Posted in Television

Rob Watches Star Trek: A New Day, A New Generation

SERIES: Star Trek: The Next Generation
TITLE: S1.E1 & E2. “Encounter at Farpoint”
STARRING: Patrick Stewart, Jonathan Frakes, LeVar Burton, Denise Crosby, Michael Dorn
GUEST-STARRING: John de Lancie
WRITERS: Gene Roddenberry, D.C. Fontana
DIRECTOR:
Corey Allen
ORIGINAL AIR DATE:
September 28, 1987
SYNOPSIS:
Captain Picard and members of his crew argue the merits of humanity at Farpoint Station with a mysterious alien entity called Q.

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

New Around here? Check out the “Rob Watches Star Trek” archive!

In years past, I’d tried to watch “Encounter at Farpoint” at least twice, maybe three or four times. But it just didn’t grab me. In fact, on at least one of those occasions I fell asleep. That’s a problem I didn’t expect to have, as so many people told me Star Trek: The Next Generation was the ideal gateway into Star Trek fandom.

Thankfully, I fared better this time.

So we start off with a slightly tweaked version of the “Space…the Final Frontier” intro from our new captain, Jean-Luc Picard, played by the great Patrick Stewart. The conception of Picard is interesting to me, as Kirk is such a tough act to follow. Reportedly, Gene Roddenberry wanted someone who was “masculine, virile, and had a lot of hair.” (So right out of the gate, I consider Picard to be a champion for bald-headed heroes everywhere…) In contrast to Kirk being more of an all-American hero type, Picard is portrayed as more of quiet, brooding Frenchman, who for some reason doesn’t speak with a French accent. Though apparently Stewart did try the accent at one point.

The episode doesn’t waste much time before getting into the action. We meet this strange person/entity called Q, we see what this new Enterprise can do as the saucer separates from the rest of the ship, and Picard and the crew soon find themselves arguing on humanity’s behalf in a kangaroo court in space. Not much of a mind for exposition, which is a little frustrating. But I confess this approach is for the best. Better to get on with the business of the plot than get bogged down with a bunch of information we’ll get eventually, anyway.

Picard refers to the simulated timeframe of the trial as “Mid  21st century. The post-atomic horror.” This would seem to imply we’re about to destroy ourselves with nuclear weapons. That’s kind of a downer…

Tasha Yar, the Enterprise’s security chief, says the court should get on its knees before what Starfleet is, and what it represents. But what is that, exactly? I assume it’s something along the lines of dedication to peace, justice, diversity, discovery, etc. Also, this woman seems shockingly impulsive for a security chief, or for that matter, a security guard. I confess, I took a bit of pleasure when Q froze her solid.

How can you tell this show was made in the ’90s? There’s an indoor shopping mall. Think there’s a Sears in there?

It looks like one of the elements we’ll be exploring is Picard’s solidarity. Note his interactions with Dr. Crusher and Wesley, and his flat out asking Riker to help him around children. There’s a parallel between he and Kirk there. Star Trek V looked a little more in-depth at Kirk not having a family of his own, believing he’d die alone, etc. Of course, the interesting factor there is that this episode predates Star Trek V by about two years. So the movie could very well have drawn inspiration from the show.

There’s also an interesting parallel between Picard and Data. The latter is, of course, a robot who longs to be human. But Picard is, deep down, someone who wants to be more human. He secretly wants more out of his life. Naturally, I suspect we’ll be exploring that as our series progresses.

While Star Trek starts in 2266, Star Trek: TNG begins in 2364. So we’re about a century ahead of where we started. Nevertheless, we get a cameo from a 137-year-old Bones. Apparently, he made it to the rank of admiral, which is odd considering he was talking about retirement in Star Trek VI. Chronologically, this is the character’s final appearance. And so I raise my glass to my favorite character from the original series, and the actor who played him for a quarter century.

While “Encounter at Farpoint” does its job in terms of setting up the show at large, I can’t say it did much for me personally. To be fair, it’s technically two episodes that were originally aired together as a movie. But bluntly put, it’s just not that good as a movie. For newcomers like me, I would suggest “Encounter at Farpoint” be kept divided. I understand TNG had much to establish early on. But there’s such a thing as throwing too much at the audience too soon.

Email Rob at primaryignition@yahoo.com, or check us out on Twitter.

Posted in Movies

Rob Watches Star Trek: It’s Never Goodbye…

***What happens when I, a 30-something-year-old fanboy, decide to look at the Star Trek franchise for the first time with an open heart? You get “Rob Watches Star Trek.”***

TITLE: Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country
STARRING: William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, DeForest Kelley, Kim Cattrall, Christopher Plummer
DIRECTOR: Nicholas Meyer
WRITERS: Leonard Nimoy, Lawrence Konner, Mark Rosenthal, Nicholas Meyer, Denny Martin Flinn
STUDIOS: Paramount Pictures
RATED: PG
RUN-TIME: 110 min
RELEASED: December 6, 1991

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

New Around here? Check out the “Rob Watches Star Trek” archive!

As we reach the final movie to feature the original Star Trek cast in its entirety, I have to take my hat off to everything the franchise had achieved circa 1991. By this point, it had been more than 20 years since the original show ended. Yet these characters and this universe were still able to sustain themselves through six films, not to mention a short-lived animated show, and a hit spin-off in Star Trek: The Next Generation. In the modern era, where Marvel has made expansive cinematic tie-in universes the “it” thing, can there be any doubt that Star Trek was ahead of its time? I think not. (On a side note, I never realized this movie did the whole autographs-on-the-credits thing so many years before Avengers: Endgame.)

I only wish these characters could have gone out on a higher note. Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country isn’t a bad movie. But it doesn’t have the same epic feel as The Wrath of Khan, the light-hearted throwback appeal of The Voyage Home, or even the infamous reputation of The Final Frontier. It exists on an awkward level somewhere above mediocre, but below good.

After the destruction of a moon throws their empire into chaos, the notorious Klingon race seeks to make peace with the United Federation of Planets. Much to his dismay, Captain James T. Kirk is chosen to escort Klingon ambassadors to Earth so that peace talks may commence. But when the Enterprise inexplicably fires on the Klingons from out of nowhere, Kirk is framed and imprisoned on a frigid planet with Bones in tow. Now they must survive their new, hostile environment as Spock and the rest of the crew search for the truth.

I can’t even tell you how happy I was to see The Undiscovered Country do something its predecessors all failed to do: Give the proper emotional weight to the death of Kirk’s son David. After some of the things we saw on the show, Kirk has every reason not to trust the Klingons. But remember, David was killed by a Klingon in Star Trek III. As such, Kirk has just cause to flat out hate the Klingons. You’re not likely to find better fuel for drama than that. It’s not explored very much, but at least the film remembered that David existed. Is it a coincidence that it happened in a film that was directed and co-written by Nicholas Meyer, who directed David’s first appearance in The Wrath of Khan? Probably not.

Star Trek VI is full of Shakespearean quotes and Cold War allegories. That’s all well and good. I actually like the them being about how people chose to deal with change. I just don’t know that it made the most of its premise.

For my money, the most interesting part of the movie is Kirk being framed for the murder of the Klingon ambassadors. If I’ve got the keys to Star Trek VI, I make that the core of the movie. We’d be with Kirk at the prison colony has he wrestles with Bones over whether the Klingons deserved to die for all they’d done. Meanwhile, Spock and the others work to solve the mystery of who did attack the ambassadors. They ultimately springing Kirk and Bones from the prison during Kirk’s fight with the big alien brute (Whose genitals are mysteriously on his knees…?). The Enterprise then brings the culprit to the peace talks between the Klingons and the Federation, clearing Kirk’s name. Thus, we have a more exciting and character-driven movie that’s a little more sleek in terms of its story structure.

Incidentally, is that Worf from Star Trek: The Next Generation that we see representing Kirk and Bones at their trial? *Googles it* Ohhhhhh, okay. So it’s Worf’s ancestor…who is also named Worf? Go figure.

So how does Star Trek VI fare as a swan song for Kirk, Spock, and the crew? Meh. Kirk’s quoting of Peter Pan was a nice little moment. But the Earth didn’t exactly move for me. But after more than 20 years, and all that had been done with these characters, how does one even begin to tell a farewell story that does justice to them all? What’s more, a story that definitively and convincingly says farewell? It’s a tall task by anyone’s standards.

Plus, one can argue it’s all for naught anyway. While this was indeed the last time the crew was all together, Kirk and a few others were in 1994’s Star Trek Generations. And of course, we’d see Spock many years later in the J.J. Abrams movies. 

That’s the thing about beloved and iconic characters like these. It’s never goodbye. Not really. There’s always another story to tell, and another adventure to go on…

Email Rob at primaryignition@yahoo.com, or check us out on Twitter.