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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Star Trek’s Best Romances

kirk gets his groove 

In between the fisticuffs, space battles and technobabble, Star Trek is noted for its dalliances in romances. Captain James T. Kirk is nearly infamous for his numerous romantic relationships which earned him a well-deserved reputation as an intergalactic ladies man. While the original Star Trek series and its characters had many star-crossed romantic interludes, so too, did the Star Trek spinoffs, which had their fair share of romances. In honor of Valentine’s Day and Star Trek’s 50th anniversary, let’s look at some of the most memorable romantic moments from Star Trek.

Will They or Won’t They?

A common romantic motif in Star janeway chakotay resolutionsTrek is that of romantic tension between would-be lovers. They’re attracted to each so why can’t they go the extra step? In Star Trek: Voyager, Captain Kathryn Janeway and Chakotay’s shared a hidden romantic tension was stronger in the early episodes and led to many fan-fiction stories about them going a step further. The closest the two ever came close to consuming their feelings was in “Resolutions” where they were self-exiled on a planet and over time their professional restraint began to wither. But before they could go further, the two were rescued and the show never re-visited this subplot.

odo and kira 3This also happened in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine between Odo and Kira Nerys. At first, it was a case of unrequited love where Odo was madly in love with her, but Kira was involved with Bareil, a Bajoran clergyman. Odo’s plight was quite poignant thanks to some strong acting by Rene Auberjonois. The situation changed in later seasons when the two finally became a couple (“His Way”)…only to regretfully separate in the series finale “What You Leave Behind”.

Star Trek: Enterprise also featured a long-trip and tpol 2simmering relationship, this one between the Vulcan T’Pol and the Enterprise’s engineer “Trip” Tucker. That romance started off in the typical fashion: two disparate souls clashing with each other in a way reminiscent of the old Spock and McCoy arguments. Except this time, the two participants were growing closer, first as respectful colleagues then friends and finally lovers in the episode “Harbinger”. It was a refreshingly mature relationship that was based on mutual respect and curiosity about each other’s feelings and cultures.

married riker

Arguably the most popular couple falling into this category had to be Will Riker and Deanna Troi. At the start of Star Trek: The Next Generation, it was established that the two were former lovers. Their relationship ended because of Riker’s ambition (never mind that he turned down many promotions during the series and most films). But there were lingering feeling between the two that were never quite re-ignited. That didn’t occur until the movie Star Trek: Insurrection where they rekindled their romance thanks to the effects of being on an alien planet. Thankfully it wasn’t a brief fling because at the start of the next film Star Trek: Nemesis the two had married each other.

Star-Crossed Marriages

The later Star Trek shows featured married couples who were part of the cast and this allowed for the showcasing of marital issues. But in a nice twist, rather than go into dark territories and have the couples separate or commit adultery, many episodes showed how strong a marital bond was and celebrated the married couples’ romance.

miles and keikoOne of the earliest married Starfleet couples we saw was in Star Trek: The Next Generation when in the episode “Data’s Day” we found out that Miles O’Brien was getting married. This development fleshed out his character and made him even more of an everyman to fans. He and his wife Kieko were featured in many episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation before becoming regular cast members of the spinoff Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.

worf and jadzia

In the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episodes featuring O’Brien we often saw the joys and pitfalls of married life through his and Keiko’s eyes, though the “Fascination” episode took time to explore how the two rekindled the passion for each other. In later seasons, when Worf became part of the crew, he realized his love for Jadzia Dax (“Looking for par’Mach in All the Wrong Places”) after being spurned by a Klingon woman who only had eyes for Quark. Eventually the couple married (“You Are Cordially Invited”) and Worf’s devotion for Jadzia was so strong that in the episode “Change of Heart” he abandoned an important covert mission in order to save his wife’s life.

tom kisses bellana

Another notable relationship that led to marriage was that of Tom Paris and B’Elanna Torres in Star Trek: Voyager. In the early seasons of that program, the two were strictly colleagues, however in the third season episode “Blood Fever” B’Elanna was afflicted with pon farr and soon she and Tom started a long-lasting relationship that culminated in marriage (“Drive”) during Star Trek: Voyager’s final season.

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The Star Trek Movies Ranked, Part II

Continuing this ranking of Star Trek films, we go from the undeniable classics to the lesser entries in the Star Trek film series. They range from being just okay to junk best seen on Mystery Science Theater 3000. As explained in the previous article, tier three films have their flaws but also boast some admirable qualities about them. Meanwhile, the tier four flicks are absolute junk that should only be seen by hardcore fans or the morbidly curious who want sleep aids.

Tier Three

7. Star Trek III: The Search For Spock (1984): The second Star Trek sequel has so many elements going for it, but for some reason it doesn’t search for spocktake off. After the triumph of Star Trek II, this direct sequel is a huge letdown. Trying to follow up Star Trek II is a difficult task and try as it did, Star Trek III couldn’t equal it, much less top it. For me, it’s hard to pinpoint why this film is a misfire, but for all the important plot developments it doesn’t have much passion.

In this sequel, James T. Kirk (William Shatner) and his core Enterprise crew risk everything, including their careers, to retrieve Spock’s (Leonard Nimoy) body from the Genesis Planet. Once there, they discover that he’s resurrected and now have to save him. There are many pivotal events in this movie; the Enterprise is destroyed, someone close to Kirk is killed, while his best friend comes back to life, and careers are jeopardized. Yet, most of these events feel ho-hum. One thing will happen, the characters reflect about it, then it’s on to the next development.

enterprise blows up

On the other hand, Star Trek III is not to be missed, not just because of what happens in the movie, but for its merits. The character interactions are fantastic and the actors all turn in solid performances. The villain of Star Trek III, a Klingon commander (Christopher Lloyd) is quite menacing and Lloyd plays him more nuanced than your typical Klingon, which was refreshing. The final battle between him and Kirk was also satisfying to watch. Production wise, Star Trek III hits the right marks and this is the movie that introduces the ubiquitous and iconic Klingon bird-of-prey ship and the Excelsior-class starship. Compared to the other films, Star Trek III is a good, but not an outstanding entry in this series.

crew8. Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979): I’ll be frank and say this movie is boring in many parts. Yet, there is so much that I like about it. It is the one film that stays truest to creator Gene Roddenberry’s vision for Star Trek and humanity in the future. Out of all the films, this one is the most cerebral and takes its influence from pre-Star Wars films like 2001: A Space Odyssey, and it does so to a fault.

In the first Star Trek movie, an enormous, destructive energy cloud is headed towards Earth and a newly refitted Enterprise is dispatched to confront it. The lead up to encountering the cloud was pretty good. Remember, when the film came out, we hadn’t seen the original crew in anything since the series ended in 1969. So, the film reveled in re-introducing Star Trek’s many iconic characters like James T. Kirk, Spock and McCoy (DeForest Kelley). That reunion aspect worked very well thanks to Jerry Goldsmith’s majestic and triumphant score, special effects that still hold up today and the cast’s acting prowess–they’re clearly comfortable in their familiar roles.

Well, we’re building up to when the Enterprise confronts the energy cloud. The movie is self-indulgent at parts, enterprise refitbut it’s moving along. Then midway through it, the film comes to a snoozing halt after the first encounter reveals that the cloud is hiding an immense artificial entity that is seeking its creator. Overly long scenes of people staring at special effects plague the movie. They’re pretty to look at, but after a few minutes, it becomes overkill and enough is enough! There is a lot of pondering throughout, in fact, there’s too much of it. But in spite of its faults, Star Trek: The Motion Picture has an ethereal, contemplative quality that is hard to dismiss.

9. Star Trek: Nemesis (2002): This is probably the most underrated Star Trek film in the batch, which is unfortunate. Due to its dismal reception at the box office and with fans, this would turn out to be the last film to feature The Next Generation crew. It does have major faults, such as its by-the-numbers execution and that it outright cannibalizes plot elements from the TV show Star Trek: The Next Generation and Star Trek II. At one point, it was the best ripoff of the first Star Trek sequel until Star Trek Into Darkness came along.

s3Captain Jean-Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart) is ordered to take the Enterprise-E to the enemy Romulan homeworld and meet that empire’s new leader in a peace initiative. This leader turns out to be Shinzon (Tom Hardy), a young clone of Picard and he has a major beef with Picard and the Federation. Shinzon’s unclear motives are one of the weakest elements about Star Trek: Nemesis and that is vital since this film’s premise hangs on the villain. He just lacks the gravitas to be an effective foil for Picard. What’s worse is his lack of reason for wanting to attack the Federation. All Shinzon does is spout corny lines about being Picard’s opposite. It’s probably the film’s clumsy attempt at addressing the theme of duality. Adding to that theme is a redundant sub plot involving the android Data (Brent Spiner) and his duplicate, which already happened n the TV series. The action is unexpectedly flaccid considering that the director (Stuart Baird) was known for helming action films.

Still, this film has some merits. It features interesting character scenes and it exudes an atmosphere of impending change. The scene where the Enterprise-E is rammed enterprise fightsagainst Shinzon’s warship is pretty cool though, but a major character’s death doesn’t generate much of a reaction from me. It felt forced and trite since it tried to evoke Spock’s death in Star Trek II. With all that, somehow, it serves as a decent wrap up for films featuring The Next Generation crew.  At the very least, the film isn’t dull and has superb special effects and the last score done by composer Jerry Goldsmith. Continue reading

Star Trek Movie Retrospective–Star Trek: Insurrection

“How many people does it take admiral, before it becomes wrong? Hmmm? A thousand? Fifty thousand? A million?”

Captain Jean-Luc Picard questioning Admiral Dougherty’s attitude about forcibly relocating 600 Ba’ku villagers

ins posterThe ninth Star Trek film, Star Trek: Insurrection, isn’t well regarded by fans and even the people who made it. However, it does have some merit. In fact, as our contributor GEO would say, here’s what’s great about Star Trek: Insurrection:

Still looking? Don’t bother. There isn’t anything great about the film.

dataIt opens in a quaint pastoral Mediterranean-looking village on an unnamed planet. The townspeople are a simple and content lot who tend to their fields, bake bread and live a quiet existence. But they’re monitored unnoticed by Starfleet personnel and mummified-looking aliens in a duck blind. They’re also tracking an invisible person who turns out to be the android Lt. Commander Data (Brent Spiner) who has gone rogue. Other cloaked officers try to stop him from reaching the village, but the android reaches it. The villagers become aware of them, especially after Data removes his invisible suit and shoots at the invisible monitoring station, making it visible to everyone.

uniform

Meanwhile, Captain Jean-Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart) is hosting a reception onboard his ship, the Enterprise-E, for new members of the United Federation of Planets. He runs into his old Klingon friend Lt. Commander Worf (Michael Dorn) who apparently dropped by the ship to visit. Worf at this time was a regular character in the show Star Trek: Deep Space Nine (DS9) but it’s never really explained what he was doing on the Enterprise-E.

sona ship enterprisePicard gets an urgent message from Admiral Dougherty (Anthony Zerbe) who is requesting Data’s schematics and informs him of the android’s behavior. He adds that Data took hostage the Starfleet observers along with the Son’a, the aliens working with the observers. The captain offers to send his ship over to help but Dougherty discourages this since the planet they’re on is in a perilous region of space nicknamed the Briar Patch.  It got that name from its volatile gases in the system’s nebula that creates anomalies like poor communication.

His interest piqued, Picard has the Enterprise-E go to the planet anyway. When they arrive, Dougherty is with the Son’a leader Ru’afo (F. Murray Abraham) on the Son’a’s command ship, which was just attacked scout shipby Data in a scout ship. Picard and Worf quickly leave their ship in a shuttlecraft and are in turn attacked by Data’s ship near the ringed planet. Both vessels enter the planet’s atmosphere during a cat-and-mouse chase. Over the radio, Picard engages Data to an embarrassingly dumb musical duet based on a Gilbert and Sullivan musical. This distracts the android long enough for Worf to board his ship and deactivate him with a modified tricorder.

Afterwards, the Enterprise-E crew arrive at the village to free the hostages. They’re surprised to find that the so-called prisoners are treated as guests and are free to leave. Picard meets one of the villagers, Anij (Donna Murphy) and a few others. They’re the Ba’ku and despite their primitive appearance are actually a warp-capable society who are up to date on science and technology but choose to live a simpler life.

Back on the Enterprise-E, Chief Engineer Geordi LaForge (Levar Burton) informs Picard that Data’s positronic brain was damaged in a firefight, which is picard data and chickwhy he was acting strangely. Data, now repaired, is activated. The android doesn’t remember much of what happened to him, so him and Picard go back to the planet to investigate. Anij and other Ba’ku, including a young boy named Artim (Michael Welch) who previously encountered Data, join them. They discover a cloaked rectangular ship that is really one large holoship that can recreate any environment inside of it. The ship has a recreated Ba’ku’s village, meaning that the villagers were to be transported there while they slept and fooled into thinking they were still in the village. The mystery just deepens.

Picard and his crew begin experiencing strange reactions to being on the planet, notably that they are getting younger. Worf breaks out in acne, First Officer William Riker (Jonathan Frakes) and Counselor Deanna Troi (Marina Sirtis) rekindle a dormant romance and most dramatically Geordi regains his eyesight. The scene where Geordi looks at a sunrise for the first time in his life was his best moment in all the films thanks to Burton’s quietly emotional acting.

geordi sees

Anij explains to Picard what is going on. The Ba’ku left their ruined planet centuries ago and resettled in the current world. The metaphasic radiation from the rings of the planet rejuvenated them, which explains the Ba’ku’s youthful appearance. Anij and many others are actually centuries old thanks to the rings. The Ba’ku’s world is an actual Fountain of Youth, which is why Starfleet and the sickly Son’a are so interested.

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Star Trek Movie Retrospective–Star Trek: First Contact

“The line must be drawn HERE! This far, no farther! I…will make them PAY for what they’ve done!”

Captain Jean-Luc Picard ranting about the Borg

posterWhen producers started making the eighth Star Trek film, they knew it had to deliver big. The previous film was successful but received criticisms over its quality. So for Star Trek: First Contact they brought out the big guns in the form of the Borg, the most popular villains on the TV show Star Trek: The Next Generation (TNG). And it worked.

It opens with a close up shot of Captain Jean-Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart) looking straight ahead. The camera pulls back to reveal he’s inside the nightmarish machinery of a Borg vessel. What’s worse is his transformation into one of them and losing his identity. The Borg are a cold, and nearly invincible cyborg race made up of assorted aliens that are forcibly converted using painful looking cybernetic implants. They seek the perfect union between machine and life and assimilating other races to achieve this objective.

cast

Picard eventually wakes up from the nightmare, which was a flashback to his ordeal in the classic two-part episode “The Best Of Both Worlds”. He’s onboard his new ship, the Enterprise-E and receives news that the Borg have returned to Federation space. However, instead of being ordered to join an assembled armada to fight the Borg, he is to patrol the Romulan Neutral Zone with his ship.

He and his crew are visibly restless about their orders. Later as they carry them out, his first officer Will Riker (Jonathan Frakes) complains about the orders, Picard tells him that Starfleet feels that his own experiences with being turned into a Borg will compromise his ability to fight them.

Just then he and the crew pick up transmissions from the fight. Things aren’t going well for the Starfleet armada, it’s losing badly to the Borg. Having heard enough, Picard decides to disobey orders and join the fight, with his crew behind him. The Enterprise-E then warps off at its highest speed to Earth.

borg battle2

The very next scene features a mammoth and imposing Borg cube that fills the screen, accompanied by a booming score, as it nears our planet. It’s slammed by weapons fire from Starfleet ships. Unlike “The Best Of Both Worlds” the ships are putting up a better fight, but are still losing. New and eye-catching Starfleet ships abound, one of them is the Defiant, the scrappy escort vessel seen in the TV show Star Trek: Deep Space Nine (DS9). Commanding the Defiant is the Klingon Lt. Commander Worf (Michael Dorn), who in between films, joined DS9. His damaged ship is caught in a tractor beam from the cube.

borg battleThe  Enterprise-E suddenly joins the fray, rescues the Defiant and beams aboard its survivors. Moments later, Worf joins his old comrades at the bridge, completing the film reunion. Picard takes command of the fleet and orders a simultaneous barrage of weapons fire at specific spots on the cube.

In a spectacular display, the Starfleet ships fire a vicious volley at the Borg cube and destroy it. However, before it explodes, the cube releases a smaller, sphere-shaped vessel that rushes towards Earth.

The Enterprise-E is on its tail as a temporal vortex opens up in front of the Borg sphere that leaves behind borg earthan energy wake that washes over the Enterprise-E.  After the sphere disappears into the vortex, the horrified crew of the starship see the Earth before them become Borgified. The planet’s colorful landmasses are transformed into one continuous field of metallic grey.

They  deduce that the sphere traveled to Earth’s past and assimilated the planet. The ship’s android operations officer Lt. Commander Data (Brent Spiner) theorizes that the wake protected them from being changed with the altered timeline. Before the vortex can close, Picard orders the Enterprise-E to go through it.

The sphere emerges from the vortex and begins attacking a small, rundown town in Montana. The Enterprise-E arrives a few minutes later and destroys the sphere. They learn they’re in the mid 21st century, April 4, 2063 to be exact, about ten years after World War III. Based on that information, Picard realizes that the Borg want to stop Zefram Cochrane, the human inventor of warp drive technology, from successfully testing Earth’s first warp drive ship, the Phoenix. Its flight on the next day will attract the attention of a passing Vulcan ship, which will then travel to Earth. The resulting peaceful first contact will eventually lead to the founding of the United Federation of Planets.

Fearing the worst, Picard with an Away Team beams down to the town, which actually has a missile complex. picard dataEven though most of the personnel in the complex are dead, Cochrane’s assistant and co-pilot Lily Sloane (Alfre Woodard) is found alive but suffering from radiation poisoning. She’s taken back to the ship for treatment by Chief Medical Officer Dr. Beverly Crusher (Gates McFadden) while Picard looks for Cochrane. The Phoenix (actually a converted nuclear missile) is damaged but repairable.

Throughout the film, Picard was able to hear Borg voices in his head, a residual effect of his ordeal after being assimilated. He hears them again and returns to the ship with Data, while having Riker beam down to continue looking for Cochrane. Chief Engineer Geordi LaForge (Levar Burton) also beams down with a team to repair the Phoenix and continue with the planned flight.

Back on the Enterprise-E, the bridge crew discover that they are losing control over several systems and cannot contact main engineering. It soon becomes apparent that there are Borg drones onboard the starship. The captain theorizes that before the sphere was destroyed several Borg must’ve beamed onboard undetected to assimilate the starship. Acting quickly, Picard orders Data to lock out the main computer and heads to main engineering with a security team. Picard’s plan is to puncture the warp core’s plasma coolant tanks, which will flood engineering and liquefy all organic matter, namely the Borg’s organic parts.

ee corridors

When they get near their destination, several Borg drones, many of whom are assimilated crewmembers, attack Picard’s detail. They’re forced to retreat but Data is captured.

During his retreat, Picard runs into Lily, who evacuated sickbay and separated from Crusher’s medical team after the Borg broke into the medical facility. Lily doesn’t know what is going on and orders Picard at phaser point to be taken back home. PIcard is able to convince her that she is on a ship from the future and takes her with him to a holodeck. They briefly hide there while a 1940s detective story simulation plays until two Borg enter the holodeck. Picard begins to exhibit his inner rage and transforms into a movie action hero while killing them with a holographic Tommy gun. Then he retrieves a neural processor from one of the corpses to learn the Borg’s plans.

outer space fightOne of them is to use the ship’s deflector to contact other Borg for reinforcements. This leads to one of the film’s most suspenseful moments: a dangerous battle with the enemy outside on the ship’s outer hull. They’re truly inhuman with their capability to function without spacesuits, while Picard, Worf and a redshirt named Hawk (Neal McDonough) donned sleek, white EV suits.

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