DISCOVERY’s latest episode “Anomaly” gave me what I’ve been asking for…so why was I so UP IN THE AIR about it? (editorial review)

SPOILERS COMING OUT THE WAZOO!!!

First of all, VCBS moved quickly to (try to) clean up their “mess” from last week, now debuting STAR TREK: DISCOVERY season 4 internationally on Paramount+ and Pluto TV in at least some countries this week, releasing episodes 1 and 2 together. It’s far from a perfect fix, but at least I don’t have to worry about spoilers as much as I did last week when only fans in the U.S., Canada, and those with a questionably moral compass could view it.

So let’s jump into the second episode of the season, “Anomaly,” or as I like to call it: “Quiet Conversations Punctuated By Action Scenes and Technobabble in the Middle.”

Okay, stop, stop, stop! I did NOT hate the episode. And I didn’t love it either. But here’s the thing, folks: I should have loved it.

The reason that I should have loved “Anomaly” is that it corrected many, MANY things that I’ve been complaining about for three seasons now. And for those of you who don’t make it a point of memorizing Jonathan’s list of grievances, here’s a brief Festivus refresher of what has most grated on me and what this episode did to fix those issues…

Characters weren’t given time to react and process traumatic events

I remember my go-to example of this was when the crew of Discovery got back from the Mirror Universe in season one, having been betrayed by their former commanding officer (Lorca). He turned out to be an evil psychopath who tried to kill them all. And the only “traumatized” emotional reaction we got from any of the characters was when Admiral Cornwell phasers an innocent bowl of fortune cookies out of existence. Everyone else, it seems, was fine.

The problem with the series in the first two seasons was a rush to hit the major story “beats” (significant events that change the characters’ direction in some major way), and once a beat happened, there was a rush to the next beat, and so on and so on. The writers didn’t give the characters a chance to breathe.

This episode, on the other hand, had Book dealing with the destruction of his home world, Michael dealing with her feelings for Book affecting her command instincts, Tilly dealing with what happened on the space station last episode and all the events from season three, Adira dealing with both Tilly as well as uncertainties about Gray’s upcoming transition (interesting choice of wording) from disembodied mind-ghost to full-bodied Soong-type synth, and Stamets’ ongoing feelings of inadequacy and helplessness to save his family that led to him getting shot out of an airlock in season three.

So we went from almost no characters having lingering traumas to almost no characters NOT having lingering traumas. That’s what I wanted, right? Well, let me get back to you on that after I continue with the ol’ airing of the grievances…

Continue reading “DISCOVERY’s latest episode “Anomaly” gave me what I’ve been asking for…so why was I so UP IN THE AIR about it? (editorial review)”

Where in the world is STAR TREK: DISCOVERY??? (editorial and review)

ALMOST ZERO SPOILERS!

The fourth season of the wild ‘n’ wacky STAR TREK: DISCOVERY just premiered…at least in the U.S. and Canada. The rest of the planet will need to wait until an undefined date in “early 2022” (according to CBS) to view the new season because, um, reasons.

Up until this past week, viewers around the world (outside of the U.S. and Canada) got to watch Discovery on Netflix. This was because the infrastructure —both technical and red tape—to set up CBS All Access, which is now Paramount+, was not yet properly in place in other countries. In other words, without a service like Netflix—or in the case of PICARD and LOWER DECKS, Amazon Prime—there would be no way for international Star Trek fans to watch the various new series. So CBS offered non-U.S. and Canada streaming licenses to those two services.

But now, with Paramount+ now available in about 20 foreign countries (and another 25 set to add the service within the next year), the equation had changed entirely. CBS began unwinding its streaming agreements with Netflix earlier this year when TOS, Voyager, and Enterprise were all permanently removed from Netflix back in September. Obviously, CBS (now ViacomCBS) wants as many subscribers to Paramount+ as possible, and having their content simultaneously available on Netflix doesn’t exactly encourage folks in places like Europe, Asia, and Australia to sign up for an extra paid streaming service.

Indeed, reports are saying that VCBS had been working an agreement to buy out all of Netflix’s financial interest in Star Trek: Discovery, a show they had co-produced with CBS back in 2017. Unfortunately for fans in countries that do NOT contain the Rocky Mountains or share a coastline with the Great Lakes, that deal was finally inked this past week, and the announcement that Discovery would NOT be debuting internationally on Netflix on Thursday, November 18 came on November 16…just two days before hundreds of thousands of fans outside of North America were looking forward to the big premiere.

CBS tried to put some lipstick on this pig…

…but in the end, few besides the suits at VCBS were particularly happy about the last minute “news.” This included the Discovery cast and production crew, many of whom tweeted their own frustration with the timing of the announcement and the fact that they weren’t informed.

I’m not going to lambast VCBS for their decision(s) in this matter. I totally understand wanting to consolidate Trekkies to Paramount+ as it debuts worldwide, rather than having them giving their fan bucks to Netflix instead. And I assume that, in a perfect world, infrastructure would probably have already been in place to premiere Discovery internationally on the same date that season four premiered in North America. For whatever reason, that didn’t happen. And I suspect that negotiations with Netflix were precarious enough that sharing the news early with the cast and production crew (and likely having it leak) would have done way more harm than good.

That said, there is an obvious risk for VCBS in this…

Continue reading “Where in the world is STAR TREK: DISCOVERY??? (editorial and review)”

If you didn’t love STAR TREK: PRODIGY, then you’re probably NOT eleven years old… (editorial review)

One of my favorite stories of “generational” Star Trek comes from novelist/comic book writer PETER DAVID. It was 1989, and he was doing the Star Trek comic for DC. Peter needed to do a little research, so he plunked Wrath of Khan into the VCR and started watching it. A few minutes later, his oldest daughter, Shana, walked into the family room and asked her daddy what he was watching. “I’m watching Star Trek, honey,” Peter replied.

Shana loved to watch Star Trek with her father, so she sat down next to him. After a few minutes, with the most bewildered expression on her face, Shana turned to Peter and asked, totally confused: “Daddy, where’s Worf???”

Back in 1989, with Star Trek: The Next Generation only in its second or third season, most fans had grown up raised on Kirk, Spock, McCoy, and an Enterprise without families or a bartender on board (well, I suppose the ship’s doctor sometimes doubled as a bartender). We liked Next Gen (mostly—it was still early on), but it wasn’t really “our” Star Trek. But for Shana David and other kids who grew up in the 1980s and 1990s, TNG became “their” Star Trek.

I decided to wait until the second week before writing a blog about the the new STAR TREK: PRODIGY because I wanted to see what the show was going to be like once Holo-Janeway was given some decent screen time. But I’m going to avoid diving too deeply into a review because most of my readers have probably already decided that you…

  1. Love it,
  2. Hate it,
  3. Want to wait to get a better idea of where they’re going with it, or
  4. Will never watch anything the CBS produces with the name “Star Trek” in the title because they are determined to ruin the franchise and screw over the fans.

I’m firmly in group #3, by the way. My initial reaction after the first two-part episode, “Lost and Found”—and I swear this is exactly what I thought when it ended—was: “Well, I liked it more than DISCOVERY.” And I mean that from a writing, pacing, and character development perspective—even though the first episode was only (very) peripherally Star Trek: a few recognizable aliens, a Federation starship, and of course, a few seconds of Holo-Janeway.

But in the end, it wasn’t really MY opinion that mattered this time; it was that of my 11-year-old son, Jayden. Usually, when I ask Jayden how school was or what he thought of dinner, he’ll say, “Good.” But when I asked him to give me his reaction to the first two-part episode of Prodigy, he was much more enthusiastic than usual. He said, “VERY good” with a long and drawn out “VERY.” That’s high praise!

Continue reading “If you didn’t love STAR TREK: PRODIGY, then you’re probably NOT eleven years old… (editorial review)”

Some thoughts on “TOXIC” fandom… (editorial)

The “fallout” from my Star Trek Day blog editorial continues even five days later…on Facebook, in the comments section of that blog, and even via e-mail. In fact, after sharing my excitement over the new Trek series with my best friend, he was adamant in his resistance to the new direction of Star Trek.

You can slap the name on it but it don’t make it Star Trek! Okay, maybe it’s a little bit Trek, but it really is just bad TV, forget bad Star Trek. Terrible writing, terrible acting, bad directing. Unwatchable to me. If I had never seen Trek I still wouldn’t watch it as just below the standards of everything else I prioritize.

Yeesh! Well, hoping that I might be able to change his mind just a little, I sent my friend something I was really psyched about: the just-released trailer for the brand new animated series Star Trek: Prodigy

He watched it, but my friend was NOT impressed…

Terrible.  Not recognizable as Star Trek no matter how much you put old Trek actors in the show.  It’s all young kids, stupid aliens, and action and special effects.  It’s not about people and it lacks any depth and intellectualism.  It bears no resemblance to Star Trek.

I joked to my friend that I was a Star Trek “liberal,” and he was a Star Trek “conservative.” This is also true in real political life. He voted for Trump and other GOP presidential candidates going back decades (although he has recently left the Republican party and re-registered as an Independent, but he is still quite conservative), and I’ve voted for Democrats pretty much since I turned 18. And yet, we’re best friends…we just constantly argue about politics. Yes, folks, it CAN be done!

However, in reference to Star Trek, I was using the terms “liberal” and “conservative” not politically but literally…as in dictionary definition of each word. Liberal literally means “open to new ideas, not bound by traditional forms.”  I’m totally that way when it comes to Star Trek. I have a love/hate relationship with Discovery, and I think Picard did well for eight episodes and then jumped the shark on the last two in its first season (and the villains totally sucked). But I remain open and supportive of the various new series…as I’ve said in countless blog posts.

As a comparison, conservative means “tending or disposed to maintain existing views, conditions, or institutions.” That’s my friend (and many fans) when it comes to Star Trek these days. And back in 1987, it was those “conservative” fans who thought Star Trek must be about Kirk and Spock (or maybe Captain Sulu) and 23rd century adventures, not a bald French captain with an English accent in the 24th century flying around in a starship that looked like a pregnant duck.

In short, my friend is Scotty looking at the U.S.S. Excelsior and saying, “Aye, and if my grandmother had wheels, she’d be a wagon.” And I’m Kirk responding, “Now, now, Mr. Scott…young minds, fresh ideas. Be tolerant.”

Continue reading “Some thoughts on “TOXIC” fandom… (editorial)”

Now THAT was a STAR TREK DAY…I am SO excited now to be a fan!!!! (editorial)

What a difference five years makes!!

No, you are not accidentally reading yesterday’s blog where I compared the anemic celebration of Star Trek‘s 50th anniversary with the announced “Star Trek Day” livecast and events scheduled for the 55th anniversary. In that blog, I asked whether NO Star Trek really was “better” than BAD Star Trek? And honestly, I thought the answer was obvious…so much so that I worried that folks on Facebook would make fun of me for writing 2,210 words on a question as easy as “Is the sky green?”

Man, was I surprised!

Nearly a thousand views of yesterday’s blog, and every few seconds another “DING!” from Facebook where someone added a comment in one of the dozen or so groups where I posted a link. While many folks agreed with me that even low-quality Star Trek provides room for improvement (and CBS Trek HAS been improving)., others passionately disagreed. They felt angry and betrayed, insisting that the sacrifice in quality isn’t worth it. Star Trek needed to remain pure and true to GENE RODDENBERRY’s vision. And if it didn’t, if Star Trek simply became “bad TV” (which they felt the new shows were) then better to have no Star Trek at all…if forced to make that binary choice.

I almost couldn’t believe how many fan still felt so thoroughly negative about the newer Star Treks. Frankly, it kinda brought me down as the day went on knowing how many fans would really choose to have no new Star Trek at all over at least something…no matter the quality. By the time the Star Trek Day livestream started, I was almost too bummed to watch it.

In fact, I started out NOT watching it because I had to pick up my son and drive him home from Robotics. By the time we returned, the first half of the online event was already over, but I noticed folks posting all over Facebook, excited about the characters joining the crew of the U.S.S. Enterprise under commad of ANSON MOUNT’S Captain Christopher Pike on in Star Trek: Strange New Worlds. Perhaps you saw the following…

Now, I did shudder a little at the Andorian/Aenar make-up—assuming that’s what he is. But despite being somewhat different than established canon, it still looked pretty cool (WAY better than first-season Star Trek: Discovery Klingons). And I’m not sure yet about those uniforms. On the other hand, being able to see a younger Nurse Chapel and Cadet Uhura is intriguing to me. It’s a bold move, and not entirely outside of the realm of canonic possibility. We’re at a time now when Kirk is likely already serving aboard the Farragut (in his early 20s), so if Uhura is a few years younger than that, it works. As for Dr. M’Benga, he could totally have been on the Enterprise at that point. And there’s a crew member named La’an Noonien Singh? KHANNNNNNN!!!!!!

But wait! What was this emotion I was suddenly feeling? Oh, yes…excitement!

Continue reading “Now THAT was a STAR TREK DAY…I am SO excited now to be a fan!!!! (editorial)”

STAR TREK at 55…is NO Star Trek really “better” than BAD Star Trek? (editorial)

Today is “Star Trek Day“…marking 55 years since the first-ever episode of Star Trek was aired on NBC Television back on September 8, 1966.

In celebration of this special day (at least for us Trekkers), ViacomCBS announced a series of panels that will stream live today at 5:30 PM Pacific Time/8:30 PM Eastern Time from the Skirball Cultural Center in Los Angeles. These panels and a number of related special events will be free to watch on StarTrek.com/Day. The panels will also be available to stream for free in the U.S. on Paramount+ and Paramount+’s Twitch page. After their initial airing, the panels will be available on-demand on Paramount+’s YouTube Channel and on Paramount+.

To go along with this announcement, the studio released this wonderful montage video…

Seriously, how cool was that? I mean, even if you aren’t a fan of the newer CBS Star Trek series, this whole event is pretty impressive. Indeed, that same Skirball Cultural Center will be running an exclusive Star Trek: Exploring Strange New Worlds exhibit for four months beginning in October. During that time, a new animated Star Trek series titled Star Trek: Prodigy will be debuting not only on the subscription-based Paramount+ streaming service but also on the children’s broadcast channel Nickelodeon. This will be the first Star Trek series in 48 years to be targeted specifically at kids (the next generation of Trekkers).

But that’s not all! Next year will see the debut of ANSON MOUNT as Captain Christopher Pike in the brand new series Star Trek: Strange New Worlds…a return to episodic Star Trek where storylines won’t stretch over entire seasons featuring ever-escalating risks, challenges, and dangers. Instead (we’re desperately hoping!), it’ll be good old-fashioned Star Trek the way we’ve loved it in the past.

And of course, we’ve got Q, Guinan, and the Borg Queen coming to Star Trek: Picard, and whatever the U.S.S. Discovery is gonna do now that her nacelles detach. (Okay, maybe not EVERYTHING is coming up roses.) Oh, and we’ve still got two-thirds of a season of Star Trek: Lower Decks coming out each week.

But hey, let’s stop for a moment and take a look back—way, way, waaaaaaaay back in time (with the help of a Guardian named “Carl”) to a year you all might barely remember because it was soooooooo long ago. That year, of course, was…

Continue reading “STAR TREK at 55…is NO Star Trek really “better” than BAD Star Trek? (editorial)”

Did STAR TREK: LOWER DECKS just make fun of STAR TREK: DISCOVERY??? (editorial)

JONATHAN, HIS BLOG FILLED WITH SPOILERS!

I almost couldn’t believe it, but there it was. STAR TREK: LOWER DECKS‘ second episode of season 2, “”Kayshon, His Eyes Open,” includes a total zinger at the end aimed directly at its older sister-series, Star Trek: Discovery. But before I show you the clip (you’re just gonna scroll to the bottom of this blog to watch it anyway, but y’all come back up now, y’hear?), let me share a few thoughts with you…

It’s becoming increasingly more challenging to write these blogs about the various CBS All Access…er, I mean ViacomCBS Paramount+ Star Trek series. The reason is that I’m not really a reviewer…and most people don’t actually care what I or other reviewers think about the episodes, anyway. It’s not that we don’t have interesting insights to share, but people either agree with us and just want validation that someone else believes the same way they do, or else they don’t agree and pretty much just want to argue and tell us how wrong we are. Star Trek reviewers these days might as well be shouting “Kal-if-fee!” at a Vulcan marriage ceremony or “All Klingons are wussies!” at an Ascension Ritual.

That’s certainly the case with Discovery and, to a SLIGHTLY lesser extent, to Star Trek: Picard. Lower Decks, however, has been a bit of a strange puppy. Unlike the two other Trek series I just mentioned, not nearly as many fans seem to have that same level of soul-devouring moral indignation about Lower Decks. In other words, there’s not quite as many Lower Decks “haters” out there. And indeed, there’s rather a few fans who think Lower Decks is the only “real” Star Trek series being produced anymore—embracing Star Trek‘s rich heritage and feeling very much like a sequel to Next Gen, DS9, and Voyager rather than a complete makeover reboot that shakes canon like an Etch-a-Sketch. The stories on Lower Decks FEEL like Star Trek…except for one thing:

Humor.

It’s not that Star Trek can never be funny. Ever since Captain Kirk got buried under an avalanche of dead tribbles and Spocko uttered the words, “I’d advise ya’s ta keep dialin’, Oxmyx,” Trek has demonstrated itself to be quite capable of humor. The most quotable lines from Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home (“Well, a double-dumbass on you!” “I love Italian, and so do you…” “Hello, computer…” “No, I’m from Iowa; I only work in outer space…” “Ve are looking for nuclear wessels…”) were the funniest ones. Data studied comedy from Joe Piscopo, for goodness sakes, and an entire episode of DS9 could well have been titled “The Bad News Niners.” And don’t even get me started on Dr. Chaotica!

But Lower Decks is different. It crosses a line.

Or does it…?

Continue reading “Did STAR TREK: LOWER DECKS just make fun of STAR TREK: DISCOVERY??? (editorial)”

If STAR TREK supposedly “sucks,” then why did ALEX KURTZMAN just get a $160 MILLION mega-deal??? (editorial)

Over the past few days, there has been a combination of irate indignation, embarrassed disbelief, and smug “I toldja so!”s going around Star Trek fandom faster than COVID at a super-spreader event! And all of this is because ViacomCBS just inked a five-and-a-half year, $160 million development deal with ALEX KURTZMAN and his SECRET HIDEOUT production company.

Make no mistake, this is a HUGE agreement…even for Hollywood. It’s comparable to other recent 9-figure mega-deals like the ones Shonda Rhimes and Ryan Murphy just inked with Netflix and Jordan Peele closed with Amazon Studios. Kurtzman is now sitting quite pretty and comfortably as not only an unquestioned powerhouse in the entertainment industry (and at CBS specifically) but also as the unquestioned and unchallenged “Trek Tsar” (get it?) for at least the next half-decade.

Some fans were not amused.

After confident (and often arrogant) prognostications that Mr. Kurtzman was not only on the way out at CBS but had already been fired—multiple times!!!—over his “humiliating failures” with the Star Trek franchise, news of this mega-deal shocked most of these previously self-assured fans. It has sent many of them into an overly dramatic show of resigned indignation, like this fellow…

Some folks just couldn’t accept that VCBS actually loves Alex Kurtzman—even AFTER the deal was announced. Amusingly, I was chatting with one of these people the day before the announcement, and we had this exchange (I am not sharing this individual’s name). My comments are in blue…

Continue reading “If STAR TREK supposedly “sucks,” then why did ALEX KURTZMAN just get a $160 MILLION mega-deal??? (editorial)”