Monday, 30 January 2017

Key Changes Noted: The Graphic Novel Collection Issue Two

Issue two of the Eaglemoss Star Trek Graphic Novel Collection hit the shelves in the UK last week with the brilliant The City on the Edge of Forever.

But this isn't the TV version we've come to know, love and laud since 1967. No sirree, this is the version that writer Harlan Ellison wrote that was then mashed around to create the final edition we know. It was such a hatchet job from Ellison's original work that he never wrote for Star Trek again.

It can't be that different? You might ask - believe me it is.

Released as a graphic novel a couple of years back by IDW, it is an excellent addition to the collection and certainly one that will draw readers in early on. Heck, I got it because at the bargain price of £6.99 it's exactly that - a bargain. As it goes this is therefore nothing new but I've never actually been one to get into the graphic novel regions of Star Trek fandom so it was totally new to me in every respect. Certainly I've heard of the infamous original version of The City on the Edge of Forever but never did I really consider getting it until now. 

Having the five separate issues combined and bound together in this well-presented hardback edition is a win to begin with and the artwork is superb throughout, even recreating moments from the televised story to help ground the reader in the Star Trek universe. However, as good as the J K Woodward art is, the Ellison story is incredibly different from the finished version. Exploring the dangers of drug addiction on long space missions, Ellison takes us to a literal city on the edge of forever where the Guardians watch over the timestream. McCoy stays put in this version with a one-episode character instead being the one to go back and change time. The bulk of the 1930's acts are very similar in style and you can recognise the TV episode through the material. In fact the graphic novel adds so much more to the story with some little references to Vulcan and the like which do (now) contradict established Star Trek lore plus we get to see Yeoman Rand back for a much more heroic role.

Having the section analysing some of the panels from the story plus the introduction from Ellison himself make this a real deep dive into some important material from the Star Trek archives and you would be silly to miss out (unless you've already got it on the original print run of course). I loved every pane, every page and every line of dialogue here because you can really feel these characters come alive through the script and the meticulous detail in the images. Visually stunning and eloquently written throughout. Hilariously though the back cover synopsis is actually for the TV episode - might be worth someone proof reading this stuff before production?

Not something that can ever be said for the Gold Key archive "comic" which you get as a bonus here. It's the second issue and still it's fairly evident that anyone who worked on this knew Star Trek existed but thought it must be something akin to Flash Gordon and 1940's sci-fi serials. We have ray guns, teleportation chambers and more mumbo-jumbo than ever in what is simply Kirk versus the green-skinned Alien-of-the-Week in something that is purely Star Trek in name. 

OK it's late '60's comic trash in some ways but it continues to tell the story of the franchise' perception a that time and is as entertaining to read as it was in the back half of the issue one volume. The Devil's Isle in Space (Part I) and The Secret of Execution Asteroid (Part II) are classic sci-fi titles if nothing else and work as a funny old contrast to the spit and polished majesty of The City on the Edge of Forever. I actually look forward to seeing what comes next for pure entertainment value at the least. It's going to be hard with this collection to actually say if something is a good or bad choice to have in because each and every story will tell it's own tale about the nature of the franchise at the time that it was produced from the characters used through to the way in which it is narrated and drawn. This is going to be a wonderful journey through a piece of the Star Trek universe that I just don't know enough about.

As we have noted, issue three will be Hive, issue four is set as Spock: Reflections but now we know that five will be IDW's first Star Trek release, TNG: The Space Between and six will be Nero, focusing on the villainous character from the 2009 reboot.

All in all a damn fine run over the next couple of months and I'll certainly be along for the ride!

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Wednesday, 25 January 2017

Unsealing the Vault: 50 Years New

Released in time for Christmas - and unless you've been in stasis for the last year - you'll be aware that the eagerly awaited The Roddenberry Vault has now arrived. Ian Kimmins pops the disc on and takes a look.

The question fans have been asking is - "Why buy this? Surely it's just a cash in as we've already seen all there is to see with The Original Series haven't we?" 

Actually that would be a resounding No!

Mike and Denise Okuda along with Rod Roddenberry and Roger Lay JR gave us something special for the final days 50th anniversary - new footage from The Original Series. Consisting of alternate takes and deleted scenes it gives us a (as Spock would note of course) "fascinating" look back to the making of that three season show. 

We get 12 episodes over the three discs in their remastered form which can be viewed with newly recorded commentaries and even the option to listen to the isolated music tracks. Seeing as they do take up the majority of the disc space there is a piece of you that does wince at the thought of spending £20 on a bunch of stories you probably already have in one format or another but then the Vault isn't so much about them. In this case they are oddly an oversized appendix to the special features which are really the main attraction.. 

Split into three sections (one per disc relating to the episodes it accompanies), the Inside the Roddenberry Vault documentary is the best part of the release hands down. The newly found footage is seamlessly intertwined with interviews from both front of camera plus behind the scenes contributors such as William Shatner, writers Dorothy Fontana and David Gerrold, Mirror, Mirror's Lieutenant Marla Moreau Barbara Luna, Michael Forrest and Gorn actor Bobby Clark. 

There are two more documentaries available on the discs Revisiting a Classic and Strange New Worlds: Visualising the Fantastic and it is the second one which I found the most entertaining whether it was Roddenberry's vehement ruling on sideburns or some of the amazing unused passes that were shot of the Enterprise, it surprises at every turn.  Viewing additional pieces of dialogue in some cases does expand the episodes to some degree while in others you can see precisely why unwieldy lines were axed - especially in the case of the so-called "Fu Manchu" scene.  Even just seeing slight expansions of scenes you already know better than the back of your hand just spin another angle on the legacy and impact of the shows - take the longer shot as crowds gather around Edith Keeler's body in The City on the Edge of Forever and you can weigh up which take leaves the bigger impact.

The third special; Swept Up: Snippets from the Cutting Room Floor; is more simply a super-cut of more scenes that didn't make it into the other documentaries. These aren't the strongest of the moments that have been "rediscovered" but they are from episodes other than the featured 12 around which the triple disc set is built. To be honest, any chance to see previously unreleased 50 year old Star Trek footage doesn't need an excuse and it's just amazing as to what was filmed and then ultimately rejected for one reason or another.

Without a doubt this is something you have to - have to - get for your Star Trek library. It's quite simply a "lost" piece of the 50 year journey, another aspect of the franchise that will enthrall any fan of any age and knowledge depth. The Vault offers something new (yet very old!)  to fans and to the franchise and even with the bulk of the package being taken up with episodes you know full well that there's enough material on here to keep you entertained and that makes it a more than valid purchase at any price.

You can easily tell this was put together with great love and care by Mike and Denise Okuda, Rod Roddenberry and Roger Lay JR and not for one second do I think that the bottom line was the reason this has come to light. The time most certainly was perfect given the anniversary but I can see and have always observed that the work of the Okudas especially has always had the fans at its core - they do it because they are fans themselves and know how they would want to see new material and precisely what they would want to see.

All told the full set of special features probably run to three hours (one hour per disc) but the impact they will have on your vision of Star Trek will be an interesting one. I certainly watched a few episodes again after viewing the documentaries and found myself watching them a little differently given the new material I had been exposed to. Have to say that's not something I thought I would be able to say about a series that I have watched multiple times in the last 37 years and felt I knew inside and out.

Genuinely I was over the moon and ecstatically excited to get hold of The Roddenberry Vault because of its significance to Star Trek. I don't think there will be a fan out there who was disappointed with the result.

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Sunday, 22 January 2017

Our 50 Greatest Moments

Some time ago we revealed our 50 greatest episodes to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the phenomenon that is Star Trek.

But this got us thinking even more and now we can proudly (and belatedly) bring you our choice of the 50 greatest moments from the franchise's on-screen history. Some you'll nod in agreement to and others - well - we look forward to your comments because it was a right pain just to pick 50! So in no particular order let's kick off with an emotional powerhouse...

Picard plays the Ressikan flute; The Inner Light (TNG) 

Is there a dry eye left in the house as Picard plays tribute to his life as Kamin. While it's good to have him back, you feel the captains sense of loss in every single note in that final scene. One of the most perfect episodes of The Next Generation maintains its power and emotion right until the final moments fade to black. Television magic.

Captain Sulu arrives with the Excelsior;  

Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country

Just when it looks like it's the end of the road for the Enterprise, the Excelsior arrives to take off some of the pressure after Sulu's been flying her apart from the Beta Quadrant. A rare double team starship battle against the might of Chang's cloaked Bird of Prey. A fantastic send off for the original crew as the two Starfleet vessels finally lock on and pummel their opponent with torpedoes..."To be...or be...?" 

“Mr Worf; fire.”; The Best of Both Worlds, Part I (TNG) 

Cue the music, cue Locutus, cue spinning camera as the weight of the galaxy falls on the shoulders of Starfleet's most reluctant captain. Jean-Luc has been captured, resistance is apparently futile and they have one last shot to finish the Borg before they continue on their course to Sector 001. There's one decision that has to be made - save humanity or save Picard...? To Be Continued...   

"It's REAL!"; 

Far Beyond the Stars (DS9)

Blimey that Avery Brooks can act. Returning to the office after being brutally beaten by two cops, Benny discovers he's been let go by the owner. The thin veneer cracks and in seconds Russell is a wreck with nothing left. A harsh allegory to the US' segregated past that delivered everything and two kitchen sinks. Brooks was at his peak, truly caught up in the turmoil of the writer.

Humans and Vulcans; The Forge (ENT)

As Soval and Forrest finally realise that they want the same thing it all comes crashing down with the terrorist attack on the Earth embassy on Vulcan. A touching moment where we see that these two, who have been gunning for each other since Broken Bow have a deep respect and admiration for one another and there's a glimmer that their work together will be very profitable for the future. Sadly it never comes to pass. 

Beaming into the Mirror Universe; Mirror, Mirror (TOS)

Daaaaah da da da da da-daaaah and so comes the creation of the symbol of every alternative or evil character version for he next 50 years as Kirk, Scotty, McCoy and Uhura step from the transporter platform to be confronted with the goatee adorned first officer of the ISS Enterprise. Nazi salutes, agonisers, the Tantulus Field and scarred Sulu all followed in the next hour but the first second on the flip side of the mirror are never forgotten. It's Spock alright but not as we know him.   

Kirk sees the refit Enterprise; 

Star Trek: The Motion Picture

A love letter to the USS Enterprise and every starship fan's wet dream as Kirk tours the exterior of the completely overhauled vessel. It's the first time we got to see all the upgrades to the ship and to appreciate just how amazing a job had been done to transform the original version into something worthy of the cinema screen. Beautiful, visionary and a landmark moment for the franchise. Star Trek was back.

"The sky’s the limit."; All Good Things... (TNG) 

After seven years of reading Shakespeare in his ready room, Picard made it down to join the senior staff for their weekly poker game. If nothing else it was the chance to get the main cast together for one last shot as the series drew to a close and prepared for the transition to the big screen with Generations. Picard deals, the camera pulls back and the USS Enterprise flies onwards to new adventures... We all blubbed.

Dukat finds Sisko’s baseball; 

Call to Arms (DS9) 

It's a message... And it sure as hell is. Dukat cradles that baseball like his life depends on it for the following six episodes as he fears the return of his Starfleet nemesis. Ben commands the Defiant to join the fleet and we have the following season all nicely set up with the station in the hands of the enemy. A brilliant scene and a clever message that is superbly mirrored in the following year when Sisko takes it with him back to Earth - will he return? Not even he is certain. 

The Kiss; Rejoined (DS9) 

A touchy subject that is only now getting the true recognition it deserves in Star Trek Beyond and definitely in Discovery. Single sex relationships were danced around but is moment was as close as Star Trek dared to tread to actually having a gay relationship. Technically it wasn't and that fact made it a bit of a cop out however the kiss was between two female actresses which was a first for the franchise in any sense. 

Borg Defeated; Scorpion (VGR)

The shortest pre-titles teaser in Star Trek history sees the destruction of three Borg cubes in a matter of seconds. What the hell can do this? What has such immense power that it can defeat the Borg so easily? Species 8472; that's who.   

"Edith Keeler must die."; 

The City on the Edge of Forever (TOS)

A line that has echoed through 50 years and has as much resonance now as it did then. The City on the Edge of Forever is a truly tragic love story that will always be a true classic of the franchise. While I could have picked Keeler's death, it's this moment in which Kirk realises the darkness of the situation. The woman he loves must die to ensure the future happens as he remembers it.   Kick a man when he's down...

Four Lights; 

Chain of Command, Part II (TNG) 

Uncomfortable, distressing and one of The Next Generation's darkest points is the one on one battle of wills between David Warner's Gul Madred and Stewart as the tortured Picard. The final attempt to make Picard break is harrowing to the core, even more so when you later discover just how close he was to actually cracking completely 

Worf kills Gowron; 

Tacking into the Wind (DS9)

We waited from 1991 to 1999 for this. One of the best combat sequences filmed for the show sees the Chancellor of the Klingon High Council get his comeuppance after eight years. While it's not all been bad, we have been waiting for Worf to do the deal for some time (at least since Apocalypse Rising) and here he gets the job done with two broken blades from a bat'leth. Brutal but befitting Gowron to go out in style. 

Intro shot; The Cage

The camera pans down into the bridge of the USS Enterprise and we see the familiar set up of command staff and stations that will be as recognisable as the back of your hand 50 years later. While the pilot wasn't shown originally it's still seminal in every way and that opening must have been incredible in 1964.   

Sisko erases his personal log; In the Pale Moonlight (DS9)

"Computer; erase that entire personal log." Screen fades to black, credits roll and you get that chill down your spine that you've just watched something very, very different. Sisko broke the mould of what a Starfleet captain was expected to be in this episode which defined the character in every sense. His conscience gets the better of him as he removes all the evidence...

Command Codes; 

Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan

One of two entries in our list for the second classic movie and understandably so. Seemingly cornered, Kirk goes back to his academy roots and cheats to buy the Enterprise a bit more time. The dialogue here is wonderful as Kirk counter-plays Khan using his own superior knowledge of the 23rd Century to take a seemingly hopeless situation and turn it around in an instant. Who doesn't remember 16309?

Kirk on the limit; Obsession (TOS)

Not one to appear on everyone's list but dammit it's on this one. A terribly underrated episode that has Kirk right on tipping point. His ultimate refusal to give up and declination to turn away has echoes of Moby Dick and for a rare moment you do find yourself logging on to the rest of the senior staff's wavelength when he decides to beam down and exterminate the creature. 

O'Brien and Bashir lineup for Kirk; Trials and Tribble-ations (DS9)

Filled with fan-pleasing goodness from the opening seconds, the inclusion of Bashir and O'Brien in the post-fight chew-out by Kirk is brilliant. Having Miles respond to the captain as well was inspired and their addition is flawless. To be fair I could have picked a ton of snippets from this episode but this just pipped it.

The "elastic band" is snapped; 

The Visitor (DS9) 

An emotional train wreck of an episode that sees Jake desperately searching for a way to bring his father back from subspace at the cost of his own hopes and dreams. The moments when the two are briefly reunited are the kicks to the story and the final time when we see that Jake is purposely killing himself to snap the cord and send Ben home is heartbreaking to say the least. Tony Todd is a master in the scene and this was his finest Star Trek guest role ever.   

The Borg are sighted; Q Who (TNG)

Guinan's warning isn't heeded by Picard as the Enterprise encounters its first Cube in system J-25. We're all screaming at the TV to get the hell away but Jean-Luc has to go and start prodding the hive with a stick. Subsequent appearances would have incredible impact on the franchise but their initial, silent and chilling appearance on the viewscreen here only just hinted at what might come.

Kirk's birth; Star Trek (2009)

Opening the reboot movie in 2009, the very feel of the USS Kelvin shows how different this was going to be. It was a grittier ship, much more basic and to a big extent much more grounded in technology familiar to us in the 21st Century. The background chatter is a lot more realistic. A truly dramatic opening sequence as the Kelvin is obliterated by the Narada just as Jim Kirk is born and his father makes the ultimate sacrifice. At the same time JJ raised his mid-digit to the fans and spun off into his own alternate universe...

"My God Bones, what have I done";

Star Trek III: The Search for Spock

In real terms they were watching a tennis ball on a string but on the screen the death plunge of the first USS Enterprise is nothing short of spectacular. The crumbing saucer, the bridge exploding around the Klingon boarding party and finally the crew watching their former home race like a fiery comet across the sky marked the end of an era. Everything had been sacrificed for one Vulcan and this was a daring moment for the franchise to destroy one of the most sacred things associated with it.

Greeting the Vulcans; In a Mirror Darkly (ENT)

The alien ship lands and Cochrane steps forward as its occupants step out. They offer a simple greeting - and in return get shot. Totally unexpected and brilliantly executed (apologies for the pun) leading into this much darker two-parter set purely in the Mirror Universe and that included the titles. A return to form for the Mirror episodes too after the lacklustre final two outings from Deep Space Nine with every member of the cast being effectively used and Sato turning out to be a bit of a dark horse.

Spock returns; Unification (TNG) 

"And Captain Picard you have found him..."
The second part a disappointment after this insane buildup. We waited an hour for a glimpse of the man himself and in seconds there was the ultimate payoff. Spock was back. Shame the second half didn't pay off with quite the umph we wanted.

"Do not grieve..."; 

Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan

Even 33 years later this scene has an effect. It is seminal. It is THE scene that defines Star Trek in every sense. The battle is won but for Kirk the no-win scenario becomes real as he loses his closest friend to save the Enterprise. Nothing has come close to the brilliance of this moment in the whole franchise because Shatner and Nimoy are simply all over it. Oft-quoted, oft-homaged, never bettered. 

Enterprise is critically damaged; Azati Prime (ENT)

One of the show's best ever episodes and well worth a re-watch. Just as everything seems to be coming together it all goes horribly pear-shaped. Archer is captured by the Reptilians and then the Xindi head after the NX-01 to put an end to the Earth ship. A dark day for the Enterprise and a situation that saw the ship battle-scarred for the rest of the year.

The Picard Speech; 

The Measure of a Man (TNG) 

One of the great monologues of Star Trek and no listing would be complete without it. Patrick Stewart nails every word from start to finish with total, unwavering commitment. He believes every word and by association so do we. He made us care and by god we did on every single syllable.

The Triple-Cross; Counterpoint (VGR) 

Janeway and her opponent have been dancing around each other for the duration of Counterpoint even to the point where we believe the Devore inspector Kashyk (not to be confused with Chewbacca's homeworld) has defected when in fact he's just working a scam to uncover where the Voyager crew are hiding the telepathic Brenari. The moment you realise that he might have won - only to see that Janeway has already taken precautions is a rocky emotional ride from low to high. Brilliant writing and a fine end to a superb episode.

Voyager makes contact; 

Message in a Bottle (VGR)  

After six years of wandering the wilderness there's a glimmer of hope when the Doctor returns from his adventure aboard the USS Prometheus in the Alpha Quadrant. While this episode kicked off the brilliant Hirogen arc culminating with The Killing Game, it offered hope to the crew with the words that they were not alone. The journey home was certainly a little shorter...

Klingon Bird of Prey decloaking; 

Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home

The whaling ship fires its harpoon and with a clang it stops and drops into the sea. The decloaking of the HMS Bounty is one of those great moments that you always look forward to seeing and is one of those images you just never quite expect to see.

Entrance of the Borg Queen; 

Star Trek First Contact

For the duration of their appearances in The Next Generation, the Borg had been a malevolent horde driven initially to acquire technology and become the dominant species in the galaxy. In First Contact there was a dramatic shift as we experience assimilation and the goal to turn just about everyone Borg. However there needed to be a voice to speak for the Borg and with the Queen we were given a focal point and a way to solidify the "hive" concept. Her arrival in the second The Next Generation movie emphasises her importance no end as well as introducing her as a deadly and seductive force to deal with.

Jean-Luc and Robert fight; Family (TNG)

The previous two episodes had put the crew and the audience through hell and back but in a bold move the writers didn't hit the reset button for the second story of the season and instead chose to handle the aftermath. The Picard brothers are at loggerheads for the best part of the episode with a scrappy fight culminating in Jean-Luc opening up about the terrifying experiences he had at the hands of the Borg and his inability to stop the killing. If you thought Stewart had given everything for The Best of Both Worlds, watch this.

‘Time's up!’; Year of Hell (VGR)

Janeway goes Full Janeway and solves the issue of the Krenim time incursions in one brutal manoeuvre. Everything gets reset and Annorax even gets a better shot at his life away from eternity confined to his ship. Watching the remains of Voyager crumble into dust is a beautiful effect just a shame that the whole year is wiped away in an instant. One of the show's best two-parter's where anything was possible.

Voyager down; Timeless (VGR)

As 100th episodes go this is a belter at every beat but the thing that gets us all is seeing Voyager helplessly careering into the ice planet with it's trip home cut dramatically short. It was a toss up between this brilliant sequence - which made the saucer sequence in Generations look like a basic fan film - and the pan back to show the Intrepid Class starship entombed in the frozen waste. Classic.

Dukat reacts to Ziyal's death; Sacrifice of Angels (DS9)

Clutching Sisko's baseball, Dukat's world falls apart as his daughter is killed by Damar in the rush to escape Deep Space Nine before the Federation/Klingon fleet retakes the station. He's lost everything and the only person that really meant anything to him. A top class performance from Alaimo as his dreams come to an end. 

Captain Picard Day; The Pegasus (TNG)

"The resemblance is rather striking; wouldn't you agree Number One?!"
A stroke of genius that points you in completely the wrong direction to the dark path that the episode eventually takes. Not a story without some fine moments in itself, this opening skit shows how that Picard/Riker relationship has evolved since Encounter at Farpoint as well as the captain's "appreciation" of a boat-load of children.

‘Sir, I protest, I am NOT a merry man.’; 

Qpid (TNG)

If ever there was quotable Star Trek... Worf's displeasure at his Sherwood Forest attire tops his Justice "Nice planet" observation from season one. Ever one for the briefest of quips, it was the security chief at his most uncomfortable and, by proxy, funniest.

"We’re back!"; The Neutral Zone (TNG)

Aaaaah yes. This was a curveball if ever. The first season had been uneven as the show found its feet but the appearance of the Warbird and the announcement that the Romulans were returning from their own self-imposed seclusion was a massive event to finish the year. Shame they weren't utilised more effectively until season three with episodes such as The Defector and The Enemy.  

Tasha Yar reappears; Yesterday's Enterprise (TNG)

The Enterprise-C appears, Picard steps aside and we all expect Worf to reply to his question - but it's not! Still the best way that the show ever brought Tasha back only to have her (apparently) sacrifice herself for the good of the timeline. A nightmare to write it was the episode that had everyone talking - at least for a few weeks until The Best of Both Worlds dropped.

Marittza was just the filing clerk; 

Duet (DS9)

A brilliant tour de force from Harris Yulin and Nana Visitor is topped off with a sublime final scene in which Marittza reveals that his cover story that wasn't a cover story that was a cover story was in fact a cover story because he felt so horrified by the events at the concentration camp. His breakdown is frighteningly realistic and you feel every word.

Uncovering the Borg corpse; Blood Fever (VGR)

Throughout the episode (watch it back) there are little hints and one liners that suggest exactly what has happened to this world. The final pan in shot reveals, hidden in the undergrowth, that the Delta Quadrant was about to unleash its most deadly residents on the crew of Voyager. We'd waited three years for their arrival. The Borg were back.

The Tribbles bury Kirk; 

The Trouble with Tribbles (TOS)

Buried under a heap of Tribbles we see Shatner offer up some of his best comedic acting of not just Star Trek but his entire career. The episode is an undisputed classic of the original run but the very image of Kirk being bombarded by those fuzzy balls of love has remained strong for 50 years. Of course we all know they aren't just falling out of that hatch, Ben Sisko's chucking them around...

"You have no idea what's begun here."; The Jem'Hadar (DS9)

With the introduction of the Jem'Hadar, the destruction of the USS Odyssey and a safe return to Deep Space Nine it seems that we can take a breather but it's down to Quark to reveal the final twist. With one final line, the Vorta Eris disappears and the future of the show changed forever. Cue a massive rehash of the show, a new ship and some of the best stories Star Trek ever made. At the time we honestly didn't know what had begun there.

Sim's Decision; Similitude (ENT)    

Kick a man while he's down huh? Similitude is a rare moment in later Star Trek TV lore when the story really does have the heavy moralistic tale in there and isn't afraid to meet it head on. There's no alien intervention, no clever deus ex machina here to save the clone who has become a part of the Enterprise family in such a short time. His life for the life of another - is it right? Possibly not but the result is really the only way we know the episode can go. 

Kirk’s "Risk is our business..." speech; Return to Tomorrow; (TOS)    

A speech thatis simply legendary in its brilliance both from script and from its delivery. Truly one of the most exceptional points in the series, we see Kirk allowing his crew to make the choice and being prepared to respect their decision should it go against his wishes. The speech reminds both the crew and the audience precisely what Star Trek is about and what Roddenberry envisaged. It's not safe out there but the mission to boldly go and explore new civilisations is at the core of the Enterprise's reason to be. It's why they're out there after all... 

Spock overjoyed; Amok Time (TOS)

An episode that forged the very nature of the Vulcan people for the next 49 years and beyond. I could have picked a ton of stuff from Amok Time but the elation on Spock's face as he realises Kirk is still alive is priceless. As is said on many occasions Spock was not without emotion more that he kept it in check and this release - mere seconds - says so much about his personal relationship with the captain as it does with his own internal turmoils. Nimoy nails it on believability and it never makes you look at Spock any differently because it so perfectly fits the character.  

Data's head; Time's Arrow (TNG)

Not an episode that makes it into a lot of personal favourites but the image of Data's head lying on the floor of a cave underneath San Francisco is just mind-blowing and leads you into a solid 45 minutes of questioning exactly how it ended up there. Having seen the very head itself cemented this as one of my favourite moments in the show's history purely because it is simply so memorable and visually brilliant. The second part is nothing in comparison but it does mean the android's head is 500 years older than his body. Weird.  

"Fascinating"; The Corbomite Manoeuver (TOS)

Admittedly I stole this one after having my memory jogged by The Roddenberry Vault over Christmas. The first time Spock says this single word is character defining and sets him even more apart from the emotional human crew around him. He does very little in the scene, there's no physical reaction, just that one word and with it a generational icon is created.     

The Spock box; Star Trek Beyond 

Let's finish by bringing us bang up to date. Wow. For a film that was better than its predecessor but still fairly average, this moment was a real lump in the throat. Spock receives his older self's possessions and within them is a box that contains a picture of the classic crew lineup in their movie era uniforms (from Star Trek V). Cue classic score and it's THE moment of the film.

That's our 50 moments of choice - is there one you would add or one you might remove...? 

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Saturday, 21 January 2017

Who Blinked First? Axanar is Settled

The Battle of Axanar is over - at least in the courtroom it seems.

In the last 24 hours Paramount/CBS and the Axanar production have agreed terms which mean that the law suit will not have to go to court and things can finally move on after just over 12 months of legal wranglings.

But what exactly does all this mean now? The fan film landscape has been left a virtual Mad Max-esque apocalyptic wasteland following the events that kicked off on December 31st 2015 leaving many with difficult choices to make if they wished to survive in some form or another. Sure there were - and still are - many who curse the name Alec Peters for screwing their projects but from the other perspective wasn't this perhaps something that was likely to happen in some form at some point; just a matter of time? How long would CBS have put up with feature length fan films being around when they have a brand new official Star Trek series just around the corner on their own pay-to-view subscription service...just saying...!

But hey, before we get bogged down in theoretical nonsense over what could have been let's be very clear; fan films in the Star Trek universe will never be as they were in 2015 because of Axanar.

While it now appears that Peters and co won't be getting their asses sued off by Paramount/CBS (although there are some legal matters that need to be resolved within the next sixty days), the path now seems clear for them to produce...something.

Flashback and you'll recall that Axanar was supposed to be the fan film/independent Star Trek production to end all fan film/independent Star Trek productions and got itself caught up in its own hype and success. The movie-length film will now no longer happen and in comms direct from Axanar themselves it seems that the proposed galactic adventure will now be reduced from the 90-minute odd feature to just two 15 minute segments that will be distributed for free on YouTube. That says to me donors won't be receiving any DVDs any time soon as one of their promised perks.

The biggest point to note and one that will unquestionably affect the production's future is that Axanar cannot fundraise pointblank. However it can accept donations but I have a feeling this is going to be an bone of contention with fans who will be expecting to see just how their money was spent up on the screen over 12 months since it was donated in one of the biggest Kickstarter fundraisers ever. For some time that's a question fans have been vehemently asking especially in light of documentation that indicates it was used in perhaps different ways than might have been expected. 

Prelude to Axanar cannot be used at official Star Trek conventions but can be used at festivals and the like but non-commercially. Paramount/CBS are very clearly ensuring Axanar is not making a penny from their intellectual property. Nor can anyone working on it be paid in any form and that includes the four actors it seems they are allowed to have on the production - Richard Hatch, Gary Graham, Kate Vernon and J G Hertzler; three of whom are classed as Star Trek veterans.

While the tone of the communications from Axanar seem very upbeat it does come across that they have had to bow to the wishes of Paramount/CBS and conform to the fan film guidelines which were issued in June of 2016. In fact I can see the only win in the list of points they address as being able to use the services of the four actors who appeared in Prelude alongside Peters and the non-returning Tony Todd. I suppose there is an element of victory here in that Garth of Izar: The Movie will come to pass in some form, if somewhat neutered, sooner than we might have thought following the news that it was going to court. 

How that will now look will of course be dramatically different and there will clearly be questions around cost since it looks like it has to be done gratis or at the most using the funds that remain from the Kickstarters et al. I actually feel that finances might be at the core of all this and I'm just speculating here but might it be that there just isn't enough coinage in the coffers to have fought a case that looked to have been already won, closed and nailed shut by the Paramount/CBS juggernaut? Did it finally make sense just to hammer out a deal which meant that Peters and Axanar could get their film made in some form and give something - however minimal and below original expectation - just to keep the fans who backed it happy?

Axanar is now a word that does send a shiver down many a Star Trek fan's spine and will forever be associated with changing the face of the franchise's fan film look. The case does look to be severely in the networks' favour although there does not nor do I believe will there ever be a declaration of a "winner" in this instance. Paramount/CBS have stood firm and protected their property to the hilt and Axanar has been made the example, the warning to others. At least now the battle can take place on the screen rather than behind the closed doors of a courtroom. 

Honestly I do wish the Axanar production well and that we do get to see them finish the project so many fans have so desperately wanted to see happen. I have no personal ill-will towards the team and believe that their hearts were in the right place when this idea was sparked. The tragedy is just what happened following that which may well have robbed us of some very fine fan productions that were in development. 

Long term we'll get cheaper, more fan film than independent film quality productions with severely limited run times and no big franchise names in association. It also means we as fans can get back to the important stuff of arguing over whether The Final Frontier is canon or not(!)

What we can say is that Axanar is back. Thing is, in what state and is this really the end of the matter?

Pleased it's (almost) all over? Will you be waiting to see the finished result or has it gone on for so long you just aren't bothered anymore?

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