1997 tie-in novels]

This review originally appeared on Loaded Couch Potatoes in 2009. It has been substantially revised for its appearance here.

Today, I’ve got a look back at the first three books in Peter David’s Star Trek: New Frontier series, which began in 1997 and launched a new Trek series that, thus far, has appeared in only novels and comics.  In my opinion, that's a good thing, at least based on the three novels I've read.

The concept was apparently originated by John J. Ordover, who was at that point in time the overseer of Pocket Books' Star Trek line.  He took the concept to novelist Peter David, and the two of them fleshed the ideas out further.  The conceit was that the series of novels would focus on a completely new ship that would be captained by a new character and crewed by a mix of characters new and familiar ("familiar" in this instance meaning mostly that they appeared in one or two episodes of The Next Generation, or that they had previously been used by David in his Starfleet Academy books). It's a cool idea, and it's surprising it took until 1997 for something like that to happen at Pocket Books.
If you are curious about New Frontier and its crew and ship, then you should check out this Wikipedia page, because I’m not going to be providing much in the way of plot summary.  Instead, I’m going to just get my knives out and go to work.


Book One: House of Cards

House of Cards is sporadically engaging, but was apparently proofread and/or edited by meth addicts … and we’re not even talking meth addicts on Jesse Pinkman’s level; no, we’re talking more like Skinny Pete.  As such, this “pilot” novel gets the job of piquing the Trekkie’s interest done, but not by much.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

A Review of "The Starless World" [1978 tie-in novel]

So far, what I've posted at this blog has consisted almost entirely of reposting old reviews which I wrote for a different blog four years ago.  I've been in a Trek sort of mood lately, though, and decided to grab one of the old Bantam novels from the '70s off the shelf and give it a read.  And thus, a brand-spankin'-new review:


I'd never read Gordon Eklund's The Starless World, so I had no clue what to expect from it.  My take on this one once I'd finished it, was that it, like many tie-ins, was a mediocrity.  However, it's got some highly compelling elements, and while I cannot in good conscience say that it is a particular good novel in the grand scheme of literature, I can say that I enjoyed reading it.  There are elements that simply do not work, but there are also elements that gave me plenty to think about.  So, all in all, it wasn't a bad use of my time as a reader.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

A Review of "The Siege" [1993 tie-in novel]

This review was originally posted on Loaded Couch Potatoes in 2009.


Here’s a bit of analysis of the first original Star Trek: Deep Space Nine novel, 1993’s The Siege, by Peter David.  This, of course, is not to be confused with the second-season episode of the same name.  Doesn't it seem like somebody ought to have said, "Hey, there's a DS9 book with that title already, y'all.  Gimme something different"?

Friday, April 19, 2013

A Review of "Ghost Ship" [1988 tie-in novel]

This review originally appeared on Loaded Couch Potatoes in 2009.


This is the first review in what I hope will be a long-running series looking back at the many original Star Trek novels.  [Bryant's note circa 2013: how'd that work out...?]  Up first: Diane Carey’s Ghost Ship, the 1988 novel that debuted the Pocket Books line of originals based on The Next Generation.
From the back cover:

1995: A mysterious creature destroys a Russian aircraft carrier — and just as mysteriously, disappears…
And three hundred years later, Counselor Deanna Troi awakens in her quarters from a nightmare, a nightmare where she senses (and understands) the voices of the crew lost aboard that ship, a crew whose life-essences were somehow absorbed within the creature that destroyed their ship long ago.
Now, Picard must find a way to communicate with the creature — or he and his crew will be similarly absorbed by the “ghost ship”!

According to Diane Carey (as quoted in Jeff Ayers’ Voyages of Imagination: The Star Trek Fiction Companion), this novel was a tough write: “I was asked to launch the new series by writing the first TNG original fiction book — interesting mostly because it was written without ever having seen the series because TNG hadn’t aired yet.  [M]any of the characters hadn’t been cast yet, so I couldn’t even look at photos of the people.”
For this aspect of TNG’s newness alone, Ghost Ship would be well worth reading for fans of the show; it represents a rare opportunity to see what amounts to an alternative version of the series as it could have evolved.  Obviously, as would have been the case with virtually any novel written under such circumstances, there are many elements here that do not jibe with Trek canon, but that probably shouldn’t be held against Carey.  In fact, it’s surprising how much Carey “gets right” in comparison with the series itself.  It may be that this says less about Carey than it does about the series bible, which was (I assume) written at least in part by creator Gene Roddenberry; if so, then this novel becomes even more interesting, and can be considered a near-direct descendant of Roddenberry’s vision for the series.
The novel’s characterizations of Picard, Riker, Date, Troi, and Geordi are good … provided that you can accept the differences between the characters as written here and the characters you’ve been familiar with since 1987.  And there are definitely differences.  For example, Data’s speech patterns include making contractions between words (and it’s worth noting that even a few of the early episodes also had this “mistake”).  Another example: Deanna’s nickname for Riker is “Bill,” rather than “Will” (David Gerrold’s novelization of “Encounter at Farpoint” also uses this nickname, which suggests to me that it might have come from the bible).
Probably my favorite element of this novel is the way in which Carey examines the tension between Picard and Riker.  Each officer has serious reservations about the other, and about himself in relation to the other, with the implication being that such doubts are completely internalized but always present, and that that is part of what it means to serve in Starfleet in a command capacity.  This fits in quite well with the first couple of seasons of the series, during which the dynamic between Picard and his first officer was filled with confrontations over away team assignments, and so forth.
Carey is, in general, pretty good at character scenes.  Take this passage, which follows Picard’s having chastised Wesley for referring to an alien vessel as being haunted:
“As he caught Wesley’s whipped-puppy expression, Picard felt once again the sting of his decision to make Wesley an ensign, a decision no good parent would make, yet one that he, as a man who had never had children, had made without realizing the consequences.  He should have known better, for as commanding officer he was indeed the father of all his crew and complement.  Wesley’s face was the face of a child; no seasoned officer would take the reprimand so personally.  And having given it, Picard could not take it back.”  (p. 69)
The chapter that passage comes from is probably the best of the novel, and contains multiple such bits of solid characterization.  It isn’t great writing, per se; but it’s a great example of why tie-in novels like these were so popular for so many years.  Seeing that side of Picard spelled out is a rare thing for the series.  It’s there in Patrick Stewart’s performance, but by using prose, a novel has the opportunity to make the interior more plain.  When done well, it’s captivating for a fan of a series.
One of the major elements of Ghost Ship is the antagonism Riker feels for Data, based on his assumption that the android is not, and cannot be, a true life form.  Carey presents this as a rather dark facet of Riker’s personality, and his arc over the course of the novel involves his feelings of guilt over thinking of Data in that way, and his eventual acceptance of the android as a valuable crewmmate and living being.  Data’s arc lies in accepting — with his customary brand of emotional emotionlessness (which could have come right out of an episode of the series) — that Riker’s doubts about him mirror his own doubts about himself; his attempts to prove Riker wrong about him are more or less the same as his attempts to prove to himself that he is a living being.
I can well imagine many TNG fans hating these parts of the novel, but I find them to be pretty fascinating.  Riker and Data are two of my favorite of all Star Trek characters, and I don’t find anything in Carey’s writing here to be contradictory to how the story unfolds during the actual series.  Granted, we’re not used to seeing Starfleet personnel as bigots (The Undiscovered Country notwithstanding), and you can certainly make the case that Carey goes a bit too far; Riker seems just plain callous at a few points.  It is interesting that even this early on, Diane Carey seems to have intuited that some interpersonal conflict was going to be necessary to the series lest it seem too pleasant for people to take it seriously.
I was a bit annoyed by how annoying Carey makes Wesley in this novel, but once again, it seems as if she correctly intuited how people would respond to the character.  Me, I kinda like Wesley on the show, but a lot of people didn’t.  The standard anti-Wesley rant involves him either saving the ship too often or getting the ship into trouble too often.  Personally, I think this is a bit of an urban legend, a bit like Kirk’s cocksmanship on the original series: Kirk kisses a bunch of dames, but if you take a look at things closely, he actually only screws a small handful of women.  Likewise, Wesley’s ship-saving and ship-wrecking are implied more than actually shown, and I think people have built it up a bit artificially over the years.
Not in Ghost Ship, though.  Here, Wesley is running an experiment that is so dangerous and irresponsible that he really ought to be tossed off the ship for it.  And then, of course, it ends up helping to save the ship.  I hate all of this, but I do love Geordi’s reaction to finding the experiment: “Goddamn, Wes!”  Can’t help it; I’m a sucker for curse words in Star Trek.
Other points of interest:
Ghost Ship contains what might well be THE first attempt to deal with the fact that Klingons circa 1987 look very different from the Klingons of the original series.  Check out this sentence from p. 27-8: “Worf’s big brown face didn’t look in the least apologetic, given a particularly animalistic texture by the riblike cranium of his Klinzhai racial background, the strain which had emerged dominant during the last Klingon purge.”  Interesting…especially if this, like so many other elements of the novel, came directly from the show’s bible.  There were later elements in both Deep Space Nine and Enterprise which would seem to invalidate this idea of a “purge” as having been responsible, but I’d definitely be curious to know if Roddenberry had attempted to account for the discrepancy in developing The Next Generation.  More likely, this was simply an aside by Diane Carey.  Although that would have been an awfully big aside to take it upon herself to toss off; so maybe not.
Carey also attempts to deal with the fact that the position of Counselor is new to the Star Trek universe by making it clear that it is also a new position in Starfleet, and adding that Starfleet has not yet really figured out what to do with the position.  This mirrors what ends up happening on the show itself; the writers never seemed to figure out what to do with the position, either, and if J.J. Abrams ever decides to remake The Next Generation, he’d be well-advised to consider making the confusion over the position a part of the story, as Carey does here.  It’s another good example of prose doing something screenplays failed to ever get around to doing.
One thing the series definitely did not fail to do was deal with matters of ethical and philosophical complexity.  Ghost Ship does so, as well, and it’s one of the best elements of the novel.  Here, Carey tackles the hot topic of euthanasia, which Trek had never dealt with up to this point in its history (with the slight exception of Spock wrestling with whether or not to have his pet Sehlat put to sleep in “Yesteryear”).  It would become a major element of the Next Generation episode “Ethics,” but Carey probably deserves credit for recognizing this as an issue rife with Trekkian potential, and she deals with the subject quite well.
Final thoughts: well worth reading for fans of The Next Generation, but probably skippable for anyone else.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

A Review of "Spock, Messiah!" [1976 tie-in novel]

This review originally appeared on Loaded Couch Potatoes in 2009.

I’ll be the judge of that, Mr. Bantam blurb dude from the mid-’70s.
I’d delete the words “the,” “ultra,” “powered,” “a,” “telepathic,” and “terror.”  Except that would leave “NOVEL OF SPACE,” and since this novel takes place almost entirely on a planet, that wouldn’t be very accurate, either.
Oh, well.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

A Review of "Star Trek: Mission to Horatius" [1968 tie-in novel]

This review was originally posted at Loaded Couch Potatoes in 2009.

1999 reprint hardback

Mack Reynolds’  Mission to Horatius has the somewhat dubious distinction of being the first original Star Trek novel to be published; it certainly would not be the last.  Whitman published the book in 1968, and as one of the earliest examples of Star Trek being told in a medium other than television, it is of great historical interest to hardcore fans.
To everyone else, though, the novel is likely to be a near-complete bore, and even hardcore fans will be hard-pressed to find much entertainment here.  It isn’t terrible, but there’s almost nothing to recommend outside the historical-curiosity factor.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Trek Movies Worst to Best

This article was originally posted on Loaded Couch Potatoes in 2009.


Like many geeks, I’ve been thinking a lot about Star Trek lately, wrestling with the new movie … not so much in terms of whether I like it (I do) or even love it (I do), but in terms of where I would rank it in relation to the other films in the series.
Keep reading if you want to know the results of all that expended mental energy.  And let’s face it: you do want to know.  So here goes, worst to best.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

A Review of "Star Trek" [2009]

This review was originally published on Loaded Couch Potatoes in May 2009.


The best thing I can say about J.J. Abrams’ stupendously entertaining Star Trek is that I saw it twice in one day, and not only did I enjoy it more the second time than I did the first, but I could very happily have seen it again the next day.  It is a remarkable piece of entertainment, one that is likely to make Trekkies out of millions of people who could not, with a gun pressed to their temples, tell a Cardassian from a Kazon.  (Yeah, that’s right, I dropped a Voyager reference; whatcha got ta say about it?  Incidentally, alternate comparisons considered include: Bajoran from a Betazed, Maquis from a Mugato, Tribble from a Talaxian, android from an Andorian, and holodeck from a Horta.  I made the right choice)
And for the millions who already were Trekkies (Kirk doesn’t believe in no-win scenarios, and I don’t believe in the word “Trekkers”), it’s likely to prove a source of heated debate for decades to come, with most viewers loving it and a very, very vocal minority carping about the many ways in which it deviates from the previous incarnations of the franchise.

[Bryant's note from 2013: I am both pleased and disappointed to note that that prediction came true 100%.]
Therein lies my difficulty.  Do I critique this movie on its own merits, or do I critique this movie as a shiny new coat of paint on an old, well-loved car?
Well, I'm not known for holding back, so the answer, of course, is "fuck that, I’m doin’ both."

On Spock's Emotions

Originally posted at Loaded Couch Potatoes, 2009:

Over on the message board for the Tuscaloosa Science Fiction society, I recently responded to a post about the more emotional Spock hinted at in bits of Zachary Quinto’s performance from trailers for the new Star Trek.

The quote that got my attention was this one: “The trailers have already shown that the movie  has thrown both canon and fanon out the window. The young Spock would be more uptight, not less so, than in later years. The counter argument, that he so vigorously repressed his human side when we first saw him in the original series because he had acted out at Starfleet, to his own embarrassment, is, frankly, absurd.”
For fans like myself, this type of thing is always worth talking about, so I thought I’d re-post my reply here.  It is as follows:

Friday, April 12, 2013

A Review of "Star Trek: Countdown" [2009]

I wrote for a blog called Loaded Couch Potatoes for several months in 2009, and today, I'd like to begin to repost some of the articles and reviews that I initially put up there.  We'll start with this, a review of Star Trek: Countdown (the official comic-book prequel to the J.J. Abrams reboot movie).


The Star Trek universe is a complicated — some would say overcomplicated — tapestry that includes 28 full seasons worth of television (plus two brief seasons of animation) and eleven feature films, the latest of which will be hitting cinemas on May 8. If you wanted to catch up on all of it, you would have to spend a year doing so, and that’s if you were really, really devoted.  And that doesn’t factor in the thousands of Trek stories that have appeared as original novels and comic books.
Those print-only Trek stories aren’t considered by most people to be canon (i.e., they “don’t really count,” or “didn’t really happen”); however, the screenwriters of the new J.J. Abrams-directed feature film aren’t necessarily most people.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Captain Kirk Crashes the Oscars

Anybody else see the Oscars this year?

There was a great bit in which Captain Kirk showed up from the future to try to save Seth MacFarlane from being the worst host ever.

I thought it was a funny bit.  Shatner killed as Kirk, and this was a nice way to give both him and Star Trek a not-too-serious showcase at the Oscars.