Friday, April 24, 2015

A to Z 2015: Star Trek Episodes "Unexpected"

Star Trek: Enterprise

A dude becomes pregnant.  Honestly, I think doing an episode like this so early in the series made it hard for some people to like Enterprise above and beyond any other reason you may have heard or had.

But the thing is, it's not just some random dude, it's "Trip" Tucker, and it's exactly this kind of experience that helped define him, ultimately, as one of the best characters in the whole Star Trek franchise.  Because of his accent, Trip was sometimes pegged as the McCoy stand-in, a country outsider looking in as the wonders of the universe came pouring in.  And yet, Trip was always more of a Kirk.  With a crucial difference.  Whereas Kirk routinely let experiences roll off his back (with a few exceptions, and probably an era that ended with Spock's death) and led the way with a smirk, Trip tended to stumble his way forward, undaunted but routinely inconvenienced.  He couldn't help but let things get to him.

The biggest impact on his life was when Trip's sister died at the start of the Xindi arc.  It ended up defining him for at least a season, trying to get over it.  Remember in Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country when Kirk admits that Klingons weren't just his enemy by default anymore, but personally so after the murder of his son David?  Trip existed in this mode from the start.  He was Enterprise's emotional anchor.

So yeah, when the final episode ("These Are the Voyages...") comes around and spends most of its time exploring his impact, I tend to overlook things like how much time Riker and Troi got, because it's not a Riker and Troi episode, it's a Trip episode.  The final episode of the series, dedicated to Trip, not Captain Archer.  I think that says something right there.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

A to Z 2015 - Star Trek Episodes "Through the Looking Glass"

"Through the Looking Glass"
Star Trek: Deep Space Nine

Remember "Mirror, Mirror," the episode from the original series where Kirk had a transporter accident and ended up in an alternate reality where Spock, however improbably, proves to be even more awesome with the simple addition of a goatee?

Well, Deep Space Nine returned to that alternate reality, repeatedly.  First it was with "Crossover," in which Bashir and Kira discover how badly things turned out for humans after Mirror Spock took Kirk's advice and tried to course-correct the Terran Empire.  Mirror Sisko, apparently, was something of a scoundrel.  And then he died.

"Through the Looking Glass" is the second in this series of episodes (to be followed by "Shattered Mirror," "Resurrection," and "The Emperor's New Cloak"), but as it turns out, it's a great deal more than that.

You see, whereas Mirror Sisko is now unavailable, there's another Sisko over there.  In the first episode of the series, we quickly learned Sisko's backstory, which involves the famous Battle of Wolf 359 (the Borg crisis as depicted in Next Generation's "The Best of Both Worlds") and how he loses his wife Jennifer, taking away from him his wife and from his son Jake, a mother.  Except now, Sisko is brought to the Mirror Universe (that's what it's commonly called) and meets Mirror Jennifer.

It's a startling moment.  Remember Next Generation's "Yesterday's Enterprise," in which we discover an alternate reality where Tasha Yar (a series regular from the first season) is very much still alive, which later leads to Sela, the Romulan daughter of Yar, and they're all played by the same actress (Denise Crosby)?  It's the kind of continuity that seems completely impossible, but is one of the neater things Star Trek has managed to accomplish over the years (the best example will always be Leonard Nimoy popping up in two J.J. Abrams movies).  Felecia M. Bell has far less pedigree than Denise Crosby or Leonard Nimoy, but she played Jennifer in the Deep Space Nine  pilot ("Emissary") and then returns for an expanded performance in "Looking Glass" (and then encore in "Shattered Glass").

The result is amazing.  Not so much for anything Bell herself does.  For Sisko, it's a part of the whole rebuilding process he'd been experiencing (this is one of the many examples of everything the third season did right by Sisko).

It's a defining moment for the series and arguably an unheralded one for the whole franchise.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

A to Z 2015: Star Trek Episodes "The Savage Curtain"

"The Savage Curtain"
Star Trek (the original series)

If things had gone differently, "Savage Curtain" would be known for featuring Abraham Lincoln, and pretty much only that.  There's a lot of mileage to be had from Lincoln, and the original series had a habit of using every possible story template as a springboard for Kirk's adventures.

But things went as they did, and Lincoln was overshadowed by a couple of dudes named Surak and Kahless.

Who are those dudes, you ask (you Star Trek neophyte, you!)?  They were both founders of the way famous Star Trek alien civilizations tend to behave: Surak instituted Vulcan logic, Kahless laid the foundations of Klingon honor.  Kahless made an appearance in Star Trek: The Next Generation ("Rightful Heir"), or at least his clone did, and his chosen weapon, the first bat'leth, was fought over in Deep Space Nine ("The Sword of Kahless").  Surak's teachings were reawakened in Enterprise ("The Forge"/"Awakening"/"Kir'Shara").

So "Savage Curtain" is known for introducing these fine dudes.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

A to Z 2015: Star Trek Episodes "Rascals"

Star Trek: The Next Generation

I swear I didn't select episodes based on how bad they made Next Generation look, but "Rascals" is easily one of the most ridiculous episodes of the whole franchise.  I mean, it makes "Spock's Brain" looks like "City on the Edge of Forever."

The basic premise has Picard, Guinan, Keiko O'Brien, and Ensign Ro de-aged to childhood because of a transporter accident.  Seriously.

This doesn't even account for the wildly disparate adult ages they represent, certainly Picard and Guinan.  (Maybe this doesn't matter given the premise.  But still.)  There's some mild amusement to the proceedings, including Riker pretending Kid Picard is his son when the inevitable additional crisis occurs (it only figures that the Ferengi are involved, I guess), but, I mean, seriously?

And, actually, this is also the final Next Generation episode I'll be writing about this month.  Early in the month I also included "The Dauphin," which was a decent Wesley Crusher episode from the second season.  Not as good as, say "The Game," but then, it had far less Ashley Judd in it.  I also featured "Genesis," which featured the far more awesome physical alteration of the crew being devolved into various ancestral states.  Fish Troi cannot be topped.  Except by Lemur Picard...

(Okay, okay.  Cake Troi obviously tops Fish Troi.  Bonus points if you can tell me about the episode in which Cake Troi appears.  And what kind of frosting she sports!)

Monday, April 20, 2015

A to Z 2015: Star Trek Episodes "The Quality of Life"

"The Quality of Life"
Star Trek: The Next Generation

In which the robot apocalypse begins with tools that become sentient.  Tools, folks, tools!  This is why comparing Data to a toaster in "The Measure of a Man" was actually chilling.  Chilling!  Do you know where your toaster is???  You've seen the meme involving cows and the surprising number of deaths they cause.  I'm just saying, know where your toaster is...

Saturday, April 18, 2015

A to Z 2015 - Star Trek Episodes "Past Tense"

"Past Tense, Parts 1 and 2"
Star Trek: Deep Space Nine

Hey, so remember "The City on the Edge of Forever," the episode routinely listed as the best of the original and any other series in Star Trek lore?  Well, "Past Tense" is better.

Yeah.  I just said that.  "City on the Edge of Forever" is one of those experiences, and there are many, many such experiences in and out of Star Trek and throughout history, that maybe has been greatly exaggerated over time.  When you boil it down, the story is basically this: Kirk stumbles upon a gateway that can be used for time travel; McCoy, who has just accidentally overdosed on his own medication, uses this gateway to randomly screw up history; Kirk and Spock conveniently are sent by the gateway to the exact time and location they need to prevent McCoy from actually going through with it; the victim in all this is some woman who actually proves the lie in the Star Trek assumption that a perfect future, or idealism in general, is generally a good thing.  Kind of screwy, and I won't go much further into that.

So now that I have enraged all geeks everywhere, let me make my feeble defense of "Past Tense."

This is another time travel episode that deals with social issues, leaving members of the crew stranded in a situation where they end up living like bums (except for Dax, because she's pretty).  Except these particular bums are also about to make history, as long as one of them manages to live long enough.  Except he doesn't.  So Sisko has to make the difficult decision to replace the guy.  Which is a pretty risky move.

But it's perhaps Star Trek in a nutshell better and more nuanced than "City on the Edge of Forever."  There's very little artifice involved.  There's a crazy bum involved, too, and he's a lot of fun to watch, and he doesn't care too much about offending people.  (Call me crazy, but people who aren't afraid of offending people are so much easier to understand.  At least they're being honest.)

Plus it's just one of the many third season stories from Deep Space Nine that helped prove how awesome Sisko is.  Seriously, it's like the writers suddenly woke up and realized they had an infinite amount of ways to demonstrate how awesome he is, and they spent the whole season doing exactly that.  It's my favorite-ever season of Star Trek.  Late in it, he gets promoted to captain (finally!), but not before spending some quality father-son time solar sailing, which is another all-time favorite episode ("Explorers") of this or any other series.

"Past Tense" is one of those Star Trek stories that clearly evokes an earlier one, and is perhaps the better for it.  But I've angered enough geeks already.  I'll stop here.

Friday, April 17, 2015

A to Z 2015 - Star Trek Episodes "Oasis"

Star Trek: Enterprise

 had a remarkable wealth of appearances from past series, not just from the usual pool of guest stars that had already made multiple appearances (I'm looking at you, Vaughn Armstrong and Jeffrey Combs), but a number of actors who had been series regulars.

"Oasis" features one such appearance.  The story itself was considered fairly derivative of past episodes, one of which featured the very actor who makes a return engagement for the occasion: Rene Auberjonois.

You may remember the name from the man behind the rubber mask of Odo from Deep Space Nine.  The holographic community his character has created for himself in "Oasis" is similar to an experience Odo had in Deep Space Nine's "Shadowplay."

Other past regulars who showed up in roles other than the ones they had previous played included Ethan Philips (who was Neelix in Voyager, now a Ferengi in "Acquisition") and Brent Spiner (who was Data in Next Generation, now an ancestor of the android's creator in a trilogy of episodes beginning with "Borderland").


And because I a big fan of a band named Oasis:


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