Prepping For ‘Star Trek: Picard’ – A Procrastinators’ Guide: “To help you prep (or at this point, cram), TrekMovie presents a list of Star Trek: The Next Generation episodes that showcase Jean-Luc Picard’s exploits with the Borg and Romulans, plus a few essential Captain Picard episodes that reveal his character. We also include a bonus list of a few Seven of Nine-centric episodes of Voyager.”

It’s sad, really — for a show meant to continue the fine tradition of boldly going where no man has gone before (or no one, in the more politically-correct TNG era), all Enterprise managed to do was boldly go where no Trek series had gone before.

Straight into the tank.

I started watching Enterprise when it debuted, gave up midway through the first season (when I discovered that first-season TNG was a far better show), then ignored it until I started hearing rumors that this last season was actually watchable. I’ve been using bittorrent to watch season four, and while it’s admittedly better than the first season…well, really, it doesn’t take much to be better than the first season.

Tonight I finished things off, watching the end of the two-part arc following the derailment of the first effort at laying the foundation for the future United Federation of Planets, then following that up with the final episode of Enterprise.

(SPOILERS follow, if you care.)

First things first: while the two episodes immediately preceding the finale were decent — though I’d hesitate to collectively rate them any better than that (individually, the first half was definitely the better of the two) — the single biggest thing that stuck in my mind after watching them?

It’s really hard to take the leader of Earth’s government seriously when you’re expecting him to at any moment suddenly morph into a giant demon snake and start munching delegates right and left.

Samuels

Nothing against actor Harry Groener, of course, but his role as Sunnydale’s Mayor Wilkins in Buffy has been so indelibly burned into my brain that it was all I could do to keep from giggling when he first appeared on screen.

As for Enterprise’s finale episode…meh. I’d say a big “meh,” except that “meh” is such an apathetic term of disgust that give it any sort of emphasis is rather oxymoronic.

First off, it wasn’t really an Enterprise episode, but rather a TNG episode with a lot of Holodeck re-enactments of events set at the end of Enterprise’s 10-year mission (six years after the last actual episodes we saw) and around the signing of the accord that forms the alliance that would eventually grow into the UFP. While it’s kind of nice to see Riker and Troi walking the corridors of NCC-1701-D again…it just doesn’t feel right as an end to this series. Rather, it comes off as last, final, desperate ploy by the Powers that Be to do anything possible to drag a few more viewers to the show.

Secondly, the TNG-era framing story for this episode is set during the events of the seventh season TNG epsiode The Pegasus. Without meaning any disrespect to either Marina Sirtis or Jonathan Frakes, it’s been around eleven years since The Pegasus was filmed, and while they’re both aging well, they’re not exactly identical to their appearance a decade ago. I could even have forgiven that for the sake of the story (though it would have been easier if the overall story was better), but apparently the makeup artists didn’t even bother to reference The Pegasus for this Enterprise episode.

Here we have a screencap (actually a composite of two screencaps) from The Pegasus:

TNG Troi and Riker

And here we have a screencap from These are the Voyages…:

ENT Troi and Riker

Minor things like the ten years of aging aren’t really terribly obvious. Marina’s face has thinned out a bit, and they’re both slightly heavier than they were during TNG’s run, but that’s not really that big of a deal. Amusingly, though, it means that Troi is actually curvier now than she was at the time (compare the shadows underneath her bust, for example), and I remember how much grumbling there was about her being little more than Trek’s version of T&A (that being Tits and an Accent). Of course, 7 of 9 and T’Pol were far more blatant about appealing to the teenage male demographic that way, but back in the TNG days, poor Troi got a lot of ribbing about being little more than eye candy.

More blatantly, though, is that the hairstyle is just wrong for both of them. Apparently when they’re not busy dealing with intragalactic incidents, the crew of NCC-1701-D spent all their free time in the hair salon. Troi is sporting a straighter, more natural hairstyle far closer to what she had in the movies than the heavily permed style of the original show, while Riker’s hair is less slicked back and comes complete with a Superman-style forelock falling across his forehead.

Nitpicking? Sure, and I’ll freely admit it. But if they’re going to not just pander to the old TNG fans by bringing back Troi and Riker, but actually place their framing story within an already existing episode, you’d think they could take a few minutes to pop the DVD in and do their best to match the actors appearances.

But then, given Enterprise’s notorious disregard for Trek canon, I suppose that this wasn’t really that much of a surprise.

Anyway. Continuing on.

Bringing Shran back for the rescue of his daughter seemed to serve two purposes only: to bring back one of the few interesting characters Enterprise has produced (and to give Jeffrey Combs — a fan favorite, and quite deservedly so, in my opinion, I’ve enjoyed all of the characters he’s played — one last star turn); and to come up with an excuse to waste half the hour on pointless “action”.

Oh, and to set up Trip’s demise…which, amazingly enough, actually comes across as even more pointless than Kirk’s death in ‘Generations’. At least when Kirk died he was trying to save his career the galaxy from a madman. Trip died so that Archer wouldn’t miss a speech. Oooh. Quite the noble sacrifice, that.

And speaking of the speech — we don’t even see it! We finally get to the historic moment when the charter establishing the alliance between Earth, Vulcan, Andoria, and Tellar Prime, Archer strides to the stage to make what we’re told is a historic speech…and Riker tells the Holodeck to “end program” and he and Troi stride out onto the corridors of the Enterprise D.

Meh.

Other random observations before I end this little rant…

  1. I’m sorry, Quantum Leap fans, but Bakula has never impressed me. Truth to tell, his intentional overacting and chewing of the scenery in the Mirror Universe episodes of a few weeks ago doesn’t really seem that different to me than his normal portrayal of Captain Archer. Plus, considering that he just senselessly lost one of his closest friends, his face never lost the bemused little “I can’t believe I’m getting paid for this tripe” smirk after Trip’s death. Does he have other expressions?

  2. What was T’Pol doing after Archer hugged her? I could understand her being a little uncomfortable with this sudden show of affection, but…she just kind of wobbles. She holds her right hand out at an odd angle, and gives a slight, unsteady sway from the hips up. It’s really, really odd.

  3. Did nobody on the NX-01 ever get promoted or change their jobs in the slightest over the ten years that the ship was in service? When the show opened Mayweather was at the helm, Sato was at the communications station, Reed was doing whatever he does…and ten years later, they’re all in exactly the same place (well, okay, Trip moved to Engineering…then died). No advancement? No promotions? How incredibly boring. The crew of the Enterprise-D at least showed a little motivation, changed things up, and actually grew over time. As far as this last episode shows, the crew of the NX-01 was depressingly static.

  4. Wasn’t anyone curious or concerned about how the bad guys who everyone thought were limited to Warp 2 — Shran even mentions that his shuttle should be able to easily outrun them at Warp 4 — were somehow able to catch up to a top-of-the-line Starfleet ship running at Warp 7, engage it in battle, and board it without any real trouble at all?

Meh.

I wish the head of Earth’s government had turned into a giant demon snake and started munching on people. Right during the signing ceremony. Start with Archer, then finish off the rest of the Enterprise crew (except for Sato, who’s more than welcome to run around in her skimpy lingerie from the Mirror Universe episode as much as she likes…especially in my apartment) before Buffy magically transports a few hundred years into the future thanks to the help of Willow and a mysterious amulet that Giles found hidden underneath the school’s library, slays the demon, and tosses a few bad puns over her shoulder on her way back to Sunnydale.

At least that would have been a finale worth watching.

Something to bring a smile to your face (especially if, like me, you’re a life-long Trekk[ie/er]) — A love letter to Star Trek.

One year and a couple months ago, on Star Date something-or-other, my sons and I started a family tradition by accident. We rented the first disk of what seemed like an endless set of Star Trek: The Next Generation DVDs.

[…]

I don’t remember those early shows now. All I remember is watching three boys huddled under a navy blue crocheted afghan, mouths open, eyes krazy-glued to the small screen in our sunroom while reflected images of people with ridged skulls and pointed ears flickered on three glass corner windows. They were hooked.

[…]

One day, a bad bad day, when many soldiers lost lives in that distant senseless war, my middle son stood with barefeet on the cold tile floor of the kitchen, listening to NPR, and clenched his fists in frustration.

“Why don’t they stop fighting? We’re never going to join a Federation of Planets if this continues. Don’t they know that? Why don’t they want to help end starvation instead? I wish we lived in the future.”

[…]

Something about the mythology, the space, the ongoing conundrums of time, kept my sons going, kept them full of hope. They started reading books about the solar system. They followed the NASA mission to Mars and knew more about it than their teachers. They built star ships of blankets and chairs in the sunroom and spent lazy Saturday afternoons playing with styrofoam planets. All peaceful, all scientific and humane. Children from the future.

The last season of Star Trek came too fast. We watched the last episode last night. My boys have grown tall and already those Star Trek shirts are getting tight. They look forward to renting Deep Space Nine episodes. I look forward to it, too, but my heart knows this time is over, no anomalies can bring it back.

As a child who grew up on the origninal Star Trek, sitting on my dad’s lap and pointing excitedly somewhere over my shoulder as the Starship Enterprise swept across the screen, I can easily identify with the sense of wonder, excitement, and hope that these kids are just finding now.

Wil Wheaton also has some nice things to say about this post.

(via Jacqueline)

Well, it’s done. Last night I finished the last episode of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. The Dominion War is done.

As I’d mentioned before, I’d never seen DS9 before — I’d caught a few episodes here and there over the years, but hadn’t seen enough to really gain any appreciation for the series or the characters. Now that I’m done…well, while I hate to rank the three versions of Star Trek that I’ve seen (TOS, TNG, and DS9) as they each have their strengths and special places, I do feel comfortable in saying that DS9 is by far the strongest Trek incarnation as a whole.

I’ll always have a soft spot in my heart for TOS. It’s the series that got this whole thing started, where we were first introduced to the Federation, the Klingons, the Vulcans, and many others, and the series that captured the hearts and minds of fans all over the world. I grew up watching Kirk, Spock, McCoy, and the rest of the crew, and that in itself is very important to me.

TNG was the rebirth of Trek, and it took a big chance in daring to boldly go where Paramount had gone before. New characters, new ships, new aliens — and a new show that ended up being far better than many expected it would be when word first broke that it was going to be made. Much of my high school weekends were spent in the company of my friends, gathering at one person’s house or another each week to watch the adventures of Picard and crew (often followed up by watching re-runs of TOS that were broadcast immediately afterward). Here we had a modern Trek, and it turned our initial skepticism into belief and a reborn love for the Trek universe.

With DS9, I believe that all the best parts of Trek were brought to the forefront, and then given just enough of a “darker” twist that could have doomed the show from the outset, but instead served to create some of the best Trek I’ve seen. For all their strengths, the almost antiseptic perfection of much of TOS and TNG sometimes seemed almost too good to be true. The characters were almost too perfect, there was too often a definite “right” and a definite “wrong”, without the shades of grey that so often color the real world. DS9 saw this, and painted the entire show in those shades of grey (almost literally, in the design of the Cardassian station). Without breaking away from the ideals set forth by Roddenberry in creating Star Trek, DS9 showed that as good as Paradise is, it takes work to maintain, and the real decisions and ramifications of that work are rarely as clear-cut as we’d like them to be.

So while I hate ranking one series above the other, I will say that DS9 is most definitely my favorite of the three Trek incarnations I’ve seen. Wonderful stuff.

And now that I’ve finally finished it all…

…what now?

First off, a confession: I’m a trekkie (trekker? whatever). Have been practically since birth, and it’s all my Dad’s fault. ;) Two years old, sitting on my dad’s lap, watching the original series on television. As soon as the Enterprise zoomed across the screen and Captain Kirk started the famous lines, “Space…where no man has gone before…” I’d be excitedly saying “speesh!” and pointing off into space (which apparently was somewhere behind me and over my left shoulder).

I grew up with Star Trek. I never did get into sewing my own uniform, or donning rubber Vulcan ears or Klingon foreheads, and I’ve only been to one convention, but I’ve got a library of original series technical manuals that I’ve picked up over the years. One of the earlier ones (the Star Trek Star Fleet Technical Manual) had an alien alphabet printed out, which I dutifully memorized, characters and pronunciation both. Imagine my surprise when I later visited Greece, and discovered that the “alien alphabet” was nothing more than Greek, and I could read every sign around me in perfect Greek. I had no idea what I was saying, of course, but I could read it all, and it’s all thanks to Star Trek.

One summer I was at one of the CTY summer camps that I participated in, and much of the talk and gossip at the time was about this new Star Trek show that was being started. Some “new generation” or something. We were all highly skeptical — after all, we’d all grown up with the Holy Trinity of Kirk, Spock and McCoy, and now someone wanted to try to recapture that? Not likely! Our skeptical opinions weren’t helped at all when one of the sunday papers printed a picture of the new crew. That kid from Stand By Me was there (a kid?). The dorky guy from that kid’s “Reading Rainbow” show was wearing a banana clip on his face. The captain…was old. And bald. To top it all off, their uniforms were one-piece jumpsuits, recalling bad memories of the horrid 70’s costuming of Star Trek: The Motion Picture — and they were hot pink! Obviously, the show was doomed from the start.

Needless to say, we were (thankfully) wrong. The kid, admittedly, suffered from some bad writing (but he’s since turned into a pretty damn cool guy). We got used to the banana clip, and it certainly helped that that “dorky guy” was also a well-respected actor in his own right. As far as old, bald captains go — if I can be half as cool (and sexy) as Patrick Stewart when I’m his age, I’ll be doing well! And, thankfully, those hot pink uniforms turned out to be nothing more than bad color in the newspaper.

Since then, while I’ve always had a soft spot in my heart for the original series, Star Trek: The Next Generation has been my favorite Star Trek incarnation (at least, as far as the TV incarnations go — the Next Gen movies rarely approached the cinematic quality of either Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan or Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, imho).

However, towards the end of Next Gen’s run, I stopped watching TV. Less and less of what I saw on television appealed to me, and commercials were getting more and more annoying, so I just stopped. With three exceptions (the Y2K turnover, the 2000 presidential debates, and the first couple months of Enterprise), I’ve not seen any more television that what I may have wandered into while at friend’s houses. Because of this, I missed the last couple seasons of Next Gen, and have caught no more than the occasional episode of Deep Space Nine or Voyager. I watched the first few weeks of Enterprise, which seemed passable at the time, but then Paramount started releasing DVD sets of Next Gen, and I revised my opinion of Enterprise.

So throughout 2002, I revisited Captain Picard and the crew of the USS Enterprise NCC 1701-D as each successive DVD set was released. It was a lot of fun — I hadn’t seen many of the earlier episodes in years (some of them probably not since they were originally broadcast), and many of the later episodes I hadn’t seen at all. Once that was done with, though, I faced a dilemma. I knew that I enjoyed the Next Generation series enough to buy it all, but Deep Space Nine was an unknown. I’d caught a few of the episodes from time to time, and generally enjoyed what I’d seen, but I didn’t have enough experience to really make a judgment. Fan opinion on DS9 always seemed to be somewhat divided, too, with fairly equal camps lauding it and decrying it.

However, as 2002 approached and I started reading more about DS9 as the DVD release came closer, I started reading more and more people recommending it. Eventually, I decided that I’d at least pick up the first season to see what I thought of it. After all, if it bored me, I wasn’t out too much money, and I’d know not to pick up the rest.

The blood of a trekkie runs deep and true, it seems.

As it turns out, DS9 has impressed me far more than I was expecting. The series, quite simply, kicks ass. A lot of potentially dangerous decisions were made when putting the show together (not least of which was setting it on a space station, rather than a ship), but they ended up working out incredibly well. They were able to create long-lasting story lines that run not just from show to show, but from season to season, political maneuvering and machinations galore, battle scenes that have had me wide-eyed with surprise, and many other touches that have made my introduction to DS9 incredibly enjoyable.

Today, I brought home the DVD set of season four of DS9, and just finished watching the season opening episode, “The Way of the Warrior“. Wow. There’s definitely a jaw-dropping aspect to watching a fleet of thirty-some Klingon ships, from the now familiar Bird of Prey to newer battleship designs — even a few of the old standard D7 class (yes, I’m a geek, I didn’t need to look at that up) — decloaking around the station. Too freaking cool.

The more I watch of this show, the more I like it. The long lasting story arcs have been handled incredibly well so far, and after reading bits and pieces here and there about the Dominion War for years, it’s a lot of fun finally being able to see it unfold in front of me, without knowing what’s going to come up next, or which directions the various players are going to take. The character arcs have been just as strong as the story arcs, too, and Garak (the Cardassian tailor) is quickly becoming my favorite character on the show. His questionable standing and constant banter with Dr. Bashir (“But which of the stories you told us were true?” “Oh, my good doctor, they’re all true!” “Even the lies?” “Especially the lies.”) are wonderful.

At this rate, DS9 may just end up supplanting Next Gen as my favorite Star Trek series.

(Next year, of course, comes the next question. Once DS9’s DVD run is complete, Voyager will start to hit the shelves. I’ve heard far more people decry Voyager as being the downfall of the Star Trek franchise than any other previous Trek creation [except possibly Star Trek V: The Final Frontier]. So, do I cross my fingers and give the first season a shot? I’ve still got about five months to decide, though, and until then, I’ve got just under four more seasons of DS9 to work my way through.)

A series of quotes from something I just watched:

History has shown us that strength may be useless in the face of terrorism…

These aren’t people we’re dealing with here. They’re animals. Fanatics, who kill without remorse or conscience…who think nothing of murdering innocent people.

I guess the event that really opened my eyes took place only a few days after my arrival. A terrorist bomb destroyed a shuttlebus…sixty school children. There were no survivors. [They] claimed it was a mistake. That their intended target was a police transport. As if that made everything all right. That day I vowed to put an end to terrorism…. And I will.

Don’t you know? A dead martyr’s worth ten posturing leaders.

That shuttlebus I told you about…the bomb was set by a teenager. And in a world where children blow up children…everyone’s a threat.

“…the difference between a general and terrorist is only the difference between winners and losers. You win, you’re called a general. You lose….”
“You are killing innocent people! Can’t you see the immorality of what you’re doing? Or have you killed so often, you’ve become blind to it?”
“How much innocent blood has been spilled for the cause of freedom in [your] history…? How many good and noble societies have bombed civilians in war? Wiped out whole cities. And now that you enjoy the comfort that has come from their battles, their killing, you frown on my immorality? …I am willing to die for my freedom. And, in the finest tradition of your own [history], I’m willing to kill for it too.”

“…it appears that terrorism is an effective way to promote political change.”
“I have never subscribed to the theory that political power flows from the barrel of a gun….”
“In most instances, you would be correct. But there are numerous examples where it was successful…. Then, would it be accurate to say that terrorism is acceptable when the options for peaceful settlement have been foreclosed?”
“…we cannot condone violence.”
“Even in response to violence?”
“These are questions that [we have] been struggling with since creation.”

“They’re mad.”
“I don’t know any more. The difference between a madman and a committed man willing to die for a cause…it’s begun to blur….”

…there’s a hint of moral cowardice in your dealings…. You do business with a government that’s crushing us. And then you say you aren’t involved. But of course you are. You just don’t want to get dirty.

“You didn’t have to kill him.”
“As a prisoner he would have been a focus for violence as his followers tried to free him. Now, he’s a martyr, but the death toll may be lower — at least in the short term. An imperfect solution for an imperfect world.”

Continue reading

I’ve been watching the new Star Trek show, Enterprise, off and on for a while now. I haven’t caught every new episode, but those I have, I posted my thoughts on. It doesn’t look like I’ll be doing this anymore, though.

Wednesday evening I turned on my TV to watch the show, and as it turns out, my reception here at the new apartment is actually worse than it was at my old one. So, watching the broadcast isn’t an option, and there’s no way I’m going to pay for cable access just so I can watch one show. At first I was kind of disappointed by this, but something else has happened this week that made me realize that I probably wasn’t going to miss Enterprise all that much.

This Tuesday marked the release of the first season of Star Trek: The Next Generation in a very nice DVD box set. I picked up my copy on Wednesday on my way home from work, and when I found that I wasn’t going to be able to watch Enterprise, I started watching TNG episodes.

The thing is — I’d forgotten just how good this show really was! Sure, it was their first season, everyone was still getting the hang of their characters, and the special effects were fairly horrid (and that’s not just hindsight talking — I remember being extremely unimpressed with the effects in “Justice” at the time it first aired) — but even with all that, each episode I (re-)watch drives home more and more just how good TNG was…and just how much Enterprise pales in comparison.

Watching the first season of TNG now is actually much like watching it for the first time. I watched TNG almost religiously when it first came on the air — it first aired during my sophomore year in high school, and for quite a while it became a ritual for my group of friends to gather at someone’s house (usually Tammy’s, though I think Royce, myself, and some of the others hosted the gathering from time to time) and watch whatever the newest episode was. However, by the time I graduated in ’91 and moved out to live on my own for the first time, television was less and less of a priority, and I ended up missing the majority of the last few seasons of TNG. In the ensuing years I’ve caught the occasional episode of one Trek show or another in reruns, but those times have been fairly few and far between. I remember bits and pieces of the shows I’ve seen, but much has faded in the mists of memory over the years.

In essence, then, it’s very easy for me to compare watching the first season of Enterprise fresh out of the bottle to watching the first season of TNG the same way — and I’ve gotta say, ENT just doesn’t compare. Up until now, I’ve been somewhat of an apologist for ENT, doing my best to give it a chance, and one of the most common arguments when someone says that ENT just isn’t that good of a show is that it’s still their first season. Often someone will offer up, “remember just how much better TNG was after a few seasons, and how shaky their first season was?” Well sure, it was better after as it went on (which makes me look forward even more to those seasons being released on DVD later this year) — but that argument was a lot easier for me to accept when I hadn’t actually seen first-season TNG since 1987. The episodes and dilemmas presented therein are much more interesting, the characters are more engaging — about the only point that I can see that first-season ENT really has over first-season TNG is the special effects, and much of that is the simple fact that it’s 15 years later (side note — 15 years later? Ugh…I’m feeling old again!) and modern-day F/X technology is that much better.

Perhaps ENT will mature as it goes along, and perhaps it will grow into being a truly worthwhile addition to the Star Trek universe — it’d be nice to see that happen, as I still think that some of the new ideas and directions they’re exploring in ENT could be very interesting (the new take on the Vulcans, for example). However, at the moment — I can’t say I’m going to really miss not being able to watch it anymore.