Showing posts with label gene roddenberry. Show all posts
Showing posts with label gene roddenberry. Show all posts

Monday, 2 October 2017

Is Star Trek: Discovery worthy of Gene Roddenberry?

Episode 3 of Star Trek: Discovery is now available to stream on CBS All Access and Netflix outside the US. So, I thought it might be fun to have a second opinion on the two-part premiere and have enlisted the help of Rob Wainfur, founder of The Bearded Trio and a contributor to this blog.

Rob has avidly followed the franchise since the heyday of Star Trek: The Next Generation. How does the new series stack up against such a storied legacy created by Gene Roddenberry?

Guest post by Rob Wainfur

Here are my spoiler-free thoughts on Star Trek: Discovery. I am a huge Star Trek fan and think Star Trek: Deep Space Nine is the finest TV ever made. How does Star Trek: Discovery do and is it worthy of the Star Trek name?

The first thing I must say about Star Trek: Discovery is it looks incredible, probably one of the best looking TV series I've ever seen. I really mean this! The battle sequences are up there with anything I've seen on the small screen or the big screen for that matter. It looks like Star Trek with a hint of Mass Effect at times. Very pleasing on the eye. The technology used sometimes looks a little advanced for the timeline, but I can forgive this for artistic licence.

The sound effects are pleasing, especially for a Trek fan like me. From time to time you hear a familiar chime or alert sound that you know all too well from previous incarnations of Trek.

For a pilot episode it has a lot of potential. Not the strongest Trek pilot in regards of story, but certainly better than Encounter at Farpoint and The Caretaker. It didn't feel obliged to introduce everyone and everything, which a lot of pilots are guilty of. Saying that, I was a little bit surprised they didn't introduce more main characters from the Federation side only stopping to introduce you to the captain, the first officer and the science officer.

The story isn't the strongest point of the pilot, but that may just be me. I was never a fan of Klingon episodes, leaning too much to combat with their honour and beliefs playing a strong part. The decision to have the Klingons speak in their native tongue with subtitles got a little tiresome and I was wishing I had an universal translator at one point. The story I felt was a cross between Star Trek: Nemesis and JJ Abrams' Trek reboot. The episode did dip, but it's a pilot episode so I guess that was inevitable.

I had low expectations for Discovery and I was all ready to describe it based on my predetermined expectations. I thought it was going to be a wine spritzer. A fine wine that has been cared for and made with love and then watered down to appeal to the masses. I was wrong. It is Trek. It deserves the name.

It could have been better, yes. The acting I hope improves, but even my favourite Trek, Deep Space Nine, suffered with that problem at first. A promising start with future potential. I hope we get more Trek stories and a little less battle and fighting in future episodes. I hope Trek on TV is here to stay and lives long and prospers.

Rating - 7/10

We'll revisit the series after the midseason finale and update with our opinions. Will the war with the Klingons dominate or exploration prevail?

This review originally appeared on The Bearded Trio.

Tuesday, 26 September 2017

Star Trek: Discovery boldly goes for a darker future

The highly-anticipated Star Trek: Discovery began streaming this week on CBS All Access and Netflix outside the US.

This is the first new Star Trek television series since Enterprise ended in 2005 and much is riding on its success in the wake of JJ Abrams' cinematic reboot. So, how did Discovery fare against previous pilot episodes in the franchise's 51-year storied history?

“The only word to effectively describe it is…. wow.” These are the words of Commander Michael Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green) and the two-part season premiere is better than Encounter at Farpoint, which aired 30 years ago this month.

The pilot opens on a desert world in a scene reminiscent of Rey scavenging parts from a derelict Star Destroyer on Jakku in Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Clearly, the producers are aiming to expand the fanbase with the help of the Force. Of course many fans (myself included) follow both franchises, but I welcome the change of pace aping the cinematic reboots of Star Trek and Star Wars under the auspices of JJ Abrams.

Some fans may decry the lack of exploration, a central tenet of original series creator Gene Roddenberry, in favour of a more militaristic tone so early in the series. However, this prequel feels more like the lauded Star Trek: The Next Generation episode Yesterday's Enterprise with hints to the Mirror Universe. Sci-fi is at its best as allegory and Discovery deals with the real and present danger of isolationism.

The Federation's actions are difficult to empathise with as it goes to war with the Klingons. It's a darker tale with a flawed protagonist. Yes, Star Trek has been in this territory before in Deep Space Nine and Voyager, but never so morally grey. This is Star Trek post Battlestar Galactica and it's frakking awesome. Sorry not sorry.

There are lens flares aplenty and a gorgeous stellar backdrop eclipsing the film series in a fashion I didn't foresee on the small screen. From a space walk borrowing heavily from Marvel's Iron Man and 2001: A Space Odyssey to the futuristic interior of the USS Shenzhou with its android crew member and voice assistant (now integral to our daily lives as foreshadowed by Star Trek: The Next Generation). Shiny Star Trek is shiny and replete with fun Easter Eggs that longtime fans of Gene Roddenberry's franchise will appreciate.

Minor niggles mostly pertain to editing, clunky dialogue (technobabble doesn't trip off the tongue), and use of music. Elements that can be fixed going forward and early previews suggest episode three is even better. Continuity hounds may baulk at a prequel that looks more advanced than the original series chronicling the voyages of the USS Enterprise commanded by Captain James T. Kirk.

After production woes which witnessed the departure of series showrunner Bryan Fuller, review embargoes and beginning life as a series solely to launch CBS All Access in the US. It’s great to see an energised (pun intended) Star Trek streaming on the small screen in an aspect ratio befitting the big screen with cinematography by Oscar-winner Guillermo Navarro (Pan’s Labyrinth).

With prestige dramas such as Game of Thrones and Westworld dominating social media and watercooler conversations. Star Trek needed to be rebooted on the small screen. It's early days, but this second prequel series is already much more fun than Enterprise ever was and we haven't seen the titular starship in action. A second season is already greenlit from what I've heard.

What seemed to be nothing more than a troubled production routed in a beloved sci-fi series that began in 1966 has culminated in something mythological and awe-inspiring. To quote Captain Jean-Luc Picard in Encounter at Farpoint: "Let's see what's out there..."

What did you think? Let me know in the comments below.

Wednesday, 10 February 2016

Bryan Fuller takes the helm of new Star Trek TV series

The new Star Trek television series has found its showrunner and Rob Wainfur considers the possible implications for the future of Gene Roddenberry's enduring sci-fi franchise...

Guest post by Rob Wainfur

Finally some good news for Star Trek fans. Bryan Fuller is on board for the new TV series on CBS. The end of 2015 and the beginning of 2016 hasn’t been the best start for Star Trek. In comparison that other Star franchise, Star Wars is riding high on the back of the success of The Force Awakens. The $2 billion box office takings vault has recently been opened for JJ Abrams' vision of a galaxy far, far away and fans are heaping praises on how well the franchise is being managed and the direction it’s taken.

In comparison Star Trek fans have set their phasers to maximum setting and turned them on the current producers of Star Trek and the franchise owners. The new trailer for Star Trek Beyond was shot down quicker than it took Troi to destroy the Enterprise in Generations. The trailer just didn’t seem like Star Trek with a Beastie Boys soundtrack and the over emphasis on action. It looked more like a new Guardians of the Galaxy movie than a new Star Trek. Even Simon Pegg was critical of the trailer saying: “I didn’t love it, because I know there’s a lot more to the film.”

Star Trek fans, this one included, turned to a fan movie for a proper Star Trek fix, Star Trek Axanar. The production values are high with gorgeous looking sets, impressive special effects and an all-star line up from the world of Star Trek including Gary Graham as a Vulcan ambassador, Richard Hatch as the sweet-eyed Klingon General Kharn and Kate Vernon as Starfleet Captain Sonya Alexander. Prelude to Axanar had already been released with the likes of Tony Todd, a wonderful actor who I remember from one of the best Star Trek Deep Space Nine episodes, The Visitor. But at the end of 2015 it was revealed that CBS and Paramount had filed a lawsuit against Axanar Productions to halt production on the new fan movie. Although they are fighting the lawsuit it seems that the suits behind Star Trek have forgotten how Star Trek has got to where it is today. Star Trek stands on the shoulders of its passionate fans. The last thing you want to do is turn those fans against you but that seems to be exactly what’s happening. Something had to be done.

There’s been a slither of good news for Star Trek fans. On Tuesday it was announced that Bryan Fuller is to front the new Star Trek TV series which will hit TV screens on CBS in 2017. This is great news as Fuller has a heap of experience in the Star Trek universe. He was the writer for two episodes of Deep Space Nine (my personal favourite Trek series) ‘The Darkness and the Light’ and the excellent and deeply atmospheric episode, ‘Empok Nor.’ He was also the producer of 25 episodes of Voyager and writer for a whole heap of episodes including the enjoyable two parter, ‘Workforce.’

It’s a promising sign and the equivalent of an injection of Ketracel-white that we have someone with Star Trek experience on board for the new show. Fuller has also proven he’s not lost his touch when it comes to quality, bringing the popular Hannibal and Pushing Daisies to TV, both of which ooze quality. He’s also working on American Gods which has a lot of Neil Gaiman fans waiting with baited breath.

What can we expect from Fuller? Well a few years ago he teased us in an interview about some ideas he had for a new Star Trek TV series. He teased us with the idea of how The Next Generation crew would evolve from JJ Abrams' alternate universe vision we see in the new movies and even leaving the Enterprise behind all together and have a new ship called The Reliant. No, it won’t have three wheels.

Executive producer Alex Kurtzman said some promising words on the state of Star Trek and in particular bringing Bryan Fuller on board. “Bringing ‘Star Trek’ back to television means returning it to its roots, and for years those roots flourished under Bryan’s devoted care. His encyclopaedic knowledge of ‘Trek’ canon is surpassed only by his love for Gene Roddenberry’s optimistic future, a vision that continues to guide us as we explore strange new worlds…Bryan is not only an extremely gifted writer, but a genuine fan of ‘Star Trek.”

Whatever his vision ultimately turns out to be, right now I feel a little more optimistic for the future of Star Trek. I hope Fuller, along with the studios, remember what Star Trek fans actually want and maybe they can take a leaf out of Chris Carter’s book. The X-Files recently returned for a tenth season and Chris Carter, the creator realised that fans were the driving force for the return, so gave them exactly what they wanted, more of the same. He along with the cast and crew visited comic-cons around the world and listened to the fans and what they wanted to see from the return of Mulder and Scully. So far the season has done exactly that. It’s not dumbed down. It has the original cast and wonderful scripts. It’s like we’re watching the classic seasons of The X-Files all over again.

Let us hope the new Star Trek doesn’t get dumbed down and producers don’t feel the need to make all the cast 20 years old or younger which seems to be happening more frequently in TV and movies. Keep the technobabble, that’s Star Trek and keep the science too. Less action and more story. Less love triangles and more interesting characters. Don’t just make the main cast three dimensional. Make ALL the characters interesting like Deep Space Nine did. Am I asking for too much? No. All they need to do is go back and actually watch some Star Trek to get the idea of what we want. Listen to the fans, embrace them and their creativity. That way Star Trek will live long and most definitely prosper and that’s good for the fans, studios and producers. I think Bryan Fuller is well on the way to achieving that. Make it so Bryan.

Rob Wainfur
Facebook: Thebeardedtrio
Twitter: @thebeardedtrio