Star Trek: Discovery’s Canon Problem

A major complaint about Star Trek: Discovery is that for a prequel set before the original Star Trek it violates so much of what was established in the original series that it should be thought of as a straight up remake. Everyone always brings up the fact the for a prequel the world shown in Star Trek: Discovery is too advanced when compared to Star Trek or that it violates the established canon of this franchise.

There is legitimate cause to feel this way and the coy remarks by the show’s powers that be do not help matters, they promise us that the show is set in the Prime Universe of Star Trek.  But this has not satisfied many who then online negative posts and videos and proclaim the show is not true Star Trek.

Of course, a lot of the criticisms about Star Trek: Discovery are valid, but we should be careful about using the show’s look and canon problems as a reason to dismiss it as something that doesn’t belong with Star Trek.

One thing to consider is that throughout its 50-plus years Star Trek and its films and spinoffs have many continuity problems. For instance, in the early episodes of Star Trek there wasn’t a United Federation of Planets. Instead there was a United Earth Space Probe Agency, then it was never clear as to when it took place. Remember the infamous misspelling of James Kirk’s name in the second pilot “Where No Man Has Gone Before”? The good captain’s middle initial was shown to be R. instead of T.

Then there are the Klingons. In the original show they were basically swarthy humans with actors in brownface portraying them. In the first film and onwards, the aliens were revamped and looked more alien thanks to ridges now showing on their foreheads. This perplexed fans until Star Trek: Enterprise offered an onscreen explanation as to why the Klingons looked so different.

And while people love to complain about Michael Burnham being Spock’s unspoken of foster sister, what about his renegade half-brother Sybok? Until the film where Sybok first appeared (Star Trek V: The Final Frontier), Spock’s best friend Kirk didn’t know Sybok existed. It stands to reason Spock never bothered mentioning Burnham. He is a rather private person.

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Top 50 Star Trek Episodes, Part 3: Episodes 10-1

 

 

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As we continue the celebration of Star Trek’s 50th anniversary, it’s only logical (pun intended) to countdown the top 10 episodes of the original Star Trek series. Strange as it sounds, it was both hard and easy to pick out the ten best episodes from the most phenomenal sci-fi TV series of all time. While the episodes listed in the three-part Top 50 countdown were classics in their own right, these particular ten stood out from the rest time and time again, and will probably continue to do long into the future. Most of these rankings may seem natural and obvious to many readers, but it’s just a testament to the strength and timelessness of these Star Trek episodes.

10. “Shore Leave” Captain James T. Kirk (William Shatner), commanding officer of the starship Enterprise, leads a landing party to an unusual planet where one’s private thoughts become reality. While this leads to many wish-fulfilling moments, such as Kirk’s reunion with a lost love, the planet’s nature creates dangerous situations like attacks from a medieval knight, a samurai and a fighter plane.

McCoy in shore-leave

At times whimsical with a generous dose of the perilous “Shore Leave” was one of the more unique episodes of Star Trek and predated the ubiquitous holodeck shows of the spinoffs, but better done. Not only did the episode place our heroes in offbeat scenarios, but “Shore Leave” provided some curious insights of our heroes.

9. “The Corbomite Maneuver” This episode is a classic example of how a First Contact scenario might play out between human and alien and how it can potentially lead to disaster. In reality, this was the second Star Trek episode produced for the actual series and it shows. The production of Star Trek looked a bit different like the velour uniforms and Spock’s (Leonard Nimoy) harsher makeup.

balok

Despite that, “The Corbomite Maneuver” is a standout classic because of the strength of its script. Upon encountering a mysterious alien presence Captain Kirk is forced to play a guessing game with the unknown alien who tests the Enterprise and its crew. Even though Kirk’s strategies are indeed impressive, what’s more unforgettable is the episode’s conclusion when the nature of the alien and its motive are revealed.

8. “The Trouble With The Tribbles” As one of the most popular episodes in any Star Trek, “The Trouble With The Tribbles” is also the funniest and for good reason. It’s still as much fun to watch today as it was 50 years ago (well, 49 to be exact, it first aired in 1967).

kirk-in-trouble-with-the-tribbles

The Enterprise arrives at a Federation space station visited by belligerent Klingons feuding with the Federation over the claim of a nearby planet. As Kirk tries dealing diplomatically with the Klingons and the bureaucratic station heads, adding to his headaches is an infestation of furry animals called tribbles. Loveable at first, the balls of fur over-multiply and besiege the station and the Enterprise. The episode is famous for its many humorous moments, especially the iconic scene where Kirk is buried in a pile of multi-colored tribbles as he gets to the bottom of a mystery involving the station’s contaminated grain stores.

7. “Space Seed” Here’s the landmark episode that introduced Star Trek’s greatest villain, Khan Noonien Singh, played with great aplomb and gusto by Ricardo Montalban.

Khan and his cohorts were genetically enhanced superman/despots from the 20th century who were cryogenically frozen and revived by the Enterprise crew. Once thawed out, Khan’s ambitious nature drives him into an escalating battle of wits with Captain Kirk. This culminates in Khan with his allies seizing control of the Enterprise and capturing the ship’s crew. Of course, it’s up to Kirk to free his people and defeat the genetically superior despot.

space-seed-khan-vs-kirk

Due to Montalban’s captivating performance, Khan clearly left a huge impact in Star Trek mythos and is why the villain was the clear standout in “Space Seed”. Kirk has faced many villains but Khan was his most dangerous and mesmerizing opponent. As we all know, Khan was so unforgettable that he had to return to Star Trek years later with the most popular Trek film Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.

6. “This Side of Paradise” What starts off as an intriguing mystery and quickly turns into a romance with an unlikely lead: Mr. Spock. “This Side of Paradise” opens with an Enterprise landing party investigating how colonists on a radiation-filled world are still alive. The answer soon comes in the form of symbiotic spores that infect the Enterprise crew.

spock-and-leila-in-this-side-of-paradise

The spores give the infected a feeling of unproductive bliss, including Spock who is now able to express his feelings with an unrequited love, Leila Kalomi (Jill Ireland) who he reunites with on the planet. Meanwhile the rest of the crew quickly abandon their duties and plan to spend the rest of their lives on the spore-infected world.

The focus on Spock and his newfound romance was an outstanding highlight thanks to Nimoy and Ireland’s excellent performances and a wonderful, romantic score. It was truly heartening to see Spock finally letting his hair down and experience a brief moment of happiness even though the plot’s conclusion was poignantly bittersweet.

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Star Trek Beyond Pushes Past Other Treks In A Thrilling Ride

Star Trek Beyond poster

The latest Star Trek film, Star Trek Beyond, is unlike other Star Trek films, but shares many qualities of the best of them. It is a fun thrill ride that has heart and character development and takes audiences along into a grand adventure.

The way this film is different than other Trek films is that it takes place in deep space, nowhere near Earth and all the trappings of the Federation and nearby space. No Klingons, Romulans or other familiar trappings that have started to stifle Star Trek, even the reboot films. Star Trek Beyond feels completely original because it doesn’t try to ape lines and scenes from other films and in doing this the film feels very fresh and is the jolt that the franchise needs.

kirkAt the same time, this film pays respectful homage to the original Star Trek and especially Star Trek: Enterprise. To explain how would spoil too much of the film’s plot.  Star Trek Beyond takes place in the third year of the Enterprise’s five-year mission. Captain James T. Kirk (Chris Pine) is feeling burned out in his job and is thinking of taking on a new challenge. Soon after, the Enterprise arrives at this magnificent Starbase called Yorktown, which is more like a floating city or colony unbound by gravity. The scenes that show off the splendor of the Yorktown base are jaw dropping and is unlike anything seen in most films and bring to mind many literary sci-fi orbital cities.

Enterprise attacked by swarm

An alien woman in a spaceship arrives and asks for help rescuing her crew past a nearby nebula. The Enterprise is sent through the nebula and on the other side is attacked by swarm-like ships. Quickly, the small ships overwhelm the Enterprise and actually rip it apart. This forces Kirk to evacuate the ship and this splits up the main cast, who take refuge in a nearby planet. Separately, the bridge crew struggle to survive and stay one step ahead of the alien swarm. With most of the ship’s crew captured by the aliens on the planet, Kirk has to find a way to marshal his resources to free his people and defeat the aliens. Splitting up the main characters is a good move since they’re given their standout moments. An interesting thing to note is that the cast looks noticeably older now but fit the iconic roles better because of this factor. It is much easier to buy these actors as the characters they’re interpreting.

As usual, Karl Urban steals the film with his dead-on Jayla, Spock and McCoyimpersonation of the late DeForest Kelley doing Dr. McCoy. He gets most of the funniest lines and his scenes with Spock (Zachary Quinto) allow the two characters to bond and echo the classic banter between Kelley and Leonard Nimoy. Other stand out characters are Scotty (Simon Pegg) and his alien ally Jaylah (Sofia Boutella) who rescues Scotty on the planet. Jayla is full of fire and is a breakout character in the Star Trek films. The villain in this film, the aliens’ leader Krall (Idris Elba), is one tough foe who is after an alien artifact that was on the Enterprise. But what makes him stand out is his backstory, which makes him one of the most unique Star Trek villains on film or TV.

On the whole, Star Trek Beyond is consistently fun to watch and goes a long way to validate the reboot in ways that the past two attempts did not.

kirk trio

At the same time, the film took time out to have some quiet character related moments that add heart and nuance. It was very welcome and overall strikes a good balance with the flow of the film. Do not be put off by the first trailer which did not represent the film’s tone at all. Anyone involved with that trailer should not be allowed near another Trek film because of the way it gave the wrong impression about Star Trek Beyond. It needs repeat viewings to confirm that this is the best of the three reboot films and one of the better entries on the whole. After some shaky summer releases Star Trek Beyond is just what was needed. It’s a terrific and reverential way to celebrate Star Trek’s 50th anniversary thanks to its characters, their interactions, and a non-stop sense of adventure.

José Soto

Top 50 Star Trek Episodes, Part 2: Episodes 11-30

 Star Trek collage wallpaper

As many reading this know, this year marks Star Trek’s 50th anniversary. It’s actually an event that will happen in less than three months from now as celebrations will most likely hit fever pitch among fans who delighted in the space-faring adventures of Captain James T. Kirk (William Shatner), First Officer Spock (Leonard Nimoy) and the rest of the starship Enterprise crew. Continuing our countdown of the 50 best episodes from the original Star Trek series, we will start with the 30th best episode…

30. “Tomorrow is Yesterday” The starship Enterprise and its crew time travel to the 1960s and rescues a U.S. Air Force pilot (Roger Perry) who isn’t allowed to return home and report on what he has witnessed.

Tomorrow is Yesteday

29. “The Conscience of the King” Excellent scripted lines and stellar acting by Arnold Moss as a tortured former dictator turned Shakespearian actor highlights this episode.

Conscience of the King

28. “The Devil in the Dark” Captain James T. Kirk and Spock investigate killings at an underground mining facility by a monstrous rock-like creature. But there is more to the story…

Devil in the Dark

27. “Journey to Babel” The Enterprise transports diplomats to a peace conference; among the passengers are Spock’s estranged parents (Mark Sarek and Jane Wyatt). Complicating the occasion are the strained relations between Spock and his father and an onboard secret agent trying to wreck the conference.

Journey to Babel

26. “Assignment: Earth” In this backdoor pilot, Kirk and Spock time travel to Earth in the 1960s and meet the mysterious Gary Seven (Robert Lansing), a human sent by aliens to Earth to keep humanity from destroying itself. However, his mission is hampered by Kirk and Spock who suspect Seven is up to no good.

Gary Seven Assignment Earth

25. “The Empath” Kirk, Spock and Dr. McCoy (DeForest Kelley) are captured and tortured by callous aliens. During the ordeal they meet Gem (Kathryn Hays), a mute woman who has the power to heal others and is also under study by the aliens to see if her people are worthy of salvation. Helping make the episode so memorable were Hay’s magnificent and expressive performance and a beautiful score.

The Empath

24. “Amok Time” Spock must return to his home planet Vulcan and mate or else he will die. This episode was the first one to lift the veil on the enigmatic Vulcans and revealed much about their logic-based culture. The Vulcan travelogue and cultural exploration were punctuated by a nail-biting duel between Spock and his friend Kirk for the hand of Spock’s betrothed.

Amok Time duel

23. “The Enemy Within” A transporter malfunction splits Kirk into two halves. One meek and indecisive, the other lecherous and primal. This oft-used trope of the evil twin actually worked well because the script (by Richard Matheson) thoughtfully examined how dual aspects of Kirk’s personality, including his savage side, were essential to his survival and capability as a leader.

Kirk the Enemy Within

22. “Friday’s Child” On a planet with a primitive and brutal society Kirk, Spock and McCoy are embroiled in a tribal power struggle involving Klingons. After the head of local tribal leader is killed the trio must escort his pregnant wife (Julie Newmar) to safety while avoiding the leader’s successor and his men. Meanwhile, McCoy has to deal with an uncooperative patient and Spock, who is clueless around infants.

Friday's Child

21. TIE: “The Cage”/”The Menagerie, Part I &II” The very first Star Trek pilot “The Cage” about telepathic aliens imprisoning Captain Pike (Jeffrey Hunter), a previous Enterprise captain, was rejected by NBC, but the network allowed series creator Gene Roddenberry to produce a second pilot. However, footage from the original pilot was recycled into a classic two-part episode of the regular series as Spock undergoes a court martial for helping his former commanding officer.

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A Brief Look At Star Trek: The Animated Series

trek animated

Back in the mid ’70s, the Star Trek animated series was literally one of the few outlets that Star Trek fans had when they were in need of new Trek content. This may seem odd given all the video games, books and whatnot that exists today for Star Trek, but in those times the animated series was the closest thing to new Trek. After all, it was executive produced by the original show’s creator Gene Roddenberry, written by many of the original show’s writers and voiced by most of the original actors.

It may seem easy to dismiss the cartoon today by some elitists who criticize the crude animation and simplistic story lines. But there was a bit more to the cartoon than what was on kzinthe surface. Remember these cartoons aired on Saturday mornings and were under strict parental guidelines. Yet, despite the limitations the series stood out. It even won a Daytime Emmy award for “Best Children’s Series”. Many of the scripts were penned by noted sci-fi writers like Larry Niven (who introduced his warlike aliens the Kzinti in the episode “The Slaver Weapon”), David Gerrold, and D.C. Fontana. Even Walter Koenig wrote one script for the series. In many instances, the series followed up with favorite characters like Harry Mudd and situations like the tribbles coming back to infest the Enterprise.

But more importantly, the animated series was  true to the spirit of Star Trek. Amid the children-oriented trappings of the episodes were morality tales and interesting sci-fi concepts. For example, the final episode “The Counter-Clock Incident” dealt with the value of old people and how they can still make a difference. In the episode “Yesteryear”, considered by many to be the best episode, the story examined the reality of losing a pet, which is traumatic to children.

yesteryear

One issue with the series is about whether or not it is considered canon in the Star Trek lore. For years, Gene Roddenberry and other insiders expressed the belief that the cartoon was not canon. However, elements of the show did make their way into Star Trek-related works and even episodes of spinoff shows. For example, a lot of background information about Vulcan and Spock’s youth that was introduced in “Yesteryear” have resurfaced in other Star Trek shows and books like the Star Trek Encyclopedia. Even James Kirk’s middle name, Tiberius, was first revealed in the cartoon and later confirmed in Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country. So, certain features of the animated show were considered canon by Paramount Studios.

Finally, in 2007, the Star Trek official website declared that the show is officially canon. Reinforcing this are statements from Gerrold and Fontana that the show represented the fourth year in the Enterprise’s five-year mission. Think of it this way, the episodes were just simplistic retellings of what actually happened to Kirk and the Enterprise crew during the fourth year.

kirk magicIt is hard to believe that over forty years later, the Star Trek animated series is still looked on fondly by fans. Just like its parent series that it is based on, the Star Trek animated series was more than just a children’s show. At the same time, before the film series and the spinoff TV shows, the animated series was something for fans to treasure and relive the Star Trek viewing experience. It’s regrettable that a new animated show based on Star Trek has not been produced since then. The rich lore of the Star Trek universe will provide so much material for new animated adventures and help keep the fandom thriving much in the same way that Star Wars: The Clone Wars and Star Wars Rebels has done for the other big sci-fi franchise. This is something for CBS Studios to think about in the 50th anniversary of Star Trek.

Lewis T. Grove