Looking Back on the Future of Star Trek

14-Mar-09 2:43 PM by
Filed under Star Trek, Trailers; Comments Off on Looking Back on the Future of Star Trek

This week, the Star Trek franchise turned exactly 42.5 years old. Despite being a not particularly noteworthy milestone, I used the occasion to finally watch the show's 40th anniversary special. The special, hosted by Leonard Nimoy, aired on the History Channel in February 2007 and will be included in next month's release of TOS Season 1 on Blu-Ray. Though the primary purpose of the documentary is to showcase the then-recently-concluded Christie's auction of thousands of Star Trek props, it also features several stars of the franchise's first four shows reflecting on their roles. I found the most striking observation came from Kate Mulgrew: "I don't know a lot of doctors and lawyers who watch doctors and lawyers shows — but almost every scientist I've ever known loved Star Trek." It's a sentiment consistent with the need to have shows like Star Trek on the air.

The franchise's 726 episodes and ten movies are condensed into this other 40th anniversary tribute, which for some reason was uploaded to YouTube just last week. The video — set to one of my favorite instrumental pieces, the orchestral suite from "The Inner Light" — is a brief visual tour of the entire history of Star Trek's two-hundred-year history. Considering how many characters there are to fit into the montage's seven-minute length, you'll forgive the editor if he transitions from one character to the next a bit too swiftly.

I was moved by how familiar I found each of these characters, and how glad I was to see them again. But then, I shouldn't be surprised: Star Trek was on the air consistently for 18 years, making it a constant companion for roughly two-thirds of my life. You could argue it was just a TV show (in which case I wonder what you're doing reading this blog), but every day without a Trek seems dark, as the program represents a hope for humanity.

With the cancellation of Enterprise, television has been without a Star Trek for four years. Now we stand on the cusp of a new Star Trek film — the first one in seven years, the longest span between any two Star Trek movies ever. This movie has the potential to reenergize the franchise and bring it back not only to the public consciousness, but to the television screen. It will be a long time before we can effectively measure the film's success and impact — but it will be only two months before we will have the full feature to judge, and not just this trailer:

(Hat tip to Dayton Ward)

Heroes Redux

12-Oct-08 11:23 AM by
Filed under Television; 2 comments.

Between 8 PM Friday night and 1 AM Sunday morning, I watched the entire second season of Heroes. The writers' strike abbreviated this season to only 11 episodes, down 23 from the show's launch — otherwise my marathon would've been far more demanding. Though I liked both seasons, I can see why some fans were disappointed with the follow-up to the blockbuster debut season. Here are my thoughts (and spoilers)…
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Some Secrets Are Worth Keeping

23-Apr-08 4:17 PM by
Filed under Star Trek, Television; Comments Off on Some Secrets Are Worth Keeping

It's already two-week-old news that Secret Talents of the Stars was cancelled after one show. But it was just today that I found this commercial for the show:

Given the hindsight that the show was canned, I thought this commercial was a postmortem spoof; but given that it was uploaded to the official YouTube channel of CBS (license holders of both Secret Talents and Star Trek), I must assume it is authentic. Seems they didn't think very highly of their own property — or else they're just terrible marketers. Context aside, certainly anyone can exhibit the minimal talent Takei demonstrates in the above clip.

I never saw the show and cannot attest to how horrible it must've been to have met such a swift demise. The theory seems sound: if the American television viewing public is interested in seeing actors and athletes on the dance floor, why not see what else they can do?

But since I cancelled my television service just as the first season of Survivor was premiering, I've never really understood the whole "reality TV" concept.

Of Gods and Men

22-Dec-07 11:33 PM by
Filed under Star Trek; 5 comments.

A recent article on CNN.com reminded me that the Web holds a bounty of fan films based on the various Star Trek properties. This wasn't necessarily news to me: I'd once tried watching an episode of New Voyages, which aims to continue the five-year mission of the original Enterprise, but couldn't get past the recasting of the original stars. William Shatner's portrayal of James T. Kirk was too engrained in my mind for me to accept anyone else in the role; even in science fiction, suspension of disbelief has its limits.

But to see on CNN that this series won TV Guide's 2007 Online Video Award for Best Sci-Fi Webisodes, chosen over Battlestar Galactica, suggested I should look again. I'd thought the only way to watch New Voyages episodes was via streaming video, which I generally eschew — but poking around their Web site revealed a slightly preferable BitTorrent option. The episode I selected for our reintroduction was "World Enough and Time", written and directed by Marc Scott Zicree (author of "Far Beyond the Stars", possibly my favorite DS9 episode).

World Enough and TimeAgain, I was assaulted by the casting of anyone but Shatner and Nimoy as Kirk and Spock, but this time I persevered. I'm glad I did, as even if the actors didn't nail the parts, I can't blame the writing, which comes across strongly. The sets are on par with the original series (which, despite being 40 years later, is pretty good for a fan film — authentic, too), and the sound effects and CGI are fluidly incorporated.

But the star of the show is none other than George Takei, playing the role of an older Sulu. Rather than looking out-of-place, this temporal anomaly is written into the story in flawless Trek fashion, in the spirit of "Time's Orphan". For this actor to have taken time away from Heroes to so accurately reprise this role for a free Web series speaks volumes of the integrity of both Mr. Takei and New Voyages. Yet newcomer Christina Moses almost steals the show, capturing the awe and innocence of a first-time space traveller with earnest mannerisms and subtle body language. As hard as the recast TOS icons worked, their best role was to frame these two actors' characters and performances. Altogether, the cast and story made every minute of the one-hour episode worth watching.

Looking through the episode list, it appears New Voyages' other offerings are equally star-studded. Story authors include David Gerrold (author of "The Trouble with Tribbles") and Dorothy Fontana (author of "Encounter at Farpoint", "The Enterprise Incident", and more), while among the actors are Walter Koenig as Pavel Chekhov and J.G. Hertzler as Harry Mudd.

Of Gods and MenThe CNN article neglected to make a timely mention of a similar project: Star Trek: Of Gods and Men, which finally debuted today. This feature-length production can hardly be called a "fan film" when you consider its weighty cast: Walter Koenig (Pavel Chekhov), Nichelle Nichols (Uhura), Grace Lee Whitney (Janice Rand), Lawrence Montaigne (Stonn from "Amok Time"), Gary Graham (Ambassador Soval), Alan Ruck (Captain John Harriman), Tim Russ (Tuvok), Ethan Phillips (Neelix), Garrett Wang (Harry Kim), J.G. Hertzler (General Martok), Cirroc Lofton (Jake Sisko), and Chase Masterson (Leeta) — as well as some alumni you won't recognize: Crystal Allen (an Enterprise Orion slave girl), William Wellman (a DS9 Bajoran officer), and Daamen Krall (a voice actor for the Star Trek: Starfleet Academy video game). Even "World Enough and Time"'s Kirk and Spock make appearances in other roles.

This dark, "Yesterday's Enterprise"-style mashup is every Trekkie's dream, though I worried it would've suffered from lengthy delays: the film was originally to be released back in April, and even now, only the first third, weighing in at 26 minutes, is available in low-quality streaming video. (Watch for a higher quality version once opening weekend demand dies down.) But what I've seen so far has me eager for more. These experienced actors are so comfortable in the Trek universe that watching them find new ways to play in it is a win-win for both sides of the camera.

The varying yet surprising quality of these "webisodes" has me looking at J.J. Abrams' pending TOS reboot in a new light. Both "World Enough and Time" and Of Gods and Men have demonstrated that a tight script and a talented cast can deliver an excellent story, regardless of the characters or the setting. But when that promise is exemplified best by Star Trek alumni, as is the case with the above two films, the concept of recasting the characters we know and love becomes a questionable proposition at best. I'm a bit more cautious now about the Christmas 2008 release — but I now know that, thanks to talented fans and actors, I have a wealth of new adventures to tide me over in the meantime.

Back to the Future

23-Oct-07 4:16 PM by
Filed under Humor, Star Trek, Television; 1 comment.

It was ten years ago that I first became aware of The Daily Show with Craig Kilborn. The political commentary and satire that are the show's hallmarks provided welcome relief from the doom and gloom of daily newspapers and evening news. The show lasted only a short time with its first host but has enjoyed great success with Kilborn's successor, Jon Stewart.

Now the entire archives of the Stewart era are available for free online viewing at the show's official Web site. Comedy Central's library features an easy-to-use slider for calling up specific days, months, and years of episodes, as well as offering a standard keyword search. It's easy to find and watch classic interviews such as with Scott Bakula or Jeri Ryan, or more recent episodes such as an aforementioned critique of Representative Wu's analysis of the White House administration:


(Hat tip to Slashdot)

To Boldly Go…

15-Dec-06 12:49 AM by
Filed under Star Trek; 6 comments.

The answer to my question about the future of Star Trek has come sooner than I'd like… and I'm not sure what to make of it.

One of my last posts on the original Showbits board was about George Takei's interview wherein he proposed reviving TOS as an animated series. Enough of the original actors are around to lend their voices, and the franchise has earned enough respect to deserve better animation than the original such series — so why not?

So there is a new animated series in the works… but it's for the Web only, and it's set 150 years after TNG. Granted, such a quantum leap forward was how the whole series got relaunched with TNG, but it just seems extreme in this case. Have we already explored all the possibilities of the known universe? Some would say yes, which is why there's no Trek on the air anymore. But between this and the news of a prequel film, it seems like there's too much time travelling going on (just ask viewers of the Voyager finale).

I'm an open-minded skeptic on this one. How about you?