DISCOVERY’S fifth episode of season 2… far from perfection! (editorial review)

SPOILERS UP THE WAZOO!!!

Oh, well.

After four very positive reviews from the guy known for his generally critical reviews of STAR TREK: DISCOVERY‘s first season, some of my readers were beginning to wonder if Jonathan had been replaced with an alternate universe doppelgänger.

Not this time, though. “Saints of Imperfection” was just that: imperfection. Now, it’s not that I expect every episode of Discovery to be” perfect”—that starship sailed long ago!—but this one was far from it. In fact, it regressed into a lot of what I used to complain about often in season one: sloppy and lazy writing, rushing to “hit the beats” without giving characters or viewers a chance to emotionally process all that’s hurtling at us, unbelievable plot contrivances, predictability, and a host of other annoyances (at least in my book).

Granted, this was the final episode produced under the supervision of former show-runners Gretchen Berg and Aaron Harberts, who were reportedly fired because of cost overruns and also for mistreating the staff writers. Both reasons are very evident in this episode. Although the VFX looked gorgeous and could easily win an Emmy later this year, I can understand why the budget for Discovery was blown. And while I love watching exciting VFX, I much prefer a good story with characters I care about.

And that brings us to the writing, which surprised me because the writer, Kirsten Beyer, wrote the strongest episode of season one, “Si Vis Pacem, Para Bellum” (the one on the forest planet where Saru freaks out), and is also the only staff writer who has several published Star Trek (Voyager) novels. In other words, Kirsten knows her Trek and her writing. So what happened to so totally derail this episode and backslide into many of the old problems of season one?

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Star Trek’s DISCOVERY RECOVERY continues! (editorial review)

Admiral, there be SPOILERS here!

At first, I was going to title this blog “Has STAR TREK: DISCOVERY Finally Got Its Groove Back?” Then I realized that it never really had a grove during season one…at least for me.

But the series does seem to have found a new groove that began with the first episode of season two and has continued now into its fourth episode, “An Obol for Charon.” And for anyone wondering what the heck that means, an Obol is an ancient Greek coin that was put in the mouth of a corpse before burial to be taken down to the underworld and used to pay Charon, the Ferryman, for a trip across the River Styx. (Speaking of which, how awesome was this song from 1982?)

Now, the episode itself wasn’t as good the second episode of season two, but it was better than the third episode. And it felt infinitely more Star Trek-like than nearly the entire first season. In fact, let’s take a look at how Star Trek is working its way back into Discovery

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STAR TREK: DISCOVERY makes a major KLINGON KOURSE KORRECTION! (editorial review)

SPOILERS? WE’VE GOT A FEW. BUT THEN AGAIN, TOO FEW TO MENTION…

Along with much of the United States this past week, hell has frozen over yet again as Jonathan Lane writes a THIRD consecutive mostly-positive blog about STAR TREK: DISCOVERY! Granted, my first blog of season two was more noncommittal…yet hopeful. But my second blog was 100% raving praise.

So what about the third episode, “Point of Light”?

I wasn’t prepared to like it. In fact, after watching the manic first three minutes where the camera NEVER ONCE STOPPED MOVING (seriously, watch it again), I was feeling carsick…or maybe starship sick. I knew the Klingons were coming this episode, and I really hated them and their incessant subtitles in season one.

So I was prepared to write a blog titled “Two Out of Three Ain’t Bad…” or “Well, that Didn’t Last Long…” full of disappointment that Discovery had stumbled and slipped back into the same old problems. I began to mentally compose my opening complaint that saying, “Attention: trainee half-marathon approaching!” should NEVER be followed by turning OUT the lights so you can’t see what’s coming! “Starfleet stupidity or just idiotic writing?”

Yep, I was totally gonna write a blog like that—but then Amanda happened…

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STAR TREK finally comes to DISCOVERY!!! (editorial review)

WARNING – There’s spoilers off the starboard bow!

People seem to think that I only write negative things about STAR TREK: DISCOVERY…that I’ll never accept it and will always find something to criticize: uniforms, Klingons, lack of banter, etc.

Well, the pigs are flying folks! Satan is skating to work! And Jonathan Lane is about to write a 100% POSITIVE review of the latest episode of Discovery, “New Eden.”

What can I say? I loved it. It felt like I was watching STAR TREK…possibly for the first time since Burnham and Georgiou walked across that desert planet at the beginning of the premiere episode. Nothing bothered me…not the uniforms or the “non-canon” console graphics or even Tilly. Heck, I didn’t even mind that the magic mushroom drive once again saved the day.

When it’s good Star Trek—when it FEELS like good Star Trek—all the rest of the discontinuities with canon can be safely beamed out of my mind.

So what made this feel like “real” Star Trek to me…?

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STAR TREK: DISCOVERY season two premiere REVIEW – Am I back on board? Well…

WARNING: Teeny-weeny spoilers ahead

On Thursday night, I watched the season two premiere of STAR TREK: DISCOVERY, the episode”Brother.” I also watched the latest episode of The Orville just before because fate and network programming executives have seen fit that new episodes of both shows debut on the same night!

Well…

Mostly, the reviews I’ve read seem to be positive. My friend Dave even texted me the following morning and said, “Considering all the banter, I thought you’d have enjoyed it…”

For me, it wasn’t that simple. “It was good” or “it was bad” or “it was better than season one” or “it was closer to Star Trek” oversimplifies what I consider to be a very complex reaction to a show that is obviously hitting the “reset” button after its first season struggled to attract an audience. Discovery had to make a lot of course corrections for season two, and on some maneuvers it succeeded and leaves me hopeful—and for others, I sigh and shake my head as the show is still missing the mark…at least for me.

In other words: it’s complicated…

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Are video pirates LOSING INTEREST in CBS’s new SHORT TREKS?

Have video pirates lost their enthusiasm for the new SHORT TREKS mini-episodes being released by CBS…and possibly for new Star Trek in general?  If so, then it’s a sorta good news/bad news situation for CBS.  The good news is that video piracy hurts the bottom line for CBS.  So if folks are downloading Discovery and Short Treks without paying a subscription fee (to either All Access or Netflix), that’s potentially money out of CBS’ pocket.  So less piracy is a GOOD thing, right?

Well, here’s the bad news.  Video piracy is also a barometer, of sorts.  Does decreased interest in Short Treks by pirates imply that the general public is also not interested?  And what makes me say that video pirates are losing interest in Short Treks in the first place?

It all began early last month while I was having dinner with a friend (who shall remain nameless) who illegally downloads Star Trek: Discovery and Short Treks.  For the record, I personally do NOT do this, and I subscribed to CBS All Access from October 2017 through February 2018.  Here’s my e-mail receipt from them…

So just to be clear, I am NOT endorsing video piracy in any way.  This blog is simply looking at an existing trend from a journalistic perspective.  Video piracy (or any kind of digital piracy) is illegal and should not be attempted by anyone reading my blogs.

And now that that’s out of the way, back to my story…

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NO CENSORSHIP for MIDNIGHT’S EDGE on Fan Film Forum… (editorial update)

Last week, I published a blog about the MIDNIGHT’S EDGE tabloid-style reporting on Star Trek…and the controversy it often triggers among fans.  I myself am more than somewhat conflicted when it comes to this video series and the content it presents online.

I also reported last week that the Fan Film Forum Facebook group was being polled to see whether members wanted to ban all postings providing links to Midnight’s Edge videos because such postings tended to rile up many fans on both sides of the Discovery/CBS fence (supporters and detractors) and result in rancorous commentary.

After a week of voting, the polls closed last night with a final tally of 21 votes to ban and 40 votes not to ban.  So by a margin of 2-to-1, there will be NO censorship of Midnight’s Edge on Fan Film Forum.

I have to say, I am very relieved.  I’m not comfortable with censorship of anything that isn’t rude and crude, insulting, or patently false.  And as I said, Midnight’s Edge isn’t patently false.  But it is filled with rumor and innuendo that all too often turns out not to be true.

As an example of one such misleading claim, Midnight’s Edge just this past Tuesday released a legitimate interview with the legendary NICHOLAS MEYER (writer and director of Star Trek II and VI, among other films).  He was asked about his proposed Ceti Alpha V project for CBS, and here’s what he said…

Now check out what Midnight’s Edge was reporting about the new Nick Meyer series during the summer of LAST year…

Obviously, their “reporting” from last summer was completely wrong.  Meyer has now said that his project was only ever commissioned as three-night event and not a new TV series…and certainly not as a replacement for Discovery.

Granted, back in their 2017 podcast, Midnight’s Edge did say “word is…” and “rumor…”—so Midnight’s Edge isn’t committed to standing behind what they said last year.

But let’s face it, when listening to that second video (from 2017), it’s hard NOT to assume that these rumors are true, right?  The narrator’s voice just sounds so sure and confident.

In a perfect world, Midnight’s Edge would report only verifiable facts and not rumors and speculation.  But then the world wouldn’t be so perfect for Midnight’s Edge…which I’m certain would not have nearly as many views.

So once again, I advise folks to take what Midnight’s Edge says with a healthy pile of salt and listen carefully and intelligently, not blindly accepting everything they tell you.

My love/hate relationship with MIDNIGHT’S EDGE… (editorial)

“The first duty of every Starfleet officer is to the truth!”  Picard said those eleven words to Wesley Crusher in season five of TNG, but for me those were words I’d already been living by for a quarter century.  I don’t hate much in my life, but I do hate lies.  It’s one of the reasons I call out Axanar detractors when they make up provable falsehoods and why I publicly correct even my own readers when they say things like James Cawley used crowd-funded donations to build his TOS sets (he didn’t).

So what do I think about MIDNIGHT’S EDGE?

For those of you who aren’t familiar with it, Midnight’s Edge (and its sister podcast Midnight’s Edge After Dark) is a YouTube channel made up of hundreds of videos—most of them very well-produced—from different voice-over “reporters”covering films and TV shows from the sci-fi, fantasy, horror, and superhero genres.  They bill themselves as “spin-free analysis of Hollywood corporate politics, film & comics.”

Well, kinda.

I will admit to only watching the videos they’ve made covering the behind-the-scenes “ugliness” of Star Trek: Discovery.  And as I said, the quality of their graphics, sound, background music, transitions, and the organization of information is extremely good.  I’m never bored and usually am quite engrossed for the entire extent of these 20-to-30 minute long videos.  And that’s probably part of the reason these folks typically get views in the tens or even hundreds of thousands (occasionally even cracking a million!).

But every time I watch an episode ofMidnight’s Edge, I have to stop and ask myself: “Is this really going on?”  I mean, it’s usually so JUICY—the intrigue, the back-biting, the incompetence, the panic at CBS!—that a cynical part of me certainly wants it to be true.  Those with a passionate dislike for CBS and Discovery will likely get an emotional rush of satisfaction to see things unraveling behind the scenes at All Access as the house of cards appears to be crashing down.

But is it all, in fact, true…or are fans being duped?

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CBS ALL ACCESS releases its version of a fan film: SHORT TREKS (editorial review)

WARNING: there will be some spoilers LATER,
but I will give you ample advance notice.

Going in, I wasn’t certain what to make of the first of CBS All Access’ SHORT TREKS, four “mini-episodes” of Star Trek to be released once a month leading up to the January premiere of season two of the Discovery series.

I’ll be honest, part of me was ready to hate it.  It’s no secret that I was mostly disappointed and frustrated with nearly every episode of Star Trek: Discovery‘s first season.  And these Short Treks seemed to be just a way to “lure” fans into paying extra money to CBS not for 4 or 5 hours of new Trek episodes each month but for only 10 or 15 MINUTES of these brief vignettes.

Adding insult to injury for Trek fans outside of the U.S. and Canada (which are getting to see these four short films on the subscription services All Access and Space, respectively), Netflix has decided NOT to offer Short Treks…at least for now.  TrekMovie has some theories as to why (which you can read here), but basically, CBS offered and Netflix passed, as the latter service is more geared toward binge-watching behavior and accepts short films in batched packages, not one at a time.

So Short Treks was carrying a lot of baggage right out of the starting gate, for me and others.  Some fans have even been suggesting recently that CBS ripped off the concept of a short stand-alone vignette from fan films themselves.  To them, I say: so did Battlestar Galactica with “The Resistance” in 2006, “The Face of the Enemy” in 2008, and “Blood and Chrome” in 2011.  The Walking Dead has done numerous short-film webisodes also.  In other words, just because CBS had the idea to make mini-episodes, that doesn’t mean they “stole” the idea from fans…or from Syfy or AMC.  Sometimes a good idea is just a good idea.

But to me, at least, the first Short Trek, an episode entitled “Runaway” which debuted October 4, felt a lot like a fan film…especially now that CBS’s guidelines are limiting the run-time of Trek fan films to no more than 15 minutes.

The question is, though, is that a good thing or a bad thing?

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PICARD TREK…what is CBS thinking???? (editorial, part 2)

Yesterday, I began discussing the explosive news that hit Trek fandom like a warp core breach over this past weekend: SIR PATRICK STEWART will be returning to play Jean-Luc Picard in a brand new Star Trek television project.  It’s not known yet if this will be an ongoing series, a mini-series, or just a made-for-TV movie or pilot.  No scripts have been written, and indeed, there are no real details yet detailing whether this will be Captain Picard, Admiral Picard, Ambassador Picard, or just some bald guy who used to fight the Borg now running a small winery in eastern France.

But one thing is for sure: CBS is now committed to the project because it’s been officially announced to both Trekkies and the world at large.  Nearly all major entertainment media magazines were carrying the news on their websites within 24 hours.  It’d be tough for CBS to back out now.

But is this a good thing?

After all, in an interview on StarTrek.com back in 2010, Sir Patrick himself said of Next Gen: “I remain very proud of the work that we did, very proud of the series and the movies, but I do not wish to return to it.”  In a convention appearance around that same time where I saw him, Stewart explained that he felt he’d thoroughly examined every aspect of Picard creatively as a actor and was okay moving on.

Is CBS just desperately going back to a well that’s already been mostly tapped…rather than working to create something fresh and new?  Are they relying on Patrick Stewart as “stunt casting” to help draw in more viewers?

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