Category Archives: Star Trek

Review: Star Trek: The Galactic Whirlpool by David Gerrold #SciFiMonth

The Galactic Whirlpool (Star Trek Adventures, #14)

After James Blish’s adaptation of most of the original Star Trek episodes and the first published original novel, “Spock Must Die!”, Star Trek novels entered an interesting era. Many of the books that made it to the market were one step removed from glorified fan-fiction.

But as publishing rights were shifting to Pocket Books with the release of Star Trek: The Motion Picture, one glimmer of respectability hit shelves with David Gerrold adapting his initial story pitch for the original series for the printed page. The result was “The Galactic Whirlpool.”

I read “The Galactic Whirlpool” during my intensive Trek novel phase during my teenage years. The only thing I recalled about it was the opening featuring Kirk reflecting on the nature of his middle name and what that means about his character.

sfm-2022-bannersPicking up it close to three decades later, I was struck by how my memory had confabulated this sequence a bit and how little else I recalled about the novel as a whole.

Given that Gerrold was part of the writing team for the original series, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that he’s got a good grasp on writing for the regular crew – and that he even brings in a few recurring characters as well, including Lt. Kevin Riley who was seen twice in season one and then vanished off-screen. (I guess if you take over the engineering section and demand ice cream for dinner, Kirk takes a dim view of things).

The Enterprise encounters a large vessel in the depths of space on a course for destruction between two interstellar phenomena. Once the crew has entered the ship, they find a group of colonists that left Earth a long time ago, divided into factions. Can Kirk and company convince them they need help before a course change is too late and their ship is destroyed? Continue reading

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Revisiting Khan

khanI’ve seen Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan more times than I can count. It’s in the running for my favorite movie of all-time (honestly, depends on which movie I’ve seen most recently — Khan or The Searchers) and it’s one of those movies I can stumble across and start watching to the end from wherever it is in the movie’s run.

This weekend, I got to see Khan on the big-screen again in celebration of its fortieth anniversary.

And the movie hit me hard in a couple of places.

Seeing Admiral Kirk facing his fiftieth birthday in the film resonated with me in a way it hasn’t really before. Probably because I’m coming up on my fiftieth birthday early next year as well.

But even more so, some of the emotional beats of the second half of the film hit me. Having lost a baby a few weeks ago, the gulf between Kirk and his son, David, and the death of Spock, really hit me hard this time around. Thinking about how we were considering naming the baby Kirk if we’d been blessed with a son hit me hard. Then, the sequence in which Kirk has to say goodbye to Spock without being able to physically connect through the glass in engineering also shattered me. The grief of never holding this baby, never knowing this baby in the way I know my daughter, and never getting a moment to say hello or goodbye hurt me as I watched. I saw the baby on an ultrasound a few weeks before the tragic news was revealed — saw his or her heartbeat on there, saw him or her forming. And while I was worried about becoming a new dad at fifty, I was instantly in more in love with this baby than I had been and super stoked about doing all that new dad stuff again.

And now, it’s gone and I’m not sure I’ve processed it all yet. Or maybe I’ve just cycled back a stage or two in the grieving process.

And hopefully, this will help me continue to heal and be a good dad and father.

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#20BooksofSummer: Phasers on Stun by Ryan Britt

Phasers on Stun!: How the Making (and Remaking) of Star Trek Changed the World

From 1969 to 1991, the only examination of what took place behind the scenes at Star Trek seemed to come from creator Gene Roddenberry. The self-proclaimed “Great Bird of the Galaxy” had a lock on the narrative associated with the creation and production of the series as well as the attempts to keep it alive over the years. Then, when he passed away in 1991, it felt like the dam burst with a lot of people with access and information about what happened behind the scenes suddenly publishing a memoir or a tell-all book.

As a fan who enjoys the peeking behind the curtain aspect of how my favorite shows are made and work their way to our screens, I lapped up a lot of those books with a spoon.

And while they were entertaining and informative, it wasn’t often that an author or creator really took a step back and a “long view” of the history and development of Star Trek.

Which is one thing that makes Ryan Britt’s Phasers on Stun one of the more interesting examinations of the franchise as a whole that I’ve had the pleasure of reading. Britt picks out highlights from each era of the franchise, putting them into a perspective of what was happening in the franchise, pop culture, and the real world and the place Star Trek holds there. Each essay is a fascinating look at why the franchise has endured and how it has adapted and changed over time. Of particular interest to this fan were chapters on why DS9 and Voyager were touchstones for pop culture and have continued to resonate with viewers today — both new and old fans.

Britt’s conversational style and tone in each chapter make the book feel like you’re having a chat with a friend about Star Trek and, as with his Luke Skywalker Can’t Read collection of essays, makes me feel like if we were to ever meet and hang out, Britt and I might be friends.

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Star Trek: Picard: Fly Me to the Moon

star-trek-picard-fly-me-to-the-moonAs Picard enters the mid-point of its second season, we’re treated to another episode that feels like it’s moving chess pieces on the board a bit.

This week, we meet Renee Picard, a distant aunt of Picard who was part of the Europa missions that first explored the galaxy, and Brent Spiner’s latest descendent of Dr. Noonian Soogh, who is exploring the field of genetic engineering to keep his daughter alive. Of course, said daughter is played by the same actress that plays Data’s daughter in season one – because, of course, she is.

Behind the scenes, Q is manipulating both parties for reasons that haven’t quite been made clear yet. Given that Q doesn’t experience time in quite the same linear fashion as we do, I can’t help but wonder what his overall end game here is. Has his interest and fascination with Picard turned to hatred, to the point that he’d change history to get back at him? Or are there changes to the continuum that are so radical that Q wants to stop PIcard from ever making them, dating back to the trial on the way to Farpoint station?

I’m not sure what Q’s agenda is – perhaps beyond getting his powers back. But I can’t help but feel that as Picard tries to save Renee Picard that he’s overlooking something fundamentally important with Dr. Soongh’s manipulation. It would be like Q to distract Picard and his crew with one thing while fundamentally altering something else to make the real changes.

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Star Trek: Picard: Assimilation & The Watcher

bqvKB7iYbNR65xUPUR3XpV-1200-80Can we just address the elephant in the room for this fan of Star Trek and Impractical Jokers?

With the cameo by Brian “Q” Quinn from IJ, does this mean that IJ and Star Trek are set in the same universe and that Q is actually a member of the continuum?

OK, so there are probably deeper, more fundamental questions arising from these two episodes of Picard, but it’s still fun for this fan of both shows to ponder.

The first two episodes of the season seem to be about establishing the situation that Picard is addressing in season two – namely that Q has somehow interfered with time and created an alternate timeline. “Assimilation” and “The Watcher” start making steps toward finding a way to correct that adjustment, even if our characters don’t necessarily have a clue yet about where the timeline went wrong and just how to fix it. Continue reading

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Star Trek: Picard — The Stargazer, Penance

Picard-202-penance-q-picard-e1647032601569-1024x512Watching the second season premiere of Picard, two thoughts kept running through my mind (almost to the point of distraction). One was – why did we spend all of season one getting this crew together only to break them all up again? The other was – when is Q going to show up?

I can understand in the times in which we live that the news of Q showing up wouldn’t have been spoiled by the Internet trolls who get up at 3 a.m. to watch new episodes of everything and then put out clickbait headlines to ruin it for those of us who like to do silly things like sleep, but it still felt like a lot of time in the premiere was treading water waiting for John de Lancie to pop in.

Of course, the question of when Q is going to arrive probably distracted me from the feeling that it took ten episodes of season one to get up to the same moment we got to in ninety-minutes with “Encounter at Farpoint” with the crew being assembled and ready for some adventures, only to see everyone scattered again. Now we have to spend an episode or two bringing everyone back together again so we can get this season’s story underway.

Picard_201_TP_1906_RT

Both of these issues are probably more on me as a viewer than the production itself. But they still stuck out and distracted me from fully engaging with “The Star Gazer” until the final moments.

This probably wasn’t helped by the fact that this viewer is a bit weary of “in media res” openings that tease a huge conflict and then flashback to show us just how we arrived at the said moment. In this case, it’s Picard ordering the destruction of the ship to stop the Borg Queen because Starfleet has incorporated Borg technology in their new ship design. Yes, we get to see the action scene twice and it’s nicely done – but I feel like it wasn’t the best way to start off the season. Continue reading

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Review: Star Trek: The Next Generation: Shadows Have Offended by Cassandra Rose Clarke

Shadows Have Offended

Tie-in fiction was a staple of my reading life for much of my teens and early twenties. I eagerly picked up each new installment as it hit the shelves and would quickly consume them over the course of a few afternoons and evenings.

But then, in the late ’90’s, Star Trek fiction began to become a bit more insular. It started wit the annual (generally summer-released) cross-over events, then it continued with advancing the story and characters beyond the finales of DS9 and Voyager. Slowly, Trek fiction demanded (at least it seemed to this reader) that you have read a half-dozen or so novels leading up to the current one and be aware of the various new directions the characters were going. Alas, I started to get behind on my Trek reading because it felt too much I was missing details and was so far behind that I’d never catch up.

Which is why Cassandra Rose Clarke’s Shadows Have Offended is such a welcome, breath of fresh air to the Star Trek fiction universe – a standalone story set during the seventh season of TNG and focused on Deanna Troi and Beverly Crusher. Like many of the most memorable Trek novels of my earlier days, this one felt like an episode of the series, only without the constraints of a television budget.

The Enterprise is “volunteered” by Luxwana Troi to ferry guests for an upcoming Betaziod ceremony across the quadrant, much to the chagrin of Captain Picard. While doing this, a research station in a nearby sector suffers a tragedy. Picard sends an away team of Riker, Data, Crusher, and several other original characters to investigate while the ship continues its duties on Betazed.

The biggest compliment I can give this novel is that Clarke really knows the ins and outs of these characters. It’s easy to hear the actors saying the lines she gives these iconic characters. But she also takes a page from J.M. Dillard and other Trek writers and introduces her own creations into the canon. The members of the away team with Riker and Crusher are all well-drawn and interesting enough to warrant returning in a future offering should Clarke decide to visit the Trek universe again.

Shadows Have Offended won’t be mistaken for a great piece of literature. But, it’s a quietly, comforting novel that reminded me of the days when I was immersed in Trek fiction. I hope Clarke has another novel or two set in the TNG universe in her. This one is a lot of fun and every bit as entertaining as I’d hoped it would be.

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Review: The Impossible Has Happened: The Life and Work of Gene Roddenberry, Creator of Star Trek by Lance Parkin

The Impossible Has Happened: The Life and Work of Gene Roddenberry, Creator of Star Trek

“When the legend becomes the fact, print the legend.”
— The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance

This famous quote from the iconic John Ford Western could easily apply to Star Trek creator, Gene Roddenberry. Roddenberry was a good storyteller, who rarely (at least according to this book) shied away from an opportunity to present himself as the hero of any particular story — whether it was behind-the-scenes battles to maintain the integrity of his vision of the future or being one to take credit for the successes of Star Trek while finding a scapegoat in others for its shortcomings.

In the thirty years since Roddenberry’s death, fandom has been given the opportunity to examine the Roddenberry legacy and to wonder just how much of the success of Star Trek could or should be laid at his feet. Lance Parkin’s The Impossible Has Happened attempts to distill multiple narratives into a single cohesive portrait of the man who created Star Trek and his legacy. Parkin’s assessment is an honest one — probably somewhere in middle between the official Roddenberry biography and the unauthorized one. Parkin throws in details from various other cast and crew members behind-the-scenes looks at the Trek phenomenon to give us his assessment and view of the man and his franchise. Continue reading

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Will “Code of Honor” Survive?

codeofhonorA couple of weeks ago while browsing Disney+, I decided I’d wander over and stream an episode of The Simpsons.  I’d just re-watched Martin Scorsese’s Cape Fear and the Sideshow Bob parody episode “Capre Fear” has always been a particular favorite.

As the closing credits rolled, I began to explore a bit, going from season to season of the popular animated series.   As I pulled up season three, I noticed something — an episode was missing.  The third-season premiere “Stark Raving Dad” wasn’t available to stream and instead the second installment “Mr. Lisa Goes to Washington” was listed as the first installment.

I scrolled through all of season three just to make sure it wasn’t there but placed somewhere else (maybe the season were ordered by production order, I thought) and, no luck.  Continue reading

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Comic Book Friday: Star Trek: Year Five: Odyssey, Volume 1

Star Trek: Year Five - Odyssey's End (Book 1)The final two years of the starship Enterprise‘s five-year mission have proved a fertile ground for storytelling and examination over the past several decades. Pocket Books has multiple tie-in novels from the era and then a hit-or-miss series about the “Lost Years” between the end of the five-year mission and the start of the motion picture series.

Now, IDW attempts to give fans the final year of Captain James T. Kirk and company’s tenure on the starship Enterprise with Star Trek: Year Five. This collection of the first six issues of the series contains three complete “episodes” that attempt to blend the stand-alone storytelling of the original Star Trek with the season-long arcs that are prevalent today. The hybrid works well enough, giving us some interesting character exploration as Kirk faces the prospect of becoming an admiral coupled with regrets about his past (his relationship with Carol and David Marcus serves as a launching point for the middle installment of the arc). There’s even an apparent rift developing between Kirk and Spock (which interestingly plays into Pocket Books’ “The Lost Years” saga) and the crew potentially becoming involved in some squabbling between the Tholians (last seen trapping our crew in their web).

The storytelling and artwork for these six collected issues is spot-on an feels like they came right out of a potential fifth season of the classic series. It’s interesting to see the crew go back to “A Piece of the Action” to examine the implications of McCoy leaving his communicator behind (this is also explored by Peter David in his comic arc “The Trial of James T. Kirk” for D.C. years ago). The characters are well represented and some of the crew that aren’t Kirk, Spock, or McCoy get a moment or two to shine as well.

In short, this is a diverting and entertaining collection of stories that Star Trek fans will enjoy.

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