Sunday, 29 December 2013

Hailing Frequencies are Open!

And no, we haven't forgotten that December 28th is the birthday of one Nichelle Nichols aka Nyota Uhura.

To celebrate here's a visual trip down memory lane from The Corbomite Maneuver through to her most recent onscreen appearance as Uhura in 2011...

Best wishes go to Nichelle on her birthday from all of us at Some Kind of Star Trek!

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Wednesday, 25 December 2013

A Little Unfair on Rick Berman

Going all the way back to January I decided to go easy on JJ Abrams and even defended him in light of the ferocious revelation that he would soon be helming Star Wars Episode VII. 

Then I spent some of March blubbering on about whether or not we should recognise the JJ reboot universe visualised in 2009's Star Trek and it's 2013 sequel as official material. Then it dawned on me that we had been in a similar situation some time ago with another individual. His name wasn't JJ Abrams but the anger directed at him from fandom was probably just as vehement (although after seeing some of the comments about Star Trek Into Darkness I'm tempted to retract that). 

My fingers flew over the keyboard and an article took form however, I let it piece fester and wallow around in the backwater of Draft Hell as the reboot sequel came and went; then the DVD and blu-ray came and went...and before you know it, it's Christmas 2013. Indeed, what could be a better time to dust this piece off as, appropriately, it's also Rick Berman's birthday. 

Already some of JJ Abrams' comments have, apparently, placed him in deep water with Trekkies since he wants his Star Trek to be the only one that's remembered etc etc... with fans supposedly crying out for a return to the "old ways"  of Star Trek that was known and loved from 1966 through to 2005; what JJ was doing "just isn't Star Trek".

Flip back a few years and the odd thing is that towards the end of Enterprise we were a grumpy old lot especially when it came to Rick Berman. As the cartoon I was inspired by (top) goes to show, we didn't like what he'd done to the franchise when it came to Enterprise and, dare I even write the name, Star Trek NemesisThe grass had to be greener so to speak. Manny Coto had taken over the reins of the faltering, stumbling Enterprise but alas it was too late and the franchise disappeared into a Bajoran-sized wormhole for the next four years. A real shame given the quality of that last season. Circling the back of beyond is precisely where Abrams found it, kicked it a few times and  rebooted it - and then we all started grumbling get the picture I'm sure.

But was the "Berman Era" really THAT bad? Should Trekkies/Trekkers across the globe be as disgruntled with Rick as history suggests? I would say not but I'll make sure I back this up with some evidence. 

Rick Berman was pretty much at Gene Roddenberry's side from the inception of The Next Generation in 1986 until the Great Bird's death in 1991. During those years he would take on more and more of the day to day production of the series and helm the show to its end in 1994. It's a harsh thing to say, but once Gene was no longer part of that Star Trek equation there was more freedom for the writers and we were presented with some intensive character development and edgier stories. It was interesting to watch Trek Nation which has helped map my thoughts for this piece as Ronald D Moore notes that there was more they could do with the Star Trek universe post-1991 even though Berman appeared to keep hold of the reins fairly tightly.

Yes, he allowed the infamous space pirates two-parter, Gambit, in the shows final season but we got to understand the characters a lot more if we dig deeper than that superficial yet very entertaining story. Look at where the writers went in the second half of the fifth season for instance. The earlier stories are very much science fiction based whereas there is a definite flexing of wings when we hit installments such as The Outcast, New Ground, Hero Worship and Perfect Mate to name but a few. These were stories tackling slavery, sexuality, childhood trauma and more which were never attempted just a couple of years before. 

Now Rick was never The Next Generation's most prolific writer, penning as he did two episodes in the entire run from 1987 to 1994; Brothers and A Matter of Time. All other episodes that Berman was directly involved with in the scripting paired him either with Michael Pillar or latterly Brannon Braga. That said, he had the final say on what would make it to the screen and let the writing staff explore the cultures of their characters in a great deal more depth especially the Klingons through Worf in season five and further more with Birthright and Rightful Heir the following year. Data was expanded with the dream programme, Troi got a uniform, a promotion and dare I say it a significant amount more respect from the viewers. It was the heyday of Star Trek and the characters were not stagnating. I'm not sure we can really complain about his input into The Next Generation but could this be due to the fact that it was built on such a solid base to start with by Roddenberry? It's certainly a thought to ponder over but then how do we account for Deep Space Nine? In my opinion the greatest of any Star Trek generation. Is there more to this?

Perhaps most revealing is the interview Berman conducted with back in 2012. He truly believed in Gene's vision of the 24th Century and fought to uphold those elements that the shows creator held dear even after his death. However Berman knew, just as Abrams did in 2009, that Star Trek had to change and develop if it were to survive. Maybe his choices weren't as extreme as those that have enshrouded the latest two big screen adaptations but by taking Deep Space Nine and Voyager into the uncharted depths of the Gamma and Delta Quadrants respectively there was chance to do something different under the security of the franchise umbrella. Now significantly with both these shows Berman held overall control but the day to day decisions were in the hands of others. Michael Piller and Ira Steven Behr ran the show at one time or other on Deep Space Nine while Jeri Taylor and Brannon Braga did likewise on Voyager

Now I think this shows a great contrast between Abrams and Berman - while JJ's attitude appears more hands on, Rick allowed those who understood the material and "lived" the experience of each show to develop it and nurture the creativity. He seems to have placed people in particular spaces to ensure the quality of the franchise continued. It would only be when Enterprise became the sole focus of the production team that Berman would be more directly involved and certainly more influential in the direction of the show. Notably Enterprise would be the series where Rick received more credits for stories than any of the other Star Trek series he had worked on.

This change in focus might reveal where Berman wasn't as strong. Enterprise would be more in the hands of Braga than anyone else during its four year run but it would be the first series Berman had not created or run in the Star Trek universe with Michael Piller. 

Piller himself is highly regarded for his work on Star Trek especially when it comes to a certain Borg-based two-parter from 1990. Maybe his influence was more than we can appreciate in just a few blog paragraphs but without Rick Berman managing the overall shape of the franchise these pieces would not have been in place and the show would not have lasted in some form on TV until 2005. Since Berman took over the franchise in 1991 there have only been 8 years where there has not been an episode of Star Trek in production and during two of those the Abrams movies were released. If it had been "killed" by Gene Roddenberry's heir-apparent would we have seen so much Star Trek over three decades? Would we have even had the films in 2009 and 2013? Potentially not. If Berman's involvement in the franchise was indeed so toxic towards the end, why are they releasing Enterprise on blu-ray and why do Voyager and Deep Space Nine continue to sell DVDs, magazines and a million tons of other material? If the effect had been that bad then the franchise would not have survived nor evolved.

What really gets me is that fandom complained so bitterly about how Enterprise was ruined by Berman especially in its second year. I would challenge fans to look back at any of the previous three series and say that the early years of those shows produced consistently brilliant material. All three took time to evolve and only really hit their stride in the third and fourth years. Enterprise's problem was the whole prequel premise and the Xindi attack which you just knew had to work out fine in the end because of the effect it would have on all other series thereafter in the timeline. 

While the Xindi were a bit like a knockoff Dominion, Berman directed the show to do something that no other generation had attempted. Not only was he showing how it all began and in some way reinventing the wheel (or warp drive) but he upheld the beliefs and standards of Roddenberry and created a season long arc which did work in my opinion. Bringing Manny Coto in for year four was another good move (whether his choice or not) but it left Rick in charge of Star Trek with some great three-part concept stories only tragically let down by THAT horrific finale that did nobody any justice.

JJ Abrams had the chance to reboot from the beginning; to do what he wanted with the franchise and make it his own; a new version of someone else's creation. A re-imagining as we're fond of calling it. Berman had to remain true to the fold and the finale is an attempt to pull everything together when it was apparent that the series was being cancelled and there would be no more new Star Trek on TV. But it failed. While you can see the attempt to make it cuddly, warm and in some respects have a similar feel to something like All Good Things... it nosedives. Producing something new for the show week in week out for such a long time can't be easy. After all there are notoriously only seven types of story and after a while things can get a bit "samey". I still stand in the belief that everything Rick did was in the name of the fans because he knew what Star Trek meant direct from its creator. 

Abrams might have regressed the show back to a fist-fight-of-the-year concept with low impact on themes and characterisation but even at its worst points under Rick Berman these were key factors that were always maintained and time invested in to make sure they retained the mythos. You have to consider that when one or two series were in production there would also be one or two movies hovering in the background. Berman must have, for a fair few years between 1994 and 2000, been spread quite thinly in his control of the franchise which might well have contributed to some of the stories surrounding Ira Steven Behr tricking Berman into allowing certain actions to take place on Deep Space Nine.

Berman allowed the Dominion War which was something Gene might never have allowed. He also brought in conflict among the main cast (but not Starfleet characters) which added not only dimensions for the actors to explore but expanded the potential of the Star Trek universe. While this added another level of action and adventure to the story it didn't stray from ensuring there was always a theme or a motive underlying each story - something JJ might want to reconsider for his third big screen Star Trek outing. Playing on the unexplored was key to the vision of the universe while, in some respects, Abrams has stayed on safe ground, close to Earth - oh, that and blowing up Vulcan. 

Let's be honest here, Rick Berman wasn't afraid of trying new concepts which is easily highlighted by the very existence of Enterprise. His role lay in ensuring that the series remained true to its origins and that it really was "Based upon Star Trek" as created by Gene Roddenberry. Maybe things went the way they did because he felt constrained by that Big Picture and the need to stay true to the Great Bird. Abrams has no such concerns and even Roddenberry himself, as part of an interview I saw on Trek Nation, was keen for someone else to put their spin on the Star Trek universe. Abrams did and so did Berman - so much so his bust of Gene now, legendarily, wears a blindfold. 

He could take risks and allow more exploration and still be the preserver of the Roddenberry vision. Perhaps look at it another way - if Gene had remained in the seat for another 10, 15 or 20 years, would we have seen Deep Space Nine develop from the "adventure of the week" format that had pervaded The Next Generation and The Original Series? I suspect not - which might have seen it dwindle and die after three years because I think we can be certain that the arrival of a certain squat warship in The Search, Part I would not have been the first or last thing Gene would have done - nor perhaps would we have had the Klingons withdrawing from the Khitomer Accords in The Way of the Warrior.

OK, OK, so clearly I like to defend Mr Berman. Why? Because he put the right people in the right places to make a difference and make the shows what they were. Piller, Berman, Moore, Braga, Echevarria, Taylor...all were brought in during Rick's tenure and made Deep Space Nine and Voyager especially into their own. They made us care and he helped and directed that evolution. It can't have been easy juggling three series at various points in their lives plus a motion picture series and maybe that's the problem.

There was, eventually, too much. For me there was a Star Trek peak around the mid to late 1990's, probably reaching a climax with What You Leave Behind. Once that had closed the quality seemed to take a dip. We, as fans expected a lot and didn't get it. There were a lot of good things that did come out of the Star Trek stable by this stage but it needed something fresh and the people that had made it successful in the Golden Age of the 1990's had moved on. Braga was a good writer but as a producer his inexperience, I think, showed through which led to the arrival of Manny Coto which was too little too late. I think his work on the final year of Enterprise is superb and produced some moments of true brilliance. A fifth season and the Romulan War would have really set the show apart but we never got the chance to see how it could have evolved. 

Is it Berman's fault he stayed so long? Maybe not. He was doing something he was passionate about and was doing it for the audience and more significantly he believed he was doing what the fans wanted. His over familiarity with the material by 2004/5 may well have assisted the toll of the bell for Enterprise and after such a long run the franchise was more than a little out of puff. A break was due, it needed a holiday and a change of management. Berman had done his best and given his all to uphold the standards but, as someone once said, All Good Things...must come to an end.

So let's thank Rick Berman for giving us some damn fine shows and classic stories over the years and you know what, it wasn't that bad after all - and for the record he had nothing to do with the movies that are rated at the bottom of the pile. So let's start lighting the torches for JJ and Shatner shall we or are we all waiting to see who will be taking the reins for the third reboot movie? We'll be keeping track in 2014 you can be assured of that.

Friday, 20 December 2013

Ezri: The Killer Counsellor

So there we were at SKoST Towers, drumming our fingers on the oak desk in Clive's 25th floor penthouse, trying to decide what we could do to mark Nicole de Boer's birthday when we came up with this.

So for the first time we're going head to head, human against human (debatable in both cases) to discuss the wonders of Mark's third love after wife and child. So; was Ezri Dax a pretty decent counsellor or, as Clive suggests, was she just a horrific psychological bomb waiting to go off?

For - Mark

We certainly had a good debate over Ezri/Nicole. I confess to a certain defensiveness over 'my little Ezri', to such an extent that we nearly went from throwing opinions... to throwing objects back and forth!

My esteemed colleague makes some very good points (below), a very solid argument. However, let me point out the flaw in his logic – she did make it.

Whilst Ezri Dax (nee Tegan) certainly was jittery from day one, I wouldn't have thought she was much worse than that. In retrospect, I think she handled eight lifetimes being thrust upon her quite well given the circumstances! They could have done much worse, like putting the Dax symbiote into Deanna Troi? She'd have crashed Deep Space Nine... and I'm not even sure how that's possible!

In fact, she made it to such an extent, that the non-cannon authors thought well enough to develop her even further. It's almost as if they knew what I knew. I'd always had a thought of what the character could have become, if Nicole was given more than just one season to define her character. Let's face it, even Kate Mulgrew required more than a single season to develop Janeway's persona.

Speaking of Nicole, I could imagine there was a heated exchange between her and her agent, when she was told of her next 'assignment'. "So let me get this straight, you want me to effectively replace a well-loved but recently deceased main character, becoming her but not quite, maintain a very weak facade amongst so many strong, established characters, AND develop this character in ONE season?"

To her credit, she did it, brilliantly.

My only gripe with this would be that bringing Dax back was risky to begin with, not to poke too many holes, but there are clear rules for Trills and interaction with their past lives, and here we have a newly joined Dax, effectively resuming her old life (with a few twists of course).

Oh, we could go on having our war of words, throwing dictionaries at each other. But the simple fact remains... If the fans didn't want Ezri there, she wouldn't be there. If they wanted Jadzia back, they'd have done it (Micheal Shanks/Daniel Jackson, Stargate SG1?). This is the lovely convenient thing with sci-fi – anything is possible.

As much as I hate to end my argument with a non-Trek reference, I shall hand you over to my counter, as he will likely de-construct all of my comments in great detail, with references, and pictures, and possibly a slideshow with bullet-points, graphs marking the point in time my argument became invalid! Be kind Clive!

Against - Clive

Nahhhh. She was a liability from the second she inherited the symbiont and that's the truth isn't it? That's just all flouncy stuff, Mark!

Let's look at this more objectively. Ezri (sadly) happens to be in the wrong place at the wrong time to receive the Dax symbiont. Instead of getting her back to Trill, the psychological damage just keeps coming - and for a counsellor you'd think she would have some understanding of this but alas...No.

Not only does she turn up to see a less than happy Sisko in New Orleans but then goes off on a cross-galactic adventure with him. This in turn results in her being back on the front lines at Deep Space Nine with her last host's ex-husband. None of that can be good for your mental stability surely? Add into that the point that her first "patient" is former spy/assassin/devious gent Garak who is always game for a challenge and it's as though her card is marked from Image in the Sand. Garak was never going to be easy to handle with the intricate web of deceit and slight of hand especially for such a young, inexperienced and messed up individual.

If Starfleet were genuinely concerned for their officers would this be a good move? That's a lot of change for anyone to go through - but killer counsellor? OK - let's just think about what we've got here.

You're placing a fairly inexperienced officer into a war zone after a life-changing "operation" and even better, with people that knew her previous incarnation including still-mourning husband Worf. As time progresses I really do fear for her patients especially when we have one installment which hands her a kick-ass phaser rifle as part of a murder investigation. Now for those people in the counselling profession I don't think this would be allowed? Aren't all the situations she's being placed in just going to help tip the scales of sanity? Handing her loaded weapons and trying to understand a killer must be the last thing that anyone should be suggesting here!

As if that wasn't enough she ended up in even more intense action at AR-558 confronting the Jem'Hadar face on rather than from the security of the Defiant or Deep Space Nine. Ok so if we're comparing counsellors then she's definitely more of a tough nut than Deanna Troi and has avoided doing serious damage to any starships however the learning curve is more like a straight vertical line as Starfleet Medical effectively washed their hands of the situation once the joining process had been completed. So much for help in the advanced 24th Century.

This makes her an extremely complex character which is fantastic to watch but at what point was she going to go all Falling Down? Best ask a counsellor to - oh - good point. After that she attempts to help Nog recuperate but that falls flat - now with all the memories, emotions and the like flowing through her surely that role of counsellor is a bit redundant as she can't deal with her own challenges? Let's just remember that when Troi lost her Betazoid abilities in The Loss she became quite ineffective for a while.

Oh - and so we don't forget how about having some "interaction" with your previous host's husband to play on the mind - and then get it together with the doctor that Jadzia turned down?  Some of it was probably involuntary emotions left over from the last host but I certainly would be choosing someone else if I needed some personal guidance. In some ways Ezri seriously puts others and herself in danger while acting

In my own defence I'd like to add that I liked Ezri and de Boer and there had to be a way of continuing with the Dax character but at times it did seem strained. In the expanded universe we know that Ezri eventually makes it to captain the USS Aventine so it sort of works out but here on Deep Space Nine she's totally out of her depth and I don't think she's every quite right. Yes, it makes her a little quirky and multi-layered like a confused regenerating Doctor (Who) but from a health and safety point of view it's not too far akin to handing Garak a phaser rifle on Empok Nor...

So that's our viewpoints - what do you think? Was Ezri just a time bomb waiting to go off (and would had we seen an eighth season) or was she in control of it all? Drop your comments below!

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Sunday, 15 December 2013

Mr Kim, At Ease Before You Sprain Something

Welcome to two of our latest additions to the SKoST Contingent with their first post - also our first JOINT post - Hayley and Mark...

WARNING: This article may contain spoiler for those of you who have never seen Star Trek Voyager. If you are one of these people A) How do you live with yourself? B) How did you end up here?

Garrett Wang is known for portraying what started out as a naive Harry Kim, but after seven years stranded in the Delta Quadrant, he ended up evolving into an experienced officer with the respect of the entire crew.

Thursday (December 12th) marked #HarryKimDay; granted we're not exactly sure this is an officically recognised calendar holiday, but since the 15th marks Garrett Wang's birthday - we felt it necessary to celebrate both the actor and the character he portrayed so well.

We're sure if we took census on fans' memories across the seasons, everyone would have very different accounts of the ensign; his defining moments were many, his friendly demeanour infectious.

Speaking of infections... If memory serves right, our loveable ensign was quite the hypochondriac. However to his credit, his fear was well justified! The only other characters to suffer so much infliction were the infamous red shirts of The Original Series. At least Harry made it back alive!

From macrobiotic plagues to Species 8472 attempting to devour him from the inside out, Harry could best be described as a 'walking Petri dish' in this respect. For those of you who again, are strangely unfamiliar with the series (shame on you!), Voyager's Operations Officer was subject to many trials and (tribble)ations. As a broad list, here are his 'finest' moments...
  • Converted into energy (Heroes & Demons)
  • Infected by the Caretaker (Caretaker)
  • Infected by Species 8472 (Scorpion)
  • Infected by the Varro mating process (The Disease)
  • Incarcerated in two alien prisons (The Chute, Body and Soul)
  • Duplicated by silicon-based lifeforms (Demon)
  • Died twice! (Emanations, Deadlock)
As a side note to this resume and space-time paradoxes not withstanding, he also managed to kill the entire crew except for himself and Chakotay (Timeless). We won't hold this against him though, but Deanna Troi never brought the Enterprise-D back...

For us over the span of the series, the dynamic that existed between Harry Kim and Tom Paris was fundamental to the success of the show. What at first seemed an unlikely friendship developed into an emotional equilibrium for both characters. Tom Paris, the rebel without a cause, gave Harry much needed confidence and in return Harry was Tom's moral compass. This friendship has much to do with the character development of Harry Kim. The pilot showed the eager young ensign being outmaneuvered by Quark during one of his typical scams, luckily for Harry, Tom was on hand to show him the ropes.

By the penultimate episode, there was Starfleet's brightest, attempting to convince the now responsible Tom, to 'fly into a Borg-infested nebula'. Never was there such a fundamental change in a character since Data started laughing.

We could go on reminiscing about Harry's best and worst moments, suffice to say he was an integral member of the crew and in many ways was considered by most to be the baby of the show even until the bitter end. Although never promoted(!) he served Voyager well demonstrating his command experience numerous times and when needed, going above and beyond the call of duty. His judgement may however have been lacking in the female department, as we must remember he turned Seven of Nine down!

Twelve years on, we salute you Ensign Harry Kim and Happy Birthday Garrett Wang.

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Friday, 13 December 2013

A Collectionary of the Trek

We've been following the Star Trek Collectionary for a while across Facebook and Pinterest as well as their primary website so why not let others know about this pictoral paradise for franchise fans?

So what? Anyone can throw a Pinterest page together about Star Trek. What this page is doing is perhaps a little bit more than that. It's about Things rather than glorious pictures of the Enterprise in The Wrath of Khan or Janeway and Seven on the bridge of the Dauntless in Hope and Fear. On here you're more likely to find the model used for that movie shot or the control console in the still beside the two Voyager regulars.

It's a fascinating look into the "real" world of Star Trek if you will. From collectible watches from the Franklin Mint to prop or reproduction phasers through to prototype starship models and pieces of the original sets themselves you're very likely to find it on here. The Collectionary really does give a massive pictoral history of the franchise and even more so it shows what is physically left on Earth from almost 50 years of Roddenberry's Trek to the stars.

Admittedly these guys have more than just the Star Trek Collectionary under their internet belts and while the others do give insights into other fandoms and cultures I have to be totally biased and say the Star Trek one is the best. In fact it's very easy to spend ages just looking through page after page of unusual, kitsch or instantly recognisable items from every corner of Star Trek.

It's fairly easy to navigate with a side menu which separates the collection out into a number of sections:
  • Autographed
  • Comic Books
  • Screen Used Props
  • Models and Model Kits
  • Action Figures
  • Books
  • Ships
  • Costumes and Apparel
  • Drinkware 
  • Ornaments
  • Plates
  • Prop Replicas
  • Film Cells
Without a question the best part to trawl through is the Screen Used Props - be it stunt Borg from First Contact or a personal favourite, the Data head from Time's Arrow. The shame here is that the selection is quite limited considering what must be out there...somewhere. 

The selection of autographed stills and images is much more extensive as is the comic book and model kits although there do seem to be some repeats along the way which make it feel like an odd case of deja vu but with such a large range of models I'm sure that's something that's hard to avoid. The trouble is that this trend continues into Books. Once again the selection is extensive but there are just too many repeats which turn it from being a collectionary into a massive jumble of publications. I would made the suggestion that perhaps each book title should be "clickable" with then each of the available items listed under it. Nor is anything in alphabetical or series order which makes looking for a specific items a little chore if nothing else.

Ships then seems to be a clash with Models and Model Kits and also is dominated by the new Eaglemoss Official Starships Collection some of those listed aren't available in the UK let alone the USA. Indeed the remainder of the categories are much of the same; items are listed with no apparent order which sort of goes against the concept of a Collection Dictionary which is what the Collectionary is supposed to be according to information provided by the guys who oversee it.

Now I can openly say that when I first dropped onto the site through its social media I was quite impressed and the concept of being able to create your own item "Wish List" if you will is great because it allows you to build up a nice selection of some really odd items (anyone fancy splitting the cost of a Deep Space Nine console with me?!) but the moderation needs to be stepped up to make this much more accessible and less cluttered;. Also it's great that you can search through them and arrange the collection by "New", "Rising" (in interest) or "All Time" (interest) selections which will make views a little more organised.

in some ways it's very much like having a stroll around an antiques shop - if that's the feel they're heading for then it's perfect. Sadly if you want to find anything you'll be here for some time. even more frustrating is the occasional merchandising gun photo which has several items in one shot which just leaves me head-scratching as to why it's there/why they aren't listed separately here.Some shots are out of focus or poorly aligned which again detracts from what should be a smooth and visually interesting experience.

I understand the goal is effectively to create an auction-style site for people across the globe to find that elusive item but there don't, at the moment, seem to be that many unusual ones that would draw me back again and again. In some cases it also seems this isn't so much a collection as a collection of links to worldwide auctions so many of these items may not be on here forever which doesn't instil me with a lot of faith - although I'm sure there would be a way to archive these and A- Z them perhaps for future generations?

I would also hope that going forward the team will be able to seek out the odd command chair, original screen model Enterprise and the like to build a bigger visual history of Star Trek that's not totally relying on what people are selling.. The screen used props could be the jewel in the crown but as the moment it languishes behind just due to the low volume of entries.

The challenge will be to keep this site fresh, interesting and exciting going forward and I know they are actively looking for moderators and I would guess contributors to increase the number of items listed. There is a huge level of potential to be had here with some extra love and attention but their efforts so far should not be derided. There's a lot of work ahead but there's also been a great amount of effort to get to this stage and achieve the number of fans on social media networks so well done Collectionners.

I have to admit I went through a lot of the screens mentally ticking off figures, books or models that I owned and yes, there were even one or two things that I might have considered adding to a "Want List". Maybe one day...but not just yet.

I truly hope that the Collectionary team make some bold moves forward and take this piece of their online network to the next stage. I can see this becoming a must-go-to experience in the future but for the time being it comes across more as a work in progress that's great to stop by and view but not somewhere I would be checking into each day to seek out what's new and what I might want to buy to enhance my own collection. For anyone of an experienced level there might be one or two items here that would interest as it's very merchandise heavy and sadly not actual "real" Star Trek item heavy. For anyone who is perhaps new to the franchise or wants to find out more than the TV episodes or movies they might have seen over the years then this will definitely open their eyes to the larger picture that exists and just how many facts Star Trek has bled into over the decades.

You too can visit the Star Trek Collectionary now and begin to seek out your next aquisition...

All images courtesy of the Star Trek Collectionary

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Wednesday, 11 December 2013

The Case for Insurrection: 15 Years On

With today marking the 15th (yep I was surprised too) anniversary of the release of Insurrection I felt it the right time to slip this online...

As the title credits on the First Contact DVD rolled I realised two shocking things. One - that I was coming ever so close to Nemesis and second; that I had to go through Insurrection to get there.

Now I have to say that it really isn't that bad after all. Actually it's quite a substantial change of pace and yes, it is about the length of a two-parter but it shouldn't be written off that easily. Some of the bad press is for the two reasons I've mentioned there but also it had a lot more involvement from the cast than ever before. Stewart was involved with production and Frakes was back for a second shot at directing but what criticism would have been levelled at Insurrection if it had been all out action again as with First Contact? Lack of originality? Copying? 

Changing tack and doing something different is one of Star Trek's greatest assets and it's been effective in many an episode right across the franchise. Insurrection is nothing if not different. Even the opening sequence which plays under the titles and sketches out the idyllic existence of the Baku is a mirror to the events of the previous film. It all seems a lot more chilled out and arty from the outset if I'm honest although it could have done without the cute palmpet thing.

So why should we give Insurrection 90 minutes of our lives again? While it's not the explosive kick-ass dark cinematic moment that it's predecessor managed so effectively it's possibly The Next Generation's most true to Roddenberry's vision movie produced. The core of the film is based around the principles of the Prime Directive and how far you should go to ensure those rules are not broken. It's got it's action sequences but it also has a very big heart and while Generations was a classic Espresso, First Contact a bottle of Oozo, Insurrection would be a milky hot chocolate served by the fireside. It's the most feel-food of the series and also the lightest on the mind. I'm still working on an analogy for Nemesis that is printable by the way.

I get a bit fed up with the moaning about Insurrection especially seeing as it's been out since 1998. For me the concept did seem a bit twee but there are pockets within the movie which keep me watching. From the beginning it marks out distinct differences with First Contact. This time Starfleet are the interlopers; the invaders. They are the ones observing a peaceful people with Data (as we discover), their saviour. The shuttle chase is certainly unique and nicely done and who could forget the Captain's Yacht making it's only appearance to date even if it is fleeting?

The worry is that while the cast of the first six movies got to chew on Shakespeare, Melville and Masefield, Picard's crew are landed with Gilbert and Sullivan here and Irving Berlin in Nemesis. Was anyone really bothered with the franchise by this stage or had they been resigned to the notion of the odd-numbered curse which clearly meant that Nemesis would be good whatever happened?

So, yes, it appears they had. An interesting start accompanied by that nifty shuttle chase and Data recovery set up great possibilities but it never seems that they get delivered on. When the Enterprise arrives for instance the Baku turn out to be nice and peaceful, welcoming those who were behind the duck-blind observation post as guests. However good action sequences can't make up for the fact that the Baku are, well, a shade dull. Even Donna Murphy comes across as a little weary from time to time. The Baku just aren't bothered with anything and their serene lifestyle does start to come across at times as edged with a little arrogance.

In some respects you can't blame the Sona for leaving and finding something more exciting to do with their time. The whole face-stretching thing is a little uncomfortable but it's one more unique element to the movie and covers the identities of the protagonists until the final acts of the story.They are still aiming to remain young in their own way but it's not worked out as well. Ru'afo is as driven a foe as Soran and the Borg Queen before him. The former of those two is the closest comparison as they are both willing to give up everything and sacrifice anyone necessary to achieve their goal. Cleverly though the Sona get Starfleet assistance to keep themselves on the right side of the law.

So we can see from the sequences and characters mentioned here that there are at least a few things that make Insurrection unique among the movies and therefore worthy of at least the occasional rewatch. Maybe it's just worth a third or fourth viewing for a beardless Riker flying the Enterprise with a 1980's Atari joystick?! You can't accuse any Star Trek before or after this movie of ever pulling a stunt that even came within a ten mile radius of that moment. I still feel that it gets massively underrated for being a little quirky, not just repeating more heavy action sequences and giving the cast something different to deal with.  

There is clearly a moral message in here about environmental issues, resettlement and the basic principle of being able to differentiate between good and bad however aside from Frakes perhaps no other cast members should be allowed to touch the franchise in either writing or production areas. Not only does that factor apply here but also to the subsequent Nemesis as we will see. Giving more focus on Picard as the all-action hero isn't the best but after First Contact who could blame him for wanting a bit more off-ship action (see also Nemesis and the Argo).

What I do like about Nemesis is timing. Being only slightly more than an hour and a half in length it's quite tight on the story with very little "baggage". I love the villains here. F Murray Abraham is just awesome as Ru'afo and spits and hisses through most of the scenes he's in. Putting him opposite Stewart is a masterstroke and does save the movie from mediocrity. The youthening techniques that the Sona employ are truly unique if not slightly unsettling when it gets to the point where there can be no further manipulation. The mission to gain the secret of the Baku and resolve their aging really is different  but I doubt it would have carried as much clout had there not been such a heavyweight actor underneath the stretching makeup.

Adding the element of Admiral Dougherty into the story and thereby Starfleet's implicity within the matter and there's a winning villainous package. Dougherty isn't necessarily evil, just following orders and making a right hash of it. He knows the actions to relocate the Baku is wrong but yet he continues because of the "financial" victory it will bring. The needs of the One certainly look like they are outweighing the needs of the many here. Ultimately the admiral pays the price but not before falling further into darkness and agreeing to the destruction of the Enterprise.

Where it does fall apart however is the "Picard as Moses" leading the Baku to safety. It is messiah-like in its nature and in some strange way that's perhaps why I like it. It's a rare occasion where The Next Generation did the unexpected and went for a mellow approach; there's children, there's families here and even a bit of romance for Picard which counterbalances against the dangers faced by a beard-free Riker and the crew of the Enterprise as they attempt to inform Starfleet of Dougherty and the Sona's plans. There's lots of wonderful landscape shots in here as the Baku go....somewhere. To be fair it seems that doing away with Riker's beard may have been a Samson-esque act which meant he didn't get asked back for a third stint which might, in retrospect, have saved Nemesis from becoming the car crash moment in Star Trek history.

Overall I still enjoy watching Insurrection and with today marking 15 years since release it might even get a special dusting down. I can even manage to stomach all the saccharine moments of stopping time and that CGI slug. Odd-numbered it was however it'll still be remembered for being better than what was to come along and assist in burying the franchise in 2002...

Tuesday, 10 December 2013

Remember Nemesis? Or is it Dorn's Day?

Like the proverbial London bus there's nothing and then everything comes along at once. Today marks two super special occasions in the History of Star Trek and we thought what better way than to talk about them both!

Apologies that this is a day late but life in general took a precedent!

First up would you believe it's 11 years since the final motion picture from The Next Generation crew limped into cinemas? The less said about its takings...and plot...and...yeah, ok...everything - the better perhaps. Still a shame to this day that they went out without a bang. I've watched it again recently and it's not as bad as I remember which isn't saying it's good if you know what I mean. We at Some Kind of Star Trek have a little something planned around Nemesis in the New Year but we'll come back to you on that one shortly!

Secondly, 9th December was also Michael Dorn's birthday (1952). While we could wander into remembering 10 Great Worf moments or best lines, I thought it might be better to do something different and a little unique to mark the occasion. After all, Worf is the character with the most screen time out of any series or movie ever and has certainly developed in a lot of ways since Encounter at Farpoint where he was essentially a background part.

Hence we bring you Worf-olution - a voyage through each year of the character on the screen (live action only!) and the subtle changes you might be able to spot - ok and there's one that wasn't actually played by Michael Dorn before we get floods of abuse but hey, enjoy!

...OK and if you're wondering I'll throw in ten top Worf moments just because it's Michael Dorn's (belated) birthday post - and in no particular order and I can assure you there are a lot more!

  • Killing Gowron; Tacking into the Wind (Deep Space Nine)
  • Leaving the Enterprise-D; Redemption (The Next Generation)
  • Arriving on Deep Space Nine and KO's Martok's son; Way of the Warrior (Deep Space Nine)
  • Refusing to provide blood for a Romulan; The Enemy (The Next Generation)
  • Delivering Keiko's baby; Disaster (The Next Generation)
  • Saving his wife takes priority over the mission; Change of Heart (Deep Space Nine)
  • Realising he's married to Troi in an alternative reality; Parallels (The Next Generation)
  • Fighting the Jem'Hadar at their prison camp; By Inferno's Light (Deep Space Nine)
  • Singing Gilbert and Sullivan; Star Trek: Insurrection
  • Coming to Picard's rescue against the Borgified Lieutenant Hawke; Star Trek: First Contact

Now then...what event do we have coming up next...

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Friday, 6 December 2013

The Fall: Revelation and Dust - Previously on Deep Space Nine

Oh my god, is this a breath of fresh air after the Enterprise novel. The Fall kicks off in style - a style I hope it maintains for this five book run.

I've said it before and I'll say it again now; I missed a whole chunk of non-canon fiction in the last few years but have managed to catch up thanks in no small part to Memory Beta and the works of authors such as David R George III and David Mack.

The opening move of this series ensures you won't be left in the dark for very long. I had a whole heap of questions from page one; where's the old Deep Space Nine? Why is Sisko back? Ro is commanding what? Ezri's a CAPTAIN?! Kira's dead?!

Ok, the last one's not strictly true but Revelations and Dust manages to get new readers up to speed as well as giving that refresh to anyone who's not been out this far for a while. Remember that it's been 2012 since we saw any deep space action with the slew of The Next Generation and The Original Series novels in particular which have packed out 2013. 

So onwards we go and while there's not much in the way of Hollywood-style action, David R George appears to have aimed for a much more solid character piece which echoes something of the focus of his last Star Trek effort, Allegiance in Exile which we reviewed back in March. That same style is here and while we're not looking at the world from the eyes of Kirk and Sulu we are seeing events unfold from, mainly, a quartet of characters; Captain Ro, Captain Sisko, Vedek Kira and Captain Ezri Dax. As one of my erstwhile colleagues has also noted the transformation of Ezri from reluctant host to Starfleet super-captain is amazing and still doesn't hold that true in my mind although the author of this book cannot be held to account on that front. Nor am I massively convinced by Ro's Starfleet-court-martial-Starfleet-Maquis-Starfleet career jumping but hey, that's all in the past so let's move on.

Then there's an entire thread that seems unattached to some degree dealing with a land-based story of freedom fighters which is linked with the "missing" Kira. Now that's a line which takes some reading to find out what it's all about. It seems a random segment to keep returning to and did lose me a little however as with everything there is a purpose. Stick with it.

Kira does indeed feature from page one and her story is almost a separate piece to the rest of the book, placing us back into events both seen and unseen that took place during the initial discovery of the wormhole and first contact with the Prophets. Action from Emissary is replayed word for word but David R George III also weaves in some new bits which make perfect sense and could easily have been lost scenes. I'd go as far to say that while it's a nice twist on past events and keeps us grounded with the Prophets even though the wormhole is gone, Nerys actually has the least to do here, being stuck in one place for a fairly long time...and also seemingly not involved in any way - but there is a point and a payoff to it and no doubt will be continued within the quintet of novels

While there is a lot here which is about looking to the future and also about rebuilding, it's definitely acting as a bridge to the rest of the series; it's a beginning, a beginning and a beginning all rolled into one; most certainly as it should be. Revelation and Dust heavily emphasises the loss that occurred in the destruction of the first Deep Space Nine and never really revels in the commissioning of the second. While you can see the grandiose is there, the assembled heads of empires in attendance, each of the main viewpoint characters are in some way facing a difficulty, making this less than a celebratory occasion. Whether it be family, relationships or assignments, there are a lot of demons to be confronted although David R George III seems to keep them concealed within the psyche of each player, no doubt to be unuravelled and revealed as we go through The Fall

In relation to the rest of the series there are one or two line drops in there which are signposting the stories we are due; the first however does take a sizable 200 plus pages to appear and nods to Picard and that starship of his - guess we know where he'll be going in Book Two then! How the rest of the show will intertwine is going to be fascinating as this isn't Cold Equations and a single author - there are five different styles and personalities combined here to cover the events of a window in Star Trek time. I'm guessing there will be numerous cross-references and I'm 99.9% certain these will be essential to hold the reader. David R George III probably gets the hardest job setting out the plan but it's done exceptionally well.

For a fair chunk of Revelation and Dust I didn't know where the heck this was going. I was pointed one way, directed another, introduced to X, spent a bit of time in Y but then I had to pause when the "moment" came because I wasn't quite expecting it nor was I expected it to be at that point in the story. It's all about understanding the relationships and the nature of our characters here and as with his previous effort, David R George III has captured them as we remember them from the TV series. There is a little wisening here and there but we can still see the childishness and exuberance of Bashir especially when he's paired with O'Brien or Ezri's awkwardness when she meets the doctor for the first time in a few years. 

I'm glad in a way that Sisko is back because it wouldn't be Deep Space Nine without him but he seems to be a different man since his time with the Prophets. His Emissarial role is almost insignficant and Ben's place is firmly as a starship captain and nothing more. There is almost a calm about the character that we only saw maybe in the early evolution of the role. I actually found Sisko's parts here among the most enjoyable alongside Ro's preparations for the commissioning. Oddly, while he does share a good portion of the narrative pre-commissioning, his story, for once is not the main focus of the show but a part which forms the whole. I don't doubt it will all be significant but at the moment this is one series which is playing its cards close to its chest.

That goes in particular when discussing the Romulans, the Gorn and the Cardassians to some extent. For thoose of you who have been following the series through Destiny, Typhon Pact and Cold Equations you'll be glad to know that the hissing Gorn imperator is back - must be one of my favourite literary Star Trek creations thus far and means there is a good deal of continuity being retained which adds a factor of "belivability" to proceedings if only to point out that there is a level of acceptance for all that has gone before.

With Odo's return/enforced Alpha Quadrant exile I might even hasten to add the even more mysterious and reclusive Founders into that mix - but that's just me thinking out loud and because the author has managed to drop an awful lot of stones into the pool. There are a lot of splashes and ripples and something tells me that a few of them might, just might, be attempts to take the reader off the main scent so we can be hit with the big guns over the course of the next four tales. 

Yes, it does seem a bit of a fluky excuse to have all the main characters including Kasidy, Nog, Rom and Martok all back in the same place (I waited for Odo to turn up and wasn't disappointed by his returning no-nonsense character) but could we do Deep Space Nine new or old without them? I'd argue not. Sadly though Martok gets almost nothing to say while Rom manages to at least get a typically nervy speech at the dedication ceremony. They could have done with a bit more page time but then I would note that having anything more would have detracted from the story.

There does however seem to be a more personal feel to some points here. As I was reading the section where Dax and Bashir view the memorial to the original station I couldn't help but think about the tragedy of 9/11. The perseverance of those who survived to push on in life; the rebuilding and refusal to be stopped are all here but so is the anguish and mourning that will always be present. Perhaps it's best in that respect that this is a more sombre and retrospective start to the series. It could have easily have fired off a volley of quantum torpedoes and set sail for the sea of high octane action but with this slower, more "talky" start I think David R George III establishes that this is going to be a more "diplomatic" series delivering a few classic twists and turns along the way.

Let's close this off with a bit of personal opinion. As I said back at the start it's a breath of fresh air after the last Enterprise novel but then I've become a fan of this author since Allegiance of Exile. This is definitely slower in pace. Don't expect action all over the shop and use your time here to get to know the characters once again. It's Thinking Man's Star Trek; you do wonder where it's heading for a long time but I would thoroughly recommend sticking with it to the end because you will be rewarded. 

One thing that is made clear here is the significance of the 60 day arc in which this set of stories is placed. I had wondered what the relevance of that was when I saw the press releases. It won't be an over-riding factor in the plots of the upcoming novels but does act as a point to tie them all together subtly. If this is the quality we can expect from The Fall then this could well be one of the strongest Star Trek novel series there has been to date.

Next up we'll have the review of Book Two, The Crimson Shadow....Picard and crew are back for the first time since Cold Equations! We're a little bit excited about that you know....