Monday, September 25, 2017

Star Trek Discovery Review and Credit-Less Sequence

The first two episodes of Star Trek: Discover are official out. What did you think? I liked it overall. To be upfront, it is one of the best looking Star Treks to date. The characters are also all solid and demonstrate lots of potential. Definitely a new take on Trek in as many ways as they could get away with. It looks like they are taking full advantage of the season long serial story telling style so looking forward to see how that unfolds. From a production standpoint there is little to complain about. While the designs of the set are heavily reliant on JJ Abrams' movie look and feel, there is enough classic Trek to by in on the look. The special effects are the best ever for Trek (possibly including the recent movies or at least on par with them). The cast is great, the character development for the key characters handled well considering how much information they are conveying in a short amount of time. I highly recommend this show for new and old fans. It looks like its going to be a great story telling ride.

Now being a Star Trek fan, that means its time to quibble. One of them is actually kind of major as it involves the main character. Based on the first two episodes (which really act as prequel/origin story for the main character), the first season at be a redemption arc for starting a war with the Klingons. You know she started the war because characters say it several times. Except, I am not clear on how she started it. Now as the audience we know the Klingon leader wanted a war. He was purposedly looking for an excuse and basically manufactured one. Starfleet does't know this so its very unclear how they blame her for landing on their ship and defended herself. That's it and the Klingons barely mentioned it (something the previous series Klingons would have been lasered focused on during any talk with the Federation). Getting the audience to buy in on why she needs redemption and worthy of it seems like a very important starting point and they skipped right over it so just go with it mostly out of lack of other options.

Speaking of Klingons, the new design is interesting, if way over the top. Especially once add in the constant Klingonese talking. The result is just a series of limits on everything involving the characters. I get the thinking on it (to immerse you in the Klingon world), but budget alone didn't decide post-80s Klingon design. There was a practical reason to - the miminal but effect prosethics and costumes mean the actors and the writers could focus on the story. Instead you can tell that the actors were more focused on speaking words phonetically around their makeup. When they moved (which was rarely) it was clear the goal was to not damage the costumes or the sets. Basically the focus was on everything but the scene so the result is all Klingon scenes felt flat. Add to that is the writers know about these limitations so all the lines was twitter style on steroids. I think the average line was five words, the most around 10. This is because learning lines phonetically is a nightmare for anyone. Try doing it with a list of medical jargon, triple the difficulty and that is what these actors had to deal with. Just copy the Star Trek: The Undiscovered Country method where they used a camera move to seamlessly transition from Klingon to English. It was a beautiful thing to see and something this show could benefit from to lose the distractions that going "full Klingon" is causing both in makeup, costume design and words. They are stuck with it for the first half of the season but not the second.

All Star Trek shows suffer from growing pains until they figure out their rhythm. I am happy to stick it out until they do. If I had any advice for old fans it is roll with the continuity glitches and the small stuff and just enjoy the ride. For newbies, enjoy the ride two. For the production team of the show, my main advice is to remember that in a push to be a new version of Trek, do not forget a lot of production decisions for the shows were not just based on budget limitations but also born of practicality. For alien design, it was about the need to have actors being able to emote and move freely so can focus on acting and for set/ship design it was often about thinking what a ship out in deep space without access to resupply might need, be missing, or have on hand. Basically just because it was an old way of doing things doesn't mean it is now the wrong way. There is some wisdom to be gleamed from there.

One last complaint, get new opening music (credit-less version below). Its just not majestic enough. Its too quiet, doesn't rev the engine for the adventure that is supposed to follow. Quibbles aside I am looking forward to following the rest of the season and hopefully more to come as I do believe Star Trek is in good hands.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Star Trek: Discovery Premiere Tonight, Catch Up on its Time Period

Tonight is the long awaited premiere of Star Trek: Discovery. The first episode will premiere on CBS (after football and 60 minutes) in the United States and on Netflix in most areas of the world. After that a new episode will premiere each Sunday night for the next 7 or so weeks (the 1st season is being split in half). Most international audiences will be able to use Netflix, US will have to sign up for CBS All Access.

In preparation for the night, here is a chance to play catch up on the state of the Star Trek universe circa 2256. Below is a video that does a nice job of catching you up on continuity around this time frame to get you in the right state of mind. After that hit up io9.com for summary of known details about the characters of the show.

For a little side fun, if you own an Amazon Alexa device, it now takes Star Trek questions by adding the Star Trek skill with the command "Alexa, open Star Trek". From there you can say things like "Alexa, red alert", "Alexa, speak Klingon", "Alexa, what is your mission" and other choice Trek phrases to see how the device responds.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Discovery After Show Announced

The trend of cheap shows that analyze the episode that just aired continues, this time for Star Trek: Discovery. The show, called After Trek, will be hosted by Matt Mira. Mira is former host of Attack of the Show and Nerdist pocaster along with Nerdist founder (and also former AOTS host) Chris Hardwick who hosts the other Talking Dead among others on TV so it remains in the Talking family despite dropping the subtitle. Mira is also a long time fan and has in the past has demonstrated a deep knowledge of Trek so the discussion could be interesting (or boring depending on perspective) if he is allowed to let his fandom flag fly.

The series is exclusive to CBS All Access (unclear if international audiences will get it all). The first episode will air at 11:00pm ET on September 24 with following weeks it will stream live at 9:30pm after the 8:30p ET release of each new Discovery episode. The reason for the late start on Sunday is due to the 2 hour premiere (1st hour on CBS, 2nd hour on CBS All Access) of the series that will likely experience a delay in air time due to football. Below is the official description and video.
After Trek will serve as the ultimate weekly forum for Trek fans, with in-depth discussions and recaps of the latest Discovery episode. Each After Trek episode will feature Mira talking in-studio or via video feed with Discovery cast members and crew along with past Star Trek talent and celebrity fans. While watching, fans will be able to “engage” with the show via social and other interactive elements by using the hashtag #AfterTrek.

Friday, September 22, 2017

Discovery World Premiere and More Behind the Scenes Videos

Star Trek: Discovery is now just a few days away from its Sunday premiere. On Wednesday the show held its red carpet premiere in LA that was attended by Discovery cast members and past Trek stars including William Shatner (TOS), Nichelle Nichols (TOS), John Billingsley (ENT), Jonathan Frakes (TNG), Nicole de Boer (DS9), Roxann Dawson (Voy) and many more. You can find pictures and descriptions of the premiere at StarTrek.com and TrekMovie.com. There are no descriptions of the premiere episode as CBS has refused to allow any reviews until after the premiere on TV. Also below are two new behind the scenes videos, the first focused on the costumes of the series while the other is a look at Michelle Yeoh's Captain Philippa Georgiou.



Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Discovery Behind the Videos, Titles for First Four Episodes

The return of Star Trek is less then a week away. This Sunday is the premiere of Star Trek: Discovery and that means more videos and carefully leaked info. In this case the titles of the first four episodes as "The Vulcan Hello", Battle at the Binary Stars", "Context is for Kings", and "The Butcher's Knife Cares Not for the Lamb's Cry." Below, the first video is a longer TV spot for Discovery, while the second video is a look at the production of the show. The last is an introduction to lead character First Officer Michael Burnham. If interested in the costumes for the show, check out StarTrek.com's article.