Make It So! Jean-Luc Picard Returns To Star Trek!

make it so

Star Trek fans were pleasantly surprised and excited when the news came out that Sir Patrick Stewart will reprise his role of the legendary Jean-Luc Picard in a new Star Trek series.

The announcement came during a Star Trek convention held in Las Vegas this weekend. Stewart appeared on stage and made the official announcement along with showrunner Alex Kurtzman, who was one of the execs behind Star Trek: Discovery and the the J.J. Abrams rebooted Trek films.

As fans roared with approval over the news, Stewart gave few details about the new show, which will stream on the CBS All Access service. One thing he did point out is Picard will be at a different point in his life, meaning he won’t necessarily be a Starfleet captain. This is quite exciting to learn because it demonstrates that the new Star Trek show won’t be a retread of the familiar Trek trope: a starship and its crew exploring space.  So, it won’t be a new version of Star Trek: The Next Generation (TNG) where Captain Picard commands the Enterprise and runs about discovering new worlds and new civilizations. If the show will not be about a Captain Jean-Luc Picard then it can mean that the character will have a new role, a different post-Starfleet career.

Picard may very well be an ambassador and the show could be more political in nature a la Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and this is very fascinating. The world of Star Trek has always entranced fans who were introduced to different alien cultures such as the Klingons and the Romulans. Some of the best episodes of the various shows were about exploring the uniqueness of the alien races and the political intrigue such as the succession of order in the Klingon Empire in “Redemption” or the birth of the Federation in “United”. It is easy to see an older PIcard running around the galaxy trying to forge alliances or hold a fragile peace. Hopefully he won’t be doing it onboard a new version of the Enterprise visiting the same old places. Let’s have new ships and worlds, it’s a large galaxy, after all.

old man picard

If he is not an ambassador, then the other logical career choice is that of a Starfleet admiral. He could follow a similar role as an ambassador with the same political intrigue, but with a more military angle as he brokers peace or wages war from a flagship or Starbase, though it is likely that Picard won’t be a warmongering type.

Of course, being that Patrick Stewart is nearly 20 years older since his last appearance as Picard in Star Trek: Nemesis, it stands to reason that his character will be older, too. And so will be the Prime Star Trek universe. We will learn about new developments in the Prime universe, which is something that many fans have ached for ever since the last TNG film in 2002. This also alleviates the concerns that many fans had about the original Star Trek universe. Ever since the rebooted films came along with Star Trek: Discovery, the impression has been given that the original universe was wiped out from existence. This notion came from a plot point in the first Abrams Star Trek film where Romulans time traveled and altered history. Despite the proclamations from characters and behind-the-scenes people that the alteration did not erase the original timeline, there was an uneasy feeling among many that this was not the case. Now, we can rest easy knowing that the original timeline is alive and well in the new series.

Will this also mean that we may see other characters from the Prime universe? Older versions of Riker, Crusher, Worf and even those from other shows such as Kira, Seven of Nine or the Doctor can appear in the new Star Trek show. Sure it may be too fanboyish, but it will be fun as hell to watch.

The return of Jean-Luc PIcad is certainly welcome news and demonstrates that Star Trek is alive and well. No reboots, no remakes, no reimaginings, but a logical continuation of the original Star Trek timeline. What is open for debate is how good will the new Star Trek show be, but we’ll have to wait and see when it streams, hopefully by 2020. However, no matter what happens with the new show, it will be a thrill to hear the great Sir Patrick Stewart utter at some point, “Make it so!”

Lewis T. Grove

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Best Comic-Con 2018 Trailers & Related News

The San Diego Comic-Con for 2018 has come and gone and as always we fans are left with scintillating trailers and revelations for what is coming up. This year’s Comic-Con was a bit quieter than previous conventions if you can call having San Diego invaded by over 100 thousand fans a quiet event.

Although there were plenty of news and promos that kept us busy, Marvel Studios absence in this year’s Comic-Con and the fabled Hall H was noticeable. While this left DC alone to revel in the spotlight, it was odd to not see a presence by Marvel Studios. After all, they have the most successful shared universe as seen with its recent blockbusters. This signals that Marvel Studios may shift away from Comic-Con and put their energies with their parent company, Disney and their D23 Expos. The problem with that is that those conventions are only held every two years and the next one isn’t scheduled until next August, a bit too late to promote Captain Marvel and Avengers 4. Then again, with the wind at their backs Marvel Studios has the luxury of skipping a Comic-Con, but this gives off an arrogant vibe and they should not take these things for granted. Just look at the television side of Marvel. Knowing that the first season of Iron Fist was disappointing, the television arm of Marvel Entertainment went out of their way to present a kick-ass trailer for Iron Fist’s second season and it seems as they learned their lesson.

On the other side of that coin, DC took full advantage of Marvel Studios’ absence and presented their big guns: trailers for Shazam! and Aquaman, plus a presentation of the next Wonder Woman film. Aquaman clearly won Comic-Con with its long-awaited trailer that delivered the goods. The film looks like a winner full of stunning spectacle and action. It may be the film that might have salvaged the DC Extended Universe (DCEU). That is because for all intents and purposes the DCEU is dead following the failures of some of the films in that shared universe. Instead we are being presented with Worlds of DC, which embraces the concepts of multiverse as its upcoming Joker film doesn’t take place in the DCEU and this may happen with the long-planned The Batman. This Worlds of DC is an interesting concept and acknowledges the richness of their characters and how they can be adapted to any situation. And honestly, this idea of a film/TV multiverse is not new since the DCEU existed alongside the Arrowverse, the new Titans TV show, and even the Marvel films and TV properties actually use this concept of different and separate universes as seen with their MCU, the Fox X-Men films, the Sony Spider-Verse and the TV shows that take place in diverse realities (the Netflix shows, Legion, The Gifted, etc.). This Worlds of DC sounds promising but let’s hope that DC doesn’t completely abandon the DCEU.

There were plenty of non-DC/Marvel film and TV trailers and news that kept us excited. The biggest and most pleasant surprise was that Star Wars: The Clone Wars is returning, this time to Disney’s upcoming streaming app. This was certainly welcome news given all the negativity following Star Wars lately. Other exciting trailers included those for the second seasons of The Orville and Star Trek: Discovery. Anson Mount looks commanding as Captain Christopher Pike and the Spock teases sent many fans into delirium. Other notable film trailers were for Godzilla: King of the Monsters and Glass, the third film in the Unbreakable trilogy which brings together all the superpowered humans from Unbreakable and Split. It looks like a winner.

However, as fun as it was to watch all the new trailers and read about the upcoming development that cast a dark shade over the weekend was the news that Disney fired director James Gunn after some alt-right nutjob exposed disgusting jokes that Gunn posted on Twitter years ago. This was obviously a hitjob on Gunn because of his attacks on Trump and his policies, but this left many fans of the Guardians of the Galaxy films disheartened. Of course, Gunn’s jokes were in poor taste and horrid but he seemed repentant about his past. What made matters worse is that these tweets were in the public for some time and Disney’s actions seem hypocritical because the execs had to have known about them back when James Gunn was hired, but their actions were done to protect their brand. Still, these events call into question the future of Guardians of the Galaxy and the cosmic side of the MCU which Gunn was orchestrating. Perhaps, it was for the best that Marvel Studios didn’t have any presentations at Comic-Con because this controversial news item would’ve drowned out any promotions for their films.

Aside from that event, Comic-Con 2018 delivered the trailers and news as have previous conventions. Now it’s on to next summer and Comic-Con 2019…maybe Marvel Studios will show up this time. Now enjoy these trailers:

Star Trek: Discovery

Glass

Nighflyers

Shazam!

Doctor Who: Season Eleven

Godzilla: King of the Monsters

Season Two Of Westworld Journeys Beyond Its Borders

Westworld season 2 poster

The second season of the HBO sci-fi series, Westworld, will conclude this coming Sunday and what a ride it has been. Based on the old Michael Crichton film that starred Yul Brynner, Westworld was a thought-provoking surprise for viewers when it premiered in 2016. Fans had to wait over a year for its second season and frankly it was worth the wait.

Maeve and company

Westworld takes place in a futuristic theme resort where visitors can act out their violent and sexual fantasies within recreated historical places. Most of the series takes place in a land that is a perfect recreation of the Old West but other locales have been introduced this season, notably one based on feudal Japan complete with shogun warriors and ninjas. Guests interact with lifelike automatons called hosts that were once androids but are now printed biologically by the resort’s engineers and programmed to cater to the guests’ desires. What happened over the course of the story is that the hosts have gained sentience and no longer want to play along.

Dolores Abernathy

Season one of Westworld ended with a literal bloody bang as the hosts rose up in unison and started their violent revolution. Season two starts with the rebellion underway as the resort’s security tries to take back the property and there are many intertwining subplots featuring returning and new characters. These storylines jump back and forth in time and you have to pay attention to what is going on but you’ll be rewarded with captivating stories and character development. Many of them are well fleshed out and nuanced. We see the growth and descent of many like the host Dolores Abernathy (Evan Rachel Wood), who was once a sympathetic farm girl that is now the bloodthirsty head of the uprising. Her goal is to wipe out humanity for the continued pain humans have inflicted on her. It has gotten to the point that she is on the border of becoming the show’s villain thanks to her merciless demeanor. Meanwhile, Westworld’s main human villain, the Man in Black (Ed Harris), is seen in a not quite sympathetic light but his behavior is more understandable. We see that his obsession with Westworld and desire to revel in his violent fantasy has completely warped him and is shattering his grip on reality.

Two hosts who have risen above their programming and are the show’s hearts and souls are Bernard Lowe (Jeffrey Wright) and Maeve (Thandie Newton). The reveal that he was a host in the previous season was quite a shock and this season just went full out to explore the impact of that revelation as he struggles with his identity. He was always someone we could relate to and a very decent person. In this season we continue to root for him as he grapples with his memories and his choices. Meanwhile, Maeve has a compelling arc where she evolves to control other hosts mentally as she searches the vast landscape for her daughter. Along the way she inspires other hosts and humans with her humanity and intellect.

Thankfully this season took time to explore many concepts and dramas about the hosts and their inner struggle. Questions and explorations about the nature of reality, reincarnation and free choice are there for us to consider in between violent clashes between hosts and humans and even among hosts themselves. A couple of episodes were genuinely heart touching such as episode eight “Kiksuya” which is about a Ghost Nation warrior (Zahn MacClarnon) who becomes self aware and strives to spread the word about the truth of the hosts’ existence. Another one was “Akane no Mai” and “Phase Space”, which feature some terrific performances from Rinko Kikuchi and Hiroyuki Sanada as a geisha and ronin who love each other.

The second season of Westworld succeeds because of the other above reasons and the way it keeps you guessing. Plus, it lets you see both sides of the conflict and divides your loyalties. As we rejoice in all the bloody confrontations we can’t help wondering if we are cheering for the right side. Or if we should be pleading for both species to find a way to co-exist, if it is even possible. As the season concludes with “The Passenger” we’ll find out how these stories conclude and set up the third season.

Save The Expanse

expanse season 3 poster

Not too long ago, devoted fans of the Syfy series The Expanse were heartbroken when the cable channel announced that the third season of the show would be its last. Cancelling favorite TV shows isn’t anything new, nor are the efforts to save shows. The original Star Trek is the best example. Sadly, most attempts to save cancelled TV shows are doomed, however, there are the rare occasions where the shows find new life. This happened last year when NBC un-cancelled the time-travel show Timeless and renewed it for a second season. And now it seems as if the beloved sci-fi show may get a reprieve elsewhere. But let’s not celebrate yet.

For anyone who has not watched it yet (and shame on you if you haven’t even sampled it), The Expanse is based on a series of books by James S.A. Corey about a divided humanity two hundred years from now in the settled solar system. Humans still haven’t discovered FTL yet, but space travel tech has advanced enough to allow humans to settle on Mars, several moons and on space stations. A delicate balance of power exists as Earth, Mars and the Belt (the inhabited regions of the asteroid belt, the gas giant moons and orbital stations) as each side vies for dominance.

The Expanse follows the lives of several characters from all levels of life either throughout the system and how they are impacted by a conspiracy that threatens everyone. An extra-solar substance called protomolecule is discovered and it is able to alter all life. What is worse is that devious government and business leaders are trying to weaponize it. As this goes on, unlikely heroes from diverse paths cross paths and try to prevent the spread of the protomolecule and war itself.

hybrid protomolecule

In the third season of The Expanse, these efforts are failing as not only is the protomolecule spreading and appears to be sentient, but war breaks out between Earth and Mars. During the fog of war, many of the heroes do their best to contain the protomolecule and end the war.

This TV show is a true gem in a network supposedly dedicated to science fiction. It is smart, well produced, has wonderful production values, and is captivating thanks to its engaging stories and characters. Ever since its debut three years ago, The Expanse has lived up to its promise of being an intelligent, hard sci-fi show, scoring huge with critics. It even won the Hugo Award in 2017 for Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form. At the same time, it takes great pains to keep a balance between story and character. In the past two seasons, the show explored what life is like for the downtrodden in the Belt. This season, however, focused more on the ragtag crew of the stolen Martian ship Rocinante and rescued passengers as they’re targeted by both warring sides. The Rocinante crew have to struggle between helping the passengers put an end to the war, stopping the protomolecule infestation, and a personal mission to rescue a young girl threatened by the alien substance. What made this season unique is that it had many diverse characters featured separately in the past meeting each other and uniting under common causes.

All this sounds great but remember this series is based on several books and there are many tales left to present. Sadly, The Expanse will not have the chance to finish telling all the stories from Corey’s books. Citing low ratings and complicated distribution issues with other parties like Netflix and Amazon Prime, Syfy pulled the plug. However, it turns out that the show has a devoted fan base. To date an online petition garnered over 100,000 signatures, and high profile fans like George R. R. Martin, Patton Oswalt and Wil Wheaton are throwing their support to the campaign. #SaveTheExpanse

save the expanse

Alcon Television Group, the studio that produces the show, is actively shopping it around. Currently, there are talks between Alcon and Amazon Studios to distribute a fourth season. The main contention in the talks has to do with Streaming or Subscription Video on Demand (SVOD) rights. One thing the show has going for it is that it is popular on streaming/digital demand, and Amazon is looking to add more original content for its subscribers. Streaming and digital services are becoming a haven not just for original programs but for cancelled shows that are given new life in their services. Let’s hope that The Expanse will find new life there or elsewhere because it deserves to be reprieved.

UPDATE: Amazon has saved The Expanse and the fourth season will stream on Amazon Prime. Sometimes our beloved shows have a secind chance. 😀

One Reason Why Fear The Walking Dead Failed

The bloom is off the rose for The Walking Dead as a franchise while ratings continue to slide. But the franchise is in even more dire straits when considering its spinoff, Fear the Walking Dead, which is a failure. The fourth season begins this weekend and the marketing is hyping up that it will feature a crossover with the addition of Morgan (Lennie James) from The Walking Dead. Ages ago, that would have created intense online activity among fans, but there is hardly any buzz going on about the show and its latest developments. The ratings are anemic, especially when compared to its sister series.

There are many reasons for why the spinoff has been poorly received and they are valid. They include unlikeable characters, uninteresting scripts and a failure to reproduce the tension and thrills of the classic seasons of The Walking Dead. Keeping that in mind, there is one main reason why Fear the Walking Dead does not work and it is because it fails as a proper prequel.

The justification for prequels is that they are supposed to help explain the story and characters of the main source. They go into the background of established characters and embellish them and their world.  Like them or not, the Star Wars prequels are excellent examples. Sure they’re derided but they accomplished the goal of delving into the history of Darth Vader and the fall of the Galactic Republic, which were events not shown in the original trilogy.

When it was first announced, it was accepted that Fear the Walking Dead would not examine the backgrounds of the famous characters in The Walking Dead. So Daryl Dixon’s mysterious backstory would remain obscure and any insights into the main characters would only exist as flashback sequences. Instead the prequel would focus on all-new characters in a different locale in a different time.

When Fear the Walking Dead first premiered, there was hope that an explanation would be given for why the dead were reanimating into mindless flesheaters. People wanted to see how civilization actually collapsed, which had already occurred by the time Rick Grimes woke up from his coma and met Morgan in the pilot of The Walking Dead.

But that did not happen with this prequel series. After some dull early episodes that did not give us any answers about the walkers, the show took a time jump to a point where society already disappeared. This left the show looking too much like The Walking Dead as it copied its premise: a bunch of survivors in a post-apocalyptic world full of the undead, only badly done.

Frankly, we get that already in The Walking Dead. Why bother watching Fear the Walking Dead if it only offers the same thing, but less compelling? The prequel is not different enough to justify its existence, which is why it has largely been abandoned by the dwindling fans. Thinking about it, the prequel’s existence can be thought of when the original show started its decline. It could have gone another route if creator Robert Kirkman allowed some kind of explanation for the walker outbreak. But that is not going to happen and despite Morgan’s addition to the castt, it is probably too late to salvage it and the showrunners should concentrate on the original show.