Viewing posts tagged star trek

Where No Book Launch Has Gone Before

After a maddening series of missed deadlines and technical setbacks, I am very pleased (and somewhat relieved) to announce that Vaka Rangi Volume 1 is finally available as a physical book you can actually purchase and own: My acknowledgment of Star Trek's 50th Anniversary this month.

This volume collects the Vaka Rangi essays from 2013, which covered the first decade of Star Trek's history from just before “The Cage” in 1964 to the end of Star Trek: The Animated Series in 1974. So inside you'll find critical essays on every episode of both of those shows and a re-evaluation of Star Trek's emergent fandom in the 1960s and 1970s alongside “Sensor Scans” on pop culture artefacts of the time apart from Star Trek. Speaking of, one of those Sensor Scans back in the day was of the German cult classic TV series Raumpatrouille Orion that debuted at the same time as Star Trek and had a very similar premise, but was nowhere near as well-remembered. The book version of Vaka Rangi Volume 1 includes a brand-new section on Raumpatrouille Orion, with new essays for each of that series' episodes as well.

Apart from the new Raumpatrouille ...

Random Thing #1

This got cut from something else I was writing.  I'm putting it here because I'd rather put it somewhere than just delete it.

At first sight, Flint and Rayna in the Star Trek episode 'Requiem for Methuselah' look like a fairly standard sci-fi reiteration of Propsero and Miranda.  That’s been done a fair few times, of course.  Most famously in Forbidden Planet.  (The reiteration of Shakespeare is apt enough, given that Flint owns a copy of Shakespeare’s First Folio.  He never claims to have been Shakespeare, but probably would if prompted.)  Oddly though, the more ‘Requiem for Methuselah’ progresses, the more it looks like Othello rather than The Tempest.

Because ‘Requiem for Methuselah’ seems – rather astonishingly - to have a ‘double time’ scheme to it, very much like Othello.  The play is famous for having two apparently separate and irreconcilable chronologies mapped onto each other within it.  As many critics have observed, judging by the events we witness, there seems to be a space of about twenty-four hours between Othello and Desdemona’s marriage and Desdemona’s murder by Othello, and yet multiple other indications with the play – including ...

Catching Them at Their Best

The Pex Lives boys have done a supplemental podcast about the Star Trek movies.  Got me thinking about why I like Star Trek IV so much.  I decided to try writing something about it, since anything that even vaguely twitches my interest is worth grabbing hold of at the moment, what with my blogging mojo being critically ill and lying, sobbing and wailing, in a deep dark pit.

I don't like the movie because it's 'tongue-in-cheek' or because I have any sort of ideological attachment to the idea that SF in general (or Trek in particular) should be 'self-aware' or anything like that.  I like it because it is, essentially, a movie about a bunch of old relics from the 60s wandering around Regan's America and disapproving of it heartily.

This is not a deep movie.  It isn't hard to parse.  No great leaps of interpretation are needed.  Just look at what happens.

In order to survive in 80s San Franciso, Kirk must sell his beloved spectacles, a gift from Bones.  He, a man who - as we learn from this film - comes from a culture without money, must commodify ...

Ship's Log, Supplemental Bonus: “...maybe 20 good ones.”

So Monday we finally start Star Trek: The Animated Series and the next phase of the franchise. This means today is sort of our last opportunity to talk about the Original Series as the incumbent form of Star Trek (although even then it's not quite cut-and-dry as I make it seem, which we'll talk more about tomorrow) and, given that, I thought I'd use this space to very briefly sum up my thoughts and recommendations concerning the 1964-1969 series.

Under my post on “The Apple”, frequent commenter and blog friend Flex quoted a Futurama episode where Fry, when talking about the Original Star Trek says something along the lines of how the show had “79 episodes...and maybe 20 good ones”. Back then, Flex mused as to whether we'd even be able to meet that tally on Vaka Rangi.

I took that as a challenge.

More recently, under the “Turnabout Intruder” post, 5tephe wondered if I could put up my revised list of recommended episodes: I mentioned coming up with such a thing for my Trek neophyte sister when talking about “Let That Be Your Last Battlefield” and made an offhand remark on how I'd ...

“I became a feminist as an alternative to becoming a masochist.”: Turnabout Intruder

Yes, this is Kirk and Spock. Yes, they're holding hands. Fanfic writers, start your pencils.
There's a sense of poetic justice in having Star Trek go out on an episode that names “the Enterprise family” just as it threatens to destroy it because it doesn't respect women.

This was an episode I always consciously avoided: Partially because I have sort of an instinctual reticence towards big emotional finales, and while “Turnabout Intruder” certainly isn't that, it's still very much the end of an era and I can sometimes have a hard time dealing with that: I guess its because I don't like the idea of my stories having to end, or being forced to say goodbye to characters I've grown so accustomed to over the course of several years. I always needed to know there were more adventures, or at least the potential for more adventures.

That said, the biggest reason I avoided "Turnabout Intruder" was because it looked like utter crap. This episode is famously bad, and there are certainly no more ominous signs and portents on the last bow of the Original Series than the credit “Teleplay By Arthur Singer. Story ...

“Dust to dust”: All Our Yesterdays

"I knew it was a bad idea to install that survival mod."
“All Our Yesterdays” is the second, and final, submission by Jean Lisette Aroeste, whose previous credit was “Is There In Truth No Beauty?”. It's also the final official fan submission in Star Trek for awhile, the last in the Original Series not to mention the second to last episode in the Original Series overall. Suffice to say, there is a distinctly funereal air about the general proceedings, which isn't at all helped by how stupendously uninspiring this episode is.

It is, however, significantly more coherent than the previous episode made out of an Aroeste script at least. While on a mission to ensure the planetary civilization of Sarpeidon evacuates in time to avoid the imminent supernova that will engulf their solar system in three hours (how exactly Starfleet was planning to evacuate an entire planet in three hours is not explained), the Enterprise finds the planet now entirely free of inhabited life. Beaming down, Kirk, Spock and McCoy find themselves in a gigantic library curated by an enigmatic man named Mr. Atoz, who runs the installation all by himself with the aid of his many duplicates ...

“History prefers legends to men.”: The Savage Curtain

Seriously, you guys. Flying Space Abraham Lincoln. You thought I was kidding.

“The Savage Curtain” marks the return of Gene Roddenberry to Star Trek as an actual creative figure for the first time since “The Omega Glory”, and it's apparent pretty much right from the start. The whole teaser is made up of unrefined methodology porn, as the bridge crew mulls over conflicting sensor reports from the planet Excalbia, which the script attempts to convey by having Kirk, Spock, Sulu and Uhura shout random bits of starship operations procedure. Almost the entire first half plays out similarly: I feel like I'm watching “The Cage” all over again. Roddenberry genuinely seems to think it's a good idea to devote lengthy chunks of his script to having his characters robotically quote regulations and jargon. This isn't even technobabble, this is Roddenberry reveling in his show's cod-military structure and pedigree. This isn't writing, this is feeding an academy cadet training manual into a paper shredder placed over a bin full of old Star Trek scripts. We're not even five minutes in and this is already the worst the show has been in months.

And then suddenly ...

“If I've lived a thousand times before/And if I'm gonna live a million more”: Requiem for Methuselah

"Hi there. This is Flint, for the Sirius Cybernetics Corporation..."
“Requiem for Methuselah” is an episode I feel like I should probably like a whole lot more than I did. It's got a knowingly overreaching central premise, sublimely poetic dialog, and strong, moving acting. Furthermore, it also has that signature hallmark of the very best budget-starved speculative fiction TV around: The main characters sitting around in a room debating philosophy with the guest stars. Somewhere in here is a tragic story about human frailty and the human condition: In some ways it does 1970s Gene Roddenberry better than Gene Roddenberry. It's also Jerome Bixby's final Star Trek contribution, and, judging by his later work, a story that meant a great deal to him.

And here I am trying to figure out what to say about it.

I guess a plot summary is in order. After an outbreak of lethal Rigellian flu renders the Enterprise a literal plague ship, Kirk, Spock and McCoy beam down to a planet on an emergency mission to acquire a sample of a rare element from which McCoy can derive an antidote. If they don't return to the ship in two hours ...

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