The LOWER DECKS finale’s post-credits EASTER EGG tag…

NEEDLESS TO SAY…SPOILER!

With new Star Trek episodes of the various active series now dropping nearly every week throughout the year, I’ve stopped canceling and reactivating my Paramount+ subscription and have just accepted the reality of yet another streaming service sucking away a “small” monthly fee from my credit card.

And honestly, I do enjoy having Paramount+, even if mainly for Star Trek and little else. But the one thing I most unequivocally do NOT like is the way their app handles their shows’ closing credits! You get about 5 seconds before the active credits roll shrinks down to an unreadable size to make room for whatever show they want to recommend next (as opposed to making the recommendation the small overlay).

This means that, if you wanted to see if that familiar voice you heard on the latest episode of LOWER DECKS was really ARMIN SHIMERMAN or GEORGE TAKEI or JEFFREY COMBS or J.G. HERTZLER, you need to move at warp speed to your remote, hit the right arrow, hit enter, and hope you were fast enough to restore the credits roll to full size before the names of the guest stars finish displaying.

And of course, you’re NEVER fast enough.

So you now need to rewind the playback 15 or 30 seconds (not sure how big the jump is) and let it play again. Of course, then the resizing algorithm activates a second time, and you have to go through the whole rigamarole AGAIN! So next time, you restore the credits to full size and let them play through a little longer before jumping back. This brings up another failure of the Paramount+ application: the credits are slightly dimmed out as they play. I’m not sure what that’s all about, but it confirms to me that there is/was no QA (quality assurance) bug testing at CBS Interactive when the original All Access application was being created, as this problem has existed since day one without ever being corrected.

Now, what if the show’s creators decide they want to include a post-credits easter egg? Disney does it all the time. First of all, that will be dimmed out, too, and barely visible. But also, just in case you missed it (or couldn’t see it well enough or simply wanted to watch it again), by the time you each the end of the credits, the jump back button on your remote NO LONGER WORKS!!! Instead, the application jumps to the next recommended show (which for me is always—shudder!—DISCOVERY).

So you navigate back to the main menu, but now the Paramount+ application takes you back to the beginning of the episode, NOT the end of the closing credits where you left off! And worse, if you’re like me and opt for the cheaper subscription with forced commercials, the app doesn’t credit you the commercials you’ve already watched but instead plays them AGAIN even if you fast-forward to the closing credits! And of course, once you reach them, the resizing algorithm kicks in again…ARGH!

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If you don’t like ST: LOWER DECKS but still want to ENJOY it, here’s what you can do…

YAY – NO SPOILERS!

If you’re one of those people who can’t understand why folks like me and many others absolutely love STAR TREK: LOWER DECKS while you just can’t accept it as Star Trek, I might have a simple solution for you…

Just think of it as a holo-comedy-adventure sitcom set in the late 24th century!

Seriously, this makes so much sense if you think about it. Many of the complaints I hear about this satirical animated series center around the issue that not only does the show not take itself seriously, it goes overboard in…

  1. Making fun of Star Trek and Starfleet and most of the races we know from the various series, and
  2. Presenting totally unrealistic and unbelievable scenarios that would never happen in “real” Star Trek.

In other words, it’s too stupid/ridiculous/nonsensical to be taken seriously as part of Star Trek canon.

Fine. You win. It’s not canon. Have a beer to celebrate.

So if Lower Decks isn’t canon, then what is it? Well, maybe it’s the 24th century equivalent of a sitcom. I mean, we already know there’s lots of holodeck entertainment by then—everything from murder mysteries to Victorian romances to campy 1940s black and white sci-fi classics. So why NOT a satire about Starfleet and the Federation, its allies and enemies, its most famous officers, and its most well-known missions?

After all, in the future, folks like Kirk and Picard and their crews are probably pretty well known, like the star players of the top sports teams are today (assuming you like sports—and one would assume that officers in a future Starfleet would be just as well-versed in the most famous officers and their missions).

Of course, I know there’s gonna be people out there who say, “Yeah, but the show is just so inane! Why would anyone want to waste their holodeck time on something so stupid? It’s not even that funny!”

Hey, if you personally don’t think Lower Decks is funny, that’s fine. You do you. I personally think the show is hilarious and brilliant, so please don’t assume your opinion is fact. Different people find different things funny.

In fact, comedy comes in all shapes, sizes, genres, and styles….from a classic like Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night to the raucous slapstick of the Three Stooges. Comedy can range from the dry subtlety of Monthy Python to the riotously raunchy Benny Hill. American TV sitcoms evolved from I Love Lucy to Dick Van Dyke to All in the Family to Friends to The Office. Heck, at one point in time, television’s comedies included (during the same years) Three’s Company, Taxi, and M*A*S*H…how’s that for variety! From crass comedies like Married with Children to more erudite sitcoms like Frasier, from Saturday Night Live to In Living Color, and from The Flinstones to The Simpsons to Rick and Morty…comedy caters to many different tastes and audiences. So why wouldn’t at some folks in Starfleet want to tune in to Lower Decks?

But you wanna hear something mind-blowing? Lower Decks isn’t simply a comedy…

Continue reading “If you don’t like ST: LOWER DECKS but still want to ENJOY it, here’s what you can do…”

5 reasons why TREKKIE GRIEVANCE is just plain DUMB! (editorial)

“Tellarites do not argue for reasons. They simply argue.”

I thought about that Sarek quote from the TOS episode “Journey to Babel” as I pondered what I like to call TREKKIE GRIEVANCE SYNDROME. Those who suffer from TGS (or make the rest of us have to suffer THEM having it) say things like:

  • Star Trek is dead! CBS/Alex Kurtzman killed it!
  • The crap that CBS is putting out is NOT Star Trek!
  • I’d rather there be NO Star Trek than what’s on Paramount+!
  • Alex Kurtzman/CBS/JJ Abrams/Bad Robot doesn’t care about us longtime fans; they just want to destroy real Star Trek and replace it with Star Wars!
  • Anyone who likes these new shows is living in denial and not a true fan!
  • The ratings/viewership for Star Trek is way down, which is why Alex Kurtzman was/is about to be/has been/is being fired!
  • We fans have been loyal to Star Trek through these many decades, and we deserve better than this drivel they have the gall to make us pay for!

It’s that last item that led me to dub this Trekkie GRIEVANCE, as the fans complaining seem to take it quite personally that new Star Trek isn’t living up to their expectations. Fan “deserve” better! And maybe we do—but I gotta say, some of us are not acting very deserving!!!

Y’see, there’s a difference between critiquing, criticizing, and just plain bashing. Critiquing is what I do in many of my blog review editorials. There are things I don’t personally like in some Trek series and certain episodes, and so I analyze why something isn’t working—whether it’s STAR TREK: DISCOVERY‘s storytelling pace being too fast and not giving the characters a chance to breathe and develop or PICARD’s plot dealing with the suicide of Jean-Luc’s mother not feeling particularly compelling to me. I critique in a mature, measured way…nothing wrong with that.

I also criticize. Discovery‘s new Klingon make-up was a total misfire, and even the show’s creators realized it by season two. The last two episodes of STAR TREK: PICARD‘s first season were a rushed mess with a Federation fleet made up forty of the same class of starship and Romulan bad guys who would have twirled their mustaches with an evil cackle if they actually had mustaches to twirl. Some creative choices are atrocious enough that you don’t need to “analyze” in a mature and measured way. If there’s something you don’t like, you can certainly gripe about it. That’s fine, too. Fans have been doing that since TOS was first airing in the 1960s.

But there’s a difference between griping/criticizing and outright bashing. Bashing looks like this…

Continue reading “5 reasons why TREKKIE GRIEVANCE is just plain DUMB! (editorial)”

10 reasons why STRANGE NEW WORLDS feels like “REAL” Star Trek while DISCOVERY and PICARD don’t… (editorial review, part 2)

In part 1, I pointed out how many, many Trek fans have warmly and enthusiastically greeted STAR TREK: STRANGE NEW WORLDS in a way they didn’t for DISCOVERY and PICARD. It’s not that those other two CBS Studios-produced series have been universally panned—in fact, a good number of fans (including me) enjoy both series much of the time.

But from reading reviews and comments on social media and websites, fans seemed to feel almost immediately that SNW felt like “real” Star Trek. I put “real” in quotation marks because “real” likely means very different things to different people. But in general, “real” Star Trek seems to be anything produced by Paramount prior to 2005, with the stuff debuting on CBS All Access (now Paramount+) from 2017 onward seemed to miss the mark. And I’ve decided to exclude the J.J. ABRAMS Star Trek movies in to avoid turning this into a three-part blog!

Anyway, I wondered what is what about SNW that made it feel like “real” Star Trek…which is such a vague and undefined term. So I decided to list some very specific reasons—obviously in my personal opinion. Here were my first five items (counting down from ten) from Part 1…

10. THE MAIN TITLE SEQUENCE
9. ESTABLISHING SHOTS ALLOW YOU TO SEE THE SHIP
8. NO SEASON-LONG STORY ARCS
7. A TRUE PREQUEL
6. MUCH LESS OF A “MANIC/DEPRESSIVE” PRESENTATION

Now let’s move up to the “top” five…

Continue reading “10 reasons why STRANGE NEW WORLDS feels like “REAL” Star Trek while DISCOVERY and PICARD don’t… (editorial review, part 2)”

10 reasons why STRANGE NEW WORLDS feels like “REAL” Star Trek while DISCOVERY and PICARD don’t… (editorial review, part 1)

ONE TEENY-TINY SPOILER FROM THE SEASON FINALE

After writing 23 non-stop weekly reviews for the latest seasons of STAR TREK: DISCOVERY and PICARD, I took a break for the first season of STAR TREK: STRANGE NEW WORLDS. Why? Because nearly everyone appeared to love each episode…and so did I. It seemed silly to just write about how great each episode was every week.

Not that every episode was perfect. I had a few complaints here and there, like turning the Gorn into the xenomorph monsters from Aliens and killing off my favorite character just nine episodes into the series (you bastards!).

But overall, I have been loving this new series right out of the starting gate in ways I haven’t loved Discovery and Picard. And it seems from social media and online reviews that most fans feel the same way about Strange New Worlds (with the exception of those who are still counting the days until ALEX KURTZMAN is fired for the seventeenth time!).

“The show just FEELS like real Star Trek,” seems to be the general consensus among fans. But WHY does it feel more like “real” Star Trek? What does “real” Star Trek even mean?

Some have said, with a certain amount of vagueness, “Well, it’s more optimistic.” Yeah, kinda. But some episodes have been a bit sad, too. The one where Dr. M’Benga has to part with his daughter in order for her to have a guaranteed chance at life…man, that was a downer! Another episode ends with the sacrifice of a child in order to keep a planet of floating cities from crashing down. (Man, it’s tough to be a kid on this chow!) And don’t get me started on Hemmer’s death-dive! So I’m not sure that “optimistic” is the secret sauce of this show.

“Well, it’s episodic, not serialized…” say others, and yes, that’s true—although character arcs like Spock’s marriage, Uhura’s doubts, and M’Benga’s dying daughter carried over through multiple episodes. But is “real” Star Trek simply defined as one-story-per-episode? The Dominion War lasted through multiple seasons of Deep Space Nine, and Enterprise devoted an entire season to finding and dealing with the threat of the Xindi. Were those NOT “real” Star Trek?

So rather than writing a review, I’d like to instead attempt to answer the question of what mades this series feel like “real” Star Trek—and so quickly gain the support of the vast majority of fandom—while Discovery and Picard have struggled to achieve that same reception.

Wanna play…?

Continue reading “10 reasons why STRANGE NEW WORLDS feels like “REAL” Star Trek while DISCOVERY and PICARD don’t… (editorial review, part 1)”

STAR TREK: PICARD wraps up season with a nice, tidy bow…but was it worth untying? (editorial review)

AND FOR MY FINAL TRICK: SPOILERS!

As I mentioned in last week’s blog review, the final two episodes of STAR TREK: PICARD‘s first season left me feeling quite disappointed and ended things on a distinctly bad note for me (and many others).

As season two drew to a close, a strong series of early episodes stumbled as the show approached the finish line, with episodes 7 and 9 (as opposed to 7 of 9) significantly missing the mark for me. So going into the final, 10th episode, “Farewell,” I was ready for either a second-in-a-row disappointment or else a triumphant salvation. What I got was…

…a little bit of each.

On the good side, there were several powerfully emotional moments, elegantly acted with touching music, that left me tearing up. There were also some fun easter eggs thrown in for the hard-core Trekkers to cheer (or complain) about. And of course, everyone got their happy ending…except Adam Soong, who got a more ominous ending (but perhaps happy for him).

The scene with Taillinn finally talking face-to-face with Renée was beautiful. The exciting sequence trying to stop Soong’s drones and get Renée safely onto the rocket was textbook action and suspense (even if it was super-obvious that the Renée who came out of the ready room was really Taillinn in disguise). And the scene with Picard and Q was masterful, even though it left way more questions frustratingly unanswered (more on that later). But seeing these two accomplished thespians (SIR PATRICK STEWART and JOHN DE LANCIE) playing off each other as Q prepares for his final farewell was simply a treasure and pleasure to watch…campy though it was, I didn’t care.

On the bad side, the episode was a bit of a hurried mess. Having let every storyline slowly percolate for most of the season, the final episode needed to…

  1. Wrap up the Renée Picard storyline in some exciting way;
  2. Include the sacrifice of at least one character (more on that shortly);
  3. Get Raffi and Seven back together;
  4. Resolve the Rios/Teresa romance plotline;
  5. Give Kore a final confrontation with her “dad”;
  6. Leave Soong defeated;
  7. Wrap up the storyline with Q and answer any lingering questions;
  8. Get the team back to the future to finally pay off the scene at the end of episode one that got them there;
  9. Reveal the masked Borg Queen as Agnes Jurati;
  10. Establish that Elnor is alive;
  11. Include a scene with Whoopi Goldberg to explain why she didn’t clue-in Picard way back in episode one about what was to come ;
  12. Get Picard and Laris together;
  13. Leave an opening for a plot element that could continue into next season.
Continue reading “STAR TREK: PICARD wraps up season with a nice, tidy bow…but was it worth untying? (editorial review)”

The penultimate episode of STAR TREK: PICARD season two was…well…um…NOT very good… (editorial review)

ATTACK OF THE SPOILERS!

Man, I really wanted to like this latest episode of STAR TREK: PICARD. I remember how, in season one, I was generally enjoying things until the final two episodes when things got…well, “messy” is a good word. Those last two episodes left a bad taste in my mouth.

Up until now, season two has intrigued and entertained me. With the exception of episode 7, “Monsters,” which left me thoroughly unimpressed, I’ve actually had some really positive things to say about this season. So I was really hoping the trend would continue and that episode nine, “Hide and Seek,” would break the curse of season one.

Sadly, the curse remains firmly in place.

This was essentially an action episode with sprinkles of character “development” added in an almost checking-the-boxes kind of way. The action kinda worked, but mostly in a sloppy mess sort of way. I’ll go into that aspect shortly, but let’s start with something I usually reserve for my reviews of DISCOVERY: criticizing the writing.

MAYBE NOT THE BEST TIME TO HAND THE KEYBOARD OVER TO THE ROOKIES?

If you look at IMDb, MATTHEW OKUMURA doesn’t have many writing credits. In fact, he has one (in addition to this episode of Picard), and that was a story for the TV series Smallville back in 2003. What he’s done in the meantime is serve as story editor for a TV series in 2021 and then story editor and executive story editor for Picard during season two. In other words, he typically pitches stories, edits scripts, and hangs out on the writers room with the team. But he doesn’t write scripts; he edits them.

The other credited writer CHRISTOPHER B. DERRICK, is a staff writer on season two of Picard. What does a staff writer do? According to this website, “Staff writers are the idea generators of the writers room. They constantly collaborate with other staff writers to come up with story ideas, workshop scripts, or supply various plot lines for a single episode. They are often under-credited until they work their way up to becoming a story editor. While staff writers might come up with the foundation of a script, they rarely write the final draft of the episode.” And as it happens, this was Christopher’s first-ever script for television! Hooray for Chris…not hooray for viewers.

But wait, it gets worse.

Not only were both of the writers rookies at scriptwriting, but director MICHAEL WEAVER was tackling his first-ever Star Trek episode. In fairness to Michael, he is only a Star Trek rookie. He’s actually been a director for ten years and was a cinematographer for the decade before that. But was it really wise to put the penultimate episode of Picard into the hands of three relative newcomers?

Continue reading “The penultimate episode of STAR TREK: PICARD season two was…well…um…NOT very good… (editorial review)”

We now know the TWO THEMES of STAR TREK: PICARD’s second season… (editorial review)

SOME HUMANS ARE STUCK IN THE SPOILERS!

Sometimes when a Star Trek episode begins, you just know in the first few seconds (maybe minutes) that it’s either going to be really good or not. Last week, I kinda felt a disturbance in the force as soon as we were halfway through the interminably long 5-minute scene of Picard taking to the Starfleet shrink (whom we later discover is really his father). Despite watching two brilliant British thespians (SIR PATRICK STEWART and JAMES CALLIS) linguistically duel in trying to psychoanalyze Jean-Luc Picard, as the scene dragged on, I found myself not buying what they were selling…even though I should have. And things didn’t get much better for me from there.

Now, I understand that many people actually enjoyed last week’s episode—and man, did they let me know how “wrong” I was on Facebook! Next to global warming, war, overpopulation, pollution, the pandemic, and reality television, I think the greatest threat to our species is vanishing civility! But I digress…

Whether last week’s episode of STAR TREK: PICARD was truly bad or good, the fact remains that this week’s eighth episode, “Mercy,” was unquestionably amazingly wonderful from the very first moment. (And with that, I am sure a whole bunch of Facebook warriors will again let me know in as nasty a way they can how wrong I am!)

Actually, I always read through a number of reviews before writing mine—as I don’t like to just repeat what everyone else is saying—and while most reviewers agreed with my critical response to last week’s episode, this week a large number of reviewers weren’t nearly as impressed as I was. (Although one was totally on the same page.)

Many of them felt this episode was mainly filler, moving the subplots along toward the inevitable final two episodes and the “big finish.” Some felt like this whole season was caught between wanting to tell a cohesive story while simultaneously throwing in so much extraneous stuff that many scenes dragged or felt like time that could have been spent on other things.

I might talk about this more in my final review of the season, but I suspect people are—sadly, because of the reality Paramount+’s schedule—watching season two in the wrong way: one episode at a time. What I’ve noticed about season two (even more so than season one) is that this appears to be an 8-hour “movie.” There’s a lot of those on streaming TV these days, but the problem is that watching an 8-hour movie over ten weeks is a completely different experience than binging it…and I think Picard was written to binge-watch.

That said, as a self-contained 47-minute viewing experience, “Mercy” was a very well-done episode. It also provided us with the overarching theme of this season, which I’ll get to shortly. But first…

Continue reading “We now know the TWO THEMES of STAR TREK: PICARD’s second season… (editorial review)”

STAR TREK: PICARD’s latest episode, “Monsters,” swings for the fences…and MISSES! (editorial review)

MR. SPOILER RISING!

I’ve spent six episodes in a row applauding season two of STAR TREK: PICARD. To me, with the exception of a few minor stumbles, it seemed the latest season of this series could do no wrong. But the seventh episode, “Monsters,” didn’t only stumble, it fell flat on its face…at least in my opinion. There was some good scattered among the bad—including the usual stellar performances (especially guest star JAMES CALLIS, of Battlestar Galactica fame, as Picard’s therapist/father).

But for the most part, “Monsters” was a bit of a train wreck in many different ways. Let me count them…

IT STARTED IN THE WRONG PLACE…

A cliffhanger ending makes a “deal” with the viewer: you come back next episode, and we’ll show you how your heroes will get out of this mess. It doesn’t always have to be the very first scene of the next episode, but it’s usually pretty close. Think about the cliffhangers we’ve seen already this season—all but one, episode four, started moments after the end of the previous cliffhanger. (Episode three ended with Rios getting arrested by I.C.E. agents. Episode four began with Picard and Jurati, but twenty second later, we see Seven and Raffi entering the clinic where Rios was taken into custody.)

Episode six ends with Queen/Agnes walking the night streets of Los Angeles, up to…well…something. But what? But then episode seven begins with Picard in his tuxedo talking to some Starfleet counselor. Of course, since episode six also left us with Picard in a coma and Tallinn about to do a techno-mind-meld, that scene is kind of okay to start off with. But it’s a 5-minute scene, which is kinda long to wait for a follow-up to the main Queen/Agnes cliffhanger.

But then we have a second non-Agnes scene—this one 3 minutes—of young Jean-Luc Picard as a little prince and his maman as a queen painting windows. Okay, so we’ll have to wait until after the opening credits to see where Queen/Agnes went. But no again! In fact, it isn’t until 35 minutes into the episode that we see what Queen/Agnes did after the cliffhanger. And that was WAY too long.

This was, in my opinion, a poor editing choice by director JOE MENENDEZ, who has a long 30-year directing career, but this is his first time directing any kind of Star Trek episode. And indeed, the Queen/Agnes storyline kinda went nowhere in this episode. But the scene where a partially-assimilated cyberneticist walks into a bar could and should have either appeared first (before Picard and the shrink) or, at latest, after the opening credits.

Continue reading “STAR TREK: PICARD’s latest episode, “Monsters,” swings for the fences…and MISSES! (editorial review)”