I expected the WORST, but STAR TREK: PICARD’S fifth episode was its BEST yet! (editorial review)

OODLES AND OODLES AND OODLES OF SPOILERS!!!

Who remembers “The Naked Now”? Thirty-two and a half years ago (!!!), it was the second episode of the The Next Generation to air. While it wasn’t the worst episode ever (that would be “The Royale,” in my opinion), it definitely wasn’t the best. At a time when the main characters of TNG were just being introduced to audiences and still making first impressions, they were each reduced to comedic caricatures—Yar throwing herself at Data, Beverly and Picard throwing themselves at each other, Wesley taking over engineering…sheesh, even Data got goofy! Two episodes in, and they’re doing comedy???

That was the mental image I had before watching this past Thursday’s fifth episode of STAR TREK: PICARD, “Stardust City Rag.” The trailer showed what looked like a modern day version of TOS’s “A Piece of the Action” or DS9‘s “Badda Bing, Badda-Bang“—complete with characters dressing up for some kinda heist from dangerous-looking gangsters or something. Even the sneak-peek preview scene from the end of the previous week’s THE READY ROOM showed a comedic vignette of annoying holo-spam ads popping up all over the bridge, requiring the gallant crew to do something physical to get rid of each one.

I was NOT expecting to like this episode.

So imagine my ecstatic surprise when “Stardust City Rag” turned out to be the strongest and most enjoyable episode of Picard thus far…at least for me (and many other reviewers, as it turned out).

What happened to make this episode so good…?

Continue reading “I expected the WORST, but STAR TREK: PICARD’S fifth episode was its BEST yet! (editorial review)”

Why I lose my head every time I hear F*ING SWEAR WORDS in PICARD and DISCOVERY! (editorial review)

NO SPOILERS…BUT LOTS OF SWEARING!

I really liked the fourth episode of STAR TREK: PICARD. It wasn’t perfect (ahem, Narek and his sister Narissa), but it was close enough that I really loved the entire experience of watching it. And let’s face it, JONATHAN FRAKES knows how to direct Star Trek! Patrick Stewart and the entire cast (aside from the guy playing Narek) give consistently outstanding performances.

Show-runner MICHAEL CHABON was the lone writer credited this episode (all the other episodes have had multiple credited writers), and those 44 minutes flowed perfectly. With solid pacing, new and fascinating characters were introduced and developed. The episode filled in more of what happened to Picard over the last decade and a half, had amazing VFX (not too dark, too too fast, not too confusing), wonderful music, incredible make-up and costumes, gorgeous locations, and a thrilling surprise ending.

I truly have nothing to complain about…except one thing: the f*ing swearing!!!

So this time, because the episode itself was so enjoyable, my editorial review is going to be more editorial and less review. After all, this episode was titled “Absolute Candor,” so let me share my truth with you.

Let me start by saying that I am not a fucking prude. I know how to swear, and I’ll even indulge in “colorful metaphors” myself from time to time. I also know how NOT to swear. I don’t use profanities within earshot of my 9-year-old son or with my in-laws or in mixed company or with clients. I don’t use them during my audio interviews with fan filmmakers. Swear words are a choice…even if you accidentally drop a stack of dishes and they shatter all over the floor.

And I don’t mind hearing swear words on most shows on television. In fact, I welcome them! For me, not hearing swear words on network TV takes a little of the realism out of certain dramatic scenes.

So why the #$%@ do I have a problem with swearing on Star Trek, you ask? After all, if I want more realism on TV, then why shouldn’t Star Trek be as realistic as other shows?

Fair question. And I am going to explain why. But in order to do so, I need to take you all on a fast time wrap through the first 50 years of Star Trek

Continue reading “Why I lose my head every time I hear F*ING SWEAR WORDS in PICARD and DISCOVERY! (editorial review)”

Sunglasses on Vulcans and other nits to pick about PICARD…and why they don’t matter to me! (editorial review)

SPOILERS ABOUND!

As I read review after review of the third episode of STAR TREK: PICARD, “The End IS the Beginning,” the one common complaint I encountered over and over again is that the series seems to be moving TOO SLOW. It seems a fair number of people are really bothered by the fact that this third episode wasn’t any more action-packed than the first two (except the Zhat Vash attack on the Château Picard toward the end), and how after three full episodes, it was only in the last few seconds of the third episode that Picard finally says “Engage…” (hooray!) and we’re finally leaving Earth for deep space. The end really was the beginning.

Too slow, huh? Give me a break people! Let’s be honest: the real problem with this episode is that there was a Vulcan Commodore wearing sunglasses! I mean, really? Vulcan has a stronger sun than Earth, and Vulcans have that inner eyelid thingie (which we learned in the TOS first season finale “Operation: Annihilate” when Spock recovers from temporary blindness).

Oh, sure, there’s sunglasses in the 24th century. Barclay wore a pair on the beach in Voyager. But on a VULCAN??? Never! And just look at that commodore rank pin! It’s skewed! Would a Vulcan ever allow such a thing to happen? Would the Starfleet of the future even have rank pips that didn’t stay perfectly in place? This is is the FUTURE, people! Between the sunglasses and the rank pip, people might start to suspect that Commodore Oh isn’t really a Vulcan at all—despite her smooth forehead—and a Romulan agent would never be that sloppy…nor would an actual Vulcan!

And speaking of foreheads, we’re now told that the bumpy heads of Romulans are just a genetic variation of those from the north??? Really? Like blond hair or blue eyes here on Earth? Pshaw! Everyone knows that in the 4th season TNG episode “Data’s Day,” the faux-Vulcan Ambassador T’Pel returns to the Romulans and reveals herself to, in fact, be a Romulan…complete with a bumpy forehead!

“Vulcan” Ambassador T’pel’s forehead goes from smooth to bumpy when she reveals herself to be a Romulan spy in “Data’s Day.”

What? You can explain that? Maybe she was really a northern Romulan and just got smoothed over for the undercover espionage assignment? Suuuuuure she was. I don’t buy it for a second.

Actually, you guys shouldn’t buy anything I just wrote! I was totally kidding!!!

None of the above items really bothered me. Well, technically, I wasn’t thrilled about Commodore Oh’s rank pip. But when it comes right down to it, I really don’t have any desire to criticize this show right now. And that’s kind of weird because I’ll jump down the throat of any random goof or discontinuity in an episode of Discovery and bash any Star Wars movie made after 1983 for every stupid, illogical, incoherent plot hole I find.

I’m a sci-fi fan, and we live to complain. So why don’t I want to complain about Picard? It’s really weird! Let’s do some soul searching…

Continue reading “Sunglasses on Vulcans and other nits to pick about PICARD…and why they don’t matter to me! (editorial review)”

My sincere apologies to VANCE MAJOR

I know a lot of people in the fan film community—friends, comrades-in-arms, friendly acquaintances, long-distance buddies—but few of them do I feel closer to than VANCE MAJOR. You might have heard of him…’cause I mention him a lot on this blog!

Last month, I posted an audio interview with Vance when he released 51 new episodes of THE CONSTAR CHRONICLES and 18 special editions of the MINARD saga of fan films. Earlier this month, I posted a blog promoting his new GoFundMe campaign for CONSTAR CONTINUES…which I hope you’ll consider donating to.

Over the coming weeks, I’ll be featuring audio interviews with two guys named Greg—GREG TEFT and GREG MITCHELL—both of whom worked on Constar with Vance in significant production roles. Vance requested that I interview them separately to give each fan filmmaker a chance to shine. And I’m happy to do it!

The reason is that I love Vance…I love him like a brother. In fact, he frequently calls me “brother”—although I think that’s just his word for “dude”—but “brother” just shows what a truly warm and loving heart he has for people.

I’ve literally lost sleep because of Vance—not because I worry about him but because he works an overnight shift and our calls frequently start after midnight my time (2am for him in Kansas) and can usually last an hour or even two! We’ve chatted about everything from fan films and fan filmmakers to Star Trek, superhero movies, politics, weather, triumphs, frustrations, and my favorite subject: our boys. Vance is a dad like me—and a damn awesome one!—and since my son is half a decade older than his, I can give him some “heads up” advice and also look back at those days gone by and silently envy Vance getting to live those wonderful moments himself.

Yesterday, I hurt Vance.

Continue reading “My sincere apologies to VANCE MAJOR”

What would GENE RODDENBERRY have thought about SHORT TREKS “Children of Mars”? (editorial review)

There can be spoilers…just for one blog!

Wow.

I just finished watching the sixth and final SHORT TREKS of the second round of mini-episodes (do we call them “seasons”?). The shortest of all of the Short Treks thus far, the episode runs only 6 minutes and 47 seconds before the closing credits roll. But it’s time well-utilized!

It’s hard to know what to say first. In these editorial review blogs, I try not to just parrot what all of the other reviewers are saying because…what’s the point? Most reviewers are offering a summary of the episode. If you want that (and don’t mind the spoilers), then check out this review for a short summary or this review for a much more detailed recounting.

Many reviewers are concentrating on the kick-in-the-gut feel of the attack on Mars, and that was very obvious. This incident is going to be a paradigm shift for the Federation …just as the December 7, 1941 Japanese surprise attack on Pearl Harbor and the terrorist destruction of the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001 were for the United States and the world. Nothing would ever be the same again. After “Children of Mars,” the date that will live in infamy will be April 5—First Contact Day—and the culprits won’t be a foreign Pacific power or Middle Eastern extremists but these mysterious “Synths” (whatever they are).

A few folks are complaining that the starships at Utopia Planitia look more like movie-era or even Discovery-era designs rather than 24th century vessels. And yeah, the VFX guys probably kept things cheap and used the models they had on hand. Others complained that it was never really explained why these two girls initially hated each other (was it all just over a shoulder bump?), although I don’t think that was important for us to know. The impact of the story wasn’t why they were fighting so much as what made them stop.

So no, I’m not going to rehash any of that. Instead I am going to say something totally provocative and controversial:

I think GENE RODDENBERRY would have hated “Children of Mars” being presented as Star Trek.

And even more controversial:

I also think he would have been dead wrong!

Okay, let’s begin…

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“LET ME HELP”…do you have any extra STAR TREK stuff that you no longer need?

I joined STARFLEET, the International Star Trek Fan Association, Inc., way back in 1983 and have been a member ever since. (Heck, it wasn’t even an “Inc.” back then! STARFLEET incorporated in 1992 and became a 501(c)(7) non-profit shortly thereafter.) STARFLEET itself has been around since 1974 and has grown into the largest, continuously active Star Trek fan organization in the world with more than 5,300 members in 225+ chapters in more than 20 countries worldwide.

But this blog isn’t about STARFLEET itself. It’s about its new president, STEVEN PARMLEY.

Every three years, the STARFLEET membership holds an election to select its next Commander and Vice-Commander. The most recent election happened last fall, and Steven Parmley was the victor with 1,014 votes (51.7%) over Denise Rush with 946 votes (48.3%). Normally a cause for celebration, Steven didn’t feel much like celebrating. Around the same time, Steven and his family lost their home and all of their possessions in a fire…

We had a fire in 2019 when we had moved in to a new rental, but due to an electrical issue, the house had caught fire, and before we had insurance. I lost 20 years of STAR TREK Memorabilia and we lost furniture, clothes, etc.  While we were able to replace the furniture and clothes, I have been unable to replace my collection. But as long as I have my daughters, then anything is possible.

Steven is a single dad of two beautiful girls: Natalie, 15 and Fiona, 8. He works as a deputy jailer in Western Kentucky. He also serves as an assistant chief of the local fire department and as a Lt. Cmdr. in the United States Naval Sea Cadet Corps, responsible for 115 cadets and 37 instructors in his posting as the regional commander for the Commonwealth of Kentucky.

I wasn’t aware of any of this until a few days ago. I simply reached out to the new Commander, STARFLEET shortly after he took office on January 1 to congratulate him and say “hi.” My own rank is Vice Admiral (the CS is a Fleet Admiral), and I’d served as Chief of Communications for the club back in 2008-2010. As Steven and I chatted, I discovered that he was a big fan of AXANAR and enjoyed reading my blog. I also learned about the fire. Steve had lost his entire collection of Star Trek memorabilia and didn’t have the money to replace anything.

I immediately went onto eBay and ordered these for Steven…

It seemed the least I could do for a fellow fan and STARFLEET member—let alone the new Fleet Admiral! But then I had an idea…

Continue reading ““LET ME HELP”…do you have any extra STAR TREK stuff that you no longer need?”

2019 Star Trek Fan Film YEAR IN REVIEW!

In memory of ARON “Nog” EISENBERG (far right)…taken from us all way too soon

Okay, anyone who is still claiming that the CBS fan film guidelines “killed” or “destroyed” or “ruined” Star Trek fan films “forever” needs to be strapped into the Neutral Neutralizer chair and forced to read this blog!

Sure, the 6-figure crowd-funded productions were now a thing of the past, but they were always the exception and not the rule anyway. Most fan projects have traditionally had very humble budgets, and those have continued to live long and prosper. If they weren’t doing so, I doubt I’d be spending so much time writing this darned blog!

Speaking of which, did you know that I’ve published 205(!!!) individual blog entries in 2019? Yep, I just counted! Granted, some have been reviews of Star Trek: Discovery or Short Treks episodes; a good number of blogs were in support of the GoFundMe campaign for my Axanar Universe fan film INTERLUDE and other fan film crowd-funders; the long-awaited production of AXANAR itself got a lot coverage, as did the Star Trek/Dr. Seuss “mash-up” infringement case; and there were news stories and updates and, sadly, eulogies for ARON EISENBERG, D.C. FONTANA, and RENÉ AUBERJONOIS. And of course, I also continued my series of “The History Of…” features, most recently focusing on the Scottish fan series INTREPID.

But there were also more than TWO DOZEN brand new Star Trek fan film releases that got special coverage here on Fan Film Factor in 2019…plus another FIFTY new CONSTAR CHRONICLES fan films from VANCE MAJOR—and remember that many fan films were two-parts.

And this is by no means even a complete list!!!

There were also a number of releases I didn’t get to yet (hey, I’m just one guy!), including ones from Germany (STAR TREK: EUDERION) and the Czech Republic (STAR TREK: DIPLOMACY), humor vignette series like STAR TREK: IT GUY and the surreal STAR TREK: STUNT DOUBLES…and a whole bunch of smaller efforts from right here in the U.S.A. and around the world. So I’d say we’re well over a HUNDRED new Trek fan films in 2019…

Dead, Jim? Hardly!

So just in case you missed any of my features and/or interviews (both written and audio) covering these many fan releases—of if you’d just like to enjoy something to watch during your down time before heading back to work later this week—here’s what’s been published here on Fan Film Factor for new Trek releases over the past twelve months (click in the title(s) to view the blogs or else just watch the videos below them)…

Continue reading “2019 Star Trek Fan Film YEAR IN REVIEW!”

Two new ANIMATED SHORT TREKS and what my 9-YEAR-OLD SON thought of them… (editorial review)

SP-SP-SP-SPOILERS…TURN AWAY OR FACE THE STRAIN!

This past Thursday, CBS All Access released (at least for viewers in the United States) the final two SHORT TREKS for 2019. You can read my reviews of the previous three episodes—“Q&A”, “The Trouble with Edward”, and “Ask Not”—to see that they’ve been a little uneven in quality (at least in my opinion) but generally worth the 8 to 15 minutes of time invested to watch them. Also, there’s one more Short Treks episode scheduled for release on January 9: a STAR TREK: PICARD prequel titled “Children of Mars.”

The final two Short Treks of this year marked Star Trek‘s first return to animation since the animated series aired its final episode 45 years ago on October 12, 1974. (Of course, I’m not counting animated Star Trek fan films, although if you’d like to see some really good ones, might I suggest Star Trek: Aurora, Stalled Trek, and Stone Trek.)

The two new Short Treks—“Ephraim and Dot” and “The Girl Who Made the Stars” were REALLY short—-just under nine minutes and just under eighth minutes respectively. This isn’t surprising, though, as animation is costly to produce both in terms of budget and time. Unlike live action, an extra four minutes for either episode could literally have increased the production budget by nearly 50%.

So what did I think?

Before I answer this question, let me tell you what my nine-year-old son Jayden—a lover of TOS and a current watcher of TNG—thought. This is actually a rather profound question. I have and continue to refuse to show STAR TREK: DISCOVERY to Jayden (with the F-bombs, the Klingon rape scenes, and generally not-for-a-9-year-old content) until he’s much older. In comparison, we LOVED watching the new Lost In Space together on Netflix (season two is just 10 days away!) and are currently enjoying The Mandalorian. As a Trekkie, it was frustrating not to be able to share the new series with my son.

But these two new Short Treks were 100% child-friendly. So having the opportunity to say to Jayden, “Hey, come over here and watch this and tell me what you think…” about the new Star Trek is a new and exciting experience for me.

So what did Jayden think…?

Continue reading “Two new ANIMATED SHORT TREKS and what my 9-YEAR-OLD SON thought of them… (editorial review)”

Follow-up: A GREEN SCREEN Christmas miracle!

Wow…with a capital WOW!

This, my friends, is what Star Trek fandom is all about.  Yesterday, I published a blog asking for fans’ assistance in replacing PAUL JENKINS’ custom green screen (at a cost of $4,700), which had accidentally been damaged beyond repair during the INTERLUDE shoot at Ares Studios in November.

I ended the blog with a reference to the TOS episode “The City on the Edge of Forever” when Kirk tells Edith Keeler how a famous author in the future will write a classic recommending the three words “Let me help…” even over “I love you…”

“Let me help…” brings people together.  “Let me help…” can accomplish the most amazing things.  And yesterday, “Let me help…” resulted in 85 donations and a total raised so far of $3,900 (including the $2,000 from three of our biggest donors and myself plus many, many donations of just $10 or $15 or $20).  This leaves us, after only a single day, within $800 of being able to replace Paul’s ruined green screen.

I can’t thank everyone enough for coming through this quickly.  I was deeply touched by this amazing fan response, especially after the emotional punch in the gut last Friday when Paul first told me how much this accident would cost to fix. $4,700 is a lot of money!

But what was most uplifting to me were the literally dozens and dozens of message full of support, understanding, and inspiration that I received on Facebook and from donors themselves.  Here’s just a small sample…

I donated because all Star Trek fans should support each other.
- Judy Reed
In today's world, it is becoming increasingly rare to see someone take responsibility for their own actions let alone for the actions of their crew. That type of integrity and honor deserves acknowledgement. Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!
- Lawrence Wagner
Jonathan, I'm happy to help with your Christmas miracle.  Hey, accidents happen, and it is the mark of a true gentleman when you suck it up and say, 'The buck stops with me.'  You're right, no one intended to ruin the fabric.  They didn't even realize that what they were doing would mess it up.  However, I admire how you handled it.  THAT is the kind of character that people respect, and you sir, have my respect.  So Merry Christmas...and keep on Trekkin'.
- Troy Light
I wasn't able to donate during the original fundraising effort, so I'm happy to be able to help a little now.
- David Goldsberry
Everyone messes up sometimes (and I've certainly replaced school equipment that the kids have ruined in the past!).
-  Catherine McClarey
Sorry to hear this and I'm happy to help. The only people who never make mistakes are those who never actually do anything. So never mind,  that's life, we'll sort it.
- Alastair Miles

As far as I’m concerned, this is what makes the Star Trek fan film community so AWESOME.  I thank everyone who donated…from the bottom of my heart.

We’re nearly there, folks. If you’d like to help us get to the finish line, please click on the link below to donate a little something…

https://www.gofundme.com/interlude

INTERLUDE Confidential #2: This is really, really BAD…and I’m going to need some MAJOR HELP!

I need a Christmas miracle.

My heart sank last Friday morning when I got the call from Axanar director PAUL JENKINS. I immediately wished I could shift the blame to someone else and cover my ass in some way.

But no, that’s not what Star Trek taught me. Kirk always took responsibility for the actions of his crew, whether or not the captain himself had personally been the one at fault And as executive producer on INTERLUDE, the buck stops with me…or rather, the 4,700 bucks stop with me.

That’s what it’s going to cost to replace Paul’s 100 ft. x 20 ft. professional-quality, custom-made green screen that was accidentally ruined during the November INTERLUDE film shoot at Ares Studios.

Paul owns a production company, META Studios, and the giant portable green screen belongs to him (not to Alec Peters or Ares Studios). Paul brought the green screen to Ares Studios to use for the October AXAANR shoot and left it there to use again in December for last weekend’s shoot.

In November when we filmed the scenes for Interlude on the Ares bridge, we wanted to be able to shoot toward the view screen and composite in shots later using a green screen. It would (and probably still will) look really cool. But we needed a green screen to do it.

Fortunately, there was one on site, and we assumed it was okay to use it (Paul wasn’t there at the time; he visited the following day). And by “we,” I mean my Interlude team. And as a team, I am not singling anyone out for having screwed up. It was my team, and as such, I’m responsible for what happened next…

Continue reading “INTERLUDE Confidential #2: This is really, really BAD…and I’m going to need some MAJOR HELP!”