Tag Archives: gene roddenberry

TO BOLDLY REVIEW #5 – STAR TREK – ‘ORIGINAL SERIES’ MOTION PICTURES

TO BOLDLY REVIEW #5 – STAR TREK – ‘ORIGINAL SERIES’ MOTION PICTURES

After watching and reviewing the first three original Star Trek series and the 1970s animated show on my blog, I moved straight onto the first season of Star Trek: Next Generation. I then realised I had forgotten the original series film franchise; six films which were released between 1979 and 1986.

Safe to say they were hugely popular among the army of Trek fans worldwide, especially for those desperate for the original show to return. The films were welcomed with a combination of critical acclaim and commercial success; plus a mixture of positive and some negative reviews. Anyway, here are my mini-reviews of each film with marks up to warp drive 11!

**THIS ARTICLE CONTAINS SPOILERS**

Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979) – Director: Robert Wise

Unfortunately, time has not been kind to Star Trek: The Motion Picture, as it suffers when compared to other more successful sci-fi films of the era. While Robert Wise was an excellent film director he was arguably not quite right for the film and the script lacks warmth and humour also. Lastly, despite the story moving at a snail’s pace the film has some decent moments, with Jerry Goldsmith’s majestic score shining brightly too.

Mark: 6.5 out of 11

Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982) – Director: Nicholas Meyer

This is a direct sequel to the fantastic orginal series episode Space Seed. In it we find Ricardo Montalban’s uber-villain Khan Noonien Singh, relentlessly pursuing revenge against Kirk and the Enterprise crew. Meyer’s screenplay and direction capture the classic Trek approach to characterisation and sci-fi concepts, making this film great fun. Montalban and Meyer’s sharp script steal the show, with the allusions to sea-faring classics such as Moby Dick and Hornblower adding compelling thematic texture.

Mark: 8.5 out of 11

Star Trek III: The Search for Spock (1984) – Director: Leonard Nimoy

With Meyer having killed off Spock so heroically in the Wrath of Khan, this direct sequel spends most of its time trying to get out of that narrative black hole. With a terra-forming planet on the verge of destruction and those pesky Klingons wreaking havoc with their devious cloaking device, there’s a lot to keep the crew of the Enterprise busy. Chuck in Kirk’s secret son for emotional depth, plus seven ages of Spock (from baby to fully grown Vulcan), and overall you get a solid Trek yarn that has some memorable elements throughout.

Mark: 7 out of 11

Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home (1986) – Director: Leonard Nimoy

This sci-fi romp is basically a Trek comedy which finds the Enterprise sling-shotting back in time to 1980s San Francisco, in order to rescue whales which can save Earth from destruction in the present/ future. How the Tribble they worked out whales were so vital is something only the screenwriters can explain, but clearly they are environmental symbols in the narrative. Indeed, Star Trek as allegory, has always been a major strength of the show. Overall, while the plotting is a little crazy, the film spins its time-travel-fish-out-of-water plots with enough energy, jokes and action to keep everyone entertained.

Mark: 7.5 out of 11

Star Trek V: The Final Frontier (1989) – Director: William Shatner

This film is often cited as the worst of the franchise due to a muddled story and tonal confusion throughout. Also, for all his star quality and iconic character work as Kirk, William Shatner probably took on too much to act and direct in the troubled production. Nonetheless, the themes of the film are very interesting. Kirk, McCoy and Spock et al are faced with the messianic plans of an evangelistic Vulcan called Sybok. His plan is to capture the Enterprise and take his followers on a mission to find God; as you do.

Lawrence Luckinbill stands out as Sybok, delivering a charismatic performance as the intergalactic cult leader. Moreover, much emotional power is derived from his scenes where he manipulates those to follow his will; McCoy’s scenes are particulartly memorable. If only they’d stuck to the seriousness of such themes instead of veering into patchy comedy throughout, then the film may have been, while incredibly dark, way more satisfying.

Mark: 6.5 out of 11

Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country (1991) – Director: Nicholas Meyer

Meyer returned to write and direct the final film in the franchise and very good it is too. Arguably it is the most satisfying of the series in term of complexity of plot, characters and action. With the Klingon Empire under threat an uneasy truce is declared between them and the Federation. Unsurprisingly there are those on both sides, including Kirk, who do not feel peace can ever be achieved. Thus, murder, intrigue, sabotage and treachery follow in a compelling narrative.

With the Shakespeare-favoured dialogue and ‘Cold War’ subtext there is a real political depth to the film. Plus, Kirk is back to his heroic best. Indeed, the scenes where he must escape from a Klingon jail are very enjoyable from a genre perspective. Best of all though is a cast that includes brilliant actors such as: Christopher Plummer, David Warner and Kirstie Alley. Plummer, especially, exudes consummate class as Kirk’s Klingon adversary, stealing every scene he’s in.

Mark: 8.5 out of 11

TO BOLDLY REVIEW #4 – STAR TREK – THE ANIMATED SERIES

STAR TREK – THE ANIMATED SERIES (1973 – 1974)

Created by: Gene Roddenberry

Directed by: Hal Sutherland (S1) and Bill Reed (S2)

Starring voices of: William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, DeForest Kelley, James Doohan, Nichelle Nichols, George Takei, Majel Barrett

Executive producers: Gene Roddenberry, D.C. Fontana

Production: Filmnation Norway, Paramount TV Service

**MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS**

Running for a mere 22 episodes four years after the original Star Trek series was cancelled, the animated series can be seen as an unofficial fourth season to the live action show. While the animation was cartoon-like and rudimentary compared to the incredible CGI animation we have today, the scripts and stories were actually very sound. Many of the original cast members lend their voices too, so the show is not a mere cheap cash-in. Moreover, the stories featured the U.S.S. Enterprise boldly exploring space and beyond, capturing the dramatic essence of the original show.

While it was short-lived there some fantastic episodes in the animated series. The animation allowed for more expansive and weird-looking alien creatures, especially as the make-up and effects budgets would not be stretched as on the live action show. Some curiosities I noticed while watching were the inclusion in one episode of the “holodeck” or rec room. Plus, Kirk also referred to himself, rather weirdly, by his full name James Tiberius Kirk.

Many of the episodes had strong emotional and science fiction concepts. Although, given the twenty-four minute running time of each they often felt rushed to conclusion. Indeed, some of the stories could fit a feature film no problem and perhaps the recent reboot could have looked at some as a starting point; perhaps they did? Overall, I enjoyed the show but was surprised to read it won an Emmy in 1975 for Outstanding Entertainment – Children’s Series. Then again, it was certainly smarter than your average Hanna Barbera cartoon.

Of the twenty-two episodes I would say my favourite FOUR were:

Yesteryear (S1 – Ep. 2)

Spock must travel to the past to rescue his younger self from danger.

The Time Trap (S1 – Ep. 12)

The Enterprise and a Klingon battlecruiser are drawn into a space vortex and end up in a timeless dimension.

The Jihad (S1 – Ep. 16)

Kirk and Spock are summoned to retrieve a holy artefact which could ignite a galactic war.

The Counter Clock Incident (S2 – Ep. 6)

An unusual spaceship pulls the Enterpirse into a negative universe where time flows backwards.

TO BOLDLY REVIEW #2 – STAR TREK: THE ORIGINAL SERIES (SEASON 2)

TO BOLDLY REVIEW #2 – STAR TREK: OTS (SEASON 2)

Having written extensively about my love of Star Trek (The Original Series) in this article HERE – I have over the last few months completed the viewing of the second season.

My mission was to boldly watch every Star Trek episode ever made and report back with the findings. The second season, as a whole, compares favourably to the first in terms of writing and performance and concepts. One could say that season 2 drops slightly in quality toward the end. This could be explained by the uber-producer Gene L. Coon leaving as the day-to-day showrunner, plus Gene Roddenberry was less hands-on  too. Nonetheless, while the ratings continued to dip, the consistency of dramatic, comedic and science fiction or fantasy on show was in my view of an excellent quality. One notes that certain repetitions of format had obviously come to the fore in the format. I mean we still get Spock, Kirk, Bones and the rest of the crew fighting a slew of alien life forms or mad computers, yet such genre familiarity is also part of the major appeal.

With the budget (still sizable for its day) of each episode being lowered and NBC moving the second season to a later time slot on an unfavourable day the ratings suffered somewhat. So much so the show came perilously close to being cancelled. However, a core of Star Trek and science fiction fans protested physically and in writing to the studio and eventually they relented and gave the crew of the Starship Enterprise a third, and alas, final frontier season.

With regards to Season 2, there were some excellent episodes and I noted a move toward more comedic tones. Here are SIX episodes which captured my imagination in terms of narrative, drama and humour.

AMOK TIME – Episode 1

This classic episode is the only one of the Original Series to feature scenes on the planet Vulcan. It also is the first time the Vulcan hand salute is shown. It further marks the first appearance of the phrase which accompanies the Vulcan hand salute, “Live long and prosper.” The story finds Spock with a form of Vulcan heat and it demands he finds a mate to marry. Cue some wonderful acting from Leonard Nimoy and classic hand-to-hand combat between Spock and Kirk. The exploration of Vulcan culture adds a depth to Spock’s characterisation and this adds texture to an already fascinating character.

MIRROR MIRROR – Episode 4

The episode involves a transporter malfunction that swaps Captain Kirk and his companions with their evil counterparts in a parallel universe. It’s a wonderfully nifty sci-fi concept and has the cast stretching their acting chops playing nefarious versions of themselves with gleeful abandon. Moreover, the Trek theme of duality of psyche and split personalities is explored in a very entertaining fashion. When I first saw this it reminded me of the Red Dwarf episode ‘Parallel Universe’; but of course sci-fi is full of doubles, parallel and mirrored narratives within the genre.

THE DOOMSDAY MACHINEEpisode 6

This very cinematic episode is an absolute storming drama with echoes of Moby Dick and Jaws (1975) in space, as the crew of the Enterprise are caught within the path of a gigantic monstrous machine dubbed ‘the Planet Killer’!  All throughout the stakes are incredibly high because if they do not stop it whole galaxies could be destroyed.  The episode is intense and nail-biting with  Shatner absolutely nailing his performance, while guest actor William Windom brings an impressive mania to his role as Commodore Decker.

METAMORPHOSIS – Episode 9

This is a wonderful episode for a number of reasons.  Firstly, the photography by Jerry Finnerman was absolutely beautifully lit with warm hues, ambience and glow. The lighting compliments the gentle nature of the story which finds the Starfleet trinity of Kirk, Spock and McCoy pulled down to a planet by a mysterious alien force called “The Companion.” There they find a missing Starfleet scientist Zefram Cochrane (Glenn Corbett) and discover he has not aged at all; but the price is he cannot escape “The Companion”. The drama plays out gently and is assured in its thematic exploration of loneliness, romance and the curative powers of love.

JOURNEY TO BABEL – Episode 10

This multi-layered episode finds us meeting Spock’s parents for the first time as the Enterprise ferries an array of Ambassadors within the United Federations to the Babel conference. Throw into the mix Spock’s dispute with his father and a murderer on board attempting to derail an important mining contract between the planets, and you get a mature work of political science fiction writing. The screenplay from Star Trek stalwart DC Fontana is full of great dialogue and a suspenseful murder mystery. Having already appeared in Season 1, as a Romulan Starship Captain, Mark Lenard as Spock’s father Ambassador Sarek is the stand-out guest star.

THE TROUBLE WITH TRIBBLES – Episode 15

Aside from a wonderfully alliterative and fun title, The Trouble with Tribbles is often cited as one of the most entertaining and humorous Star Trek episodes ever. The episode was nominated for Best Dramatic Presentation at the 1968 Hugo Awards, with the award instead going to The City on the Edge of Forever. Tribbles are of course, hamster-like-rodents which mate like rabbits and through sheer mass cause havoc on the Enterprise. Shatner is on top comedic form as Captain Kirk, dealing with the furry pests and a raft of Klingons sharing an uneasy truce; that is until a right-royal bar-fight breaks out in this laugh-out-loud fifteenth entry of the season.

TO BOLDLY REVIEW #1 – STAR TREK: THE ORIGINAL SERIES (SEASON 1)

TO BOLDLY REVIEW #1 – STAR TREK: THE ORIGINAL SERIES (SEASON 1)

Having re-watched the whole of the new Doctor Who seasons a few years back I decided, this year, to boldly go and watch every season of the long-running Star Trek show from the original series onwards. There’s no time limit to this project as the original, Next Generation, Voyager, Deep Space Nine, Enterprise and Discovery seasons are all available on Netflix. So, save for the occurrence of World War 3, the Zombie Apocalypse or Netflix going bust, I expect this viewing pastime to last the next few years.

The show has given birth to all manner of prequels, sequels, sidequels, and cinema releases. Indeed, it continues to be a multi-billion dollar franchise today with festivals, exhibitions and conventions dedicated to this cultural phenomenon. This demonstrates the genius, long-standing quality and sustainability of Gene Roddenberry’s Wagon Train to The Stars. Episodes are deftly written with high concept sci-fi ideas, imaginative alien races and a zeitgeist approach to the themes of the day. Many of the episodes really shone and while the special effects are obviously dated the imagination and themes still maintain their power today.

star-trek-original-cast

Watching the first season of Star Trek space adventures of Kirk, Spock, Uhuru, Bones, Sulu, Scotty etc. brought back interstellar memories from my youth. As entertainment now the show definitely stands the test of time (and space!). This, in no small part, is down to the solid premise, rules of the world, wonderful writing and committed performances by an awesome cast notably the Enterprise’s yin and yang; played perfectly by William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy. The storylines and characterisation are always intriguing and on reflection the show was pioneering in regard to representations of gender, race and sexuality.

Containing thirty episodes the first season is metronomic in its delivery and structure. Each show would begin with the Starship Enterprise continuing its core mission of travelling around the many galaxies and planets seeking out new life forms as well transporting supplies, equipment and people from planet to planet. Invariably encountering a new star system, colony, planet, race of aliens or an evil scientist would bring rise to a conflict with which Kirk and the crew must overcome. Many episodes are inspired from a genre perspective; while others are driven by powerful themes which reflect the socio-political, gender, race and psychological fears of the late 1960s. Many of these themes are still relevant today which is why the original series remains highly watchable and is not just kitsch sci-fi to be mocked.

roddenberry

Of course, a genre formula was followed closely with the Enterprise and crew always overcoming their various foes by the end of the show. The Enterprise would also more often than not sustain damage which would threaten the lives of the crew and “ticking time-bomb” plot device would up the narrative ante too. Kirk would usually show his bravery and physical prowess often finding his uniform ripped during physical combat. Simultaneously, the ever reliable and logical Spock would provide the mental strength to overcome any negative situation. While the status quo is always maintained by the end of an episode the crew would always learn something about themselves and Aliens such as the Romulans, Archons, Klingons etc. They would also make important scientific discoveries relating to: Artificial Intelligence, time and space travel and alien technologies. To keep the quality the show employed various writers of high renown to boost the narratives including: Robert Bloch, Theodore Sturgeon, Harlan Ellison, Jerry Sohl and Richard Matheson to name a few. Consequently the first season is full of exciting episodes with many fascinating storylines of excellent quality.

From a genre perspective Star Trek used science fiction, drama, horror, and at times where Kirk was concerned, romantic tropes throughout. Rogue Frankenstein-type scientists featured in episodes such as: Dagger of the Mind and What Little Girls Are Made Of.  In The Enemy Within, Kirk splits into two different personalities echoing Jekyll and Hyde; while in The Conscience of the King we witness a Shakespearean influenced drama dealing with the pursuit of an intergalactic war criminal. Balance of Terror is brilliantly shaped around the beats of a submarine war flick and Arena reflects the structure of Roman Gladiatorial films. Court Martial too, does what it says on the tin, with court room dramas used as the model for the episode.

st2

Thematically, as aforementioned, Star Trek was not shy of examining the scientific, political, consumer and sociological events of the time. For example: Mudd’s Women contains a damning critique of quick fix drug therapy and plastic surgery; Operation: Annihilate presents an alien invasion which could be interpreted symbolically as highlighting the threat of religious or political hysteria. Indeed, the dangers of the lust for war or invasion are featured also in Errand of Mercy; nuclear threat is critiqued in Taste of Armageddon; while the deadly potential of technological advancement features in The Return of the Archons. Of course, environmental threats are also prominent as seen in The Devil in the Dark; with plants threatening peril in the episode This Side of Paradise, where the warnings of recreational drug use are implicit within the subtext. Comedy is also used to support the drama as the Bones and Spock often lock metaphorical horns overs the latter’s lack of emotion.

Thus, Star Trek – Season one, original series – contains a wealthy of intriguing themes, ideas, narratives, worlds and characters within the thirty episodes. I personally enjoyed them all but to close this opening piece on my Star Trek voyage I would like to nominate my favourite six episodes of season one.

MIRI (1966) – EPISODE 8

A brilliant episode finds the Enterprise crew discovering an exact duplicate of Earth, where the only survivors of a plague are some of the planet’s children

THE MENAGERIE (1966) – EPISODES 11 & 12

A two-parter which expertly splices events from the original pilot called The Cage and finds Mr Spock going rogue, defying both logic and Starfleet orders.

TOMORROW IS YESTERDAY (1967) – EPISODE 19

A superb temporal paradox narrative finds the USS Enterprise travelling back to 1968 Earth and correcting damage they caused to Earth’s timeline.

Image result for star trek tomorrow is yesterday

SPACE SEED (1967) – EPISODE 22

Kirk and Spock et al meet an incredibly charismatic foe who threatens to take over the Enterprise; with Ricardo Montalban stealing the show as the deadly Khan.

ALTERNATIVE FACTOR (1967) – EPISODE 27

I loved the Sisyphean plot as the crew find “reality-jumper” Lazarus, a man trapped between parallel universes threatening the whole of existence itself.

CITY ON THE EDGE OF FOREVER – EPISODE 28

An incredible episode full of brilliant time-travelling concepts and a heartfelt love story, with Kirk finding he has an almost impossible choice to make.

TO BOLDLY BLOG WHERE NO BLOG HAS GONE BEFORE: A CULTURAL REVIEW

TO BOLDLY BLOG WHERE NO BLOG HAS GONE BEFORE:  A CULTURAL REVIEW

Culturally speaking the title is a lie; I haven’t actually been that bold with my choices this month.  I’ve re-seen a comedy favourite; ventured to a well-known London market; re-watched episodes of a classic TV show and read about a comedic hero from the past. However, sometimes it’s good to review things both nostalgically and with a more mature set of eyes as it often gives a fresh perspective.   In any case the prime directive of this blog is to mainly seek out new stuff and I have done that as well with the playing of a new Zombie videogame and experiencing music I hadn’t heard before. Read on and prosper!

BILL HICKS:  LOVE ALL THE PEOPLE (BOOK)

Bill Hicks is a genuine comedy legend.  I grew up watching his growling, sarcastic, intelligent and damned hilarious comedy routines on Channel Four and subsequently VHS/DVD.  His comedy had this rare ability to take serious subjects and gain great laughs from both ridicule and merely stating honest common-sense truths. Moreover, he delivered his world-view like a raging preacher who, in despair at the world, is willing and begging us to see humanity as he does.  People may say its edgy but it’s done out of a desire for peace and love and Hicks is just incredulous at the insanity of what the more negative aspects of the human race have done to the world and each other.

The book essentially covers his routines, poems, lyrics and interviews in chronological order. Reading his words in print still carries much of the power and many of the ideas as hearing Hicks spit them out live.  In fact, reading in between and outside of the lines I sensed a real pain in a man who was tired of preaching to the morons who just dismissed his grander concepts of peace and equality in the hope of hearing dick jokes.  Hicks did great dick jokes too though as well as the biting political and sociological satire. A black-belt comedian who was not afraid to hit his targets head-on he would cause much controversy when alive and of course it is one of the great cultural tragedies he died so young. This book is NO substitute yet it is far better to have an echo of Bill Hicks’ reverbing in the world than nothing at all.

CAMDEN MARKET, LONDON

I like Camden Market. For me it’s as London as red buses, pie-and-mash and Buckingham Palace. While it’s very much a tourist trap with overpriced grub and general tat it’s a fun trap which has many varied colours, pubs, scents, music, tattoos, clothes, hair-dos, people, weirdos, food and cultures on show that lure you in and distract you before hitting you hard in the wallet. Of course, one can eschew the spending and just take in the sights and that’s pretty much what I achieved when I re-visited the place with my son and had a good look about.  Because as another archetypal Londoner Micky Flanagan says:  “I like a look about!”  And if you like a look about then why not try Camden Market one weekend.

DYING LIGHT – VIDEOGAME – XBOX ONE

First person World War Z type actioner set in a fictional Middle-Eastern city is absolutely brilliant fun. Bit of a slow-burner this game but I have become utterly immersed in the story and missions of this kill-crazy-parkouring-bombing-booby-trapping-zombie-slice-and-dice-fest!   What impressed me most is the expansive nature of the storylines and the intricate tasks at hand plus imaginative ways with which to wipe out the constant stream of zombies. While the human villains are a bit cartoony the actual plot is better than most Hollywood movies and I would recommend this game for anyone who loves fighting monsters and mercenaries equally.

FELIX FOX: A MODERN FOP (ONLINE SCRIBE)

A quick shout out for mate of mine’s blog  http://modernfop.com/   It’s a fine and dandy online novel set on the mean, boozy, cocaine-fuelled, contemporary streets of London and features the anti-heroic antics of fashion assassin and retail worker Felix Fox. Posts go up on a regular basis and they are extremely funny with some dark sarcasm thrown in for good measure. Our pretentious “hero” attempts to further his career and escape the hoi-polloi-working-class roots he was born into while damning the variety of fashion victims he encounters.  If you like the writings of JG Ballard, Chuck Palahniuk and Irvine Welsh then there will be something here for you. Do check him out before he’s gets that book deal he surely deserves and you have to pay for the reading pleasure.

NICK MULVEY, SOMERSET HOUSE, LONDON

I was thinking the other day that what my life lacked was access to more young, multi-talented-middle-class-solo-male-singer-songwriters-pouring-out-their souls-on-stage-to-a-mediocrity-seeking public-who-desire-to-be-anaesthetised-and-have-their-thoughts-numbed-by-banality-and-unthreatening-wonder.  And then, just then, my lovely girlfriend said she had tickets to the very fine musician Nick Mulvey.  It was a soppy gig at Somerset House with Mulvey’s twee tones drifting out over the London skyline putting me in a trance like musical methadone.  He has a mercurial voice and is a brilliant guitarist and while I prefer my musical tea a lot stronger it was a blissful night set in architecturally gorgeous surroundings.

PAUL FOOT, SECRET COMEDY SHOW, LONDON

Thought I’d give the wonderfully silly Paul Foot another mention as he is consistently funny in every show I see him in. So do check him out if you like your comedy unpredictable yet structured; silly yet intelligent and seemingly off-the-cuff yet imaginatively written. The latest little secret show I saw him at was a kind of run through some older and newer material and on a scorching hot evening Mr Foot once again delivered a delightfully absurd cacophony of comedy musings, epithets and physical skips down laughter lane.

STAR TREK: THE ORIGINAL SERIES (BLU-RAY)

Having rewatched the whole of the new Doctor Who and delved into the Time Lord’s back catalogue of great episodes via the Horror Channel I gained a thirst for classic televisual Sci-Fi, thus, decided to boldly go back to the original series of Star Trek!  Aah, watching the space adventures of Kirk, Spock, Uhuru, Bones, Chekhov, Sulu, Scotty etc. brought back interstellar memories from my youth and as entertainment now the show definitely stands the test of time (and space!)

It is a terrific show. This, in no small part, is down to a solid premise and rules of the world, wonderful writing and committed performances by an awesome cast notably the Enterprise’s yin and yang: James Tiberius Kirk and Mister Spock played perfectly by Shatner and Nimoy. The storylines and characterisation are always intriguing and on reflection the show was pioneering in regard representations of gender, race and sexuality.

Episodes are deftly written with high concept sci-fi ideas, imaginative alien races and a zeitgeisty approach to the themes of the day which still maintain their power now. I’m halfway through the first season (of three) which has too many fine episodes to mention, including: The Enemy Within (Kirk splits into two different personalities); Mudd’s Women (a critique of quick fix drug therapy and plastic surgery); Miri (a strange world which holds host to children who never grow old); The Menagerie (thrilling episode which foreshadows ideas featured later in The Matrix) and The Conscience of the King (a Shakespearean influenced drama dealing with the pursuit of an intergalactic war criminal.)

Given the show has given birth to all manner of prequels and sequels, and continues to be a multi-billion dollar franchise today, demonstrates the genius and long-standing quality of Gene Roddenberry’s Wagon Train To The Stars or as it came to be known: Star Trek.