The battle for paradise has begun, though the battle to stay awake is rather harder to win…
First Contact gave us some faith that a good TNG movie was actually possible. So would the third film follow that cue or fall back into the lazy pattern of Generations. Or maybe find something new to do?
Pre-Existing Prejudices: The Boring One.
What’s It All About, JG? The Enterprise is in the Briar Patch (cute) where some planet is being spied on for allegedly anthropological reasons and …. oh pardon me, my eyes feel heavy. Anyway, Data malfunctions, there’s… oh my, is it terribly warm in here? Picard beams down to meet… um… *yawns, stretches, nods off*
Er, something, something face-stretching, same race, credits. That’s about it, right?
For the second TNG movie outing we get the Borg – is resistance useless?
After the disappointing dud of Generations, we have this, an attempt at getting the TNG movies back on track by reuniting them with their most implacable foe – Rick Berman The Borg. But will it be enough to turn things around?
Pre-Existing Prejudices: Well, it’s got the Borg in them – TNG’s most successful enemy, so that’s something. And James Cromwell is here, and I like James Cromwell too because… well, he’s James Cromwell. This has, I know, the reputation as the best of the TNG movies – a bar so low it’s subterranean – and of course, it’s the one that tends to stick in the minds of non-fans. Alice Krige being assembled in front of your very eyes will tend to do that.
Now that the original crew have sailed off into the sunset with an unambiguously perfect finale for them, we have this, a weird attempt at both a coda for the TOS crew and the first of four attempts to bring the TNG crew to the fore. But can they do it?
Pre-Existing Prejudices: I saw this at the Odeon, Leicester Square in London on the very first week of its release. “All Good Things…” had not long passed and it was terrific, and being in the position to see this at one of the world’s premier cinemas combined with the warm afterglow of the TV series set me up to be very receptive towards this, and I remember thoroughly enjoying it when it was released. I’ve seen it a few times since and sadly it seems that time makes fools of us all, and it would be a vast understatement to say that my opinion of it has plummeted.
The final frontier beckons at long last – retirement.
After Shatner’s wobby-but-easy-to-appreciate take on the franchise we’re back with “safer” hands as Nicholas Meyer and Leonard Nimoy return to helm the TOS crew’s final outing. But will “safe” be a synonym for “dull” or will The Undiscovered Country deserve its place in the pantheon of good Star Trek films?
Pre-Existing Prejudices: Alongside The Wrath Of Khan this is, I know, generally regarded as the strongest of the TOS outings. It’s one I’ve always had a lot of appreciation for, though as with most of the TOS films it’s been a very long time since I’ve seen it so I’ve no idea whether my warm fuzzy memories are in any way justified.
Does the movie with the worst reputation in the Star Trek canon deserve it’s fate? Surprisingly, no.
In some ways, Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home was a perfect conclusion for the TOS crew. The story arc that’s run for three movies’ reached its conclusion, there’s some character growth, and a promise of the future with a new ship. But it wasn’t the conclusion – so can Star Trek V: The Final Frontier add anything to the saga?
Pre-Existing Prejudices: “What does God need with a starship?” It’s that one! Yes, arguably the most notorious movie in the whole of Star Trek, this has its fair share of critics. It’s co-written and directed by William Shatner, which means he’s bringing everything to the table, for both good and ill. Because I’m a nerdy fan, I’m aware that this is the first of several Star Trek appearances by the joyfully brilliant David Warner, if not perhaps his most noted. Marshmellons, El Captian, Spock’s half-brother… it’s a heady mix. Let’s find out if this movie deserves it’s dreadful reputation!
Is there any point in putting anything here other than “it’s the one with the whales!”?
Spock’s alive again! Well he was at the end of the last movie at any rate. After the surprisingly strong third entry into the series can The Voyage Home keep up the momentum?
Pre-Existing Prejudices: The One With The Whales. Come on, it’s the one with the whales! Everyone knows the one with the whales! I am, of course, aware of the pro-environmental message – though not how well it’s aged since the mid-80’s – and of course it’s “the funny one”. You know, “nuclear wessels”, “Computer!”, “double dumb ass on you!”, “I think he did a little too much LDS” and so on. As with the last entry though its been simply ages since I saw anything but the usual clip reel, so I’m looking forward to revisiting it.
What’s It All About, JG?
After three months on Vulcan, apparently unmolested by a Starfleet who might be rather cross at the destruction of one of their ships, Kirk and the crew head back to Earth in their euphemistically-acquired Klingon Bird Of Prey to finally face the music. Meanwhile, however, a mysterious probe (nothing like the mysterious probe from a couple of movies ago) knocks out ships and starbases on its way to Earth as it broadcasts a signal.
Episode Nine / Ten – “Et In Arcadia Ego” Pts 1 And 2
So Picard is a Cylon. Huh.
When, at the end of episode eight, I pleaded for the series to fix its basic ability to tell a story I didn’t actually expect that to happen. And lo and behold it didn’t. Episode Nine – which consists of the same old go-not-very-far-slowly that has become Picard‘s storytelling modus operandi – goes through the usual stop-start motions of delivering exposition a lot, followed by small bits of forward plot momentum, followed by more exposition. The small bits of forward plot momentum are often huge bits of forward plot momentum but rarely feel so, even when – to take a far-from-arbitrary example – a Borg cube crash-lands on a planet, our heroes do the same thing, and a vast Romulan fleet zips into orbit.
I couldn’t even be bothered to find an image for this episode
Episode Eight – Shrug
I mean, I did watch it but I’m not motivated to say a lot more than that, really. It was just a bunch of expoisition vomited on screen in the usual structureless way. The Grief World, though? Really? That’s the explanation for the Zhat Vash’s millenia-long problem with AI? And what happened on Mars? I mean, it’s an explanation but it’s really not an especially satisfying one. Though – and this is the real problem – there really wasn’t going to be a satisfying resolution to the “why the Zhat Vash hated AI for so long” question. Because, how can there be? It’s either going to be evilevilfromthedawnoftime, some bullshit Mystical Orbs thing that would be less well than the Orbs Of The Prophets, or Godlike aliens. Turns out it’s basically the first one. Shrug. There’s no sense of this even really functioning as a ta-da! reveal, it’s just another piece of information trotted out. And how many people did they let die just to stop the Federation’s AI development? Does this make even the slightest bit of fucking sense? No. Not it does not.
I really wanted to start this episode with a two-word review – “nothing happens”. But that’s not true. Plenty of things happen, though they’re mostly low-key, character stuff. That’s fine though at episode seven, whether “low-key” is really what Picard should be aiming for is certainly up for debate. But let’s be clear from the outset – this is an episode specifically designed to do one thing, and one thing alone – tickle all those TNG feels. In that it is an undeniable success. The whole raison d’etre of this episode is Picard meeting up with Riker and Troi, hanging out for a while, then getting back to the main plot. And of course it’s delightful to see those three characters on screen together again, because of course it fucking is. It’s Riker! He’s visibly drinking! I mean, what’s not to love?
What, exactly, do people want from Star Trek? There has been a legitimate line of questioning around this ever since Discovery brought Star Trek back from the televisual hinterland of syndication. One of Star Trek‘s strengths has always been its ability to appeal to people beyond a hardcore of fandom – that’s why it’s the biggest science fiction franchise in the world (putting Marvel to one side, of course – that’s a whole different conversation and I don’t want to get bogged down in genre definitions at this point). The movies appeal to people who like sci-fi but aren’t necessarily huge Trekkies. The original show has become part of the cultural landscape, one of science fiction’s defining texts, watchable by just about anyone. Is there some difficult-to-define over-arching appeal that can embrace TNG and Enterprise? Into Darkness and Picard? And if so, what is it? Over on The AV Club, Zack Handelin wrote, “A friend on Twitter recently pointed out that saying something “isn’t Star Trek” isn’t really an effective criticism”. I strongly disagree with Zack’s friend – I think it cuts to the absolute heart of the issue that people have with both Discovery and Picard, and it is to this we turn our attention.