Why the new SHORT TREKS “Ask Not” shows why there needs to be a CAPTAIN PIKE series! (editorial review)

WARNING! The reading of this blog WITHOUT first watching “Ask Not” WILL ruin an amazing experience for you!

It only took seven minutes and forty-five seconds.

Actually, it took even less time than that. Without the traditional SHORT TREKS opening title sequence, this latest offering of CBS’s series of mini-episodes dropped me immediately into the action. What followed was a whirlwind of masterfully delivered, impactful lines between two very strong characters. One was Captain Christopher Pike, and ANSON MOUNT could be taking a nap in a hammock and I’d still be mesmerized. So imagine what this amazing actor can do when the dialog is flying fast and furious…and lives are at stake.

The other is a brand new character, Cadet Thira Sidhu (played perfectly by Amrit Kaur), a young engineering cadet facing an impossible decision: does she follow Starfleet protocol or trust Pike? The answer is surprising, to say the least! It’s also the culmination of a tense, non-stop five-minute sequence that doesn’t leave the viewer any time or opportunity to ask “Hey, what’s really going on here?” And that was a very, very good thing!

This is where I start spoiling the episode, folks. Seriously, if you haven’t watched it yet, stop reading now, subscribe to All Access for 10 minutes, and watch “Ask Not.” Or if you’re in a country that hasn’t gotten the second series of Short Treks yet, bookmark this blog and come back to it in January. It’s not time-sensitive.

Okay, I warned ya. If you read further, the irreparable damage is all on you…

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SHORT TREKS: The trouble with “THE TROUBLE WITH EDWARD” (editorial review)

SPOILERS…LIKE TRIBBLES…ARE EVERYWHERE!

I’m not sure I can forgive the creators of SHORT TREKS for eternally inserting a connection in my head between actor H. JON BENJAMIN and tribbles. I will never again be able to watch an episode of Bob’s Burgers or another ARBY’s commercial without wondering if those small, furry creatures somehow made it into their food menus. And if I’m ARBY’s, I am not happy right now.

But all kidding aside, I really wish this episode had put all kidding aside…or at least a good deal of it (tribbles do invite comedy, after all). But they didn’t. Short Treks is an experimental medium for CBS, and they’re to be admired for at least trying some new things. But as a fan, I felt the jokes landed as flat as a tribble falling off a desk and dying (something the episode actually mentioned!). And it does make me a little more wary about what kind of content we’ll be seeing from the upcoming new LOWER DECKS animated Star Trek series. If this is the level of humor we’re in for, well, I might be writing a bunch more critical blog reviews. Time will tell.

As with my review yesterday of the first of this season’s Shorts Treks, “Q&A,” I had a bit of a love/hate relationship with this episode…although sadly tipping more into the latter emotion this time out. For anyone who hasn’t had a chance to see the episode and wants to know what the heck I’ll be talking about, here’s an excellent review that includes a summary…along with some of the same annoying points that I’ll be kvetching about.

First, however, I’ll list the positives. I loved seeing Anson Mount‘s Captain Pike, even for just a few seconds. I also found it cool to glimpse a Trill. And it was nice to see the costume department finally getting a chance to create some Starfleet uniforms without the weird single collar.

Um, what else, what else? Let’s see…well, the lighting was lovely. The music was good. The acting was quite decent. And the tribble vacuum cleaner was a nice touch. Oh, and I did like them showing how your generic detractor of just about anything might be created, even two and a half centuries in the future…

But yeah, aside from that, this episode was hard to love….

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“Q&A”: Are SHORT TREKS just elaborate studio-produced FAN FILMS? (editorial review)

SPOILERS A’PLENTY!

On October 5 and five days later on October 10, CBS released the newest two 15-minute episodes of SHORT TREKS to All Access subscribers in America (sorry, rest of the world): “Q and A” and “The Trouble with Edward”…or as I like to call them: the latest two fan films from CBS.

CBS was actually rather quiet about marketing the debut of these two Short Treks, releasing the first on the same Saturday they announced it would be available (during a presentation at New York Comic Con) and the second during Thursday Night Football later that week. In fact, the rest of the Short Treks will also be premiering during Thursday Night Football (as will STAR TREK: PICARD) because that’s when the majority of All Access subscribers are watching (don’t ask me how I know that). Here’s the schedule for the remaining new Short Treks:

  • Ask Not” – Thursday, Nov. 14
  • The Girl Who Made the Stars” – Thursday, Dec. 12
  • Ephraim and Dot” – Thursday, Dec. 12
  • Children of Mars” – Thursday, Jan. 9

Because CBS is targeting the sports viewers of All Access with these “15-minute commercials” more than they are the hard core fans, many folks weren’t even aware that Short Treks had already debuted. In fact, I took an informal poll on the Fan Film Forum Facebook group and discovered that 40% of our responding members had no idea any new Short Treks were available….

But since these two episodes have, indeed, been released, how about we do a good ol’ editorial review? Or rather, let’s make it a two-parter since there were two Short Treks

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AXANAR raises $15.7K in first ten days of private crowd-funding!

The big news in the fan film world a week and a half ago was, of course, the wildly successful first shooting weekend for AXANAR. If you haven’t already, you can take a look at the many, MANY online streamed videos of the exciting shoot here, here, and here.

A week later, the biggest news is how much ALEC PETERS has managed to raise in just ten days of private crowd-funding for the production of the two Axanar sequel fan films. As of the publication of this blog, that number stands at nearly $15,800!

And what’s most amazing about that total is that those donations are almost exclusively from existing donors…with no public marketing or advertising of the campaign thus far. (In contrast, my GoFundMe for INTERLUDE took six times that long to raise that amount.)

You might be wondering why Alec is trying to raise money AFTER the shoot rather than before it. The answer is simple. Alec paid for the first shoot entirely out of his own pocket…about $75,000, according to him. This brings the total money that Alec has personally put into funding Axanar over the last five years well over a quarter of a million dollars.

“While I don’t mind fronting money for the remaining production,” Alec told me, “and I’ve certainly been doing quite a lot of that, Axanar was never intended to be funded by just one person. And honestly, I no longer have anything left to put into this project…much as I’d love to.

“So now we have to go back to our existing donors as we return to our roots of being a crowd-funded fan film. And that means we need $70,000 right now to fund the costs for our first two shoots. That’ll cover some of the expenses I already paid, although not all. Considering that our second shoot is going to cost another $20,000, even when we reach the full goal amount, I’ll probably still be left having put about $25,000 of my own money into these first two shoots. I don’t mind that, but I simply can’t afford $70,000 or more.

“So that’s where our existing donors need to step up. And they’re already starting to—which is fantastic!”

The next question I had for Alec is one that many people are asking right now: is Alec actually allowed to crowd-fund Axanar anymore? What does his legal settlement with CBS and Paramount let him do and not do when it comes to fundraising? Does he have to abide by the $50,000 limit imposed by the guidelines, or does he get a special waiver to exceed that limit (just as Alec has a special exemption allowing him to use professional Star Trek veteran actors like J.G. HERTZELR and GARY GRAHAM)?

Alec answered my questions for this blog with a blog of his own that he just posted on the Axanar website. You can read it below…

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First STAR TREK, then THE EXPANSE, now THE ORVILLE…is this the beginning of the end for “free” TV sci-fi???

Before I begin, let me explain that the purpose of this unique blog is to bring folks up to speed about what the HECK is going on with all of these new streaming TV services that are suddenly appearing like clowns getting out of a Volkswagen. I’m going to focus mainly on how this is affecting the sci-fi genre of television shows…although the impact is pretty much across the board. Then I want to explain why it’s happening so fast, why it’s not going away anytime soon, and then speculate on where this is all heading in the future.

I began working on this blog a month ago when Seth MacFarlane announced the The Orville would be moving from the FOX broadcasting network to behind a paywall at Hulu. Since then, I’ve been researching like crazy! And each time I thought I’d gotten the blog finished, there’d be more “BIG” streaming announcements from folks like NBCUniversal and, just last week, Disney. Eventually, though, I just needed to pull the trigger…knowing that parts of this blog are gonna be old news almost as soon as I hit “Publish.”

I do want to apologize if this is a longer blog than usual, but there’s just SO much going on, and I want to help you folks process it all like I just managed to do…mostly. Also, I’m going to focus mainly on America only because, once you head internationally, the shows and services all shift around and this poor blog would be six times as long!

Remember when automated teller machines (ATMs) first started being installed at banks? I can’t remember if it was still the 1970s or the early 1980s; I only remember that hardly anybody used ’em. Why risk your hard-earned money on a “fallible” computer when you could deal with a competent human being you could talk to?

The same thing happened when e-commerce first appeared. The idea of entering your credit card information onto a website in order to buy something seemed…overwhelming! Was it safe? Would the thing I just ordered even arrive? How long would it take? Why not just go to the store like everyone else, buy something, pay for it, and take it home?

We were so naive back then, weren’t we? It just took us a decade or so to get used to the “new normal,” and now everything is so much easier, faster, and more convenient.

So is paywall streaming TV the “new normal”?

Continue reading “First STAR TREK, then THE EXPANSE, now THE ORVILLE…is this the beginning of the end for “free” TV sci-fi???”

SD Comic Con PICARD Trailer 2019 vs SD Comic Con DISCOVERY Trailer 2016 – What has CBS learned…?

It’s hard to believe that it was only three years ago that fan got their first glimpse of the new STAR TREK: DISCOVERY at San Diego Comic Con 2016. And when I say got our first glimpse, I don’t mean of the show itself. That wouldn’t happen until the following summer. I mean we got our first look at what a disorganized mess CBS was in dealing with the launch of their first-ever Star Trek TV series that would also be the first-ever Trek series to air only on subscription-based services (All Access, SpaceTV, and Netflix).

Let’s take a moment to compare the two Star Trek series trailers that premiered at San Diego Comic Con to give fans their first look at the new show. The first debuted in July of 2016…

The Discovery trailer was obviously a rush job. The marketing department knew they needed something to show at Comic Con because that has become THE place to premiere the big sci-fi and related genre movies and shows. But there was nothing ready yet! No footage had been shot because, unbelievably, no actors had yet been cast! The sets and uniforms were still being designed.

Remember that, at the time this trailer was first screened for fans, Discovery was still scheduled to debut in January of 2017…just six months after Comic Con. As a comparison, the new STAR TREK: PICARD series is currently set to premiere in January 2020—just six months after Comic Con. So really, no one (especially CBS) should have been surprised when Discovery ended up launching nine months behind schedule.

Still, desperate to show SOMETHING, the show-runners of Discovery decided to render out a quick CGI animation revealing the look of the new starship. Of course, even the ship wasn’t fully designed yet…as you can see from the “rocket” nacelles and the fact that the saucer section was still all one piece. But at least CBS would have something to get the fans excited. (Whether or not it succeeded is still up for debate.)

But what isn’t up for debate is how excited Trekkers have been for the last few days after seeing the extended trailer for Star Trek: Picard that debuted this past Saturday at Comic Con…

What a difference three years makes, huh?

Let’s take a trip down Memory Lane (no relation to me) and look back at the CBS of 2016 versus 2019 and what has changed for Star Trek in that time…

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Why the finale of ST: DISCOVERY left me feeling ANGRY and BETRAYED (editorial review)

SPOILERS MAKE YOU A BETTER PERSON!

Before I begin blasting away at the season two finale of STAR TREK: DISCOVERY, I will give credit where credit is due. The entire production team obviously worked VERY hard to make “Such Sweet Sorrow, Part 2” a fast-paced, well-acted, and visually stunning hour of television. It wrapped up a very complex season-long story arc without leaving any loose ends (that I noticed), and it was certainly an ambitious undertaking.

But as a Trekkie and, more basically, as a viewer, I finished the episode feeling angry and, to be honest, betrayed. And I’d like to tell you why.

Writers and their audiences make an “agreement” going in, a pact of trust, if you will. The writers ask that we viewers buy into what the writers are setting up in the narrative, and in exchange, the writers will create a compelling, suspenseful, emotionally engaging story to entertain us.

But in this episode, I felt that the tail (or the tale) was wagging the dog. The writers had to include certain scenes in order to cover the necessary tropes of an exciting, explosive season finale: death of a major character, cavalry to the rescue scene, hand-to-hand fight with the bad guy, etc. Nothing wrong with that in theory. But in order to hit those beats, the writers way too often had to violate the trust of the viewer. And it’s NOT simply that some scenes are inconsistent with “established” Star Trek canon. I’ve learned to expect that from this show, and I’ve mostly made my peace with it.

No, I am talking about violating the canon that the writers have already set up for themselves. And when I see these kinds of “sloppy” scenes (and there were a LOT of them this episode), I can only assume the writers simply don’t care that they’re writing something that makes no sense within their own narrative…either that or they think that their viewers don’t care.

Well, I care. And that’s why I’m sharing this longer-than-normal blog with you today…

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The SHIPS hit the FANS on STAR TREK: DISCOVERY! (editorial review)

SPOILERS ARE JUST MY WAY OF SHOWING LOVE!

At first, I was thinking of titling this blog “The Big Good-bye” or “The Long Good-bye” or “We Get It Already—Everybody Is Saying Good-bye!” I also considered, “That’s Not Orange, Dammit; It’s Red!” But in the end, I didn’t want to sound harsh because it implies that I didn’t think this was a good episode.

The penultimate 13th episode of STAR TREK: DISCOVERY‘s second season, “Sweet Sorrow,” wasn’t a bad episode…far and away not! It finally showed us a redesigned bridge of the USS Enterprise NCC-1701 that didn’t feel like an Apple Store. In fact, I wanted to grab a Klingon time crystal, take this bridge back to 2007, kidnap J.J. Abrams, and shout: “THIS!!!!” In fact—looking at the uniforms, the handles in the Enterprise turbolift, the sounds of the bridge and the photon torpedoes, etc.—it might not be a bad idea to take a time detour to 2016, kidnap Bryan Fuller and whoever was the original production designer on Discovery, and shout, “THIS!!!!” even louder.

So yes, I liked the Enterprise and the people in it. And I just signed the Change.org petition to CBS trying to convince them to do a new CAPTAIN PIKE series on the Enterprise in pre-TOS. Serious no-brainer, CBS: don’t let Anson Mount get away!!!

But this episode also suffered from a number of weaknesses…many of them stemming from the fact that the season was originally set to be 13 episodes and, early on, a decision was made to stretch the finale into two parts. And there’s no doubt that the last episode will be an amazing, budget-blowing WOW!-fest. And about half of this episode was equally stunning. But there was also a lot—a LOT!—of filler. And ultimately, this episode felt (to me, at least), like being the passenger with a student driver who is constantly accelerating and then hitting the brakes hard and then repeating the process.

So for the next-to-last time this season, let’s dive into my thoughts on an episode of Discovery

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DISCOVERY’s twelfth episode: very watchable, but was it GOOD? (editorial review)

WE HAVE SPAM, SPOILERS, EGGS, SPOILERS, BAKED BEANS, AND SPOILERS!

As I watched the 3-minute teaser and opening scene of act one of “Through the Valley of Shadows,” STAR TREK: DISCOVERY‘s twelfth episode of season two, I was dreading having to write another critical blog. It’s not that I have anything against (of for) being negative about Discovery; I just don’t like having to sit through weak or boring episodes that don’t live up to the potential of the series.

We open on Michael Burnham (of course!) whose review of her mother’s time-logs is interrupted by a call from her adopted mother, Amanda Grayson. Yay, I thought! I love Mia Kirshner‘s portrayal of the character. But my hopes were quickly dashed as I saw Burnham yet again falling into self-pity and blaming herself for everything that goes wrong in the universe.

Amanda gets to complete her second short line of dialog just as she is interrupted by a Spock-knock at the door. Still not in uniform, Spock apologizes for the interruption, but the captain needs them. Amanda gets nine more words, and then the scene that began with such potential is over 63 seconds after it began. Sigh…

Then it’s a cut to a briefing—again! What episode this season hasn’t kicked off with some kind of briefing? But at least this one wasn’t interrupted by Tillybabble. In fact, Mary Wiseman doesn’t appear in this episode at all (she wasn’t available the week of filming)…and to be honest, I didn’t really miss her. The episode felt more “grown up” without Tilly stealing her scenes. The briefing itself wasn’t bad, although every time I hear Tyler or another Klingon say “Kay-lesh” (Kahless), I cringe. Worf managed to get through two different Star Trek series pronouncing it “Kay-less”—is it really that hard for this show to be consistent with canon???

Then we come back from the opening credits with a scene between Burnham and Tyler that, as usual, showed almost no chemistry between the two actors and characters. Some quick exposition, a passive-aggressive zinger from Tyler, and then Tyler hears a beep that starts the real episode.

And that’s when everything started getting really good (and not so really good)…

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STRUGGLE IS POINTLESS on STAR TREK: DISCOVERY! (editorial review)

SPOILERS – THEY’RE PART OF THIS COMPLETE BREAKFAST!

Last week, I wrote what was only my second negative review for an episode of STAR TREK: DISCOVERY for season two. And the blog resulted in surprisingly passionate responses on Facebook, particularly in the “big” (107K member) Star Trek group and the (40K member) Star Trek: Discovery group. Some folks agreed with what I said. Others didn’t. But a disturbingly high number of posts were just plain mean and confrontational.

While I won’t harp on this point too much—because complaining about nasty posts on Facebook is like complaining about the smell of animal poop at a zoo—I’d just like to point out a few examples of how to respectfully disagree with someone…

And here’s some examples of how to be a mean person…

All of this vitriol simply because someone has a different opinion from you??? When I was growing up, not everyone thought “The Doomsday Machine” was the best TOS episode like I did. But if someone thought “Spock’s Brain” was the best episode, I might quietly think they were weird, but I wouldn’t call them an “irrelevant shrub” (what odes that even mean???) or tell them to “PISS OFF” or suggest someone blow them out an airlock.

It seems lately that Star Trek: Discovery (like so many things in this world) has polarized us. And for some people, any criticism of this show is seen as an “attack” that must be defended with a counter-attack. It’s ridiculous…and so discordant with everything Gene Roddenberry ever tried to teach us.

The irony here is that I’ve actually written seven very positive reviews this season (you can read them here). I’m not a Discovery “hater” and happily praise the show when I think it’s been a decent episode. And when I don’t enjoy an episode, I share those thoughts, too. My opinion might not match yours, and that’s OKAY. We’re allowed to disagree.

There’s nothing wrong with feeling strongly about Star Trek and Discovery. But I challenge anyone to defend being obnoxious to someone simply for writing a blog review that they didn’t like.


All right, let’s move on to reviewing this week’s episode, “Perpetual Infinity”—which many of you will be happy (relieved?) to learn that I felt was a much stronger and more watchable episode than last week, and here’s why…

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