Friday, 29 March 2013

Happy Holidays! It's the Star Trek: The Next Generation Easter Special!

Stardate 47362.1. It's Easter on the USS Enterprise and Deanna Troi is in the seasonal spirit. With a lull in shipboard activities the counselor has taken it upon herself to arrange an egg hunt through the ship for some of the children onboard.

Of course this isn't normal aboard a starship, especially when it's so close to the Romulan border; but there's not been any activity for a while so everything should be alright. Much hilarity ensues as the children search for Easter eggs in Main Engineering, transport room one, Jefferies tubes, Ten Forward and, much to his annoyance and discomfort, the Captain's Ready Room. Some of the children even insist he joins them to find more in the observation lounge but the captain manages to stumble out of it citing more important Starfleet matters to deal with. Data is left very confused by the whole thing and confides in Worf that he is puzzled at how the children can become so excited in the pursuit of small chocolate items that they can easily replicate whenever they want.

Worf explains that while he sees it as an infantile activity it does bear a strong resemblance to a Klingon ceremony where the eggs of the Raga'kel bird are hunted by the young ahead of their 15th birthday as part of their transition to warrior - it is a sacred bird and Kahless himself provided the inspiration for the occasion as this was a significant event in his maturing process. Worf then explains that Kahless was angered that he had killed the bird believing it to be attacking him. It was not the case as he realised and the bird was actually protecting him from a targ. Kahless stayed with the bird, bringing it back to life from the dead and now its eggs are hunted at this time of year to symbolise that sanctity of life. Data inquires what happened to the original bird of the story - did Kahless return home with it - yes, replies Worf; where it was killed and eaten for its regenerative properties by his family. Its eggs in particular went well with the targ meat.

Alexander is off ship however visiting Worf's foster parents on Earth and so has not been able to take part but that doesn't stop Troi from suggesting a way Worf can take part - but he'll need to drop by ship's stores to find out how a little later. Data is still left confused and as such begins hiding several of Geordi's key engineering tools around the ship to replicate the experience for his friend and ultimately missing the point completely. Beverly attempts to calm the situation and explains the concept of Easter to Data, referencing a certain reborn Starfleet Vulcan from a previous Enterprise into the bargain. Kudos to the writers for getting that one in.

Riker is totally bemused by the whole situation but is kept on his toes by some "random neutrino surges" emanating from the border but they might have just been caused by some errant children messing around with the controls in deflector control looking for chocolate. Things get worse when one of the children manages to launch themselves in an escape pod towards the Neutral Zone during the Easter Egg hunt forcing the Romulans to show their hand - they are monitoring activity and threaten to destroy the Enterprise before it can cross into their space. Picard manages to swiftly diffuse the situation and offers the Romulan commander one of the eggs as a gift - a peace offering from the Enterprise at this time of the Earth calendar. Confused - nearly as much as Data - the Romulans accept and retreat back to their side of the Neutral Zone however their next encounter will not be as pleasant; that is assured.

Tensions aside, Troi assures Picard that the hunt is over, at least for this year. Picard suggests that the egg hunt, while good, has forgotten the true meaning of Easter - something that was lost as far back as the 21st Century and perhaps is best remembered. A sobering thought only enlightened by the apparent love that the children have for the captain Riker suggests that he might stage a "Captain Picard Day" in the near future. Just as Picard is about to give the command to get the ship away from the Neutral Zone, the turbolift doors open and Worf appears dressed as the Easter bunny - it appears Troi did convince him to take part after all. "Mr Worf," comments the captain, "you are not a funny bunny."

Cue shot of the Enterprise going to warp and run titles....

Ok - I guess this little tale tells us all we need to know why Star Trek, for over 700 episodes, pretty much avoided the seasonal special (take note Star Wars and Doctor Who). Just because you're on at Christmas doesn't mean everyone needs to start walking around in eight foot of snow or wondering if they'll see Santa. Personally I just can't see it happening as well as being able to keep it all canon and in character. Ok, ok, I'm sure Star Trek fans are probably screaming at their phones, tablets, laptops and monitors now to remind me of the single exception to that Golden Rule. 

By network design the second season episode Catspaw from The Original Series, which had a distinct witchcraft theme to it, was broadcast on 27th October 1967. While not earth-shattering as a story it still holds the distinction to this day of being the only "themed" Star Trek episode ever made (by accident). We get rolling fog, three witches, black cats, dungeons, sorcery of the small-metallic spaceship kind and a couple of aliens to boot. All the makings of the perfect October 31st chiller. But why did we never get anything else? What's stopped Star Trek from ever repeating such an instance since 1967?

Actually, before we look at that, some of you may also have forgotten there was one other seasonal incident in Star Trek's illustrious past. While not an episode with a theme on a set day, it was once again a matter of illusion (as with Catspaw) but exceptionally real to those who are within it. If you haven't worked it out already, I'm talking about the Christmas scene in Picard's faux Nexus future from Star TrekGenerations. While it's the last thing I would have thought Picard would ever imagine, Christmas has an even more unique place in Star Trek history as it gets thrice the screen time even if the it's within Data's holodeck program in Devil's Due as part of the Charles Dickens novel A Christmas Carol. Oh - and Q2 turns Voyager into a Christmas bauble to hide from Q in Death Wish.

While they may not be seen in The Next Generation, the fourth season episode, Data's Day makes note that the android lieutenant commander is recording his log during the festivities of Divali. The only mention of any Earth non-Christian festival during the entire run of Star Trek - that means any series. That always shocks me because there are so many hours of Star Trek available but yet events that we would be familiar with are not even given a mention. Considering how it's supposed to be a multicultural series why is this the only non-Christian event that gets that lone mention?! The fictional Federation Day even manages more airtime  although the mention is during a poker game on the Enterprise-D (The Outcast).

Image from Memory Alpha
Now this might all be because the human race has put aside such differences by the 23rd Century in order to better humanity as Kirk and later Picard are so keen to point out (see Encounter at Farpoint for Jean-Luc vs Q on this one). Their removal from the equation not only as story vehicles but also as ways in which to theme episodes to specific times of the year in the 20th and 21st Centuries does seem odd though. We would expect some kinds of variations amongst the crew to display their cultures. Visually we do get this perhaps best from Uhura's African style clothing and jewellery in the original series or Chakotay's heritage in Voyager. I suspect a big thing is that by ignoring occasions which are more commercial  there is no need to try and explain how we moved away from consumerism to better ourselves as a species (Star Trek First Contact). , We are even reminded by Roddenberry himself that Star Trek is an exploration of humanity and in particular this is done through the exploration of other cultures and the brilliant stories that the crews are involved in. Surely theming episodes would cheapen the franchise and horrifically damage the ethos and foundations upon which Star Trek was built on in the 1960's. I was surprised to find that the recent Star Trek novel The Weight of Worlds mentions a shipboard celebration of all the cultures and differences of the crew - passing reference allows us to see the divergence but it is accepted and taken more as a part of everyday life rather than something that marks them out against someone else.

So if we're not seeing festivals and Earth-centric celebrations, what about the other cultures we meet along the way? Each of the sequel series The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine and Voyager, all explore religious cultural concepts post-Roddenberry (very noticable). Series five through seven of The Next Generation allowed viewers to investigate the Klingon religion - before that point we had really only talked about their warrior lifestyle notably in Sins of the Father, Reunion and Redemption. Episodes such as Ethics, Birthright and Rightful Heir meant that their beliefs were put to the test through the character of Worf. He becomes The Next Generation's portal into religion and culture. Each series following also has an individual who provides that insight but yet they are still for the most part devoid of any cultural events or points of significance. However this is until virtually the end of The Next Generation when we do get to experience the Kot'baval festival in the seventh season installment Firstborn. Notice the fact that we're only seeing this kind of episode post-Roddenberry. We know from the writers that delving deeply into cultures was something that got skated over in the earlier years of The Next Generation.

Deep Space Nine uses Major Kira as the primary route into the Bajoran culture and religion - full of factions, warring alien beings, orbs, Kais and Emissaries, this is probably the most deeply dissected religion of any Star Trek series. Starfleet becomes much more it's own culture here and the opposition to this belief system which is intrinsic to the Bajoran-sized way of life. It's seen for the whole seven years in minutiae through levels of the holy orders as well as the main characters and is an essential part to the overall story arc - but once again any mention of Earth's religions are more noticeably absent through the fact that so much time and space is allocated to the Bajoran belief system. Once more there's not a suggestion of aligning anything to do with an Earth-based occasion to what's happening on the station neither by our calendar or through the one our characters are living by in the 24th Century. Thanksgiving got a mention as part of Eddington's retorts to Sisko in Blaze of Glory but while it gets a throwaway line we never get to see what the station does on these occasions - neither did we see it on Kirk's ship when it was talked about during Charlie X.

I'm being slightly unfair though as we got to see events from the Bajoran calendar with two occasions coming strongly to mind. Firstly there's Fascination in season three with the Gratitude Festival and the season six finale The Tears of the Prophets there's the Gratitude Festival again! These guys have a lot to be grateful for apparently as it's the only festival we seem to get to know about (unless I'm mistaken). Once again though it's never compared to any Earth-centric community events even when this would seem like the perfect occasion. But let's move swiftly on to Voyager before the Prophets make their presence known.

Individual culture and religion were not the driving force in the Delta Quadrant that they were on Deep Space Nine and so the absence any festivities was less evident. Probably the imminent threats of the Kazon, the Vidiians, Species 8472, the Hirogen and the Borg were significantly higher on their priorities list than celebrating Christmas for instance or St George's Day. The religious angle was really Chakotay's corner with splatterings of Klingon and Vulcan culture for added flavourings on occasion. The most prominent of the former being the Day of Honor which B'Elanna hoped to celebrate during her time on Voyager

When he wasn't making moves on Seven of Nine in later years, there was always some room for a bit of spiritual guidance but again this seemed to be a lifestyle where his beliefs had no festive occasions and was more about personal enlightenment. This wasn't something that really hooked me in Voyager as it seemed a bit drippy in comparison to the more complex and thought out concepts that pervaded Deep Space NineWhat really hammered home the lack of substance was the episode Tattoo which effectively said that his whole spiritual belief system was a creation of an alien race and he spends the second season story tracing parallels between the sky spirits of his people and the creatures he finds hiding in caves. While not religion per-se it is the closest thing we get to exploring an Earthbased belief system but not a festive moment in sight. Even the Vulcans managed a bit of pon-farr every seven years! 

Janeway's ancestor, Shannon O'Donnell would be the candidate to bring true Earth events to the stars with the Millennium Gate in 11:59. This would almost be a "themed" episode  because it was designed to be Star Trek's turn in regards to the New Year and the approaching year 2000. One minor point - it was first aired in May 1999 so just a few months off being event relevant. But that's not all for the lost starship; it's in the final flings of Voyager's final year (Homestead) that First Contact Day gets a mention where Neelix and Naomi Wildman are planning to celebrate the event. While it's another tick it's also a fictional one which means in our reality it might not even count!

So what does all this mean? Star Trek is in no way ignoring its Earth heritage but in another sense it just gives a tip of the hat every so often to keep us grounded while making sure that the unknown and the unexplored are kept at the forefront of the series. Star Trek was not about the obvious; if we wanted to be able to join the dots from A to B and to C we'd be watching another series on another channel. Providing a seasonal installment or linking to a set event in our real world would have taken something away from the imaginative nature of the series. Star Trek has had its fair share of weird moments but stretching to this would have been too much.

Being blatant is not Star Trek's thing and a certain JJ Abrams could do with learning from that - to do a story around terrorism you don't need to be on Earth blowing things up. So will we ever see an event that isn't a birth, marriage or death on a Star Trek series and not just a wonderful passing mention that it's happening? For their sake I hope not. The fact that they are so obviously absent works well to remind us that they are a part of our world today and yet could well be no longer a part of our world in this fictional imagining of our future because we are one planet but then my question from that is whether that's actually the right thing to do? Is that not almost dictatorial and removing something of everyone's individuality if we are not provided with the chance to explore our own beliefs and celebrate occasions that we mark as special? Perhaps accidental alignment, which is what happened with Catspaw and the original series is nice to have as a one off never to be repeated (like McCoy's aside in Journey to Babel). 

Ok so that's a bit of a rant on the missed opportunities of festivals within the cultures of the characters we meet along the way, but let's take it from another angle. Where in Star Trek have there been occasions that episodes could have been placed at seasonal times of the year and thereby emphasising their content. While Generations openly flouted Christmas, Catspaw only represents Halloween because of how it was placed in TV schedules. If it had been shown in March then no one would have batted an eyelid. So, what episodes could have been moved or timed to coincide with annual events? I have a few suggestions which could help out networks in future years...

Father's Day 
The Icarus Factor - lashings of parental conflict and a nice rosy resolution at the end. Other suitable fathers day episodes might include Brothers, New Ground, Deep Space Nine's Doctor Bashir, I Presume or maybe Voyager's Lifeline

What better than a good resurrection story so how about the Mirror universe tale of the same name or perhaps Ascension for Easter Sunday? Always good to have some kind of story of return on this occasion.  I might even suggest The Next Generation's Transfigurations for its concepts of transcending to another level of existence. 

What could be more suitable to gather round on the 25th December and watch Kahless return (also might be good to use this at Easter). Star Trek: Generations of course would be another one to add to your imaginary network schedule.

Valentine's Day
Fascination, His Way or You Are Cordially Invited from Deep Space Nine would fulfil all your romantic desires on the space station while you might also think about Data's foray into love with In Theory, someone to watch over me 

Mother's Day 
Interface - also a rare Geordi family story and begrudgingly anything with Lwaxana Troi 

Catspaw, Deep Space Nine's The Storyteller with its swiryl cloud creature or for something truly creepy Genesis or Sub Rosa from The Next Generation. Strange New Worlds from Enterprise would fit the bill with creepy caves and thunderous storms. Even Empok Nor might fit the bill for an edge-of-seat experience.

Independence Day 
Sacrifice of Angels with its retaking of the station or the return of USS Voyager to her crew in Basics, Part II would certainly generate some patriotic spirit. Would I be wrong to also offer up the Die Hard-esque Starship Mine for that hero feeling? 

So there are many examples that could have made it into the category with just a bit of clever schedule trickery but alas we'll never get to know just what seeing these linked to a specific date would have made on our though ts around that installment. I found it very difficult to find anything suitable from Enterprise except for the one potential Halloween episode. 

Do I have a final point to all this though? Well yes; besides have a great Easter and thanks to all of you who have sat and read my blog since November, it goes to show that there's something to see within every episode of Star Trek and we don't have to have it wrapped up in some chintzy one-off. Gene's vision has run true through the last 40-odd years and even JJ seems to have retained that thought.  Star Trek has remained exploratory and not sold out for the sake of a cheap laugh. It's a show that hasn't relied on gimmicks and seasonal episodes to examine religion, culture and everything in between or surrounding it. The exploration of humanity is evident perhaps in the way in which the writers have avoided the obvious. I for one am quite glad that we don't have to endure a seasonal special but Catspaw and Picard's Christmas tree do raise a smile. 

For those who want to see a deeper meaning it is there. The absence of these cultural differences and the very need to set an episode for airing on a certain day does more than ensure it gets a few more showings - it demonstrates that trek truly. Is multicultural within its fictional universe and for those watching. It's accessible to all and welcomes all to enjoy it. At points here I have been a little tongue-in-cheek heel and perhaps that's the seasonal spirit but maybe the final thought should be this - don't expect to see Janeway or Picard donning a Santa hat and breaking out the eggnog just yet. If they do, let's hope that it's just another alternative universe we haven't visited yet.

Have a great Easter break and see you all soon.

Thursday, 21 March 2013

Bringing Star Trek Into Darkness?

"Your commanders have committed a crime I cannot forgive. None of you are safe…have I got your attention now?"

The more I see of this film the more I get concerned. There are some great soundbytes, amazing visuals, a stellar cast and lots of action and explosions all round. All the great signs of a film which will undoubtedly become one of 2013's biggest blockbusters. Yet more and more I'm inclined to think of it as being a great sci-fi film rather than a fantastic addition to the Star Trek universe(s). 

March 21st 2013 has given us a new poster for the 3D version of STID and a two minute trailer. If the previous minutes of footage we received were Kirk's teaser this is firmly in Harrison territory from the first second. So what's new? At first you'd be forgiven for thinking that this might t be a rehash of all that has come before. Harrison rumbles that our world isn't safe once more, we see a glimpse of 23rd Century London and then the bomb go off. Looks like Harrison isn't one afraid to get his hands dirty and this really could be a one on one, face to face grudge match from the very start. Cue Paramount mountain and Bad Robot logo; we're going in for some more theories.

We've got our first look at Admiral Marcus as senior Starfleet officers meet to discuss the attack on London perpetrated by - one of their own TOP agents - Harrison of course. Ok, so this means he's an officer but not a starship captain. Early version of Section 31 possible here? Was Harrison an undercover agent (on Qo'noS?) Likely to be too much to ask but hey, we can dream for some Prime Universe continuity can't we?! I also sadly ended up humming Bruce Willis' Secret Agent Man whenever he appeared in the rest of the trailer because of this. For that I apologise.


Harrison chooses this time to attack in his little ship with big guns, providing Kirk with a moment to play the hero and rush to the aid of his Starfleet colleagues in need. Clearly this is all important as to why Kirk chooses to go after Harrison as he's there when carnage commences. I would theorise that the flag folding scene we get here once more is for either someone killed in this incident. Pike or Marcus would be the likely casualties; although the former more so as it would provide more logic to Kirk's desire to go after the fugitive agent. It also works with the dialogue we get between Marcus and the captain:
Kirk: I request permission to go after him.
Marcus: Starfleet is not about vendettas Kirk.
Kirk: Maybe it should be.
There's a lot more of Carol Marcus seen here in a very literal sense and I got that uneasy feeling of whether this is one of those images that will be associated with this film over anything else and repeatedly. A shame if they need to sell it on sex but that's a sign of the times once again. However, I am reminded that the original series wasn't adverse to the odd William Ware Theiss creation! I hope Alice Eve's acting in STID means she's remembered for more than this one shot although the news that Kirk beds two cat-women doesn't help the overall cause. Carol does however goet some more trailer time here, apparently watching Harrison kick Kirk into the ground and also facing Harrison accompanied by Doctor McCoy (above).


The Klingon home world of Qo'noS is explored some more with manly posturing from Harrison  (above) and the Enterprise crew going into action with phasers drawn as well as piloting that ship we saw in the previous "Kirk teaser". I am now very convinced that it WILL fit and that it DOES qualify. Nicely this does suggest that the camaraderie that we were used to in the Prime Universe has been retained and there's a cheeky spark between them - McCoy manages to retain his advisor role that we were so familiar with when he was part of the original Big Three.

How much time is going to be spent with the as-yet unseen Klingons is a question I would raise from this two minute tempter as they've been overlooked until this point. Hopefully their role will be significantly more than they got in '09. Is this the place where we get to see Kirk and crew out-manned and outgunned by Harrison and April's gatling gun as Uhura states near the trailer's end? Is the rogue Starfleet agent allied with the classic foe? Is this mission linked back to some sort of mission that April, and first officer Marcus and that era's Enterprise participated in? I'm running mad with the theories again aren't I...calm down....One thing though; this is certainly a darker, grittier and less welcoming(?) home world of the Klingon people than we've experienced in TNG. It might even be less hospitable than the dilithium mines of Rura Penthe.

There's some words of warning from McCoy wondering if Kirk really is going after Harrison (now I'm really leaning on the vengeance for Pike's death theory) and Sulu gets to repeat his "...we gotta do it now" line again from the "Kirk teaser" but if you're looking for Scotty or Chekov here you'll be disappointed. Talking of Sulu in the scene where Kirk is talking to McCoy in the shuttlebay, the craft sitting just behind them is named Takay. Now the homage rumours are that it's for George Takei but more concrete thoughts are that it's for a surfer friend of JJ called Takayama who died last year. Ok, back to Chekov after that mini-interlude - the Russian ensign is completely missing from the Harrison trailer and Scotty can be seen in a blink-and-miss fight when John-boy goes into one-man army mode in the still here - just see if you can spot him in the background. Just goes to show that this film is much more focused towards the big three and unfortunately for the good physician it seems that he's been abruptly replaced by Uhura as you can see from the latest poster displayed here.

"I have no idea what I am supposed to do. I only know what I can do." - James T Kirk

Kirk is very much looking to make Harrison "...answer for what (he) did..." but that can only spell trouble and even more mayhem and destruction. Whether it's all part of the Starfleet agent's plan to get captured on Qo'noS and returned to Earth on the Enterprise remains to be uncovered but at the rate they're pumping out trailers we should be able to stick the whole film together by the end of next month. What leaves you questioning the film though is exactly what Harrison is accusing Kirk of not knowing about?  What has he done? Was capturing Harrison a mistake? I'm going to say a big yes because he gets a proper pummelling and as we know, Harrison is better at everything which means it was a super-pummelling of galactic proportions. What is it with Cumberbatch's voice - it's mega-English and also really echoey. It's very sinister and really gives me a chill when I hear it. This guy could become one of the great villains of Star Trek overnight if the film does him anywhere near as much justice as the trailers have.


When the airborne fight sequence between Harrison and Spock takes place is anyone's guess but it would seem to link in to the oft-seen building jump and it's on some kind of mobile platform which will leave effects and fight fans dribbling. It looks like this will also include Uhura as early teaser shots included her at this point in uniform. Again Cumberbatch's rogue agent is certainly laying some serious poundings onto the crew and this time the Vulcan XO is taking the brunt - is there anyone who he isn't going to cause injury to?

What this is all leading up to is a blow by blow big set piece of the iconic Enterprise swan-diving into the atmosphere while losing hull plating before (and I'm assuming it's the same ship but I might be wrong) seeing her plough into the San Francisco bay. We got a nice shot of her earlier in the trailer as well as a warp-shot but the last 15 seconds is all about what could be THE segment of the movie as the starship barrels into the city causing some serious collateral damage. How they're going to bring the ship out of that is beyond my thoughts at the moment and we don't have that long left before we can actually find out how it all comes together! One consideration is that we'll have to make do with a new ship for 2016 or they'll bring back April's decommissioned vessel mentioned in Countdown to Darkness and mentioned on my last STID blog.

The other clever bit about the trailer is the hidden url behind Carol Marcus when Kirk is weighing up the odds. For those of you who want it, here's where it is (and thanks to +Justin Chung for pointing this one out on the G+ Star Trek Community). Very cleverly hidden and the first time I've heard anything like this being done. Where it takes you is to the new 3D poster as featured here but more on that in a second. Those clever folks at Paramount/Bad Robot certainly are  trying a lot of new stuff out on the promo trail for this film - if only the app would TAKE A PICTURE and register it then we'd all be happy - yes, it still isn't working on my S3. Wonder how they'll top this or that moving advert?

 "I will walk over your cold corpses..." - John Harrison

Anyway - the poster. I liked the Starfleet emblem/Harrison teaser poster; the Enterprise in the drink was really different but why oh why are we going for the Bad Boys-esque guns and posing routine here? That's what makes me grumble. Just when you can see STID giving some respect towards the franchise that inspired it we get a very drab and average poster that effectively says "Action Movie in 3D". I've seen a lot of murmurs and general dissatisfaction over the film and even I have said a few things less than favourable but we're all still judging this on a series of trailers. That can't be right. It might be a damn good film and all of fandom is sitting in judgement before it's even premiered. It deserves at the very least a full watch through and then we can make a decision. So far it looks brilliant and this trailer has added more questions, a few answers and a smidgen of grandiose into the proceedings. I'm going to hold off digging the franchise a grave yet. I think we might even be surprised. I enjoyed 2009's offering and while it was very different we must remember that it is an interpretation and no, it probably isn't canon because of the whole universe thing but maybe that just doesn't matter. Let's sit back and be entertained. It's a story about family and I would suggest a story about Kirk coming to some sort of peace with himself. I hope it's an epic journey that Roddenberry would be proud of.

"This could just be the beginning" - James T Kirk

As an aside from this, I finally got round to watching Trek Nation which had been residing on the Sky hard-drive for a couple of months and there's an interesting piece where JJ gets shown footage of Roddenberry, by his son, Eugene Jr, hoping that someone does make a better version of Star Trek than he did and that it focuses on the first meetings of his now-legendary characters from The Original Series. It changed my thoughts on the Abrams universe that maybe it's time to accept that this is Star Trek for a new generation; it's a re-imagining and perhaps deserves just as much a place in the history of the franchise as every other interpretation. Sure there are bound to be a few missteps but it needed a kick and probably we're all too scared to admit that the whole universe needed a rethink. The trailers are there for a reason - they need to excite and intrigue and given the fact we've donated a massive chunk of the internet to it over the last few months I reckon he can probably tick that off as a success. We're all talking about it in Trekdom aren't we?

"I watched you murder innocent men and women. 
I will make you answer for what you did." - James T Kirk

After all, we accept Voyager and Enterprise which Gene was never involved with and that's exactly the same here except that JJ Abrams has gone back and done a bit of fiddling with the timeline. Who are we to decide whether or not Star Trek should be reinvigorated for a new generation? Did we tell Berman, Piller and Taylor how to run Voyager or did we see how it evolved? Did we turn it off after two or four hours? Don't think so and the same is true here. This is only the second of JJ's attempts at bringing Trek back and in a big screen format. He knows what gets bums on seats (said that before!) and is trying to keep the fans happy too. 

Here's another thought for you - for a film and series that's supposed to be about journeying into the stars and exploring the final frontier these two films have been surprisingly Earth-centric - maybe this is one of those reasons why we're not getting that Trek vibe. There's a little on Qo'noS and that red planet but the chunk of the stuff here is all seen on our homeworld. Maybe the third one will go where no man (or no one of course) has gone before and give us something truly new and different. We've had Klingons, Romulans and bad Starfleet officers - maybe Reboot Trek 3 could be JJ's big chance to do something utterly new and unique that makes this standout and extra-memorable? The unknown just hasn't been seen and I've only just really realised that that's the case! Action and adventure is all well and good for the audience but we can get that from any movie can't we? Star Trek was about pushing the boundaries of storytelling and imagination not explosions and ray guns and who shoots first (Roddenberry said something along these lines in a 1986 interview that was included in the 25th Anniversary special). Creating a story set on Earth for the majority won't keep fans attentions. Yes it's good to see Trek taking on stories of "modern day" themes such as terrorism but it was about how they were portrayed through clever writing and alien characters while the Enterprise explored and not slam-obvious in-the-face on Earth - is this a sign of the decent into very 1,2,3 storytelling by numbers rather than something that will provoke and intrigue that we got for a lot of those 700 TV episodes and 10 films?

A difficult job, a lot to ask and a long time to go. For now Abrams needs a decent return at the box office from Star Trek Into Darkness and if that happens I think he might even deserve a "well done" from us all. So, JJ - what's the plans for 2016 if all goes well in May???

Well done if you're reading this...but what's that just below....

 It's a blog Easter Egg! (well, I got inspired by JJ and STID....)

So I got some news from Diamond Select the other day - they're releasing a range based on the Classic Mirror Universe! Great news and if you're reading this I suspect you've found the additional section in my Star Trek Into Darkness blog (OK, it's not that well hidden).

Here's the press release and some images just to whet the appetite. Of course, when you're using the restickered ISS Enterprise you'll have to remember to fly it from right to left because it's Mirror....

Fans of Star Trek and Minimates alike have been anxiously awaiting the release of the USS Enterprise in Minimate Vehicle form, and the stylized starship is only a few short months away from being in stores. Now, Diamond Select Toys and Art Asylum are happy to announce a new Minimates Starship that's exclusively at Entertainment Earth!

From the classic Star Trek episode "Mirror, Mirror," it's the I.S.S. Enterprise! In a mirror universe, Captain Kirk and his crew are bloodthirsty representatives of a cruel civilization. This exclusive version of the Minimate Enterprise includes the distinctive Terran Empire markings and comes with Kirk in his sleeveless gold tunic! The I.S.S. Enterprise's engineering section opens up to reveal a Jefferies Tube, and the bridge opens up to reveal the removable command chair. Includes an adjustable display base!

The Mirror Enterprise reaches Earth in May -- pre-order today!

Got to say Mirror Kirk looks pretty good. Also worth looking out for the other eight figures that are planned to be released in May/June, tying in to Enterprise, films, TNG and DS9 with Archer, a Xindi, Kirk and Khaaaaaaaan, movie Picard and the Borg Queen, Sisko and a Jem'Hadar. In the UK they look to be selling for around £7.99 per pair. For once, I'm sorely tempted....

Images from Star Trek Into Darkness trailer from
Images of Minimates Mirror Universe toys courtesy of diamondselecttoys 
Star Trek Into Darkness poster from hidden url on trailer!

Trekollections III: Your Life As It Has Been Is Over

"Guess who's coming to dinner..."

The last voyage; the final final frontier was about to be reached by the original crew of the Enterprise as Star Trek VI premiered in 1991. It would be the end of an era for one crew but one more important turning point in my relationship with the series.

As you may recall from Part II we had moved to Lincolnshire earlier in the year which meant adjusting to a new school and new friends. This sixth film more than anything would redefine my relationship with Star Trek. I had the movie tie-in novel, the movie magazine and would hunt out anything I could find  to tell me more about The Undiscovered Country. It was an incredible film and easily vanquished any of the misgivings that The Final Frontier had raised two years previously - after all, it had an even number if nothing else.

As with the fifth film, my first glimpses of The Undiscovered Country were on the late night movie show before America's Top Ten. If I can go all flash-back and blurry for a second, it was the scene where Chang confronts Kirk via the viewscreen raging that his ship will "...blow (them) out of the stars!". 

"Signal our surrender!" orders Kirk as the Klingons right their ship and prepare to fire; "We surrender!"  

It didn't take long to find out what happened next as we went to see the film at Lincoln's Ritz Cinema (now a chain-pub) one Saturday afternoon. This film had everything that The Final Frontier hadn't as well as a good smattering of Shakespeare thrown in. It was more than a fitting conclusion to the voyages of Kirk's crew with the final space confrontation between the Enterprise, Excelsior and the cloaked Bird of Prey an absolute and instant Trek classic. 

I bought the accompanying official film magazine (now AWOL) and the novelisation which included some great additional scenes, some of which would turn up on the extended VHS release the following year. I even managed to use it for a book review in my end of year English exam. I seem to recall I received quite a good mark and the comment of "What a surprise!" from my English teacher - in red pen of course.

As previously, aside from Dad there was still nobody to talk to about Trek as I stopped being looked after during the holidays so I had to look elsewhere for Trek inspiration. Filling holiday time with Trek viewings of the films or episodes I had recorded wasn't too difficult. One thing that it did help with was my writing.

I started to write a lot more after watching Star Trek VI and getting further embroiled in the adventures of the Next Generation crew on TV. I created a whole new range of Star Trek adventures, imagining a new crew taking over the Enterprise-A and at one point even sticking a Gorn security chief and an Andorian waiter among the crew. Of course Star Trek Generations would technically make this entire series "non-canonical" with the introduction of the Enterprise-B but it was great fun to write. I had the ship abandoned and revamped (almost Knight Rider-style), a lot of crew changes and appearances from classic Trek characters including the Talosians for one in what became quite a lengthy series. 

Admittedly for a 12 year old they were much more about action and adventure than character-driven but that was probably to be expected! Star Trek was one of the key drivers that made me want to write, eventually leading to five years as an on-off journalist and sub-editor and three years studying English at university (sadly with no Trek texts to read). The stories I watched each week were inspirational and even though I took elements from what I saw to create my own narrative it still sparked the imagination enough for me to develop new worlds and new civilisations....

I wrote about forty "short" stories that seemed to get longer with each one. Over the years I would experiment with writing Trek stories set on moonbases, smaller ships (like the Sydney-class from "Relics"  and even a Runabout, but they never amassed to the longevity of that original spurt of imagination.

This period marked the time I was watching the third season of TNG on BBC 2 and starting at secondary school. Certain this was a big change in my life - a significantly bigger change than adding collars to the crew uniforms and removing the piping (which took me about half the season to realise). There was homework to contend with, a blazer to wear everyday, moving around lessons every hour and a lot of new teachers and classmates to get to know.

Now it had been a while since I had met anyone outside of my immediate family who was a proper fan of Star Trek but within the first year I discovered that both my English and Technology teachers were fans and Trek would get a few throw away references in lessons if I could get away with it. At some point in 1991 I managed to catch the Shatner and Nimoy hosted 25th Anniversary programme which had included not only material from The Undiscovered Country but also some tasty tidbits from "Tin Man" and also clips from the 100th episode and fourth season cliffhanger "Redemption".

Season Three changed the dynamic and was a massive improvement over the previous two seasons. The writing was tighter, the characters more comfortable and the show had a spring in its step from the off.  Oddly one memory of that year is getting told off for something by my mum  and being banned from watching that week's episode. For reference it was "Booby Trap" and it took about two years before I worked out which installment it was and got to see it off SKY's daily repeats. This was also true in the case of "The High Ground" which was banned on its first airplay due to the Irish reunification reference.

The '89-90 season was one good episode after another and it just seemed to flash by in a matter of weeks while I went through my first year at "big school".  When we reached "Yesterday's Enterprise" I was totally addicted and at that time it became both my and my dad's favourite episode - for me that lasted only a few weeks because of a certain cliffhanger; "The Best of Both Worlds" landed and Trek would never be the same again.  The Borg were pure focused evil, determined to make the universe in their image and only the Enterprise could stop them.  To this very day it is still in my eyes THE best cliffhanger any generation of Star Trek has ever produced bar none and is in my top three favourite episodes of all time. I was bowled over in every sense. The story was incredible; I "got" the Riker sub-story about his future (linked to Michael Piller's own job choices); Picard's capture by the Borg was overwhelmingly dramatic; his transformation into Locutus even more so. Nothing like that had ever been attempted before - the captain was truly in danger and by the end of the first part there really seemed to be no way back, The situation was dire, all was lost and it was left to Acting Captain Riker to make the biggest decision of any generation of Star Trek ever; save Picard or save Earth; "Mr"

While Part II was a superb Michael Piller-penned conclusion it didn't live up to the drama and finger-chewing that had proliferated its predecessor.  At least we now had the fourth season to look forward to and - 

Sadly not.  As Picard gazed out of his ready room window, beginning to come to terms with his recent rescue and return to humanity, the credits rolled and the BBC announcer informed us that TNG would be returning in the near future. That was not what we were expecting. Actually it was both good news and bad news because while we lost Picard and his crew from the small screen we gained a chance to see the complete original series including - for the first time ever on UK TV, "The Cage".

Oddly we were in Cornwall for the day on which "The Cage" aired which seemed ironic that I should be back in the same part of the country only a few miles from where I had seen my first few episodes of the original series. In fact it was probably in a hotel in Truro to be exact. I won't dwell on this too much as it's been done to death but for me it was so different to what came after it and it was hard to believe that this was how it all started! There's a certain familiarity to it but in some respects it's quite far removed from the series that we came to know.  If they thought this was cerebral who wonders what they would have made of stories such as "Frame of Mind" for instance?!

So the next 79 weeks flew by and I was treated to the whole of the original series in airing order. I remember a lot more from this run through than from any previous showings. Maybe it's because of age or maybe it's just because of my passion for the show by this time. I recorded a fair few episodes from this run including my beloved "The Tholian Web", the Gorn-bashing "Arena", the mesmerising "City on the Edge of Forever", crossing universes in "Mirror, Mirror"; in all honesty there weren't many that I didn't enjoy and I could easily watch them all over again (and no doubt will!). What amazed me about them was the quality of the series and just how well these stories had stood up to the test of time. It was truly a classic in every sense. While this was happening on terrestrial TV, up in the sky there was something else going on; SKY had acquired the rights to The Next Generation and they, not the BBC would be showing Season Four.

Who would have seen that coming? Admittedly today we would be shocked if a major US TV show was premiered on a UK terrestrial channel. The challenge was going to be how I would manage to watch them as a it could well be light years before they reached the BBC and buying the videos every two or three weeks they were released would get mighty expensive for a teenager. Luckily for me there was a saviour in the wings...

From my reckoning this puts us around 1992. A significant point in my Trekollections because it was the year I received the five-movie box set for Christmas. Now usually at Christmas we didn't watch TV on the Big Day but we'd had quite a tough few weeks in the buildup and I was allowed to watch "The Motion Picture" while I waited for my turkey fritters and chips to cook. Yep, it was definitely an unusual year! Recalling this snippet also made me remember that several years before, most likely while we were in Cornwall, I had seen "The Motion Picture" but the recording had chopped the last ten or fifteen minutes. While I hadn't missed much of note, the arrival of this box set marked the completion of a lengthy journey.  All five were in widescreen which added a whole new dimension to my viewing; as did the additional scene of Spock and Saavik speaking in Vulcan after Kirk arrives on the Enterprise in "The Wrath of Khan" - but there was one other significant thing about it.

For those of you who have been tracking my story you will know I have something of a challenge with the third film.  Well, early 1993 meant I got to see it thanks to my rather generous grandparents' Christmas present. I wasn't disappointed and I am happy to admit that I love "The Search for Spock" as much as the even numbered installments. It has a lot going for it - the theft and destruction of the Enterprise, Scotty and the Excelsior, the first appearance of the Bird of Prey and of course Spock's rebirth. What's not to like? It did seem as though it had been a long time coming to get through it and at times I was probably keeping my fingers crossed against any power cuts or chewed video tape. Neither happened which brought about an end to my Trek III curse!

My birthday a few weeks before Christmas in 1992 meant that I became the proud owner of my first "proper" Star Trek book; the TNG Technical Manual. What a book.  For the first time I found out that the Enterprise-B was an Excelsior Class ship, exactly how a phaser worked and what setting would cause major geological disturbance (16 if you must know), how to pilot a starship, what shuttles were carried in the three bays; the list is endless and the book was pretty exhaustive on every subject.  The photo here was taken a couple of weeks ago. The corners are a bit worn but that's mainly due to excessive reading over the years.  It's a big thank you to Messrs Sternbach and Okuda for this one because once I'd digested each and every page of this tome I was on the look out for the next opportunity to expand my Trek library.  

For the same birthday I also received the Star Trek Starfleet Technical Manual and at the time I didn't realise how BIG a book this had been when it was produced. As with its later TNG counterpart, it was packed with diagrams and data on just about everything but leaned much more to the schematic side while Sternbach and Okuda included a good deal of explanation with each item and picture. The Starfleet Technical Manual really opened up the Kirk era for me with the deck by deck plans of the Enterprise and the original series uniforms and props. It was easy to get lost in the intricacies that Franz Joseph had covered on every page even down to the listings of all the ships in service for each class that "existed" in the Star Trek universe. 

The Dreadnought still looks impressive today (below left). Both books were impressive pieces to read and only increased my hunger for more.  These days there are very few Trek reference books produced in comparison to the number that were written/available back in the 1990's.  Then, there seemed to be at least two or three every year and all were of excellent quality and essential purchases as we shall see.  I was never a big reader of the novels at this point as I was only interested in things that were canon  - but anything that could tell me about the background of the show, the actors, Roddenberry, effects, the episodes, trivia, artwork or tech specs was purchased and devoured in a matter of days (or more likely hours). 

One of the more curve-ball tomes I bought was the Nitpicker's Guide for Next Generation Trekkers. Some great trivia in there and certainly made rewatching a few episodes interesting the second or third time over. As an admission though, it's not been until recent weeks that I've finally tried reading Trek fiction again and have been more than pleasantly surprised (see my review on The Persistence of Memory if you're wondering!). Star Trek was still giving me that way out. I wasn't the most popular kid in school (and I don't think my admission that I liked the show helped here).

When I was younger, the reason I spent so much time endulged in Star Trek was because I was had a non-existent social life outside of school until I was about 18. Partially this was due to moving around the country and never really having any long term friends or losing touch with those that I did make. The other side of it was that I had the (mis)fortune of over-protective parents. It felt like I was on lockdown outside school and in the evenings. I was unable to interact outside school with anyone I knew. Schoolwork took 100% priority in the evenings until it was done, no matter what and between 1991 and 1998 homework, GCSEs and A-levels took precedent over everything. I became quite competitive about results and didn't like to come second (only now am I able to stop doing this all the time). I had to be the best and would beat myself up mentally about not getting top marks. I suspect this didn't enamour me in the eyes of my peers and no doubt came across as a bit of a boot-licker and an arrogant so-and-so. I looked to Trek in some respects for role models particularly in the more commanding positions - the Kirk's, Picard's and Sisko's - because that's what I thought I should be doing. That was the position in life I believed I was destined for. In hindsight I'm probably more suited for the first or second officer role!

This wasn't intentional however. Over time, because I thought I was better than everyone else, it's a role I grew into and it became the person I was then. I know now I wasn't but it took a long time for things to change; we're talking years, I imagine this will become more evident as we get further into the next steps of my story. While my friends were out getting worldly-wise thanks to more liberal-minded parents I was home and having to make my own entertainment. It wasn't that I didn't want to go out, I wasn't allowed the opportunity which had some less than welcome effects after I left school in 1998. Star Trek became even more of an escape - if I couldn't get away from home physically then there was always another way and I would while away time reading about it, watching it or writing about it. I would spend hours devoted to personal research and became thoroughly obsessed with it 24/7. 

As you can see my interest was growing just as I was and I was going to need a lot more space for storage very, very soon - and that seems like a good place to pause for thought. We're now somewhere around the early 1990's and on the cusp of what was probably the most Trek saturated few years of my life what with the range of episodes, films, books and everything else that would be on the way. 

You can also read Part 1 and Part 2 of my Trekollections here!