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Tag: Star Trek

Why Star Trek: Strange New Worlds is So Good

Another “Star Trek” series? Yep! And this is the one we’ve been waiting for. Here’s my review…

I’ve been a “Star Trek” fan since I was a kid, when I watched reruns of the original series. (My mom would often organize dinner with my dad around me watching Kirk, Spock and Bones at 6pm on WPIX.)

I’ve stuck with the entire Trek universe across all of these decades, and I’ve generally enjoyed every iteration.

Born from “Discovery”
“Star Trek: Discovery” has been the main “Trek” property over the past few years. It’s felt heavy at times and has gone through narrative course corrections in each of its seasons.

Honestly, it’s been a bit too dark and stiff for me. Universal destruction is always just around the corner. Yes, the writers keep adding lines about how the crew is family and how much they love each other. Yes, there’s a lot of hugging and tears. But, I just don’t feel it. Not really.

When a younger Starship Enterprise showed up in season 2 with Captain Christopher Pike, played by Anson Mount, the positive change in energy was dramatic. Sure, it was a gamble giving us another Spock, played by Ethan Peck, but it worked. Plus, we saw Pike’s bold Number One, played by Rebecca Romijn. And instantly, I wanted the storytelling to stay with this younger pre-Kirk Enterprise.

And clearly, I was not alone.

Hit It
Now, we’ve got “Star Trek: Strange New Worlds,” a new series on Paramount+, which follows the voyages of the Enterprise in the decade before Kirk took over. If you’re a Trekkie, you know that Captain Pike and his crew were introduced in “The Cage,” the first pilot for “Star Trek” way back in 1965. (That footage was eventually repurposed in the two-part “Star Trek” episode “The Menagerie.”)

After watching the first two episodes of “Strange New Worlds,” I’m happy to say that this series perfectly captures the energy and fun of the original show.

Yes, fun.
Saving the galaxy used to be fun, right?

There are lots of complementary elements that are helping this new series to hum at warp.

The Strong Cast
Though Pike is now (minor spoiler alert) burdened by knowing his future, Anson Mount continues to give us a compelling Starfleet caption who’s collaborative, funny and also a tad irreverent.

The writers are quickly focusing on exploring the supporting cast. We’ve already got a nice sense of Nurse Chapel played by Jess Bush, and the second episode focuses on Cadet Uhura played by Celia Rose Gooding.

The producers have taken some creative license to update these younger versions of these famous characters, and it’s all for the better. I’m not going to hold the producers to perfectly reflect every detail of the original “Star Trek.”

Better Special Effects
The same goes for the Enterprise. Yes, it’s the same ship, but there are subtle differences on the outside and major enhancements on the bridge. And thanks to modern CGI effects, this ship can really fly. And I cannot tell you (Geek alert!) how much fun it is to watch the Enterprise in action.

The more advanced special effects are a welcome improvement.

Back to the Future
“Strange New Worlds” also benefits from a healthy dose of nostalgia. Sure, there’s a lot of runway for the missions of this previously unexplored crew, but everything feels so familiar and immediately comfortable. The communicators, the tricorders, the transporter beams, and all of those techie sounds… you know all of them!

“Star Trek” series have spent decades trying to differentiate themselves from the original show. “Strange New Worlds” doesn’t need to. These are actually the first chapters of the same Enterprise story.

It’s refreshing that we again get to see the Federation during its peak years, when everything seemed possible.

No More F-Bombs
And I am so happy that this is again TV-PG Star Trek, void of all that unnecessary bad language and occasional F-bombs that have plagued “Discovery” and “Picard.”

“Star Trek” doesn’t need to be so dark and “edgy” to connect with it’s 2022 audience. I think especially these days, we need a reminder that being bright and optimistic is achievable.

I’m looking forward to inviting my 12-year-old son to watch “Strange New Worlds” with me. (He’s not yet connected with “Star Trek” the way he has with Marvel and “Star Wars.”)

Time to Enjoy
No, it’s not groundbreaking “Trek,” but it’s not trying to be. “Strange New Worlds” still succeeds on many levels. It firmly represents “Star Trek’s” core, gives us a great Captain Pike (Thank you, Anson Mount), and most of all… it’s simply refreshing.

And fun.

It’s exactly what we need.

Why Star Trek: Discovery and Picard are Worth Watching Now

If you haven’t been following these series on Paramount+, now’s a great time to finally check them out. Here’s my review.

When I was a kid, I watched the first reruns of the original “Star Trek” and was completely engaged by the adventure and adrenaline-fueled fun. I connected with this family of characters and it locked me in to follow an ever expanding universe of Star Trek stories and characters for the next several decades.

I’ve continued to watch Star Trek throughout my life. All of the series, movies, different timelines and the recent iterations on Paramount+.

And Star Trek has been evolving along the way.

Finding Balance in “Discovery”
“Star Trek: Discovery” currently represents the new norm, and the writers have clearly worked hard to boldly go where no Trek has gone before. They even introduced four-letter words into the scripts. I’m still stinging from the first time they dropped the F-bomb (although I’m finally getting used to the occasional salty language).

“Discovery” has paid significant attention to presenting us with a truly diverse set of characters. DE&I themes run deep throughout. Bravo.

“Discovery” also focuses on feelings. A lot.

Kirk never needed to talk through how he felt. But these Star Trek characters do. Yes, it’s more realistic, but it sometimes slows the pace of the show. You’ve just got to get used to it.

Speaking of feelings, “Discovery’s” scripts often point out how much the crew love each other. There’s lots of hugging and crying.

When this started, I wanted the stories to first spend more time with the secondary characters. I didn’t really know them. So I didn’t really buy all of the intimacy that writers were suddenly pushing into the scripts.

In this fourth season, that dynamic has finally been properly balanced, and the love/respect/admiration factor is more believable.

Fully Embracing the Cliffhanger
I’m also pleased with another important factor that “Discovery” is finally getting right.
It’s the classic Trek cliffhanger moment that gets you so excited for the next scene or episode.

A great example is the pre opening-credits scene that sets up the entire episode. The original series did it so well, and I’m really happy that the writers have paid more attention to that device.

I always love it when the image suddenly cuts to black, I hear the opening notes of the Star Trek theme, and then I get that tingle of adrenaline. Or maybe you catch your mouth curling up into a little smile. That’s when you want to say, “Thank you.”

“Star Trek: Discovery” has finally landed in the back half of its fourth season.

“Picard’s” Reunion
The second season of “Star Trek: Picard” is also a blast to watch. As I write this, “Picard” is only two episodes in, but this series clearly holds all of the cards. It packs together the best of the more evolved style of Star Trek storytelling with classic Next Generation Trek. It feels so good to be going back to this future.

More Jean-Luc, played by Patrick Stewart, and Seven, played by Jeri Ryan. More Borg queen, this time played by Annie Wersching. More Q (John de Lancie) and Guinan (Whoopi Goldberg).

More classic starship designs, with a crazy new Stargazer. More classic uniforms and less developed transporters. The sounds and special effects are all so familiar. And they tap into little pleasure nodes throughout my brain that haven’t been activated for so many years.

This entire series has a huge impact. How can it not? I know this family. This Star Trek. These characters. And the new characters are well defined. You don’t have to wait four seasons to really get to know them.

If you’re a Star Trek fan, resistance to “Picard” is futile.

Star Trek Happiness
I’ve stuck with Star Trek across the decades like a dedicated football fan. Some years are better than others, but you don’t give up, because you just know the next year is going to be a winning season.

We’ve got two winning Star Trek seasons going on right now, simultaneously.

Fans aren’t always looking for something entirely different. Sometimes what’s old can be new again. And when the new finally aligns with what we already love, then you’re going to have happy Trekkies.

Yes, they’ve finally made it so.

Feeling Burned by Star Trek: Discovery’s Season 3?

After watching the season finale, this Trekkie’s got some thoughts to share about the latest season of “Discovery.” Here’s my review:

You can’t blame “Star Trek: Discovery” for not trying. Season 3 attempted to envision a universe 930 years into the future, tackled big social themes and finally decided to give a little more screen time to its supporting cast of regulars.

This CBS All Access series originally insisted that is was not your parent’s “Star Trek.” It tried to be darker, edgier and bolder. Characters used four letter words, though not very convincingly (and far more awkwardly than in “Star Trek: Picard”).

The writers spent much of season 3 trying to return into the fold. There were multiple references and story devices from the old “Star Trek” manual. And in the end, we found ourselves right back where we started, with the same closing music as the original series.

This return continues a long overdue course correction. It was so obvious that there was no real need to separate itself from its heritage when we saw how the best episodes from season 2 focused on Captain Pike from the original Enterprise.

And you can’t say “Discovery’s” season 3 wasn’t earnest. No way. There was so much hugging and crying. Crying and hugging. I lost track how many times “I love you” was in the script. The writers were clearly working hard to finally evolve this crew into a “Star Trek” family.

And “Star Trek” at its core has always been about family. I just don’t know that I needed the “Discovery” writers constantly telling me that.

Warning Signs
As the credits rolled at the end of season 3’s finale, I’ve got to admit, I wasn’t pumped. But I didn’t feel burned either. Season 3 was… fine. For me, “Star Trek” is always better than no “Star Trek.” But I can’t deny I’m still a wee disappointed.

It’s not that season 3 was bad. It just couldn’t quite elevate itself beyond its own unremarkable storytelling.

The writers put a huge effort into building a diverse and inclusive set of relationships. In fact, in many ways, that’s really what season 3 was about. The Burn and (minor spoiler) rebuilding the Federation was just something for this group of Trek characters to focus on. And that’s all great.

But then, the writers ran out of steam (Dilithium?) when it came time to come up with some cutting-edge science fiction storytelling worthy of the “Star Trek” universe.

Why So Far?
Moving the story 930 years forward is a huge leap. Unfortunately, this future doesn’t look all that different. Sure, personal transporters are cool and organic tech is nice, but I would expect something more dramatic a millennia out. And that requires more writing muscle… not special effects.

Yes, I understand that the writers needed to warp Discovery into a new era that was not burdened by existing Trek canon where the Discovery doesn’t exist. (A downside of creating a prequel series.) But a hundred years forward past Picard is all they really needed to do.

Back to the Future
And it’s ironic that the writers ultimately created a new “Star Trek” future that in many ways had gone back in time.

They were pulling on the same storytelling threads as the creators of “Star Trek: Enterprise” when space was truly the final frontier… again.

Missed Opportunities
I’m happy to allow a series some leeway in plot development as long as the writers stick their landing by the end. Over the course of 13 episodes, I feel that season 3 was not entirely successful. (Spoilers ahead.)

Tilly
“Discovery” has painfully stuck with this character and promised some future payoff. I understand that Ensign Tilly (Mary Wiseman) is evolving, but after three seasons, it’s not fast enough. When Tilly finally got her big chance and sat in the captain’s chair, she essentially blew it. Later, her moment of redemption wasn’t all that satisfying.

The Mirror Universe
You know there’s a problem when “Discovery’s” best episodes focus around the linked alternate universe. But by now, this Trek storytelling device is feeling a bit tired. Even though it was the main reason that Georgiou (Michelle Yeoh) had anything to do in season 3, watching the alternate versions of our other characters as two-dimensional opposites grew boring. Sure, Georgiou evolved, but her own universe wasn’t able to.

The Source of the Burn
Really? I expect we’ll see some therapy sessions in season 4 for someone.

The Discovery’s Big Brain
Remember when Discovery’s computer acquired 100,000 years of data from the alien sphere in season 2? The only influence from that upgrade was when the computer pointed Discovery to meet up with Carl. There’s a lot of untapped plot potential that the writers ignored.

Carl
Again… Really? You can’t recycle a classic Trek plot device like that and simply rewrite it as Carl. A ‘Q’ character would have been better.

The Bad Guys
A 1960’s biker gang with a really big ship. Is that what capitalism eventually evolved into? Osyraa (Janet Kidder) needed more screen time to develop beyond her two-dimensional antagonist.

Saru
Captain Saru (Doug Jones) sits at the center of the heart of “Star Trek: Discovery.” His humanity, even in Kelpien form, shines bright. He’s the perfect Federation captain on paper.

But his evolved and balanced perspective isn’t ultimately suited for this future frontier. Not as captain of the Discovery. It’s a bittersweet conclusion.

The Good News
So, I wouldn’t be a Trekkie if I didn’t prove how geeky I am by nitpicking. Sure, season 3 could have been better, but it still had a lot going for it. The special effects were great, although I would have appreciated a few more closeups of the new starships.

It benefited from a generally strong cast. (I really liked the addition of Book’s character played by David Ajala.)

Of course, Sonequa Martin-Green is the star of the ensemble. Her Michael Burnham has often created more problems than she’s solved, but her passion and sense of purpose and drive to do what’s right has continued to power this entire series forward. Martin-Green provides almost limitless emotional and physical energy in this regard.

As it turns out, breaking the rules in the 31st century is seemingly okay as our new Prime Directive. It’s an odd conclusion that doesn’t quite fit with what the writers have otherwise been trying to accomplish. But it continues to fuel Burnham’s success. So, in what has become a season-ending Discovery ritual, it’s time to switch up the captain’s chair again.

Let’s Fly?
I’m happy that “Discovery” is embracing his own heritage.

And I’m always pleased to be watching more “Star Trek” after all of these decades. It hasn’t gotten old. In fact, its familiarity is more comforting than ever, especially in today’s unstable reality.

There’s also something to be said for watching science fiction and not feeling depressed as a result. You can count on “Star Trek: Discovery” for maintaining its sense of Trek-infused optimism.

I don’t think season 3 is the best of the series. (I prefer season 2.) It’s certainly not the boldest. But “Discovery’s” imperfections ultimately didn’t prevent me from still enjoying the ride.

Oh… and that last line in the season finale…
“Let’s fly.”

Really?
(Just go with it.)

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