DISCOVERY’s third season finale was like watching STAR TREK 2009 with speed bumps! (editorial review)

SPOILERS ARE JUST AN UNAVOIDABLE FACT OF LIFE

Last week, I truly LOVED the second-to-last episode of STAR TREK: DISCOVERY‘s third season, “There Is a Tide.” With so much happening going into the final episode, my hopes were high. Tilly and the bridge crew, along with the DOT-bot “army” still had to retake the ship from Oysraa. Michael had just been captured by Zareh while Book was already a hostage on the bridge. Osyraa was cornered, outnumbered by Starfleet vessels that could blow Discovery out of the sky (well, space) but holding the most valuable bargaining chip: the spore drive. But she couldn’t jump away because Stamets (against his will) was ejected from the ship by Michael…setting up lord-knows-how-many future fireworks between the two! Meanwhile, Saru, Culber, and Adira were stuck on the dilithium planet with the Kelpien equivalent of Black Bolt, trying to save the galaxy before dying of radiation poisoning. The clock was ticking!!!

With a set-up like that, what could possibly go wrong with the finale?

It’s hard to know where to start…or stop…or start…or stop again. I say it that way because that’s kinda how I felt as I watched the full 60-minute episode (the longest of the season). Have you ever ridden with a teen just learning to drive a car and they speed up and slow down and speed up and slow down over and over so much that it’s all you can do to hold down your last meal? The finale was kinda like that.

There was ample action—AMPLE!!!—lots of running and shooting and explosions and fighting and kicking people out of elevators and crew members suffocating and people running out of time and gosh darn it…things just moved at maximum warp.

And then there was Su’Kal. Gotta keep that kid calm lest he scream and destroy the galaxy again! So everything in the holo-chamber on the dilithium planet was super serene and slow, with lots of empathy and understanding from Saru and the others. Nothing necessarily wrong with that.

Continue reading “DISCOVERY’s third season finale was like watching STAR TREK 2009 with speed bumps! (editorial review)”

DISCOVERY’s penultimate episode “There Is a Tide” is the series’ BEST YET! (editorial review)

NEW YEAR, NEW SPOILERS

I know that some of you out there read my editorial reviews either before or instead of watching STAR TREK: DISCOVERY. This time, please take my word for it: don’t. Watch the episode first. And if you don’t usually watch Discovery or gave up on it (and if you have access), just watch this one episode. You don’t need to have watched the rest of the series or even the third season. This episode provides enough exposition along the way that you won’t feel lost.

It’s just a damn fine, exciting, fast-paced, engaging, well-crafted, and most of all highly entertaining piece of television that is loaded with surprises and the unexpected. So just watch it…trust me.

In fact, “unexpected” serves a very appropriate way to begin this blog because, even though I usually try hard to go into each new episode of Discovery open to anything and with no preconceived expectations, this time I was sooooo sure I knew what was coming! This would be Discovery‘s version of the TNG episode “Starship Mine.” Tilly, reeling from her dismal failure during her first command, would need all the help and hugs her bridge crew friends could give her as she proved herself by leading a successful plan to retake the ship. I was even thinking of titling this blog “How Tilly Got Her Groove Back”—that is, until I actually saw the episode.

From the first moment, the episode had me hooked with things I didn’t see coming. Using Discovery as a Trojan Horse to get inside Starfleet’s defense shield by “coming in hot,” being fired on by Osyraa’s dreadnought, communications jammed…brilliantly simple and simply brilliant! But then, as Book and Michael crashed into the hangar bay in the nick of time, I thought: “Wait, what about Discovery‘s shields? They were being fired on, why wouldn’t the shields be up?” So then I thought I’d write another nitpicking blog…those are always popular on Facebook! (Actually, I’m being sarcastic. My Guardian of Forever “Time Error” blog was royally bashed on Facebook.)

But then we came back after the opening credits to see this little nugget…

Award a point to the writers for addressing my gripe so quickly!

Okay, with my nitpicking nullified, I decided to just sit back, enjoy the episode, and write the blog later—and so I did. This was the seventh episode of the series and third this season directed by JONATHAN FRAKES, and I must say, the man knows what he’s doing. The episode was written by co-executive producer KENNETH LIN. Interestingly, Lin wrote and Frakes directed the 8th episode of the season, “Sanctuary,” where the crew goes back to Book’s home planet. Most fans found that episode somewhat mediocre (including me), but this episode was much the opposite, demonstrating that you can’t just an episode simply by the writer and director. Sometimes magic just happens.

Let’s look at how…

Continue reading “DISCOVERY’s penultimate episode “There Is a Tide” is the series’ BEST YET! (editorial review)”

2020 Star Trek Fan Film YEAR IN REVIEW!

On the one hand, 2020 pretty much sucked. Political upheaval, protests and rioting, wildfires burned, rains flooded, hurricanes and tornadoes blew…and some crazy bat virus got loose and started spreading rapidly across the world while scientists tried to find a vaccine at warp speed. Civilization as we knew it seemed to have hit “pause,” and we’re still wondering if things will ever return to the way they used to be.

On the other hand, with most of the world’s outside-of-the-home activities curtailed, we did have ample time to catch up on our binge-watching on TV and YouTube. And for those of us with a predilection for Star Trek, 2020 gave us, for the first time ever, TWO new Star Trek TV series premiering in the same year! STAR TREK: PICARD debuted in January (you remember January, right?) and STAR TREK: LOWER DECKS followed in August.

And no sooner had Lower Decks finished than a new season of STAR TREK: DISCOVERY fired back up…meaning that 2020 will have a total of 32 new episodes of Star Trek in a single year! We haven’t had that much new Star Trek on TV since back in 1999 when Deep Space Nine and Voyager were running concurrently.

And if 32 new episodes of television Star Trek weren’t enough for you, then fan films gave you even MORE to binge-watch during your quarantine! Anyone who had “The guidelines will totally destroy Star Trek fan films” in the office betting pool lost big for a fifth straight year, as not only did Trek fan films live long and prosper, they even did so despite a global pandemic with the release of new “fandemic” films shot carefully with masks and social distancing during production.

This year also saw the debut of multiple long-awaited Star Trek fan films that had been in production for three years, five years, and even 35 years! It’s been an exciting twelve months for our fan film community, and a darn BUSY one for bloggers like me (assuming there are any other bloggers like me!) who spend their time covering the people behind these productions and the seemingly endless parade of of content they bring to us. In fact, back in October, I published my one thousandth blog since starting back in January of 2016!

So let’s take a look at some of the good that came out of 2020 in the form of a wonderful supply of new Star Trek fan films…

Continue reading “2020 Star Trek Fan Film YEAR IN REVIEW!”

DISCOVERY finally airs an episode with a “classic” STAR TREK feel…but was it good? (editorial review)

LET’S END THE YEAR WITH…SPOILERS!

I’ve often (often!) wondered would STAR TREK: DISCOVERY would be like if it were more like the classic Star Trek I grew up with on TOS and even TNG. I’m not talking a total homage like The Orville (where the heck IS that show anyway???) but more simply carrying through on certain story elements, structure, character interplay and development, and just the overall “feel” like they used to have in the “good ol’ days.”

For what seemed like one of the only times in the three seasons of Discovery, this episode FELT like Star Trek to me. But what does that even mean “felt” like Star Trek? It seems like such a subjective and ambiguous thing, possibly different in the mind of each Trek fan watching.

So let me tell you why I personally thought that the 11th episode of season three, “Su’kal,” felt more like real Star Trek than Discovery usually does. And along the way, I’ll try to decide if this was a good or bad episode…or both! (Knowing me, it’ll probably have aspects of both—as I seem to have difficulty committing to either loving or hating the episodes this season.)

Okay, let’s do this thing…

MOVING TO MORE MODERATE AMOUNTS OF MICHAEL

Fans couldn’t help but notice that, for the past nearly-three seasons, Discovery has felt like “The Michael Burnham Show, starring Michael Burnham as Michael Burnham.” Michael seems to be in almost every scene, usually is the center of attention, and she saves the day regularly.

One of the reasons that Star Trek‘s previous iterations worked so well is because they had a variety different characters spotlighted in different episodes. Not every TOS story was about Kirk, not every TNG about Picard nor every DS9 about Sisko nor Voyager about Janeway. There were Spock and McCoy-focused episodes, Data and Worf and Crusher episodes, Kirk and Odo and Bashir episodes, Tuvok and Paris and B’Elanna episodes, T’Pol and Malcolm and Phlox episodes…you get the idea. And just because one character was featured prominently in a story didn’t mean we wouldn’t see the rest of the crew. A Riker episode would also show the rest of the crew. Mix and match! These shows had great casts, and the captain didn’t need to be in every scene.

This episode of Discovery was the first time in a while that Michael wasn’t dead center of the action almost all the time. Excitement was also happening on the ship, and because the landing party beams down and splits up, Michael is only part of the story on the planet. Michael definitely gets some major stuff to do, but so do Saru and Culber…giving each of their characters some breathing space. On the ship, we see some great moments for Stamets, Tilly, and Adira (and one single line from Reno…really?).

Continue reading “DISCOVERY finally airs an episode with a “classic” STAR TREK feel…but was it good? (editorial review)”

The news is mixed (but pretty bad) for ComicMix as they both lose and win the DR. SEUSS/STAR TREK Mash-Up appeal…

For tribbles-creator DAVID GERROLD, award-winning comic artist TY TEMPLETON, and ComicMix publisher GLENN HAUMAN, last Friday was not a fun day. While there was one tiny piece of good news in their ongoing legal struggle with DR. SEUSS ENTERPRISES (DSE) regarding the Star Trek/Seuss mash-up Oh, The Places You’ll Boldly Go! (“Boldly” for short), the main part of the news was rather unfortunate.

Things looked rosy for ComicMix back in March of 2019. After nearly two years in litigation, Ninth Circuit Federal Judge Hon. JANIS SAMMARTINO ruled before the trial could even begin that Boldly was protected from DSE’s infringement lawsuit because she considered it to be Fair Use. (You can read an in-depth analysis of that ruling here.) She threw out DSE’s complaints for both copyright infringement as well as for trademark infringement (two different things), effectively ending the lawsuit before a jury could even be seated.

Five months later, DSE filed an appeal to the Ninth Circuit, trying to reverse the summary ruling from Judge Sammantino. Last Friday, a three-judge appellate panel came back with a unanimous decision that Boldly did NOT qualify as Fair Use, and so the copyright infringement lawsuit could proceed. The panel also ruled that the summary dismissal of the trademark infringement decision was indeed correct, and so that aspect of the lawsuit is over. (You can read the full appellate opinion here.)

So…good news/bad news, right?

Well, it’s much more bad news than good, I’m afraid. The trademark claim was always the thinnest of arguments, and even DSE didn’t push hard on that point during their appeal (four amicus briefs were filed, and none of them touched at all on the trademark question). What DSE really wanted was the copyright infringement complaint reinstated, and they got it.

SO WHAT DOES THIS MEAN?

DSE hasn’t won yet. But now they haven’t lost either. We are simply back to where we were at the beginning of 2019 before the judge made her summary ruling. The lawsuit is on again, heading back to Judge Sammartino’s courtroom.

If you’re DSE, you’re ecstatic and holding all the cards right now. There will (most likely) still be a trial, but if you can convince three out of four learned judges that Boldly isn’t Fair Use, you should certainly be able to convince twelve ordinary folks of the same thing. And indeed, you might not even need to, since the appellate judges’ ruling might preclude using a Fair Use defense entirely (more on that in a moment).

Now, if you’re ComicMix, you have a decision to make, and you really have only three choices on the menu…

Continue reading “The news is mixed (but pretty bad) for ComicMix as they both lose and win the DR. SEUSS/STAR TREK Mash-Up appeal…”

DISCOVERY’s “Terra Firma, Part II” makes a HUGE time-error! (editorial review)

SINCE BEFORE YOUR SUN BURNED HOT IN SPACE, AND BEFORE YOUR RACE WAS BORN, I HAVE AWAITED… A SPOILER!

First, I’m sorry if you really loved STAR TREK: DISCOVERY‘s tenth episode of season three, the conclusion of the 2-part “Terra Firma.” I don’t mean to ruin it for you. But I need to tell this to people…to SHOUT it!!! This is a major, major screw-up I’m talking about, and I’m not kidding. So before I get to this week’s review, let’s talk about…

HOW THE GUARDIAN OF FOREVER WORKS

Okay, I can accept that the Guardian of Forever is now a cigar-chopping, bowler hat-wearing punster named Carl. Hey, people change. My old friend Nick is now Calista. Why can’t a giant rock donut time portal transform into a wooden door and spawn a comedic spokesman? I’m fine with all that.

But what I am NOT all right with is changing the essential rules of the Guardian of Forever!

“The City on the Edge of Forever” is arguably the best of the seventy-nine TOS episodes. At worst, it’s in the top three. And one of the reasons the story works so well is because Kirk and Spock are on a mission to literally save reality as we (they) know it. And in order to restore that reality, Kirk must sacrifice a woman he has fallen deeply in love with—a generous, compassionate, forward-seeing woman who could otherwise be destined for greatness if she did not need to perish in order for time to correct itself into a proper, utopian future that she herself dreamed of (whew…looooong sentence!).

Edith Keeler had to die, and we all felt Kirk’s aguish upon realizing that agonizing, unavoidable truth.

So let’s review how the Guardian works:

  1. If you go back in time and change something significant, reality shifts when you get back.
  2. If you then go back in time and fix what you broke, everything in the present returns to normal.

My friends, this did NOT happen in “Terra Firma, Part II”…

Continue reading “DISCOVERY’s “Terra Firma, Part II” makes a HUGE time-error! (editorial review)”

DISCOVERY warning: objects in MIRROR UNIVERSE may be less interesting than they appear! (editorial review)

WHEN SPOILERS WALKED THE EARTH!

We interrupt this season’s main plotline about the Burn for a 2-part return to the Mirror Universe. Please enjoy.

Now, I understand that many fans LOVE the Mirror Universe (or MU, as anyone who doesn’t read Marvel Comics is allowed to abbreviate it). And frankly, I’m kinda one of them. “Mirror, Mirror” remains one of my favorite TOS episodes. And I cheered the first time the folks at Star Trek: Deep Space Nine surprised us with the trip across the threshold. Everything was different now with the MU, as apparently Spock DID mange to topple the Empire, and 24th century Terra had gone from interstellar bully to bitter victim. But by the time DS9 aired their fifth and final crossover episode, I was feeling a little bored of the same old routine.

Had DS9 plucked the Mirror Universe bare?

The answer came with a resounding “Heck, no!” when Star Trek: Enterprise aired a two-parter titled “In a Mirror, Darkly,” and we saw the final fate of the U.S.S. Defiant from the TOS episode “The Tholian Web.” Fans loved this two-parter more than almost any other episode of that four-season series.

So is it any wonder that the next Star Trek television series, DISCOVERY, made a return to the Mirror Universe in its very first season? And it included what was supposed to be the biggest surprise plot twist of the entire series—that Captain Lorca was from the MU himself!—although a lot of fans (including me!) saw it coming many episodes earlier.

But Discovery‘s trip to the Mirror Universe wasn’t as interesting as previous crossovers…for a number of reasons. First, many fans agree that it lasted too long: four episodes (out of fifteen) were spent there when two or three episodes would probably have sufficed. It made the plot seem stretched out and somewhat boring. Add to that the convenient contrivance that nearly everyone from the main cast just happened to be near the emperor…who just happened to actually be an emPRESS and the doppelgänger of Captain Philippa Georgiou. It’s a small multiverse after all!

Perhaps most problematic is that the various people we saw in the MU were “evil” versions of characters that hadn’t really been developed much in the nine previous Discovery episodes. Unlike TOS, DS9, and Enterprise–where the audience had literally dozens and dozens of episodes to get to know the prime characters—this time we’d had just two episodes of Georgiou and seven for most of the Discovery crew. In other words, it was hard to truly appreciate the doppelgängers because we didn’t know much about who they were doppelgänging!

Fortunately, as this season’s Discovery returns to the MU for another 2-parter with their ninth and tenth episodes “Terra Firma,” we don’t have that same problem any longer. We know all of the “prime” characters much better now.

However, this latest episode still had some issues to overcome, and I’m not sure if they succeeded…

Continue reading “DISCOVERY warning: objects in MIRROR UNIVERSE may be less interesting than they appear! (editorial review)”

STAR TREK: DISCOVERY’s non-stop background music (editorial)

NO SPOILERS, BUT BE WARNED: YOU WILL NEVER WATCH DISCOVERY THE SAME WAY AGAIN AFTER READING THIS BLOG (REALLY)!

I didn’t feel that this latest episode of STAR TREK: DISCOVERY was particularly blog-worthy, soI’m going off-Book (sorry) this week to focus on an aspect of the series that I’ve been wanting to cover: background music. This will be a different kind of Discovery blog, so much so that I’m not even calling it a “review.” But I think you’ll find it…fascinating!

In the TOS episode “The Trouble with Tribbles,” Captain Kirk tells Uhura: “Too much of anything, Lieutenant, even love, isn’t necessarily a good thing.” Is that also true of music? If so, then Discovery is definitely the tribbles of background music!

Why? Well, take a listen to any episode lately. Try to find a scene where there isn’t any background music playing. With the exception of a few seconds here and there, the background music is pretty much constant.

So the question follows (with all due respect to Captain Kirk): is too much background music not necessarily a good thing?

Let’s start off by talking a little bit about background music in film and television as a general concept. The first time I noticed the power of background music was in 2003 when I saw the film Lost In Translation with BILL MURRY and SCARLETT JOHANSSON. The reason I noticed the music was because director SOFIA COPPOLA made the conscious decision almost no background music in the entire movie! Actually, I should qualify that statement. There were scenes where the stereo was playing or they were singing karaoke or there was piano music in a bar, like this scene…

But as far as the typical Hollywood instrumental music that is usually inserted during scenes, there was virtually nothing throughout the entire film. And for me, that made the movie feel tedious and bland. Despite rave reviews from critics and even from audiences, I left the theater having felt almost nothing.

And in fact, that lack of connection is exactly what background music is supposed to prevent. Music added under a scene can help the audience know what emotions to feel when the scene is ambiguous. And beyond that, music can actually help to intensify the emotional experience of the viewer/listener. Take a look at this eye-opening (and ear-opening!) video…

One of the reasons that background music can be such a powerful tool is that it’s processed in the different part of the brain than spoken language (right temporal lobe versus left temporal lobe, respectively). So both music and dialog can exist simultaneously in a scene and work in tandem without competing or canceling each other out. Music can trigger emotions in the amygdala and limbic system while visual and language centers of the brain can still process what is being seen along with the words being spoken.

But how much music is too much?

Continue reading “STAR TREK: DISCOVERY’s non-stop background music (editorial)”

A tragic COVID death hits the fan film / cosplay community…

SOPHIA NEROVNAYA is a very well-known cosplayer from St. Petersburg, Russia who looks amazingly like T’Pol from Star Trek: Enterprise. On her Facebook page are nearly 800 photos of Sophia throughout Russia and Europe and at home, always in makeup and often in costume, looking nearly identical to her fictional Vulcan counterpart. The only difference is Sophia’s wonderful smile that seems to convey sheer happiness and enthusiasm with Star Trek and with life itself.

All of that was shattered on Sunday with this single post to Facebook:

My loving husband and father of my two sons
died today at 4 pm, of COVID-19.

Sophia and Vadim were married in 2006. The illness apparent came upon him quickly, as Sophia was making typical Facebook posts up though Friday, and then Saturday saw a message that Vadim was urgently hospitalized and in intensive care, under ventilation.

As I type this, there have already been more than 650 comments conveying sympathy. I can’t begin to imagine her grief and loss…and that of her two children. Obviously, Sophia has my condolences, as well my wife’s, even though she has no idea who we are.

Sophia’s connection to the fan film community—in addition to being a huge fan of AXANAR because of the appearance of GARY GRAHAM reprising his role of Ambassador Soval—came about three months ago when VANCE MAJOR reached out to her from across the planet with a request for her to make a cameo or two as T’Pol in his newest CONSTAR COMPLETED fan series. Vance was one of Sophia’s thousands of Facebook friends, but they have communicated a bit over the years through the Star Trek Cosplay Facebook group.

Sophia happily agreed to help Vance out and sent him takes of T’Pol composited in front of an Enterprise NX-01 background which have already appeared in the episode “The Stuff of Legend” alongside her good friend, DAVID FRANCOEUR…

Sophia will also appear in Vance’s new release “1000 Dirty Tricks” in a few weeks.

Continue reading “A tragic COVID death hits the fan film / cosplay community…”

DISCOVERY’s new Vulcan proverb: “Only BURNHAM could go to Ni’Var…” (editorial review)

A SPOILER’S GONNA DO WHAT A SPOILER’S GONNA DO…

Mixed feelings about the latest episode of STAR TREK: DISCOVERY….but can I UNIFY them in my mind?

On the one hand, this was—hands down—my favorite episode of the series thus far. As a long-time obsessed Trekkie, I felt as though KIRSTEN BEYER’s latest Discovery episode, “Unification III,” was a buffet of comfort food. This is no accident. Beyer’s first episode of Discovery, “Si Vis Pacem, Para Bellum,” was one of the only episodes of season one that I (and many others) really thought FELT like Star Trek. Beyer has written a dozen Star Trek: Voyager novels, is the official liaison between Discovery and the IDW comic book publishers, and of course, she is the co-creator and executive producer of STAR TREK: PICARD.

In other words, she’s a long-time obsessed Trekkie just like me…and probably many of you, too.

So in that, this latest episode—exactly midway through season three—was a love-letter to longtime fans. There were ample mentions of Spock and a celebration of his legacy as, it seems, the Vulcans and the Romulans ended up reunifying again after all…mostly. And considering how out-of-the-blue (green?) the fifth season Next Gen plot of the two-part “Unification” and “Unification II” had seemed initially, this was a wonderful continuation of what had initially come off as a crazy idea by the TNG writers. The Romulans were unquestionably the recurring TNG bad guys…a position they’d proudly held since TOS days, in fact. Why in heck would Spock want them to reunify with Vulcan??? And yet, those two episodes were so well-executed and so frickin’ AWESOME that who cared what Spock’s motivations were! And when he stayed behind to continue working for his noble goal (despite the Romulans’ nefarious betrayal), I secretly rooted for it, too. And of course, thanks to J.J. Abrams, we know that Spock was trying to save Romulus right up to the moment he went back in time.

Fast-forward about 800 years, and the Vulcans and the Romulans are living in “peace” on a renamed home world, NiVar. And guess who’s there, too? The Qowot Milat, the “sisterhood of the absolute candor” that was actually one of the most fun things to come out of the Picard series. (My wife tells me that I need to learn to “read the room” and know when NOT to say whatever is on my mind. But deep down, I love the idea of absolute candor!)

However, not everything about our favorite green-blooded friends is as we remember or expect it…

Continue reading “DISCOVERY’s new Vulcan proverb: “Only BURNHAM could go to Ni’Var…” (editorial review)”