Star Trek: Picard‘s “Maps and Legends”

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Jean-Luc asks for a ship and is hoist on his own Picard–by Ann Magnuson no less! Plus revelations about Romulans, revelations about that Borg Cube from the end of last episode, and bonus Vasquez Rocks footage! Oh, and also David Paymer and Tamlyn Tomita! Face front, true believe, this one has it all! My take on Star Trek: Picard‘s “Maps and Legends.”

An excerpt:

It’s interesting, I haven’t seen anybody mention “All Good Things…,” The Next Generation‘s final episode, on any of the lists of TNG episodes to watch before starting Picard. (I may have just missed it.) Yet “Maps and Legends” makes two overt references to “AGT.”

The first comes when Picard talks to Dr. Benayoun, his former medical officer on the U.S.S. Stargazer (Picard’s first command). Picard wants to be medically certified to travel through space again, but Benayoun says there’s one catch: damage to his parietal lobe that is very likely to develop into one of several nasty brain-injury syndromes. Picard mentions that “a long time ago” he was warned of this possibility, and that’s a direct reference to “AGT,” where we saw a possible future in which Picard is retired from Starfleet, living on the family vineyard, and has Irumodic Syndrome (which is, basically, Space Alzheimer’s). It’s good to see this is being remembered, and also lends a sense of urgency to Picard’s actions, as he doesn’t know when his brain is going to start to betray him.

Indeed, it may have already. While he’s joking, Benayoun does mention irrational anger during live interviews as a symptom of this condition. It also casts a doubt on everything he’s doing, truthfully.

Star Trek: Voyager Rewatch: “Time and Again”

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Janeway and Paris fall through a crack in time, so we get wacky time-travel shenanigans for the second episode in a row! It’s actually a good episode until the ending, though did we really need another focus on Paris? The Star Trek: Voyager Rewatch experiences “Time and Again.”

An excerpt:

On its own, the episode is still good, mostly because the time travel is actually fun and head-twisty in a good way, with effect preceding cause. In the context of the early part of the show, it’s a bit more problematic, partly because we just did temporal mechanics last episode, and partly because it’s yet another focus on Paris.

Star Trek: Voyager Rewatch: “Parallax”

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The science is a disaster, but at least the character work is strong. (Seriously an event horizon is not a force field!!!!!) The Star Trek: Voyager Rewatch looks at the second episode of the series, “Parallax.”

An excerpt:

Gene Roddenberry had always wanted Star Trek to at least be a vaguely believable future. Yes, there was plenty of made-up science, but he at least consulted with futurists, and tried to make things at least vaguely plausible in the original series. He didn’t always succeed, but he tried. By the later years of TNG, however, the technobabble had gotten a bit out of hand, with one bit of made-up science often used to solve another bit of made-up science.

This is far worse when they use real stuff and get it wrong, and the thing that drove me crazy about this episode two-and-a-half decades ago, and again now, is the portrayal of an event horizon of a singularity—which is a real scientific phenomena—is so totally wrong. It is not a force field!

Brannon Braga, who scripted this episode, is quoted in Cinefantastique as saying, “Though ‘a quantum singularity’ is a mouthful, I decided to use it anyway; but I literally could have called it ‘a quantum fissure,’ ‘a quantum sinkhole,’ anything. And who cares? Who really cares?” It’s honestly hard to believe that two decades after this, Braga would help shepherd a new version of Cosmos into being, given his cavalier attitude toward science here.

Star Trek: Picard‘s “Remembrance”

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A new Trek series debuts! And there was much rejoicing! Our first long-form on-screen look at the world after Star Trek Nemesis, with a dream of Data, a retired Admiral Picard, artificial life forms, Romulans, and a whole bunch more. My take on “Remembrance.”

An excerpt:

I have no doubts, though, about how joyous it is to see Sir Patrick Stewart back in the saddle. After being stuck with Action Figure Picard in all the TNG movies, I’m grateful to see a return to the cerebral Picard of TNG’s earliest days, but with the more complex personality and maturity of TNG’s later days. He’s also very obviously older and more tired. At one point, he’s called upon to run up to the roof of a building, and he’s winded pretty much after the first ten steps. One of the things I’m most looking forward to about this series is a look at heroes in their twilight years, something not seen nearly often enough (and when done right, e.g., Unforgiven, and another Stewart vehicle, Logan, can be fucking brilliant).

Star Trek: Voyager Rewatch: “Caretaker”

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We kick off the Star Trek: Voyager Rewatch with the episode that started it all 25 years ago. We meet Captain Janeway, Chakotay, the EMH, Neelix, Tom Paris, Harry Kim, B’Elanna Torres, Tuvok, Rollins, Ayala, and a bunch of other characters who die, so we’re supposed to pretend they don’t matter. Sigh. My take on “Caretaker.”

An excerpt:

Okay, if there was a TNG episode in which Riker, Ro, La Forge, Crusher, and Ogawa were all killed, it might, y’know, get mentioned once or twice. In fact, it would devastate the crew and have repercussions from which the characters would struggle to recover.

Yet the equivalent characters on Voyager are all killed, and by the second hour nobody seems to give a shit. Janeway’s waxing rhapsodic about talking to Kim’s parents and how he forgot his clarinet, and Kim’s just missing for a bit. What about your first officer who died? What about Stadi? What about the entire medical staff, who aren’t even given the dignity of names, or the chief engineer, who isn’t given the dignity of a name or a face? (And hey, did they just keep all those dead bodies in stasis for seven years?)

introducing the Star Trek: Voyager Rewatch!

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I’m pleased to announce my next big project for Tor.com, now that the great superhero movie rewatch is coming to a pause: the Star Trek: Voyager Rewatch!

From the intro post:

“But wait,” I hear you cry, “you kept saying you wouldn’t do Voyager! What changed?”

And this is true. While I did do rewatches of TNG and DS9, instead of moving on to Voyager after DS9, I instead went back and did the original Star Trek, and then moved on to other things. Every time I was asked, I said I wasn’t going to do Voyager (or, for that matter, Enterprise).

However, I have reversed that decision for a couple of reasons. One is that it is, as I said in the first sentence, the twenty-fifth anniversary of Voyager. Just as the Star Trek The Original Series Rewatch was in time for the fiftieth anniversary in 2016, this will celebrate Voyager’s silver anniversary in 2020.

The other is that my own general dislike for Voyager has come under fire from many friends and colleagues, including several women who are younger than me, who grew up watching Voyager, and who count Mulgrew’s Janeway as a role model.

It’s been ages since I watched any Voyager episodes. Back when I was regularly writing Trek fiction, I would rewatch episodes for research purposes, but that hasn’t been a factor in over a decade. The only episode I’ve seen in “recent” times is “Flashback” for the DS9 rewatch’s “Tribbles Week Redux,” which was in 2014.

I’m older, and I like to think wiser, and so I think it’s time for a re-consideration of Voyager.

More details at the intro post.

The intro was today, which is the 25th anniversary of Voyager‘s debut on the brand-spanking-new UPN network. The first rewatch entry will go up on Thursday the 23rd (the same day that Star Trek: Picard will debut) and appear every Monday and Thursday going forward.

I’m actually really excited about this, and am looking forward to looking at this show with fresh eyes.

 

Short Treks: “Children of Mars”

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After spending the last several Short Treks looking back, this one looks forward, serving as a prelude to the upcoming Picard series. A predictable plot, but it works thanks to fine directing and very strong performances. My take on “Children of Mars.”

An excerpt:

The subtlety and skill of the performances overcome the simplicity of the plot, as does the very notion. I haven’t actually seen Picard yet, but I’m sure that it won’t present the destruction on Mars as anything other than an abstraction, a bad thing that happened in the past. Too often, dramatic fiction goes for the big event without really examining the human cost in any but the most general of terms.

“Children of Mars” puts a humanoid face on the destruction of Mars before we’ve even seen what impact it will have on Jean-Luc Picard in the future. (An image shows Admiral Picard’s response to the attack, which means it takes place some time in the interregnum between Nemesis, when he’s still a captain, and Picard season one, when he’s retired.) It’s not just an abstraction, it’s not just a vague tragedy, it’s an event that has consequences to at least two people in whose lives we’ve become invested in a very short time.

a nice review of Breakdowns

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Over on Twitter, Justin Oser — among other things, the co-host of the Literary Treks podcast — has been reviewing the Star Trek: Starfleet Corps of Engineers collections. Originally published from 2000-2007 as a monthly series of eBooks, the S.C.E. series was co-created and edited by me, and it’s my second proudest editorial achievement in my career on that side of the desk (right after the Marvel novels).

In 2001, David Mack wrote Wildfire, which was a major upheaval of the status quo, with many character deaths, including one of the main characters. The next four eBooks dealt with the immediate aftermath of that event, focusing on individual characters, ending with Breakdowns, my look at the two primary characters in the series, Captain David Gold (an original character created for the series, and I admit my favorite Starfleet captain) and Commander Sonya Gomez (a character who first appeared as an ensign on The Next Generation, in the episodes “Q Who” and “Samaritan Snare”).

Justin just reviewed the collection that includes all four of the aftermath stories I mentioned, and here’s what he had to say about Breakdowns:

 

 

 

 

Thanks, Justin! This seriously made my morning………………

Short Treks: “The Girl Who Made the Stars” and “Ephraim and Dot”

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For the first time in 45 years, we have new animated Star Trek stories! Debuting on Short Treks are two animated shorts that tie in to Discovery, “The Girl Who Made the Stars,” starring Michael Burnham as a little kid, and “Ephraim and Dot,” featuring a tardigrade and a maintenance robot. All three of them are adorable, too. My take at the link….

An excerpt:

The creation myths of the peoples of the Kalahari Desert were told to explain why the world was the way it was. They explained the stars in the night sky by telling of a girl who threw embers into the air in order to provide light during the night, so people could navigate. The girl was lonely and wanted to visit other people.

But the version that the elder Burnham tells his daughter, who is frightened of the dark and can’t sleep, is both the same and different.

For starters, Burnham has adjusted the story to a more 23rd century sensibility. And so the girl of the story is inspired to light up the night sky, not by loneliness, but by encountering an alien life form, who assures her that they’re not alone in their little valley. The girl’s people have not gone beyond their home because it would take more than a day to get there and the night is completely dark and would destroy them. But the girl illuminates the night with stars by which one can navigate, inspired by meeting the strange alien.

Short Treks: “Ask Not”

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The shortest of the Short Treks has a predictable plot and continues Starfleet’s traditions of being mean to people who are training for things, but it works because Anson Mount’s Christopher Pike remains magnificent. Check out my review of “Ask Not.”

An excerpt:

Seriously, we have got to see more of these people. They built a whole Enterprise set (we see engineering for the first time in this short), and those aren’t cheap. They’ve got a popular, excellent trio for the top of the ensemble ready to go. It isn’t easy to fill 55-year-old shoes occupied by the most popular character in SF TV history, Gene Roddenberry’s wife, and Jesus Christ, but Peck, Romijn, and especially Mount have not just filled the shoes, but continued to dance in them. If there isn’t a Pike show on CBS All Access some time in the next year, a serious crime against nature will have been committed.