Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Star Trek: Enterprise 4x13 United

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Those recent single-part stories have helped put these bloated trilogies in perspective. It is a good direction for the series, as even sagging middle installments like this get to spend/waste time on entertaining fluff like Archer and Shran's sub-kal-if-fee battle and Tucker and Reed playing Romulan Crystal Maze for their lives.

As satisfying as it is to see the Federation coming together (even if the oncoming cancellation dulls the optimism), it's disappointing that they feel the need to keep re-using old plot elements like the cloaked ship detection grid. I suppose after 700-plus episodes there really are no new frontiers left.

"Perhaps future ships will be named after our vessels, especially if we do something historic together" - Shran

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Monday, September 26, 2016

Star Trek: Enterprise 4x12 Babel One

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Another direct TOS prequel, this one at least does serve to clear up some long-standing, important background rather than shoehorning in out-of-character Organians for no reason (for example). That background being just why brash upstart humans went on to become so dominant in the Federation - the answer being, they're the only ones who aren't out for the others' porcine, blue or green blood.

Like 'Journey to Babel,' the diplomacy is predictably derailed by a third fourth? fifth party, but this time it's those conventionally sneaky Romulans in yet more scenes that are initially exciting but then give way to disappointment when you remember the series was officially cancelled around this point and an inevitable Earth-Romulan war season just got aborted.

And it is a shame, considering that after spending so long on less-than-iconic new foes and needlessly cryptic future adversaries, the series finally feels like it's heading in the right direction. Even if that isn't a direction that has any chance of winning over casual fans. This is Star Trek written by Star Trek fans for Star Trek fans, and I do prefer it to J. J. Abrams Star Trek, but not as much as I want to.

"Do you think we're moving too fast?" - Jonathan Archer

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Star Trek: Enterprise 4x11 Observer Effect

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A finer vintage of bottle show than the last one, this is basically another spin on the godlike aliens story that could have fitted just as neatly into TNG or Voyager, but that's sort of the point of the show after all.

The reveal that it's the Organians behind it should have been more exciting, but it comes so late in the episode that it's just a reference for the sake of it. Better than calling them the 'Tazarites' or something. The mystery is intriguing while it lasts, and after that, in the true 'Trek tradition, we get to see the crew showing off how heroic they are and impressing their self-appointed betters.

I admit it, the 2-D chess was a bit of a disappointment. Not even a 2.5-D interval?

"Someone always dies" - Organian

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Sunday, September 25, 2016

Star Trek: Enterprise 4x10 Daedalus

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Oh dear, that wasn't very excellent was it? The light-hearted opening was a welcome change of pace, but all too soon it falls back on tropes like the mad scientist and sub-Alien survival horror done poorly.

Getting to meet the inventor of the transporter might have been nice if they'd done it well. In deperate prequel terms, fans can rejoice at the return of delta-ray skin deformity (yay?) and a parallel to Richard Daystrom that'll make you wish you were watching that episode instead.

"Don't fail" - Henry Archer's fatherly advice

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Star Trek: Enterprise 4x09 Kir'Shara

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This three-parter earns its length by bringing in the Andorians for the action-packed third act. Jeffrey Combs is always great, and the prospect of seeing more of Shran has made me consider watching the early seasons for the first time. Hopefully he'll be back again before the end.

Archer and Enterprise's pivotal interference in Vulcan affairs adds to the reasons it's weird that they were never mentioned in the future, but every time the status quo shifts and there's a real sense of the Federation getting closer, it feels like this series is doing its job.

And then they throw in a Romulan at the end, something I knew Enterprise planned to get around to eventually, but didn't think it had the chance to. I'm late to the party, but it's a bit of a shame the series was cancelled, hey?

"It's time for Earth to stand on its own" - T'Pau

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Saturday, September 24, 2016

Red Dwarf 11x02 Samsara

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It's a real shame this episode falls into a rut towards the end, as for the first half I was ecstatic about the return of properly great 'Dwarf. Not only is there an eerie sci-fi mystery to solve (complete with amusing corpses), but unlike the last frantic episode, there's time to unwind with board games and bunk bickering too.

It started out seeming like a Rimmer episode, but turns into another ensemble show that has plenty of great lines for everyone. Arguably too many for Cat, whose torturous "educating" of Lister could have done with some tightening. If we were supposed to share Lister's pain during that long scene, it succeeded admirably.

The concept of the Karma Drive (an inverted one at that) feels true to the series, but to the extent that it just feels like another new spin on an old idea. I mean, Kryten even name-drops 'Justice,' and the drawn-out explanation was a little patronising, we're Red Dwarf fans after all. Some of the gags about Rimmer's nostrils and Kryten's head are also treading extremely well-worn ground, though fortunately there were still plenty of proper laughs to balance those out. I shouldn't forget to mention that there's some bloody incredible effects work too.

I'm not sure how I'm going to feel about this episode in the long run. Overall, it's probably about as good as the first one, but at least I knew what I was in for there. This one's strong opening and gradual downfall wasn't as upsetting as something like 'Entangled' from the last series, but nor was it the next generation 'Quarantine' I was unreasonably holding out hope for early on. I just want Red Dwarf to be the best it can.

"I love dust. After fluff, it's my all-time favourite dirt" - Kryten

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Star Trek: Enterprise 4x08 Awakening

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It is satisfying seeing Vulcans being smug and superior among themselves for a change. I can't remember much about how Soval behaved in the early seasons, but if he was as annoying as your standard Vulcan politician, his defrosting character arc is up there with the best in Trek.

I'm also grateful that they clear up the whole katra business a little by stating that most Vulcans consider it a myth. That's always bugged me. Then again, by having Archer impress T'Pau, there's a new potential continuity issue of why she's such a xenophobic bitch by the time she runs into Kirk and McCoy, but a lot can happen in a century.

"The culture you've come to know isn't the one I helped to create" - Surak

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Friday, September 23, 2016

Star Trek: Enterprise 4x07 The Forge

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We take a more substantial trip to Vulcan this time, but while this three-parter will turn out to be pretty decent and notable overall, this first part kind of annoyed me.

I'm not a fan of prequels in general, but I appreciate when Enterprise does that well. Laying the foundations and overcoming the roadblocks to the inevitable future is all well and good, but in this one, prolific expanded universe scribes the Reeves-Stevenses are more concerned with shoving in as many familiar Vulcan things as possible. T'Pau! Surak! IDIC! Sehlats! Katras! Mount Selaya! Spock's trivia questions! TOS was the best! So why aren't I watching that?

These terrorist crises are also getting a bit repetitive, and it only took them four episodes to find a convenient get-out for T'Pol's marriage.

"Vulcans can lie and cheat with the best of them" - Jonathan Archer

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Star Trek: Enterprise 4x06 The Augments

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They don't take the homage all the way and have a battle in a nebula - at this point, it might look more like they're doing Nemesis - but they still sneak in some familiar imagery.

The punchline moment where Soong realises his destiny is to create artificial life in "a generation or two" is so, so corny that it's actually enjoyable. As for the Briar Patch/Klach D'kel Bracht connection, that's some slightly less necessary dot-connecting that it probably wasn't worth wasting dialogue on, but I suppose there are those of us that love it.

- "How long can we sustain warp five?"
- "As long as the captain wants it. Or until we blow up, whichever comes first"
- Soong and Tucker

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Thursday, September 22, 2016

Star Trek: Enterprise 4x05 Cold Station 12

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Did this need to be a three-parter? I'm all for giving stories the room they need to breathe, but this is mostly location-hopping filler between the introduction and the inevitable bloody resolution.

It may be a 21st century show, but Enterprise still falls back on blindingly obvious character arcs, and there's no doubting how this is going to go down. At least there's a nice asteroid battle.

Having watched TOS season three recently, the non-augmented Augment may be a nod to Alexander. As for the reappearance of the infamous flashing red tubes, has that become a self-referential gag now or just another cheap re-use? I can be optimistic.

"Whenever a group of people start believing they're better than everyone else, the results are always the same" - Jonathan Archer

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Star Trek: Enterprise 4x04 Borderland

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Enterprise is fulfilling its duty as a prequel well - not only with the return of species and concepts from The Original Series, but also with the return of actors from the sequels.

Most notable among these is Brent Spiner, of course, playing an ancestor of Data's creator that answers an in-universe question most of us hadn't seriously considered: isn't it a bit weird that "Noonian Soong" sounds so much like "Noonien Singh?" Clearly, the adulation of augments didn't end with Arik, even if by the 24th century his descendants had moved on to less controversial fields.

A prequel to 'Space Seed' was similarly unnecessary but enjoyable nonetheless. The only prequel we really need to see there is the Eugenics Wars themselves, but however you try to rehabilitate their questionable continuity, it's still distant history by the time of Enterprise, so an action-packed romp with Junior Khans is the best we can hope for.

More worthwhile was finally getting to see the Orions again, and connecting the Orion Syndicate that frequently appeared in DS9 (sans actual Orions) back to the species itself. A shame the slave woman didn't do a dance, but you can't have everything.

You know, I think I finally get Enterprise. As their polished ship prepared to depart for another mission, I felt the pioneering spirit. Now to see if I can start caring about the actual people involved.

"Mankind is something to be surpassed" - Friedrich Nietzsche

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Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Star Trek: Enterprise 4x03 Home

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ENT's answer to TNG's 'Family' is a lot less light-hearted, but explores its captain's post-traumatic doubts just as effectively. The resurgence of xenophobia on Earth is also an interesting turn that helps set this prequel apart from the more familiar flawed paradise presented in latter centuries, and it was immensely satisfying after all these years of behind-the-scenes refits to see construction workers actually putting a starship together.

Less successful is the action on Vulcan, which might be down to me never having grown to care about any of these characters in my infrequent bouts of viewing. Though it's also down to those CGI backdrops. Enterprise's budget cuts are painfully visible.

"Things have changed since Enterprise left spacedock. You'll spend a lot of your time boldly going into battle" - Jonathan Archer

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Star Trek: Enterprise 4x02 Storm Front, Part II

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I wonder if anyone really enjoyed that two-parter? It serves the purpose of clumsily and abruptly tying up the messy Temporal Cold War before it could become as nonsensical as the X-Files mythology, but beyond that it's just an annoying postponement of the homecoming scene that rightfully should have ended the previous year.

Can this season start living up to its reputation now, please?

"You've proven a worthy opponent, captain. I would have preferred to die fighting you, but I suppose I can settle for this" - Silik

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Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Star Trek: Enterprise 4x01 Storm Front

Parting ways with 'Trek after the mighty DS9 ended, I never clicked with the prequel series. I struggled through a few mediocre first-season episodes at the time before giving up, then a few years back I subjected myself to the entirety of the third season, to see whether the show really had what it takes to pull off a dark, season-long arc. It was just okay.

When I occasionally read defences of Enterprise, the emphasis is always on the glory of its premature final season, which is often credited by fans as being not only the high point of the series, but also one of the greatest years in all of Trek. Considering the exact three episodes I've personally seen from this year are among the most offensive in all of Trek, I'm highly sceptical of this claim... but wouldn't it be amazing if it were true? Three down, 19 more chances to prove itself.

So without further ado, let's jump back in to that bizarre season-ending cliffhanger and see what's up with those space Nazis. Are you sure this isn't going to be terrible?

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That's four to none against, it's not looking good. I thought the Temporal Cold War arc was a pretty good idea initially, since the potential of upsetting the established future lore was the only realistic jeopardy this series had beyond the lives of the immediate characters, but it never lived up to that potential. I figured the series finale would involve Archer and his crew heroically wiping themselves out of history to save the future, solving all the continuity issues the prequel had caused in the process and basically rendering it worthless. It still would have been a less insulting finale than 'These Are the Voyages...', but I'm getting ahead of myself.

This is just another redundant time travel episode like we've seen so many times before, and yet another excuse to have fun with Nazis - something that TOS and Voyager already did similarly literally, not accounting for multiple Swastika-free allegories. It brings nothing new to the table, and after many years away I can't say I was excited to get reacquainted with any of these characters. When Phlox showed up, I may even have sighed.

"Americans are good at making movies. They're not so good at fighting" - Nazi Officer

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Star Trek 3x24 Turnabout Intruder

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Gene Roddenberry's famously progressive, aspirational series comes to a shockingly sexist end in a story penned by the man himself. Though saying that, it's hardly a departure from the norm, considering one of the first lines of the 1964 pilot was Captain Pike expressing his discomfort at having women on the bridge.

But he also gave us a negress, a Japanese, a Rusky and a pointed-eared hobgoblin working in harmony with regular Americans, so let's concentrate on the positives.

Fans of Spock and good sci-fi had their finale last week. This is more a last-day-of-term celebration of Shatner as Kirk gets in touch with his feminine side.

"It's better to be dead than to live alone in the body of a woman" - Janice Lester

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Monday, September 19, 2016

Star Trek 3x23 All Our Yesterdays

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Nearing the end of my odyssey through the most maligned year of "classic" Trek, I'm disappointed but not surprised to see that consensus and childhood memories were right after all. It's only 'The Tholian Web' and 'All Our Yesterdays' that are properly good, the rest is average to embarrassing.

But let's not dwell on the negatives when our penultimate voyage is fairly fine. It's not their best time travel episode ('City...'), but it puts an interesting biological spin on the theme. Sarpedion's apocalypse remedy of depositing future refugees all throughout history is delightfully impractical, surely causing more trouble than it averts, and all the silly A-Z terminology of Mr. Atoz, his Atavachron, Zarabeth and Zor Khan is Star Trek at its cutest (to say nothing of Mariette Hartley, who might win in the babe stakes).

It's an especially good episode for Spock, which have been sorely lacking this year, and by this point the producers know exactly how to keep Shatner satiated and give his co-stars a chance: keeping him busy with a swordfight and literally locking him up so Nimoy gets to love and lose this time. Why they didn't go out on this one?

- "We're in a wilderness of arctic characteristics."
- "He means it's cold"
- Spock and McCoy

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Star Trek 3x22 The Savage Curtain

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Another episode I'd never actually bothered to watch, despite knowing its importance for universe-building. Unfortunately, the parade of historical (and future-historical) luminaries is a very brief window between the Abraham Lincoln silliness and lots of pointless brawling for the edification of rock monsters, with an anti-violence message that even kids would find patronising.

It's sort of like a rubbish 'Arena,' but with Abraham Lincoln silliness.

"In our century, we've learned not to fear words" - Uhura

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Sunday, September 18, 2016

Star Trek 3x21 Requiem for Methuselah

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I have a soft spot for this lament to immortal loneliness, even if it's up there with the series' least progressive as far as self-destructively emotional dames are concerned. This late in season three, even an average episode deserves appreciation.

Since the story's so small and self-contained, it doesn't rub up against distracting budget cuts either. The reuse of Star Trek's first ever matte painting to depict an entirely different planet ought to annoy me, as someone who's more attached to 'The Cage' than any "proper" episode, but it's such a nice painting that I'll let it pass. Anyway, it's not on the same level as the '80s and '90s series repeatedly passing off Angel One as different places.

The dramatic set-up of yet another space plague is getting really old now, maybe a sign that Kirk needs to tone down his enthusiasm in first contact situations. His instant, inappropriate horniness strays into self-parody here, but it's saved by the ending that reveals just how lonely and unsatisfied he is. This might be the closest thing to character development we've had since Edith Keeler, and in the twilight of the series it makes a nice segue into the films, as does Spock's dubious memory meddling.

"Stay out of this, we're fighting over a woman" - James T. Kirk

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Star Trek 3x20 The Way to Eden

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Just when you're lulled into thinking the third season is merely weak and stilted rather than downright cack, the show makes an embarrassing attempt to tap into the zeitgeist by featuring space hippies.

I think this is the first time I've seen this infamous episode, and it's as bad as its reputation suggests. But even with all the singing, bizarrely reversed shots, an out-of-character Chekov and gratuitous Tholian ship reuse, it's probably only my second worst of all time (after 'And the Children Shall Lead'), since amid all its unwise decisions, they at least had the sense to make outcast icon Spock sympathetic to the cause.

Makes you wonder why anyone thought it would be a good idea to remake this story as Star Trek V. We saw how well that turned out.

"Many myths are based on truth, captain" - Spock

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Saturday, September 17, 2016

Star Trek 3x19 The Cloud Minders

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The series' least subtle social allegory this side of Charon, this is another episode that's best left to nostalgic memories of the cloud city and Droxine's inappropriate space bikini.

Actually sitting through the social upheaval and the real-time countdown to another outbreak of generic off-screen space plague is a bit trying, but the worst sin is how out of character Spock is.

"Extreme feminine beauty is always disturbing, madam" - Spock

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