What STAR TREK: DISCOVERY just got very RIGHT…and WRONG! (editorial review)

AND THE REVIEWER SAID UNTO THE READERS: “LET THERE BE SPOILERS!”

Reviews for STAR TREK: DISCOVERY‘s second episode of season three, “Far from Home,” have been mostly positive (with a few dissatisfied clunkers that I skimmed here and there). Speaking only for myself, though, I think it was my most enjoyable episode of Discovery so far.

Now, “enjoyable” doesn’t mean best or strongest or most amazing. But I very much ENJOYED the experience of watching it. It was an “easy” episode to watch—not too dark or broody, funny in a lot of places, not too convoluted or filled with exposition, decent character interplay, and a pretty straightforward bad guy to root against.

But that’s just the view from orbit. Let’s get closer to the surface and discuss WHY this episode worked so well and was so enjoyable to watch. Let’s look at what they got right and what they got wrong…

AND THE AWARD FOR BEST STARSHIP CRASH INTO AN ICE WORLD GOES TO…

Visual FX are no substitute for good writing and acting and directing and all the rest, of course, but you do need to give credit where it’s due. And while I detested most of the over-cluttered “epic” battle at the end of season two and found most of the VFX in season one too dark and undefined, I now have a favorite Discovery CGI sequence…by a wide margin.

This episode opened with a very exciting sequence where the Discovery crashes into a strange, new world. You might remember that, a week ago, Michael Burnham in her time suit also emerged from the temporal rift and immediately crashed—twice!—once into Book’s ship and then into the world with the Orion and Andorian Mercantile. Perhaps it’s just a pet peeve left over from when I was taking Astronomy 101 back at Cornell in 1987, but I do hate it when writers forget how big and empty space actually is. In this show, however, space is as crowded and as tightly packed as a Trump campaign rally. (Sorry, no politics, Jonathan! Bad blogger! Bad!)

Be that as it may, I’m not going to hold any of that against Discovery. So space is crowded—if it weren’t, the show would be super-boring. Anyway, Discovery emerges and then this quickly happens…

I did find it amusing that, once again, so many lives could have been saved from injury through the use of a 20th century invention known as the seat belt. But hey, at least they can always shout, “Brace! BRACE!!”

However, all kidding aside, that is one awesome sequence! And it shows how far Star Trek has come visually from 1998 when Voyager previously won the award for best starship crash into an ice world…

Continue reading “What STAR TREK: DISCOVERY just got very RIGHT…and WRONG! (editorial review)”

Is STAR TREK: DISCOVERY overcompensating? (editorial review)

SPOILERS NEVER GO OUT OF FASHION!

It’s been a year and a half since we saw Michael Burnham leading the U.S.S. Discovery and her crew into the far future. Eighteen months for us, 930 years for them. Either way, it’s a whole new world for us and for the actors/writers/producers (hey, anyone remember 2019—before the pandemic?), and a whole new galaxy for the show. And it seems like we’re going to need to get used to both 2020 and 3188!

Okay, so it’s time to start these editorial reviews again. When last we left CBS’s flagship Star Trek series, I had a LOT to complain about:

  • The show was way too serious.
  • The plots were too convoluted.
  • The scripts were overly contrived showing lazy/sloppy writing.
  • There was almost no banter between characters.
  • Michael Burnham remained an undeveloped character—coming from a place of controlled logic from a demanding Vulcan upbringing, Burnham was never much “fun” as a character and often uninteresting to watch (despite SONEQUA MARTN-GREEN being a strong actor)
  • The writers jumped from beat to beat without giving the characters a chance to breathe in between.
  • The stories felt too dark and seemingly hopeless most of the time.
  • Trek canon was, more often than not, completely out the window.
  • For a franchise born from “exploring strange, new worlds,” we almost never made it down to an actual planet.
  • The series didn’t feel like Star Trek…only a sci-fi mish-mash with Star Trek elements hung on it like decorations on a Christmas tree.

So when STAR TREK: DISCOVERY jumped to the far future and added a new co-showrunner, MICHELLE PARADISE, to join the always-controversial and always-rumored-to-be-fired-and-never-actually-being-fired ALEX KURTZMAN, I wondered if the series would finally be able to course-correct in its third season. I really wished it would because it’s hard to be a Star Trek fan with such mixed and often frustrated feelings about a current Star Trek TV series.

Well, folks, be careful what you wish for…

Continue reading “Is STAR TREK: DISCOVERY overcompensating? (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)”

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)”

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…

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

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….

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

“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

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

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…

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

ST: Discovery’s ANTHONY RAPP shares film festival performance nomination with two TREK FAN FILM ACTORS!

Okay, this…is…just…plain…COOL!

Although the CBS fan film guidelines say that Star Trek actors can’t appear in Trek fan films anymore, the rules don’t say anything about being nominated in the same category for an independent film festival award!

In this case, the film festival is INDIE SHORT FEST – the Los Angeles International Short Film Festival. And this is no minor film festival. ISF-LA has regular bimonthly screenings in Hollywood and Burbank and features judges from across the movie industry and film schools. In July alone, over 200 independent short films were considered for judging in various production and performance categories.

And that’s where we find Star Trek: Discovery‘s ANTHONY “Paul Stamets” RAPP going head-to-head against two actors from the latest Avalon Universe fan film, Avalon Lost: CHUCK MERE and VICTORIA FOX. None of the above are nominated for anything involving Star Trek, but it’s still an interesting intersection. Typically, most Trek fan film actors aren’t of the caliber to qualify for inclusion in major film festival award shows…and certainly don’t appear nominated in the same category as actual Star Trek actors!

For this show, the award nomination is actually for the very unique category (at least as far as I’ve seen), “Best Acting Duo.” Many times, an actor’s true abilities can be highlighted and enhanced through an amazing chemistry they share with a fellow actor in the same production. This category recognizes when that “magic” happens.

Chuck and Victoria are nominated for a film titled Before My Eyes, about a faulted relationship seen through the eyes of a grieving woman and a regretful man. Directed by Mason Bowen.

Antony Rapp is nominated alongside VIVIAN KERR in a film called Scrap. Kerr plays single mom Beth who get fired and finds herself living in her car, struggling to hide her homelessness from her estranged brother Ben (played by Rapp). Directed by Leena Pendharkar.

Normally, I’d be rooting for the Star Trek actor (regardless of how I might feel about his TV series). But this time, my heart belongs to Chuck and Victoria…not only because they’re fan film actors but because Victoria is also producing and co-directing my fan film INTERLUDE! (Remember to please donate!)

And I might as well spill the beans: Victoria is also going to appear in my fan film, albeit in a small role. Victoria is immensely talented, and while lately I’ve been seeing more of the “production” side of her skills, I’ve also watched her perform in both fan films and actual films. And her acting skills are top notch. In fact, if you have a chance to watch this newly released film by my other director, JOSHUA IRWIN, I highly recommend you check it out. Victoria appears in it (as does the lead actor of the Trek fan films Ghost Ship and Avalon Lost), and it’s just a really well-crafted, entertaining film.

In the meantime, I’ll keep you all posted on who wins the ISF-LA award for “Best Acting Duo” for this round.