Friday, May 24, 2019

Star Trek: Discovery -- Season 1 Episode 8 (Si Vis Pacem, Para Bellum)

When reviewing TV series, I have to decide if I’m going to do it by the season or by the episode.  Star Trek and Star Trek: The Next Generation lent themselves to being reviewed by the episode, as each one had a distinct plot.  With Friday the 13th: The Series, I realized that I should have done it by the season, as the episodes weren’t really distinct enough.  I’m still on the fence about Star Trek: Discovery, though.  There is a continuing thread with the Klingon War, although there are a few episodes that deserve further exploration.

Si Vis Pacem, Para Bellum has the crew exploring a planet that would seem to sing.  It has this giant towering transmitter that broadcasts out into space.  Commander Saru is sent down with Ash Tyler and Michael Burnham to see about using this transmitter to find cloaked Klingon vessels.  It’s not clear how this is supposed to work, especially considering that the spire is so tall.  Do they just need a key component or are they going to take the whole thing with them?  How do they know that it will even work?

Anyway, Saru seems sensitive to the ambient noise.  Shortly after making contact with what would seem to be an indigenous life form, Saru would seem to go sideways.  He crushes Burnham and Tyler’s communicators, leaving them unable to communicate with the ship.  Saru wants to stay on the planet and would apparently have Burnham and Tyler stay with him.  It’s not really clear how much the locals are influencing him, but Saru has to be stopped.  At the very least, the war effort could do with that transmitter.

Meanwhile, Admiral Cornwell is being interrogated by the Klingons.  L’Rell offers to interrogate her only to secretly offer the Admiral the chance to escape.  L’Rell is disillusioned with her new leader and would just as soon leave.  The last we see of it is L’Rell ostensibly killing Cornwell, but it could very easily be a ruse.  (Is the admiral really dead or is she knocked out?  I’m going to have to wait until I get the third disc to find out.)

The title translates as, “If You Want Peace, Prepare for War.”  I’m sort of in the middle about the episode, as it does seem to be progressing nicely.  My only problem is that I kind of like the episodic series.  You’d have some continuity, but you didn’t have to wait until the end of the season to see so many resolutions.  It’s almost like a soap opera in that we keep having to tune in next week to see what happens.

Saru is definitely making progress.  He started the series as someone who would seem to be afraid of his own shadow.  He’s now leading away missions and even commanding the ship for moderate periods of time.  His learning curve isn’t as awkward as I thought it would have been.  I do think there might be some potential for this character.

We also see Paul Stamets confide in Sylvia Tilly.  (This is predicated by Staments having some noticeable mood swings.)  For once, we get a reason why he doesn’t go elsewhere.  It’s not common knowledge that he modified his own genes.  His partner is a doctor and would be bound to report what happened or live in fear.  Keeping it a secret is a priority.  I’m a little curious to see where this will go.

Star Trek: Discovery is becoming a guilty pleasure for me.  I still have issues, but I can’t stop watching.  (Maybe train wreck is better term.  I’m not sure yet.)  I’m going to finish out the season and see what happens.

Thursday, May 23, 2019

Star Trek: Discovery -- Season 1 Episode 7 (Magic to Make the Sanest Man Go Mad)

I suppose that it’s inevitable that every science-fiction show will do at least one time travel/time loop episode.  Star Trek had it with City on the Edge of Forever.  The Next Generation had at least one of each with Time’s Arrow and Cause and Effect.  The crew of Deep Space Nine even went back to visit The Enterprise with Trials and Tribble-ations.

Time travel isn’t so bad.  It’s usually the time-loop stories that get me.  You see, there can be, at most, one person, other than the perpetrator, that knows about  the time loop.  In case there isn’t anyone, everyone will have a sense of déjà vu. But there has to be a way for the characters to break the loop.

With the case of Magic to Make the Sanest Man Go Mad, Harry Mudd is back.  Yes, he skipped an episode and he wants his revenge on Captain Lorca.  He’s going to do this by stealing the Discovery.  To do this, he’s gotten a time crystal to work, meaning he can make all the mistakes he wants before destroying the ship and jumping back 30 minutes to try again.  This effectively wipes the crew’s memories with the exception of Paul Stamets, who remembers everything.

Stamets enlists the help of Michael Burnham and Ash Tyler.  It’s not clear why he chooses these two people, as they are the two newest additions to the crew that we know about and most people still see Burnham as the mutineer.  (Even the captain, who wants her there, makes her a specialist.  If we are to assume that this means the naval rank, that’s about as far down the ladder as you can get.)

I have to say that this is pretty ambitious for Harry Mudd.  In The Original Star Trek, he was generally pretty petty.  Our first encounter had him trying to make a buck off of finding wives for lonely miners.  To actually steal a ship with the Klingons as the buyer is a pretty big con.  It’s actually worthy of the con that the crew pulls on him.  In fact, they bring him to his long-lost love, Stella, who I am to assume is the same Stella referenced in I, Mudd.

I do get that the writers are trying to nudge Tyler and Burnham together.  It would make more sense to have Staments go to the captain or to his partner.  Given the number of iterations the time loop had, it’s possible that he did.  The important thing for us, the viewers, is that we learn a thing or two about Burnham and Tyler and that they save the day.

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Star Trek: Discovery -- Season 1 Episode 6 (Lethe)

I know that I seem to be getting used to Star Trek: Discovery.  Certain aspects are starting to make sense.  I still have questions and issues, but I’m learning how to deal with that.  Aside from which, I’m getting the DVDs from the library, so it’s not like I’m giving money to CBS.  Still, I have to take issue with any issue that starts with two main characters running laps in shirts that say DISCO in big, bold letters.

I can handle Spock having a foster sister we didn’t know about.  Star Trek V revealed that he had a half-brother and I took that in stride.  I’ve dealt with updated Klingons and easily abandoned technology, as I’ve mentioned before.  I can forgive a lot of things.  Please tell me that there’s no disco in the future.  If I find out that there is, the series is dead to me.

That being said, it looks like Discovery has holodecks, or something similar to it.  Captain Lorca and Ash Tyler are getting a little target practice in when we find out three things about Tyler.  One, he’s a better shot than Lorca.  Two, he’s modest about it.  Three, Lorca is making him the new chief of security.  I guess being in a jail cell together for an indeterminate, yet short, time makes for some good bonding.

In fact, Admiral Cornwell drops by to talk about just that.  She’s worried that Lorca isn’t ready to get back into the captain’s chair just yet.  In fact, she was apparently a psychiatrist, which would lend some credibility.  One thing leads to another, which leads to Cornwell and Lorca sleeping together and Lorca pulling a phaser on Cornwell.  So, yeah.

She wants to keep him off the bridge, but an issue has come up.  Ambassador Sarek was on his way to meet with the Klingons for diplomatic talks, but he was injured by a Vulcan extremist.  Yes, Vulcans have those, apparently.  There are those among the most logical race that would like to keep it that way.  Sarek’s taking a human wife and taking a human girl should be punishable by death.

The good news is that a rescue operation is successful.  The bad news is that Cornwell has to go in his place, as she’s the only qualified authority figure within range.  She and Lorca will talk about him taking a break when she gets back, which is the most obvious way of telling the audience that a major plot twist is coming.  She might as well just say, “I’m going to go put myself in a situation that requires the help of the one person who stands to lose if he’s successful.”

So, I guess Star Trek isn’t beyond a little cliché writing.  That’s ok.  You can’t be perfect all the time.  Aside from which, it does make for a good cliffhanger.  We already knew from the previous episode that maybe Lorca wasn’t the best captain.  Now we know that other people know it, too, and they’re in a position to do something about it.  This really is becoming a lot like a soap opera.

One thing I want to bring up: I don’t recall it ever explicitly being stated that The Original Series never had holodecks, although I could be wrong.  It would seem that holodecks came about during The Next Generation era, as the pilot of The Next Generation would have implied that it was relatively new technology.  I’ll grant that maybe the technology was in development.  Discovery is supposed to be this top-secret super ship, so it’s possible that everything is cutting edge.  I don’t know.

It is nice to see some subtle continuity, though.  Long-time viewers will remember that Sarek was at odds with Spock over Spock’s decision to enter Starfleet.  Now, we know why.  Come to find out that Burnham wanted in on the Vulcan Expeditionary Force, but those running the show wouldn’t hear of it.  Sarek is told in no uncertain terms, only one non-Vulcan at a time.  Either Spock is let in or Burnham, but not both.  It doesn’t matter that Burnham is good enough.  Apparently, Vulcans can be racist, too.

It sort of reminds me of Dark Page, in that the parent of a main character is hiding a dark secret about their child.  In Dark Page, Deanna Troi has to use her telepathic abilities help her mother resolve an issue as Lwaxana is close to death.  In Lethe, Burnham has to use her telepathic bond to help her foster father resolve an issue that’s been eating away at both of them while he’s close to death.  (Oh, and he has to hit the emergency beacon while he’s at it.)

So, Discovery isn’t all that I hoped it would be, but I am finding redeeming qualities and I am curious to see what happens next.  I’m just hoping that it’s not like Enterprise, where it turns out to be a holodeck fantasy or someone waking up from a dream or something.

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Star Trek: Discovery -- Season 1 Episode 5 (Choose Your Pain)

I’ve asked a few questions while watching Star Trek: Discovery.  Notably, I’ve wondered if ethical concerns would prohibit the ship’s spore drive from becoming useful in the long run.  “Choose Your Pain” is the first episode to really face that head on.  The ship’s spore drive requires a living navigator, but that comes at a steep price, especially for said navigator.  The creature that the Discovery is using, Ripper, is in pain and actually gives out during this episode.

Only one crew member, Michael Burnham, advocates for Ripper.  The problem is that when Ripper’s services aren’t needed, it’s not really an issue.  When Ripper is needed, it’s to save lives.  During this episode, the ship has to go into hostile territory and get out as soon as they have their captain.  This can’t be done without Ripper, which means it sucks when he curls up into a ball and can’t navigate the ship.

While in captivity, Captain Lorca has two cellmates.  One is Harcourt Fenton “Harry” Mudd.  Fans of the original series might remember him as the guy who was peddling would-be brides to miners.  He’s not a nice guy.  I don’t know that he deserves to be in a Klingon holding cell, but he’s not the kind of guy I’d want as a friend, either.

The other cellmate is Ash Tyler.  He’s a Starfleet officer who had the misfortune to be captured by the Klingons at the Battle of the Binary Stars.  How he’s survived seven months in Klingon captivity escapes Captain Lorca, but he’s still a Starfleet officer.  The two escape and leave Mudd behind.

I do think that the series is picking up.  We get some plot development and some character development, notably with First Officer Saru, who is left in command.  It would appear that this is the first time that he’s gone an extended period without the captain present, being that he has to look up how to be a captain.  I would have thought that an executive officer would have learned something about that by now.  Still, it’s nice to know that his head is in the right place.  It also gives the show a chance to drop a few familiar names.

Speaking of familiar names, I realize that the part of Mudd has to be recast.  I’m not saying that Rainn Wilson is a bad actor, but I was expecting something closer to Roger C. Carmel.  Instead, I had this lingering image of John Lithgow by the end of the episode.  (Maybe it’s my imagination.)

I’m beginning to get the sense that the writers are playing the long game here.  I suspect that more of my issues will be resolved as time goes by.  I had hoped to watch at least half the season, which would be to the end of this disc.  I may have to go put a hold on the third disc before I’m done with this one.

Monday, May 20, 2019

After Porn Ends 3 (2018)

A few years ago, I came across a documentary called After Porn Ends.  It was a pretty good documentary about people’s lives after they were porn stars.  Some had done well; others hadn’t.  They even did a sequel that followed up pretty nicely.  When I saw a spike in hits on both reviews, I realized that they must have come out with a third installment.   I checked Netflix and it turned out I was correct.

The premise is the same.  There are a lot of people (mostly women) that had been in front of the camera for years.  They tell what it’s like not doing that any more.  Christy Canyon has a radio program on SiriusXM.  Priya Rai is now a cage fighter.  Jenna Presley found Jesus.  The outcomes are usually different, although it would seem many got into the business for the same reason:  Money.  (Tera Patrick was studying to become a nurse until she realized that she could make more playing one on TV, so to speak.)

The movie doesn’t seem like it’s repeating anything from the previous installments, although the franchise does seem to be losing steam.  This one wasn’t quite as interesting.  The stories are new, but not necessarily more interesting  than those from before.  There’s also not the same variety as before.  In the first movie, most of the outcomes were less than desirable.  Actors found it difficult to move on.  In the second movie, many of the actors had found some life after lust.

The previous movies found a way to present the actors as people.  Yes, many of the actors shown here found something else to do.  I didn’t necessarily feel happy or sad about it.  Here, it’s more like actors recalling stories of their glory days.  It’s not said if any of the experiences are typical.  (Is turning to religion common among former adult stars?  I don’t know.)

As you might expect, there are a lot of explicit images.  After all, it is a movie dealing with adult topics.  Many of the stories are happy.  The only really sad one was Bonnie Rotten.  She didn’t have a great upbringing and had difficulty getting into the industry because of her tattoos.

I’m really not certain that a fourth installment is called for.  I spent a while debating over whether or not I wanted to watch this one.  I eventually gave in and watched.  I think if a fourth one is released, I’d probably pass on it.  It would have to pull off something entirely new to catch my attention.

Sunday, May 19, 2019

Star Trek: Discovery -- Season 1 Episode 4 (The Butcher's Knife Cares Not for the Lamb's Cry)

I recently realized that my local library has the first season of Star Trek: Discovery on DVD, thereby allowing me to bypass paying for CBS All Access to watch the show.  I just got the second DVD, so I’d like to review this episode before watching the next few episodes.  The episodes so far would seem to flow more evenly from one to the next, so this will allow me to keep the storylines straight.

This one starts shortly after the previous episode.  Michael Burnham has just come back from the Discovery’s sister ship, the Glenn, with useful technology and a tardigrade-like creature who has been dubbed Ripper.  She and Commander Landry are tasked with figuring out how to weaponize Ripper so that the crew might defeat the Klingons.  After all, Ripper took on a bunch of Klingons alone, as well as giving the away team a run for their money.

Burnham does make a major discovery:  Ripper has some sort of symbiotic relationship with the spores.  He’s also not that aggressive when not provoked.  All of Ripper’s actions thus far have been in self defense.  Furthermore, it would appear that Ripper can help navigate the ship for long jumps.  Discovery can use the spores for shorter jumps with some degree of accuracy.  To do the math for longer jumps requires some sort of supercomputer.

It’s not clear exactly what Ripper does or how Ripper knows where to go.  It’s not possible to communicate with the large creature, although the large creature does appear to be in pain when the drive is in use.  Captain Lorca uses Ripper to get to a colony that mines 40% of the Federation’s dilithium to protect it from a Klingon attack, so some discomfort isn’t his concern.  In fact, Burnham seems to be the only one who does show any sort of concern, ethical or otherwise.  She’s able to demonstrate that there’s no threat.

The ethics of using an alien creature without consent really isn’t dealt with in this episode.  The entire thing seemed a little too convenient.  I’m assuming that Ripper was trained by the crew of the Glenn.  Much like Star Trek’s The Devil in the Dark, it’s possible that a Vulcan was able to mind meld with Ripper to communicate what was going on.

So much is still unknown about Ripper.  Part of me feels like I’m missing something.  Maybe this will be explained in later episodes. I expect someone to leave a comment, “Didn’t you see when someone said X?”  I feel like the episode could have used a little more exposition.  It’s too bad for Ripper that his one advocate is someone who’s already on shaky ground with the rest of the crew.  However, this would be a very good reason for eventually discontinuing the use of the spore drive.

I definitely want to watch the next four episodes.  Maybe I’ll find a few of my answers.  At this point, though, I’m only expecting more questions.

Saturday, May 18, 2019

Star Trek: Discovery -- Season 1 Episode 3 (Context Is for Kings)

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine was dark, but it was still Star Trek.  It showed that things weren’t always rosy in the idealistic Federation or Starfleet.  Being so far from the center of Federation space had implications.  Rules were stretched.  Sometimes, people did things they weren’t proud of.  But, it was still Starfleet.

Discovery started out dark, but seems to be coming around to something that looks like Star Trek.  It’s been six months since Michael Burnham turned against her captain and got her old ship destroyed.  She’s since been court-martialed and sent to prison.  While being transferred to another facility, her ship runs into trouble and is aided by the USS Discovery.  Burnham and her fellow prisoners are brought aboard temporarily.

Burnham finds several of her former crewmates are now serving on the Discovery, including Saru, who got promoted from science officer to Captain Lorca’s first officer.  Saru would be more than happy to help Burnham…get right back on that shuttle.  For the time being, he’ll have to settle for being polite to her.  He realizes that whatever else she might have been, she’s now someone who can’t be fully trusted.

Still, Lorca has a plan for Burnham.  That plan includes sending her to the Discovery’s sister ship, the Glenn, to retrieve classified technology.  When the away team arrives, they find the ship damaged and the crew badly mutilated.  Add to that Klingons that were viciously attacked by something.  The team gets what they need and discover the mysterious creature, which is resistant to phaser fire.  The crew makes it back to the Discovery.  The episode ends with Lorca offering Burnham a place on the ship, telling her what the secret project really is.  Oh, and it also turns out that he somehow got the vicious creature onboard.

I will admit that the show is getting more to the point where my questions aren’t as pressing.  The creature looks like a giant tardigrade, which is unusual, but I suppose not impossible.  Given that so many alien species look eerily human, it’s easy to imagine that a microscopic Earth-bound creature might be the template for a large creature of unknown origin.

Also, it’s revealed that the secret project is a new method of navigation that allows the ship to go anywhere instantaneously.  One might wonder why none of the other series had this technology.  That’s what Star Trek does.  One thing I remember from Star Trek: Voyager is lots of one-off technology.  (Voyager even had a species that had a personal cloaking device, if you can believe it.)  This aspect of the series is actually the most believable.

The one thing that gets me is that Burnham, who is usually quiet and logical (and is now more so after six months in prison) is given Cadet Sylvia Tilly as a roommate.  Tilly is a Chatty Cathy.  When she says that she talks when nervous, she’s not kidding.  I suppose that there’s a certain irony in this.  The one person that will actually talk to Burnham won’t…stop…talking!

I am kind of wondering what this black alert is.  It seems unnecessary.  Isn’t it enough to have red alert and yellow alert?  I guess I’ll find out what that is eventually.  (I just got the second DVD of the first season from the library.  Please explain if you can keep it spoiler free.)

Thursday, May 16, 2019

Star Trek -- Season 2 Episode 5 (The Apple)

The Enterprise went through a lot of security officers during it’s run.  I’ve often wondered if Starfleet ever asked why.  After all, new officers were being assigned to the ship and a death would certainly generate a report.  This was the second episode in recent memory to feature four security officers being killed.  I imagine some poor recruit getting his first assignment only to cry uncontrollably at the fact that it’s The Enterprise.  (“All this effort to get into Starfleet and this is what I get?  I’m too young to die!”)  To be fair, the crew did encounter a dangerous planet and Captain Kirk does wrestle with the loss of crewmembers.  However, there were a lot of deaths on the show.

In this episode, the crew comes upon a planet with a small tribe of people who are ruled by a computer named Vaal.  The people feed Vaal and, in return, Vaal makes the rain come down and the fruit grow.  Kirk and McCoy immediately realize that this is a stagnant society.  They don’t grow or learn or build.  All the people do is feed Vaal.  Spock, being the voice of reason, points out that it works.  It’s not humanity’s ideal society, but the people are happy and want for nothing.  Who are they to interfere with that?

Well, leave it to the writers to force the issue.  The ship is being dragged down towards the planet surface.  If Kirk doesn’t destroy Vaal, the crew will die.  It’s been said that the crew accepts this if it’s in service of The Prime Directive.  You don’t interfere with the natural development of a culture, even if it means your life.  But is it really interfering with a culture if there is no real culture to speak of?  Maybe, but the death of the crew would lead to a really short second season.  And I don’t imagine Kirk wants to be stranded on a planet where light rocks could explode under your feet.

It’s not clear how a small group of child-like immortals developed in such a way that they came under the care of a computer beyond their capacity to build.  It’s possible that they were left there by a more-advanced civilization.  Maybe it was a sort of daycare that was abandoned.  I suppose of all the possible questions, it’s not the worst to have.  It would, at least, make for an interesting novel or fan movie.

I’m also not sure why Vaal has it in for the crew of the Enterprise.  I’m assuming that the ship falling towards the planet was unintentional.  Vaal could just as easily have shot down the ship or sent the ship away.  It would appear that whoever wrote the episode was concerned more with the issues and immanent danger.  (I know.  This describes most of the Star Trek episodes.)  I suppose it at least makes for an interesting moral debate.

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Star Trek -- Season 2 Episode 4 (Mirror, Mirror)

The idea of an alternate history is nothing new.  Several novels were published in the 19th century.  The Man in the High Castle had been published in 1962.  Mirror, Mirror isn’t even Star Trek’s first take on the concept.  City on the Edge of Forever and The Alternate Factor both used alternate timelines in their plot.

Here, a transporter accident sends Kirk, Scotty, McCoy and Uhura into a universe where The Federation, or at least Earth, is overtly imperialistic.  The Empire takes by force what The Federation would negotiate for.  In fact, Kirk had been negotiating with the Halkans for dilithium crystals when an ion storm hit. 

Kirk’s alternate was instructed to destroy Halkan cities if they don’t cooperate, which puts Kirk in a difficult position.  He doesn’t want to level cities, but can’t avoid it without raising suspicion.  The four crewmembers are able to get back at the last minute with some help from the alternate Spock, who agrees to try to change the Terran Empire.

Part of the reason the episode works is that it does what it sets out to do.  There’s very little filler or exposition.  The only real exposition would be at the end, where Kirk has to drag it out when they have only minutes to spare.  It shows what an alternate to The Federation might be.  As Spock points out at the end, the alternate isn’t really that different.  Kirk is able to refrain from many of his baser instincts whereas the other Kirk has no real incentive to do so.

It would have been interesting to explore that universe a little more during The Original Series.  It’s not clear if all of The Enterprise’s missions were the same.  I would like to see how Khan or Harry Mudd fit into that universe.  Fortunately, Deep Space Nine and Enterprise did visit The Mirror Universe, so we do get to see what happened because of Spock’s decision.

Only two things really bothered me about the episode.  First, how is it that all of the same characters exist in both universes?  I suppose, given an infinite number of timelines, that there would be one that’s at least similar to ours.  There’s probably one with an Enterprise that has an entirely different crew.  There may be one where Vulcans or Andorians weren‘t space-faring.

The other thing was that Kirk and the others beamed into their alternates’ clothing.  Not only that, they beamed back into their own clothing when they got back to their own universe.  It’s a concession necessary to help them blend in to The Mirror Universe, I know.  It’s still a little odd.

Overall, it’s a pretty good episode.  I’m glad that the plot was at least used in several of the spin-off series.  The Original Series wasn’t particularly good with continuity, so anything is welcome.

Monday, May 13, 2019

Star Trek: Discovery -- Season 1 Episode 2 (Battle at the Binary Stars)

I’d like to think that there’s a plan.  Not to life, necessarily.  I think life, in general, is random.  When it comes to episodic television, though, I’d like to think that there’s a plan.  With Star Trek: Discovery, it’s not clear what that plan is, yet.  The Klingons look totally different.  They have cloaking devices.  Spock has a foster sister we didn’t know about.  Oh, and Spock’s foster sister has apparently just started a war with the Klingons.

Michael Burnham is the foster sister and she did kill one a Klingon, although it’s probable that they were looking for a fight.  There’s this new wannabe Klingon leader, T'Kuvma, who wants to unite the houses by picking a fight with The Federation.   If not Burnham, it would have been someone else.

The fact that she was correct is irrelevant, even when lots of other Klingon and Starfleet ships show up.  Her plan was to shoot first, which Starfleet doesn’t do.  Aside from which, she also tried to mutiny, which lands her in the brig.  She escapes and does help the Captain try to take T’Kuvma alive, but that ends in failure, too.  Both T’Kuvma and Captain Georgiou die.  Burnham ends up stripped of rank and court-martialed.

This was the second part of the pilot story.  It’s enough to make your head spin, especially if you’ve watched all the previous incarnations.  As I mentioned for the first part, it’s a huge franchise, with all the TV shows, movies and books.  A few things aren’t clear, like how Burnham got her spot as first officer or why the Klingons look the way they do.

I felt that the episode was kind of weak.  Part one was the setup and part two was basically one big battle scene.  Sure, it’s an epic battle and all, but we’re getting mostly the story of how Burnham came to be on the U.S.S. Shenzhou.  (Two episodes in and we haven’t even heard from the U.S.S. Discovery yet.)

The episode ends with Burnham utterly defeated.  She has no rank or position, despite a promising career.  Even if she gets out of her life sentence, which she does, she’s the executive officer that mutinied and got her commanding officer killed.  She’s not going to have a lot of friends.

I have the first disc of Season One from the library, with a hold on the second disc.  Given that I’ve watched all of the life-action series and movies, I feel like I have great expectations for this series.  I know people wondered about Worf, given that he looked so different from the original Klingons.  I am willing to give Discovery a shot.  I can only hope that it doesn’t disappoint.

Star Trek: Discovery -- Season 1 Episode 1 (The Vulcan Hello)

Star Trek has an interesting history.  The Original Series was apparently not popular enough to get a fourth season, but it just made it to the point where the reruns could be syndicated.  The Next Generation was syndicated, which gave us seven seasons.  Then, came Deep Space Nine and Voyager, the latter of which was the flagship of UPN.  UPN didn’t last long after Voyager went off the air, but we did get Star Trek: Enterprise, which was set before The Original Series.  There were also the movies, which were a mixed bag.  Then, we got that movie reboot, which I’m still not fond of.

So, here we are with Star Trek: Discovery, which is supposed to be this big thing for CBS All Access.  Except, I’m not going to let CBS use my love of Star Trek to get me to fork over money for yet another streaming service.  I refuse to.  Fortunately, by local library has the first season on DVD.  Thus, I can watch the show and not pay for it.  Having watched the first two episodes so far, I’m glad I didn’t.  I’m not entirely satisfied with what I’ve seen so far.

The episode starts with Captain Philippa Georgiou and First Officer Michael Burnham bringing water to a dry, pre-warp culture without being seen by the inhabitants.  They manage to beam off the planet after a successful mission.  Cut to a damaged communications relay.  It appears the big hole in the middle of it was deliberate.  Not only that, but there’s a Klingon ship hiding in the asteroid field.

These aren’t the original Klingons that Kirk had to deal with.  They have ridges and no hair.  They’re the exact opposite of the first Klingons.  I have no explanation for this.  I’m assuming it will be explained later on.  Anyway, the leader of this ship wants to declare war on The Federation so that he might unite the houses under one rule.  It is a powerful ship and he does have a cloaking device, which I’m assuming will also be explained later on.

Georgiou wants to hold off on attacking.  Starfleet doesn’t fire first.  However, Burnham is in contact with her foster father, Sarek, who advises her to attack first.  Georgiou declines her first officer’s advice, prompting her to act illogically and take the captain out with a Vulcan neck pinch.  Before Burnham can attack, Georgiou recovers and relieves Burnham of duty.  We’re left with a cliffhanger, not knowing what the Klingons will do next.

I have a few issues with the series so far, and we‘re not even 50 minutes into it.  It seems like the show was written by people that had never seen Star Trek before.  It’s as if everyone took a look at various Wikipedia articles and just decided they could wing it.  I’ve already mentioned two issues with the Klingons.  It also seems like the Shenzhou was given a first officer that didn’t have much training.  (If I’m interpreting correctly, it seems like Sarek got her the job rather than having her work her way through the ranks.)

If CBS wanted hard-core fans to buy into the service and support the show, you’d think the writers would try a little harder for continuity.  To be fair, the first season of The Original Series was all over the place, but we’re talking about a franchise that’s fifty years old.  This is the sixth live-action series.  I’d think they’d have their act together.

I think anyone who watched most of the previous series will take issue with the pilot.  I am hopeful.  Each of the other series took a while to get going.  Even the movies seemed to alternate between hit and miss.  There are so many issues with this episode, but I am willing to give the series a chance.  It did get a second season and will apparently get a third.  I will admit that there are ways my issues could be satisfactorily resolved.

Sunday, May 12, 2019

Pokémon Detective Pikachu (2019)

Tim Goodman always wanted to be a Pokémon trainer.  Apparently, not everyone is cut out to do that.  The Pokéman has to want it.  So, Tim became an insurance salesman.  It’s not a bad career, but there is a sense that Tim gave up on his dream.  We’re reminded of that when his father, Harry, goes missing.  Tim is called to Ryme City, where Harry was a detective.  Inside a room meant for Tim is a bead with a pair of distinctive yellow ears at its head.

Moments after seeing those ears, Tim hears a crash in his father’s apartment.  Armed only with a stapler, Tim confronts a Pikachu.  Specifically, it’s his father’s Pokémon partner.  The thing is that this Pikachu can talk.  Both are confused, as all Tim should hear is, “Pika Pika.”  Everyone else does.  So, why not Tim?  It could be genetic.  It could be that purple gas Tim accidentally inhaled moments earlier.  Detective Pikachu has amnesia, so answers aren’t forthcoming.

Both decide to team up, as they have the same objective:  Find Harry Goodman.  Detective Pikachu would also like to recover his memory.  Since Pikachu lost his memory right around the time Harry went missing, but that should work itself out as a result of their investigation.  The two meet Lucy Stevens along the way, who’s an intern at a news organization.  She’d love to break a big story, but seems to be relegated to getting coffee.  It’s perfect because Tim needs a local to help him out.

I don’t want to give too much away, mostly because there was so much about the movie that I didn’t see coming.  I know this is based on a video game, which I haven’t played.  The world of Pokémon is relatively unknown to me, so I was able to come to the movie fresh.  (I suspect that this is a good thing most of the time.)

I will say that the relationship between Detective Pikachu and Tim was great.  This is no small feat considering that one of them is animated.  The expressiveness on Pikachu’s face was great.  The coming attractions show you this pretty well.  The characters look emotive.  They look like you might meet one of them walking down the street.   The effect is seamless.  Justice Smith reacts as if Pikachu were actually standing there, about to hit him with that big yellow tail.  Even a minor breakdown in this dynamic would break the illusion.

It’s difficult to say who the movie is for, probably because it has to play to such a large group of people.  This is the latest installment in the Pokémon franchise.  It’s the first predominately live-action film for Pokémon, but there have been animated movies, an animated TV show, manga, video and mobile games and a CCG.  I think there is an element targeted at younger demographic, but Pokémon was introduced in 1995.  There are going to be members of the audience that were members of that demographic 20 years ago.

Then, there are also going to be people like me that got excited by the coming attractions.  It may not have been an overly meaningful or deep movie, but it did keep my attention.  I don’t know that I could see a direct sequel coming out of this movie, but I could see other in-universe features coming about.  I’m curious to see what those would look like.

Wednesday, May 08, 2019

Star Trek -- Season 2 Episode 3 (The Changeling)

I’ve never made it any secret that I hate an unstoppable force versus mere mortals.  You have movies like The Terminator, where there’s one strong force with limited range and power.  It’s another thing altogether to have a god-like creature.  In fact, the episode to air before this one literally had a Greek God as an antagonist.  Now, we have an Earth probe that was presumed destroyed only to have it turn up with some amazing modifications.

When the Enterprise first encounters it, Nomad had just finished wiping out over four billion people.   Yes.  This tiny little probe destroyed the entire population of a solar system.  Why?  Because they were imperfect biological creatures.  Nomad is about to do the same to the Enterprise until it hears the name James T. Kirk.  Nomad takes this to be the name of its creator, Dr. Jackson Roykirk, and spares the ship.

This puts Kirk in a difficult position.  He’s in no position to deny Nomad anything.  The probe thinks nothing of killing anyone wearing a red shirt.  At least four security guards get vaporized.  Nomad even kills Scotty and wipes Uhura’s memory.  (Nomad is able to resurrect Scotty, but can do nothing for Uhura.)  On the other hand, Kirk can’t show Nomad the way to Earth.  That’s billions more imperfect beings that would be slaughtered.  Kirk is able to save the day at the last minute by outthinking the probe.

There are several things that bothered me about the episode, starting with the fact that this is the second week in a row that the Enterprise squared off and defeated a powerful being.  Kirk and crew are spared only by the similarity of two names.  For that matter, why did Nomad spare the crew?  It had no problem killing security guards, even given orders by Kirk not to do so.  It could just as easily destroyed everyone except Kirk and maybe Spock.

My second issue is Uhura’s memory loss.  Her memory is wiped, presumably completely.  She’s left with only a knowledge of Swahili, and yet they bring her back up to speed in a week?  It’s not entirely clear, but it’s implied that she loses all her memories, including those of friends, family and her fellow crewmembers.  This is never brought up again.  She just goes about being Uhura, as if it never happened.  Uhura is so easy to disposable that she’s effectively replaced by…Uhura?

And the episode could have done so much more with the concept.  This is proven by the fact that they reused the basic plot in Star Trek: The Motion Picture.  They took a concept that had no business using up a full hour and made it into a feature-length film that actually worked a little better.  (Granted, the movie still wasn’t great, but it was better than this episode.)

I think, if anything, this episode demonstrates how much more the series could have done.  We didn’t learn much about the crew outside of the ship.  Most details, like Sulu’s fencing or Kirk‘s brother, generally come up when it’s necessary for the plot of the episode.  Uhura’s memory loss is something that should have been a terrible trauma and it’s used as a way to show Nomad’s power.  Uhura deserves better than that.

Tuesday, May 07, 2019

Star Trek -- Season 2 Episode 2 (Who Mourns for Adonais?)

Space is vastly empty.  Consider that it takes light four years to get to from our star to the next closest one and there’s nothing in between.  It seems odd that a spaceship would be able to find interesting planets every week.  Granted, there are a lot of stars out there, but there’s no promise that any of them would have inhabited planets.  They could all be barren wastelands.  Not only that, but the Enterprise has a propensity for finding god-like creatures.

In this case, it would appear that they’ve actually found the Greek god Apollo.  He reaches out with a hand-like projection and holds the ship in place, demanding that the bridge crew come down to the planet.  Once there, the landing party is informed that they will stay and worship Apollo as humans once did thousands of years prior.  Likewise, the humans will tend sheep and do other things humans have long since given up.

It would seem that the Enterprise is trapped, but Apollo has some sort of assistance.  He also conveniently gets tired very easily.  This, of course, presents an opportunity.  Once the details are worked out, it’s just a matter of removing that assistance and the crew is off to the next planet.

This would make for a better episode if it didn’t seem so similar to The Squire of Gothos.  You have what appears to be an all-powerful being intent on keeping the Enterprise crew captive for its own ends.  It needs assistance which, once destroyed, incapacitates the being and allows the crew to leave.

What makes this different is the ancient-astronaut theory, in which several aliens came to Earth and set themselves up as deities.  (A few even had kids with the locals.)  It’s not clear why Apollo has a thing for humans or what he did for 5,000 years.  He states that worshipers give him some sort of power, but it’s not clear if other races would have the same effect.  Even if Apollo headed straight back to his home planet, he and the others of his kind had to explore the galaxy to find Earth.  They might have found another planet that would have been close enough.

The episode is just a little too uninspired for me.  It might have been more interesting to explore what Greek gods had done on Earth.  (I’m sure Apollo would have a few tales to tell.)  Instead, Apollo is intent on regaining his former glory.  All of the other members of the Greek pantheon knew the game was up and moved on.  It basically takes the Enterprise destroying his source of power for Apollo to take the hint.

I definitely think there was a lot of wasted potential here.  I get that it was a product of a different era.  The network may have assumed that the audience wanted more of an action show.  The episode might have been able to do more with the philosophical element had it not been for this.  The show even seems to have a 60s-era attitude towards women, even.  Take, for instance, that Scotty is interested in a female lieutenant.  It’s assumed that if she marries someone, she’ll leave the service.  I’m assuming that this attitude was adjusted by the time The Next Generation came around, as Starfleet had no problem with married couples serving on different ships.   You‘d think that we would have moved on in the next 300 years.

Monday, May 06, 2019

Star Trek -- Season 2 Episode 1 (Amok Time)

During the first season of Star Trek, the Vulcans were established as being very logical.  Everything about their race and culture was done logically.  Their reproductive habits weren’t talked about much, though.  As Kirk put it in this episode, everyone just assumed it was done logically.  But, Vulcans do mate and it’s not a very logical time for them.

The episode starts with Dr. McCoy telling Captain Kirk that something about their resident Vulcan is off.  If it were anyone else, they might be described as temperamental.  But, this is Spock we’re talking about.  Something is off.  He even requests to be taken back to Vulcan.  He won’t give any details other than that he has to go there immediately.

Kirk agrees.  The only catch is that they have to go to an important ceremony that can’t be delayed.  There’s no way that Kirk can drop Spock off at Vulcan and still make the engagement at Altair VI.  When Kirk diverts course, Spock diverts back to Vulcan.  Why?  It turns out that Vulcans have an uncontrollable urge to mate every seven years upon reaching adulthood.  Spock was bonded to a woman years ago and it’s now time for him to marry her.

Of course, it’s not that simple.  His bride challenges the marriage and has Kirk fight Spock…to the death.  No, they’re not going to have the first officer kill the captain this early in the second season.  (McCoy has a trick up his sleeve.)  I must admit that it’s an interesting way to start a new year.

The big plus for this episode is that we get to see some development for Spock and Vulcans in general.  I must admit that his parents are suspiciously absent.  You’d think they’d make the time for his son’s wedding.  For that matter, it would seem that neither side has any family present.  I can see that it might have been short notice, considering that the wedding takes place literally when the urge hits them.  You’d still think that they’d be on call.

It’s also curious that other Federation worlds don’t know anything about the Pon Farr.   It’s said that Vulcans are secretive about it, which is understandable.  It’s not clear what percentage of Starfleet officers are Vulcan, so it’s plausible that most were able to discreetly request personal time when the occasion presented itself.  Also, in The Immunity Syndrome, it’s stated that there was a ship staffed solely by Vulcans.  I’d think that at least a few officers would be gone at any given time.  In any event, it was great episode to lead off the second season.

Saturday, May 04, 2019

The Intruder (2019)

I do occasionally worry if spoilers are warranted for a movie.  How much information is necessary for you to get an idea of what the movie is about?  How much do I have to give away to talk about important plot points?  In the case of The Intruder, the trailer took care of that for me.  If you’ve seen it, you know basically what the movie is about:  Charlie Peck sells a house to Annie and Scott Russell.  Only Charlie doesn’t exactly walk away.  All that’s left to fill in are Charlie’s motivation and fate.

Well, ok.  There’s a little more to it than that, but not much.  There is a very paint-by-numbers feel to the movie.  It’s like [Character A] and [Party B] conduct transaction.  [Character A] has [Issue].  Everything that Charlie does is setting up for some sort of repercussion.  Charlie’s supposedly going to stay with a daughter?  You know that’s not happening.  Charlie is staying at a hotel?  Maybe.  And when I say maybe, I mean not really.

The movie does do well to turn up the suspense at a consistent rate.  Charlie starts out as a friendly, albeit creepy, man.  When Scott meets one of his new neighbors, they get to talking about good old Charlie.  The neighbor is basically, “Oh, yeah.  That guy.”  There’s a little more to Charlie than we are initially told about, but we know that from the beginning.  It’s just a matter of when and how that information will come out.

I did a little reading.  It turns out that the writer, David Loughery, was also the guy who wrote Star Trek V: The Final Frontier.  For those even vaguely familiar with Star Trek movies, the odd-numbered films were notorious for being of lower quality.  This must have been an odd-numbered suspense movie.  It had a very generic, bland feel to it.

I will say that I’d like to see what Simon Pegg could have done with the script.  This is the guy that wrote Paul and Hot Fuzz.  I definitely think he could have made this a better movie.  (Granted, that’s like saying you could make water taste better, but still…)   The movie had so much potential.  Instead, it came across more like a basic template for suspense movies.

Friday, May 03, 2019

Wonder Park (2019)

It would seem that the moment I joined AMC’s A-List, AMC started requiring that I pick a seat beforehand.  I don’t know if this is coincidence or not.  It does seem to be new, as people are still getting used to it.  However, it does have its advantages.  I can pick a seat with lots of leg room.  I can also see how full a movie is before getting seats.  This is especially useful for an animated movie like Wonder Park, where there might be lots of children.  I was fortunate to have only two other people, both adults, watching the movie with me.  Children tend to be, shall we say, unpredictable audience members.

The movie is about a girl named June who plans an imaginary park with her mother, called Wonderland.  (This leads to the conundrum of why a movie about Wonderland would be called Wonder Park.  There doesn’t seem to be a definitive answer for this.)  The plans are derailed when June’s mother, simply called Mom, has to go away.  (It’s not explicitly stated, but parents will pick up on the fact that the reason is most likely cancer.)

This leave’s Dad to take care of June.  He does his best, but June is affected by Mom's departure.  She puts away anything related to Wonderland, instead becoming overly protective of her father.  It becomes so bad that Dad has to send June to math camp to get her mind off of things.  She initially agrees, but escapes the bus ride and tries to run back  She’s diverted when she finds a piece of her Wonderland map and is led to the actual Wonderland, or what’s left of it.

There, she meets all of the characters that she and her mother created.  Many of the rides are there, but the park is being dismantled by chimpanzombies (stuffed toys that came to life) and fed into a great void called The Darkness.  Absent, at first, is Peanut, a chimpanzee who builds the park.  June manages to find him, believing that if he can fix the rides, all will be restored.

I think this may be a movie that was intended for both children and adults that somehow missed the mark.  There’s a certain amount of allegory that will go over the heads of children.  To be honest, I started reading about the movie after I saw it.  I came to realize that I had missed a bit, myself.  For instance, the chimpanzombies could be seen as an allusion to cancer.  They’re in the likeness of Peanut and attack the park, much like a cancer would attack a person.  (They’re also difficult to get rid of.)

I’m not sure this is a bad thing.  Someone who wanted to sit back and just watch the movie could easily do so.  On that level, it works as a girl who goes off on an adventure and finds the peace of mind that she needs.  On the other hand, someone who wanted to find deeper meaning could find a few connections.

The trouble is that it’s not a really great story.  It sort of reminds me of The Explorers.  The Explorers was rushed to production and had an incomplete feel to it.  Wonder Park seems like something that wasn’t quite fully developed, either.  It’s an entertaining 85 minutes, but it’s not the best I’ve seen.

According to Wikipedia, Nickelodeon is using this to launch a TV show, which I suppose makes sense.  I could see this being a pilot episode, setting up the characters and mythology.  Still, given the 85 minute runtime, I feel like the movie could have done better.  Then again, this may explain why I don’t watch any of Nickelodeon’s TV shows.

Thursday, May 02, 2019

Missing Link (2019)

Humans are a social species.  Part of that means wanting to belong.  You want to have friends.  You want to get married.  You want a job where people accept you and value your work.  This is totally understandable.  This is all Sir Lionel Frost really wants.

Frost is essentially a Cryptozoologist.  He wants to find and prove the existence of mythological creatures.  The movie starts with him trying to photograph the Loch Ness Monster.  Why?  So that he might get into a society of great men.  The current membership, led by Lord Piggot-Dunceby, doesn’t much care for him.

Frost’s latest adventure begins when he gets a letter from someone claiming to be able to lead him to a Sasquatch.  Thus, Piggot-Dunceby makes a wager with Frost that if Frost can find said Sasquatch and return with evidence, Frost will be admitted to the society.

Frost discovers that the letter was sent by an actual Sasquatch, whom he dubs Mr. Link.  Mr. Link sent the letter to Frost in the hopes that Frost might bring him to the land of the Yeti.  You see, Mr. Link has similar desires.  He’s the last of his kind and simply wants to live out his days among his distant cousins.  So, it’s agreed:  Frost will take Link to the Yetis.

Frost has to get a map from an old flame, Adelina Fortnight.  Fortnight reluctantly agrees only if she is allowed to come with them.  To boot, Piggot-Dunceby has hired a hit man to kill Frost, knowing that Frost will never quit.  Oh, and it turns out that the Yetis aren’t too keen on outsiders, even if they’re Sasquatch.  So, there’s that.

The movie was enjoyable, although I think it was aimed at younger audiences.  It’s a solid PG movie, having a few scary moments and some gunplay.  When I was in the theater, there weren’t any scenes I would have worried about if I had a young child with me.

The character development is about what you’d expect for such a movie.  Frost comes across as a bit selfish.  He’s a bit bossy and inconsiderate.  He even missed his best friend’s funeral.  He can’t see past what he wants.  Even when he considers Link’s request, it’s in terms of what Frost wants.

As for Link, he’s more naïve.  When Frost prompts him to pick his own name, Link chooses Susan, leading to a few gender-related jokes.  (Fortunately, the movie doesn’t overdo it.)  Many of the jokes involving Link are based on him not understanding English that well.  (Link taught himself.)

This isn’t going to be for everyone.  It’s not one I’d prod my parents into seeing.  It’s the kind of movie I might watch again if it’s on TV.  (I say might, only because I could see it airing on a kids’ channel.  I don‘t know if I want to sit through those commercials.)  It’s also stop motion, which makes for less natural transitions at times.  I do think it’s interesting to consider the amount of effort put into making stop motion.  (There’s a mid-credits scene that offers some insight into this.)

There’s also a level of predictability.  Both Link and Frost want to belong to a group that doesn’t want them.  Both must find that happiness and peace come from within rather than from acceptance.  I could definitely see a sequel happening wherein Link finds another of his kind.  I’m sure I’ll even get around to watching it.