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“Star Trek: Discovery”: Was It Worth the Wait?

Back in 2015, CBS announced the premiere of a brand new Star Trek show, Star Trek: Discovery, the first since Star Trek: Enterprise was canceled in 2005. Set roughly ten years before the events of The Original Series, Discovery follows the journey of the impulsive young officer Commander Michael Burnham (who, confusingly, is a woman) as she comes to terms with her parents’ death in a Klingon attack on a scientific outpost and struggles to honor her logical Vulcan upbringing while still embracing her human heritage. Yes, after her parents died, Michael was somehow adopted by Ambassador Sarek…the same Sarek who is Spock’s father. This makes her Spock’s foster sister, and if you’re wondering how Spock can suddenly have a human foster sister after 51 years (let alone why Sarek would agree to adopt a human child), you’re not alone. Then again, I only watched the free premiere, so maybe it was explained in part 2.

This was only one example of the parts I found troublesome. Time and again the cast and crew insisted Discovery was set in the Prime timeline, yet everything about it looked and felt as though it belonged in J. J. Abrams’ Kelvin timeline. The tech and uniforms were way too modern to be just two years after the events of “The Cage” (TOS’s first pilot episode, later reused in the two-part episode “The Menagerie”). They apparently kept some of the sound effects from TOS, but coming from such highly advanced technology, it sounded jarring and out-of-place. Just because it makes the same boops and beeps as the Prime ships doesn’t automatically mean it’s set in the Prime timeline. Try harder.

I didn’t much care for the Klingon redesign, either. Their look is already so iconic, why mess with it? It’s like suddenly making Vulcan ears round and giving them funny noses instead.

And maybe I’ll catch some flak for saying this, but it’s my blog, so I’m going to–I found it vaguely annoying that they had a woman in command of the Shenzou. It’s nothing against Captain Georgiou–heck, I think the show should have been about her instead of Commander Burnham–but at this point in the Prime timeline, ten years before TOS, women were not allowed to command a starship (don’t believe me? Go watch “Turnabout Intruder”.). Obviously that rule changed, or else we wouldn’t have Janeway and Voyager, but at this point in the Prime history, a woman in command of a starship simply wouldn’t have been a thing. I could easily have overlooked this thanks to Georgiou being awesome, but it was just one more instance of non-canon-compliance they were asking the audience to overlook.

The episode itself actually wasn’t too bad–the show has a lot of potential. I would probably continue to watch it, maybe even overcoming my objections to the canon alterations, if it were broadcast on TV the way every other Star Trek series has been. But it isn’t. CBS has seen fit to make Discovery a paid-access show; the only way to watch the season will be to subscribe to their All Access streaming service. Although Discovery was good, it wasn’t great–certainly not great enough to make me subscribe to their streaming service. And it’s sad because it really feels that CBS doomed Discovery before it even premiered by making this decision. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of other people out there who feel the same way I do, that the show was good enough that I would watch it on TV but not good enough to make me pay a monthly fee to watch it. If/when it has low viewing figures, Discovery will be pulled, and the powers-that-be will claim that audiences just aren’t interested in Star Trek anymore. No, what we’re really not interested in is your corporate greed.

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“Shin Godzilla” Proves No One Does the King of the Monsters Like the Japanese

Due to the success of the 2014 Godzilla movie from Legendary Pictures, Toho decided to reboot their beloved monster franchise. Originally the movies were supposed to end with Godzilla: Final Wars in 2004, but the King of the Monsters proved to be so popular in the latest American film that the Japanese couldn’t resist dusting off the original and putting him back in action.

Except it’s not quite the original. This was a complete reboot, meaning that all of the previous movies from 1954 onwards didn’t happen. It felt a bit weird at first, especially when everyone was gasping in awe at “How can he do that!?” and “Why is he destroying Tokyo!?” Guys, if you had kept the original movies, you’d already know the answers to those questions. And interestingly enough, it was not an actor in a suit this time–apparently they tried the suit, but it didn’t work, so they used motion capture instead. I must say they did a darn good job; it looked like a suit.

The good news is that it kept a lot of the spirit of the original movies–ordinary weapons being useless, important lessons about the dangers of nuclear weapons, Godzilla’s radioactive breath razing Japan to the ground…they even kept the original Godzilla theme! There were some cool new things about Godzilla as well, especially his evolutionary stages (I call Stage 2 Godzilla the Awkward Teenage Years).

Yep, even Godzilla had to put up with puberty.

Speaking of appearances, the Shin Godzilla design was pretty controversial when it was first revealed, but on the whole I liked it. It was definitely more menacing than we’ve seen before. I just didn’t particularly like the arms or the tail; they looked way too disproportionate to the rest of the body. Then again, Godzilla hadn’t reached his final form yet, so perhaps when he was fully grown, everything would have looked fine.

In terms of effects, I think this is the most visually stunning Godzilla movie we’ve ever seen. This was especially evident with the radioactive breath.

Burn, baby, burn…

It wasn’t perfect; the parts without Godzilla seem a bit dull, but I think that’s been true of all the Godzilla movies–we’re here for the monster fights, not the human subplots. But I must say that they did come up with a clever, not-too-pseudo-sciencey way of defeating Godzilla, proving that they actually thought about the story.

What’s my final decision? The Japanese are the only ones who know how to do a decent Godzilla movie; the Americans should never have tried, and I hope we start to see more of Godzilla’s frenemies make a comeback as well.

Long live the King!

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Thirteenth Doctor Announced

The wait is finally over…

I can’t say I’m sold on the choice of actor, but I’m going to watch a couple of episodes before passing judgement.

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Some Thoughts on “Doctor Who: Kinda” and “Snakedance”

Recently I had the opportunity to view a pair of Fifth Doctor episodes, “Kinda” from 1982 and its sequel “Snakedance” from 1983. Since the two stories are so closely connected, I thought it made sense to review them together.

Both stories feature Peter Davison as the Doctor, Sarah Sutton as Nyssa, and Janet Fielding as Tegan Jovanka; Matthew Waterhouse appears as Adric in “Kinda” but is not present in “Snakedance” (being trapped on an exploding spaceship will do that to you). In “Kinda”, the TARDIS lands on the peaceful planet of Deva Loka, but, of course, the TARDIS crew manages to stumble into trouble. While Nyssa is confined to the TARDIS as the result of mental distortion the planet effects of those of her species, the Doctor and Adric become the captives of a mad commander. As for Tegan–well, she becomes possessed by an alien force known as the Mara, who hopes to use her as a gateway to regaining corporeal form and destroy Deva Loka. In “Snakedance” we learn that although the Mara was banished to another dimension at the end of “Kinda”, it retained its hold on Tegan; through her it pilots the TARDIS to its old home world of Manussa and once more works to regain a flesh appearance.

“Kinda” really made an impression on me for several reasons–Hindle was a truly insane villain; Todd was a fun character that I would have liked to see join the TARDIS (she was smart, savvy, and willing to listen to the Doctor’s theories but also not afraid to put him in his place), and the Kinda were a truly unique, intriguing civilization. Also, Janet Fielding gave an outstanding performance not only when Tegan was trapped inside her own mind but also when the Mara gained control of her body. But as outstanding as she was in “Kinda”, she was absolutely on fire in “Snakedance”. Seriously, I was a little bit sad when Tegan was finally freed of the Mara’s influence; she made such a good villain. That snake skull was a good yet creepy addition, too.

By returning to the Mara’s home world in “Snakedance”, we got the chance to learn more of the backstory than was featured in “Kinda”, and we also got to see the effects it had on the culture despite having been banished from Manussa about 500 years ago (at which point it fled to Deva Loka). Interestingly enough, it was prophesied that the Mara would return, but most people passed it off as a myth. It’s entirely possible that the people might have assumed the Mara was a myth as well if its banishment hadn’t been a well-documented historical event.

On the whole, I think these were two of the Fifth Doctor’s best stories (I think “Kinda” might even outrank “The Caves of Androzani” as my favorite Fifth Doctor episode now), and I definitely recommend you watch them. You won’t be disappointed.

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Some Thoughts on “Doctor Who: The Doctor Falls” *Contains Spoilers*

Why, oh, why does Moffat hold out on us? He can write good stories when he wants to! And this was undoubtedly one of his best, from Missy and the Master’s interactions with each other to Nardole’s character development to Heather’s return to Capaldi blowing everyone out of the water and proving beyond a shadow of a doubt that he is the best of the modern Doctors.

Seriously, Twelve’s monologue about how he refuses to change yet again is one of the highlights of season 10 (and of his entire tenure as the Doctor). And I loved all of the callbacks to previous companions and regeneration scenes (including “I don’t want to go” and “I will always remember when the Doctor was me”). And that special appearance by One at the end–oh, man, I have never looked forward to a Christmas special so much as I am this year. My excitement is almost enough to drown out my sorrow at the upcoming regeneration.

I’m a bit sad that Bill and Nardole won’t be back with the new Doctor. I quite liked how Nardole’s character has evolved since we first met him in “The Husbands of River Song”, and as for Bill, I think this was her strongest performance in the show. I really wish she had stayed at least one more season. I didn’t start to like Clara until she was with Twelve, so I wondered if I might start to like Bill a little better if she was paired with a different Doctor. Either way, Pearl Mackie’s performance as CyberBill was outstanding and one not soon to be forgotten.

The Master and Missy together was every bit as electrifying as expected, proving that a multi-Master story has been long overdue. Part of me was hoping for a spinoff with the two of them causing havoc through time and space…up until Missy triggered her own regeneration, and the Master shot Missy with the laser screwdriver to prevent her going to help the Doctor. Are we ever going to see the Master again? He implied that Missy wouldn’t be able to regenerate because he shot her with the full strength…but that doesn’t mean Missy didn’t try after the Master left. I do hope we see the Master again. I guess the big question is will Missy continue being a woman, or will she return to being a man?

Well, folks, thus ends season 10. It has been my honor and my privilege to serve as your reviewer for these last twelve weeks. We’ll all just have to hang in there until the Christmas special (unless I find some Classic Who to review in the meantime).

Anyway, allons-y!

 

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I Was Going to Write a Review of “Logan”…

…except I couldn’t think of the words I wanted. It’s…it’s almost beyond words, in a way. It was tragic and satisfying and totally deserves to be Best Picture of the Year, except the awards committees are too snobby to even consider it.

Well, if this was the last time we’re ever going to see Hugh Jackman as Wolverine, he went out with a bang. Hollywood is full of idiots–well, more idiots than usual–if they think they can ever recast this role. Let Logan rest in peace. He’s earned it. And if they feel they must make more Wolverine movies, at least wait for Daphne Keen to get a little older so Laura can carry on her father’s legacy.

Rest in peace, Wolverine. And thanks for giving us seventeen years of stabbing things.

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Some Thoughts on “Doctor Who: World Enough and Time” *Contains Spoilers*

This is it, folks–the finale is upon us! Though it is a bittersweet reminder that we are just that much closer to saying goodbye to Capaldi, finales are still exciting, heart-pounding forays that hurl us into the conclusion of season-long story arcs. And this was an episode that, even though I knew certain things were coming–still left me in happy shock.

Most people already knew the plot–the Doctor decides to test Missy’s decision to be good and sends Bill and Nardole with her to answer a ship’s distress signal, and during the course of answering the signal, they encounter the Mondasian Cybermen and the old Master. But the way in which this was all executed was brilliant.

The idea of Bill and the Doctor being on the same ship but in different time zones definitely added a new dimension of desperation. What’s been a few minutes for the Doctor has been years for Bill, which makes her final declaration of “I waited for you” all the more heartbreaking. (Confession: since the Cybermen in “The Tenth Planet” had names, I had to do a brief check to see if that episode had any Cybermen named Bill. It didn’t.) And Bill being turned into a Cyberman–well, let’s just say I found that as shocking as when Missy killed Osgood in “Death in Heaven”. What really drives this home, though, is that there very likely won’t be a reset button–no two Osgoods like in “The Zygon Invasion”, no extractions from timelines like in “Hell Bent”. There’s a very strong likelihood there is no going back from this development–this will be permanent.

That Master reveal, although I knew it was coming, still managed to surprise me. I figured the Master was probably being held prisoner somewhere in the ship, but, nope, he was right in the middle of the action, helping to create the Cybermen! And remember, too, that these Cybermen are the ones responsible for the First Doctor’s regeneration, so this is getting to be quite the wibbily-wobbily storyline. Missy’s reaction was fascinating to watch, too, because she has clearly forgotten these events…but she clearly enjoys being back with her old self.

And this is going to be completely random, but hooray for the Venusian Akido making a comeback!

Next week, we hurl onwards to what’s sure to be an exhilerating conclusion in “The Doctor Falls”! More Master/Missy goodness! More hints about Bill’s ultimate fate! And maybe–just maybe–a resolution to those tantilizing regeneration teasers!

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