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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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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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Star Trek: Picard: Nepenthe

nepentheIf you’re a Star Trek fan, this is the episode you’ve been waiting for since the previews.  Nothing against Seven of Nine, but seeing Jean-Luc Picard reconnect with William Riker and Deanna Troi is just far more satisfying because of the long history we’ve seen these characters share.

Nothing against Raffi, but having Riker tell Picard he’s being arrogant and he might need to reconsider his approach to Soji is far more effective and carries more weight.  It’s also exactly what Picard needed and hopefully, it’s inspired him more than just the guilt he feels for the death of Data and what happened to the project to relocate the Romulans.

The scenes with Riker and Troi just worked on another level, making me not only appreciate the longer run time but finding myself wishing for more.  The backstory of losing a son who could have been saved if work on artificial lifeforms had been allowed felt like it was put there to provide some connection to the overall season plot.   But, the entire connection between Soji and Kestra was something that worked extremely well and I almost hope that Soji can work her way back to the Rikers and have the type of family experience she’s only had in implanted memories. Continue reading

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Star Trek: Picard:Maps and Legends

picardmapsWhen Star Trek: Discovery dropped the first f-bomb in broadcast Star Trek history, I wasn’t a fan.  The f-bomb dropping felt more like the production team saying, “Oh look, what we can say now that we’re a streaming series” instead of actually having an f-bomb come out because it fit the character or drama of the moment.  This week, Star Trek: Picard gives us not one but two (at least) f-bombs in the course of this hour — and I’ve got to admit that they work a lot better and felt a lot less gratuitous.

Admiral Clancy’s use of the f-bomb after Picard returns to Starfleet headquarters to ask for reinstatement and a ship to pursue Dr. Bruce Mattow perfectly underscored just how many bridges Picard has burned behind him.  Picard once commanded the flagship of the Federation and now he’s become a persona-non-grata in Starfleet because he had the audacity to stand up for what he believes are the principles upon which the Starfleet and the Federation are founded.

It was an interesting juxtaposition to see Picard walk into the Starfleet HQ and see the two holograms of iconic versions of the Enterprise and then the reception he receives from the cadet who is checking him in for his appointment.  I get the feeling that a lot of people at Starfleet feel that Picard has outlived his usefulness and that he’s become too much of a rogue agent and a bit of a PR nightmare.  Certainly, his actions and their reactions in the past two episodes underscore this. Continue reading

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Star Trek: Picard: Remembrance

trekpicardThirty-plus years ago when Star Trek: The Next Generation debuted, I tuned in with a mixture of excitement and reservation (probably like a lot of Star Trek fans out there).  And if you’d asked me after “Encounter at Farpoint” if thirty or so years on, that I’d have the same mixture of excitement and reservation for a new series featuring Captain Jean Luc Picard, I probably would have told you no.

The fact that I was is a testament to how the writers and Patrick Stewart molded and shaped the character of Jean Luc Picard over the course of seven seasons and four feature films.  And while Picard will never quite replace James T. Kirk as my favorite Trek captain, I do have a lot of admiration for what Picard is as a character and what he represents.

And it looks like Star Trek: Picard is going to be a continuation of that. Continue reading

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Audiobook Review: Luke Skywalker Can’t Read: And Other Geeky Truths by Ryan Britt

Luke Skywalker Can't Read: And Other Geeky TruthsListening to the essays that make-up Luke Skywalker Can’t Read: And Other Geeky Truths, I feel like Ryan Britt and I would be good friends if we ever met in the real world.

Covering things from why reboots happen and that isn’t necessarily a bad thing to the sad truth that Luke Skywalker and company don’t place a high value on literacy to the admission that he grew up listening more to Star Trek soundtracks that he did the popular music of the day (boy, did that one resonate with this guy, who can tell you pretty much were most musical cues from the original series featured first but couldn’t tell you much about the popular music of my teenage years), Britt keeps things entertaining, humorous, and compelling throughout.

Pointing out how the Back to the Future is every genre of film in one trilogy and then proceeding to deconstruct the time travel paradoxes within the film, Britt had me nodding in agreement at multiple points and considering some of my favorite genres and some of their most popular entries in a new light. And his final essay finds me wanting to visit Issac Asimov’s I, Robot again to see how it differs from most of the other robots in pop culture since the mechanical creatures don’t want to rise up and exterminate us all.

And while I agree with what Britt says in most of the essays, I differ greatly with him in his analysis of modern Doctor Who (but then again, I differ from a lot of fandom in my assessment and enjoyment of the revived series, especially the esteem to which a certain Doctor is held (ahem..David Tennant…ahem)). But that’s why I say I feel like Britt and I could be friends – because you don’t want to agree with your friends on everything….

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Comic Book Friday: Star Trek: New Visions, Volume 3 by John Byrne

Star Trek: New Visions, Volume 3Another trio of Star Trek stories done in the tradition of the PhotoNovel series from my younger reading days.

As with all Trek tie-in stories, it can be hit or miss. The good news for this trio of stories is that the hit ratio is a bit better than in the previous installment.

Opening with a story in the Enterprise is pursuing a precursor to a certain modern era Trek entity that we’ll meet in “Q Who,” the collection gets off to an uneven start. Even trying to put aside my inner nitpicker and just enjoy a story in which Kirk gets to tangle with the proto-Borg, I couldn’t get over the fact that John Bryne was trying too hard to draw a connection between the Doomsday Machine and the Borg. Part of this is that Peter David did this almost two decades earlier with his novel, “Vendetta” and that (if my memory serves me right) he did it better. Again, this could be my nostalgia looking back on a book that I consumed in mere days when I was a teenager and have had a strong affection for since. Continue reading

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TV Round-Up: Star Trek: Discovery: Into the Forest I Go

dsc-109-rev-3-640x320With “Into the Forest I Go,” Discovery wraps up its first major arc of the series and gives us another one to ponder until the series head back to our screens in January.

Picking up where last week’s installment left off, the crew finds a way to not only break the Klingon’s cloaking technology but also to take out much of the Klingon leadership.  The story also serves to bring much of the character arc of Michael Burnham full circle.

In addition to the parallels of the war starting and ending on the Klingon ship of the dead, we also got to Burnham use her logic to win over her captain.  The first time it leads to her mutiny and those consequences. This time she’s able to use Vulcan logic to convince Lorca that she needs to go on the away mission since she’s the one who knows the layout of the Klingon vessel the best.

It does bring up an interesting question — why let Tyler go too?  If the logical argument is that she knows the vessel, it also seems logical that Tyler might have some issues going back to a Klingon ship after being held prisoner and tortured for seven months.  But, if we don’t get Tyler over there, we don’t get his flashbacks and we don’t get T’Rell onboard Discovery as a prisoner. It really felt like the writers had an endpoint in mind and this was the only path that could get them from point a to point b.

111313_0646bAt least Tyler and Burnham get to rescue Cornwell, who apparently was only partly dead last week. Seriously, it’s a good thing the Klingons didn’t stab her with bantleth just to make sure she was really dead.

The parallels continue with Burnham battling a Klingon and possibly ending the war. Or at least turning the tide so Starfleet can win and get back to the mission of exploring the unknown and the final frontier. At least that’s what Lorca promises Stamets. But how much of that is Lorca having the heart of an explorer and how much of that was Lorca pushing Stamet’s buttons to get him to agree to the 133 spore drive jumps remains to be seen.

I have to admit I did find there to be some inconsistencies in how Starfleet interacts with Lorca and their expectations. So, Lorca is ordered back to a starbase (in front of the entire bridge crew, mind you) and he then decides to drag his feet, using only warp drive and not the spore drive.  I guess this is the equivalent of taking the long way home from school when you’ve got a bad report card. You’re just postponing the inevitable.  Or in Lorca’s case, finding another way to avoid being taken out of the big chair.

dsc-109-rev-4-640x320Given what we’ve seen about Lorca, I can’t help but think the early dropping of hints about being able to explore parallel universes and then the shot of his hands dancing across the keypad as they were ready to rev up the Spore drive one last time mean that Lorca didn’t necessarily mean he was using the easiest route home. Instead, he’s buying more time — even if that time may have a great cost to Stamet. Again, I think part of Stamet’s reaction in the final spore drive jump was about where Lorca sent them and not as much about him burning out. Perhaps Lorca drove him too hard, asked him to do too much. Or could there be something else waiting out here for them?

Those are questions we’ll have to wait until January to answer.

Once again, the show goes out of its way to earn its TV-MA rating. We got the first f-bomb dropped a few weeks ago and then this time around we get our first, explicit love-scene, complete with Klingon nudity. I’ve got to commend Mary Chieffo for that scene because I can only imagine how long it took to get full body painted and give us some Klingon nudity. I do find it interesting that she’s on board the ship now and teasing Tyler that he will have answers soon. The flashbacks to her torture of him seem to hint that there’s more in play here than just the torture she forced him to endure. I can’t help but wonder if he’s going to play some type of role in T’Rell bargaining to get back to the ship that she deserted V’Latak on a few episodes ago.

111313_0087bMeanwhile, it feels like the crew has finally gelled a bit. Maybe it’s that the crew all had one task — shutting down the Klingon cloak. But the moment when Lorca tells everyone he’s about to disobey a direct order was interesting. Part of me wondered if Saru wouldn’t somehow object to this. And you can’t help but wonder if this will help heal the rift between Burnham and Saru a bit. Saru has violated Starfleet orders here and he had a very good motivation to do so. Could he also begin to see that Burnham had good intentions in the mutiny against Georgiou, even if the results didn’t quite come out the way Burnham hoped or expected?

It will be interesting to see what, if anything, develops from this in the final six episodes of the year.

I also can’t help but think that Cornwell might try and assume command of the ship based on her reservations about Lorca. And that she may try to figure out how to get them back home again.

I also ask myself just how hurt Stamets is and can he help them all get home again.  I have a feeling based on the preview, that’s too simple a way out for the crew.

So much to ponder until we pick the story back up in January….

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TV Round-Up: Star Trek: Discovery: Si Vis Pacem, Para Bellum

Ep8-6-11-3-17After taking a week off for some wacky time-travel fun, Star Trek: Discovery gets back to the business of the war with “Si Vis Pacem, Para Bellum.”

CBS Digital originally intended for this episode to serve as the mid-season finale.  And while it does end of a cliffhanger, I’m glad they’ve decided not to just leave us hanging on these developments for the next couple of months.  Don’t get me wrong — it’s strong, solid episode but I think I would have been annoyed if this was where we left things until January.  Continue reading

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Star Trek: Discovery: Choose Your Pain

MV5BMGI3MmY1NWMtY2IxOC00MWEzLTg4OTMtNGE1ZGM3YmRmZTVlXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNzQ0MDUyMzg@._V1_With “Choose Your Pain,” Discovery begins to dig a little deeper into its characters and some interesting questions surrounding the exploration of the final frontier.

While being held prisoner by the Klingons, Lorca is called out by Harcourt Fenton Mudd (better known as Harry in a call back to the original series) over Starfleet’s perceived arrogance at heading out into the final frontier and expecting the rest of the universe to be fine with it.  Mudd argues that Starfleet failed to take into account how parties that weren’t Starfleet officers might react to this – from the humans who already had business in space to the various alien races that humanity would encounter during its exploration of the final frontier.  In some ways, Mudd’s argument echoes the concerns the Vulcan’s had about turning humanity lose into the stars without some kind of guidance or training wheels that we saw repeatedly on Enterprise.  And, on some level, Mudd has some valid points, whether it’s the fact that Lorca destroyed his own ship or that Starfleet has started a war with the Klingons that is having a huge impact on the rest of the galaxy.  It certainly has had an impact on Mudd himself, though a lot of what let Mudd to that cell is his own doing. Continue reading

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