Star Trek: Discovery – A First Season Review

Ordinarily, when reviewing TV shows, I would watch 4 to 6 episodes to get a good feel for the program. With Star Trek: Discovery, I decided to wait until it concluded its first season before doing a review because I honestly could not decide how I felt about it. This latest Star Trek spinoff has been the most difficult to form an opinion about. It has many commendable features, yet there are so many aspects about it that misfires so badly, that we have to wonder if the creators behind this spinoff understand Star Trek at all. Major spoilers will follow.

Star Trek: Discovery takes place in the 2250s, which makes it a prequel to the original Star Trek. Then again it does not feel like a prequel but more like a remake. Naturally, it does not recreate the mood and production of the original because it would have been laughed off and this is part of the reason why it is so controversial with fans. Overall, this show has to be accepted as a remake rather than a reboot because there are many attempts to stick to canon and some elements established in the original Prime timeline, such as numerous Easter eggs, references and sound effects. On the other hand, they’re not always consistent with sticking to canon, which can be irritating. But once you put aside these feelings about this latest Star Trek spinoff, it becomes easier to watch.

Star Trek: Discovery is updated to today’s standards in terms of special effects, set design and writing. The entire show is beautifully executed and each episode feels more like a feature-length film than a TV show. While this is welcome, at times the creators went too far in reimagining Gene Roddenberry’s futuristic universe. A case in point is the unnecessary re-do of the Klingons, the show’s main enemy race. The poor actors portraying the Klingons seem to be drowning under all the heavy makeup and wardrobe and we have to wonder why the showrunners thought this was an improvement over the perfected Klingon look seen in the other spinoffs and films. Be that as it may, the subtle updating of other alien races like the Andorians and the Tellarites are executed well.

The Star Trek spinoff follows the story of Michael Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green), a former first officer who mutinied against her captain and was jailed. Her actions helped spark a war between the Klingons and the United Federation of Planets and most of the first season is devoted to this storyline and her redemption. Burnham is freed by the captain of the U.S.S. Discovery, Gabriel Lorca (Jason Isaacs), and enlists her to his crew for some ulterior motive. He assigns her to aid the ship’s science officer Lt. Paul Stamets (Anthony Rapp) and find a way to utilize an experimental spore drive being tested on the Discovery to win the war against the Klingons. Eventually this results in Stamets using himself as a conduit for the spore drive, which allows the ship to instantaneously travel anywhere.Even though Burnham is the main protagonist, Lorca has emerged as the most fascinating character thanks in part to Isaacs’ exemplary acting and the way he is written. Lorca was introduced as a mysterious, and unusually brutal commander who was obsessed with winning the war. He was not above tossing aside ethics to get the job done, and pushing people beyond their limit, yet he was a capable commander. But in the second half of the season, the Discovery wound up in the Mirror Universe where humans are evil and it was revealed that Lorca himself came from this reality. This confirmed many suspicions that fans had but in the end, this development was a disservice to Lorca who became a moustache-twirling villain and unremarkable. Hopefully, some way can be found to return some version of Lorca in the second season.Therein lies the fault and strength of Star Trek: Discovery and this is typical of its conflicting nature. Some characters are compelling and well developed like First Officer Saru (Doug Jones), a lanky and fastidious alien, Sylvia Tilly (Mary Wiseman), a bubbly young cadet, and Ash Tyler (Shazad Latif), a Starfleet officer who is actually a Klingon that was surgically altered into a human in order to infiltrate Starfleet. While others are interesting background bridge crewmembers  that  the show largely ignores. I’m not even sure what their names are, I just know them as the cyborg lady, or the woman with the metal implant on her skull. They barely have any dialogue and are begging to be examined more closely.

The stories themselves are also just as uneven. Some episodes are genuine classics and belong up there with the great Star Trek episodes. These include “The Wolf Inside”, “Despite Yourself” (two fantastic Mirror Universe tales), “Lethe”, “Choose Your Pain”, and “Into the Forest I Go”. As great as those were, Star Trek: Discovery is also weighed down with some downright clunkers that are poorly plotted and clumsily executed. One example is the first episode that aired for free on CBS, “The Vulcan Hello”, which needed to be great to entice people to subscribe to the CBS All Access app that streamed the rest of the episodes. Unfortunately, the season also ended on a less-than-thrilling note with a two-episode storyline that ended the war too quickly and unsatisfactory. However, the final shot of the last episode “Will You Take My Hand?” brought a thrill when a sparkling and graceful Enterprise appeared on the screen.Despite these faults, I have to admit that I genuinely enjoy Star Trek: Discovery. As far as first season Star Trek shows go, this is the best one since the original Star Trek. Unlike some other Star Trek spinoffs that first started out, this show is rarely dull and takes some genuine risks, even if they do not pay off. Of course, the criticism is valid that unlike its predecessors there isn’t any exploring done. This is something that is a vital essence of Star Trek, but it does push the envelope, chiefly with its characters and focus. The captain is not the main hero but a broken and disgraced former officer. Many of the characters are out to prove themselves and most of them do, which is why they are so easy to watch and root for.Another thing to note is that putting aside all the action and eye-popping visuals (seeing the Discovery spin its saucer while it goes into spore drive never gets dull), certain elemental truths about Star Trek are still there. We just have to recognize them: accepting diversity, seeking diplomatic solutions, and bettering yourself. As Alexander Courage’s iconic theme played during the end credits of the season finale, I found myself eagerly waiting to see more from Star Trek: Discovery, and for that reason the show is a success.

José Soto




The Cloverfield Conundrum

A lot of the buzz generated from the Super Bowl centered on the Netflix premiere of The Cloverfield Paradox. It was anticipated by many fans of the Cloverfield movies since it promised that it would explain the first Cloverfield film. Well, the film left many people confused as to what it all meant. Sure, it was the weakest of the Cloverfield films, but it explained how the three films are connected, though it was done clumsily. Ahead of this will be major spoilers for all three Cloverfield films.

The Cloverfield saga started ten years ago with the release of the first film, which at the time before its release was kept in secrecy. A bunch of clues about the film’s content was teased and after the film came out, many obsessed over the origin of the giant Cloverfield monster that wrecked New York City. As time passed and no sequels appeared, interest died off until a couple of years ago when the film 10 Cloverfield Lane was suddenly released. Originally, the dark, atmospheric thriller did not have any connection to the first film until vague Easter eggs were added. But the sci-fi angle confused fans. The giant kaiju from the first film never appeared, instead the world was threatened by invading aliens.

The Cloverfield Paradox (originally called God Particle) offered an explanation as to what caused these events. As viewers know, The Cloverfield Paradox takes place in a space station that uses a Hadron Collider to solve the world’s energy problems in the near future. This transports the station  into an alternate reality where World War III breaks out on Earth and the crewmembers spend the film figuring this out and trying to find a way back to their own dimension. When the surviving crew returns to their own reality the big reveal at the end is that their world is under attack by a super giant Cloverfield monster.

Many viewers were perplexed. The film takes place in the near future, so how come no one remembered the first Cloverfield film or the alien invasion from the second film? The answer is simple, the experiment on the space station ripped open the barriers between dimensions that affected the past (Cloverfield in 2008), present (10 Cloverfield Lane in 2016 for our present, more or less) and future (The Cloverfield Paradox or the third film’s present). This was foreshadowed early in the film by a conspiracy writer that this event would occur and the world would be invaded by monsters, aliens and demons. Note that the fourth upcoming Cloverfield film, called for now Overlord, takes place in World War II and deals with Nazis and the supernatural, so that writer’s claims about demons and the past being affected could be applied there. Who knows, maybe we’re next?

The Cloverfield Paradox has many problems, not just that the Cloverfield connections were obviously inserted into the film. But at least there’s an explanation for the bizarre sci-fi events in the film anthology.

Waldermann Rivera

Sorry Folks, No X-Men Or FF In The MCU For A While


Many of us were disappointed when we learned last week that there are not any immediate plans to integrate the X-Men or the Fantastic Four into the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). In an interview with Vulture, Marvel Studios head Kevin Feige stated that it is too soon to stick the newly acquired properties into the MCU and that Marvel Studios is busy with their current slate of heroes.

As disappointing as that is, it should not come as a surprise. First of all, despite all the news in December 2017 about Disney buying most of 21st Century Fox’s intellectual assets, it is not a done deal yet. It will take at least a year for the deal to be finalized and approved by the government and, of course, there can be roadblocks, which would disrupt immediate plans for the Marvel mutants and the First Family of comic books. Coming right out and making that statement was the safest thing for Feige to admit. The statement is a good way of letting fans know to not get their hopes up that the X-Men or the Fantastic Four will somehow turn up in the next two Avengers films.

To shoehorn these new characters into carefully planned films and TV shows would be too disruptive and ruin the narrative flow. They have to be naturally introduced into the MCU because that universe is not set up for mutants and their baggage, although it will be easier with the Fantastic Four. The X-Men property is built on the premise that mutants are widely feared and disliked by normal humans. This would not gel with the MCU where for the most part, superhumans are better received. In the comic books, although both mutants and superheroes co-exist, the way they are treated does not make sense. If normal people distrust mutants because of their powers, shouldn’t they feel the same way about superheroes? Comic book events like Civil War addressed this but the dichotomy still exists. Besides the entire humans-fearing-superhumans motif has been addressed in the MCU with Inhumans as seen on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and Inhumans. Last we heard both TV shows are nominally part of the MCU.

Look at the bright side, the time being given to integrate the properties allows Kevin Feige and Marvel Studios to have some breathing room. They can take their time to figure out how to integrate mutants and the Fantastic Four and just as important, who to cast in the roles. Despite what some may hope, it is likely that Marvel Studios will recast the iconic roles. This is a great opportunity for the Fantastic Four who’ve had terrible casting in the Fox films, but for the X-Men this can be traumatic for fans. Also, after the slated Fox X-Men films and TV shows run their course, it would be a good idea to give the properties a decent rest so when they make their comeback, the level of interest will be intense.

All we need is some patience and hope that at the very least some cryptic references about the X-Men and the Fantastic Four can be made in next year’s MCU films and beyond.

Lewis T. Grove 

The Black Mirror Episodes Ranked

Black Mirror poster

Black Mirror has caught on with many viewers thanks to its disturbing stories about the encroaching dangers and drawbacks of technology in our lives. Each episode in the sci-fi anthology series always points out the challenges and impact that new tech will bring. This superb series only consists of 19 episodes, but hopefully more episodes will be commissioned by Netflix. After all, not only is Black Mirror growing in popularity, but one of its episodes (“San Junipero”) won an Emmy award for Outstanding Television Movie  What follows is how each episode ranks; keep in mind that the lower-ranking episodes of Black Mirror are not bad, it’s just that the higher-ranked ones are extremely special. Needless, to say spoilers will be revealed.

19. “Men Against Fire”

A distraught soldier finds out there is more to the deadly mutated humans he and his team are hunting down and exterminating. By itself, this is not a bad episode, it’s just that by the time this one came out, the concept felt too familiar and the twist was too easy to guess.

hated in the nation

18. “Hated in the Nation”

Again, an enjoyable if unremarkable story that repeats themes from previous episodes. A detective investigates a series of deaths that are connected by the victims’ negative social media status. The payoff here is the means of how the killings are carried out.


17. “Playtest”

A stranded American tourist in the UK participates in a playtest of an experimental AR game. What he experiences in his artificial hell is chilling and the entire “is this real or not” scenario for the most part works. Unfortunately, it was obvious to viewers how the story would end.

16. “The National Anthem”

The very first Black Mirror episode is one of the most disturbing  and revolting stories and has the least amount of sci-fi elements, if any. The prime minister of the UK is forced to have sex with a pig on live TV to prevent the death of a kidnapped member of the Royal Family. Enough said.

15. “Arkangel”

Jodie Foster directed this unsettling story of an over-protective mother who has her young daughter implanted with a tracking device that functions as a censor to the dangers and violence in the real world. The consequences are just sad and the episode is a valid lesson for all parents.

14. “Crocodile”

A successful architect’s attempts to cover up an old murder are imperiled thanks to a device that recalls a person’s memories. This Black Mirror episode is more like a a murder mystery with a sci-fi device thrown in, but it’s well done. What stands out is its disheartening final act as the murders pile up.

13. “The Waldo Moment”

A vulgar animated bear that lampoons politicians becomes unexpectedly popular when on a lark the character is used to run for office. The implications of the outlandish campaign from the fictional character and the people behind the scenes are well explored. But what made “The Waldo Moment” so relevant is that it turned out to be an eerie foreshadowing of the Trump campaign.

White Bear

12. “White Bear”

A woman wakes up to find herself being hunted and videotaped by strangers. This was one of those Black Mirror episodes that kept you guessing until the final moments when we learn why she was being chased. This revelation completely changed our feelings towards the tortured woman.

11. “Black Museum”

A trio of stories rounds up the final (to date) episode of Black Mirror. A British tourist visits a remote museum in the American Southwest. The museum’s owner reveals the stories behind some artifacts (numerous props from other episodes are also seen, which tie together the entire series). The three stories themselves are well done and the payoff at the end was quite satisfying. Continue reading

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Boldly Went Where No Trek Had Gone Before

Twenty-five years ago, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine (DS9) premiered on syndicated TV and right from the start this Star Trek spinoff charted its own unique direction. Unlike other Star Trek TV shows, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine stood out beginning with its premise and later by taking advantage of it. The show did not take place onboard a starship that traveled to different planets each week. The main character was not even a captain and was deeply troubled. More than any other Star Trek show, this one truly focused on its ensemble cast to create a rich tapestry of characters who actually grew throughout the run of the series.

When executive producer Rick Berman and writer/producer Michael Piller set out to create a new spinoff after the success of Star Trek: The Next Generation they did not take the easy route. Instead of just recycling the elements of Star Trek that made it so phenomenal they tried something different. The result was a show based on a space station with fallible characters that did not always get along with each other. Instead of having the cast explore other planets, other races came to the station, some coming from a nearby wormhole, and often the consequences of meeting the aliens were explored.  Showrunners like Ira Steven Behr took over and ran with the premise. Simmering political, social and religious situations were explored. Tensions boiled over into a long-running arc where the Federation went to war with the formidable Dominion and the impact of the war was fully examined in the program. For the first time, Star Trek became more serialized as season-long arcs were introduced, a rarity in ’90s television.

Unlike the more safe Star Trek shows running at that time, DS9 was edgier, took more risks, and went where no Trek had gone before by exploring volatile issues like social injustice, ethnic and racial tensions, taboo relationships and more. In fact, for all the noise made about Star Trek: Discovery with its non-white lead, homosexual relationships and hot-button issues, it has to be mentioned that Star Trek: Deep Space Nine covered all of this twenty five years ago.

To say that DS9 was ahead of its time is an understatement, but it can help explain why it was not a huge hit back in its day. More attention was paid to Star Trek: The Next Generation and later to Star Trek: Voyager since the latter show featured Trek’s first female lead. Yet both shows played it safe with its storylines and characters. After a while fans noticed that their familiar premise of spaceships exploring the unknown was becoming too pedestrian and predictable. DS9 on the other hand, took chances and the result was some of the richest and most memorable Star Trek stories.

Unlike many programs, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine has aged well and is as relevant today as ever. Many are discovering the show and appreciate what it set out to do, which is why its reputation has grown over the years. While most will claim that the original Star Trek is still the best, a valid argument can be made that DS9 is actually the best Star Trek ever. If you haven’t seen the show, I highly recommend you sample it, even though the earlier episodes are the show’s weakest. However, DS9 comes into its own and before long, you will be binge watching it.

 Star Trek: Deep Space Nine is the most groundbreaking Star Trek show ever made because it boldly went where no Trek had gone before with its unique premise and rich characters and stories.

Lewis T. Grove