Posts Tagged ‘Star Trek Red Shirt’

Half Time

Sunday, January 25th, 2009

I have a new weekend ritual. As The Clone Wars airs on Cartoon Network in America on Friday evenings, some bright spark has usually put them onto, uh, a popular video sharing website that sounds like Boocube by Saturday morning.

As the series is airing on the pay to view channel Sky Movies in the UK, Spewlube is the only option for the obsessed fan who is not only a tightwad, but cannot wait until the DVD release. I imagine these episodes will look great on DVD, as they have been created specifically for HD televisions, but they lose something of their visual excitement on a small fuzzy, flash video screen. This is a shame, as the crisp imagery and adrenaline fuelled pace is clearly their strongest point, certainly more than the storylines and characterisation that have so far been a bit of a mixed bag.

The “movie” – actually the first three episodes edited together to be shown in cinemas, was mostly notable for its heralding of the TV series and the potential for further, ongoing adventures, rather than its by-the-numbers plotting. It has been easily outclassed by many of the episodes that followed it.

 

Yoda plus homies

Yoda plus homies

The first, Ambush, featured Yoda and the last three clones of his battallion surrounded by the Separatist army, yet winning out with a combination of jedi philosophy, creative strategy and midichlorian fuelled ass kicking. This was followed by a rather?drawn out?trilogy of episodes based on an ion cannon toting Separatist flagship The Malevolence, that ended wonderfully with Anakin, Obi Wan and Padme (not to mention Threepio and Artoo, doing their double act schtick) attempting to escape from the ship in swashbuckling style particularly reminiscent of A New Hope

Rookies was a one off tale in which a handful of “Shinies” (clone slang for inexperienced soldiers, so named for their pristine armour) are trapped on an isolated outpost, (once again) surrounded by Separatist troops. This episode scored on several counts. Firstly it didn’t feature any jedi, instead focussing on the clones who are often relegated to cannon fodder. Secondly they were set against some kind of ninja droid commandos rather than the inept and ridiculous standard issue Trade Federation battle droids. Crucially, though, we had seen none of these characters before, so we genuinely didn’t know who would survive (and there were some particularly gruesome deaths).

 

Is it wrong to fancy fictional cartoon aliens?

Is it wrong to fancy fictional cartoon aliens?

All too often The Clone Wars follows the adventures of Anakin and Obi Wan, or background Jedi generals from the films, such as Plo Koon (inexplicably supervising director Dave Filoni’s favourite character) and fanboy pleasing nubile Twi’lek hottie Aayla Secura. Trouble is, we know what is going to happen to every one of these characters – ie. Order 66. Of course, some character development on the lesser known characters is welcome, but so far the series has been more about incident than any character’s internal life.

I suspect one of the aims of the series is to rehabilitate Anakin as a character (as opposed to the films, in which he is petulant, arrogant and generally unsympathetic). The two part Downfall of a Droid/Duel of The Droids made Anakin’s attachment to Artoo the focus (a neat bit of continuity with the novelisation of Revenge of The Sith that tells us that the droid was a wedding gift from Padme), and foreshadows his inability to let go of things. The creators would do well to continue along this road if the series is to be anything more than some awesome lightsaber duels and shit blowing up. Duel also features another gruseome death, this time an execution by cyborg psychopath General Grievous. For a series that’s aimed at kids, there are some nasty moments, which I thoroughly approve of.

Controversially, a couple of episodes have featured the return of Jar Jar Binks to centre stage. Roundly despised by fans, if anyone needed rehabilitation it’s this guy. Bombad Jedi (written by Troops creator Kevin Rubio) wasn’t a bad episode, just a little undistinguished (its best moment was a subtle reference to Anakin and Padme sneaking off together for clandestine sexy times). Jar Jar was shown to be exactly as he was in The Phantom Menace, good hearted, clumsy and borderline retarded. However, if there’s one thing worse than bringing back an unpopular character, it’s changing his voice, as was done in the later Gungan General.

 

I wouldn't rate this guy's chance of survival

I wouldn't rate his chances of survival

Other episodes include the atmospheric Lair of Grievous, in which the titular General has some much needed backstory hinted at. However, the troubled Mon Calamari ex padawan may as well be wearing a red shirt, his death is so obviously telegraphed throughout the episode. A few more new characters need to be created, but also developed over the space of more than one episode. This way we can have a few characters who can be put into genuine jeopardy. Luminara Unduli pops up in the terrific Paul Dini scripted Cloak of Darkness, but, while I don’t recall seeing her killed during Revenge of The Sith, I’m sure her fate has been marked out in some spin off novel.

At its worst The Clone Wars is at least good brainless, forgettable entertainment (as in Dooku Captured, a fascinating premise that just doesn’t ring true, with innumerable plot holes and a baffling, seemingly unfinished script). Every episode has some exciting battle scenes and badass moments, and is so far never boring. But it has a great deal of potential, and much of the series has hinted at something much bigger and better than crashing spaceships, whirling lighsabers and somebody saying “I have a bad feeling about this”.

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Got An Intergalactic Revolution!

Tuesday, May 5th, 2009

With JJ ABrams’ Shatnerless Star Trek reboot hitting cinemas this summer, the eternal question is back on everyone’s lips. To whit: which is the best out of the major “Star” franchises (Trek, Wars, Gate)? Well. First of all we can disregard Stargate as I have never seen it (except for the original film, which seemed pretty cool in 1994, although that might be because we were so impoverished for space spanning adventure that James Spader versus an androgynous Pharoah was an acceptable evening’s entertainment. In retrospect it can be blamed for paving the way for  Independence Day. So not good then).

So Star Trek vs Star Wars. It’s a debate that has raged among nerds for years, and we can finally put it to bed now. The criteria we will use will be a seemingly inconsequential element of  the most misbegotten moments of each saga. From Scott Bakula helmed crapfest Star Trek: Enterprise we have the overblown, incongruously 80s style power ballad Where My Heart Will Take Me, while the acid flashback fever dream that is The Star Wars Holiday Special provides Jefferson Starship’s “futuristic” performance of Light The Sky On Fire.

Enterprise was an attempt to free the Star Trek franchise from the entrenched continuity that the previous three series had built up, being set as it was before the formation of The Federation and the adventures of Kirk and Spock. Unfortunately this resulted in episodes about making a really good chair. It was also distinct in that it forsook the traditional “spacey” orchestral theme tune (none of them a patch on the otherworldly warbling of the Original Series) and went for a (gulp!) “rock ballad”.

Gratuitously sexy vulcan, Sam Beckett and blue dude - Enterprise had it all

Where My Heart Will Take Me was sung by crossover opera star Russell Watson in full gravelly transatlantic style, and while a bit cheesy, it’s not bad if you like that kind of thing. Not surprising as it was written by uber songsmith Diane Warren, whose oeuvre includes such AOR classics as Cher’s If I Could Turn Back Time, LeAnn Rimes’ Can’t Fight The Moonlight and Aerosmith’s That One From Armageddon. That drivel about “reaching any star” notwithstanding,  it’s nothing to do with Star Trek though, which is unsurprising when you find out that the song was originally written for Patch Adams, a Robin Williams (urgh) comedy drama (uurrgh) about a Doctor who treats patients’ spirits as much as their bodies (glurgaargh!!). Spizz  Energi’s Where’s Captain Kirk? would have been a better choice. As long as it was the live version with screaming in the middle.

Diane Warren’s CV also includes Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now from the movie Mannequin, performed by Starship, the 80s stadium rock incarnation of pivotal godheads of 60s psychedelia Jefferson Airplane.

In between their glory days of bashing the Nixon Administration through the medium of acid rock and their latter years, singing of the love between a man and a shop dummy, they were known as Jefferson Starship, and seemingly did a lot of songs about space. This set them up as an ideal “special musical guest” for that infamous, interminable, Star Wars Holiday Special.

Now, much has been written about this 97 minute (but feels a lot longer) toy advert slash variety show slash psychological torture, so I hardly need to get into it here, suffice to say that it has to be seen to be believed, but you’ll wish you hadn’t bothered.

They're really big on Kazhyyyk

Appearing as a pink hued hologram, the band perform the song as a distraction for the Imperial officers, who obviously like a bit of a groove to murky 70s rock during downtime. Marty Balin is singing into what I presume is intended to be a lightsaber, but it resembles a flourescent dildo. At least they make the effort, wearing swishy costumes (pitched between glam rock and male stripper), twirling drumsticks, and generally pulling shapes while their instruments (including the fantastically futuristic keyboard on a shoulder strap) emit sonic waves (or something). The song features a spoken interlude about “The Great God Kopa Khan”, and (apropos of nothing) cries of “Cigar shaped object”! I can’t be certain but I’m sure that’s not canon.

Psychedelic siren Grace Slick is nowhere to be seen in the preformance. She had actually been fired from the band earlier in the year for drunkenly goading German audiences by shouting “who won the war?” while she should have been singing Somebody To Love for the 30,000th time. Nice one Grace. At least she was spared the embarrassment of appearing in the one part of the Star Wars franchise that is deemed too bad to ever get an official release.

Even though I have a grudging affection for Where My Heart Will Take Me, the prize has to go to Light The Sky On Fire, just because it’s so mental. So that’s that settled then. Next week we sort out which is the one true religion.

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Have your Kirk and eat it

Sunday, May 10th, 2009

Star Trek, in its original incarnation at least, is routinely regarded as kitschy, campy fun – a technicolour romp with overwrought acting, smooching hot alien floozies and shaking cameras and staggering about to denote being hit by photon torpedoes. It’s easy to laugh, albeit often with affection,  at the recurring themes: men in red shirts being disintegrated, repeated visits to the planet of Vasquez Rocks, and Captain Kirk shagging everything in the known universe.

However, when you were a kid (and most of us were pretty young when we first experienced the adventures of Kirk and Spock, seeing as it’s been in reruns for the last 93 years) Star Trek was never campy. When you were too young to understand limited special effects budgets, hand me down sci fi tropes and the concept of William Shatner’s ego, Star Trek was weird, thrilling and scary. 

Just another normal day on board The Enterprise

Like The Avengers‘ off kilter surrealist edge proved impossible to update convincingly for a big budget 90s remake you could never recapture the claustrophobic psychedelia of the original Star Trek now. The movies, and the subsequent TV series featured a more realistic aesthetic, and plots that relied more on action or political and philosophical issues, than mind bending Lewis Carroll  influenced fantasies.

I’ve never spoken Klingon or dressed as a Star Fleet Officer and referred to myself as “Lieutenant Commander”, but on the other hand, I spent one summer holiday watching The Wrath of Khan every single day, I know the difference between Bajorans and The Breen, and have seen nearly every episode of TNG and DS9. And I refer to them as TNG and DS9!  I also once turned down a night of sex in order to watch Star Trek themed night on BBC2 (they showed the premier of Voyager – definitely not worth it), so I suppose to most civilians I am indeed a Trekkie.

Planet of The Vasquez Rocks on Futurama

So I was initially uncertain of the prospect of a reboot. Someone other than William “The Hamosaurus” Shatner playing Kirk? Unthinkable! Surely they should just have the balls to create a new set of characters for young, sexy Academy based adventures if they must. But against all expectations the new movie, which cleverly both prequelises and sequelises the existing franchise (using the time honoured device of a temporal anomaly), is great. I won’t bother reviewing it here as many more have done it far more incisively than I can. Suffise to say, while it continues the realistic look of the previous movies but broadens the scope enough to live up to current movie standards (which the last couple of entries in the sequence most certainly didn’t – I caught some of Nemesis on TV last night and it looked like a cheap night out at a cybergoth club), both the spirit of adventure and the essence of the original crew is captured wonderfully. And having Leonard Nimoy in there for us old purists doesn’t hurt either.

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