Tag Archives: star trek

Weight and Stuff Report – 19 April 2017

Ho hum, up a bit today, which involved a meeting in Leeds that was a bit more informative than the last one we had there.

Here’s one of my favourite bits of Wearside public art, and not the Crystalline Entity from Star Trek: The Next Generation at all. Probably

Shadows in Another Light

Shadows in Another Light

Camera: X-T2
Aperture: ƒ/4.5
Shutter speed: 1/1400s
Focal length: 32.1mm
ISO: 200
Taken: 25 March, 2017
Location: 54° 54.6732′ 0″ N 1° 22.6365′ 0″ W

Star Trek: Enterprise: The Full Journey Blu-ray

Readers with particularly good memories might recall me being a little harsh about Star Trek: Enterprise as it creaked to a conclusion in 2005. Some time ago, I gave it another go, and watched some of it on rented DVDs, but as I recall, I didn’t get through the whole run. And not so long ago[1], I noticed that the complete series on Blu-ray had come down to the sort of price that made me think that maybe I really should give it another chance. And over the last however many weeks it took[2], I’ve now watched all four seasons and a load of extras. So, what does the older[3] Les think now?

OK, let’s get the first thing out of the way: that bloody awful song. Now I understand that the creators were trying to go for something a bit different, something to appeal to a wider audience, but if they had to have a song, surely they could have picked something better?  The lack of “Star Trek” in the title was the idea of the creators rather than the studio, it seems.

It started out reasonably well, with a fair mix of good and not-so-good episodes, and sort of trundled along for a couple of years. There was some mysterious background with time-travelling twits from the future engaging in a temporal cold war, which had a lot of potential to be interesting, and could have gone further…

But in its third year, it got a whole lot better: the season had an overall story, which actually worked. There was a Deadly Threat to Humanity, alliances, betrayals, some rather interesting aliens and lots of Good Stuff.

But it all went a bit downhill with the fourth and final season. Stories dragged out over three episodes (a cost saving measure), and in stark contrast to the previous years, lots of continuity nods – how the Klingons lost their bumps[4], a young T’Pau and a bizarre final episode which had the Enterprise reproduced on the holodeck of the Enterprise-D apparently in the middle of a TNG episode, featuring Riker and Troi, who due to a transporter malfunction looked significantly older than they had in the rest of the episode they’re allegedly in. Not only sidelining the regular cast and not giving them a proper send-off, they even killed off one of them, in a pretty pointless manner.

So, yeah. Sort of good in parts, it was interesting to see it again, but I probably won’t return to it any time soon.

Extras in this set include lots of new and old bits, lots of talk from cast and creators, behind the scenes stuff, and an excruciatingly over-long chat between a bunch of the writers. Some of those chat things work really well, but this felt like eavesdropping on someone else’s conversation and not in a bad way. I lost interest long before its 90 minutes were up.

So, err, if you want to watch Enterprise, I’d suggest maybe looking for it on your choice of streaming service, and not worrying about missing the extras…

Ummm, this has been a bit long for a largely negative review. Sorry about that. But there will be a much more positive book review coming soon…

[1] Ah. Really? Apparently it was September last year
[2] I might have started before Christmas, I really can’t remember
[3] Though probably not wiser
[4] I preferred Worf’s “we do not talk about it to outsiders” line in the DS9 Tribbles episode[5]
[5] And I have a vague recollection of a Star Trek novel which suggested that in Kirk’s era, the Klingons we encountered were members of another species that was subject to the bumpy Klingons back home. Though that was blown when Klingons who’d been in the original series (without bumps) turned up in DS9 with bumps (maybe they grew them back when they got old).

 

Space:1999 The Complete First Series Blu-ray

This is not a new release – it came out around five years ago, but as I didn’t have a Blu-ray player at the time, I wasn’t in any rush to buy it. But when I spotted it for the moderately reasonable price of £26.99 earlier in January, I decided the time was right. And what with one thing and another, I’ve just got around to watching the whole thing.

For the benefit of younger readers, or anyone who wasn’t paying attention at the time, I think I’d better explain what we have here.

In the early 1970s, Gerry Anderson (creator of Thunderbirds, Stingray, Captain Scarlet, etc, etc..) had a live-action series called UFO, which involved a base on the Moon, alien invaders, futuristic cars and a title sequence that implied it was set in 1980, though I don’t think this was ever explicitly stated. Anyway, this show was doing quite well, getting good audience figures, especially in the financially significant US market. Doing so well that Gerry was asked to create a second series. This would be a development of the first – set some years later with a new moonbase and other goodies. Well, Gerry and his team set to work, and much money was spent on development, model building and so on. So quite naturally, the US ratings fell, and the new series was cancelled. Not being a man to throw good work away, Gerry suggested that he repurpose the work done so far and develop a new series. This was agreed to, with a condition that no episodes ever at all, not even one, would be set on Earth (apparently a US TV executive was annoyed about an episode of UFO that did that). And so the concept was born: the Moon would be blasted out of Earth’s orbit and sent off into deep space, which would guarantee a lack of Earth-based episodes.

And so it was. To keep the American backers happy, US stars Martin Landau and Barbara Bain were recruited as the leading characters, Commander John Koenig and Doctor Helena Russell. The premise was this:

By 1999, there’s a well-established, permanently occupied base on the Moon. One of the base’s important jobs is running the store of nuclear waste on the far side. Because obviously, a good way to get rid of nuclear waste is to stick it on big explody things and hide it where nobody’s going to look. And in 1974, when the series was being developed, it didn’t seem all that unreasonable to suggest that there would be a permanent base there. The waste storage thing, maybe not…

But the most believable thing was the standard spacecraft at Moonbase Alpha: the Eagle Transporter. It looked like a practical working vehicle, with its interchangeable modules (like Thunderbird 2, kind of, sort of) and tubular framework. I like it so much that some years ago, I paid a moderate sum for a quite nice model:

Eagle

Eagle

Camera: X-T1
Aperture: ƒ/8
Shutter speed: 1/45s
Focal length: 50mm
ISO: 6400
Taken: 3 March, 2015

Anyway, disaster strikes and the Moon is blasted out of orbit and into deep space, which is more or less the point at which disbelief has to be not so much suspended as hung, drawn, quartered and jumped on with big boots. Not only does Moonbase Alpha survive the massive acceleration mostly intact, but so do the soft and squishy inhabitants. OK, we’ll swallow that. But then the Moon keeps arriving in other solar systems, implying a very high velocity indeed. But as it approaches the planet of the week, it seems to be going slowly enough for the Alphans (as they’re often called) to pop over, have a look, meet some aliens who are generally not at all pleased to see them, face Terrible Peril (with explosions, generally – this is a Gerry Anderson show, you know) and then somehow make it back to the Moon in time for it to drift slowly away and on to the next star system, which quite remarkably is reached before everyone dies of old age.  Now there is an early episode[1] in which the Moon passes through a black hole to another part of the universe, where maybe star systems are much closer together, though this is never made quite clear.

But, and it’s a big huge but, if you can ignore the basic silliness of the premise (which isn’t significantly harder than letting warp drives and TARDISes act as plot drivers), under it all there’s actually a decent bit of television science fiction. Lots of good stories which go well beyond the “monster/alien of the week” format you might expect.

There are timewarps leading to people meeting themselves (not recommended), devious aliens who challenge the humans’ morality and turn earth’s own weapons against the moonbase. Or perhaps they don’t. Years before Star Trek: The Motion Picture, the people of Moonbase Alpha have to deal with the unplanned consequences of the return of a Voyager probe. And there’s one seriously good monster story with a nicely traditional spaceship graveyard. And much more.

There’s a suitably impressive array of guest stars, including the ubiquitous Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing, not to mention Leo McKern with far more hair than Rumpole ever had.

There are some things which from this point in the twenty-first century are moderately amusing. Actually, they’d have been a bit funny in the actual 1999. The show is, of course, run by a computer known only as Computer. But for most of the time, Computer’s sole form out output (despite the place being covered in video screens[2]) is little printed slips. And then there’s the one where Doctor Russell, in a framing device for the story, is seen to be writing her report on the matter in hand. On a typewriter. Not even a fancy digital one – a thing with an actual moving carriage….

This set contains all of the first season, plus a pile of extras – some contemporary material, some made for the DVD release, and a few newer bits for this version. While the extras aren’t essential, the articles in the booklet are well worth reading (and cover much of the same ground as the extras). Though the Gerry Anderson interview bits (old and not so old) are worth a look.

There’s also one episode of the very different second (and final) season. There were numerous changes, and many unexplained changes of personnel, new uniforms, the central Main Mission changed to a quite different Command Center, and a new theme (inferior to the original in my opinion) and title sequence (quite crap compared to the original in my opinion). On the other hand, the included episode does have Brian Blessed, sorry BRIAN BLESSED in it, so it’s not all bad.

If you’ve never seen Space:1999, it’s worth a look. If you’re not inclined to buy or rent the shiny discs, it’s probably on some channel somewhere at some time. Or on the internet. I hear a lot of things can be found there.

And that seems to be the longest post I’ve done in ages. Make the most of it, it doesn’t happen often…

[1] Though in the odd way of ITV at the time, it wasn’t necessarily shown early in the original run
[2] Interesting point: before Space:1999, filming video screens tended to lead to rolling bars on the screen due to the camera shutter being out of phase with the video. Gerry Anderson’s technical people worked out how to make the camera provide a sync signal, so all those video screens could be filmed without rolling black bars

Star Trek: The Next Generation Season 7 Blu-ray

What’s this? Just over a month since I got round to muttering about the previous ST:TNG set and I’m already on to the final one? Will wonders never cease?

This is a bit more variable in quality than Season 6, to be honest. There was a bit of a problem in that at the same time this was being made, Deep Space Nine was running, Voyager was being developed, as was the Generations movie, which may have led to a bit of a struggle to get it together to make a full set of episodes. But there is still a lot to enjoy, such as Lower Decks, which sees things from the perspective of some junior officers hoping for promotion. In The Pegasus, we get a bit of unexpected backstory for Riker.

The highlight is, of course, the finale, All Good Things…, which ties things up nicely by looking back to the first episode and forward to a not very ideal future, with Picard moving around in time thanks to the manipulations of the ever-annoying Q. Mumble years on, and it still stands up as Good Stuff.

Extras include a new three-part documentary covering the making of the final season, with all the usual suspects present and correct. There’s also a TV promo film made at the time which is a thing of its time, shall we say. And there’s the last bit of recycled material from the DVD release.

So there it is, all wrapped up and over. Will Deep Space Nine and Voyager get the same treatment? It seems deeply undecided so far…

Star Trek: The Next Generation Season 6 Blu-ray

Observant readers might have noticed that it’s been a while[1] since I talked about ST:TNG Season 5. Well, there were a couple of reasons for that. First, there was a bit of a wait for season six to be released, and then it took a while for it to reach the top of my “to watch” pile. Oh, and now it’s taken a while for me to get around to writing this. So that’s three reasons. Unless I can think of any more…

But I digress[2]. This is another strong season, with some excellent episodes such as:

Relics, which sees the return of Scotty from the original series, who’s just as much fun as you might hope.

Chain of Command, a two-parter which involves Picard being captured by the Cardassians[3] and tortured by a particularly nasty example of the species.

Tapestry, in which Q takes Picard back to an earlier point in his life and gives him the chance to change something he did as a young man. This proves to be a non-optimal decision.

Frame of Mind, in which Riker has a slight problem working out what is and isn’t real. And has some really spiffy visual effects.

In addition to the revived extras from the DVD version, there’s a new three-part documentary with all the usual suspects talking about making the show.

Good stuff.

If by any chance you haven’t been buying these single-season sets, you might want to hang on – there’s a full series set available, which will be a wee bit cheaper.

[1] Over a year, even…
[2] Frequently
[3] Captured in a manner that is a bit convoluted, but I’ll let that pass…

Star Trek: The Original Series Complete Blu-ray set

I have, of course, bought this before in DVD format, which on digging through the Losing it archives, I was mildly surprised to learn was ten years ago. A couple of years after that, I did some muttering about the plans to remaster classic Trek and upgrade the effects. So when the Blu-ray sets initially came out, I wasn’t in any hurry to buy them. Well, I’d have to check the dates[1], but it’s quite possible that the initial release came before I actually had a Blur-ray player, which would account for at least part of my lack of urgency.

But a few months ago, I began to consider the possibility of getting the set. Well, that was until I looked at the prices. Now it’s usual for box sets to be priced quite high when they’re first released, but this usually falls quite a bit afterwards. But looking around showed prices of £60 or more for one or more of the three seasons. That struck me as more than I wanted to pay, so I  didn’t do that. Then I spotted this on Amazon – all three seasons for a not unreasonable £80 including delivery. So I ordered it. And then noticed that it was coming from Australia  :eek:

It’s not the distance or delay that’s the issue – it’s the usual thing of buying from outside the EU. I was expecting to get a customs bill of £mumble + VAT, which would have made the set less of a bargain. But it seems the customs guys must have been having a “be nice” day, and I got my parcel in a quite reasonable time without extra charge. Your experience may vary, of course…

So, what do we have here? Well, all the episodes of the original series which can be watched either in “just nicely remastered” form or “nicely remastered with enhanced effects” form. And that’s the key – if they’d only issued the enhanced version, I’d still be muttering about messing around with classic material, and so on. But as you have the option of ignoring and never ever ever seeing the improved versions, there really isn’t anything to object to.

So yeah, I watched the improved versions. Apparently with appropriate pressing of remote control buttons you can toggle between old and new effects, but I didn’t bother with that. The new effects were overseen by people who’ve worked on various Star Trek shows, and were done in an interesting way. New effects could only be inserted where there was an existing shot – no extensions, no extra scenes, no Kirk shot firsts, oh, sorry, that’s something else, isn’t it? Anyway, what’s generally been done is replace models with high-def CGI ships, make phasers look better, make planets look more planet-y, and well, generally make it all look nicely shiny and more detailed. The original series tended to reuse the same shots of the Enterprise (filming was expensive, so if you had a perfectly good progress shot, you’d keep using it), so here they’ve taken the opportunity to show the ship from more angles and in much more detail.

Special features are largely recycled from the DVDs – no bad thing, as some of the interview subjects are no longer with us. Additional material includes some “Starfleet Access Episodes” on the first two seasons – these show the episode with an in picture video commentary from Mike Okuda and others, where they talk about the new effects and how they decided what to enhance. It would have been nice to have more of these, but never mind.

That all-time favourite episode The Trouble With Tribbles gets special treatment, given a disk of its own which includes the Starfleet access stuff, an audio commentary from writer David Gerrold, plus its sequel from the animated series  More Tibbles, More Troubles, the gloriously silly Deep Space Nine cross-over episode Trials and Tribble-ations, and two documentaries.

And on the final disk of the third season, you’ll find the original pilot episode (the one with a completely different cast apart from Leonard Nimoy), presented in suitably remastered form, and also in an archive 1986 version where it’s introduced by the Great Bird of the Galaxy himself, Gene Roddenberry. At the time, large parts were in black and white, and quite apart from Gene’s interesting intro, it’s worth seeing if only to remind yourself how far restoration and remastering has come.

The set is well worth watching, especially if you haven’t seen the original series in a while. Or if you’ve somehow never seen it. But I’d watch for a good price…

[1] Which I may get round to one day

Star Trek: The Next Generation Season 5 Blu-ray

There’s a lot to enjoy in the fifth season of ST:TNG, and it’s even more enjoyable in this lovely high-defintion version. Notable episodes include Darmok, in which Picard has to find a way to communicate with a species who talk in metaphors relating to stories and myths. Over twenty years on, I can still suspend my disbelief[1] enough to appreciate that one.

Then there’s the two-part Unification, in which Spock appears and a devious Romulan plot is foiled. Good fun, that.

Wesley makes a reappearance in The First Duty, which involves an attempted cover-up of the cause of a fatal accident.

But the highlight for most fans has to be The Inner Light, which sees Picard live out a whole other life courtesy of an ancient alien probe. This involved Patrick Stewart having a bigger make up job than Michael Dorn had to go through for his role as Worf, which is saying something.

Special features include the featurettes from the DVD releases plus some new bits:

In conversation: The music of Star Trek: The Next Generation is a extended (possibly a bit too extended) chat with the main composers involved in the show. Sort of interesting, but in the “watch once” category.

REQUIEM: A remembrance of Star Trek: The Next Generation is  an actually rather good two-part documentary with lots of the usual suspects talking about the series. Worth watching.

[1] Look: in order to be able to refer to stories, they have to be able to tell them, so their language has to consist of more than metaphors. Even if it’s just asking of somebody wants a cup of tea…

Star Trek: The Next Generation Season 4 Blu-Ray

Having started to get seriously good in Season Three, this was the year in which ST:TNG settled down into being the show many of us recall with affection.

Moving on form the more traditional monster/alien/thingy of the week format, the show spent more time developing the characters, and the relationships between them, making things more interesting. There were, however, lots of monsters/aliens/thingies to contend with as well.

After picking up the cliffhanger in The Best of Both Worlds Part II[1], which was a tricky one, as Picard had been Borgified, the creators took the quite unusual step of taking an episode to explore the consequences. In Family, Picard visits his estranged brother, and contemplates leaving Star Fleet. We also meet Worf’s comedy adoptive human parents. Staying with the family theme, Brothers gives Brent Spiner a chance to shine, as he plays Data, his “evil brother”  Lore and their father/creator Doctor Noonian Soong.

Welsey finally gets some decent dialogue and a decent part in his last episode as a regular cast member, Final Mission. The Enterprise crew come up against an alleged demonic entity in Devil’s Due, and there’s an intriguing puzzle in Clues.

The annoying Q returns in QPID, which does give Worf one of the best comedy lines

Sir, I protest! I am not a merry man!

The season ends with another cliffhanger in Redemption, Part I.  Civil war is brewing in the Klingon Empire, and Worf has a chance to regain his family’s honour. He also gets to put on a different uniform. Has he left the Enterprise for good? Find out in the next Blu-ray set!

And there’s much more. Some excellent episodes, which still stand up two decades on. As before, the restoration is superb, with everything looking better than it did the first time around.

Special features include the Mission Logs from the DVD releases and some new material.

  • In conversation: The Star Trek Art Department – this reunites people who worked on ST:TNG, Deep Space Nine and Voyager for a chat. It went on rather longer than I found interesting, but that might just be me.
  • Relativity: The Family Saga of Star Trek: The Next Generation – two new pieces with the original cast talking about this period in the show, including Wil Wheaton talking about why he left when he did. Good stuff, and it’s nice to see them all haivng such positive views on the work they did a long time ago.

There are also some deleted scenes and the moderately traditional gag reel.

 

[1] Note: the writers of that thought that getting out of the cliffhanger would be an SEP[2], and were slightly worried when they found it was actually their problem
[2] Someone Else’s Problem (thank you, Douglas Adams)

Star Trek: The Next Generation Season 3 Blu-Ray

Season Three, it’s generally agreed, is when Star Trek: The Next Generation (or TNG to its friends) started to get properly good. And there’s a lot to be said for that. The overall quality is higher, with some particularly memorable episodes which still stand up over twenty years on[1].

I’m still impressed with the excellent Yesterday’s Enterprise, which involves  the Enterprise-C popping through a temporal rift and causing a drastically changed timeline in which the Federation is fighting a losing war against the Klingon Empire. The writers used it as a way to bring back Tasha Yar (Denise Crosby), whose first season exit wasn’t as good as it might have been. Tasha gets a better send-off this time. The ever-annoying Q returns, and there’s an episode called Tin Man which unless my imagination is extremely over-active was based on a novel I read mumble years earlier. That didn’t involve Star Trek, but it did involve a telepath and a sentient alien spacecraft thingy. If memory serves, the book was called Tim Woodman. Ah, yes: brain not faulty at all for once: Tin Woodman.

But the highlight has to be the dramatic closing episode, The Best of Both Worlds Part 1. This sees the return of the Borg and a massive cliffhanger, which left everyone guessing. Oddly enough, the writer, Michael Piller was expecting the resolution to be an SEP[2], as he was expecting to move on to other projects. When he was persuaded to stay with TNG, he had to dig himself out of the very big hole he’d dug.

There are lots more excellent episodes, and as with Season 1 and Season 2, the restoration work is superb.

In addition to the Mission Log extras that were on the original DVDs, there are some new features including a gathering of some of the show’s writers moderated by Family Guy creator Seth MacFarlane, and a new three-part documentary called Resistance is Futile.

All nicely done, and a perfect opportunity to revisit some classic TV.

[1] How the photon did that happen?
[2] Someone Else’s Problem