Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Three Go to War

The Star Trek Wars podcast ended their first season episodic reviews this week with Operation: Annihilate, The Neutral Zone, In the Hands of the Prophets, Learning Curve and Shockwave.

But that's every single season-closing episode of every Star Trek series isn't it? Answer: Yes. That's one of the features of this hour-long podcast as they review one episode from each series each week. For example in week three they reviewed the third episode from each series and so forth. The only issues with that come towards the end of the seasons when there are a varied number of stories especially with The Original Series having 29 and Voyager only having 16 when you discount the four shows which were held over for year two (The 37's works so much better as episode 20 rather than episode one).

I came to this somewhat late but with rush hour traffic lengthening the journey to work I can get through two of these shows in a day. Hosted by Jeremy Reed, son Connor and wife Gina round out the reviewing trio providing a different viewpoint on each show and each episode. So how does it work?

For the most part it's a great concept. Jeremy acts as the seasoned fan, the voice of Star Trek experience while Connor provides the young, new fan seeing many of the stories for the first time. Initially Gina acts to provide the fun facts but as the show grew over the first season she became a more integral part to the discussion which I found very welcome.

There's a good reason for that call. In the initial podcasts Star Trek Wars is clearly finding its feet but it sacrifices good reviewing and analysis time for plot synopsis. Jeremy does add some weight to the show but I did find Connor's basic details terribly annoying after three or four shows. I understand he's 11 but there's only so many comedy accents, poorly remembered plots, mumblings, "he said.../she said..." "and he's like..." "and then"'s that you can deal with especially when it happens over the course of five mini-reviews in 60 minutes.

It's great to have a new perspective on the show and in a lighter fashion but there's nothing to balance this raw enthusiasm and exhuberance in the first four episodes. As Gina takes more time to discuss her views that balance comes into effect. She is indeed the voice of reason tragically overlooked in the early stages but making a lot of sense from their fifth show and onwards. Her opinions on the first season Deep Space Nine episode Captive Pursuit are what really made me notice the difference and this is something they need to retain for season two and after.

It can feel like the reviews of the five are rushed with the limited run-time of an hour and debate doesn't last that long at all once we get past the plot details. The Fun Facts are great as I've picked up several pointers from these that I'd either forgotten in the mists of time or honestly didn't know at all. If the discussion was more in this vein rather than simply plotting out the story it would enhance the show but on the flip side the various personalities and the back to basics approach does make it accessible to fans of all ages and knowledge levels. Perhaps you could watch out for spoilers though as there have been a few giveaway times that could ruin it for those who've not seen that show before (although in the case of Voyager I'm not sure you'll be too concerned during the dark days of season one).

Completing the hour are the Pros and Khaaaaaan's - once again though it's picking a moment from the five episodes either as the best or worst. Trouble is in most cases this is a repeat of something that's already been discussed and I would have liked to have seen something a bit different rather than stepping into already expressed points. Totting up the scores of the episodes is a logical way to finish and on occasion I have raised a smile when it's been announced that Voyager has won for a change (Eye of the Needle was deserved!)

Am I sounding harsh here? Maybe but I'm not a new fan nor am I 11 so that part of Star Trek Wars does fall a bit flat for me. I suppose it's clever to offer those different entry points to the series as I do enjoy both Jeremy and Gina's input which can be overshadowed by the amazing over-enthusiastic Connor who at times the show can centre around a little too much. We know you're enjoying it but let's turn it down to 11. For experienced fans I'm sure they would like to hear more from Jeremy about his personal memories of first showings, original thoughts and a slightly more retro feel than just talking through the story.

The final show of the season, focusing on the year one finales was a particularly entertaining audio journey. Aside from Voyager's season finale that's not a season finale, Learning Curve, I really like the other four as they do seem to pull out all the things you would expect to close your first year and make you want to come back for another bite in a few months time.

Anyway, this was a great episode, highlighting everything that was good with Star Trek Wars - the Jeremy/Connor/Gina balance worked perfectly (and Connor has toned his exuberance) allowing for a perfect mix of long-term expert, newcomer and logician. Keeping the plot of each episode limited and focusing on the issues and key points makes the podcast an even greater draw to me and I'm glad I've stuck with it through every installment be it in a more recent box-set binge listening fashion. I did feel that by this stage the team are holding back no punches and we're getting their real feelings and thoughts more than we saw at the beginning of the show and while the hour still doesn't allow for much more than top level analysis it still manages to cover a lot of the bases and the key elements. Still think the Pro's and Khans should be different from discussion points.

There have been a fair few memory-joggers along the road and in episode 23 there could have been a fraction more dedicated to the sense of closure that each tale brings (or doesn't) to year one as well as the first shot of a Warbird, the stellar conflicts of politics and religion brought to the fore in Deep Space Nine's finale or the unexpected brilliance displayed in the only first season cliffhanger, Shockwave, from Enterprise. It has taken me a while to fully appreciate this podcast. The road has been bumpy but the team are developing a keener eye for the content and with an ever growing watched back-catalogue it can only go from strength to strength. They've even grown to love Voyager a little - in places - and championed the greatness of the occasionally overlooked Sisko and crew.

What didn't work here was the first annual Star Trek Wars aWARds which relied much more on the ratings of each episode than anything else. It was a disappointment and I would suggest adding in some off-the-wall awards for crazy things they're noticed through the season. The ratings winners could be skipped over in a few minutes and this was a chance well and truly missed to wrap up the year in style.

However, this won't stop me from downloading the next episode and the first stories from the second seasons which I suspect should be Amok Time, The Child, Homecoming, The 37's and Shockwave, Part II - at least three of which are good episodes. These guys are becoming a regular part of my week and work journey, helping me to reminisce over episodes recently watched and some I still need to revisit. If I was giving them a rating it'd be a Gary Seven. I reckon by the end of next year this could easily be a Seven of Nine. 

If you're interested in listening to the Star Trek Wars podcast, drop onto the Gone Nerdin' website and download one or two today!

Have you listened to the Star Trek Wars podcast? Have you been enjoying their reviews?

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