Star Trek: A 50th Anniversary Celebration, Part Two

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Here we are celebrating Star Trek’s 50th anniversary, a milestone that many doubted would ever be reached. For good reason, Gene Roddenberry’s phenomenal TV show about Captain James T. Kirk (William Shatner) and the starship Enterprise should have been forgotten after it was cancelled after three seasons. However, Star Trek was special, it was more than weird, low-budget sci-fi trappings with empty fisticuffs. Star Trek concentrated on ideas, social commentary and characters. As long as each incarnation of Star Trek stuck to these core ideals it clicked with the general public and fans. But as with everything, Star Trek went through cycles and sometimes lost sight of what made it so reverential. Aside from the cancellation of the original series where fans went through a decade-long drought without any live-action fixes, another dark period happened more recently.

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Oddly enough, Star Trek started to burn out and lose its edge story and character wise when it was at its peak in the mid ’90s. There was a feeling of overkill as Paramount Studios was all too eager to cash in Trek’s popularity. The show that suffered from this the most was Star Trek: Voyager with its formulaic scripts. Before the third spinoff was created, there was some griping about Star Trek: Deep Space Nine because it was considered too dark and strayed too far from what was perceived to be the core of Star Trek: exploring the universe in a spaceship. Due to these complaints and because Paramount wanted to milk the cash cow, a new spinoff was created that went back to the old spaceship formula for its new TV network UPN. Star Trek: Voyager was lauded for having Kathryn Janeway (Kate Mulgrew), as the franchise’s first lead woman character and for its basic premise of a lost Starfleet ship making its way back home, but apart from that the show had creative problems. It felt too similar to Star Trek: The Next Generation with familiar stock characters. What was worse, were the predictable stories that were riddled with plot holes. Why was the ship so pristine looking every week? We wanted to see the actual ordeal of being stranded and away from support. It didn’t feel realistic, especially with the way they always defeated the super-powerful Borg whenever they showed up. Still, Star Trek: Voyager had its highlights, particularly Seven of Nine (Jeri Ryan), an ex-Borg who filled in the Spock/outsider role.

By the time Star Trek: Voyager concluded its run and Enterprise premiered in 2001, the franchise was undeniably creaky and tired. The film series were now bringing in less and less profits, seemed listless and unfortunately, Enterprise suffered from the same problems. On paper, Enterprise had potential; the adventures of the very first starship Enterprise commanded by Jonathan Archer (Scott Bakula) and his crew as the first humans to voyage to the Final Frontier. The prequel/spinoff instead of truly exploring the foundation of the Star Trek universe literally recycled plots from Star Trek: The Next Generation and when it didn’t the stories were uninspired. Simply put, it did not feel fresh and relied too heavily on the trappings of the Star Trek universe. For instance, transporter technology was supposed to be largely untested, yet all too quickly the scriptwriters relied on it to get our heroes out of jams.

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The show’s creators Rick Berman and Brannon Braga tried jumpstarting the show in the third season, added Star Trek to the title, and created a season-long arc about a mission to save Earth from destruction by aliens. The storyline divided many fans who felt it was too violent and dark versus others who thought the moral dilemmas and high stakes were what the show needed. No matter where one stood in the argument it was clear that this version of Star Trek was influenced by current events, in this case 9/11.

 

It was only in the final season did the show find its moorings and actually became a true prequel, but it was too late. Just as with its ancestor, the original Star Trek, Star Trek: Enterprise was cancelled in 2005 because of low ratings. The film series quietly died also after Star Trek: Nemesis flopped in 2002. The general consensus was that the property was completely mined out and devoid of any new material. Many felt that unlike previous lulls and failures that it was time to let the franchise rest. As Star Trek approached its 40th anniversary it seemed as if it was truly gone for good because of a lack of any initiative to develop new material let alone celebrate the anniversary.

Star Trek 2.0: Dormancy & Rebirth

That perception is not entirely accurate. Although there wasn’t any new Star Trek content, it did live on. The merchandising, while not as prevalent as in the past, helped. Another shot in the arm were the numerous fan films that carried the torch for the original crew. It’s true the production values and acting weren’t quite up there with professional productions, but it was clear that these films were lovingly made and some of them are actually impressive. At the same time, Paramount (and later CBS Studios) tried to create new films and TV shows. For instance, one film was called Star Trek: The Beginning and would’ve taken place during the Romulan War and featured Kirk’s ancestor, Tiberius Chase. Sadly, the script never went anywhere. Others pitched ideas for new TV shows including one that would’ve taken place in the far future in the aftermath of a galactic catastrophe that crippled the Federation. However, all those developments went by the wayside when Paramount hired J.J. Abrams to reboot the franchise with a new film.

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2009’s Star Trek retold the story of Kirk, Spock, McCoy and the original Enterprise crew. But now they were played by much younger actors and the entire Trek universe received an updated makeover. On the whole, the film and its sequels were a faster paced, action oriented version of Star Trek. The first rebooted film was a huge box office success and many loved it. The problem, which became more obvious in later films, is that these films were catering to non-fans who wouldn’t show the same brand loyalty as regular Star Trek fans. With an emphasis on quick action shots and explosive special effects, the three most recent films alienated many traditional fans who likened the new films as Star Trek For Dummies. That perception crystalized when the ill-conceived trailer for Star Trek Beyond was released last year.

The trailer was clearly made for adrenaline junkies who crave the Fast and Furious films with its in-your-face action clips and an obnoxious Beastie Boys soundtrack. After the poor reception, Paramount let the bad feelings simmer for too long and cemented the feeling that Star Trek Beyond would be another loud and empty action porn bonanza. The film was actually more thoughtful and respectful to the essence of Star Trek, but the poor marketing ensured that it wasn’t as successful as the previous reboot films.

It is still too early to render a verdict on the reboots. It may be some time before the fervor dies down and we can all look upon them objectively. But as of now, many are decrying that the reboots are not real Star Trek and want a return to the original universe.

Fortunately, that is about to happen as Star Trek returns next year to the medium it is best suited for, television. The excitement building up over the forthcoming Star Trek: Discovery only proves that Star Trek isn’t dead or fading from the public consciousness.

Star Trek: The Legacy

Other popular franchises may be getting more attention these days, but Star Trek has shown time and time again that it has appeal and staying power. The effect the film and TV series has had in pop culture is immeasurable. To dismiss the franchise at this point is foolish in light of its legacy, which is far spanning.

Star Trek helped make science fiction a mainstay in television and elevated the genre’s perception from low-brow, youth-oriented fare thanks to its imaginative and thoughtful episodes. That is why the original show (and Star Trek: The Next Generation) received Emmy Award nominations for best series. It helped lead other executives and networks to gamble more often on sci-fi series, some of which are stellar examples of the genre. But Star Trek has had more of a meaningful impact in our society.

WILLIAM SHATNER DEFOREST KELLY LEONARD NIMOY RODDENBERRY

As we celebrate Star Trek’s 50th anniversary, we should reflect on its greatest legacy which is how it inspired the world. There are countless accounts of how Star Trek had a positive influence among astronauts, doctors, engineers, scientists and everyday people like you and I. The show and its spinoffs helped us to learn not to fear the future but to embrace it. Thanks to Star Trek, many beneficial inventions like cell phones, 3D printers, medical scanners and more became a reality due to its fictional counterparts in Star Trek. More importantly, the show taught us about how to treat our fellow neighbors. Everyone knows how the show and its spinoffs were cultural  trailblazers with its focus on characters like Mr. Spock (Leonard Nimoy), Data (Brent Spiner), Seven of Nine (Jeri Ryan) and the Doctor (Robert Picardo). They were outsiders who had trouble fitting into their society due to being different. Past episodes dealt with prejudice as their plights touched upon civil rights, tolerance, respect and looking past outer differences and into the character of the soul. This belief can best be exemplified by the Vulcan IDIC philosophy of Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combinations. This more perfect future society is beyond our reach today, but we are laying the groundwork to make Gene Roddenberry’s optimistic vision a reality someday.

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Star Trek will always be a part of our pop culture as it has been for the past 50 years. That is because it has so many aspects that are appealing to many different audiences. As long as Star Trek embraces its core roots, it will continue to live long and prosper. So may we all.

José Soto

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Doctor Strange Trailer Premieres

strange poster

As if we weren’t done drooling over last week’s debut of the Rogue One: A Star Wars Story trailer, now we have Doctor Strange! Last night, Marvel Studios unveiled the first teaser trailer for this November’s release of Doctor Strange, the latest addition to the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU).

A few thoughts come to mind when reacting to this trailer. On the whole, it’s very intriguing. For a teaser, this trailer for Doctor Strange sets out to do what a teaser should accomplish–to lure us in, make us want to see more. But more importantly it makes us want to watch this thing over and over again. Benedict Cumberbatch, already killing it from the publicity photos in his full Doctor Strange garb, looks great, as does Tilda Swinton as the Ancient One. The couple of brief sequences we saw with the two of them together calls to mind for some reason The Matrix film where our hero is introduced to a more bizarre reality from a sage type. Some of the funkier imagery brings to mind the Christopher Nolan film Inception with the swirling cityscapes and it just hints at some of the wilder, weirder stuff to be shown in this film.

However, I just wish the Doctor Strange trailer showed us a bit more of the kookier side of the Marvel Cinematic Universe or even a full reveal of Doctor Strange in his classic Steve Ditko duds. We’ve already seen photos of Benedict Cumberbatch wearing the iconic red cape and blue tunic for months so what would be the harm in showing him in his full glory? Also this trailer missed an opportunity to show off Strange performing those graphic incantations from his hands as seen in the Marvel comics, that would have been awesome. Lastly, being that the film is being directed by Scott Derrickson, who is noted for his horror films, Doctor Strange doesn’t feel like a horror film, which would have been an excellent new avenue for the MCU. On the other hand, it doesn’t come off as a superhero film at all, but more of a fantasy film, which is not a minus.

But I get the feeling that we’ll see much more weirder stuff in a second trailer. This one is just an introduction to the more hidden and mystical nature of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. And it accomplished it’s mission in whetting our appetites for the bizarre worlds of Stephen Strange.

Waldermann Rivera

 

Star Wars Movie Retrospective: Star Wars Episode II: Attack Of The Clones

 

episode II poster

“One day, I will become the greatest Jedi ever. I promise you. I will even learn how to stop people from dying.” – Anakin Skywalker

Anticipation for the second film in the prequel trilogy and the fifth Star Wars film to be produced was much lower than for the first prequel film. However, many found Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones to be a better made prequel, although it’s not without its own faults.

According to the opening scrawl of the film, a distant galaxy is on the brink of a civil war. Under the leadership of the mysterious Count Dooku (Christopher Lee), several thousand worlds have begun to secede from the Galactic Republic. The Jedi naboo shipKnights, the guardian force of the Republic, are overwhelmed with handling so many insurrections and so the government wants to pass a law to create a standing army to help the Jedi. Senator Padmé Amidala (Natalie Portman), the former queen of planet Naboo travels to Coruscant, the capital of the Republic, to vote on the matter of creating an army.

Unlike other Star Wars films, Episode II begins on a quiet, furtive note as a Naboo starship escorted by fighter ships enters the murky atmosphere of Coruscant. The starship lands on a cloud-covered platform in the planet’s global city. But there is an ominous air on the landing platform since the senator has a price on her head. Just as the senator and her entourage walks down the plank of her starship, it explodes and she is killed. Fortunately, the woman that died was a decoy and the actual Padmé was one of the fighter pilots. The incident underlines the danger that she is in from the Separatist forces who want to keep her from voting.

Star Wars diplomats

 

She and other government officials, including Representative Jar Jar Binks (Ahmed Best) and Senator Bail Organa of Alderaan (Jimmy Smits), meet with Supreme Chancellor Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid) to discuss the coming vote. Palpatine is concerned for her safety and assigns two Jedi to protect Padmé.

ready for battleThe Jedi tasked are Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor) and his apprentice or Padawan Anakin Skywalker (Hayden Christensen). They last met Padmé ten years ago in the previous film when Anakin was a boy and Obi-Wan was himself a Padawan. Anakin is instantly infatuated when he sees the beautiful young senator, while she merely looks upon him as a younger brother.

Later that night as she sleeps in her room a drone outside her window dispatches poisonous worms into her room. The Jedi, who are outside her room standing guard, sense something is amiss and Anakin rushes in and kills the worms. As he does this, Obi-Wan spots the drone and throws himself out the window to grab it. He latches on as the drone takes him on a whirlwind tour through the crowded skies of the city. The drone is shot and destroyed, but Obi-Wan is saved from falling when Anakin shows up with a flying vehicle and catches him. They then pursue the female assassin (Leeanna Walsman) who shot out the drone and is fleeing in her own vehicle. Eventually the chase leads them to a bustling, street-level night club.

 

Inside, Obi-Wan dismembers the assassin before she can shoot him from behind as he has a drink at a crowded bar. Outside, he tries interrogating her, but she is killed with a poison dart shot by a distant figure who escapes in a rocket pack.

The next day at the Jedi Temple, the Jedi High Council gives Obi-Wan a new assignment, which is to track the assassin’s killer. Meanwhile, Anakin is to escort Padmé back to Naboo to ensure her safety. In her absence, Jar Jar assumes her duties.

On her home planet Naboo, the relationship dopey romancebetween Anakin and Padmé starts to intensify. Both have trouble denying their mutual attraction even though Jedi are forbidden to have romantic relationships. Frustrated, Anakin begins to berate his lot because he feels disrespected by the other Jedi. He also expresses jealousy towards Obi-Wan.

As the two star-crossed lovers exchange incredibly corny dialogue and frolic on CGI fields, Obi-Wan’s investigation directs him to the water planet Kamino. After he lands his spaceship amidst a raging storm on an above-water facility, Obi-Wan is greeted by its inhabitants. It turns out that the Kaminoans had been expecting him or at least a Jedi and tell him the order is ready. Confused, Obi-Wan plays along and learns that ten years ago, a Jedi named Sifo-Dyas hired the Kaminoans to grow a human clone army.

clones 2Obi-Wan is given a tour of the facility and he sees with his own eyes vast numbers of young and mature clones who are being trained and conditioned. He is told that the clones are being psychologically modified and trained to be more efficient and compliant soldiers. Then he is introduced to the Mandalorian bounty hunter Jango Fett (Temuera Morrison) and his young son Boba (Daniel Logan). Jango was hired by the Kaminoans to provide the genetic template for the clones who are all copies of him. As part of his payment, Jango was given his own clone to raise as a son, who happens to be Boba. Jango is instantly mistrustful of the Jedi and when Obi-Wan leaves their quarters he tells Boba to prepare to leave the planet.

Once the tour is finished, Obi-Wan goes outside in the tempest to report his findings to the High Council. Afterwards, obi wan and jangohe tries to capture Jango because he believes Jango is the killer of the assassin on Coruscant. He finds the bounty hunter, now donning a high-tech battle armor, on a landing platform by his ship the Slave I. The Jedi and the bounty hunter then engage in a furious battle that ends with Jango escaping into his starship thanks to some help from his son. Before the ship can leave the complex, Obi-Wan tosses a homing beacon on its hull.

On Naboo, Anakin has trouble sleeping; he keeps having disturbing prophetic visions of his mother Shmi (Pernilla August) in danger back in his home planet Tatooine. He can’t take it anymore and tells Padmé of his intention to rescue his mother. Understanding his pain, she decides to go with him.

anakin meets relativesAt the desert planet Tatooine, Anakin’s search leads him to the moisture farm of Cliegg Lars (Jack Thompson) and his son Owen (Joel Edgerton). He learns that Cliegg purchased his mother from her slaveholder, then freed and married her. But just a month ago, she was captured by savage tusken raiders and he was unable to find her.

The young Jedi heads off in a determined quest to rescue his mother. He finds her badly beaten in a tusken raider camp. Their bittersweet reunion is short lived however. She dies in his arms from her injuries but not before telling him how proud she is of him. Anakin’s grief immediately turns into an uncontrollable rage and he shortly takes it out on the raiders, killing everyone in the camp, including the women and children.

Meanwhile, Jango Fett unwittingly leads Obi-Wan to another planet, Geonosis. The Jedi learns that the planet is a hotbed of Separatist activity. Enemy ships are everywhere, as is dooku and othersa battle droid factory. Not only that, he eavesdrop in a meeting held by Count Dooku and several important Separatist factions who plot a devastating attack against the Republic with a huge droid army. Obi-Wan is unable to get a signal to Coruscant, but Anakin’s location is closer to Geonosis. He transmit a signal to Anakin so that it can be relayed to the High Council. He is just able to make a transmission before he is captured by droid soldiers.

Back on Tatooine, after he brings back his mother’s body to the Lars homestead Anakin goes on an enraged tirade and tells Padmé of what he did to the tusken raiders. She is naturally aghast at his actions, but feels sympathetic towards him. Shortly after his mother’s funeral, they pick up Obi-Wan’s report and see on the holographic message that he is captured. Anakin relays his friend’s report to the Jedi led by Yoda (Frank Oz), who intend to rescue him. Even though he is ordered to stay put, Anakin and Padmé leave the planet to go rescue their friend. Little do they realize that they’ll soon be embroiled in a series of fast-moving events that ignite the Clone Wars.

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Top 10 Star Trek: Enterprise Episodes

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It’s been ten years since the final two first-run episodes of Star Trek: Enterprise aired. The prequel to the Star Trek phenomena was derided by many for its bland and derivative nature. But a careful and objective look reveals that Star Trek: Enterprise had many terrific episodes, especially its later episodes. These are the best episodes of the fifth and (to date) final Star Trek TV show.

leaving drydock10. “Broken Bow” The pilot episode of the series (which at the time was simply called Enterprise) introduces the crew of the Earth starship Enterprise, including Captain Jonathan Archer (Scott Bakula), as they embark on an impromptu mission to establish relations with the infamous Klingon Empire.

9. “Affliction”/”Divergence” This two-part fourth-season episode answers the nagging question that has perplexed Star Trek fans ever since the late ’70s –why do the Klingons from the original series look different from modern incarnations of the warrior race? The answer was quite inventive.

xindi attack8. “The Expanse” The second-season finale introduces a radical shift in the show’s direction and has echoes of the then-recent 9/11 attack. A surprise assault on Earth by an alien race called the Xindi leads to the Enterprise being re-assigned to undertake a military mission to Xindi territory to prevent another more devastating attack that is coming within a year.

7. “Zero Hour” The Xindi super weapon archer vs xindicommandeered by an ill-tempered Xindi faction finally arrives at Earth in this thrilling third-season finale. The only hope to prevent Earth’s destruction is a desperate Archer and his crew, along with Xindi allies. The final moments were tense beyond belief and featured slam-bam space battles and the episode’s cliffhanger was way out of left field.

6. “The Forgotten” The personal ramifications and loss from the Xindi attack on Earth are seen through the eyes of Chief Engineer Charles Tucker (Connor Trinneer) whose sister was lost in the attack. Trinneer’s acting was quite memorable in the moments when his character broke down over his intense grief. Other standout acting came from T’Pol (Jolene Blalock) and Degra (Randy Oglesby), an Oppenheimer-like Xindi who has a change of heart about his race’s destructive plans for Earth.

5. “Twilight” An accident leaves Archer with the inability to form new memories. As time passes, the Xindi destroy Earth and humanity is scattered. As years pass by, Doctor Phlox (John Billingsley) discovers that curing Archer’s condition is the key to undoing the past. But will Archer be cured before the Xindi eradicate the last vestiges of humanity?

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From the shocking cold opener where a visibly older Archer witnesses Earth’s destruction to its final, nerve-wracking scenes, “Twilight” excelled in presenting us with a dismal future where the Xindi succeed and put humanity on the brink of extinction.

4. “United” This episode was actually the middle part of a three-episode arc where Romulans try to instigate war between Earth, Vulcan, Andorians, and other planets. As a prototype Romulan ship with the capability to alter its outer appearance attacks different alien ships, the Enterprise crew and alien allies try to discern what is actually happening before war breaks out.

The alliance formed from the effort was one of Star Trek: Enterprise’s best moments and this episode used its all shipsprequel status to its best advantage. The highlight of “United” was a lingering shot featuring an armada of Earth, Vulcan, Andorian and Tellarite spaceships after confronting the Romulan menace. Thus, the seeding of the eventual United Federation of Planets has begun.

azati prime3. “Azati Prime” Archer and the Enterprise finally reach the Xindi super weapon in the aliens’ territory and prepare to destroy it, but Archer is suddenly whisked into the far future by the enigmatic time traveler Daniels (Matt Winston). As this goes on, the Xindi discover the Enterprise and launch a devastating assault that ends in a nail-biting cliffhanger.

What made this episode stand out is the revelation that what Archer does has a pivotal impact in Star Trek’s distant future. Plus, a hint of a future Enterprise is shown for good measure.

2. “Demons”/”Terra Prime” As Earth and its allies begin its first steps to forming the basis for what will become the revered Federation, those plans are threatened with the emergence of a xenophobic human terrorist group that wants to keep Earth and humanity isolated.

tera primeEven though “These are the Voyages” was the official final episode of Star Trek: Enterprise, this penultimate two-part story is a much more valid conclusion to the series. That is because it points the way towards Star Trek’s optimistic future and illustrates quite nicely how the characters help pave the way for what lies ahead with Star Trek.

1. “In a Mirror Darkly, Parts I & II” Starting with a cold opener where humanity’s first contact with Vulcan takes a more savage turn, and then showcasing a dark, militaristic opening credits in a mirror darklyfans were in for a treat as the cast chewed lines and reveled in playing evil versions of their characters. Amidst the histrionics, questions about the original Star Trek episode “The Tholian Web” were answered and we learned the origins of the brutal Terran Empire seen in other Star Trek shows. “In a Mirror Darkly” was a true treat for fans with its numerous shenanigans and shout outs to the Star Trek mythos.

Strange as it seems, the best episode of Star Trek: Enterprise doesn’t even feature the main cast. Rather this two-part story is solely about the Mirror, Mirror parallel universe versions of the Enterprise crew. It was easy to tell the cast had a great time portraying twisted, malevolent versions of their normal characters and that added to the joy of seeing “In a Mirror Darkly”.

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This fourth-season episode best shows the strengths of Star Trek: Enterprise when it fully realized its potential by being an actual prequel rather than recycling old storylines from other Star Trek shows. Sadly, the improvements the show underwent came too late since it was cancelled at the end of its fourth season. As lamentable as that was, at least Star Trek: Enterprise has a distinctive honor that other Star Trek shows lack: it ended on a creative high note.

Honorable Mentions: “The Andorian Incident”, “Awakening”, “The Council”, “Countdown”, “Dead Stop”, “Harbinger”, “Kir’Shara”, “Minefield”, “Observer Effect”, “Regeneration”, “Silent Enemy”, “Similitude”, and “Storm Front, Parts I & II,

José Soto

A Look At Leonard Nimoy’s Best Spock Moments

spock overheadIt’s still hard to believe that Leonard Nimoy, the Star Trek icon, is gone. As we celebrate his contribution to sci-fi culture let’s look at some of his best moments playing the unforgettable Mr. Spock on TV and film. From stoic, calm and collected to comical or out of character to poignant these are some of truly memorable moments. Live long and prosper, indeed.

Most logical…

A brief moment for love

Funny times

Jammin’ Spock

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