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.

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.

Short Treks: “The Trouble with Edward”

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The voice of Sterling Archer, the secret origin of the tribbles, and an Anson Mount cameo as Pike! It’s not great art or anything, but it’ll make you laugh for fifteen minutes. My take on the latest Short Treks, “The Trouble with Edward.”

An excerpt:

One thing I like is that at no point does Lucero even consider the possibility of killing the tribbles. I’m sure many of them do die when the superstructure of the ship collapses, but it’s established that plenty survived, at least. The only fatality is Larkin himself, but tellingly, none of Starfleet’s attempts to restrain the tribbles are lethal: their phasers are on stun and they’re never consigned to space via an airlock.

Short Treks: “Q & A”

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Short Treks is back with a look at Spock’s first day on the Enterprise, wherein he and Number One get stuck in a turbolift for far longer than either is comfortable with. Three of the best things about Discovery season 2 — Ethan Peck’s Spock, Anson Mount’s Pike, and especially Rebecca Romijn’s Number One — are highlighted in this new short, and we get the triumphant return of Shouty Spock! My review at the link….

An excerpt:

What I particularly love about “Q & A” is that Michael Chabon’s script leans into the early-draft versions of the characters that we saw in “The Cage,” as well as the early episodes of the original series, and into the fact that Number One and Spock are actually very similar characters.

The former is hilariously called back to when Spock first beams aboard and is practically screaming his dialogue, and Number One has to tell him that there’s no need to shout. Shouty Spock is one of the more hilarious aspects of the character that Nimoy abandoned after a few episodes, but we got a lot of it, not only in the two pilots, but also in the first couple episodes of season one of the series.

As for the latter, that is accomplished by having the two characters repeatedly say the same thing at the same time, from technobabble to Spock’s signature word (“Fascinating”).

Short Treks: “The Escape Artist”

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The fourth and final Short Treks is a lighter take, focusing on one Harcourt Fenton Mudd, starring (and directed by) Rainn Wilson. It starts out entertaining, but screws up the ending. Read my review at the link….

An excerpt:

Mudd tries to inveigle Krit to let him go, or to team up with him, or pretty much do anything but turn him over to the Federation, who have offered a substantial reward for Mudd for a lengthy list of charges. (One of them is penetration of a space whale, a reference to “Magic to Make…” which earns him a confused and vaguely disgusted look from Krit. Mudd’s sheepish response is, “You hadda be there.”)

Short Treks: “The Brightest Star”

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Short Treks has its first misfire, as “The Brightest Star” fails as a short piece, fails as a story providing Saru’s backstory, and just generally fails. Doug Jones and Michelle Yeoh are awesome, at least…….

An excerpt:

This is the first of the Short Treks that fails in my opinion, and it does so on two levels. The first is that this is very much not a story that should be told in 10-15 minutes. Both “Runaway” and “Calypso” were perfectly designed for the short format. But “The Brightest Star” feels like the outline of a longer story, not a story in itself. We get no context for the Kelpiens’ life. We know nothing of the Ba’ul, nor of what actually happens to the sacrifices. There’s so much story left on the floor here because of the limitations of the timeframe. What else to the Kelpiens do besides farm? What form of government do they have? Are all of them doing what Saru’s village is doing? More to the point, how does the rest of the galaxy view what’s happening there? Georgiou knows that Saru manipulated Ba’ul technology, and she also mentions that her contacting Saru was a controversial and fraught decision in Starfleet. Why didn’t we see those arguments? Why isn’t Starfleet doing something about the Ba’ul’s enslavement of the Kelpiens? (Assuming it is enslavement—even that is not clear.)

The story of Saru’s background is one that requires a full one-hour episode at least. What we get here is maddeningly abbreviated.

Short Treks: “Calypso”

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I review the second Short Treks episode, belatedly (couldn’t watch it in Italy, annoyingly), “Calypso,” starring the great Aldis Hodge and cowritten by Michael Chabon.

An excerpt:

This is a sweet, wonderful, tragic story. It has the Trek hallmark of bonding between people from wildly different backgrounds to make each other better, as well as the belief that just because intelligence is artificial, doesn’t make it not real. (A theme explored in “What Are Little Girls Made Of?” and “Requiem for Methuselah” on the original series, and through the characters of Data and the EMH on TNG and Voyager, respectively.) And while no details are forthcoming about life in the 33rd century (the farthest ahead in the timeline any onscreen Trek has gone, supplanting Voyager‘s “Living Witness”), we do know that humanity continues to thrive

Short Treks: “Runaway”

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I review the first of four Short Treks mini-episodes, “Runaway” starring Mary Wiseman as Ensign Tilly, over on Tor.com.

An excerpt:

She’s scared—as scared as Tilly probably was when she couldn’t climb the same wall as her fellows and ran away in shame when she was a child. Tilly’s mother brings that up as a reason why she shouldn’t attempt Command School. Initially, Tilly is wavering. One of the best bits in the episode is when Tilly orders her espresso. First she mouths off to the computer when it tries to caution her against so much caffeine, describing the beverage as her best friend. (One hopes that Michael Burnham doesn’t take that personally…) Then she sits with the drink and discourses on how she expects nothing, not even from the caffeine. “Espresso—I release you.” She’s so wound up in the possibility of disappointment that she refuses to have expectations.

guide to my reviews of new Star Trek

Paramount+ (formerly CBS All Access) has been airing lots of new Star Trek shows since 2017: Discovery, Short Treks, Picard, and Lower Decks, with more to come (like Prodigy and Strange New Worlds). Upon the release of each new episode, my reviews of same have been appearing on Tor.com. Unlike my rewatches of TV shows and movies for the site, these aren’t archived on a single index page, so herewith, a guide to the reviews I’ve done to date (regularly updated).

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Discovery Season 1:

“We come in peace” — “The Vulcan Hello” & “Battle at the Binary Stars”

“You helped start a war, don’t you want to help me end it?” — “Context is for Kings”

The Spores Must Flow — “The Butcher’s Knife Cares Not for the Lamb’s Cry”

“This is so fucking cool!” — “Choose Your Pain”

Good Retcons and Bad B-Plots — “Lethe”

Tough Mudder — “Magic to Make the Sanest Man Go Mad”

If You Want Peace, Prepare for War — “Si Vis Pacem, Para Bellum

“Everybody comes home” — “Into the Forest I Go”

The Mirror Crack’d from Side to Side — “Despite Yourself”

“We are still Starfleet” — “The Wolf Inside”

You Can’t Go Back to the Way Things Were — “Vaulting Ambition”

“We will not accept a no-win scenario” — “What’s Past is Prologue”

Moving Forward — “The War Without, the War Within”

A Waterskiing Dog — “Will You Take My Hand?”

We Come in Pieces — First Season Overview

Hooray for Licensed Fiction! — More Star Trek Discovery Stories in Prose & Comics Form to Tide You Over until 2019

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Short Treks Season 1:

“You’re just so clearly over-caffeinated!” — “Runaway”

“What’s a Betty Boop?” — “Calypso”

Looking Up, Looking Down — “The Brightest Star”

Here’s Mudd in Your Eye — “The Escape Artist”

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Discovery Season 2:

“Where’s my damn red thing?” — “Brother”

Simple Pleasures Are the Best — “New Eden”

Meanwhile, Back in the Klingon Empire… — “Point of Light”

Space Oddity — “An Obol for Charon”

The Monster at the End of This Episode — “Saints of Imperfection”

“You brought that hope back with you” — “The Sound of Thunder”

Lost and Found — “Light and Shadows”

Old, New, Borrowed, and Red — “If Memory Serves”

Redshirts, Red Angels, and Red Herrings — “Project Daedalus”

Death, Here is Thy Sting — “The Red Angel”

“How long until the universe wins?” — “Perpetual Infinity”

While I Look Around for My Possibility — “Through the Valley of the Shadow”

“Today rocks!” — “Such Sweet Sorrow”

The Director of Your Opponent’s Fate — “Such Sweet Sorrow, Part 2”

Fight for the Future — Second Season Overview

Hooray for Licensed Fiction! Part Deux — Yet Still More Star Trek Discovery Stories To Tide You Over until Season 3

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Short Treks Season 2:

Elevator Pitch — “Q & A”

Them’s Good Eatin’! — “The Trouble with Edward”

Kobayashi Sidhu — “Ask Not”

Back to the Drawing Board — “The Girl Who Made the Stars” and “Ephraim and Dot”

School Daze — “Children of Mars”

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Picard Season 1:

Back to the Future — “Remembrance”

“For a relic, you’re in excellent shape!” — “Maps and Legends”

“Engage!” — “The End is the Beginning”

Jean-Luc as St. Jude — “Absolute Candor”

Freecloud’s Just Another Word for Nothing Left to Lose — “Stardust City Rag”

“Please, my friends, choose to live” — “The Impossible Box”

“Baby steps…” — “Nepenthe”

“Arroz con leche se quiere casar” — “Broken Pieces”

“I noticed a little turbulence” — “Et in Arcadia Ego, Part 1”

The Picard Maneuver — “Et in Arcadia Ego, Part 2”

Regrets, I’ve Had a Few — First Season Overview

Lower Decks Season 1:

About 60% of a Good Episode — “Second Contact”

What Do You Do with a Drunken Klingon? — “Envoys”

“Nobody can stop you from speaking freely!” — “Temporal Edict”

“Why is it taking so long?” — “Moist Vessel”

“That is messed up!” — “Cupid’s Errant Arrow”

Badgieeeeeeeeee! — “Terminal Provocations”

A Substitute Captain, a Dog, and a Transporter Accident Walk Into an Episode — “Much Ado About Boimler”

“Can someone give us some context in here please?” — “Veritas”

“Guys, therapy works!” — “Crisis Point”

Badass Pakleds? Badass Pakleds… — “No Small Parts”

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly — First Season Overview

Discovery Season 3:

“I am done being reflexively supportive” — “That Hope is You”

The Future Isn’t What it Used to Be — “Far from Home”

“I will trust you to grow through change” — “People of Earth”

“You’re a responsibility hoarder” — “Forget Me Not”

“Your relationship isn’t very professional” — “Die Trying”

“You had me at ‘unsanctioned mission'” — “Scavengers”

Spock’s Legacy — “Unification III”

Moving the Pieces Forward — “The Sanctuary”

“Execute me, Mother!” — “Terra Firma, Part 1”

“There are no spoils from peace” — “Terra Firma, Part 2”

To Be Free, Face Your Deepest Fear — “Su’Kal”

Yipee-Ki-Yay, Michael Burnham! — “There is a Tide…”

“Wanting is not the same as doing” — “That Hope is You, Part 2”

“Let’s fly!” — Third Season Overview

Lower Decks Season 2:

“There’s a giant head approaching the ship!” — “Strange Energies”

DeCandido, His Review Mixed — “Kayshon, His Eyes Open”

Behold the Mistress of the Winter Constellations! — “We’ll Always Have Tom Paris”

“A lot’s changed since slightly earlier today” — “Mugato, Gumato”

“Was I too much trouble?” — “An Embarrassment of Dooplers”

Red Shirts and Big Helmets — “The Spy Humongous”

Huzzah! — “Where Pleasant Fountains Lie”

You Will Be Assimilated by Poop of Borg — “I, Excretus”

ghus choQpu’ — “wej Duj”

It’s Captain Freeman Day! — “First First Contact”

The Good, the Bad, and the Awesome — Second Season Overview