REVIEW: STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION – SEASON 1-7

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MAIN CAST

Patrick Stewart (X-Men)
Jonathan Frakes (Roswell)
LeVar Burton (Roots: The Gift)
Denise Corsby (Dolly Dearest)
Michael Dorn (Ted 2)
Gates McFadden (Franklin & Bash)
Marina Sirtis (The Grudge 3)
Brent Spiner (Dude, Where’s My Car?)
Wil Wheaton (Powers)
Diana Muldaur (Born Free)

RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST CAST

DeForest Kelley (Gunfight at the O.K. Corral)
John De Lancie (The Secret Circle)
Michael Bell (Tangled)
Colm Meaney (Intermission)
Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa (Elektra)
Brooke Bundy (A Nightmare on Elm Street 3 & 4)
Armin Shimerman (Buffy: The Vampire Slayer)
Tracey Walter (Batman)
Stanley Kamel (Domino)
Marc Alaimo (Total Recall)
Majel Barrett (Babylon 5)
Robert Knepper (Izombie)
Carel Struycken (The Addams Family)
Dick Miller (Gremlins)
Amy O’Neill (Honey, I Blew Up the Kid)
Carolyn McCormick (Enemy Mine)
Katy Boyer (The Island)
Michael Pataki (Rocky IV)
Brenda Strong (Supergirl)
Vaughn Armstrong (Power Rangers Lightspeed Rescue)
Vincent Schiavelli (Batman Returns)
Judson Scott (Blade)
Merritt Butrick (Fright Night: Part 2)
Leon Rippy (Stargate)
Peter Mark Richman (Friday The 13th – Part 8)
Seymour Cassel (Rushmore)
Ray Walston (The Sting)
Whoppi Godlberg (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles)
Chris Latta (G.I.Joe)
Earl Boen (The Terminator)
Billy Campbell (The Rocketeer)
Teri Hatcher (Lois & Clark)
William Morgan Sheppard (Transformers)
Brian Thompson (The Terminator)
Clyde Kusatsu (Doctor Strange 70s)
Paddi Edwards (Halloween III)
Sam Anderson (Lost)
Robert Duncan McNeill (Masters of The Universe)
Mitchell Ryan (Lethal Weapon)
Nikki Cox (Las Vegas)
Lycia Naff (Total Recall)
Robert Costanzo (Batman: TAS)
Robert O’Reilly (The Mask)
Glenn Morshower (Supergirl)
Scott Grimes (American Dad)
Ray Wise (Agent Carter)
Andreas Katsulas (Babylon 5)
Simon Templeton (James Bond Jr.)
James Cromwell (Species II)
Corbin Bernsen (The Tomorrow Man)
Christopher McDonald (Fanboys)
Tricia O’ Neil (Titanic)
Elrich Anderson (Unfaithful)
Hallie Todd (Sabrina: TTW)
Tony Todd (The Flash)
Harry Groener (Buffy: The Vampire Slayer)
Dwight Schultz (The A-Team)
Saul Rubinek (Warehouse 13)
Mark Lenard (Planet of The Apes TV)
Ethan Phillips (Bad Santa)
Elizabeth Dennehy (Gattaca)
George Murodck (Battlestar Galactica)
Jeremy Kemp (Conan)
Sherman Howard (Superboy)
Beth Toussaint (Fortress 2)
April Grace (Lost)
Patti Yasutake (The Closer)
Alan Scarfe (Andromeda)
Bebe Neuwirth (Jumanji)
Rosalind Chao (Freaky Friday)
Jennifer Hetrick (L.A. Law)
Michelle Forbes (Powers)
Theodore Bikel (Babylon 5)
David Ogden Stiers (Two Guys and a Girl)
Gwyneth Walsh (Taken)
Paul Winfield (The Terminator)
Ashley Judd (Divergent)
Bob Gunton (Daredevil TV)
Leonard Nimoy (Transformers: The Movie)
Malachi Throne (Batman 60s)
Henry Darrow (The Hitcher)
Daniel Roebuck (Lost)
Kathryn Leigh Scott (Three Christs)
Pamela Adlon (Better Things)
Erick Avari (Stargate)
Matt Frewer (Watchmen)
Ron Canada (Wedding Crashers)
Elizabeth Hoffman (Stargate SG.1)
Stephen Lee (Wargames)
Kevin Peter Hall (Predator)
Richard Cox (Alpha House)
Liz Vassey (Two and a Half Men)
Kelsey Grammer (Frasier)
Ed Lauter (The Number 23)
Tony Jay (Lois & Clark)
Famke Janssen (X-Men)
Shay Astar (3rd Rock From The Sun)
Thomas Kopache (Stigmata)
Susanna Thompson (Arrow)
Richard Riehle (Texas Chainsaw 3D)
Alexander Enberg (Junior)
Lance LeGault (Stripes)
Mark Margolis (Breaking Bad)
Richard Cansino (Mighty Morphin Power Rangers)
Anne Ramsay (Mad About You)
Diedrich Bader (American Housewife)
Suzie Plakson (How I Met Your Mother)
Michael Berryman (The Hills Have Eyes)
Max Grodénchik (The Rocketeer)
Lanei Chapman (Rat Race)
Barbara Tarbuck (S. Darko)
Mike Hagerty (Overboard)
Michele Scarabelli (Alien Nation)
George Coe (Kramer vs Kramer)
James Doohan (Some Things Never Die)
Olivia D’Abo (Conan The Destroyer)
Ronny Cox (Robocop)
Clive Revill (Batman: TAS)
Jean Simmons (Spartacus)
David Warner (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II)
Stephanie Beacham (The Colbys)
Reg E. Cathey (Fantastic Four)
Scott MacDonald (Jack Frost)
Alexander Siddig (Game of Thrones)
Cristine Rose (How I Met Your Mother)
Richard Herd (V)
Tim Russ (Samantha Who?)
Patricia Tallman (Babylon 5)
Salome Jens (Superboy)
Andrew Prine (V)
J.C. Brandy (Halloween 6)
Alan Oppenheimer (Transformers)
Eric Pierpoint (Alien Nation)
John Neville (The Fifth Element)
Ned Romero (The Lost Child)
Stephen Hawking (Futurama)
Mark Rolston (Aliens)
Joel Swetow (The Orville)
Bruce Gray (Starship Troopers)
Richard Lynch (Puppet Master 3)
Robin Curtis (General Hospital)
Julie Caitlin Brown (Babylon 5)
Kirsten Dunst (Bring it On)
Lee Arenberg (Pirates of The Caribbean)
Fionnula Flanagan (Lost)
Mark Bramhall (Alias)
Stephen Root (Dodgeball)
Terry O’Quinn (Lost)
Penny Johnson Jerald (Bones)
Jonathan Del Arco (The Closer)
Brian Markinson (Arrow)
Alexander Enberg (junior)
Ellen Albertini Dow (The Wedding Singer)
Brenda Bakke (Hot Shots 2)
John Pyper-Ferguson (Caprica)
Paul Sorvino (Goodfellas)
Erich Anderson (Friday The 13th 4)
Lawrence Tierney (Reservoir Dogs)
Robert Ito (Quincy M.E.)
Vyto Ruginis (Moneyball)
Richard McGonagle (3rd Rock From The Sun)
Time Winters (Thinner)

When the TNG series premiered in 1987, it wasn’t greeted well by many of the old-time Trek fans, including myself. It didn’t help matters that one of the earliest episodes, “The Naked Now” was a superficial retread of the classic “The Naked Time” from ’66. The new episode should have served as a way of spotlighting several of the new crew, but all it did was show them all in heat. I wasn’t too impressed. What did work was keeping the central theme of exploration (something lost in the offshoots, DS9 & Voyager). The new Enterprise was twice as large as the original, with about a thousand personnel aboard. Capt. Picard (Stewart) was a more cerebral, diplomatic version of the ultimate explorer we had known as Capt. Kirk. Again, Picard wasn’t too impressive in the first two awkward seasons, as some may mistake his caution for weakness. The Kirk-like first officer Riker (Frakes) was controlled by Picard, so the entire crew of Enterprise-D came across as a bit too civilized, too complacent for their own good. It’s interesting that this complacency was fractured by the most memorable episode of the first two years, “Q Who?” which introduced The Borg. All of a sudden, exploration was not a routine venture.

Other memorable episodes of the first 2 years: the double-length pilot, introducing Q; “Conspiracy”-an early invasion thriller; “Where No One Has Gone Before”-an ultimate attempt to define the exploring theme; “The Big Goodbye”-the first lengthy exploration of the new holodeck concept; “Datalore”-intro of Data’s evil twin; “Skin of Evil”-death of Tasha Yar; “11001001”-perhaps the best holodeck story; and “The Measure of a Man”-placing an android on trial. Except for “Q Who” the 2nd year was even more of a letdown from the first. Space started to percolate in the 3rd season. I liked “The Survivors”-introducing an entity resembling Q in a depressed mood, and “Deja Q” with both Q & Guinan squaring off, as well as other alien beings. A remaining drawback was the ‘techno-babble’ hindering many scripts, an aspect which made them less exciting than the stories of the original series. As Roddenberry himself believed, when characters spoke this way, it did not come across as naturalistic, except maybe when it was Data (Spiner), the android. The engineer La Forge (Burton), for example, was usually saddled with long, dull explanatory dialog for the audience.

In the 3rd year, truly innovative concepts such as the far-out parallel-universe adventure “Yesterday’s Enterprise” began to take hold, topped by the season-ender “The Best of Both Worlds,part 1” in which The Borg returned in their first try at assimilating Earth. After this and the 2nd part, the TNG show was off and running, at full warp speed. There are too many great episodes from the next 4 seasons to list here, but I tended to appreciate the wild, cosmic concept stories best: “Parallels”(s7); “Cause and Effect”(s5); “Timescape”(s6); “Tapestry”(s6); and the scary “Frame of Mind”, “Schisms” and “Genesis.” There’s also the mind-blowing “Inner Light”(s5), “Conundrum” and “Ship in a Bottle”(s6), “Second Chances.” The intense 2-parter “Chain of Command” was almost like a film, and the great return of Scotty in “Relics” was very entertaining, though it showed you can’t go home again. The show also continued to tackle uneasy social issues, as in “The Host”, “The Outcast”, “First Contact” and “The Drumhead” as well as political:”Darmok”, “Rightful Heir”, “Face of the Enemy” and “The Pegasus.” The series ended on a strong note, “All Good Things…” a double-length spectacular with nearly the budget of a feature film. But it wasn’t really the end. A few months later, an actual feature film was released “Star Trek Generations”(94). It’s rather ironic that the TNG films couldn’t match the innovation and creativity of the last 4 seasons of the series. “Star Trek Insurrection”(98) for example, is a lesser effort than any of the episodes mentioned above.

REVIEW: CONAN THE ADVENTURER (1997)

MAIN CAST

Ralf Moeller (The Scorpion King)
Danny Woodburn (Watchmen)
Robert McRay (Legend of The Phantom)
Jeremy Kemp (A Bridge To Far)
T.J. Storm (VR Troopers)
Andrew Craig (The Toxic Avenger)

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RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST CAST

Ally Dunne (V.I.P.)
Andrew Divoff (Wishmaster)
Edward Albert (Power Rangers Time Force)
Arthur Burghardt (Transformers)
Mickey Rooney (Nationel Velvet)
Vernon Wells (Mad Max 2)
Brad Greenquist (Alias)
Andrew Bryniarski (Batman Returns)
Paul Le Mat (Puppet Master)
Matthias Hues (Star Trek VI)
Ali Landry (Eve)
Brooke Burns (Baywatch)
Lou Ferrigno (The Incredible Hulk)
Eric Steinberg (Stargate SG.1)
Anthony De Longis (Masters of The Universe)
Angelica Bridges (Mystery Men)
Scott MacDonald (Jack Frost)
Sandra Ellis Lafferty (Containment)
Claudette Mink (Children of The Corn 7)
Justina Vail (Seven Days)

xb3aghiq2wii23iaSyndicated television is often called the last bastion of poor writers in this modern age, much like the pulp fiction writers of years gone by were back in their day. This is not to say that syndicated television is always bad, just that the odds greatly favor such a global statement. The first example that comes to mind would be Black Scorpion but I’m sure you’re familiar with other shows like Sinbad, Robin Hood, and Lost World (an admittedly guilty pleasure). The 1990’s were the best years for fantasy shows in syndication due in large part to the success of Hercules and Xena; both of which proved profitable beyond the imagination of their creators. Is it any wonder that other producers sought to cash in as well? Such was the case with a single season show by the name of Conan The Adventurer, based on the writings of famed 1930’s pulp fiction writer, Robert E. Howard, a young man from the desolate plains of Texas.

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Mr. Howard created the mythic hero Conan as a character that could help free him from the shackles of poverty.His character of Conan evolved from another, King Kull, set in the same age of Atlantis era of 10,000 years ago, in epoch known as the Hyborian Age. Conan was a thief, a liar, and a barbarian in every sense of the word. His code of conduct was generally considered less than chivalrous with a “me first” attitude befitting the wild imagination of his writer, a man caught in the trappings of his time. Howard’s own description of the character was: “Some mechanism in my subconsciousness took the dominant characteristics of various prizefighters, gunmen, bootleggers, oil field bullies, gamblers, and honest workmen I had come in contact with, and combining them all, produced the amalgamation I call Conan the Cimmerian.” The world-view of such a man can only be placed in the proper context by understanding the effects of where he lived and the conditions the entire country were in, making more understandable the type of anti-hero that later was popularized in the Marvel comic books and art of Frank Frazetta. I think the rise of the anti-hero in the 1960’s attributed much to reviving such characters as Conan, a being thought up in 1931 by Howard, who only wrote 22 short stories in his later years (before he killed himself). With this in mind, let me turn to the television series this review is about:

Keeping in mind that the original character was a thief, cutthroat, mercenary that did anything asked of him for a price and ignored all social conventions that didn’t suit him (similar to the original Hercules being a power mad rapist drunkard), the show started off on the wrong foot with me by suggesting his “destiny was to free the oppressed” in the opening monologue since there’s nothing further from the truth in the original stories or in the previous movies starring famed bodybuilder-turned-Governor of California, Arnold Schwarzenegger. Given that a kinder and gentler version of the character would probably be the only way to get the series made, I started off watching the episodes a bit disgruntled but content that a watered down Conan might be better than no Conan at all, I figured how bad could it be considering all the other shows I enjoyed (even as guilty pleasures).
Conan (1997)
The show focused on Conan’s quest to find, and kill, a wizard, Hissah Zul (that was responsible for the death of his sweetheart and the guy responsible for all the ills in the world. Each week would find Conan and a mish mash of odd companions  fighting the minions of evil and cheap CGI effects as they continued on a path to dethrone the wizard. I watched the generic exploits of the cast as they went through the motions and about midway through the series; I actually started enjoying it way too much.
Conan (1997)
So, after watching the episodes as presented in the set (which were out of order from the air dates) and then as they were originally shown, I found the plot to make at least a little more sense in the DVD order they were aired in syndication. Keeping in mind that most, if not all, of the episodes borrowed heavily from the Marvel Comics versions as opposed to the pulp works of Howard. The show tried to be in line with a modern sensibility imposed on the age old character, an uneasy fit at times. While the humor was often as dry as Dilbert in its own way, I think this was what was lacking compared to the movies. Regardless, it was nice to see a show long lost into the archives of some vault given new life for fans of the genre, if not the actual character himself, and I doubt Robert E. Howard would’ve lost any sleep over the way his characters were evolved.