Category Archives: Star Trek

REVIEW: Star Trek TOS “The Ultimate Computer”

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The Enterprise is summoned to a space station where Dr. Richard Daystrom installs his revolutionary computer M-5, to take control of all systems of the ship. The computer soon turns out to be superior to a human crew, in normal ship operations as well as in a simulated battle against another starship. Then, however, M-5 destroys an unmanned ore freighter, and a crewman is killed when he attempts to cut off the computer’s power. Unbeknownst of the situation on the Enterprise, as M-5 has disabled any communication, a task force of four starships under Commodore Wesley continues the simulated attacks. M-5 takes the battle seriously, cripples the fleet and kills hundreds of crewmen. Daystrom has programmed M-5 with his own engrams, and Kirk uses this knowledge to convince the computer that it is guilty of murder and has to shut down. Wesley is authorized by Starfleet to destroy the Enterprise but he breaks off the attack when he notices that the ship is dead in the water.

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This episode has largely been categorised as one of the better action episodes of the original series. This is thanks largely to the eye candy of seeing more than one Federation starship and the subsequent wargames. Indeed, back in the day it was one of the best looking episodes that helped finally give the series the genuine feeling that there was more than one ship in Starfleet. In the digitally remastered version we get even more eye candy in the form of the ore freighter that wasn’t seen properly in the original episode for budgetary reasons. Now we see none other than a recreation of the freighter we saw in the Animated Series. That alone is enough to make the most avid Trekkie’s heart beat just that little bit faster.

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However if you scratch away this glossy surface we have one of the most philosophical episodes of Star Trek ever; long before Star Trek: The Next Generation’s classic “Measure of a Man.” The question the episode asks is an old one; should machines do the work of man and if so what becomes of the man? This is Kirk’s question more than anyone else’s in the episode as the M-5 is aimed directly at replacing the decision making capability of a starship. Kirk feels useless in this episode in the face of the M-5 hence Commodore Wesley’s “Captain Dunsel” remark but alas we can’t have a TV show about a computer piloting a starship and so naturally the computer goes bad. One thing that does pop up briefly is that the ore freighter is unmanned which tells us already that some of the more mundane yet essential jobs in space are already entirely mechanised so it would appear starfleet has been heading toward an unmanned future for some time before the M-5.

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But the thought process behind Daystrom and his creation make us ask intriguing questions not just about this fictitious universe we like to sit and watch of an evening but also about our own future in space travel. Even if we discard the distances and time involved in space travel we are still left with an extremely hostile environment in which to go gallivanting around in cooped up inside a metal box. Is it wise therefore to say “What the Hell; we can go there so let’s go.” Science fiction is filled with examples of how this can be a bad idea not just for the crew of whatever ship we are travelling on this week but also for humanity itself. Death, disease, war, alien influences on human culture – it seems we don’t need to leave our planet to be affected by what goes on out there.

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This was touched upon briefly in Star Trek: Enterprise’s 4th season when there are Humans who believe that Starfleet’s exploration of space is advertising Earth’s presence to hostile aliens that didn’t seem bothered before warp flight. This is something Daystrom seems to have forgotten since he envisions a future where nobody dies in space exploration because machines are expendable.

Men no longer need die in space or on some alien world! Men can live and go on to achieve greater things than fact-finding and dying for galactic space, which is neither ours to give or to take!

– Daystrom, defending the need for the M-5

This leads him to fall in to the trap of many a scientist in science fiction who develop supercomputers or robots – he builds a machine that learns but still considers it expendable. Therefore surely there is the danger that this machine will learn that it is not expendable or, like HAL in 2001: A Space Odyssey, it may judge its own importance in completing a given mission to be greater than the survival of a few humans in an unfortunate circumstance.

Ultimately, what this episode concludes is that the human spirit will always have a place. It was a foregone conclusion and is something that continues throughout all of Star Trek. As Captain Archer onboard the Enterprise NX-01 will later (or already said in canon);

“Starfleet could’ve sent a probe out here to make maps and take pictures, but they didn’t. They sent us so we could explore with our own senses.”

Star Trek Generations 20th Anniversary

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As amazing as it seems (at least to me) it is 20 years ago today that Star Trek: Generations hit movie theatres. The last on-screen outing for William Shatner’s Kirk and the very first big screen outing by the crew of the Enterprise-D has become on of those Trek movies that has polarized fans in that either they enjoyed it or absolutely loathed it. It is certainly true that the movie won’t ever make any Number 1 spots on the lists of best Star Trek movies but is it really that bad?

I don’t know.

I don’t think it is as bad as some people try to make it out. Sure it had its faults with a rather topsy-turvy story and obvious questionable decisions made by the characters; the classic being if Picard could return to any point he wanted why not return to the point where he first meets Soran and spare us the rest of the movie (and the Enterprise-D)? What always annoyed me was how much of the film felt recycled from previous movies. In some instances they were directly recycled. I am of course talking about the fact that the Duras Sisters’ Bird-of-Prey exploding is simply the reused footage of Chang’s ship exploding in the previous movie. Eeep! I do wonder also why if a ship with its shields and hull would get ripped apart getting close to the Nexus why doesn’t the same happen to Soran and Picard on that hillside?

But what did the film do right? Well, Malcolm McDowell as Soran was an inspired choice and I will say that not since Khan in Star Trek II did we have such a genuinely motivated enemy. He was actually quite sympathetic in his cause and actually does a pretty good job of convincing the audience why he is doing it. How many films can claim to give you a dose of Helsinki Syndrome while you are watching it?

A lot of fans (and I mean a hell of a lot of fans) hate how the Enterprise-D was destroyed in this movie and I really can’t see why. Their argument is how could the ship have survived so much throughout the series only to get taken out by a single Bird-of-Prey? Well in the series the ship faced enemies trying to destroy it conventionally and the Galaxy-class was just too tough for that. So how do you destroy a tough ship you can’t match? Well you cheat obviously and thats what the Duras sisters did. I don’t see the problem. Also with the Enterprise-D out of the way we got to see the incredible Enterprise-E that was much more suited to the big screen. Interestingly, ILM actually put NCC-1701-E titles on the Galaxy-class model in preparation for Star Trek: First Contact before they were told they were given a budget to make a new ship.

Well anyway. Love it or loathe it this movie did get the TNG crew we all loved so much on to the big screen and that’s not a bad thing. The movie certainly had a tough job acting as the intermediary between the 23rd and 24th centuries and for that we should cut it some slack.

REVIEW: Star Trek Voyager “Riddles”

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Tuvok and Neelix are returning from a trade mission aboard the Delta Flyer when Tuvok is attacked by a mysterious cloaked intruder. The attack leaves Tuvok with amnesia and as such he develops emotion and new interests. Meanwhile Janeway with the help of an alien official goes in search of the cloaked aliens in order to find the weapon that hit Tuvok to help the Doctor develop a way to heal him and restore who he was. However Tuvok is unsure as to whether he wants to return to his old self.

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The main purpose of this episode is to explore Neelix and Tuvok’s relationship by allowing Tuvok to close down his logical barriers and see things as Neelix does. I was uncertain how interested I would be with this but actually Tim Russ and Ethan Phillips both give wonderful performances that add real substance to the characters. It’s a testament to Ethan Phillips’ ability to emote despite the extensive prosthetics he is required to wear. The search for the aliens is relegated to a B-plot in this episode but is still interesting. All the way through however I suspected that Naroq’s people, the Kesat, were not as innocent as Naroq appears. This is something the writers of “Voyager” liked to do a lot but I was pleasantly surprised that for me at least the twist came that there wasn’t the twist I was expecting.

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This is one of Star Trek’s more touching episodes and is an exploration of our characters rather than space. We are mostly exploring Neelix’s persistent efforts to befriend Tuvok over the previous six years and how they have achieved very little. I have to admit when Tuvok realizes how he has behaved toward Neelix Tim Russ gave a very emotional performance and I was a little choked up. It showed that Neelix was a true friend even if that friendship wasn’t wholly returned. I was then infuriated by Tuvok at the end when he returned to normal and treated Neelix like normal. I left this episode disliking Tuvok immensely. For someone who is supposed to be emotionless he displays irritation regularly. One touch I did like, intentional or not, was Tuvok’s new found interest in cooking which was a nod to the season two episode “Tuvix”.

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Watching Naroq reminded me of Fox Mulder in the early episodes of “The X-Files” just far more annoying. That being said I have to say I was touched by his own sacrifice of his equipment at the end. The annoying enthusiasm we saw in the first half of the episode actually added weight to this sacrifice as I got the feeling he really was giving up his life’s work even after getting so close. Perhaps he had gone far enough with Voyager’s crew to satisfy his own curiosity.

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For “Star Trek: Voyager” this was an above average episode with a deeply personal feel to it; I find that episodes that revolve around Neelix and the Doctor are usually emotional ones. There could have been a bit more action with the aliens and it would have been nice to see them fully rather than just an outline but that’s me just being picky.

Thanks for reading…

Where No Man’s Been Before

The video claims to be made in homage to the supposedly lost soundtrack to Star Trek II The Wrath of Khan but I don’t know how true that is. I have asked the know-it-all “Mr Google” and can’t find a definitive answer either way. If you know if this is just a joke or was a real song please put it in the comment section below.

Either way this is a fun, cheesy song to appeal to Trekkies and fans of music parody everywhere. Featuring the talent of Weird Al Yankovic the producers have gone for a James Bond style opening that can’t fail to just put a sly grin on even the most logical Vulcan’s face.

Check it out…

REVIEW: Star Trek Voyager “Alice”

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HARRY KIM: It’s just an old rust bucket.

TOM PARIS: Are you kidding? Look at those lines, it’s a work of art. That ship wasn’t assembled, it was sculpted. I think I’m in love.

Voyager stumbles across a junkyard in space and Paris finds his latest love interest hidden among them in the form of a mean looking little shuttlecraft. He convinces Chakotay to buy the shuttle for him and he begins working on restoring it apparently with honourable interests. Soon however his work on the shuttle, which he names Alice after a lost love interest from his Academy days, becomes an obsession and he misses duty shifts and time with friends to keep working on getting Alice ready for flight. It becomes clear that there is more going on here than meets the eye but before Voyager can do anything about it Paris escapes aboard Alice before he is nearly killed by a particle fountain.   

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In a nutshell this is a Star Trek take on Stephen King’s “Christine” and it’s not just coincidental; Brannon Braga admitted that King’s work was a source of inspiration for this episode. If you are going to pay homage to the classic horror story about a possessed Cadillac then naturally it is going to be a Tom Paris focused episode. The montage of him fixing up the ship seem intentionally designed to resemble a mechanic working on a car with Paris on a trolley to slide underneath the ship (what could be sticking out of the hull to work on is anyone’s guess). I can’t help but feel this isn’t one of Robert Duncan McNeil’s best performances however and that’s a shame. In the similarly themed episode “Drive” (click here for my review) he seemed to have much more enthusiasm and I think the conflict with Torres in that episode made for a better story. I am not saying he doesn’t seem to be bothered but it just feels like he could do better. In fairness I think the script could have something to do with it also.

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As for Alice; the little ship looked excellent. It was certainly a mean looking craft even though it was merely an extensive redress of the Type-9 shuttle. It is a testament to the skill of the art department that on such a tight budget as most TV shows like Voyager are that they could do so much. It does seem shockingly well armed however and it’s two shots against Voyager seem to be enough to blow up a few computer consoles on the bridge. As for the projection of Alice in Paris’ mind Claire Rankin managed to nail the creepy jealous girlfriend vibe down to a tee. She is genuinely unsettling and makes you feel awkward everytime she is on screen. 

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This was a premise that was wide open for a Star Trek homage. It is certainly an interesting one with enough technobabble in the first two acts to give us an explanation for what is happening without wondering if this is the first episode with a genuine ghost or demon. Sadly it is let down by a poor script that after a promising start can’t keep up the pace then goes in to fifth gear to wrap up quickly. Was it really necessary to waste minutes with Kim and Torres moaning to one another about Tom’s latest obsession? I would much rather devote that time to develop more of Alice’s motivation for going to the particle fountain which she calls “Home”. We never get an explanation as to why she wants to go there so desperately.

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But perhaps the biggest thing that really gets on my nerves about this episode is Chakotay’s line;

We already have a full compliment of shuttles. 

No you don’t! In the previous five years Voyager had lost numerous shuttles. Now, on a Galaxy-class ship like the Enterprise-D that wouldn’t really be a problem but for the relatively minuscule Intrepid-class Voyager still 50,000 light years from the Alpha Quadrant they must surely be on their last one or two shuttles by now. Why didn’t the writers proceed on the lines of they needed a new shuttle? It surely wouldn’t affect the story in anyway. This just reflects the biggest problem I had with Voyager during its entire run and that is the stories rarely reflect the fact that this is a crew far from home. Many of the stories are like TNG episodes in terms of resources used when the need for resupply should have been a recurring theme throughout the show and not just in the first series. To really balls it up though this episode later has Chakotay saying he cant spare certain resources because they are in short supply in the Delta Quadrant. Come on! Make up your mind. With regards to the shuttlecraft debacle the answer could be that if they could build the Delta Flyer then they could build new shuttles too but where is that in the dialogue – nowhere. Also where is Neelix’s ship?

There; rant over.

In conclusion this was a slightly below average Star Trek episode. It had an excellent premise and good start but it failed to keep it together. Its a real shame. 

The “Marsh melon” Debacle

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SPOCK: I am preparing to toast a ‘marsh melon’.

McCOY: Well, I’ll be damned. A marsh melon. Where did you learn to do that?

SPOCK: Before leaving the ship I consulted the computer library to familiarise myself with the customs associated with ‘camping out.’

 

It’s been over 25 years since Star Trek V came out and bombed so badly that even today it remains the butt of numerous jokes. There was even a scene in The Big Bang Theory where Sheldon and Raj are arguing over which was the worst movie; Star Trek The Motion Picture or Star Trek V. The truth is it was a film that had everything against it ranging from Gene Roddenberry’s own dislike of the premise, ILM being unavailable for the effects work and William Shatner’s galactic sized ego at the helm. With all the mistakes and goofs in this movie one seems to stand out more than any other and yet it is the one that makes Trekkies least angry. Rather it has long been a source of curiosity and discussion. 

“Why does Spock call masrhmallows “marsh melons?”

The truth is this line was what was left of the original script which consisted of a scene in which Dr McCoy plays a joke on Spock and reprograms the computer he accesses to learn what to do while camping. McCoy makes the computer call them “marsh melons” with the idea being he and Kirk would spend the evening laughing at Spock’s mispronunciation. While these scenes were never shot somehow the result was retained in the final script and McCoy’s glee is immediately obvious although now it appears that he is simply amused by Spock making a genuine mistake.

Stepping away from this a moment I think most people will agree that while the rest of the movie wasn’t up to much the campfire scene itself was a touching moment. It was tender, emotive and well acted offering a deep insight in to their friendship which had carried the series for so long. So if we don’t take anything else away from this movie (which a lot of people now even refuse to accept as canon) we can take this simple yet touching moment.

Thanks for reading….

COUNTDOWN: Top 5 Star Trek Bad Guy Ships

As I have said previously Star Trek is more about ideas than action. It’s why J.J. Abrams always said he never got Star Trek because it was “too cerebral” for him. Well for those like Abrams who have difficulty comprehending in-depth storytelling there have been plenty of eye candy moments in Star Trek’s 50 years.

Here is my countdown of the top 5 bad guy ships. Please note that to set some criteria for this countdown I have selected ships that have at some point either been captained by an antagonist or have fired on our heroes at some point. Enjoy…

5. Tholian Web Spinner

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With its low budget the original series often had to contend with glowing objects on the viewscreen as the bad guy’s ship. However on occasion we did get to see another ship with its metallic hull and in a few episodes we got some real classics. The Tholian Web Spinner is unique in that not only does it fall in to the category of being one of these few exceptions but it also a rather creative way of capturing or destroying enemies with its energy web which made for one of the most thrilling episodes of the series and lead to Star Trek: Enterprise’s brilliant homage in it’s final season.


4. USS Reliant

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Slow to one-half impulse power…Lets be friends
– Khan

The most unsettling enemy is often the one with a familiar face and that’s something Khan knew all too well when he hijacked the USS Reliant and incorporated it in to his plan for revenge on Kirk. The Reliant, while presumably not as sophisticated an exploration vessel as the Enterprise, was comparably armed and this lead to one of most tactically rich battle sequences in Trek history. It was a true battle between commanders rather than the Enterprise facing a weaker opponent has had been the case many times previously.


3. Reman Warbird Scimitar

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Love or hate Star Trek: Nemesis you have to admit the Scimitar was an imposing and impressive warship. It’s angled design gave it both a stealthy and powerful look and while most large ships in Star Trek are quite clumsy this beast was very nimble. Whereas the fight between Kirk and Khan in Star Trek II was one of slow but gripping space tactics the fight between the Scimitar and the Enterprise E was fast and spectacular and with it’s ability to fire through the cloak and its awesome array of weapons Picard was right in saying…

She’s a predator.


2. Krenim Temporal Weapon Ship

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All bad guy ships need their ‘edge’ over our heroes. For the Krenim that edge came in the ability to rewrite history and erase beings/ships/planets form history altogether. The “Year of Hell” episodes of Star Trek: Voyager were among the best of the series with a gripping storyline about battling against the odds and leading the charge was this behemoth. Janeway’s final sacrifice by ramming the Krenim ship remains one of the best scenes in Star Trek.


1. Borg Cube

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Even after 25 years since its first appearance the rather simple looking Borg Cube remains one of the most imposing ships in Star Trek history. People often forget that rarely do the Borg employ weapons like torpedoes and disruptors. This ship wears down its enemies with tractor beams and cutting beams so it can capture the crew and assimilate them in to the hive. A dampening field renders energy weapons ineffective and even if our heroes can damage it this ship can repair itself in a few hours. Ingenuity on the part of Starfleet is what defeats the Borg rather than weapons alone. But their imposing nature made their destruction at the hands of Species 8472 all the more spectacular.

Thanks for reading…

Captain Janeway on the Satellite of Love

The Satellite of Love is in trouble. With Gypsy, Crow and Servo at the helm, while Mike Nelson is mysteriously missing, the ship is heading for disaster.

But alas they are saved by none other than Starfleet’s Captain Janeway who immediately exercises her authority and expertise to save the day. Let’s hope they have plenty of coffee aboard to keep her sharp…

GAME REVIEW: Star Trek DS9 – Crossroads of Time

Mark Berryman and Tony Wilkins finally find a retro Star Trek game that doesn’t make them want to go on a Klingon-style rampage.


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Anyone who has read our Star Trek Generations – Beyond the Nexus review will know that when it comes to Star Trek and retro games that rarely do the two crossover in a good way. The aforementioned game was a painfully dull affair being a mix of confusing and slow space action, a puzzle game and a shooter. So when we found ourselves with a little known game based on the Deep Space Nine incarnation of the show we were understandably skeptical.

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We knew nothing of this game before playing it. As we have come to expect from a Star Trek game there was the need to read a Captain’s Log but fortunately this one was quite short. The game begins with the player as Benjamin Sisko in his office when he receives a call from Odo asking him to go to his security office after an engineer has been attacked. Thus begins the story about political double dealings, mystical revelations and (surprisingly for a 16-bit era Star Trek game) a fair amount of action. DS9 – Crossroads of Time has several things in its favor that makes it stand apart from its brethren. Firstly the pacing is a lot faster keeping it interesting and the player is given a great deal of freedom to explore the beautifully rendered station. Action is defintiely the order of the day in this game with Benjamin Sisko grabbing a phaser within the first few minutes of gameplay and having to fend off Bajorans or Cardassians trying to blow up the station.

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While some of the other Trek games of the era claim to tie in with the franchise this is one of the few that genuinely does. The game was produced during the early seasons of the show where the story of Cardassian-supported Bajoran separatists was a major plot point. This game builds on that storyline giving the player a feel of being involved. Perhaps the level every Trekkie wants to play however is the orb-generated Battle of Wolf 359 level where Sisko is back aboard his old ship, the USS Saratoga, fighting the Borg. Although sadly the level differs little from any of the others with the same gameplay it is still fun.

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Gamewise it is a blend of action/adventure with some RPG elements. Many of the action segments where you run around with a phaser and have a specific goal such as diffusing bombs or fending off Cardassian troops play like several sci-fi inspired games of the time such as Batman Forever and Demolition Man. It is very much a 2D affair with no real way to outflank attacking enemies. Instead you have to duck or hide behind barrels, etc to avoid enemy fire before jumping up to attack. There are also some unique levels such as piloting a Runabout through the wormhole but again it is a 2d side scrolling affair albeit a beautifully depicted one.

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Easily one of the better games of the Star Trek franchise to make it on to a 16-bit console we have to say from an objective viewpoint it is a game that will only really appeal to Trekkies so its a good thing we are. There’s just so much to give to the fans that it would really be lost on anyone else.

Thanks for reading…