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Old 04-11-2023, 03:28 AM   #11 (permalink)
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Well I already have done, see above.
Despite my often suicidal tendencies in terms of journals (fifty plus years of prog rock history? All the albums in 2017? You're jokin' mate!) this isn't an attempt to explore deeply each series and do writeups of them. All I'm doing is a short overview of, and introduction to each series, and selecting one episode from each. I think I did "Beyond the Farthest Star" for TAS, and that's as far as I can go with that. This voyage is a long one.
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Old 04-14-2023, 08:59 AM   #12 (permalink)
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Could a mod please change the thread title please, as that should obviously read "Warping through over half a century", not "decade"? D'oh!
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Old 04-15-2023, 10:14 AM   #13 (permalink)
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Series: Star Trek: Voyager
Season: 1
Episode: 1 and 2
Episode title: “Caretaker”
Original transmission date: January 16 1995
Total seasons (to date if current): 5
Span: 1995 - 2001
Writer(s): Rick Berman, Michael Piller, Jeri Taylor
Director: Winrich Kolbe
Basic premise: In pursuit of the Federation’s enemies, the experimental ship, USS Voyager finds itself in another quadrant of the galaxy, and its crew will have to try to find their way home.
Setting(s): Earth, Federation prison, USS Voyager, The Caretaker’s array, Gamma Quadrant
Themes: Loss, duty, pursuit, choice, responsibility
Things I liked:
Things I didn’t like: As below, how after hating each other’s guts the Maquis meekly agree to become part of a Starfleet crew; how Janeway makes the decision for all of them to strand them millions of light years from home, without bothering to ask anyone’s opinion, showing her arrogance for the first, but by no means the last time.
Timeline: 24th century
Stardate: Unknown and unknowable
Vessel: USS Voyager
Class: Intrepid
Registry: NCC-74656
Location: Alpha, then Gamma Quadrant
Mission(s): To recover stolen shuttlecraft taken by Maquis and return the rebels to face Federation justice. This later changes to protecting/destroying the Caretaker’s array and finally trying to survive long enough to get back to the Alpha Quadrant.
Dramatis Personae:
Main:
(Note: because of the way this pilot episode goes, the original crew of Voyager is different, with some of those who end up serving on her having been the target of Janeway’s pursuit, such as ex-Maquis officers Chakotay and Torres, and others, well, shall we say indisposed, Tom Paris? But as the original crew only lasts a short time and has no impact whatever on the rest of the series I’m going to be treating them like I did “The Cage”, which is to say, ignoring them. Therefore the “main cast” and the crew of Voyager are only shown below relative to the ones who became the regulars.

Captain Kathryn Janeway
First Officer Chakotay
Ensign Harry Kim
Lieutenant Tom Paris, helmsman
Security Chief Tuvok, a Vulcan
B'elanna Torres, Chief Engineer, a human/Klingon hybrid
The Doctor, hologram, CMO
Neelix, a Terrlurian, waste of space
Supporting:
Kes, an Ocampa, girlfriend of Neelix, god help her

Ancillary:
Quark
Starring: (Main cast): Kate Mulgrew, Robert Beltran, Roxann Dawson, Robert Picardo, Robert Duncan McNeill (what, was there a casting call for men named Robert or something?), Tim Russ, Garret Wang, Ethan Philips, Jennifer Lien
Guest Star(s):
Armin Shimerman

Synopsis

Like most Star Trek series, this begins with a two-part episode. After the Federation strike a treaty with the Cardassian Empire, certain territories settled by Federation citizens are ceded to the Cardassians. All Federaton colonists are told to leave, as they are now in breach of the new treaty. Many do leave, but unwilling to be uprooted from their homes, many band together and refuse to leave, defying the orders of both governments, and so becoming outlaws, wanted on both sides. They are the Maquis. Why? I have no idea: never explained. One of their ships has on board a spy, a Vulcan called Tuvok who is working for Starfleet, and when the ship he is on disappears into the plasma fields of the area known as the Badlands, Starfleet's newest ship, the USS Voyager, is tasked with locating it.

However, they get caught by some sort of tetrion warp wave or something and are hurled 70,000 light years from their destination. They see a huge array, apparently firing some sort of blast into space at regular intervals. Shortly afterwards, all the crew are transported off the ship and find themselves in some sort of rural setting, though Captain Janeway confirms they are in fact inside the array. Lots of people greet them. Hillbilly Hell indeed. Things of course are not what they seem though --- are they ever, in any Star Trek? --- and the yokels soon turn nasty when Paris and Kim find evidence of the missing Maquis in a barn that seems to have a holographic projector. What? You don't have a holographic projector in your barn? What century you livin' in boy? The twenty-first? Ah well that there explains it, don't it?

Of course, it then turns out that they're not on some rustic farm, but in some sort of laboratory. Sent back to the ship, they find they have a common goal with the Maquis, who have lost one of their crew, as has Voyager. A truce is arranged as they begin to search for their missing crewmen. Turns out there's only one entity on the array, and he is searching for something, anxious to “honour a debt that can never be repaid”. He sends the crew back to their ship, and as Janeway tries to figure out what the entity is looking for, Harry Kim and B'Elanna Torres, the missing crewmembers, seem to be undergoing some sort of medical procedure.

Voyager locates a ship in the debris field, which (rather sadly for them, and us) introduces them to Neelix, a Tellaxian who tells them that he knows of other people who have been pulled here against their will. He tells them the Ocampa, who live on the fifth planet, at which the pulses from the array are being directed, believe they are being watched over by a being called the Caretaker. As he knows the area well, they enlist Neelix's help to try to solve the mystery and retrieve their crewmembers. Meanwhile we learn that the very Ocampa of whom Neelix speaks are in fact looking after Kim and Torres, telling them that they have been asked to do so by the Caretaker. They are also not the first ones he has asked this favour for. Kim and Torres are told they are suffering from some disease, which may not be treatable. Janeway, Chakotay, Tuvok, Paris and Neelix beam down to the Ocampa's planet, in search of their missing crew, and run afoul of the Kazon, who will become one of Voyager's enemies in the first season. Basically, dumbed-down Klingons. Turns out ol' Neelix has not been quite truthful with the captain! The Ocampa live underground, and all he really wants to do is rescue his lover Kes, an Ocampa who has been taken prisoner by the Kazon. Janeway is not happy!

Down below the planet, a sympathetic Ocampa helps Kim and Torres escape to the surface, while Janeway and co., with the help of Kes, beam down below the surface. Tuvok forms a hypothesis that the Caretaker is dying, and that the debt he owes is to the Ocampa. Janeway worries what will happen to her crew if the only entitly capable of sending them back kicks the bucket? With everyone back together and on Voyager, they encounter two Kazon ships which attack the array, fearful that Janeway will gain access to the technology within. Janeway is therefore placed in the position of taking them on, as she and Tuvok beam over to the structure. There they again meet the Caretaker, who explains that he is responsible for the surface of the Ocampa's world being the desert it is. He is now trying to father a successor, who will carry on the work of caring for them when he is gone. Suddenly, one of the Kazon ships collides with the array, killing the Caretaker, who, before he dies, begs Janeway to destroy the array, lest it fall into the hands of the Kazon, who would use its power to destroy the Ocampa.

Janeway is now faced with a terrible decision. She can use the array to send them back, or destroy it and accept being stranded here, 70,000 light years from home. She decides to destroy it, making a permanent enemy of the Kazon, and enemies onboard her own ship, as she has taken away the only chance everyone had of getting home. Now they will have to find “another way”, as she says.

Houston, we have a problem!
Many, and large ones. But the first, and most pressing of these is the ease with which the Maquis and the Federation crews bond. How can two opposing forces, trapped toegther by circumstance, suddenly become friends? A few days ago the Maquis were being hunted by Voyager, one of its crew was spying on them and now, through the interference of Captain Janeway they are all trapped seventy thousand light-years from their homes. How is there no resentment? How is there no fucking rebellion? How can it be that, on Chakotay's edict, they all decide to “be a Federation crew”, and having done that, they all stayed in line? Nobody objected to the Federation taking over and nobody rebelled or even pulled a sulky face?

This should have been a gilt-edged opportunity for ready-made conflict between the ex-Maquis and the Starfleet officers, with Janeway having to maintain some sort of order among the fighting factions, perhaps even putting down attempts at mutiny or sabotage. After all, she and her crew wanted to get home, but all that awaited the Maquis was a prison stockade, so maybe they preferred to take their chances, make a new life out here in the Delta Quadrant, where nobody had even heard of their so-called crimes and they could begin anew. Notions like that could have led to attempts to slow the progress home, alliances could have been made and broken, perhaps even those who had “gone over to the Starfleet side” might have been looked on as traitors... the possibilites were limitless, and would have provided for some edge-of-the-seat drama.

But no. The writers decided that everyone would be one big happy family and from episode two onwards, with a very odd bump along the road, there was no internal conflict. I mean, come on: surely a fiery half-Klingon like Torres should have been torn between her love for Chakotay and her loyalty to the cause she signed up for? Did Tuvok not think it illogical of his captain to sacrifice her people for an alien race she hardly knew? Why was there no backlash? But nothing happened, and all the potential for heartstopping betrayal, intrigue, murder and blackmail went out the window, along with any hope of this ever being a series anyone could take seriously.

The Prime Directive
Each captain in each series has approached this most prized and revered first tenet of the Federation in his or her own way. Kirk regularly found ways around it, Picard rigidly obeyed it, Sisko often danced on the head of its pin. Janeway made it suit her. When the occasion, in her opinion, warranted it, or when it served her purposes, she would blithely ignore the Prime Directive. I suppose in a way you can't blame her: who was going to report her, and to whom?

And surely, in blowing up the array she right away breaks that law? For the Prime Directive states that, quote, “As the right of each sentient species to live in accordance with its normal cultural evolution is considered sacred, no Star Fleet personnel may interfere with the normal and healthy development of alien life and culture. Such interference includes introducing superior knowledge, strength, or technology to a world whose society is incapable of handling such advantages wisely. Star Fleet personnel may not violate this Prime Directive, even to save their lives and/or their ship, unless they are acting to right an earlier violation or an accidental contamination of said culture. This directive takes precedence over any and all other considerations, and carries with it the highest moral obligation” (Taken from Wiki article Prime Directive - Wikipedia, the free encyclopaedia). Captain Picard put it in more flowery language when he said, again quoted from the same article, "The Prime Directive is not just a set of rules. It is a philosophy, and a very correct one. History has proven again and again that whenever mankind interferes with a less developed civilization, no matter how well intentioned that interference may be, the results are invariably disastrous."

So surely then, destroying the array which has been protecting the Ocampa is in itself a violation of the Prime Directive? Is Janeway not directly interfering in matters which do not concern her, have little or no impact upon her ship, her crew or her mission, and have nothing to do with the Federation, as they have no jurisdiction here? But that's Janeway: the Prime Directive may be sacred, but only when it suits her.

To be fair, most captains (Picard excepted) have tried to twist and turn to find a way to defeat the letter of the law with the spirit of the law, and have mosly been successful. It is not to my knowledge recorded that any captain we know of has been brought to trial or even reprimanded for breaking this Directive. I believe a tacit, unspoken agreement exists whereby Starfleet know that the Prime Directive is impossible to enforce literally and always, and are prepared to turn a blind eye if the ends justify the means.

The Doctor is in
Although Voyager is a series that permits little if any character development, one does slip through the loop. To my mind there is only one decent character, certainly in the first few seasons, who changes and develops over the course of the show. When we first meet him, The Doctor (he never has any other name, perhaps in a nod to another famous sci-fi series with a doctor...) is irritating, irritated, curt, snobby, elitist and even downright rude. As the episodes go on and he gains more experience this will change vastly. He is of course not a real person; he is a hologram, a computer representation of a person. His actual designation is EMH for Emergency Medical Hologram; he is meant only to be called upon when or if the living doctor on the ship is killed or otherwise unable to carry out his duties. A backup system, essentially. But here in the depths of the Delta Quadrant there is no doctor, no replacement, no person who can take over. Nobody on the ship has anything like the medical knowledge that has been programmed into him, and so he must serve as the primary physician, even though he's not really meant to be left running for any real length of time.

His extended periods of activity naturally become boring when there is no emergecy ---- he's meant to be turned off but cannot do it himself, so if someone forgets he has no choice but to remain active ---and so he becomes interested in things like reading, music and other pastimes, while also taking the opportunity to add to his knowledge of the humans and aliens with whom he serves, learning about them, learning from them, trying to be like them. In some ways, he is like Data in TNG, a not-quite-real person struggling to emulate humans and pass as one of them, knowing himself vastly superior but inwardly wishing he was as they are.

Aliens!
Well, there are aliens on board Voyager if you include the likes of Neelix, Tuvok and Torres, but here I'm talking about the aliens they meet. After all, they're in a whole new quadrant of the galaxy: surely there are as yet undreamed of species here?

The Ocampa
The first ones they meet are the Ocampa, after Neelix has come aboard, he himself a Tellaxian. The Ocampa seem to be a simple, agrarian race with little to distinguish them from humans other than slightly pointed ears, rather like Vulcans but smaller. Oh, and they live for three years or something. Other than Kes, who accompanies Neelix to the ship and stays as part of the crew, they don't really figure in the story again.

The Kazon
But these guys do. Basically, as I noted in the Voyager journal, a poor man's Klingon (they even look like them), they are a warrior race who take what they want, and become the enemies of the Federation --- or at least, Voyager --- when Janeway destroys the array. In case there's any doubt, the Kazon captain says as he turns away in anger, the debris of the destroyed array fading into space around him, “You have made an enemy today, Captain.” Again though, they're badly thought out and they don't last too long before they're replaced with more interesting and deadlier enemies.
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Old 04-16-2023, 07:45 PM   #14 (permalink)
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Series: Enterprise
Season: 1
Episode: 1 and 2
Episode title: “Broken Bow”
Original transmission date: September 26 2001
Total seasons (to date if current): 4
Span: 2001 - 2005
Writer(s): Rick Berman, Brannon Braga
Director: James L. Conway
Basic premise:
Setting(s): Earth, Transfer Station, Helix, Qu'o'noS
Themes: Conflict, deception, liberation, independence, trust
Things I liked: Really, not much at all
Things I didn’t like: Too much old-tech and just really didn't strike a chord with me at all. A little too much copying from other series.
Timeline: 22nd century
Stardate: (Enterprise doesn’t use stardates, as it predates the events in TOS when such a system was invented, so we’re left with good old Earth dates) April 16 2151
Vessel: USS Enterprise
Class: Constitution
Registry: NX-01
Location: Alpha Quadrant
Mission(s): Return a Klingon to his homeworld with important information
Dramatis Personae:
Main:
Captain Jonathan Archer
T’Pol, a Vulcan Science Officer
Trip Tucker, Chief Engineer
Malcolm Reed, Tactical Officer
Hoshi Sato, Comms Officer
Travis Mayweather, Helmsman
Dr, Phlox, a Denobulan, CMO

Supporting:
Ancillary:
Starring: (Main Cast) Scott Bakula, John Billingsley, Jolene Blalock, Dominic Keating, Anthony Mongomery, Linda Park, Connor Trineer
Guest Star(s):

Introduction

While I myself never became a fan of the show, giving up after either season two or earlier, I do have to admire the courage displayed by the creators. Prior to this, various ideas had been floated as to how Star Trek could continue/come back, but most were concerned with, not surprisingly, the future as seen in the previous three series; one suggested a possible “Star Trek Academy” kind of deal, where we would meet a young Kirk, Scotty, McCoy etc as they studied to become Starfleet officers. This was later dropped, if it had ever been a real proposal. For Enterprise, the producers bravely removed the Star Trek prefix (though on the basis of its success this would be re-attached, like the saucer section to the battle bridge, from season three onwards) and set the show only a century after our own time. This allowed them to explore the idea behind first contact with humanity, mostly via the Vulcans, as seen in the movie Star Trek: First Contact, but also with Klingons and others.

It introduced us to the very first ever starship to carry the name Enterprise, its registry denoting both its experimental status and its being the first of its kind - NX-01 - and the technology used much more basic. No phasers, no transporter, no replicators, and an engine only capable of a maximum speed of Warp 5. It also introduced a simmering resentment between humans and Vulcans, as the latter, believing - almost certainly rightly - that humans were not yet ready for space travel, held back important technical knowledge from us and so delayed our entry into the galaxy as a space-faring civilisation. The idea of much of the show taking place on or around Earth, the chance to see humanity take its first steps into a larger galaxy, the development of the technology that would eventually lead to ships such as that captained by Picard and Janeway, all should have been tantalising enough to make this series a shoo-in for me, but somehow it just never clicked.

Synopsis

A Klingon craft has crashlanded in Broken Bow, Oklahoma, and the pilot is being pursued by aliens who appear to have the ability to change their shape (not shapeshifters, I don’t think: just that they can flatten and elongate their bodies, a little maybe like Mr. Fantastic from the Fantastic Four). They chase him into a water tower but he jumps out, turns round and shoots it, blowing it and them up. As Captain Jonathan Archer tests the new spaceship he’s due to fly soon, a call comes in from Starfleet for him to attend a meeting. There he finds the Klingon, not dead but wounded, and Soval, the Vulcan ambassador and his staff, who have been advising Earth on all interstellar/galactic matters, having been the first alien race to make contact with us. Archer does not trust the Vulcans, who he thinks are constantly delaying the launch of Earth’s first space flight for reasons of their own.

The Vulcans want to pull the plug on the Klingon, citing the usual death-is-better-than-dishonour excuse, and return him home, as his people have demanded, but Archer convinces the admiral, against Soval’s wishes, to allow him to take Klaang back as the maiden flight of the new Enterprise. On the way there though they are attacked and lose all power as aliens invade the ship. The object seems to have been to capture the Klingon, which they do. They capture one of the aliens, which the doctor tells them is a Suliban, but one that has been heavily genetically modified. Oh yeah: it’s dead. Cut to the Suliban interrogating Klaang who, under the influence of truth drugs, reveals that he went to Rigel X to meet a Suliban named Sarin, but either refuses to say what she gave him, or does not remember. As the Enterprise arrives at Rigel X, they are attacked and taken prisoner by Suliban.

This does not turn out to be as simple as it sounds, as they have in fact been captured by what appears to be a rebel, who tells Archer that Klaang was carrying evidence that her people are staging attacks against Klingon worlds, in an attempt to make it look as if they are being carried out by other Klingon factions. She then mentions something called the temporal cold war, which of course means nothing to Archer, but before she can explain, they are attacked, this time by real Suliban. The rebel helps them get to their ship but in the process is shot and killed, her last words being that they must find the Klingon. In the battle to get to their shuttle and away Archer is shot and wounded; T’Pol assumes command of the Enterprise. Trip is not happy, especially as the Vulcan has no official rank, being only an observer.

What follows is a rather unnecessary, I would have thought, and clearly intended to titillate scene, where T’Pol and Trip, going through decontamination, rub a sort of oil onto each other’s almost-naked bodies. It’s, well, it’s a bit disturbing, and I’m not so sure why it has to be there, unless it really was just to draw in the t&a brigade of both sexes. Weird. Anyway, Archer soon recovers and takes back command, but he does find that T’Pol has managed to track the Suliban vessel and they are now in orbit over what appears to be their base. Of course, on entering the atmosphere they’re attacked, and the good old NX-01 has just baby teeth compared to these well-armed ships, so they manage to snag one of the attacking ships with, um, a grappling hook (?) and the pilot either ejects or gets thrown out. They take the Suliban ship onboard and work out how to fly it, and then Trip and Archer launch in it.

Their destination is a thing called the Helix, basically a structure to which hundreds of Suliban ships cling, kind of like barnacles on a ship’s hull, or a really easy game of Tetris. All right, let’s be honest here: it’s Space Station Regula One, isn’t it? How many more times are they going to use that model? Anyway, onto the thing they go, and into it, while the Enterprise hangs, Mutara Nebula-like, up in the atmosphere and tries to resist the attacks against it. Archer and Trip rescue Klaang but now Vulcan emotionless logic comes into play, and T’Pol, believing the captain may already be dead and that a rescue attempt would be foolish and would jeopardise the mission, is ready to return Klaang to Qu’o’noS and will not authorise going back to the Helix.

Meanwhile, Archer finds himself in a strange room where he appears to be out of phase, and a voice calls to him by name but its owner appears to be invisible, or hidden. He fights the Suliban - because of course it’s one of them - and at the last moment Trip uses the - till then quite experimental and not really used before - transporter to beam him out of there, making this, historically I guess, the first transport on Star Trek. They deliver Klaang home with his evidence of interference in Klingon affairs, get the usual Klingon thanks, i.e., up wherever your species traditionally crams things, human - and head off on their mission.

Comments: Overall the feel is decent but I remember getting very bored quickly with this series. The idea of going back to scratch, where such things as phasers and photon torpedoes, holodecks and even transporters are all new inventions, just left me with a sense of impatience. I’ve never been a fan of Bakula either, and the casting of a Vulcan as science officer seems to me to be a lazy decision, basically copying the original. The Doctor could be an interesting character, and it’s the first Trek series to have an Englishman on board, but I found it hard to empathise with any of the others. And as for the puppy? Well are they not just copying Data’s cat here, as well as back-referencing Janeway’s dogs?

Overall I remember thinking pretty negatively about this (though I see it won awards and the series went on to four seasons, so I guess it couldn’t have been all bad) and just losing interest in it around the second season, which I’m not sure if I finished. I recall that for me it started badly with the first - and so far only - vocal theme, which I did not like. That was, for me, a step too far away from established Trek music. It’s a good song and it fits in well, but I just couldn’t get my head around it. I also feel it leaps too fast: one minute we’re being told humans have to stay at home and the next they’re out in space taking on the bad guys. In a single bound etc. It’s also very dark, not only in tone but in lighting and colour; very dour and, well, dark. As for the name used for the aliens? Could they be more on the nose? I mean come on: Suli-ban? Really?

I know it ended up with legions of fans, and anyone reading here may be one, and so I’m not going to say it was terrible. I remember I watched it, but really only because it was on the telly and, well, it was Star Trek. But I quickly became disillusioned with it, and it just was not for me. Maybe at some point I may revisit it, but I don’t feel any pressing need to. Certainly, in my opinion, if there’s a runt in the Star Trek litter, Enterprise is it.


Ten things I hate about you

With the tension between the, let’s be honest, smug and superior Vulcans and the humans, there are going to be a lot of rivalries in this series it would seem. Things are not helped when a Vulcan is assigned to the Enterprise, one in fact whom only days before Archer has informed he is doing his best to restrain himself from “knocking on her ass”.

T’Pol and Archer

Archer of course believes T’Pol has been installed on the ship as a Vulcan spy, and he no doubt wishes she was not there, but as they’re heading to Qu’o’nOs, the Klingon homeworld, and she is the only one among them who has dealt with them, there’s nothing for it. There’s little real chance initially of them getting on; T’Pol is dismissive of humans, acting as an adult among children, totally sarcastic and condescending, while the crew fume at the fact that they have no choice but to trust to her, since these are their first steps into the greater galaxy. Her borderline contempt for humans is shown when Trip attempts to intervene in what he sees as a mother abusing her child, only to be told by the Vulcan that there is a racial reason for what he sees, and that the mother is doing what any mother would, helping her child. No doubt this shows him how little he actually knows, and it’s a sobering lesson.

Archer makes no secret of his suspicions about T’Pol, who blandly denies them, but doesn’t seem ruffled. In some ways, she probably expected such a reaction. To her, humans are savage and uncivilised and untried, and while they can’t quite be compared to stone age man facing his gods (like maybe the sun or a bear or something) she kind of acts like that’s the way she sees the relationship. Not that she considers herself a god (not sure Vulcans worship gods, and being totally logical you would imagine not) but she definitely sees herself on a much higher level than them. In time I imagine they’ll become the best of friends. Possibly.
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Old 04-17-2023, 07:26 PM   #15 (permalink)
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And that was it. After the cancellation of Enterprise (now renamed as Star Trek: Enterprise) at the close of its fourth season in 2005, there would be no more new official Star Trek for another twelve years. However, if Star Trek fans are known for one thing, it’s being obsessive, and paying great attention to the tiniest details, to the point where they could make these series themselves. And with no new official show on the foreseeable horizon, that’s exactly what they did.

Some were truly great, others were, well, not. Some garnered praise, and even support from cast members of the official shows, a few of whom actually made guest appearances on one or two. Some of the series folded after a short amount of episodes - it’s hard to imagine the amount of money needed to bring even one episode to transmission, never mind seasons, and remember, none of these had any sort of studio backing, so it was the guys and girls’ own money that got them made, and possibly that of investors and/or advertisers, but looming over all like some disapproving but lazy parent was the copyright holder, and as we’ll learn as we go through these, many of the potential shows were slapped down by CBS in a “dog in a manger” idea. We’re not doing it, so you can’t either.

Some got around what became quite draconian rules in various inventive ways, one even dropping all references to the franchise (yet clearly a Star Trek show in all but name) and some, sadly, had to be cancelled as they would not be authorised. But good, bad or bloody awful, you have to hand it to the men and women who put their time, efforts, money and perhaps also family and job on the line to bring us even one episode of their vision of where the franchise could go, or their idea of expanding on an already-written show. They all deserve the highest praise, whether they succeeded in creating almost a rival to the official series, or whether they ended up with a camcorder-held film of guys in silly uniforms running through a forest for thirty minutes. To all of them, I say, ka’plah!

Because all of these shows are based on the originals, there are new categories I'm judging them by, including, perhaps most importantly, one which will measure how well, or badly, the series stands up against the official ones. Believe me, it varies wildly. Explanations, where needed, are given at the end.

For now, it's time to either engage, ahead warp factor whatever or, you know, just get the damn computer to stop rebooting so we can get this show started! Who bought this cheap piece of junk? And whose dog is that? Oh, right, it's mine. Okay. Off we go, crossing the not-quite-final frontier and going where a lot of people have gone before.

The Human Adventure stumbles on...



Introduction

Discounting movies (which I said I would) this appears to be the very first fan-made series, and indeed one of the most successful, running to 50 episodes and, as I noted in the list, giving rise to no less than four spin-off series. Okay well technically speaking it wasn’t the first, as I read the series it span off from itself, Voyages of the USS Angeles, ran into those legal troubles I referred to earlier, and is not allowed to be available anywhere, so I guess for all intents and purposes it doesn’t exist, leaving us with this as the first series we can actually watch. Set after VOY, it concerns the exploits of the USS Excelsior during the aftermath of the Dominion War seen in the fourth to seventh seasons of DS9. Another setting used for this series is Deep Space 12, which is located in the area of space known as The Briar Patch.

Series: Star Trek: Hidden Frontier
Season: 1
Episode: 1 and 2
Episode title: “Enemy Unknown”
Original transmission date: n/a
Total seasons (to date if current): 7
Span: 2000 - 2007
Writer(s): Rob Caves
Director: Rob Caves
Basic premise: At the climactic Battle of Lapolis, the USS Devonshire encounters a new threat: an alien species who can control minds. And look like jawas.
Mood: Sombre, action
Setting(s): Space, Lapolis system
Themes: Power, survival, mind control, aliens, war
Things I liked: The CGI sequences
Things I didn’t like: The acting
Timeline: 24th century
Stardate: ?
Vessel: USS Excelsior
Class: Galaxy
Registry: NCC-77246
Location: Alpha Quadrant
Mission(s): Originally, part of the Battle of Lapolis, driving back the Dominion in one final push. Later, to track down this new alien species and direct them to the new Star Wars movie stage.
Dramatis Personae:
Main:
Captain Ian Quincey-Knapp
Commander Elizabeth Shelby**
Dr. Henglaar, a Tellerite, CMO
Lieutenant Commander Robin Lefler**
Mura Elbrey, Ship’s Counsellor
Lieutenant William Martinez**
Lieutenant Toby Witczak**
Ensign Jenna McFarland**
Ensign Andrew Barret**
Rayvan**
Ensign Ro Nevin**
Ensign Brad Rawlins**
Lieutenant Commander Rodriguez*
Lieutenant Paul Brickey*
Ensign Abney*
Ensign Jason Williams**
* Part one only
** Part two only

Supporting:
Ancillary:
Starring: (Main cast) David W. Dial, Risha Denney, John Whiting, Joanne Busch, Barbara Clifford, Anthony Diaz, Matt Kruer, Adrianne Lange, Tyler Bosserman, Gregory Allen, Adrian Bosserman, Tristan Clark, John Wallis
Guest Star(s): Jeanne Carrington, Paul Brickey, Rob Caves

Synopsis

The episode borrows from the opening of DS9, with a desperate battle in progress, though this time it’s the Dominion’s last stand in the Battle of Lapolis. During the battle Captain Quincey-Knapp (seriously? They could have chosen any name for their captain and that’s what they came up with?) of the USS Devonshire is ordered to pursue three Dominion ships which have broken away from the main formation. The Dominion get in a lucky shot however and disable the Starfleet vessel, which has to stop for repairs. Once these are effected, Quincey (look I’m just gonna call him Captain Knapp, everyone okay with that? Tough; I'm doing it anyway) takes his ship into the McAllister Nebula, into which one of the ships vanished, pursued by another Starfleet one.

Inside the nebula they confirm the other ship has been destroyed but there is as yet no sign of the Dominion vessel. Oh wait, the Starfleet ship, the Rutledge, is still intact, but with no life signs? Anyway they beam over and stick their noses in where they’re not wanted in true Star Trek fashion, and find there is one member of the crew left, a Betazoid who tells them that the rest of the crew were captured, or rather went with, some alien species who seemed to be able to control their minds. The aliens destroyed the Cardassian ship the Rutledge had been chasing, took the crew of the Starfleet vessel, and ****ed off. The Betazoid was able to resist their mind control because, you know, she’s not human.

While there, the mysterious aliens come back and try to take the away team, but the Betazoid, um, completely fails to save them, other than the doctor, who’s also alien, a Tellerite apparently. Oh look! The mysterious aliens are Jawas! Sorry guys: wrong franchise! Is that someone’s kid playing the part? Anyway, off the other two go and beam back to the Devonshire in order to raise the shields, as they realise the jawas sorry mysterious aliens are attacking there too. Dr. Henglaar shoots the jawa (sorry, sorry!) holding everyone in “psionic thrall” and the crew come back to themselves, preparing to defend the ship.

But their weapons are about as much use as the Enterprise’s were against the Borg cube, so Knapp decides there’s only one thing for it: engage the auto-destruct, head right for the alien ship and get the **** out of there. Abandon ship!

(You really can't fault the CGI...)

Eighteen months later, Knapp is given command of the USS Excelsior, though he seems to think his crew is far from up to it, as he explains to Jennifer Cole at Deep Space 12. From what I can gather, she’s a captain too and looks to have been the wife or girlfriend of his brother, John, who was killed by the Dominion. The Excelsior has been tasked with checking out reports of unknown aliens in the area. Knapp goes to visit Rayvan (seriously? Raven?), an Iconian whose people were all wiped out by a secretive race he calls the Grey, who are very long-lived and tend to, he says, emerge from hiding only to attack and then vanish again. He believes these are the aliens Knapp saw when in command of the Devonshire.

He tells them that the Grey are not a race, but a confederacy of races, and that they are not interested in negotiating. They take what they want, and if you get in their way, as his people did 2000 years ago, you get wiped out. He notes that the metaphasic (I know, I know!) particles in the Briar Patch may be used by them to strengthen their hull armour, which may be why they stay in there, and Knapp realises he needs to find a way to lure them out. When he gets a message that a colony ship has been attacked and destroyed, it’s time for the Excelsior’s maiden voyage.



Possibly the only one who can actually act - and he ain't even human!

I say this under a triple caveat: one, that fair play to them for trying something and in fact being almost the first to do so, two, that I could never do anything like this so who the **** am I and three, that I assume it will get better, I hope. But. And it’s a big but. Overall, it’s pretty awful. I mean, the CGI is excellent, but the acting? Well, I read that this was all filmed in one guy’s house against green screens, so you can allow for that, but the woodenness of the actors is hard to ignore. The captain seems either totally smug or about to piss himself laughing all the time, the other actors vary between being too serious, stick-up-the-arse-like and seeming not to take it seriously enough. The only one I can really single out for any sort of praise is the doctor, John Whiting, who seems to stand head and shoulders above the rest of the cast.

It’s early days, of course, and there are things I like. The connections to the official Star Trek universe, with things like Ensign Ro Laren’s brother, Ensign Ro Nevin on board, a trill and an Iconian, even someone portraying Robin Leffler, from TNG’s “The Game”, and using her habit of making up rules and quoting them at people, all helps to make this more realistic and authentic. I do have an issue with how, most of the time, one actor talks on screen and then it switches to the next, so that it’s quite clear they’re taking turns in front of the green screen, and even when the ship is in battle all you can see is either the captain in his chair or the helmsman or the tactical station or insert position here, but obviously space is at a premium and they haven’t the facilities of a Paramount soundstage, so I think they do well with what they have.

After a pretty action-packed first part (this being a two-part opener, following the tradition since TNG) the second part is not only slow and boring, but essentially a “meet the crew” deal, where the First Officer literally tours the ship and asks everyone who they are and what they do. I understand what they’re doing, but I think it could have been done less clumsily. It also drags out a mere 18 minutes till it feels like an hour, and then just as they’re about to get to the action, end of episode.

Overall though, for a first effort it’s very impressive, but I expect there are better as we go through the fan series. As I say, I’m sure this gets better - I’ve seen one of the spinoffs and it’s very good - but as an opener this is pretty shaky. The story’s decent and there’s a valiant attempt to set up character backstories, but I think they concentrate so much on ensuring everyone gets their screen time that there’s no time left for action, which is, I think, a mistake.

Still, the USS Excelsior has launched: now let’s see where she takes us.
Oh wait no we won't: I'm moving on. Still, check the entire seven seasons on YouTube if you want.

Script: 5/10
Acting: 2/10
CGI: 10/10
Mood: 5/10
Faithfulness: 2/10 (live action) 10/10 (CGI) giving an average of 6/10
Soundtrack/effects: 7/10
Costumes: 7/10
Probability of watching more: 5/10
Balance between animation and live-action: 2/10
Gender balance: 6/10
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Old 04-22-2023, 05:24 AM   #16 (permalink)
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Series: Starship Exeter
Total seasons (to date if current): 2 episodes only
Span: 2002 - 2014
Writer(s): Jimm and Joshua Johnson
Director: Jimm and Joshua Johnson
Things I liked: The whole “homage to TOS” thing going on
Things I didn’t like: The shots of the ship and space (very clunky) and the lack of a role for Commander Harris, whose scenes all entailed sitting in the captain’s chair showing her legs.
Timeline: 23rd century
Vessel: USS Exeter
Class: Constitution
Location: Alpha Quadrant
Dramatis Personae: Captain John Garrowick, Lt. B’Fuselek, an Andorian, Cutty, Commander Jo Harris, D’Agosta
Starring: James Culhane (Jimm Johnson), Holly Guess, Michael Buford, Joshua Caleb (Joshua Johnson)


Comments
Two years after Hidden Frontier launched, and this looks ten years ahead of them. At least. Retaining the look and feel of TOS, this is far more authentic. People walk around corridors, doors open and close, they even use those blocky monitors that TOS used (I guess they’re old computer monitors but they look well). Everything is far brighter compared to HF: there’s a real sense of space here whereas on the other series it was pretty obvious everything was taking place in a limited area. The other was also much darker; this is cheerful and well-lit. I’m already impressed, and the title credits haven’t even run yet.

Okay, and now they’re running, and it’s basically TOS, though they have changed the voiceover and the wording, probably at CBS’s insistence. They have however kept the original score. Interesting. I would say that on first viewing, the animation is poor. Where HF loses on live-action and acting and sets, it looks like it may kick SE into a gaseous nebula in terms of animation. The movement of the ship over the credits is jerky and glitchy. Let’s see where this goes. Proper communicators, tricorders, a decent transporter effect, and quite a clever little philosophy of life espoused by the Andorian crewmember, Mr. B’fuselek. Getting better. I see they stuck with the original costumes too, which means, um, very revealing skirts for the ladies. I wonder how that went down? Guess as long as they don’t go up… sorry.

Cleverly avoiding having to CGI “nine-foot lizards” by the expedient of mentionign them and then running away. Oh okay no there’s one now. Ah. A bad plastic toy I think, definitely not CGI. Looks very rubbery. Phaser effects are good though. Sound effects very true to the original, building structures faithful, and the Klingons, when they appear on the scene, conform to the type seen originally in TOS. Without question, animation aside, this is far better than Hidden Frontier, and far more enjoyable. The acting, too, is way superior, even if Captain Garrovick (why such an odd name I wonder?) more or less shrugs when one of his men is forced to do a good impersonation of a cinder. I know ENT used Andorians first, in a way TOS had not - in that series they had a best a minor role - so perhaps credit can’t really be given to SE for featuring them as the bad guys, but what they do, so far, they do very well indeed.

I would say however that the guy playing the main Klingon seems to think he’s in Sons of Anarchy or something. He speaks way too fast for a Klingon, without the slow drawl and wicked growl the TOS ones had, and also without the slightly foreign tilt to the accent. He’s an American Klingon, and he’s not hiding it, which is unfortunate because he’s the first one who has not acted well. Ah look! In a real homage to Kirk, Garrowick also loses his shirt and exposes his manly chest. They also observe TYAT (Throw Yourself About Time), a mainstay of TOS, and even have a fist-fight between the captain and the Klingon, complete with ripped shirt. Sweet.

Yeah, overall I’d give this a big thumbs up. The animation is basic but to their credit they don’t rely on it at all, preferring instead to act the thing out kind of like a LARP (Live Action Role Play) and do very well with it. They succeed exceptionally well in maintaining the feel and mood of the original, even down to the little comedy bit right at the end, and the flash display of scenes over the end credits. The font is perfect too, though green rather than blue or yellow. The acting is, to be fair, first class, and I could see these guys acting in the real thing, had they been young enough. All in all, an excellent production.

Ratings

Script: 10/10
Acting: 9/10
CGI: 3/10
Mood: 9/10
Faithfulness: 10/10
Soundtrack/effects: 10/10
Costumes: 10/10
Probability of watching more: 10/10
Balance between animation and live-action: 2/10
Gender balance: 3/10

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Old 03-01-2024, 12:59 PM   #17 (permalink)
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Series: Star Trek: New Voyages (previously known as Phase II)
Total seasons (to date if current): 1 (10 episodes)
Span: 2004 - 2016)
Writer(s): James Cawley, Jack Marshall
Director: Unknown but probably the two lads above
Things I liked: CGI, the overall feel, the professional look, the faithfulness to the original
Things I didn’t like: The completely out-of-character personality of the guy playing Kirk (and his stupid quiff), the less than friendly feel to it
Timeline: TOS
Vessel: USS Enterprise
Class: Constitution
Location: Alpha Quadrant
Dramatis Personae: All the usual TOS staff and crew
Starring: Brian Gross, Brandon Stacy, Jeff Bond

Well the graphics, CGI and sets are first-rate, as are the costumes, and this has the look of being a fan-made series which had much input from the official sources. I read that people like Walter Koenig and George Takei appeared in it, and that one of the episodes was written by D.C. Fontana, so it’s obviously a cut above the rest.

And yet…

It kind of leaves me a little cold. I don’t like the portrayal of Captain Kirk. James Cawley plays him with an arrogant attitude, almost a perpetual sneer, which to me says “Look at me! I’m doing something you always wanted to do all your life!” A bit up himself to be honest. None of the smile or the easy charm of the man we know as the captain of the Enterprise. And what’s with the stupid quiff? Spock is okay, the girl playing Uhura almost has her voice down pat - close your eyes and it could be Nichelle Nichols. The guy playing Dr. McCoy is good, so is the actor playing Chekov. They’re all good, but there’s something a little… sterile? About it to me. I kind of don’t like it. They’re also rehashing a basic plot from the original series, or most of it, bringing in a woman who can become an Orion Slave Girl, a being of energy who kind of reminds me of a non-physical form or Nomad or maybe Sargon, and a ship that looks suspiciously like a Borg cube, twenty years before the Borg were ever known.

I’m not sure that having official sanction through cast members and obviously a large budget makes this any better than the one I just watched. That had charm, and the real feel of fans who were dedicated to their show, whereas this just looks like people who want to show how great they are. I’m probably in the minority here, but so far I really don’t care for this. The montage of Kirk’s future through the movies was good and was well done, but the story in the episode, to me, didn’t make much sense, and personally, I find this very much a case of style over substance.

Script: 410
Acting: 8/10
CGI: 10/10
Mood: 9/10
Faithfulness: 10/10
Soundtrack/effects: 8/10
Costumes: 10/10
Probability of watching more: 0/10
Balance between animation and live-action: 8/10
Gender balance: 5/10

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