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!

Continue reading “The LOWER DECKS finale’s post-credits EASTER EGG tag…”

VANCE MAJOR concludes CONSTAR! (some final thoughts from me)

It’s the end of an era.

Granted, that “era” has only been going on since 2016 or thereabouts, but it seems like so much longer! And maybe that’s because, over the past seven years, VANCE MAJOR (Owen is his middle name) has produced and released a total of 146(!!!) Star Trek fan films featuring his character of Erick Minard (in all its many iterations!) as well as a bevy of recurring characters, cameos by a who’s who of other fan filmmakers (including myself), and even his own 5-year-old son Royce…who has been appearing in Vance’s films literally since infancy.

And that doesn’t include Vance’s appearances in other fan series like STARSHIP VALIANT and THE AVALON UNIVERSE. Vance has been a staple of our fan film community this entire time, and his parade of new releases—sometimes coming almost weekly!—provided a recurring reminder that Star Trek fan films come as much from the heart as from the camera.

Of course, Vance’s stuff isn’t to everyone’s taste, and I totally get that. His production budgets are ridiculously humble (like, “Buddy, can ya spare some change?” humble), the quality modest at best, and the acting as likely to be hit as miss. More often than not, there’s limited if any “action,” and the more recent films (especially since COVID) have been little more than a series of interstellar Skype calls as two people have a conversation. “The Best of Both Worlds” or “Sacrifice of Angels” these fan films are most assuredly not!

But what they are, in my opinion, is a form of poetry. Vance presents his thoughts, feelings, observations, perspectives, concerns, triumphs, frustrations, dreams, and passions through his films. Most poets don’t need much more than a pen and paper (or keyboard). For Vance, it also means a camera phone, Starfleet uniform, and video editing software. But the idea and the goal is the same: to share a part of himself with others.

Some of us enjoy that sharing and don’t mind seeing the cord in the doorway or not being able to hear bits of the dialog because of the wind. We don’t mind seeing 20th and 21st century cars and trucks, or clothes and baseball caps that look like they were bought at Target, appearing in a story set centuries in the future. That’s never been what Vance’s poetry has been about. Instead, it was always about using Star Trek to speak his truth…for those interested in listening.

And even though it was never Vance’s primary intention, his fan films also served as inspiration for others for make fan films of their own. If Vance didn’t care about top-tier production quality or jaw-dropping sizzle, then how important was it really? If you have a story you want to tell, then hey, just do do it.

Continue reading “VANCE MAJOR concludes CONSTAR! (some final thoughts from me)”

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…”

R.I.P – NICHELLE NICHOLS, our elegant Lady of Communications – 1932 to 2022

We all loved her. We all admired her. And we all knew this day would come.

NICHELLE NICHOLS, the amazing actor and person who helped raise women and people of color to new heights of recognition and self-confidence at a critical time in American history, has passed away at the age of 89 from natural causes.

As happens with many people as they approach their tenth decade of life, Nichelle had grown frail and was losing her memory. Her voice was no longer able to serenade us with the melodies of the stars as it did for most of her career. She had recently completed her “farewell tour” of conventions and public appearances with her fans and was living her final years with her son and his family in New Mexico.

But we still loved her.

And it was a love that had been there, for many of us, over the course of decades. She was always Lieutenant (and later Commander and, in fan films like OF GODS AND MEN and RENEGADES, Captain and even Admiral) Nyota Uhura.

Nichelle Nichols as Uhura through the years: in TOS, in the Trek movies, and in the fan films STAR TREK: OF GODS AND MEN and RENEGADES: THE REQUIEM.

In the TOS episode “Is There In Truth No Beauty?” it is revealed that the name Uhura means “freedom.” Indeed, it is the Swahili word “Uhuru” that means freedom, and according to Nichelle’s 1994 autobiographical Beyond Uhura, she was carrying the 1962 book Uhuru by Robert Ruark when she read for the part in Star Trek. Later, producer ROBERT JUSTMAN reportedly told GENE RODDENBERRY what Uhuru meant, and Gene decided to name his African communications officer Uhura right then and there.

The character’s first name, Nyota, came years later in 1982, following the release of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. Author WILLIAM ROSTLER was writing the licensed paperback Star Trek II: Biographies telling the personal histories of the seven main TOS characters, including Uhura. Rostler contacted Gene and Nichelle directly asking both for permission to give Uhura the first name Nyota, which means “star” in Swahili. They both approved, and since it was a licensed book, Nyota became as official as anything not shown on film. Indeed, a few years later, the 1985 Star Trek novel Uhura’s Song by JANET KAGAN (still one of the best!), became the second licensed product to use that first name for Uhura. However, it wouldn’t be until 2009 and the release of the first rebooted Star Trek film with ZOE SALDANA taking on the iconic role, that Nyota officially became “canon” when Spock calls Uhura by her first name during the movie.

I remember seeing Nichelle during countless conventions, always talking about how moved and excited she was to learn that Nyota meant “star” and that Nyota Uhura meant “Freedom Star” or “Star of Freedom,” guiding those suffering under prejudice, discrimination, and persecution to a brighter future. And goodness knows, Nichelle did just that!

Continue reading “R.I.P – NICHELLE NICHOLS, our elegant Lady of Communications – 1932 to 2022”

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)”

What should I do when another blogger CRIBS off my homework? (editorial)

Okay, I am totally stymied about what to do about this—MATT MILLER is now cribbing off my blog!

It all happened yesterday (Tuesday for me) shortly after I published this blog about this past weekend’s shoot in Arkansas for the upcoming AVALON UNIVERSE fan film THE NEEDS OF THE ONE and also the long-delayed CONVERGENCE marathon of filming in Bedfordshire, U.K. JOSHUA IRWIN and his team had shared so many amazing photos and clips on the Avalon chat group of their martial arts fight choreography, and SAMUEL COCKINGS was posting lots exciting updates about his 4-day shoot with all of the Convergence cast. And I thought it would be fun to do a two-in-one blog update on both major fan projects.

So I reached out to both Josh and Sam for short quotes. Sam, exhausted and about to pass out at what was about 2:15 a.m. for him, managed to write me up something surprisingly coherent and send me a bunch of behind-the-scenes photos that no one in the community had seen yet. Josh, also exhausted after the first day at his new job (congratulations, Josh!) dictated some quotes to me over the phone as I typed his comments as quickly as I could. Then he sent me a short video clip of the the awesome fight scene that, like Sam’s BTS photos, hadn’t been shared publicly yet.

In other words, folks, I did the prep work required and then wrote and published the blog, just as I usually do. End of story, right?

Well, not quite…

I got a call Tuesday afternoon from Josh asking me if I’d seen Matt Miller’s post. “Nope,” I said, “I don’t follow Matt’s Facebook posts anymore.” Well, apparently Matt had taken my blog from the morning, split it into two blogs, re-worded it slightly, and posted what was essentially the same content to his TrekZone website. According to the time-stamp, Matt published his pair of blogs roughly five hours after mine went live.

You can access the blogs here and here to compare the content. Or just in case Matt pulls them down for some reason, here’s the screen caps…

Continue reading “What should I do when another blogger CRIBS off my homework? (editorial)”

ComicMix will sell an UNLICENSED book of “lost” DR. SEUSS short stories now in the PUBLIC DOMAIN!

Well, this story suddenly got interesting again!

Last October, I reported on the sudden and unexpected settlement of the half-decade copyright infringement lawsuit filed by DR. SEUSS ENTERPRISES (DSE) against tribbles creator DAVID GERROLD, award-winning comic book illustrator TY TEMPLETON, and COMICMIX, LLC editor and vice-president GLENN HAUMAN. The latter three individuals had attempted to crowd-fund through Kickstarter a mash-up of Star Trek and Dr. Seuss titled Oh, The Places You’ll Boldly Go! But DSE quickly put the brakes on that, forcing Kickstarter to take down the fully-funded $30,000 campaign and return the donations, and then suing Team Mash-Up for what could have been six or even seven figures if the legal verdict went in DSE’s favor.

What followed was years of a litigation roller coaster, sparking approximately thirty blogs from me as I tried to explain (in layman’s terms) everything that was being argued by both sides and the various rulings from the judge(s). At first, it looked like Team Mash-Up had actually won when, after two and a half years, Ninth Circuit Federal Judge Hon. JANIS SAMMARTINO dismissed DSE’s complaint, finding that Boldly! qualified for free speech protection under the legal doctrine of fair use. But a year and a half later, a 3-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the decision, ruling that Boldly! was NOT fair use and sending the complaint back to the district court.

In October of 2021, weeks before the case was to go to trial, the two sides announced a settlement because Ty Templeton had developed late-stage colorectal cancer, and neither side wanted to put the man through the stress of a multi-week jury trial (at the height of COVID, no less!) while prepping for major surgery and months of intense cancer treatments. The two legal adversaries agreed that there would be no trial, no judgment, no payout in either direction, and each side would cover their own legal fees. But sadly, ComicMix would give up all efforts to create or publish a Star Trek/Dr. Seuss mash-up book.

End of story, right? Not quite…!

Continue reading “ComicMix will sell an UNLICENSED book of “lost” DR. SEUSS short stories now in the PUBLIC DOMAIN!”

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)”