“STAR TREK DISCOVERY” Season Two Musings

“STAR TREK DISCOVERY” SEASON TWO MUSINGS

There have been plenty of articles on the Internet that many television shows with successful first seasons usually decline in quality with its second season. This is known as the “second season curse”. I do not There have been plenty of cases when the quality of a television series has improved with each succeeding season. However, I do believe there are some shows that adhere to this theory. When it comes to Season Two of the CBS All Access series, “STAR TREK DISCOVERY”, some believe it had .

Most Trek fans either believe that Season One of “DISCOVERY” was a disaster. Many were put off by Michael Burnham, who is portrayed by an African-American actress, as the series’ lead. Many had complained about the series’ serialized format. And there were numerous complaints about the season’s ambiguous portrayal of its main characters and the Federation. Despite these complaints, “STAR TREK DISCOVERY” managed to become a big hit and attract many fans. Unfortunately, the show runners had listened to these disenchanted fans who considered themselves “veteran” Trekkers and made certain changes to the series for its second season. I usually have no problems with a series making some kind of changes. It is necessary for a series to develop. However, some of the changes or additions to Season Two of “DISCOVERY” . . . bothered me.

Season Two began with the episode called (2.01) “Brother”, when Captain Christopher Pike of the U.S.S. Enterprise, took emergency command of the U.S.S. Discovery after his ship was damaged during the crew’s investigation of seven mysterious red signals. The last signal led Pike and the Discovery crew to an asteroid made of non-baryonic matter, where they discovered the U.S.S. Hiawatha, damaged during the Federation-Klingon War of last season. How did the Hiawatha crew’s rescue play a role in the season’s overall arc? Were the events of “Brother” more about rescuing Commander Reno and adding a new character to the series? If so, this was a piss-poor and vague way to do it. Reno could have easily been transferred to Discovery as its new chief engineer without this convoluted set-up to bring her aboard the ship. Also, she had played a very limited role in the second season’s narrative. By mid-season, I found myself wondering why she had not returned to Starfleet Headquarters on Earth, following her rescue. I did not learn until after the finale had aired that she had been officially assigned to Discovery. Huh? And there was the matter of a primitive Human colony on a planet called Terralysium. The Red Angel had led the Discovery to the colony and prevented its inhabitants from being destroyed by an extinction-level radiation shower. How did this play a role in Season Two’s overall arc?

Burnham and the Discovery crew eventually discovered that the signals came from a time travel sentient being called “the Red Angel”. And the Red Angel turned out to be Michael’s presumed dead mother, Dr. Gabrielle Burnham. Since viewers learned that Dr. Burnham’s overall goal was to make the Federation aware of dangerous artificial intelligence called “Control”, why did she go out of her way to bring attention to the Hiawatha crew and Terralysium’s inhabitants? As it turned out, Dr. Burnham was not involved in those situations. Michael was. Michael had ended up using the Red Angel suit in the season’s finale, (2.14) “Such Sweet Sorrow, Part II”. And she was the one who had sent the seven signals, including the two that led Starfleet to both the Hiawath and Terralysium. Really? Was that show runners’ way of explaining why the Red Angel led the Discovery crew to situations that had no major impact upon Season Two’s narrative? Frankly, I found this rather a waste of time. Perhaps Michael wanted to save Commander Reno and allow Terralysium to survive when Discovery arrived in the future. But honestly, the show runners and their writers could have handled this with tighter writing.

Or perhaps the above scenarios were inevitable, since the show runners had planned to send the U.S.S. Discovery over nine hundred years into the future. Imagine, a serialized television show’s format or setting undergoing an extensive change in the middle of its run – during its third season. The series went from being about a Starfleet science vessel during the 2250s to one that is exploring the future. Why? Alex Kurtzman claimed that he had wanted to take the series into a new setting so that the writers would not have to work hard to connect the series’ narrative with the 1966-1969 series, “STAR TREK”. Especially since the latter series is set a decade after “DISCOVERY” and so many fans have been crying plot holes upon discovering that Michael Burnham was the adoptive daughter of Spock’s parents, Sarek and Amanda Grayson. Pop culture fans can be incredibly stupid sometimes. And so are the television show runners who listen to them.

Taking the U.S.S. Discovery some 900 years into the future struck me as one of the most unnecessary moves the show runners could have made. I also find the whole idea ridiculous. “STAR TREK DISCOVERY” began in 2256 – a decade earlier than “STAR TREK: THE ORIGINAL SERIES” and aboard another Starfleet ship . . . with a different crew. There would have been NO NEED for the series to make a concerted effort to connect with the 1966-69 series, despite Michael Burnham being the adopted sister of Spock. At best, Spock, Sarek and Amanda can make the occasional appearance on the show. If “DISCOVERY” ever lasts as long as those shows between 1987 and 2001 – “STAR TREK: NEXT GENERATION”“STAR TREK DEEP SPACE NINE” and “STAR TREK VOYAGER” – the series’ setting would have ended in 2263 or 2264 – at least two to three years before the beginning of “THE ORIIGNAL SERIES” setting. Did any of the show runners ever considered this? By changing the premise, “DISCOVERY” will only end up being some kind of time travel version of “VOYAGER”. And that does not strike me as particularly original.

There is another problem with the new direction that the series had undertaken in the Season Two finale – namely the former Most Imperial Majesty, Mother of the Fatherland, Overlord of Vulcan, Dominus of Qo’noS, Regina Andor, Philippa Georgiou Augustus Iaponius Centarius of the Mirror Universe. As everyone knows, mirror Philippa eventually impersonated the deceased Captain Georgiou prime as a retired Starfleet officer and later became a Section 31 operative. Midway during the airing of Season Two, it was announced that Michelle Yeoh, who portrayed Georgiou, would headline a new Trek series in the near future about Section 31. Why is this a problem? Georgiou was one of the Starfleet personnel aboard Discovery when it followed Michael in the Red Angel suit . . . into the future. If Discovery being 900 years in the future is the series’ new premise, how will Georgiou return to the 2250s in order to continue her story with Section 31? Someone had suggested that she will command Section 31 in the 32nd century? Really? Why on earth would anyone in Earth’s future allow a woman from the 23rd century assume command of an organization like Section 31?

There were aspects of Season Two that I liked. I found Starfleet’s conflict with the A.I. entity known as Control rather interesting . . . and frightening. Many Trek fans had complained that “Control” should have been portrayed as the origin story for the Borg. What they had forgotten was that around this period in Trek history, the Borg had existed for quite some time and had wiped out the El-Aurian home world. Using “Control” as the Borg’s origin story was out of the question. I also enjoyed how the writers used the spore drive’s mycelial plane to bring Dr. Hugh Culber back from the dead and how this resurrection had affected his relationship with Lieutenant Paul Stamets. I especially enjoyed Michael’s reunion with her missing mother, Gabrielle Burnham. In fact, I could honestly say that I had truly enjoyed the episodes of mid-Season Two – from (2.05) “Saints of Imperfection” to (2.11) “Perpetual Infinity”. However, I did not like the finale, (2.13-2.14) “Such Sweet Sorrow”.

Many had complained that the two-part episode seemed over saturated with action. Or that the finale seemed more “STAR WARS” than “STAR TREK”. The action in “Such Sweet Sorrow” did not bother me. I certainly had no problems with Georgiou’s brutal fight against the Control-possessed Captain Leland. Along with Discovery’s eventual journey into the future, I had some problem’s with the episode’s writing. One of those problems involved Ash Tyler, the former Klingon whose body and consciousness had been transformed into a Starfleet officer who had died during the Federation-Klingon War. Instead of joining the rest of the Discovery crew for their journey into the future, he remained behind to convince Empress L’Rell (his or Voq’s former paramour) to help Starfleet’s conflict against Control. This would be nothing, except Ash had openly contacted L’Rell and was later by her side aboard a Klingon starship during the battle. Apparently, Alex Kurtzman and the episode’s screenwriter that Georgiou and Section 31 had went through a good deal of trouble to end Ash’s brief role as L’Rell’s aide on the Klingon home world in order to save her reign as the new Empress . . . by faking his death. Worse, Starfleet put Ash in command of Section 31, despite his limited experience with the agency and his unsuitability as a spy. Despite the fact that Georgiou had managed to destroy Control and prevent it from acquiring the massive data from the Sphere that the crew had discovered in (2.04) “An Obol for Charon”, Michael and the Discovery crew traveled into the future anyway. Following Discovery’s disappearance into the future, Captain Pike (back in command of the Enterprise) and Ash informed Starfleet that Discovery had been destroyed during the battle against Control. Why? Why did the writers feel that was necessary? I feel as if a great deal of unnecessary writing decisions had been made in this episode to justify the Discovery’s journey into the future.

For me, the biggest frustrations of Season Two proved to be the presence of Spock and Captain Christopher Pike. Especially the latter. But I will start with Spock first. Initially, I had no problem with Spock’s role in the season’s narrative. But once the crew had identified Gabrielle Burnham as the Red Angel and Admiral Katrina Cromwell had returned to Starfleet Headquarters, why did Spock remain aboard the Discovery? Why did he not return to Headquarters with the Admiral and rejoin the Enterprise crew? However, Spock’s continuing presence aboard the Discovery struck me as minor problem in compare to the presence of his commanding officer, Captain Pike.

I have been a fan of Anson Mount since he starred in the AMC series, “HELL ON WHEELS”. But I wish to God that he had never been cast as Christopher Pike in “STAR TREK DISCOVERY”. More importantly, I wish that the show runners had never utilized the character in the first place. I believe Christopher Pike was the worst aspect about Season Two of “STAR TREK DISCOVERY”. His presence on the show struck me as irrelevant. Useless. Why did the show runners have him serve as Discovery’s commander throughout the entire season? Why was he even needed? Saru could have easily remained in command of Discovery after the crew was given the Red Angel mission. This was the officer who had led the ship out of the Mirror Universe. And he had also stood behind the crew’s refusal to obey Starfleet’s order to help Georgiou to decimate the Klingon home world in the Season One finale, (1.15) “Will You Take My Hand?“. With the Enterprise temporarily out of commission, Pike could have appeared in “Brother” to hand over the Red Angel mission to the Discovery crew and to inform Spock’s disappearance to both Michael and Sarek before guiding his damaged ship back to Starfleet Headquarters. Then he and the Enterprise could have returned for the final battle against Control in “Such Sweet Sorrow”.

But no. Certain fans had raised a fuss over an African-American actress serving as the lead of a Star Trek series and cried tears over “DISCOVERY” not being “traditional Trek”. And the series’ show runners had made the mistake of listening to them, despite the fact that “DISCOVERY” was a hit. And with Pike, they had provided these narrow-minded fans with an ideal leading male character to swoon over. But why did the show runners felt it was necessary to appease these fans with the addition of Pike for Season Two? Pike was not needed. Even worse, they did not have to paint Captain Pike as this ridiculously ideal Starfleet officer. Because frankly, he came off as a bore. And bland. There were moments when the series was willing to portray Pike’s idealism and inflexibility as flaws, especially in his conflict with Ash Tyler. However, by (2.09) “Project Daedalus”, it seemed quite obvious that the show runners were determined to paint Pike as “the perfect or near perfect” Starfleet officer. This became obvious in his conflict with Ash. Even when Pike was seen to be in the wrong in both (2.07) “Light and Shadows” and (2.08) “If Memory Serves”, Pike was painted in a more sympathetic light than Ash. If only the show runners had ditched this useless conflict and focused more attention on the fallout between Ash and Hugh from Season One, I would have been more impressed. In “THE ORIGINAL SERIES” episode, (1.11-1.12) “The Menagerie”, Trek fans had first learned about Pike’s future as a paraplegic, due to an accident. Somehow, the writers managed to twist Pike’s future as some kind of “heroic sacrifice” in which he had to give up the idea of accepting Klingon time crystals to defeat Control or taking them and facing a future as a paraplegic. There was no need to include what I believe proved to be a contrived and unnecessary plot twist.

I loved Season One of “DISCOVERY”. Despite some moments of clunky writing, I thought it had provided something new and exciting to the Star Trek franchise. I became an instant fan. There were aspects of Season Two that I liked – Starfleet’s conflict with Control, Dr. Hugh Culber’s resurrection and Michael Burnham’s reunion with her mother, Gabrielle Burnham. However, there were aspects of Season Two that I disliked. Too many. And that included the season finale, (2.14) “Such Sweet Sorrow, Part II”, along with Discovery’s unnecessary trip into the future. Also, I saw no reason for the over utilization of characters like Spock and Captain Christopher Pike. I saw their presence during the season as a heavy-handed attempt with the “nostalgic factor” to win over certain Trek fans still mired in the past. It must have worked to a certain degree. Many have declared Season Two to be superior to Season One.

So in the end, I can only repeat that I do not agree with the assessment that Season Two of “STAR TREK DISCOVERY” was superior to Season One. I believe that the Trek fandom’s desire for nostalgia – especially in the form of Christopher Pike and Spock – has made Season Two overrated in my opinion and a victim of the “second season curse”. And most importantly, I saw no need for Christopher Pike to serve as the temporary commander of the U.S.S. Discovery. I found this decision by the show runners to be completely unnecessary.

 

“Celebrating Unoriginality”

“CELEBRATING UNORIGINALITY”

Many people love to praise FOX science-fiction series, “THE ORVILLE” to the sky. Many praise it for being the epitome of the “traditional aspects” of the STAR TREK franchise. Even more so than the latest entry of the latter, “STAR TREK DISCOVERY”.

I have my suspicions on why so many love to praise “THE ORVILLE” to the detriment of the CBS Access series. I suspect that both sexism and racism are two of the reasons behind this sentiment . . . especially in regard to the leading lady of “STAR TREK DISCOVERY”. However, there is some aspect or style of “THE ORVILLE” that makes me understand why many others would make this claim about the series being “traditional Trek”. Unfortunately, I do not think this aspect has proven to be beneficial to the FOX series.

How can I be anymore blunt? To me, “THE ORVILLE” is basically a remake of the second Trek series, “STAR TREK NEXT GENERATION”, but with a touch of leading actor Seth MacFarlane’s style of humor. I just wish the series could be different. Offer A DIFFERENT STYLE in its presentation of episodes. It had recently occurred to me that “NEXT GENERATION” reminded me a lot “STAR TREK THE ORIGINAL SERIES” than any of the other Trek shows. In terms of format and the style of shows, it is almost seems like a remake or continuation of the 1966-69 series. Perhaps this is not surprising considering that the 1987-94 series, along with “THE ORIGINAL SERIES”, was created by Gene Roddenberry. This could be a reason why it seems more beloved by the franchise’s fandom and producers, save for the first series.

My recent viewing of “THE ORVILLE” made me suspect that it pretty much repeated what “NEXT GENERATION” had done in terms of storytelling and format. Although both shows were willing to explore the different quirks and minor flaws of its main characters, both seemed hellbent upon portraying Humans as generally more superior than other alien races. Both shows seemed willing to put humanity on a pedestal. The Moclus race, as personified by the Lieutenant Commander Bortus character, bears a strong resemblance to the Klingons of the 24th century. And Bortus seems to be another Lieutenant (later Commander) Worf. Even the relationship between MacFarlane’s Captain Ed Mercer and Adrianne Palicki’s Commander Kelly Grayson almost seems like a re-hash of the Commander William Riker and Counselor Deanna Troi relationship, as portrayed by Jonathan Frakes and Marina Sartis in “NEXT GENERATION”. And yet, the Trek shows that followed “NEXT GENERATION” seemed to be willing to offer something different.

“STAR TREK DEEP SPACE NINE” was set on a space station and possessed a narrative structure that very slowly developed into a serial format by its third season. “STAR TREK VOYAGER” featured a crew traveling alone on the other side of the galaxy that comprised of Starfleet officers and crewmen, Maquis freedom fighters, an ex-convict/former Starfleet officer, two aliens and a former Borg drone. Superficially, “STAR TREK: ENTERPRISE” seemed a lot like “THE ORIGINAL SERIES” and “NEXT GENERATION”, but it was set a century before 1966-69 series – during the few years before the establishment of the Federation, and it featured a serialized narrative about a major war during its third season. “STAR TREK DISCOVERY” proved to be a Trek series that has been serialized since its first episode. More importantly, its main character IS NOT a star ship or space station commander.

The Trek shows that had followed “NEXT GENERATION” have been more willing to explore the uglier side of the Federation, Starfleet and Humanity; than the first two series. This has been especially apparent in “DEEP SPACE NINE”“VOYAGER” and “DISCOVERY”. And aside from “VOYAGER, the Trek shows that followed “NEXT GENERATION” have been willing to utilize a serialized format – something that many fans seemed to lack the patience to endure lately. Most of this criticism toward a serialized narrative has been directed against “DISCOVERY”. However, I personally find this ironic, considering that the other Trek shows have used this narrative device with the same quality as the other shows. At least in my eyes. I suspect that this heavy criticism toward “DISCOVERY” has more to do with the show’s lead than its writing quality. Even “VOYAGER” has been willing to serialized some of its episodes on a limited scale, especially during its mid-Season Four.

Officially, “THE ORVILLE” is not a part of the Trek franchise. Why does it feel that it is? And Why does it have to feel like it? Because its creator and star, Seth MacFarlane, had this need to pay homage to “NEXT GENERATION”? Or even “THE ORIGINAL SERIES”? Why? Some advocates of “THE ORVILLE” have pointed out the series’ style of humor and the fact that it features a LGBTQ couple. However, “DISCOVERY”, which had premiered during the same month and year, also features a LGBTQ couple. And previous Trek shows and movies have featured or hinted LGBTQ romance and/or sexuality in the past – namely “DEEP SPACE NINE” and the 2016 movie, “STAR TREK BEYOND”. Even television series like “BABYLON 5” and “BATTLESTAR: GALACTICA” have featured or hinted LGBTQ issues. But more importantly, both shows, along with “FARSCAPE” and others in the science-fiction genre have managed to be completely original both style and substance. Why did MacFarlane feel he had to literally copy “NEXT GENERATION” when other Trek shows have managed to be more original? The only aspect of “THE ORVILLE” that I truly find original is its occasional use of twisted humor. And even that has appeared even less during the series’ second season.

This is what I find so frustrating about “THE ORVILLE”. One, I feel that it is basically “traditional Trek” disguised as another science-fiction franchise. Even worse, it seems like a close rip-off of “STAR TREK NEXT GENERATION”. I see nothing complimentary about this. I find it sad that so many people do. And I find it even sadder that so many people are willing to put “THE ORVILLE” on a pedestal for . . . what? For the series’ lack of originality? Because these fans want to cling to the past? This is just sad. No . . . not, sad. Pathetic. At least to me.

 

“PROMETHEUS” (2012) Review

 

“PROMETHEUS” (2012) Review

When I first saw the trailer for director Ridley Scott’s 2012 science-fiction thriller, “PROMETHEUS”, I had no desire to see it. For me, it looked like another “alien in the spaceship” thriller that I have ignored for years. But after some persistent urging from a relative of mine, I finally saw it in the theaters. 

According to Greek mythology, Prometheus is a Titan and cultural hero who is believed to be responsible for the creation of man from clay. He also is also responsible for the theft of fire for human use, which enabled the latter to enjoy progress and civilization. Zeus punished Prometheus for the theft by sentencing the Tital to eternal torment. Zeus bounded Prometheus to rock, transformed to an eagle each day to feed on Prometheus’ liver. The latter would grow back and the eagle would feed on it again . . . day after day after day. What does this have to do with the movie, “PROMETHEUS”? Honestly, I do not know. I am not of the intellectual variety. Then again, I hear that Prometheus’ story is supposed to be a metaphor for human striving and quest for scientific knowledge, at the risk of unintended consequences. Hmmm. Now I understand why the filmmakers used this name.

Set in the late 21st century, “PROMETHEUS” is about the crew of the starship Prometheus that follows a star map discovered among the remnants of several ancient Earth cultures. Led to a distant world and an advanced civilization, the crew seeks the origins of humanity, but instead discovers a threat that could cause the extinction of the human race. Although some members of the cast claim otherwise, it has been confirmed that “PROMETHEUS” was developed as far back as the early 2000s as a fifth entry in the ALIEN franchise, with both Scott and director James Cameron developing ideas for a film that would serve as a prequel to Scott’s 1979 science fiction horror film, “ALIEN”. The project remained dormant until 2009, when Scott again became interested. A script by Jon Spaihts served as a prequel to the events of the ALIEN movies. However, Scott chose a different direction for the movie, in order to avoid repeating the storylines of the past films. He recruited “LOST” producer/writer Damon Lindelof to co-write a new script with Spaihts. They created a story in which Scott claimed is not directly connected to the ALIEN franchise.

The movie began with a humanoid alien drinks a dark bubbling liquid, and then starts to disintegrate. As its bodily remains cascade into a waterfall, the alien’s DNA triggers a biogenetic reaction. The story jumps to the year 2089, when archaeologists Elizabeth Shaw and Charlie Holloway discover a star map among several unconnected ancient cultures. The pair believes the maps are invitations from humanity’s creators or “Engineers”. Peter Weyland, the aging CEO of Weyland Corporation, funds the scientific vessel Prometheus to follow the map. The ship’s crew travels in stasis while the android David monitors their voyage, until they arrive at Moon LV-223. Mission director Meredith Vickers orders them to avoid making contact with any of the “Engineers” without her permission. The Prometheus lands near a large artificial structure, which a team explores. The expedition team manages to find an alien corpse and believe it to be an “Engineer”. Their expedition takes an ugly turn they discover that the “Engineers” and other life forms on the moon prove to be a lot more dangerous than they had imagined.

After my family and I watched the last reel of “PROMETHEUS”, the relative who had convinced me to see the movie leaned over and offered her apologies. She even offered to reimburse me for my movie ticket. Why? Because I discovered that my original reluctance to see the movie had been justified. I disliked “PROMETHEUS”. Wholeheartedly. It turned out to be the kind of the movie that I usually dislike. Not only did it turned out to be the typical science-fiction horror film that usually turned me off, I found the movie’s intellectual aspects of the plot pretentious and incomplete. Were there any aspects of “PROMETHEUS” that I liked? Well . . . the entire cast gave solid performances, aside from some questionable accents from at least two of the cast members. I cannot deny that Dariusz Wolski’s photography was breathtaking. Or that Pietro Scalia’s editing was first rate. And Ridley Scott did a great job in maintaining a steady pace for the movie, despite its 124 minutes running time. Other than that . . . there was nothing else about this film that impressed me.

I have few questions. Why did Elizabeth Shaw assume that the aliens who had created the star maps, were creators of mankind? How did she come to this conclusion? Because she had “faith”? Who was she supposed to be? A second-rate John Locke? Or a metaphor of the Titan Prometheus? And how did she come to the conclusion near the end of the movie that the “Engineers” were out to destroy mankind, after . . . uh, creating them? And what is it about this crew that they make such stupid mistakes that end up endangering them? A good example would be the geologist Fifield and the biologist Milburn, who lacked the good sense to run for their lives after spotting the snake-like alien. And could someone please explain how Shaw managed to walk and run around both Prometheus and the moon so soon after giving herself a brutal abortion to rid herself of her alien spawn? I have one last question. Why on earth would Elizabeth (the crew’s lone survivor) even bother traveling to the aliens’ homeworld at the end of the movie, now that she believes they are out to destroy humankind? Was it so important to her to learn about the aliens’ motives that she was willing to risk her life in such a stupid manner?

Moviegoers raved over Michael Fassbender’s performance as the android David. I was too busy feeling confused about the character to consider any accolades for the actor. Exactly how are we supposed to regard David? As another Data from “STAR TREK NEXT GENERATION”? Or as one of the replicants from another Scott film, 1982’s “BLADE RUNNER”? At first, David seemed to be in thrall over human culture, Elizabeth Shaw and the moon in general. Yet, a reason that is never fully explained, he decided to spike Charlie Holloway’s (Elizabeth’s love interest and fellow archeologist) drink with a dark liquid he had found from one of the moon’s stone cylinders. Why did he do that? Again, the movie failed to explain. Some critics were also in thrall over Idris Elba’s performance as Prometheus’ chief pilot, Janek. I was too busy wincing at his attempt to re-create some kind of African-American accent. He had managed to do this successfully in the 2010 movie, “THE LOSERS”. What in the hell happened? As for Rafe Spall’s Southern accent . . . frankly my dear, it sucked.

I wish I could say that I liked “PROMETHEUS”. But if I did, I would be lying. I did not like it one bit. The movie tried to be some kind of profound tale that would leave many moviegoers asking questions. And in a way it did. But my questions about the movie only reinforced my disenchantment with it. What is really sad about “PROMETHEUS” is that it is the first Ridley Scott movie that has disappointed me since the 2001 movie, “BLACK HAWK DOWN”. Pity.

“STAR TREK DISCOVERY” Commentary: (2.01) “Brother”

“STAR TREK DISCOVERY” COMMENTARY: (2.01) “Brother”

I just recently viewed the Season Two premiere of “STAR TREK DISCOVERY”(2.01) “Brother” on CBS All Access. On one hand, the episode struck me as a solid entry for a Trek show that set up the second season’s story arc and introduction of new characters. This is nothing knew. I have witnessed similar set ups for shows like “BABYLON 5” and “BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER”. But what I did not count on were some differences and characters that would leave me scratching my head. 

I do not think I have ever encountered a Trek show that has generated so much conflict and controversy as “STAR TREK DISCOVERY”. I take that back. There has been one other series that has generated controversy close to the same level as “DISCOVERY” . . . namely “STAR TREK VOYAGER”. This does not strike me as surprising, since both shows featured leading characters who are women. “DISCOVERY” took it to another level in which its leading character, Commander (formerly Specialist) Michael Burnham, is not only portrayed by an African-American actress, but is not the starship/space station’s commanding officer.

I noticed that a great deal of what struck me as vague and nitpicking complaints had been inflicted upon “STAR TREK DISCOVERY” during and after its first season. One of those complaints proved to be certain characters, including Michael Burnham, lacked full development by the end of Season One. I found myself scratching my head over this complaint. I mean . . . what on earth? I have never heard of a fictional character in a television show that is fully developed by the end of its first season, let alone before the end of its run. Never. And “DISCOVERY” had only finished its first season. Why on earth were so many of the franchise’s fans either criticizing that most of its characters are not fully developed or demanding that they should be after one season? This is not miniseries or television show. If “STAR TREK DISCOVERY” is allowed to complete its full run and the characters are still “not fully developed”, then I believe they would have something to complain about.

Another complaint that left me scratching my head was the lack of humor during its first season. In fact, this particular complaint has led many to compare “STAR TREK DISCOVERY” with another science-fiction series that had begun around the same time – “THE ORVILLE”. The Trek franchise has never been a franchise that was dominated by humor. And I do recall a good deal of humor in Season One of “STAR TREK DISCOVERY”, especially in episodes like (1.07) “Magic to Make the Sanest Man Go Mad” or in scenes featuring Mary Wiseman as Cadet Sylvia Tilly. Aside from those scenes featuring Wiseman and even Rainn Wilson (as con man Harry Mudd), most of the humor featured in Season One tend to be more subtle.

I am relieved to notice that in regard to character development, the show runners for “STAR TREK DISCOVERY” did not rush to portray Michael Burnham or any of the other characters fully developed. The Season Two premiere, “Brother”, hinted that the show planned to explore Burnham’s past experiences as a member of Ambassador Sarek’s household and especially, her relationship with adoptive brother Spock. Judging from the Season Two previews I have seen, Burnham’s relationship with Ash Tyler/Voq will also be touched upon. So, if Season Two does not feature the full character development of the series’ leading lady and the other supporting characters, I will not be disappointed. If anything, I might feel a sense of relief. The last thing I want is for the series to engage in rushed storytelling.

But one aspect of the Season Two premiere that left me scratching my head was the level of humor featured in the episode. It almost struck me as out of place. Now, “Magic to Make the Sanest Man Go Mad” featured some rather heavy humor. I found nothing wrong with this. Many of the Trek series have aired the occasional humorous episode. The problem with the humor in “Brother” is that there was nothing about the plot or the characters that should have marked it as a humor-filled episode. Many of the familiar characters – including Burnham – were either spouting lines or reacting to situations that made me wonder if screenwriters Ted Sullivan, Gretchen J. Berg and Aaron Harberts may have went a bit too far.

“Brother” also featured the introduction of Commander Denise “Jett” Reno, Chief Engineer of the U.S.S. Hiawatha, who had been rescued by a landing party from the Discovery after spending ten months caring for wounded crew members on an asteroid, during the Federation-Klingon War. Reno, portrayed by actress-comedian Tig Notaro, managed to spout more jokes in a space of five minutes than any other actor or actress who had appeared in a Trek series or movie. I think Notaro might proved to be a rival for Wiseman on who can be the funniest member of the cast. In the end, the humor in “Brother” struck me as a bit over-the-top, especially for an episode that is not obviously a humorous one like “Magic to Make the Sanest Man Go Mad”.

So what were the screenwriters thinking? Did they change the tonal style of “STAR TREK DISCOVERY” to appease those fans who had complained that the series was “too serious” or “too angsty”? If so, they have made a mistake. I found this tonal shift for Season Two rather forced and mind boggling. I do not see the necessity of changing the series’ tonal style. I want to watch “STAR TREK DISCOVERY”, not some borderline copycat of “THE ORVILLE”. Not even the other Trek series from the past had such a drastic tonal shift. After all, the edgier style of Season One did not prevent “STAR TREK DISCOVERY” from being a hit or creating an entire new stable of fans. Had the show runners forgotten this? Or were they too busy paying attention to the narrow-minded fans who wanted the series to simply re-create the past?

I noticed that the introduction of Anson Mount as Captain Christopher Pike of the U.S.S. Enterprise had also contributed to this tonal shift. Mount’s Pike came off as slightly humorous and yet, somewhat bland. To me, Pike seemed like the epitome of the white male leading man that so many science-fiction/fantasy geeks seemed to long – especially in the past three to four years. The problem I have with this is that as an old fan of the AMC series, “HELL ON WHEELS”, I know that the talented Mount is capable of portraying a character more interesting than Pike. At one point in “Brother”, Pike had expressed his regret that the Enterprise did not participate in the Federation-Klingon War. Was this regret a consequence of survivor’s guilt? Or is this nothing more than the regret of someone in the military, who wished he or she could have been in the center of the action. I hope that it is the former. On the other hand, watching Pike participate in the landing party that found Reno and the remains of the Hiawatha makes me wonder otherwise. As the Discovery’s current temporary captain, his presence in the Away team struck me as questionable. This is not “STAR TREK” circa 1966-68. And so far, I do not find the character’s regret for not participating in the war against the Klingons as not very interesting.

And why is the Christopher Pike character a regular on this show? Why is he a regular for Season Two? Why was Pike, along with two Enterprise officers, needed to investigate those seven red bursts that had appeared in the Alpha Quadrant? The Discovery is originally a science vessel. The Enterprise is not. Why did the show runners have Starfleet order Pike to take command of Discovery in the first place? Mount could have been cast as the Discovery’s new captain who was other than Pike. Or Saru could have been promoted as the Discovery’s new commander. He deserved it. After all, ever since the discovery that Captain Gabriel Lorca was an imposter from the Mirror Universe, Saru had more or less acted as the ship’s captain. He was the one who led Discovery and its crew out of the Mirror Universe. And he stood behind Burnham, Tilly and Tyler when they exposed Starfleet’s plot to destroy the Klingon homeworld. Instead, either Alex Kurtzman or Aaron Harberts and Gretchen J. Berg drummed up some lame reason to brng Pike aboard the Discovery so that the show can have some slightly bland and familiar character as the main authority figure in order to soothe the nerves of some very loud and negative fans.

Is it possible that these fans could not deal with the chaotic Gabriel Lorca as captain or who still cannot deal with the non-white Michael Burnham as the show’s lead. Or do they simply want to recapture the past? Right now, it seems as if Kurtzman, Harberts and Berg want to please these fanboys, who want the show to recapture the past. After watching “Brother”, I blame them for listening to these fanboys, instead of basking in the success of Season One and moving forward with more innovative stories. It just seems a crime that producers like Kurtzman, Harberts, Berg, the Warner Brothers suits and Kathleen Kennedy are so afraid of the loud and narrow-minded fanboys that they would rather keep their respective franchises either mired in the past or borderline bland to please these fans. And in doing so, they end up ignoring the fact that when their franchises were innovative, they were also box office or ratings successes.

Right now, I find the Trek fandom, along with those for other franchises, rather frustrating and narrow-minded. These fans would rather cling to the past, rather than enjoy something different or innovative. And when producers and show runners like Harberts, Berg or Kurtzman kowtow to the loud and rather conservative-minded fans and critics, entertainment and art in pop culture becomes in danger of declining into a sad affair. Does this mean that Season Two of “STAR TREK DISCOVERY” await such a fate? I hope not. I hope that the season’s future episodes might prove to be just as fascinating and innovative as those from Season One. I hope so. Because if I have to be honest, I found “Brother”to be jarring and something of a head scratcher.

 

Five Favorite Episodes of “STAR TREK: DISCOVERY” Season One (2017-2018)

Below is a list of my favorite episodes from Season One of the All Access CBS series, “STAR TREK: DISCOVERY”. Created by Bryan Fuller and Alex Kurtzman, the series stars Sonequa Martin-Green as Commander Michael Burnham:

“FIVE FAVORITE EPISODES OF “STAR TREK: DISCOVERY” SEASON ONE (2017-2018)

1. (1.09) “Into the Forest I Go” – While ignoring Starfleet’s orders, U.S.S. Discovery’s commander, Captain Gabriel Lorca decides to use the ship’s new core drive in an effort to help end the Federation’s war against the Klingons.

2. (1.07) “Magic to Make the Sanest Man Go Mad” – While the Discovery crew enjoy a party, an unwelcome visitor boards the ship to seek vengeance and bring about a series of bringing about a twisted sequence of events that involves a time loop. This episode has been recently nominated for a Hugh Award for writing.

3. (1.02) “Battle at the Binary Stars” – Incarcerated in one of the U.S.S. Shenzhou’s brig for disobeying an order, First Officer Burham struggles to escape, while the ship is under attack by the Klingon Empire. Later, she joins her commanding officer, Captain Georgiou, in an audacious plan to prevent war.

4. (1.13) “What’s Past Is Prologue” – With the U.S.S. Discovery still stuck in the mirror universe, Captain Lorca plots a coup against the Terran Empire’s ruthless leader, the Emperor Philippa Georgiou. Meanwhile former Starfleet officer Michael Burnham struggles to find a way for the Discovery’s return to their universe.

5. (1.11) “The Wolf Inside” – As the crew continue its deception as being a part of the Terran Empire, Burnham undergoes a merciless mission in hopes of helping the ship return home.

Five Favorite Episodes of “STAR TREK DEEP SPACE NINE” Season One (1993)

Below is a list of my five favorite episodes from Season One of “STAR TREK DEEP SPACE NINE”. Created by Rick Berman and Michael Piller; the series starred Avery Brooks as Commander Benjamin Siesko: 

 

FIVE FAVORITE EPISODES OF “STAR TREK DEEP SPACE NINE” SEASON ONE (1993)

1. (1.19) “Duet” – Deep Space Nine’s executive officer and former Bajoran freedom fighter, Major Kira Nerys, suspects a visiting Cardassian to be the notorious war criminal Gul Darhe’el, butcher of Gallitep Labor camp.

2. (1.01-1.02) “Emissary” – Starfleet officer, Commander Benjamin Sisko arrives at the newly freed Deep Space Nine station to command a joint Federation/Bajoran force. His life is changed when a wormhole is discovered near the station and he is declared the Emissary to the Prophets by a Bajoran priest.

3. (1.20) “In the Hands of the Prophets” – In this charged season finale, friction escalates on the station when the Federation and Bajoran inhabitants clash over Federation schoolteacher Keiko O’Brien’s lessons that the aliens in the newly discovered wormhole are aliens – a topic that the Bajorans find blasphemous.

4. (1.08) “Dax” – The station’s science officer Lieutenant Jadzia Dax finds herself accused of a murder committed by her symbiont in another lifetime.

5. (1.05) “Babel” – A mysterious virus plagues Deep Space Nine, causing speech distortions and death.

“STAR TREK BEYOND” (2016) Review

“STAR TREK BEYOND” (2016) Review

I might as well place all my cards on the table. I am not a fan of J.J. Abrams’ reboot of the “STAR TREK” franchise. I heartily dislike the 2009 movie of the original title. And I also dislike – to a lesser degree, 2013’s “STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS”. So when I learned there was to be a third movie in this new franchise . . . needless to say I was not enthusiastic over the news. 

The second thing I learned about this third TREK film, “STAR TREK BEYOND”, was that it was not directed by J.J. Abrams. Justin Lin, who had helmed the fourth, fifth and sixth “FAST AND FURIOUS” movies; served as director. And for once, Simon Pegg, who also co-starred as Chief Engineer Montgomery “Scotty” Scott, and Doug Jung served as the movie’s screenwriters; instead of Abrams’ usual scribes – Robert Orci and Alex Kurtzman. No disrespect to Abrams, Orci and Kurtzman, but I did not miss their presence in this production. If anything, I managed to enjoy the TREK reboot for the first time since it began in 2009.

“STAR TREK BEYOND” begins with the arrival of the U.S.S. Enterprise at the Federation Starbase Yorktown for new supplies and shore leave for the crew. Not long after its arrival at Yorktown, an escape pod drifts out of a nearby uncharted nebula. The survivor, Kalara, claims her ship is stranded on Altamid, a planet within the nebula. The rescue turns into an ambush when the Enterprise is quickly torn apart by a massive swarm of small ships. Krall and his crew board the ship, and unsuccessfully search for a relic called an Abronath that Kirk had obtained for a failed diplomatic mission. Krall captures and removes many crew members from the ship. Kirk then orders for the crew to abandon ship as the Enterprise’s saucer section hurtles towards the planet. After more crew members are captured, including Lieutenant Nyota Uhura and Lieutenant Hikaru Sulu, Kirk is forced to find those who have not been captured and find a way to stop Krall from carrying out his plans against the Federation.

If I must be honest, “STAR TREK BEYOND” is not perfect. I believe that it has a major flaw and it centered around the main antagonist, Krall. How can I put this? I found both his true identity and the reason behind his main goal – the destruction of the Federation with the use of a bio weapon – a bit on the lame side. Apparently, Krall was a former Human captain from the pre-Federation era named Captain Balthazar Edison, whose ship had crashed on Altamid. Believing the newly formed Federation had abandoned him, Edison and his surviving crew had used the technology of the Altamid’s natives to prolong their lives and mutate their physiology. I am sorry, but that seemed to reaching a bit. And the reason for Krall/Edison’s desire to destroy the Federation – the belief that the latter had deliberately abandoned him and his crew – definitely seemed a bit lame to me.

If the background of the film’s main villain and his reason to destroy the Federation seemed a bit lame, then why did I like this film? Whatever weaknesses that “STAR TREK BEYOND” had, I can honestly say that it lacked the multiple plot holes that marred 2009’s “STAR TREK” and that ridiculous final half hour from 2013’s “STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS”. The flaws for this film seemed minor in compare to the first two films. I also liked the fact that the characters seemed more mature and established in this movie. Even Krall seemed like an improvement over the first two villains. He did not engage in a convoluted plot that involved time travel. Nor was his character whitewashed and engaged in another ridiculously convoluted plot. Although Krall’s reason to destroy the Federation seemed a bit thin, at least his actual plot – involving the creation of a bio weapon – seemed to be on solid. And for that, I have to thank screenwriters Simon Pegg and Donny Jung.

I have to admit that when it comes to action sequences, the new STAR TREK movies never fail to deliver. There were a handful of sequences in “STAR TREK BEYOND” that definitely impressed me. First and foremost was the attack on the U.S.S. Enterprise by Krall’s fleet and the crash landing on Altamid that followed. Honestly, I feel that director Justin Lin really outdid himself in that particular sequence. I found the minor scenes featuring the Enterprise crew’s efforts to survive on Altamid very engrossing and once again, well handled by Lin. Now that I think about it, just about all of the movie’s actions scenes impressed me – including Kirk and the other non-captured crew members’ efforts to free those who had been captured, the Enterprise crew’s efforts to prevent Krall/Edison from using his new weapon to destroy the Federation’s massive space station, Starbase Yorktown; and Kirk’s final confrontation with the main villain. I also liked the fact that the movie’s two major female characters – Lieutenant Uhura and a castaway named Jaylah – also took part in many of the film’s action sequences. And both seemed more than capable of taking care of themselves.

“STAR TREK BEYOND’ marked a major improvement in the franchise’s characterizations. For the first time, the main characters seemed to be truly comfortable with each other. And all of them seemed to be more mature and believable as Starfleet officers. This especially seemed to be the case for Chris Pine’s performance as James T. Kirk. For the first time, I found it easy to see his Kirk as a worthy captain for the U.S.S. Enterprise. The prat boy from the 2009 and 2013 movies was gone. Zachary Quinto also seemed very comfortable in his role as the Enterprise’s First Officer, Commander Spock. I also enjoyed how both he and Karl Urban, who portrayed Medical Officer Dr. Leonard McCoy, managed to establish a strong and rather funny screen chemistry – something that I do not recall from the two previous films. Quinto’s Spock seemed even more comfortable than ever with Zoë Saldana’s Nyota Uhura. First of all, both had the chance to enact a private drama between Spock and Uhura that did not come off as forced. I find it hard to believe that I had once found the idea of a romance between the two as unbelievable.

The movie also featured solid performances from Idris Elba as the movie’s main antagonist, Krall aka Balthazar Edison, who managed to thankfully convey his character’s emotional nature without engaging in any histrionics. I also enjoyed one particular scene between Elba and Uhura that struck me as both tense and effective, thanks to the actors’ performances. I also enjoyed the performances of John Cho, who always managed to give a cool, yet wry portrayal of Lieutenant Hikaru Sulu; Anton Yelchin, whose Pavel Chekov seemed more controlled and mature than he did in the previous films; Simon Pegg, whose portrayal of Lieutenant-Commander Montgomery “Scotty” Scott seemed a great deal more controlled and still funny; and Sofia Boutella gave an intense and skillful performance as an alien castaway/scavenger named Jaylah with a grudge against Krull.

I understand that “STAR TREK BEYOND” had not performed well at the U.S. box office. Some critics claimed that the movie was not as good as the 2009 movie. When I heard that, I nearly coughed up a lung. Frankly, I think it is a lot better than the two previous films. I thought Justin Lin did a great job as the movie’s director. And he was ably supported by Simon Pegg and Donny Jung’s screenplay, along with a first-rate cast led by Chris Pine. As for why many moviegoers stayed away, I do not have the foggiest idea. What matters is my own personal opinion.

R.I.P. Leonard Nimoy (1931-2015)

R.I.P. Anton Yelchin (1989-2016)