31 December 2011

Wishing You All The Best for 2012!

New Years Eve, 2011

Hi All,

Just a quick message to say that I haven't forgotten how to blog or about this blog at all. I've had quite a busy month from the wedding earlier, to the honeymoon and since then we've also had Christmas and everything that involves.

With less than 6 hours remaining for 2011 I wanted to thank my followers - hopefully there's a band of readers out there who aren't subscribed to this blog's writings! I wish you all the best for a prosperous 2012 whenever that comes around for you in your timezone :)

In the new year I hope to continue this run of blogging, 2011 saw me make the most amount of posts of any year I've had this blog - thanks mostly to the reviews of Star Trek episodes. I hope to keep that going as well as write up some of my experiences these past few months with the wedding planning and notes about the honeymoon and other interesting things that have been going on as well as my (traditional) year's summary for 2011.

Looking forward to 2012!

All the best,

Dan

26 November 2011

Trek Review: Plato's Stepchildren & Wink of an Eye

Plato's Stepchildren

Uhura and Kirk's KissThe Enterprise is called to Platonius for a medical emergency where their leader, Parmen is close to death.

Parmen and his people model their way of life and society on the teachings of Plato. They also possess psychokinetic powers. McCoy is able to treat Parmen and is then asked to stay among the Platonian's.

McCoy refuses the offer but Parmen insists he will not be refused. Taking mind control of Kirk and Spock, Parmen attempts to intimidate and humiliate them to change McCoy's mind.

McCoy volunteers to stay in order to save his friends, to which Kirk refuses. An analysis of the Platonian's reveals that the food they consume gives them their powers. McCoy synthesises some for the landing party in order to repel the Platonians.

Uhura and Chapel are beamed down (against their will) and forced to participate in the evening's festivities where again, Parmen and his people take control of the crew in their very own lifesized puppet show. Parmen forces Kirk and Uhura to kiss and the same for Spock and Chapel.

The telekinetic abilities build inside Kirk and he is able to showdown against Parmen. Eventually winning with greater power and forcing Parmen to reform.

This episode is probably most popular for the fact it features the first interracial kiss screened on US television. It's a bit of a shame it happened in what was another 'weak' episode for the third season. While the actions of the Platonians might seem justified to themselves, it makes you wonder why they never had a physician among them and only needed one now, after 2000 years? The dancing and humiliation of Kirk and Spock was a painful enough scene, only to be repeated when Uhura and Chapel are brought down to the surface. While it was all to firstly persuade McCoy and then to entertain the Platonians, it made for an unpleasant episode.

Overall Rating: 5/10

Wink of an Eye

Deela dodges a phaser beamThe Enterprise responds to a distress call from planet Scalos. Upon beaming down, the landing party finds no evidence of any life on the planet, except an insect buzzing sound. While taking a water sample, one of the landing party vanishes before McCoy's eyes.

Returning to the Enterprise to investigate further, strange things begin to happen, including the medical cabinets in sickbay being rearranged and a strange device appearing in environmental control. It cannot be disconnected or destroyed.

The ship's computer determines that an unknown force is trying to take control of the Enterprise and the crew should negotiate for terms. Kirk takes a sip from his coffee and the world around him slows down - but he has actually been accelerated.

He meets Deela, the Scalosian Queen who has hyper-accelerated Kirk into their timeframe. Kirk attempts to shoot her with a phaser but Deela is able to step aside the firing beam. At environmental control, Kirk meets Compton who was also hyper-accelerated. Compton dies from a minor scuffle shortly after and Kirk logs a report in a medical lab once he realises what is going on.

The Scalosian's are victims of radiation poisoning which hyper-accelerated their culture and made them sterile. In order to procreate, they must abduct other aliens passing by. Meanwhile, Spock realises what the buzzing sounds are and McCoy discovers the report tape that Kirk recorded in the medical bay.

Spock, McCoy and Chapel synthesise a counteracting agent and Spock then drinks the Scalosian water sample to find and assist Kirk. Destroying the device in environmental control, Kirk and Spock transport Deela and the Scalosians back to the planet's surface. The counteracting agent works when Kirk takes it and Spock remains hyper-accelerated to repair the ship before returning to our timeframe.

I thought the idea behind this episode was an interesting one, for the simple concept of a hyper-accelerated race. The only thing I'm not sure on is how Kirk and Spock were finally able to destroy the refrigeration machine when it was protecting itself in earlier scenes of the episode.

In any case it was nice to have an episode show us something different this time around.

Overall Rating: 7/10

19 November 2011

Trek Review: For the World is Hollow and I Have Touched the Sky & The Tholian Web

For the World is Hollow and I Have Touched the Sky

Fabribi Old ManThe Enterprise comes across a giant generational ship disguising itself as an asteroid on a collision course with Daran V, a planet with a population of 3.724 million.

In the meantime, McCoy finds that he has a rare and terminal illness giving him less than a year to live. Kirk informs Starfleet immediately and asks for a replacement although McCoy insists he can still perform his duties properly.

Kirk, Spock and McCoy investigate the asteroid and are set upon by a 'welcoming party' who attack them. Brought below the surface, the landing party meet priestess Natira who introduces them to their world, Yonada and the Oracle who immobilises the team with an energy beam.

Natira appears to take a liking to McCoy, which Kirk suggests he use to learn more about the civilisation living on Yonada. Natira seeks permission from the Oracle to take McCoy as her husband, which is approved if McCoy were to submit to becoming Fabrini and having the Instrument of Obedience (a pain device) installed.

Eventually, McCoy learns of a book that reveals information about the Yonada. Spock is able to use this information to reprogram the Oracle and correct Yonada's course while discovering a vast medical database that includes a cure for McCoy's illness. Natira has her Instrument of Obedience removed and stays aboard Yonada to lead her people while McCoy returns to the Enterprise.

One of the better episodes of Season Three so far with the story of a generational ship on its way to a new world for its inhabitants. Also a nice episode for McCoy to see a bit more attention and romance for a change.

Overall Rating: 6/10

The Tholian Web

Enterprise trapped in a Tholian webThe Enterprise attempts to rescue the starship Defiant when it is set upon by a Tholian ship and Captain Kirk appears lost forever.

The starship Defiant is discovered in a state of interphase, where it appears but sensors cannot detect it. A landing party from Enterprise head over to find the crew all dead, the result of an apparent mutiny. The crew appear to have suffered insanity before killing each other. The Defiant soon begins to dissolve and the landing party prepare to beam back to Enterprise. All except Kirk make it back.

Spock deduces the Defiant and Kirk have slipped into a parallel universe and interphase occurs when the two universes touch. He calculates when the next interphase should occur but the arrival of a Tholian ship changes everything. The Tholian's ask the Enterprise to withdraw from Tholian territory, but agree to allow them to stay until the Defiant reappears based on Spock's instructions.

At the calculated point, the Defiant does not appear and the Tholian's attack the Enterprise. In sickbay, an officer lashes out and is subdued by hypospray, McCoy determines that the area of space they are in affects the human nervous system. Spock orders for the Tholian ship to be disabled, which in turn sends the Enterprise adrift. Another Tholian ship arrives, connects with the original ship and they begin constructing an energy web around the Enterprise. Spock realises if the web is completed, there will be no escape.

While Spock assumes command, images of Kirk floating through the ship begin appearing to crew members. Realising Kirk is still trapped in interphase, Spock and Scotty calculate the next time he will appear and attempt a rescue, meanwhile McCoy finds a way to counteract the affects of the space around them on the crew. At the next interphase, Kirk is beamed aboard and while repelling a Tholian tractor beam, the Enterprise is propelled out of the Tholian web.

On its own, this is a decent episode - it is made all the more interesting with the follow-up/prequel Enterprise episodes 'In a Mirror, Darkly' which tell us where the Defiant ended up after the events of this episode. It's hard to determine the purpose of the Tholian web except to slowly trap a starship - the Tholian's must have more effective weapons than this. Again, the before mentioned episodes from Enterprise show the Tholian web in action.

The Defiant is the third Constitution class starship the Enterprise encounters with her entire crew dead. The other two include the Constellation and the Exeter and we shouldn't forget the Intrepid which wasn't shown on screen. The fact that McCoy is able to find a way to counteract the effects makes you wonder what the Chief Medical Officer aboard the Defiant was doing - all too often it's only the Enterprise and her crew that can overcome these things - I guess that's why we have a show about their adventures!

My only complaint is that the Enterprise's escape from the web isn't explained too well and just seems to happen. In remastered form, this episode looks great with the new effects for the Defiant and Tholian ships.

Overall Rating: 6.5/10

08 November 2011

Trek Review: Specture of the Gun & Day of the Dove

Spectre of the Gun

Landing Party in TombstoneThe Enterprise is on a mission to establish contact with the Melkotians. The crew come upon a warning buoy telling them to withdraw from Melkotian space. Kirk continues on course and beams down with a landing party on Melkot. There, confronted by a Melkotian they are to be punished for not listening to the warning buoy.

Taking an event from Kirk's mind and recreating it, the landing party find themselves in the old west. Each crew member becomes on of the Clanton's, one of two factions fighting for control of the town of Tombstone. Their enemies are the Earp's and no amount of convincing them the crew are really Kirk, Spock, McCoy etc appear to work.

Things don't go so well for the landing party as Chekov is shot and all of the plans devised by Spock & McCoy don't work - even when they should. Spock realises that nothing they are experiencing is real and it must be in their minds. Facing the Earp's at the O.K. Corral for a shootout, Spock uses a mind-meld on each crew member to convince them the bullets are not real. With this mental discipline in place, they are able to survive the Earp's attack.

With their ammunition gone, Kirk attacks the lead Earp but does not kill him. The crew are returned to the Enterprise, including Chekov who is unharmed. The Melkotian buoy destroys itself and a message from the Melkotians is received, complimenting Kirk for not killing Earp when he had the chance and extending an invitation for the Federation to establish relations.

A fun episode to return to the Wild West, even with partially finished scenery which gets around the budgetary constraints placed on the third season. Chekov gets the girl again in this episode, but dies for it! There are some humourous moments, including some odd acting by the Earp's, maybe that's how it was done in those days - it just seems a little corny by today's standards.

You would have to wonder if after all that effort, are the Melkotians really a race to be associated with the Federation?

Overall Rating: 5/10

Day of the Dove

Entity on Beta XII-AResponding to a distress call the Enterprise investigates Beta XII-A. On the surface the landing party find no colony or debris from any that might have existed until the Enterprise is approached by a Klingon Battlecruiser that mysteriously explodes in orbit.

A Klingon landing party beam down to Kirk's location and their leader, Kang takes claim to the Enterprise for destroying his ship and over 400 crew. Kirk gains the upper hand with a delayed transport that allows him to have a security team on hand when they beam up. Unknowingly, they also bring a strange entity aboard ship that feeds on the anger of people.

Detained, the Klingon's plan to take over the ship, but Kang's wife and science officer, Mara believes that 40 vs 430 will end badly for the Klingons. Suddenly, nearly 400 of the Enterprise crew become trapped, all electronic weapons are turned into swords and other ancient weaponry and the Klingon's are able to make their move.

Spock is eventually able to track the entity aboard the ship, but not before Kang takes control of engineering and the Enterprise is sent hurtling out of the galaxy at high warp. While a battle to the death seems inevitable, Kirk attempts to convince Mara, captured by an influenced Chekov that the entity exists and that both crews need to work together to remove it from the ship.

Using the Original Series' only example of intra-ship beaming, Kirk and Mara beam directly to Engineering to convince Kang. A fight breaks out, but eventually good spirits and happy thoughts banish the entity out of the ship, just before the dilithium crystals were to be depleted.

Good conquers over evil is the obvious message in this episode. It's a good Klingon episode with Kang returning in a later Star Trek series. Some events aren't explained, such as why did the Klingon ship explode on its own (unless it was caused by the entity, but the entity was on the planet) and was there really a colony on Beta XII-A? If so, surely Kirk and crew would know about it? The opening scene is echoed in TNG's Season 3 episode 'The Best of Both Worlds' in some ways.

I'm happy to give a reasonable episode rating for a change,

Overall Rating: 7/10

30 October 2011

Trek Review: The Paradise Syndrome, And The Children Shall Lead & Is There In Truth No Beauty?

The Paradise Syndrome

Obelisk on AmerindKirk, Spock and McCoy find a strange obelisk on planet Amerind. Kirk ends up inside and loses his memory after a fall and interaction with a device within. Emerging from the obelisk he is worshipped by the local inhabitants as a god prophesied to save the people from an upcoming disaster.

This is another episode where we find a duplicated development of Earth on another planet. The local inhabitants represent American Indians, a society Kirk is introduced to when he is found by two women who bring him back to their tribe.

Spock and McCoy fail to find Kirk after he goes missing (inside the obelisk) and must return to the Enterprise to avert an asteroid from colliding with the planet. Spock pushes the engines to reach the asteroid in time which reduces the power they have available when it comes to deflecting it. They must now spend the next 59 days in close proximity to the asteroid and restore power to destroy or deflect it from impacting the planet.

During this time Kirk becomes the 'medicine man' of the tribe and marries the priestess, Miramanee. They live together and Miramanee bears Kirk (Kirok)'s child. The tribe believe Kirok will be able to activate the obelisk and save them from a coming darkness (the asteroid).

A jealous Salish, the original medicine man catches Kirok out when he can't activate the obelisk. The tribe begin stoning him and Miramanee as Spock & McCoy beam to the surface, scaring them away. Spock performs a mind-meld to restore Kirk's memory and gain entry to the obelisk using the unique sound of a communicator, they activate it, ultimately deflecting the asteroid.

Not a bad episode and it spans a long amount of time (nearly two months) allowing Kirok's life in the tribe to develop with his wife Miramanee. I'm not sure if it was intentional but Spock seemed to make a number of calculated risks that don't necessarily pay off in this episode.

The remastered version benefits from updated graphics and effects as expected including a rare shot of the Enterprise firing it's deflector dish at the asteroid.

Overall Rating: 6/10

And The Children Shall Lead

Kids take over the EnterpriseThe Enterprise arrives at outpost Triacus to find the colony of scientists have committed mass suicide. Their children however remain unaffected by what's happened. During transport aboard the Enterprise they summon a dark spirit who tells them to take over the ship and kill anyone who would get in their way, just as they did on Triacus.

This episode was doomed to fail (for me) as soon as a bunch of kids were placed aboard the ship to take it over. Unfortunately it doesn't help when the musical score adds in sound effects to the movements of the children pumping their fists which somehow takes control of the crew, or places horrific images in their minds. The fact that the kids can control the crew with these actions and no one thinks to remove the children instead of fall under their spell is slightly unbelievable.

Unfortunately there's not much to like or comment on with this episode. A dark entity is using the children to transport itself to the colony Markos XII where they will find 'new friends'. Markos XII is probably a stepping stone to gather more people to invade further into the Federation and mount a takeover of some sort.

Due to the annoyance of the episode and the children involved with it, it's hard to appreciate the benefits of the remastered effects. There are some decent shots of new places aboard the Enterprise including what appears to be a recreation room where the children are seen playing and eating ice cream.

Ho hum,

Overall Rating: 3/10

Is There In Truth No Beauty?

Spock & Kollos on the bridgeKirk and crew are given the responsibility of transporting Medusan Ambassador Kollos and human Dr Miranda Jones to his home planet. The sight of a Medusan is so hideous it will drive any human insane. Vulcan's are able to look upon a Medusan with the use of a special visor.

Diana Muldaur returns to Star Trek to play Dr Jones in a Christmas Tree outfit. Many of the male crewmembers continuously comment on her beauty and her telekinetic abilities through training on Vulcan. Jones appears intimidated and jealous by Spock and resistant to his curiosity about Ambassador Kollos.

Larry Marvick is aboard ship as well during this time, a designer of the Enterprise's engines and a man admired by Scotty. He is also in love with Dr Jones and doesn't want her to go with Kollos. With her abilities, Jones detects that Marvick is thinking of murder and he leaves and makes an attempt on Kollos' life. Kollos reveals himself, driving the human Marvick insane. He lashes out and heads for engineering, takes control of the engines and warps the ship beyond the galactic barrier and lost. Marvick dies soon after, leaving the ship with no way of returning home.

The Medusan's have far better navigational systems and a mind-meld between Spock and Kollos is suggested so Spock can pilot the ship with Kollos' knowledge. Of course, it works and Kollos experiences what it's like to be in Spock's body and see as we do. When he returns, Spock forgets to place the visor over his eyes and is driven insane by the sight of Kollos. Dr Jones is the only one who can help Spock but she remains reluctant due to her jealousy. Kirk gets through to her and she is able to help Spock return to normal.

A decent episode and pick-up in quality from the previous one. The continuous mentions of Miranda's beauty by the male crew were a bit odd and had the subtlety of a sledgehammer. When it's realised that she is in fact blind, it makes a little more sense and also explains how she is able to be assigned to Ambassador Kollos when she is human. The Enterprise makes another trip beyond the Galactic Barrier (the most of any starship Enterprise in Star Trek I'm pretty sure).

One thing I'm not sure about is why all decks and even the transporter room had to be clear of all personnel when Kollos arrived when this wasn't done for his departure.

Overall Rating: 6/10

Season Three has had a pretty slow start in terms of ratings so far, but there's a few episodes to go yet. It will be interesting to see if there's improvement...

25 October 2011

Discovering Pink Floyd - The First Seven

For a long time and probably due to my Dad's influence I've been a fan of Pink Floyd. Much like anything passed down to me from my Dad though, I only really knew their newer, more popular works such as their epic Dark Side Of The Moon album, Wish You Were Here and The Wall.

On 23 September 2011, their entire catalogue was re-released and I chose to take the dive and buy it up in the Discovery Box set which contains all 14 of their albums as well as an exclusive 60 page special booklet of artwork. In purchasing the set, I now own more Pink Floyd albums than my father!

Pink Floyd Discovery Set

As I said, I didn't know much about the 'older' Pink Floyd with the exception of a few tracks such as Echoes from the album Meddle and Set The Controls For The Heart Of The Sun from A Saucerful Of Secrets. Expanding my knowledge of their catalogue, this post will look at reviewing the first seven albums of Pink Floyd - before Dark Side Of The Moon.

The Piper At The Gates Of Dawn presents the ultimate of early Pink Floyd music and is quite a short album, more likely due to the restriction of the amount of audio that can be recorded onto an LP than anything else. The album starts with the popular Astronomy Domine and ends with the cheerful song Bike. The songs all feature a very 60's sound to them, almost likened to The Beattles. I might have to track down copies of Arnold Layne and See Emily Play, two singles that were released before this album was pieced together.

A Saucerful Of Secrets is similarly short but features some interesting songs like the opening track Let There Be More Light and dark/haunting tracks, such as Set The Controls For The Heart Of The Sun.

Music From The Film More is an interesting listen to a soundtrack performed by Pink Floyd. It makes me interested to see what the movie is actually like just because Pink Floyd are involved with it.

Ummagumma is described on Wikipedia as an experimental album and this definitely comes through when listening to the studio album half of this 2-disc set. I wouldn't consider Ummagumma a musical album, rather a blend and mix of different noises and sounds to try to create something! The first half of this album includes live performances of songs from the first two albums.

Atom Heart Mother starts out with a nearly 24 minute anthem of the same title as the album. I remember hearing this song when my Dad was introducing me to 'early Floyd'. A short number of tracks feature on this album due to the length of Atom Heart Mother and the 13 minute Alan's Psychadelic Breakfast. The latter being a mix of different styles and more experimentation with the in-between tracks having a more folk-like sound.

Meddle is one of my favourite albums from the early Floyd era, particularly with the second half belonging to the awesome 23.5 minute long Echoes. Other notable tracks include Seamus which is about a dog and very different from the rest of the songs on the album and the intense opening track One of These Days.

Obscured By Clouds, much like the More album is a soundtrack recorded for a French film, La Vallée. The music again is quite interesting and has quite a unique sound, even for Pink Floyd. The opening track Obscured By Clouds features a deep bass feel which is unique for the band to this point while the rest of the album has a 70's rock feel about it.

The second half of Pink Floyd's discography will be easier to review as it's more familiar territory, kicking off with Dark Side Of The Moon through to The Division Bell.

24 October 2011

Trek Review: Spock's Brain & The Enterprise Incident

So we begin with Season Three, the last live action season of The Original Series. The opening episode, Spock's Brain is known for being one of the worst episodes and all I could really remember from it was McCoy operating on Spock, re-attaching his brain with the help of none other than Spock himself...

Spock's Brain

Spock wearing a neural stimulatorThe Enterprise is approached and boarded by what appear to be an advanced alien race. They steal Spock's brain forcing Kirk and McCoy to retrieve it.

Throughout the whole series we've been constantly seeing that Spock is super smart, too smart. That Vulcan's can compute things just like a computer really makes you wonder how they're content to serve the lives they do and in Spock's case, be subordinate to Kirk.

The idea though that an alien race would take Spock's brain in order to replace the computer on their planet is a little far-fetched, even for a science fiction show. But this episode pulls out all the stops and has his brain retrieved from the computer system it's tied into and replaced back into Spock's head, with Spock assisting Dr McCoy as he does it.

I'm not sure if the episode was designed to be taken seriously or if the producer's were having a laugh. In any case, the episode doesn't rate well. However, it did bring up some interesting elements about the people who stole Spock's brain which aren't explored deeply enough.

In the remastered version there's some nice touches with the new planet effects and the clarity is as it would be expected by now.

Overall Rating: 3/10

The Enterprise Incident

Spock and the Romulan CommanderThe Enterprise finds herself on the wrong side of The Neutral Zone and surrounded by three Romulan ships. The Romulan Commander takes a liking to Spock while Kirk embarks on a mission to steal a new piece of Romulan technology.

One of few episodes I remember of the third season, however there is very little action in it. The Enterprise is basically on a mission of espionage to capture a new device developed by the Romulan's which allows them to appear invisible to others.

Kirk begins to display irrational behaviour while Spock keeps the attention of the Romulan Commander. McCoy then alters Kirk's appearance so he can better infiltrate the Romulan ship and steal the cloaking device. Scotty, the miracle worker is able to tie the device into the Enterprise's systems and allows their escape.

It's an interesting episode featuring one of my favourite alien races, the Romulan's but I'm not quite so sure why the Romulan Commander took such a liking to Spock so quickly. The Romulan's notoriously don't trust people easily and for her to let her guard down around Spock was just odd. Maybe they learned from her mistake.

Ultimately, Kirk and Spock are successful in their mission, though capturing a single cloaking device obviously doesn't halt the Romulan's from using it in future and the Federation don't develop their own from the device captured.

In the remastered edition there's plenty of colour and vibrancy as is to be expected. The CGI team had a bit more fun and replaced one of the Klingon/Romulan ships with a typical Bird of Prey and painted the orange bird of prey on the underside of the Klingon ships. A nice touch for the ship geeks :P

Overall Rating: 6/10

09 October 2011

The Big Day Draws Near

Something a little less than sci-fi related today. We're under 2 months away from our big wedding day and it's amazing how much we still have to do. But we're also at a point where we're ticking off the milestones one at a time and at an increased rate, so that's great as well!

In these recent weeks we have been attempting to organise some entertainment outside of what our venue is providing. This has proved a little frustrating but we think we're getting close to a solution. Just yesterday we finalised our wedding rings (not a requirement, but of symbolic importance) and we are very close to settling on some transportation for the bridal party to the venue. Suits have been arranged for myself and the best man while the bridesmaid dress is being inspected as I type.

This coming week we will be busy meeting with our marriage celebrant, cake maker and other vendors. Visits that I'm sure will become more common and more frequent as the days wind down.

Last weekend we attended our last wedding as guests before our own so we were eagerly taking and making notes on what we liked and what perhaps wouldn't work for our own day. In my last wedding as a single guy I finally caught the garter - and have no idea what to do with it now :P

While a little stressful at times, I think we have managed our time well and we have to keep in mind that there's much more to come as the days pass by.

06 October 2011

Star Trek: The Next Generation HD

To mark the nearing 25th Anniversary of Star Trek: The Next Generation, CBS Paramount have announced that the series will be released in high-definition on blu-ray!

Star Trek: The Next Generation Title

Initially, a sampler blu-ray disc including four episodes will be released. The episodes include Encounter at Farpoint Parts I & II, Sins of the Father and The Inner Light. At the moment the sample is scheduled for the end of January 2012 but the seasons will follow throughout 2012, the year in which TNG will celebrate its 25th Anniversary.

I am super excited, even though I currently own the all seven seasons on DVD! They're unwatched and I'm hoping I can move them along in preparation of the jump to HD. Hopefully the release of the series will be swift and available for Region B (UK and AU) for us to enjoy it.

In the meantime I have the rest of Season 3 of The Original Series to watch on blu-ray before hitting The Animated Series and then the six original movies. So there's plenty of time for the TNG release :)

Watch the little spoiler below to see a couple of scenes from TNG in HD - Engage!

26 September 2011

Trek Review: Star Trek The Original Series, Season 2

Just like I did with Season One, I figured I'd do a summary of Star Trek's Season Two. Sometimes, the second season has more pressure to deliver as it follows up the character building that happens in the first season. For Star Trek, Season Two got off to a decent enough start with Amok Time, Who Mourns for Adonais?, The Changeling and Mirror, Mirror.

Enterprise faces off against the Planet Killer

Some things that stood out from Season Two were the introduction of Ensign Pavel Chekov as the Enterprise's navigator. Throughout much of the first half of the season he was constantly suggesting that everything was invented or created in Russia which started to become annoying. Thankfully that stopped. Another recurring theme was the amount of 'parallel Earth' planets the crew visited - whether by natural evolution or outside tampering.

Spock and T'Pring

A number of standout episodes include Amok Time and Journey to Babel for establishing more about the Vulcan people and their culture, Mirror, Mirror which establishes the mirror universe which is revisited in later series and The Trouble With Tribbles which is one of the most fun episodes of the show and makes way for a very well done crossover with the Deep Space Nine crew in the future.

Kirk buried in Tribbles

Episodes like Metamorphosis introduced us to Zefram Cochrane, the inventor of Warp Drive while The Ultimate Computer shows us Dr Richard Daystrom who is already famous and has a research division named after him in the 24th Century!

My fond memories of the action packed episodes The Doomsday Machine and The Ultimate Computer were upheld with our re-watch. A surprising episode with a bit of space battle action was also The Deadly Years.

With three fewer episodes than the first season, Season Two scores an average of 6.27/10 per episode, slightly lower than Season One's average of 6.52/10. The second season suffered from low scoring episodes such as I, Mudd (scoring 4/10) and several episodes scoring 5 and 5.5's.

Kirk and Spock offering a piece of the action

It's interesting to note that there was no guarantee of Star Trek's future beyond the second season with ratings beginning to fall towards the end. Many of the later episodes of Season Two scored low from my own reviews as well.

In any case, we know there's a third and final live action season of Star Trek to cover. It will be interesting to see how these episodes rate as we'll be starting off with the infamously bad episode, Spock's Brain which I have heard so much about!

The blu-ray remaster continues to impress, with only a few episodes showing some blurring and fuzziness. As noted in the review of the episode, Amok Time featured some very impressive new scenes of the planet Vulcan and the new effects for planets and the Enterprise are welcomed throughout. The discs are packed with many easter eggs and featurettes again including more interviews and insight into what the actors are up to in more recent times like Leonard Nimoy's fascination with photography and we learn about Nichelle Nichols' singing career.

25 September 2011

Trek Review: Bread and Circuses & Assignment: Earth

The final two episodes of Star Trek's second season have arrived.

Bread and Circuses

McCoy fights in gladiator styled gamesThe Enterprise discovers the wreckage of an old merchant vessel, the SS Beagle near planet 892-IV. The ship was captained by R.M. Merrick, a friend of Kirk's who aims to look for him and his 47 crew on the planet surface. The planet below is almost identical to Earth in size, mass and make up while the culture is broadcasting gladiator-type fights over television.

Kirk, Spock and McCoy are beamed down in a remote area away from cities and civilisation but are soon found by a group of runaway slaves calling themselves the 'Children of the Sun' who are evading capture themselves. With one of the slaves, Flavius, the trio head for the city to locate Merikus, First Citizen of Rome, deemed to be the same person as R.M. Merrick.

After Police capture, the landing party meet Merikus, who introduces them to Claudius Marcus, the Proconsul of the Empire. He knows who they are and where they come from and forced the Beagle crew to integrate into the society or fight in the televised gladiatorial games for the entertainment of those on 892-IV. Kirk is given the same choice with Spock, McCoy and the 400+ crew on the Enterprise.

McCoy and Spock are entered into a fight which Kirk watches but does not succumb to Marcus' demands. Spock wins against his attacker, but fouls when he assists McCoy in his fight. Kirk is eventually sentenced to death by execution, a transmission which the Enterprise intercepts. Scotty in command of the Enterprise disrupts the city's power systems which gives Kirk and crew enough time to attempt escape. With Merrick's help, they beam up - although Merrick is killed.

You really have to wonder if there can be so many parallel Earth's out there where the planet's are virtually the same, the inhabitants are just like us and events follow such a similar course. There's certainly been many examples of it this season, though this episode provides an interesting example of looking at the Roman Empire if it still existed with technological advancement into our 20th century. Seeing McCoy in a fight was interesting and learning some statistics of our violent past (or future) from Spock also opens up a little more history to how we get to the 23rd century.

Thankfully, Merrick does the right thing in the end to save Kirk, Spock and McCoy allowing them to beam back to the Enterprise and continue on their merry way.

Overall Rating: 6/10

Assignment: Earth

Gary Seven & Isis tamper with a US RocketThe Enterprise has travelled back to Earth in 1968 to observe some events in history. Interestingly, the ship is rocked as it disrupts a highly powerful transporter beam originating from thousands of lightyears away. Noting that Earth doesn't have that technology in the 20th Century, the beam is intercepted and a man, Gary Seven and his black cat, Isis materialise on the transporter pad.

Seven informs Kirk that he has been to another planet and was beaming there when intercepted by the Enterprise and asks to be sent to Earth to continue his mission of high importance, but Kirk has trouble trusting him. Seven attempts to escape but is stopped when Kirk stuns him with a phaser.

Analysing the day in history, it's determined that the United States would be launching an orbital weapons platform into orbit to challenge other powers of the Earth for supremacy and balance. Seven escapes from the brig and beams to the surface before Kirk is able to intervene.

On Earth, Seven attempts to locate two agents who have gone missing, he soon finds they were killed in a car accident on their way to the rocket launch site. Realising their mission was to disable the rocket in an attempt to stop Earth from experiencing the same fate as another planet who went through a similar arms race with (probably) catastrophic consequences.

Seven is able to get himself to the rocket and start disabling it when he is brought back prematurely by his secretary. Kirk and Spock intervene and the rocket is launched on schedule, without being properly disabled. Kirk and Spock must trust Seven to do his job by destroying the rocket at the last second to make it appear an accident.

Everything plays out as it should in the end and the Enterprise continues on her way - presumably, back to the 23rd century.

An interesting episode, a bit different from the norm and the reason appears to be that due to falling ratings, Star Trek's assured future wasn't guaranteed at the point when this episode was written. As such, Gene Roddenberry put this together to be the pilot for a spin-off series that would follow Gary Seven's adventures. Nothing became of it however as Star Trek would return for a third season.

The idea behind the episode was a good one, but ultimately it didn't feel as Trek as it could have been - this is possibly another result of it being aimed as the pilot for a new series. Intertwining an episode among events from 1968. There's a whole list of coincidences in a lot of Spock's readouts of events that would occur on the day the Enterprise was observing Earth actually did happen. It's interesting (and I'm thankful) to note that time-travel missions were never made routine again after this episode in Star Trek. I'd prefer to think that time-travel was too dangerous and other episodes and movies have shown the effects of those and contaminating the timeline of Trek since.

I believe this is the second time in the series we've visited Earth and on both occasions it was Earth of the 20th century!

Overall Rating: 5.5/10

That wraps up the second season. I'll post a brief summary of my thoughts on this run of 24 episodes shortly.

17 September 2011

Trek Review: The Ultimate Computer

Getting down to the end of Season Two now with an episode I remember as being another of my favourites from the series - I think it was the whole space battle thing.

The Ultimate Computer

Federation starships approach for a Wargames exerciseThe Enterprise is summoned to a space station without explanation until arrival. Commodore Bob Wesley, commanding the Lexington informs Kirk that the Enterprise will be a test ship for a new computer system, the M-5 Multitronic Unit, designed by Dr Richard Daystrom. Many of the crew disembark the Enterprise as they aren't needed due to M-5 being able to automate all of the ship's systems.

After some really basic tests dealing with the navigation systems there would be a wargames exercise with other Federation ships. M-5 performs the navigation tasks well and responds to a surprise attack from two starship's including the Excalibur. The ships flee from their surprise attack, but M-5 tracks a slow moving vessel, an automated cargo ship named Woden. Though posing no threat, the M-5 pursues and destroys the Woden before resuming course. None of the bridge crew were able to disable the M-5 before the attack.

M-5 has protected itself in engineering, making disabling the computer at the source impossible. An engineering ensign is killed when M-5 makes a direct power connection to the warp engines. The crew are unable to do anything and cannot communicate with the approaching Federation starships for the wargames exercise.

Wesley hails M-5, informing it that the exercise is a drill and that weapons should be on reduced power. M-5 acknowledges but attacks first with weapons at full power, destroying the Excalibur. M-5 continues firing on the other ships with the Lexington taking casualties and the Potemkin and Hood retreating.

Kirk appeals to M-5 and eventually convinces the computer that in attempting to protect itself it has committed murder. M-5 does not believe this until it scans the destroyed starship Excalibur and finds no lifesigns. In response, the M-5 shuts itself down, effectively killing itself for the act of murder.

Kirk orders the Enterprise shields dropped and weapons disarmed as Commodore Wesley approaches in the Lexington with orders from Starfleet to destroy them. Seeing the ship is a sitting duck, Wesley calls off his attack.

This episode takes a stand against the continued influence of computers in our lives. We see Kirk on many occasions looking lost and against losing his job to a computer. Ultimately we learn that the M-5 is unable to make decisions or courses of action that a human, or any other sentient life form would be able to and arguments for this are brought up throughout the episode from McCoy and Spock.

The remastered episode introduces some new sequences for the Space Station, the cargo ship and the wargames exercise.

Still a good episode in my eye, mainly for the space action involved but the light hearted ending, common in this era of science fiction really takes away from any impact that probably should have been felt with the loss of approximately 500 officers, including all of those aboard the Excalibur and some of those aboard the Lexington.

Dr Richard Daystrom is seen as a bit of a mad man in this episode, driven by his passion to create something far greater than he's already been acknowledged for. McCoy touches on this in the episode as well and we learn in future series that a scientific branch is named in his honour, The Daystrom Institute, circa 24th Century.

Overall Rating: 8/10

12 September 2011

Sci-Fi Review: Space Above & Beyond, Second Half

Continuing from my review of the first 12 episodes of the sci-fi series Space: Above and Beyond, this entry will look at the final 12 episodes of the show that lasted a single, but worthwhile season.

Space: Above and BeyondIn the second half of the series, each episode is given an opening monologue, spoken by Colonel T.C. McQueen, explaining the story so far and why Earth is at war in space. The second last episode has an additional monologue from Captain Vansen about the origins of life.

One thing notable in this half of the series is the story arc of Nathan West searching for his lost love, Kylen goes quiet. West appears much more focused on his role as a marine, along with the others of the 58th. It definitely feels like we're past all (or most) of the character development episodes and the series begins to make some strides and progress with the main story arcs started in the first half.

There is less emphasis on any political and Aero-Tech storylines now, but the Silicates re-emerge in the episode 'Pearly' where Paul Wang nearly betrays the 58th to save his honour from an earlier encounter in the series.

Space: Above and Beyond appears to be like an early version of the re-imagined Battlestar Galactica. The episodes 'Never No More' and 'The Angriest Angel' are very similar to the BSG episode 'Scar' where there is a single enemy fighter out there picking off our people and instilling fear in our forces. It takes a determined fighter pilot to finally finish the enemy off in a one-on-one dogfight. The very way Space... is shot and some of the battle tactics and other elements also resemble episodes and the grittiness that made the new Battlestar Galactica such a success.

Damphousse had a story dedicated to her where it was believed she had some sort of psychic powers. I wonder if this story arc would have been picked up if the series had continued - though the finale might not have allowed that. There was also a very short time where Wang and Damphousse found they had feelings for each other, but these were never revisited.

A lot of time passes in the second half of the series, particularly in the episode 'Sugar Dirt' where the 58th and other squadrons are left to fend for themselves for over two months on a planet defending an airstrip while the Saratoga and other Earth ships departed for an operation at another, more strategically important planet.

The series ends with the two parter 'And If They Lay Us Down To Rest...' and '...Tell Our Moms We Done Our Best' where the 58th are patrolling a Chig moon for an Earth assault and come upon a single alien being. Not sure if he's the last of his kind, they tell him to leave before Earth forces arrive. Shortly after, a Chig envoy approaches the Earth fleet to discuss peace talks, however, it turns out the envoy is the same alien the 58th met on the moon's surface. The war is far from over when peace talks break down and many of the negotiators, including commanding officers of several Earth ships and Colonel McQueen are seriously injured.

In a firefight to retrieve prisoners of war from the Chigs (under agreement in the terms of the peace talks) the 58th are sent out. However, Vansen and Damphousse are separated from their ship when the cockpit is blasted off into a planet's atmosphere. Damphousse is unconscious and Vansen hopes to survive de-orbit while West, Hawkes and Wang look after the POW's. Taking more damage, Wang ends up trapped in the cargo pod and ejects from the ship, drawing the Chigs away with a manual laser cannon. West and Hawkes rescue the POW's and return to the Saratoga as Wang is killed when a destroyed Chig fighter collides with his pod.

For West, the story arc of tracking down the real Kylen comes to an end here as she is among the POW's. He briefly gets to see her before she is transported back to Earth. In the final moments, no retrieval team appears to be sent after Vansen and Damphousse, West and Hawkes see McQueen before he is taken away for medical treatment and they mourn the loss of their comrades. The series ends.

My last impressions are good. I really enjoyed watching the series. All I can remember from its original run on television was the pilot episode. I guess it would then have been pushed back to some late night time slot and I forgot all about it. Had it lasted longer, I might've caught a glimpse of it later, as happened for me with Star Trek: The Next Generation and Babylon 5. I'll admit, the reason I watched the series now was that it was a single season run of 24 episodes, something manageable and not too time wasting if I didn't like it. But I did like it, I think the series had potential and the finale has left me wondering how things would have been picked up if a second season had come around. According to the Wikipedia entry, this is how the producers chose to end the show and while Wang's death appears conclusive, did Vansen and/or Damphousse survive? What will happen to McQueen?

With the show dead for 15 years now, these questions will probably never be answered. I'm not sure if the show had the fan base to be picked up some time in the future for some sort of re-imagining or reboot. It probably doesn't need it in any case. It's fine as it is. Apparently it was released on DVD in the US market. I'd probably get a copy if it came out here.

For any sci-fi fan, give it a watch and see what you think :)

For me, I'll continue watching Star Trek The (remastered) Original Series and continue watching Dark Skies in place of Space...

11 September 2011

Trek Review: By Any Other Name & The Omega Glory

By Any Other Name

Rojan and Kelinda, from another galaxyThe Enterprise is responding to a distress call from a planet. Kirk and the landing party find two people on the surface who demand that Kirk surrender the Enterprise to them and with the use of a paralysis device incapacitating the landing party, demonstrates their superiority in the situation.

The two are identified as Rojan and Kelinda and are travellers from the Kelvan Empire of the neighbouring but distant Andromeda Galaxy. They were looking for a new home as radiation levels in their galaxy will make it uninhabitable. Rojan's ship was destroyed while crossing our galaxy's galactic barrier. They intend to use the Enterprise with modifications to her engines to report back to Andromeda of the suitability of planets in the Milky Way for conquering and colonising.

In another demonstration of Kelvan superiority and disciplinary action against Kirk's attempt to escape capture, two personnel (red shirts) from the landing party are turned into small inanimate objects. Rojan crushes one with his hand, killing Yeoman Thompson while he returns Security Officer Shea to life.

Kirk attempts to reason with Rojan, informing that the Federation could come to a peaceful agreement, but Rojan is adament that the Kelvan way is to conquer and rule - a fate the Federation would eventually face when the Kelvan people come.

The Enterprise is taken over by Rojan, Kelinda and their other crew members. Rojan deems that except for Scott, McCoy, Spock and Kirk, the rest of the crew are unnecessary and would use up supplies needed by his crew in the long voyage ahead. Spock and Scott can't stop the paralyser's each of the Kelvan's have, so rig the ship to explode as they cross the galactic barrier on Kirk's order. Kirk can't bring himself to do so and the ship continues toward Andromeda.

Their only hope lies with playing on the Kelvan's new-found bodies. They have transformed into humanoids so they can operate the Enterprise more effectively. Their true forms being too cumbersome. Kirk and crew soon realise that the Kelvan's are not used to sensations and emotions that come with being human and play this to their advantage. Scotty gets one Kelvan drunk, Spock and Kirk work to make Rojan jealous while Kirk introduces Kelinda to the idea of love (as Kirk does so well!) while McCoy works on another Kelvan by injecting him with stimulants after suggesting he may be ill.

In the end, a duel between Kirk and Rojan breaks out once Rojan's jealousy reaches a head. Kirk finally is able to reason with him and convince Rojan a peaceful solution can be found. The Enterprise turns around and heads home.

This was a good episode, there were certainly some interesting moments and some humours ones, particularly with Scott and his drinking buddy. However, I can't help but think that the Kelvan's were extremely short sighted with their wanting to acquire a ship to head back to Andromeda to report on their findings. That and the fact the Andromeda galaxy will still be inhabitable for many, many years just seems a little too pre-emptive. The Kelvan Empire might die out way before then!

We also see Kirk strike a woman again in this episode. He punched Lady Gaga in 'The Gamesters of Triskellion' and this time he karate chops Kelinda in the neck, despite many episodes ago telling Charlie "there's no right way to hit a woman" in the episode 'Charlie-X'.

Overall Rating: 6/10


The Omega Glory

Capt Tracey and WuArriving at the planet Omega IV, the Enterprise discovers a derelict sistership in orbit, the Exeter. Kirk, Spock, McCoy and Lt Galloway beam over to the ship to investigate and find the entire crew reduced to crystals. McCoy determines each crew member has had all of the water removed from their bodies and a medical log from the ship's doctor reveals it is the result of a virus and that immunity can be found on the planet's surface.

Beaming down, the landing party discover the Exeter's commanding officer, Captain Ronald Tracey. Tracey explains there is a natural immunity offered by the planet environment. Kirk and crew soon find he is in league with a group of people known as the Kohms, who are engaged in a war against savages known as the Yangs. They also find that Tracey has been supplying the Kohms with Federation weapons in their struggle, breaking the Prime Directive.

Tracey tells Kirk he was only wanting to survive and that the Kohms have lived extremely long life-spans, suggesting he has stumbled upon a fountain-of-youth. He wishes to do more research with the equipment aboard the Enterprise but the Yangs must be held at bay. Tracey asks for more phasers to help but Kirk refuses, at which point Tracey has Kirk and Spock locked up, with a Yang leader recently captured.

McCoy is able to discover that the immunity of the inhabitants and the virus that killed the Exeter crew are results of biological warfare. The longer someone remains on the planet, the stronger their immunity becomes, had the Exeter crew stayed on the planet for a few more hours, they would likely have survived. This also means Tracey's fountain-of-youth doesn't exist, what he has witnessed is natural evolution of the inhabitants on the planet.

In a Yang attack, they take over the city and capture Kirk, Tracey and the others. It is found the Yangs and Kohms represent another parallel of Earth's culture. The Yang's being Yankees (or Americans) and the Kohms representing Communists. They went to war with the Kohms winning and the Yang's fighting to regain their land ever since. Their battle standard represents and old and battered flag of the 'stars and stripes' from the United States of America.

Kirk is able to remind them of their routes by reciting the Pledge of Allegiance, referred to as the 'holy words' by the Yangs. After a man-to-man fight with Tracey, which Kirk wins and Sulu and a security team beam down, Yang leader Cloud William believes Kirk to be God's servant and they are free to go.

Another message relayed in this episode that might still apply today but would have probably had deeper meaning at the time of its release. Aside from the political message we see another deranged Starfleet commander going after something that doesn't exist and going against Kirk. We don't really know what became of the Exeter after the Enterprise found her as she doesn't appear in any other shots later in the episode.

The episode also suggests that Spock has telepathic abilities when he suggests that the female Yang, Sirah bring him a communicator. Memory Alpha says this is reminiscent of an early concept that Spock had special powers over women.

It's another parallel Earth development episode and it makes you wonder how these cultures can develop the way they do - even to the fact that the Yangs have a United States flag and their Pledge of Allegiance. I would probably suggest this would be contamination from a previous Earth visit to their planet, but it's not confirmed or denied in the episode either way.

Overall Rating: 5.5/10

The 'Amok Time' fight music makes another come back, the themes are good, the story's okay but the repeat use of parallel cultures to ours is getting a bit played out at this point. With three episodes left for the second season it will be interesting to see how it goes and what the overall impression of Season Two is when we're done...

07 September 2011

Trek Review: Return to Tomorrow & Patterns of Force

Return to Tomorrow

Return to Tomorrow The Enterprise is investigating strange readings and comes upon a destroyed M-class planet. The crew are then addressed by a male voice who invites them down beneath the planet surface to save Earth from facing a similar fate to the planet they are orbiting.

The voice identifies himself as Sargon and determines that Kirk, Spock, McCoy and Lt Cmdr Mulhall will beam down in a landing party.

Over a hundred miles beneath the planet surface, the landing party discover Sargon as a ball of energy. Sargon transfers into Kirk's body, with Kirk's consciousness placed in the original sphere. Sargon/Kirk introduces the landing party to two other spheres with other entities inside them and asks that Spock and Mulhall become hosts along with Kirk.

Sargon's intent is to use Kirk, Spock and Mulhall temporarily with the help of Scott aboard the Enterprise to construct android robot bodies for Sargon's people to exist in more permanently.

Spock's entity, Henoch was a nemesis of Sargon from the past and sets about attempting to kill Kirk with Sargon's consciousness in his body. Sargon is ultimately able to outwit Henoch in the end, with the help of his beloved wife, Thalassa. Sargon and Thalassa no longer need bodies once Henoch is outwitted and they send themselves into oblivion forever.

This episode was well done and included an interesting storyline, another opportunity for Spock to behave and act quite differently from the norm and the first of many appearances for actress Diana Muldaur in Star Trek.

Overall Rating: 7/10

Patterns of Force

Kirk and Spock attempt to go undetected on the planet EkosThe Enterprise arrives at planet Ekos to pick up a Federation cultural observer. Near the planet, the ship is attacked by a primitive weapon the planet's inhabitants aren't supposed to be capable of developing.

On the surface, Kirk and Spock discover a culture almost identical to Nazi Germany including motor vehicles, uniforms, salutes and their hatred of neighbouring planet Zeon.

Very much like our own history, this episode plays out with Kirk and Spock attempting to evade capture, only to be captured. The observer, John Gill turns out to be the Fuhrer of Ekos and explains he was trying to introduce the efficiency of the Nazi system without letting it get to sadism, however his deputy, Melakon began drugging Gill in order to take over.

Kirk revives Gill long enough for him to call off a devastating attack on Zeon and name Melakon a traitor. Melakon shoots Gill and is in turn killed. The resulting government proclaiming it intends to start living as the fuhrer originally had intended and to offer a new way of life for both Ekosians and Zeons.

This episode presents another opportunity for our crew to experience Earth's past without actually using time travel as the catalyst. The other example was the episode 'A Piece of the Action' where a planet had emulated Chicago's Mobsters, now we have Nazi Germany. As fun as it was seeing Spock attempt to hide his ears underneath his SS helmet, this episode didn't really capture my interest - instead it was beating me over the head with the message it seemed to be relaying about the negativity of the Nazi regime. Did they need this reminder in the 1960's, certainly not something that applies in 2011!

Overall Rating: 5/10

24 August 2011

Trek Review: The Immunity Syndrome & A Private Little War

The Immunity Syndrome

Space AmoebaOn their way to get some R&R at Starbase 6, the Enterprise receives a call which comes through as a set of coordinates and the name of a nearby starship Intrepid. Shortly after, in a scene akin to Obi Wan Kenobi's detection of the destruction of Alderaan in Star Wars, Spock goes through pain and realises that the 400 Vulcan crew of the Intrepid have died.

Investigating, the Enterprise comes upon a 'zone of darkness' where all laws of physics are reversed. Probing further the ship discovers a huge single-cell organism feeding on energy. The likely cause of the disappearance of an entire star system and the starship Intrepid.

Spock volunteers to take a shuttlecraft into the giant amoeba to find out more and ultimately helps Kirk and crew work out a way to destroy the invading virus that is on the verge of multiplying and enveloping the galaxy.

This was a fairly decent episode in what it was portraying. Our galaxy being invaded by a 'virus' made up of these huge single-celled organisms and the Enterprise and her crew playing the antibodies. What stood out for us in this episode was that Spock did not appear to be played in character. In fact, he was borderline annoying and arrogant. The banter between he and McCoy was at a different level, particularly during the time when both volunteered to fly the shuttle. Spock continuously reminded McCoy of his Vulcan superiority and even later, via transmission, Spock basically gloats to McCoy that the physician would not have survived had he been selected as pilot.

Nevertheless, the episode was decent and the remastered effects looked fantastic. It also brought us some humourous animated gifs from just after McCoy blasts Spock over the communications channel...

McCoy and Kirk approve

...and this, funnier version.

McCoy and Kirk

Overall rating: 6.5/10


A Private Little War

Kirk with Tyree's peopleThe Enterprise is involved in a scientific mission on the planet Neural. The inhabitants of the planet have remained at the same technological level for many centuries, but Kirk and Spock are surprised to see some villagers using firearms instead of bows and arrows and that the people are fighting amongst themselves when they once were peaceful towards each other.

It is soon realised that the Klingon Empire have been supplying some villagers with superior weaponry to cause conflict between the planet's inhabitants.

Though governed by the non-interference directive, Kirk makes a move to equally equip the disadvantaged side. Kirk had visited the planet before and lived with Tyree who refuses to fight, however his wife, Nona thinks otherwise and after saving Kirk following a Mugato attack, uses her kahn-ut-tu spells to influence him.

Eventually, through her own greed and impatience, Nona dies and Tyree vows to take the fight to the villagers. Triggering a war.

I figured there would have been some sort of contemporary message behind this episode and the entry on Memory Alpha points this episode to relate to the Vietnam War. The episode suggests that Eden cannot last forever and so, the paradise of Neural was taken away once the Klingon's became involved.

Strangely enough, we see Tyree become angered or at least distraught when he catches Nona and Kirk in a passionate embrace, but this is never revisited, even after her death he simply vows to avenge her and then Kirk and crew leave.

In remastered blu-ray, this episode suffers from some blurring and scenes that aren't quite as sharp as you'd expect. A lot of scenes are shot outside, on location and could be part of the reason why.

Overall Rating: 5/10

20 August 2011

Trek Review: The Gamesters of Triskelion & A Piece of the Action

The Gamesters of Triskelion

GaltAfter arriving at Gamma II for a routine check of the planet's automated systems, Kirk, Uhura and Chekov are kidnapped straight off the transporter pad to a distant planet and forced to fight other aliens there for the gambling entertainment of the 'Providers'.

All of the aliens on the planet called Triskelion are basically slaves, with collars around their necks that induce pain if the wearer disobeys the wishes of the Providers.

Kirk befriends his mentor, a Lady Gaga lookalike named Shahna. Uhura and Chekov are also appointed mentors so they may learn to fight. Kirk takes the most punishment as he accepts the responsibility for the actions of his crew and so he is whipped in order to be made an example of when Uhura refuses to fight.

Finally, Kirk is able to meet the Providers, three brains claiming to be higher, superior beings who have seen it all and found that this entertainment is all they have left. Kirk challenges them to let the aliens go free and to watch them build up a free society, a proposal the Providers accept by pitting Kirk against three of the aliens. Should Kirk win, he gets to go and the Providers will free their captives from their collars.

Meanwhile the Enterprise is left with the mystery of what happened to their three crew members. After finding a high energy beam emanating from another star system, Spock orders the ship investigate while McCoy and Scotty disagree and believe the ship should never have left Gamma II. Fortunately, Spock's 'hunch' is correct and they locate Triskelion. However, the Providers take control of the ship's systems and force the crew to watch Kirk's final fight. On Kirk's victory, the Providers let the Enterprise and crew leave.

An interesting story where Kirk gets to fight and tear his shirt a lot - he even punches Shahna in the chin in order to knock her out, which was a bit of a shock! The anti-slavery message is quite clear in this one.

All up though I didn't find it that capturing, so my overall rating is 6/10.

A Piece of the Action

Spock and Kirk offer a piece of the actionThe Enterprise arrives at Sigma Iotia II following Starfleet receiving transmission by conventional radio from the lost starship Horizon. The Horizon had visited the planet and was lost shortly after.
Kirk takes a landing party to determine what effects the Horizon's visit would have had on the developing civilisation before Starfleet introduced the non-interference directive.

The inhabitants have based their lives on Earth's 1920's gangsters, an idea picked up from a book left behind by the Horizon crew from its visit 100 years prior. As a result, there are different 'bosses' running different areas of the town organising 'hits' in order to 'cut in' on others territory.

Kirk, Spock and McCoy get caught up in the middle of it all as two of the main bosses want more 'heaters' (phasers, I think) from them so they can have the upper hand. In the end, Kirk learns to fight fire with fire and, poorly mimicking the gangster environment around him convinces the bosses that the Federation are more powerful and 'cutting in'.

An episode with a fair bit of humour thrown in. Gangsters and our 23rd century heroes thrown together. For me, the gangster parts (the whole episode) felt a bit overdone. Obviously I'm looking at this from the wrong perspective! Kirk's way of fitting in to a society such as this was much better pulled off in Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home. We also see that Kirk has no idea how to drive a car - something he is actually quite good at in the 2009 movie Star Trek!

Overall Rating: 5/10

14 August 2011

Trek Review: Wolf in the Fold & The Trouble With Tribbles

Wolf in the Fold

Wolf in the FoldOn Argelius II Scotty is recovering from a workplace accident (caused by a female crewmember) with Kirk and McCoy enjoying the hospitality (and the women) being offered.

No sooner Scotty decides to go for a walk with one of their entertainers, she is dead, with Scotty standing nearby with a knife and blood on his hands.

Two more women are murdered with Scotty being the prime suspect in each case while the investigation unfolds.

An interesting episode though I'll admit I was distracted while watching it. I wasn't sure how Scotty would ever be found innocent as each new murder happened. In the end, the link to 'Jack the Ripper' on Earth is brought up and I'll say it sounds a bit weak and implausible but not impossible how they ended up bringing one of Earth's 'ancient legends' into the picture.

The final resolution with the beaming of Mr Hengist into deep space in order to kill the entity is a bit extreme and with the crew under a drug that eliminates fear and makes everyone aboard the Enterprise so jovial really diminishes any effect Mr Hengist's death should have had? Somehow I doubt if the entity repossessed Scotty or some other important crew member that Kirk would have so easily made the decision to have their atoms scattered throughout space?!

Overall Rating: 5/10


With that, we are now at the halfway point of the Original Series, at least that's how the Blu-Ray remastered discs have been ordered...

The Trouble With Tribbles

The Trouble With TribblesThe Enterprise is called via Code One to Space Station K-7 in orbit of Sherman's Planet near Klingon space. Once there, they find no emergency but a very impatient and power wielding Federation official (another one) named Nilz Baris.

Baris and his aide, Arne Darvin explain they're fearful the Klingons may make an attempt to sabotage some important grain which will help the Federation establish a presence on Sherman's Planet.

Kirk orders his crew to take shore leave on K-7 with Uhura and Chekov wasting no time and meeting Cyrano Jones, who gives Uhura a cute, furry creature called a Tribble.

Unfortunately for Kirk, Starfleet orders him and the Enterprise to accommodate Baris' needs just as a Klingon Battlecruiser turns up at the station. Kirk warns the station but sees that the Klingon captain, Koloth (who looks a lot like Trelane from 'The Squire of Gothos') and his first officer Korax are already aboard K-7.

They ask for permission to take shore leave on the station, which Kirk allows under strict rules. It doesn't take long for the two crews to clash when Scotty hits Korax for insulting the Enterprise. All the while, Uhura's Tribble has managed to reproduce and create enough for everyone in the crew and continues to multiply with Tribbles appearing all over the Enterprise and K-7. Kirk, Spock and Scotty soon realise the Tribbles will be able to get into the precious grain that Baris wants so protected and as they check out the storage compartments on K-7 they find the entire supply replaced with bloated Tribbles.

Spock finds most of the Tribbles are dying or dead, the grain had been poisoned. With the Tribbles reacting badly to Klingons (and we find the feeling is mutual), Arne Darvin is ousted as a Klingon agent and he was behind sabotaging the grain. Wrapping things up for Kirk and his crew, the Enterprise leaves while Scotty deposits all the remaining Tribbles aboard the Klingon Battlecruiser.

This was a fun episode and certainly a memorable one with a decent amount of politics, crew interaction and humour. One of my main nitpicks has been brewing over a number of episodes since the introduction of Chekov as a main character - does he always have to say everything was invented or came from Russia? He's been doing it in most of the episodes he's appeared in and I hope he stops soon!

My main memory of this episode prior to watching it here was from the future Deep Space Nine episode, 'Trials and Tribble-ations'. We watched this episode (included on the blu-ray disc) afterwards and it was quite impressive to see how they combined the two shows so seamlessly.

In the remaster there were some great shots, certainly lots of colour. The same could not be said for the DS9 episode, but I won't review that until later (much later!) Some of the new effects shots were great, particularly the Enterprise's arrival at K-7. Unfortunately we still haven't had an up close look at a Klingon Battlecruiser, despite at least two episodes showing them now. I'm not sure if we ever will see them or if they're holding off for the detailed shots in 'The Motion Picture'.

Overall Rating: 8/10

So our Trek continues with the remainder of the second season and the second half of the Original Series...

05 August 2011

Trek Review: The Deadly Years & Obsession

We're nearing the halfway point of Season Two and along with it the halfway point of the Original Series! This review looks at another two interesting episodes of the series and I have to say that even though I'm sure I've watched through the Original Series before, all of these episodes feel like new adventures as I hardly remember anything about them!

The Deadly Years

The Deadly YearsThe Enterprise arrives at Gamma Hydra IV to find the scientific party assigned to the planet all dead or dying from old age - since none of the team were over 30, an investigation gets underway.

Soon enough, members of the landing party begin to show their own signs of rapid aging, affecting Kirk, McCoy, Scotty, Spock and Galway, but not Chekov.

Scotty's signs are more obvious but Galway's aging increases the quickest and takes her life eventually before a solution can be found. Kirk's memory starts to lapse and his command effectiveness is called into question by Commodore Stocker, being transported to Starbase 10.

Eventually, Chekov is key to saving the aging crew members when McCoy and Spock find that adrenaline stopped the aging from ever taking effect after Chekov became extremely frightened when he discovered the first dead scientist on the planet surface.

This is a decent episode for its time. The aging effects on each character are quite well done, including some interesting parallels to future aged characters we'd end up seeing. Sure, Kirk doesn't quite look like the Deney Crane from Boston Legal, but the aged McCoy we would revisit in Star Trek: The Next Generation's pilot episode 'Encounter at Farpoint' isn't too dissimilar and the aging Spock doesn't look too different from the Spock we would end up encountering in The Next Generation either.

The Enterprise becomes involved in a Neutral Zone incident in this episode after Commodore Stocker takes command and orders the ship head straight for Starbase 10, a course that takes the ship through the Neutral Zone. You have to wonder at the dimwits that Starfleet pins Commodore badges on, but surely a course to Starbase 10 should be plotted around the Neutral Zone regardless of how impatient the Commodore was at getting to his new posting? Even Sulu should have known better? Anyway, the Enterprise is attacked by Romulan's as soon as it crosses the Neutral Zone border, interesting, because I thought no ships were allowed in there from either side. Commodore Stocker decides to sit in the Captain's chair and has no reaction while the ship is pounded relentlessly by Romulan forces. Why not retreat or at least return fire?! Nope, nothing. It takes Kirk, back in his prime to call a bluff with his famous 'Corbomite Maneuver' to get the ship out of trouble.

Notable for this episode is the blu-ray remaster. The effects shots of the Romulan conflict are quite well done with at least four different Romulan ships seen in the battle against the Enterprise and the 'warp out' shot is one of the best I've seen in the remasters so far showing the agility of the Constitution class hero ship we all know and love.

Overall Rating: 8/10


Obsession

ObsessionKirk and Spock lead a landing party on Argus X, surveying the planet for Tritanium. The landing party are soon set upon by a mysterious cloud that claims the lives of two security officers and leaves Ensign Rizzo badly injured. The dead officers having every red blood corpuscle drained from their bodies.

Kirk detects a similarity to a past situation he has faced and returns to the planet with Ensign Garrovick and a security team - all while the Enterprise is due to make an important rendezvous with the Yorktown to transfer urgently needed medical supplies.

On the planet surface, Ensign Garrovick is unable to stop the cloud before it kills the security team. He reports that he hesitated with fear to the senior staff, where Kirk relieves him of all his duties.

It is revealed that Ensign Garrovick is the son of Captain Garrovick, who Kirk served under aboard the starship Farragut. Captain Garrovick was killed along with 200 of the Farragut crew by a similar vampiric cloud. Kirk believes this is the same cloud. McCoy and Spock begin to notice Kirk becoming more obsessed with the creature and fear it is impeding his judgement, particularly with the rendezvous with the Yorktown being overlooked.

As the cloud leaves Argus X and launches into space, Kirk orders the Enterprise to pursue at Warp 8, however the ship is unable to continue for a long duration and forced to drop back. At this point, the cloud turns to attack the Enterprise. A phaser and torpedo attack have no effect and the cloud enters the ships ventilation system. Inside the ship, the cloud kills another crew member and attempts to kill Ensign Garrovick in his quarters, but Spock is able to intervene. The cloud leaves the ship and Kirk orders a pursuit course to the planet Tycho IV, where Kirk and the Farragut crew faced the cloud creature before.

There, Kirk and Garrovick are able to lure the creature with a sample of blood and detonate an anti-matter explosion that finally takes out the creature and leaves a rather large crater on the planet's surface.

Kirk's obsession with the creature puts him out of character from what we're used to as he relentlessly pursues it to atone for the guilt he feels for the deaths of the 200 or so lives lost on the Farragut. This episode must be up there for the record number of red-shirt deaths that occur!

Overall Rating: 7/10

03 August 2011

Trek Review: Journey to Babel & Friday's Child

Journey to Babel

Journey to BabelThe Enterprise has the task of transporting a number of diplomats to a conference on Babel. Among them, Andorians, Tellarites and Vulcans, including Spock's parents Sarek and Amanda.

En-route, one of the delegates is murdered, Sarek stands accused, but he is also suffering from a fatal disease where Spock is the only one who can help him. Add to that, the Enterprise comes under attack by an unknown alien ship.

This is an interesting episode as it shows the cultural diversity of the races making up the Federation in the 23rd century. We meet our first Andorians and Tellarites as well as a bunch of other aliens.

The episode introduces us to Sarek and Amanda, Spock's parents. Sarek appears cold and almost ignorant of Spock's existence aboard the ship, but this is probably to show the logical relationship between the two while Amanda's reactions are fairly more emotional in direct contrast.

An attempt on Kirk's life is made during the episode by a renegade Andorian communicating with an alien vessel shadowing the Enterprise's course to Babel. The Andorian is captured, but attempts to escape as the Enterprise is attacked. Eventually, after healing in sickbay, Kirk is able to outwit the alien commander and disables the other ship. The assassin dies soon after of his own accord.

Spock believes the attackers were actually Orion's who were out to disrupt the Babel conference to continue their own activities in the region, showing us more of the political climate going on at the time.

Overall Rating: 6/10


Friday's Child

Friday's ChildKirk and his landing party become involved in a struggle to secure mining rights on the planet Capella IV. This becomes more difficult when a Klingon commander, Kras appears and is also bargaining for similar rights with another powerful tribe of the planet's inhabitants.

A knee-jerk reaction from an inexperienced red-shirt when he draws his phaser on sight of the Klingon, works against Kirk's landing party and their chances of convincing the Capellan's the Federation is peaceful and trustworthy. However, in negotiations with the Capellan leader Akaar, McCoy and his experience with the Capellan people is able to provide them with the upper hand again.

A fight soon breaks out between the Capellan tribes and Akaar is killed and succeeded by Maab, who is in league with Kras. Kirk and crew are detained, but escape in the hopes of salvaging their situation and proving to the Capellans that Kras and Klingon Empire cannot be trusted.

This episode had promise but for me it became a little ridiculous. One look at the outfits of the Capellan inhabitants was enough. The storyline was somewhat predictable with the fighting between the Capellan tribes and the situation the Federation was put in. The reaction of Ensign Redshirt was extremely woeful and unacceptable for a trained Starfleet officer, particularly one assigned to the Enterprise!

The episode feels slow and drawn out, there is also a storyline of Akaar's widow, bearing a child and near the point of birth. She initially wishes to die after learning of Akaar's death, as is Capellan law. After being whisked away by Kirk and the crew she is influenced, by McCoy in particular as he works to save both mother and child.

In the end, it's an episode that covers topics of importance but I don't think it was executed as well as it could have been. Or maybe it was just the ridiculous Capellan outfits and the slow pace of the episode that ruined it for me?

Overall Rating: 5/10