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”…

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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)”

I am THANKFUL for YOU – my friends in the fan film community!

Early last month, I published my one-thousandth blog and announced a new Patreon campaign to help pay the bills for Fan Film Factor and (potentially) provide a little extra support for me personally. (I typically spend between 10 and 30 hours each week covering Star Trek fan films.) Twelve generous fans have since signed up to donate a combined $60/month to help me out, and I can’t thank them enough for that!

But my gratitude extends far beyond those dozen people to the hundreds (possibly thousands?) of regular readers of my blog posts and to the Star Trek fan filmmakers who make this blog site possible in the first place. Many of these wonderful folks have become friends (some of them very close friends), and I would like to take a few moments to thank certain of these fan filmmakers by name…

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If you ignore the stupid and annoying stuff, DISCOVERY’s sixth episode was PRETTY GOOD! (editorial review)

SPOILERS ARE JUST A REVIEWER’S WAY OF SAYING: “I LOVE YOU”

Before anyone thinks that I didn’t like STAR TREK: DISCOVERY‘s sixth episode of the season, “Scavengers,” I did very much enjoy it. I simply had to get past the stupid stuff that really annoyed me. So let’s get that out of the way first…

Okay, I just need to say it: DETACHED NACELLES ARE RIDICULOUS!!! Seriously, who thought of that? I want to see some fan with VFX skills take a CGI model of Discovery, cut to Saru ordering the ship to warp, and then have both nacelles whoosh forward and out of sight while the rest of the ship just sits there motionless. (You reading this, SAMUEL COCKINGS???)

Likewise, the NCC-1031-A was completely unnecessary…and wrong. When the U.S.S. Enterprise was refit in Star Trek: The Motion Picture, it remained NCC-1701. The “A” came later on a different ship because its predecessor had been destroyed over the Genesis planet. Same with the bloody B, C, D, and E…and any other letters that came later.

Those personal site-to-site transporter badges might not be stupid, but they’re annoying as anything…just ask anyone who is trying to make out in a turbolift just as Linus shows up and announces, “This isn’t the science lab!” just before disappearing again. Yeah, hooray for the comedy relief, but the gag got old really fast and brought up a lot of very disturbing questions:

  1. Does everyone on the Discovery suddenly have the superpower of teleportation? (Suddenly, Nightcrawler of the X-Men isn’t particularly impressive anymore.)
  2. What about privacy on board? Can you materialize inside someone’s bathroom and go, “Oops”? I actually might not feel particularly safe on a ship full of people who can suddenly appear anywhere at anytime.
  3. Isn’t there a danger of materializing inside of someone else…or something else? One would hope there’s a “shove” function built into the beam, but what if two people transport simultaneously into the same spot?
  4. How do people doing delicate tasks requiring steady nerves and concentration guard against the sudden, unexpected pop-ins that now happen regularly?

All three examples come under the heading of “just because you CAN do something doesn’t mean that you SHOULD do that thing.” The writers decided that the future has some amazing stuff. But perhaps they went a little too amazing with things like personal transporters and “programmable” matter and detached nacelles. When technology becomes more like “magic,” you might have jumped a shark or two.

Just one more kvetch before I get to the good stuff: while I’m more of a dog person, I like cats, too…and fat-shaming a feline is not cool (unless it’s Garfield). The jokes about Grudge’s size bother me—perhaps because I have a weight problem myself. It wouldn’t be appropriate to make those snarky comments about Tilly’s shape, so why is it okay to mock the cat?

Okay, I’m done complaining. Let’s start saying some nice things…

Continue reading “If you ignore the stupid and annoying stuff, DISCOVERY’s sixth episode was PRETTY GOOD! (editorial review)”

CHARACTER COUNTS this season on STAR TREK: DISCOVERY (editorial review)

FOUR OUT OF FIVE REVIEWERS RECOMMEND SPOILERS FOR THEIR PATIENTS WHO CHEW GUM

STAR TREK: DISCOVERY‘s fifth episode of the season, “Die Trying,” was pretty strong. There were, of course, a couple of annoying aspects of absurd writing, like a 1,000-year-old “seed ship” floating defenseless in space with no protection and a crew of four (two of whom were children)—why not build more than one seed ship, or locate the seeds safely on a planet, or use a ship that isn’t a millennium old?—and Empress Georgiou knowing how to “blink-off” 32nd century holograms. That would be like a 10th century Viking showing up today and somehow knowing that he could clap his hands twice to turn off a light when he shouldn’t even know what a light is!

But hey, nobody’s perfect…and Discovery‘s writers aren’t the first in Star Trek history to come up with unrealistic and absurd ideas. “Spock’s Brain,” anyone? How about “The Royale” or “Threshold”?

What I’d really like to talk about in this blog, however, is an aspect of this episode that elevated to a much higher level—and that was the handling of the various characters, both old and new. The strength of “Die Trying” wasn’t an amazing story (’cause, frankly, the plot itself was pretty predictable: Discovery‘s homecoming wasn’t what they expected, future Starfleet was suspicious, and the crew had to prove themselves by completing a mission that only they could accomplish).

No, what made this episode such an effective success was that viewers got introduced to new, intriguing characters while also being treated to wonderful scenes featuring the characters we already know getting to strut their stuff. Let’s discuss…

Continue reading “CHARACTER COUNTS this season on STAR TREK: DISCOVERY (editorial review)”

Why I loved the M*A*S*H episode of STAR TREK: DISCOVERY! (editorial review)

SPOILERS! GET YER SPOILERS HERE!

I was going to title this blog “Now, THAT’S a Star Trek!” But I wasn’t certain that most of my readers would get the reference to the “Spocko/Lost Episode” skit from Saturday Night Live from 2017. And also, the more that I thought about it, the latest episode of STAR TREK: DISCOVERY, “Forget Me Not,” wasn’t just Star Trek. In many ways, it was also very much like the 1970’s TV series M*A*S*H, and it was just what I’ve been wanting—praying!—to see out of this show.

Okay, a LOT to unpack there…

Let’s first talk about what “today’s” Star Trek is and isn’t, and what it can and cannot be. Gone are the good ol’ days of TOS and TNG where Kirk could talk a computer into committing suicide and everyone always got along swimmingly. In fact, the days of perfect people and perfect relationships had already disappeared by the time Deep Space 9 started airing. And that’s fine. I like seeing folks with frictions and problems and then watching how they deal with themselves and each other. I certainly don’t want to follow a completely dysfunctional cast or crew each week, but I’m happy to see realistic people with realistic issues.

Even folks who say that The Orville is what Star Trek should be right now need to remember that Bortus is having marital problems, Ed Mercer has been struggling with his feelings about Kelly Grayson, and Isaac’s people are a threat to the entire galaxy. The Orville ain’t your daddy’s Star Trek either. (“Oh, I am my daddy. Wait…huh?”)

So the Star Trek of today cannot be the Star Trek of yesterday. The world has changed too much. Audience’s tastes have changed too much. Television has changed too much. But that doesn’t mean that any piece of crappola can be thrown at fans and still be considered Star Trek. Yes, Star Trek needs to evolve to suit the ever-changing viewer landscape. But the question remains: has Star Trek been evolving in the right way?

Continue reading “Why I loved the M*A*S*H episode of STAR TREK: DISCOVERY! (editorial review)”

The one problem STAR TREK: DISCOVERY may not be able to fix… (editorial review)

SPOILERS…I’VE HAD A FEW…BUT THEN AGAIN, TOO FEW TO MENTION

Okay, first let’s get the review part out of the way. I liked the third episode of STAR TREK: DISCOVERY season three, “People of Earth.” I didn’t love it, but it was a solid “like.” JONATHAN FRAKES did a very nice job directing, the acting was strong, as usual, the episode was exciting, and there was some decent character development (or at least attempts at it…more on that later). I’m intrigued by Adira, the new human character with the Trill symbiont…and let’s face it, Frakes knows all about being a human with a Trill symbiont in your abdomen!

Were there some things I didn’t like? Yep. I realize the whole “What was the Burn?” is the mystery of the season, and so each episode gives us more clues. But it seems like we’ve gone from “A century ago, all the dilithium in the quadrant/galaxy/universe suddenly exploded” to “Oh, by the way, the galaxy was also running out of dilithium before everything went KABOOM.” This seems like an important detail that could have been added previously, since it appears to be something big worth mentioning.

Also, I was annoyed for a second week in a row to see Michael Burnham once again save the day. And not only did she save everyone on the ship and restore peace to Earth and the Titan Raiders (sounds like a mash-up of two AFC football franchises), but she did so without telling Saru her plan first. Look up “loose cannon” in the dictionary, and you’ll see a picture of Michael Burnham. Look up “trustworthy first officer” and she’s nowhere to be seen. The fact that Saru still kept the offer of being his first officer open AFTER Burnham pulled that stunt amazed me (in a bad way). How many second chances is this headstrong woman gonna keep getting???

But enough about all that! I still liked the episode, and I’m sticking with Discovery for a bit longer. But that’s more than I can say about my best friend, who just told me that he’s now completely bailed on the show. He won’t watch it anymore, and his reason intrigued me enough that I’ve decided to devote today’s blog to talking my way through it, as it’s not the standard “This isn’t MY Star Trek!” But yet, at the same time, maybe it is. Maybe my friend has finally hit the nail on the head of why so many long-time Trekkies don’t like the show.

Let’s discuss…

Continue reading “The one problem STAR TREK: DISCOVERY may not be able to fix… (editorial review)”