REVIEW: STAR TREK: PICARD – SEASON 1

Patrick Stewart and Dinero the Dog in Star Trek: Picard (2020)

Starring

Patrick Stewart (American Dad)
Alison Pill (Scott Pilgrim vs. the World)
Isa Briones (Takers)
Evan Evagora (Fantasy Island)
Michelle Hurd (Ash vs Evil Dead)
Santiago Cabrera (Heroes)
Harry Treadaway (Honemoon)

Patrick Stewart in Et in Arcadia Ego, Part 2 (2020)
Recurring / Notable Guest Stars

Brent Spiner (Independence Day)
Jonathan Frakes (Camp Nowhere)
Jeri Ryan (Mortal Kombat: Legacy)
Marina Sirtis (Crash)
Jamie McShane (Gone Girl)
Orla Brady (Into The Badlands)
Peyton List (Gotham)
Tamlyn Tomita (Heroes)
Jonathan Del Arco (Major Crimes)
Merrin Dungey (Alias)
Sumalee Montano (10 Cloverfield Lane)
David Carzell (Sophomores)
Ann Magnuson (Panic Room)
Rebecca Wisocky (For All Mankind)
Amirah Vann (Tracers)
Evan Parke (King Kong)
John Ales (Burn notice)
Necar Zadegan (NCIS: New Orleans)
Dominic Burgess (Santa Clarita Diet)
Barbara Eve Harris (The Amazing Spider-Man)
Lulu Wilson (Annabelle: Creation)
Derek Webster (Stargate)

Peyton List and Harry Treadaway in Et in Arcadia Ego, Part 2 (2020)Star Trek: Picard’s best aspect is also its biggest issue: It has one foot firmly in the past of the long-running sci-fi franchise, and another in a more modern, darker present. The show is a big, fan-servicey return to the story of legendary Starfleet captain Jean-Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart), complete with visits from a few beloved characters along the way, and no end of Easter eggs and references that often feel like high-fives to the dedicated viewers who’ve been enjoying the sci-fi franchise for decades, especially in the mid-1990s. Throughout its first season, it often works to update those series, reimagining some of their best ideas through the frame of the modern world. Though it can get bogged down in its attention to Treks of the past, Picard is a darker look at a future that challenges the franchise, not by just telling the stories of great people doing great things–but by amplifying their flaws and forcing them to choose to be better.Patrick Stewart and Jeri Ryan in Et in Arcadia Ego, Part 1 (2020)Picard picks up the story of Jean-Luc 15 years after he’s suffered a major failure: He attempted to lead Starfleet in an enormous rescue to save the endangered Romulans, the Federation’s oldest enemies. An immense tragedy, the destruction of the Starfleet’s rescue fleet, led to the Federation abandoning the plans to save the Romulans and Picard’s resignation in protest. More than a decade later, the series finds him languishing in his French vineyard, while Earth’s branch of the Federation has become isolationist and bigoted. Hardship and injustice have festered, especially against synthetic lifeforms, the apparent perpetrators of the tragedy–and Jean-Luc has done little in the intervening years to stop it. That’s a stark contrast to the unwaveringly principled captain seen in The Next Generation, which makes it a perfect starting point for Star Trek: Picard.Patrick Stewart, Alison Pill, Evan Evagora, and Isa Briones in Et in Arcadia Ego, Part 1 (2020)Picard is shaken out of his complacency with the arrival of Dahj (Isa Briones), a young woman being hunted by Romulan assassins, on Picard’s doorstep. Dahj turns out to be a synthetic created in violation of the ban from the remnants of Data (Brent Spiner), Picard’s former android crewmember and old friend, who died to save Picard’s life. Stirred by his loyalty and friendship for Data, Picard takes it upon himself to protect Dahj and her sister, Soji, gathering a ragtag crew and taking to the captain’s chair one last time.Patrick Stewart and Isa Briones in Star Trek: Picard (2020)The season is slow to start, especially as it gets bogged down in setting up a world that’s something like 30 years ahead of where The Next Generation left off. After the first three episodes, though, Picard hits its stride as it fuses two Star Trek identities: the more action-packed, adventure-focused takes of more recent Trek movies, and the moralistic, cerebral approach of The Next Generation. It’s a hybrid that mostly works, too, with Picard occasionally interspersing fun, well-produced action and fight scenes with the moral quandaries and diplomatic conundrums of the Enterprise’s voyages. In a lot of ways, slick CGI space battles and choreographed hand-to-hand fights between Romulan agents and super-fast androids make Picard a more modern take on the franchise. With the budget and the effects technology, some of The Next Generation might have looked a little more like Picard.Marina Sirtis and Patrick Stewart in Star Trek: Picard (2020)The darker, more modern take on Star Trek also makes Picard feel more relevant to the world in which we’re watching it. The show focuses on the plights of refugees, including the Romulan survivors who were scattered across the galaxy after the failed rescue, and the XBs, victims assimilated by the deadly cybernetic Borg who have been freed from enslavement to its Collective, but who are still mistrusted and exploited. The Starfleet of the future is more insular, abandoning much of its focus on exploration of the galaxy and understanding other life and cultures. It’s a Star Trek that uses the lens of science fiction to explore the plights and issues of a more reactionary world than the one in which The Next Generation was made.Patrick Stewart and Isa Briones in Star Trek: Picard (2020)But much of Picard’s power comes from its dedication to the past. Few opportunities slip past for references to The Next Generation, Voyager, Deep Space Nine, or the Star Trek movies. It’s not all just about appeasing Trekkers, though–Picard has a deep, encyclopedic knowledge of everything that’s happened to its characters over the years, and does a brilliant job of rejoining their stories, exploring their traumas, and advancing their characters in ways that feel true to them.Patrick Stewart in Star Trek: Picard (2020)The new additions to Picard, however, function less well. Where returning characters like Jean-Luc and Voyager’s Seven of Nine (Jeri Ryan) get the benefit of the show building on their lengthy histories, the new ragtag crew often don’t really have enough to do, even as the show spends a little time rounding out their backstories. Jean-Luc’s often-drunk former first officer, Raffi (Michelle Hurd), exists to tap away on holographic computers; what interesting conflict she has with Jean-Luc, based on him abandoning her after the Romulan rescue along with everything else, evaporates not long into the season. The same is true for cyberneticist Agnes Jurati (Alison Pill), who struggles with her role in the creation of Dahj, Soji, and the other synthetics, but who gets back to normal for plot reasons.Patrick Stewart, Michelle Hurd, Alison Pill, and Santiago Cabrera in Star Trek: Picard (2020)Rios (Santiago Cabrera), the hardnosed captain of the ship Picard hires, is mostly just angry and stoic, and the childishly idealistic, sword-wielding warrior Elnor (Evan Evagora) seems to primarily exist for fight scenes and innocently misunderstanding situations for laughs. There’s also Narek (Harry Treadaway), a Romulan spy tasked with getting close to Soji, who struggles a bit with his task but never really evolves as a character because of it. All of the characters are interesting, with well-built backstories and strong performances, but none can really take the room needed to grow with the show so often putting a hard focus on Picard and Soji, who spends most of the season unaware of her nature as an android and slowly catching up to a point the audience reached much earlier.It all makes Picard’s 10-episode run feel just a touch too short to really expand on any of the new characters, especially with the show making lots of detours down the memory lane of The Next Generation. As mentioned, those looks to the past are strong if you’re an established Trek fan, but they often hobble the show’s present. Much of what goes on Season 1 of Picard feels like it’s setup for a more fleshed-out Season 2. Still, there’s a lot Picard does right. Its update on the Star Trek formula is a sorely needed catch-up to the modern world that makes it feel like Trek has something important to say, and its signature optimism is a perfect fit for the times. It’s also keenly aware of everything that made Jean-Luc Picard such a resonant character, and it revisits those aspects without retreading old ground. On the whole, Star Trek: Picard does well to bring Treks of the past forward, and for fans of Jean-Luc and The Next Generation, it’s a powerful and emotional revisit to beloved characters.

REVIEW: STAR TREK SHORT TREKS: CHILDREN OF MARS

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Starring

Ilamaria Ebrahim (Christmas With A Prince)
Sadie Munroe (Workin’ Moms)
Andrea Davis (Fever Pitch)
Jason Deline (Arrow)

MV5BMTMwNzEwNDI4NF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwMDQ2ODYzNQ@@._V1_SY1000_CR0,0,1503,1000_AL_The first new Star Trek entry of the new decade comes in the form of the eight-minute Short Trek “Children of Mars,” a prequel to the upcoming series Star Trek: Picard. The episode chronicles how two school kids are drawn together because of a disastrous attack on Mars – the same attack that will apparently haunt Jean-Luc Picard in his titular series.star-trek-short-treks-children-of-mars-04Classmates Kima and Lil (Ilamaria Ebrahim and Sadie Munrie, respectively), don’t like each other. That much is clear. Their antagonistic behavior is relayed through a musical montage (a rare storytelling method for Star Trek) that takes up most of the episode, and this relationship exposes the episode’s main problem: we don’t know why these kids don’t like each other. The only things we know about them are that their parents work at separate Mars facilities.eacd25dc-2102-4b51-bca1-ad171b740118The real plot point comes at the very end of the episode. Mars is attacked but what the television news called “rogue synths,” leaving thousands dead. Knowing that not only are their parents most likely dead, but that their world is under brutal attack, Kima and Lil are drawn together. The episode ends with them holding hands, presumably preparing themselves to face whatever is coming. It will be interesting to see where their story picks up in Picard, or if these two characters were one-off appearances simply designed to portray the attack on Mars.star-trek-short-treks-children-mars-trailerThere are some cool details throughout this episode for long-time Star Trek fans. This episode takes place on First Contact Day, which we know from Star Trek: First Contact as being on April 5th. Is it a coincidence that these rogue synths attacked on such a holiday? Another cool reference is that we get a brief but savory glimpse at Utopia Plantia Fleet Yards, previously seen or referenced in Star Trek: Voyager and Star Trek: The Next Generation. Discovery fans might notice that there is a Magee-class ship there, as well as what appear to be Federation tugs, all seeming a bit anachronistic. Children_of_MarsTaken together, and despite the lack of backstory for these two central characters, “Children of Mars” offers an intriguing look at what is going to be a vital event in Star Trek: Picard. Who are the rogue synths? Why are they attacking Mars? Why will it impact Picard so deeply? January 23rd can’t come soon enough.

REVIEW: STAR TREK SHORT TREKS: EPHRAIM AND DOT

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Starring

Kirk R. Thatcher (Gremilins 2)
Jenette Goldstein (The Abyss)

EPHRAIM AND DOT

Where “The Girl Who Made the Stars” started this week’s pair of animated Short Treks with a very light footprint of familiar Star Trek images and ideas, “Ephraim and Dot” is stuffed to the gills with them, in a totally delightful trip through classic Trek history. “Ephraim and Dot” is directed by prolific Hollywood composer Michael Giacchino — including the three most recent Trek films — from a script written by Chris Silvestri and Anthony Maranville, the pair who scripted last season’s “The Red Angel.”Presented at first as a parody of a nature documentary, and narrated by Kirk Thatcher, who played the bus punk from Star Trek IV, this short is a very whimsical tale of a mother tardigrade who is looking for a safe place in the depths of space to lay her eggs. Stumbling across Captain Kirk’s USS Enterprise — during the events of “Space Seed,” no less — the tardigrade accidentally finds her way inside, only to get on the wrong side of one of the DOT-7 repair drones first seen in the Discovery season finale “Such Sweet Sorrow.” After laying her eggs in the warp core, Ephraim the tardigrade is ejected from the ship by Dot the drone, and proceeds to pursue the Enterprise through time and space.Chasing the Enterprise through its five year mission, we get all kinds of iconic moments from he Original Series rendered in animation — the green space hand from “Who Mourns for Adonais?”, the Enterprise trapped in an energy field spun by the Tholians (“The Tholian Web”) and encountering a giant space Lincoln (“The Savage Curtain”) — until the tardigrade finally catches up with the refit USS Enterprise in its final moments above the Genesis Planet. Damaged by a sneak attack from Kruge’s Klingon Bird of Prey, mama Ephraim is reunited with her eggs mere moments before the Enterprise self-destructs. As she watches the ship explode, the tardigrade believes her eggs lost… until it is revealed that her nemesis, Dot, found the eggs at the last moment and rescued them.There is so much packed into eight minutes of story it’s tough to know where to start. “Ephraim and Dot” is an absolute love letter to the original Star Trek series, packed full of iconic moments and callbacks. The short even includes some audio snippets of dialogue, one from “Space Seed,” another from “The Naked Time,” and to hear William Shatner’s Kirk and George Takei’s Sulu in new Star Trek — even as archival audio — was very exciting. The animation style in this episode is gorgeous. The exterior ship shots are amazing; the Enterprise is fabulously rendered, both as the Discovery-era redesign and as the movie-era refit. I am sure some will get themselves worked up over some visual details, like how the Enterprise has its Discovery appearance in the era of Captain Kirk, or the blanket covering Khan in sickbay isn’t the same color as it was in “Space Seed.”short-treks-season-2-episode-4-5-easter-eggs-referencesAnd you know what? I couldn’t care less about any of that. This short is fabulous and delightful, made with love of the franchise and love for the Original Series in particular. Both Ephraim and Dot are cute in how they are rendered, and the relationship between them is playful and fun. Move aside, Baby Yoda, Ephraim is here to steal your heart. But ultimately, this short is poignant not because of the relationship between the tardigrade and the repair drone, which is very Star Trek in how it plays out, but because of the third character in the story: the USS Enterprise.

 

REVIEW: STAR TREK SHORT TREKS: THE GIRL WHO MADE THE STARS

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Starring

Kenric Green (The Walking Dead)
Kyrie Mcalpin (Birdie)

Kenric Green and Kyrie Mcalpin in The Girl Who Made the Stars (2019)Releasing alongside the entertaining “Ephraim and Dot” comes a unique take on Star Trek storytelling. Using a more life-like animation style and focusing on a story only tangently related to Star Trek, “The Girl Who Made the Stars” focuses on an African legend described by Michael Burnham in the Discovery season two premiere. Using Burnham (voiced here by Kyrie McAlpin) and her dad (voiced by Kendric Green, who played Michael’s father in “Perpetual Infinity” and is Sonequa Martin-Green’s husband) as a framing device for this tale, viewers are told a story that is sure to inspire young and old alike – a great use for Star Trek if there ever was one.The Girl Who Made the Stars (2019)But while the characters, style, and plot may cater to children (not a bad thing), this episode is certainly still enjoyable for adults. Focusing on the “finding your inner strength” theme, the story relates how an African girl is able to face her fears and inspire her community. It’s a touching tale that is perfectly Star Trek-themed, yet almost completely devoid of any Star Trek references, except for the inclusion of Burnham and her father. Indeed, this episode could stand on its own and still be perfectly relevant to fans and non-fans. That’s a great achievement.The Girl Who Made the Stars (2019)Like its sister animated episode, “The Girl Who Made the Stars” is well-paced within its eight-minute runtime. It’s also a great example of the kinds of stories animation can tell verses a more constrictive live-action episode. This episode is colorful, highly stylised, and contains moments that would be difficult to convey through live-action. If the quality of these two animated episodes is any indication, we have high hopes for the future of Star Trek animation.Taken together, “The Girl Who Made the Stars” is a great entry for Short Treks, and, along with “Ephraim and Dot,” serves as a useful entry point for younger viewers. For existing fans, we get a bit of insight into a younger Michael Burnham and her relationship with her father, but this is only a side effect of the story. Credit goes to Discovery veteran Olatunde Osunsanmi for weaving a tale that can capivate fans and non-fans alike.

REVIEW: STAR TREK SHORT TREKS: ASK NOT

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Starring

Anson Mount (Inhumans)
Ethan Peck (10 Things I Hate About You)
Rebecca Romijn (X-Men)
Amrit Kaur (Anarkali)

MV5BMDUzYzk1ZDItOThmOS00M2ViLWIyMDctZTNmZGMwZjlhYTU2XkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyMDU5MDEyMA@@._V1_SX1777_CR0,0,1777,999_AL_“Ask Not,” the third episode of the second season of Short Treks, is out now, and after watching the mere seven-minute-long installment, one could only assume this entry is a prelude to the highly rumored but unconfirmed Pike-era Star Trek series. And if that’s not the case, then this episode is largely rendered moot. Focusing on a training simulation for an unknowing Cadet Thira Sidhu (Amrit Kaur), she is forced to confront a prisoner situation with Captain Pike (Anson Mount), a situation that challenges her dedication to Starfleet. It’s a character test, and one she passes much to Captain Pike’s approval. Her passing grade leads to an engineering assignment onboard the Enterprise.MV5BNTkzZmNkMTUtMWMyOC00MGQ3LWI0OGItNzk3YmFhNjg3ZjBkXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyMDU5MDEyMA@@._V1_SX1777_CR0,0,1777,999_AL_And that’s it. Seven minutes isn’t a long time to do much of anything, except perhaps one thing: introduce a future cast member of a new TV show. While it is certainly possible that Sidhu is a one-and-done character, that would prompt the question: what would her use be here? Whatever loyalty the audience gains for the up-and-coming Sidhu would be wasted on a one-time appearance, and it’s not like she imparts any particularly relevant lesson or serves as the catalyst for a character-building moment for Captain Pike. There is certainly precedent for introducing new characters in Short Treks and having them return in the series proper. Consider the Short Trek episodes “The Brightest Star” and “Runaway,” which introduced Saru’s sister, Siranna, and Xahean, respectfully, both of whom played key roles in Discovery season two. And by the way, what would be the point of designing the Enterprise’s engine room (which is much, much bigger than the old TOS set but luckily contains fewer beer vats than its 2009 counterpart) if the set wasn’t going to be used outside the 30 seconds we see here?MV5BYWU2NWY2ODUtMzRmMy00YWEyLTkyNzAtOTJhZWJhNzZkODIwXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyMDU5MDEyMA@@._V1_SX1777_CR0,0,1777,999_AL_In any case, fans wanting more of Anson Mount’s Captain Pike certainly get a fair share here, as most of the episode is a two-person show between Pike and Sidhu. Of course, Mount is still fantastic as Pike, while Kaur holds her own against the veteran star. Sidhu’s likability and dedication makes her a character worth rooting for, which would make it further a shame if she wasn’t seen on the Enterprise again. Hopefully, we’ll soon look back on this episode as an interesting, if perhaps too short, introduction to elements of a Captain Pike TV show.

 

REVIEW: STAR TREK SHORT TREKS: THE TROUBLE WITH EDWARD

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Starring

Anson Mount (Inhumans)
Rosa Salazar (Undone)
H. Jon Benjamin (Wet Hot American Summer)
Lisa Michelle Cornelius (Tangle)
Krista Jang (The Control)

Lisa Michelle Cornelius in The Trouble with Edward (2019)Star Trek fans have been treated to a variety of great episodes that usually fall into two categories: serious or comical. For every “ The Best of Both Worlds,” there’s a “The Trouble with Tribbles.” For every First Contact, there’s the one with the whales. This duality shows how effective Star Trek can be in the right hands no matter the tone. We’re happy to report that the latest Short Treks, called “The Trouble with Edward,” firmly fits into the list of great Star Trek episodes in the comedy category.The Trouble with Edward (2019)Making his first Star Trek appearance is H. Jon Benjamin, whose voice is immediately recognizable to any Archer, Bob’s Burgers, or Family Guy fans. He plays the titular character Edward Larkin, a, shall we say, strange protein specialist onboard the USS Cabot. Joining Benjamin in her debut Star Trek appearance is the charming Rosa Salazar (of Alita Battle Angel fame) as the newly promoted Captain Lynne Lucero, formerly of the USS Enterprise. Thanks to Larkin’s, ah… motivated scientific efforts, Tribbles break out on the Cabot and threaten to overrun the ship and its crew.Rosa Salazar and Lisa Michelle Cornelius in The Trouble with Edward (2019)This is a perfect setup for the confines of the 15-minute runtime. The plot is well-paced, with tight direction and an appropriately limited scope. Within minutes, Lucero is identified as a go-getting rising officer, who can be delightful and personable, yet disciplinary when she needs to be. Likewise, Benjamin uses his veteran comedic chops to excels as the odd and awkwardly funny scientist, stealing the show whenever he is on screen.The Trouble with Edward (2019)Memorializing a Star Trek topic as revered as Tribbles is no small task, and like previous Tribble episodes, the reason why “The Trouble with Edwards” works is because it doesn’t take itself seriously. The audience is totally in on the joke, and are sure to laugh at some of the dry humor injected in the episode by the lovable animals. Tribbles are seen terrorizing the crew, which normally might be terrifying, but in reality you’ll likely stifle a laugh. A tidal wave of Tribbles devours their, ah, father… which is something older episodes would never have been able to accomplish. And who can resist the allure of that tasty Tribble meat? They are like scallops, after all. It’s all great stuff.Rosa Salazar in The Trouble with Edward (2019)Taken together, “The Trouble with Edward” provides some fantastic fan service, especially considering this episode provides the real reason why Tribbles multiply so fiercely. More broadly, it’s a gold standard for pacing, scope, and quality for what Short Treks can be.

REVIEW: STAR TREK SHORT TREKS: Q & A

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Starring

Ethan Peck (In Time)
Rebecca Romijn (X-Men)
Anson Mount (Inhumans)
Samora Smallwood (The Expanse)
Jenette Goldstein (Aliens)

Ethan Peck in Q&A (2019)Between seasons one and two of Star Trek: Discovery, the production team tried a new approach to Star Trek storytelling: Short Treks. These 15-minute mini-episodes proved quite effective in showcasing returning and new characters, so it’s only natural that Short Treks continue for another season. And to help satisfy fans’ lust for more Captain Pike and the Discovery-era Enterprise, “Q&A” is the first of a few Enterprise-centric Short Treks.Anson Mount and Ethan Peck in Q&A (2019)This episode largely takes place in one room – a turbolift holding Number One (Rebecca Romijn) and the recently arrived Ensign Spock (Ethan Peck). When Spock first arrives on the Enterprise, Number One wants him to practice being an inquisitive science officer by asking a lot of questions. Lo and behold, the turbolift inexplicably traps them together, allowing him to do just that.Rebecca Romijn and Ethan Peck in Q&A (2019)This episode’s main strength is not in its setting. It is just a turbolift after all. But rather, we learn more about Number One than we ever did in her limited appearances in season two. While we’re not exactly sold on Romijn’s interpretation of Majel Barrett’s character from “The Cage,” it is nice to get to know this legendary character besides her love of cheeseburgers. The revelation that she is a nerd for Gilbert and Sullivan is believable and certainly helps illustrate her character’s nature, but the idea that she’d fully showcase this for Spock isn’t so believable – especially since she was clearly embarrassed and ordered him afterwards to forget about it.Rebecca Romijn and Ethan Peck in Q&A (2019)Meanwhile, the expansion of Spock’s character in this episode will be welcome or implausible, depending on who you ask. We see an emotive Spock here, from the very beginning when he smiles before beaming to the Enterprise, to his extremely positive reaction during Number One’s aforementioned Gilbert and Sullivan routine. While season two of Discovery certainly explained (to great success) why Spock is actually quite emotional and his attempts to quell those feelings, it is also unbelievable that Spock would open himself up to an officer he just met or lose control of his emotions so easily.Rebecca Romijn and Ethan Peck in Q&A (2019)The smile was forgivable, and even cute considering we know Spock is starting his tenure on the Enterprise, but the latter required much more time than what the 15-minute runtime allows to become earned. And yes, Number One did have that spiel about knowing when to keep your oddities to yourself, and that still doesn’t make the climax of this episode seem anything but forced and undeserved. We’ll chalk this critique up to a story that was trying to fit too much into its runtime.This is an excellent short and its nice to see more development on Spock and Number One, these shorts do well to fill the void between seasons.

 

REVIEW: WHAT WE LEFT BEHIND: LOOKING BACK AT DEEP SPACE NINE

What We Left Behind: Looking Back at Deep Space Nine (2018)

Starring

Max Grodénchik (Rocketeer)
Andrew Robinson (Hellraiser)
Armin Shimerman (Buffy: TVS)
Nana Visitor (Dark Angel)
Colm Meaney (Layer Cake)
Jeffrey Combs (Re-Animator)
Aron Eisenberg (Puppet Master III)
Rene Auberjonois (Boston Legal)
Alexander Siddig (Gotham)
Casey Biggs (Broken Arrow)
Terry Farrell (Hellraiser III)
Penny Johnson Jerald (The Orville)
Avery Brooks (American Hsitory X)
Chase Masterson (Yesterday Was a Lie)
Michael Dorn (Arrow)
Wallace Shawn (Young Sheldon)
Marc Alaimo (Total Recall)
Bill Mumy (Lost In Space)
J.G. Hertzler (Zorro)
Robert O’Reilly (The Mask)
Cirroc Lofton (Beethoven)
Nicole de Boer (Cube)

What We Left Behind: Looking Back at Deep Space Nine (2018)Star Trek: Deep Space Nine was the fourth television series in the Star Trek franchise. It ran for seven seasons and a hundred and seventy-six episodes in syndication. The finale, “What You Leave Behind”, aired on June 2nd, 1999. DS9 was markedly different from Star Trek and Star Trek: The Next Generation. The show setting was a recovered enemy space station near the planet Bajor. A grieving Starfleet commander, Benjamin Sisko (Avery Brooks), assigned to help the Bajorans recover from a devastating occupation; discovers a wormhole to a distant region of the galaxy, the Gamma Quadrant. What followed was a thrilling, slow-burn escalation to the epic, Dominion War; a conflict against powerful Gamma Quadrant adversaries that threatened the United Federation of Planets.What We Left Behind: Looking Back at Deep Space Nine is a wonderful retrospective and coda to the beloved series. The documentary is produced and directed by Ira Steven Behr, DS9’s showrunner/executive producer, and filmmaker/Star Trek enthusiast David Zappone; who produced The Captains and For the Love of Spock. Originally crowdfunded to celebrate DS9’s twenty-fifth anniversary, Behr was astonished by the legions of fans that contributed money. It changed the scale of the documentary, and provided an opportunity to pursue fandom’s dream scenario; a look at the story for a possible season eight of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.ds9-cast-1200x786What We Left Behind reunites the original cast, writers, filmmakers, and studio executives for interviews. DS9, though it ran for seven seasons, was pilloried by critics at the time. The show was too dark, political, and not adventurous enough. The sci-fi mainstream decried a Star Trek series that was serialized, not episodic. They wanted each week to be a new adventure on a different planet, mimicking the format of the incredibly popular Star Trek: The Next Generation. DS9 had elaborate storylines that stretched over multiple seasons and embraced controversy. From racial and ethnic issues, religious strife, to television’s first lesbian kiss, it was a Star Trek series that obliterated boundaries. Ira Steven Behr has frank discussions with the Paramount studio executive who didn’t understand his vision for the show. Luckily, his persistence and a cult following allowed DS9 to continue its risque path; albeit with some major changes forced by the suits.what-we-left-behind-looking-back-at-star-trek-deep-space-nine-still-1-1160x480Without delving too deep into the details of the interviews, two pivotal events are explored. The first was the addition of Star Trek: The Next Generation’s bad-ass Klingon, Lt. Commander Worf (Michael Dorn), in season four. The cast, Behr, Rick Berman (overall Star Trek TV producer), and several Paramount execs discuss bringing the popular character to the struggling show. What was already a tight-knit crew had doubts, but welcomed Dorn into the fold. The decision turned out to be exactly as hoped; a shot in the arm that revitalized DS9. The same cannot be said for the killing of Worf’s wife and series regular from the start, Lt. Commander Jadzia Dax (Terry Farrell). What We Left Behind takes a frank look at the turmoil caused by firing her. Terry Farrell’s treatment and decision to leave was a blow to all. Behr also shows the professionalism and resilience of the core players. Nicole de Boer’s Lt. Ezri Dax, who replaced Terry Farrell, was a key character during the final season. Seeing the players and producers discuss this tumultuous time is riveting. They developed lifelong bonds from their time on DS9. The show profoundly impacted them on a personal level. Defining the acting careers for many of the cast members.1266412299-What-We-Left-Behind-Looking-Back-At-StarIn true DS9 fashion, What We Left Behind gets political. The doc explores the casting of Avery Brooks as Star Trek’s first black captain and series lead. We see how Brooks, who unfortunately is only interviewed through archival footage, steered the path of DS9. Captain Sisko was a father foremost. DS9 had an incredible story arc with his son, Jake Sisko (Cirroc Lofton), growing up on the space station. Brooks wanted the show to portray a positive black male role model as a parent and leader. DS9 was filmed during the LA riots of 1992. Anyone who watched DS9 knows how thoughtfully the series tackled such heady issues. Fandom will also be quite surprised what Behr has to say about the relationship between Garak (Andrew J. Robinson) and Dr. Bashir (Alexander Siddig).what-we-left-behind-terry-farrell-nana-visitorWhat We Left Behind does not forget the talented production designers, effects teams, and make-up artists that made DS9 so realistic. Some of the funnier scenes have Armin Shimerman, who played Quark the Ferengi bartender, and René Auberjonois, who played the shape-shifting security chief Odo, cursing the other cast members, particularly Colm Meaney (Chief O’Brien). They had to sit for hours in make-up, and then work in the uncomfortable prosthetics; while the “human” actors had mere touch-ups. It’s all in good humor, but illustrates the physical toll of playing DS9’s alien characters.armin-shimmerman-what-we-left-behind-star-trek-deep-space-nine-1170189-1280x0The most thrilling aspect of What We Left Behind is the plotting for a potential season eight. Behr gathered the original writers, including Robert Hewitt Wolfe, for a storyboard session. The breakdown is accompanied by CGI animation and pre-vis sketches. Prepare to be blown off your couches. Set twenty years after Captain Sisko defeated the Dominion and vanished into the wormhole, the season eight storyline is jaw-dropping. It’s loaded with surprises that will melt the minds of every DS9 fan. Behr and the writers acknowledge this is pure fantasy, but does it have to be? CBS and Paramount allows fan made Star Trek, as long as it’s not for profit. I would shell out in a heartbeat to have a crowdfunded, CGI adaptation of DS9 season eight. Voiced by the original cast of course. Behr raised the money for What We Left Behind in a weekend. I’m pretty sure fandom can make that happen… What We Left Behind: Looking Back at Deep Space Nine is a must see for fans, and anyone who appreciates great science fiction. DS9 is the perfect series for the binge-watching, streaming audiences of today. It’s remarkable that a show which ended two decades ago, and was misunderstood by the masses, has found a new generation of ardent supporters. I think Star Trek: Deep Space Nine is not only the best Star Trek series, but arguably, the best sci-fi series. Seasons five through seven were masterful, exhilarating and engrossing television. We need to see season eight. What We Left Behind: Looking Back at Star Trek: Deep Space Nine is available now on DVD/Blu-Ray from Shout! Factory.

REVIEW: STAR TREK: DISCOVERY – SEASON 2

Michelle Yeoh, Doug Jones, Anson Mount, Ethan Peck, Anthony Rapp, Sonequa Martin-Green, and Mary Wiseman in Star Trek: Discovery (2017)

Starring

Sonequa Martin-Green (Rivers Wash Over Me)
Doug Jones (The Watch)
Anthony Rapp (Rent)
Mary Wiseman (Longmire)
Shazad Latif (Penny Dreadful)
Wilson Cruz (He’s Just Not That into You)
Anson Mount (Inhumans)

Star Trek: Discovery (2017)

Recurring / Notable Guest Cast

Mia Kirshner (The Vampire Diaries)
Tig Notaro (In a World…)
Michelle Yeoh (The Lady)
Alan van Sprang (Reign)
Rachael Ancheril (Heroes Reborn)
Jayne Brook (Gattaca)
Ethan Peck (In Time)
Sonja Sohn (The Originals)
James Frain (Gotham)
Mary Chieffo (Miss Dial)
Kenneth Mitchell (Captain Marvel)
Rebecca Romijn (X-Men)
Melissa George (Triangle)
Hannah Cheesman (Defiance)
Emily Coutts (Crimson Peak)
Patrick Kwok-Choon (Wyatt Earp)
Oyin Oladejo (Pond)
Ronnie Rowe (A Simple Favor)
Arista Arhin (Odd Squad)
Raven Dauda (Gossip)
Julianne Grossman (Superman/Batman: Apocalypse)
Sara Mitich (The Expanse)
Bahia Watson (The Handmaid’s Tale)
Hannah Spear (Versus Valerie)
Alisen Down (Smallville)
Tara Nicodemo (Every Day)
Chris Violette (Power Rangers SPD)
Kenric Green (The Walking Dead)
Yadira Guevara-Prip (Supernatural)

Doug Jones, Anson Mount, David Benjamin Tomlinson, Rachael Ancheril, Sonequa Martin-Green, and Sean Connolly Affleck in Star Trek: Discovery (2017)Star Trek: Discovery’s inaugural season was faced with a seemingly impossible feat. The CBS All Access series was tasked with delivering a fresh new take that appeased a hardcore fan base and remained true to the franchise’s 50-year history, while also appealing to a Trek noob who wouldn’t know Voyager from Deep Space Nine. Although Season 1 stumbled in its efforts to remain tightly within canon while also telling an exciting and cohesive story, the show managed to pull off a commendable first run thanks to a charming bridge crew, a delectably villainous leader in Captain Lorca (Jason Isaacs) and that unapologetic love of science and adventure which has come to define the franchise as a whole.Anson Mount, Rachael Ancheril, and Sonequa Martin-Green in Star Trek: Discovery (2017)Building on that, Discovery really hits its stride in Season 2. With the Klingon War on the backburner, the series is finally able to breathe, and as a result, delivers a refreshing sophomore run that just feels like the weight of the world has been lifted off its shoulders. After receiving a distress call from the USS Enterprise, the Discovery crew ditches its plan to pick up a new captain on Vulcan in order to help out fellow Federation officers in need. Starfleet’s most prized ship is offline after suffering a catastrophic meltdown while tracking one of seven red signals that have suddenly appeared in space. With his ship on the sidelines, Captain Pike (Anson Mount) takes the helm of the Discovery for an important rescue mission that was only meant to be temporary. But those ominous signals pose a serious threat to the universe so of course, he’s needed to stay on and uncover that mystery, thus kicking off a thrilling adventure in deep space.Bringing in an iconic character like Pike could have been disastrous but Discovery somehow makes it work. He’s seamlessly woven into the narrative, bringing exhilarating new energy that never overpowers the series’ core cast. Mount’s Pike is dashing, charismatic and genuinely likable, but not without his faults. He’s very much the man Gene Roddenberry envisioned so many decades ago but never feels like a relic of the past. He’s exactly what Discovery, both the crew and series as a whole, needs right now. But he’s also just a fraction of what makes Season 2 such an enjoyable experience.With Discovery learning to let loose and have fun, Season 2 utilizes its arsenal of delightful characters in a way that it never could before. Owing to that is the adorkably wonderful Tilly (Mary Wiseman), last season’s Miss Congeniality whose expanded role is like a much-needed serotonin boost. Brilliant, funny and bursting with nerdy optimism, the new season finds her finally coming into her own as a confident leader, and that transformation is a pure joy to watch unfold. Equally amusing is newcomer Tig Notaro’s Denise Reno, the USS Hiawatha’s brilliant chief engineer whose deadpan humor easily makes her this season’s low-key gem.Anson Mount in Star Trek: Discovery (2017)But among a diverse group of amiable personalities, Michael Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green) remains the true heart and soul of the series. It’s mostly through her eyes that we learn about the world that Discovery has created, and in Season 2, her story again takes center stage. With the exploration of Burnham’s past comes the inevitable arrival of her adoptive brother Spock (Ethan Peck), and their family drama sets the groundwork for an engrossing journey in the new season.Linked through the same visions of a mysterious red angel, their broken dynamic breathes new life into Spock, a character who’s been explored inside and out, having been around for five decades. But Discovery presents a different Spock, someone on the losing side of an internal battle between reason and logic. He’s not the Vulcan you know from Star Trek: The Original Series, nor does he need to be. With this latest iteration set years before the events of TOS, the show found the loophole it needed to introduce this bearded, disheveled version into official canon — and it’s handled with great care.Ethan Peck in Star Trek: Discovery (2017)By all means, Discovery isn’t perfect. It’s still working to find that natural balance between nostalgia and modernity. But Season 2 takes a carefully bold, gripping, and undeniably fun stab at it and in turn, is a much better show.

REVIEW: THE TOYS THAT MADE US – SEASON 2

The Toys That Made Us (2017)

Featuring

Peter Cullen (Transformers)
Paris Hilton (House of Wax)

First of all, if you haven’t sampled the first season of The Toys That Made Us, go and smash that out quickly now. It’s only four episodes and won’t take long. We’ll wait for you. Back again? Great! By now, you’re probably hooked on the irreverent style of this novel documentary series, what with its effortless humour, fascinating first-hand accounts and even a bit of historical recreation with dodgy 70’s haircuts. What’s the basic gist? In Season 1, TTTMU delved into Star Wars, G.I. Joe, He-Man and Malibu Stacy (sorry, force of habit, Barbie). Season 2 offers very in-depth, behind-the-scenes access to the usually secretive dealmakers and artisans behind the toy lines of LEGO, Star Trek, Transformers and Hello Kitty.Don’t expect to be bogged down in borax and boredom though – this is a documentary anthology for casual outsiders, not the diehard collectors themselves. You’ll receive an easy-to-follow walkthrough of each toy’s cultural significance, the key personnel involved and the financial rollercoaster ride to success (or failure) that followed. The interviewees here are surprisingly candid and often emotional about the opportunities won and lost thirty odd years ago. Take Peter Cullen for example, who is still the voice of Optimus Prime. There’s a touching moment when he recounts some pre-audition advice his decorated Vietnam vet brother gave him on how a “real hero” sounds compared to phoney, aggressive Hollywood heroes. The advice was heeded, Peter landed the gig and a truer rendition of heroic leadership was channelled out to a generation of kids. These are the insights that make this documentary series worth the watch.
The Toys That Made Us (2017)Other interesting titbits include Lucille Ball (of I Love Lucy fame) being involved in the Star Trek toys with Rod Roddenberry and her production company. There’s also the tale of toy company Meego, who later secured the license for $5000 to milk $50 million out of it. Dazzle your Transformer-loving mates with the fact that Hasbro was basically copy-pasting the Japanese products of Microman and Diaclone (who in turn had evolved their own robot lines from Hasbro’s own 1964 G.I. Joe toy). It was all a bit incestuous, to be honest.the-toys-that-made-us-netflix-stagione-2-recensione-Hello-Kitty-1Fans of Hello Kitty might want to keep the anthropomorphic action going with a Netflix anime called Aggretsuko (translation: Aggressive Retsuko). Fair warning, though, it’s a Sanrio production for adults. Think: a 25-year-old Red Panda languishing in an advertising department – her only stress relief, the death metal amateur karaoke circuit. No, for real. That’s the plot.8eb269111aaf58678699c80ce206df41Meanwhile, anybody seeking robots who “have more to them than meets the eye” would do well to check out both Transformers Prime and Transformers: Robots in Disguise on Netflix. For an extra ton of Cybertron, you should also seek out Transformers: The Last Night on Foxtel Now.
toysmadeus-fanenterpriseTrekkies have plenty of dessert options, too. Foxtel and Prime Video are home to the 1966 Star Trek series and J.J.’s lens-flare-a-go-go 2009 film. We also highly recommend you energise over some Star Trek Discovery via Netflix. Phenomenal new series that one. Set our faces to stunned.
toys-that-made-us-legoLast but not least, the LEGO brand has built itself quite the home on Netflix. If you haven’t yet seen the LEGO Movie or the LEGO Batman Movie, you need to amend that error now or go hit the bricks, pal.