Star Trek & Media Science Fiction Blog

The Blog for Delphi's Star Trek & Media Science Fiction Forum

The web log for Delphi's Star Trek & Media Science Fiction Forum. We cover news and discussion about Star Trek and many other current sci-fi and fantasy tv shows and films.
9/27/11

Star Trek: Enterprise's 10th Anniversary

Yesterday was the tenth anniversary of the premiere of Star Trek: Enterprise. I'd originally intended to post a list of what I thought were the ten best episodes of the series. As I sat down to put it together though, I found it difficult. After about five episodes, I found myself running out of episodes that were really distinctive. Even looking through an episode guide for the series didn't help. Most of the candidates were twists on stories that had been done in one (or more) of the previous Trek tv series.

It seems to me that TNG and DS9 could get away with the occasional storytelling cliché because their characters were developed into multi-faceted individuals. Enterprise's crew, even after four seasons, was made up of stereotypes and ciphers. IMHO, that's the biggest reason Enterprise was unable to find an audience to sustain the same seven-year runs its predecessors had. I'm not saying Enterprise was devoid of creativity or talent; it certainly had it's moments, but it could've been so much more than it was.

Below are my picks for the five best episodes of Star Trek: Enterprise. What are yours?

05. In a Mirror, Darkly
In a Star Trek first, this episode is set entirely in the Mirror Universe, with the only crossover being the starship Defiant from the Original Series episode "The Tholian Web." The crew does a great job playing up evil versions of themselves, and the writers throw in under-used Trek villains (the Tholians and Gorn).

04. The Andorian Incident
A visit to a Vulcan monastery is interrupted by a group of Andorian commandoes. One of Enterprise's best moves was fleshing out the Andorian race, which was only seen briefly in a few Original Series episodes. They made a great foil for Enterprise's arrogant Vulcans, especially when led by the pugnacious Shran (Jeffrey Combs).

03. Dear Doctor
Archer and Phlox disagree over whether or not to supply a cure to an alien race. Enterprise was at its best when it showed the genesis of the things we take for granted in the later Treks. All of the philosophical debates over Starfleet's Prime Directive began here. Superb performances by John Billingsley and Scott Bakula make this one of Enterprise's few great moments.

02. The Forge
Archer's investigation of the bombing of Earth's embassy on Vulcan turns up evidence of a deadly consipracy. Not since TOS' "Amok Time" has an episode of Star Trek delved so deeply into Vulcan culture. Add in Manny Coto's reconciliation of Enterprise's arrogant Vulcans to the calm, serene ones in later shows, and "The Forge" becomes one of Enterprise's best episodes.

01. Twilight
When Archer loses his long-term memory, T'Pol must confront him each day with the news that their mission to stop the Xindi failed and Earth was destroyed. Enterprise takes the well-used alternate timeline idea and turns it into a touching story of unrequited love. This is Enterprise's finest moment, not because of the outstanding special effects, but because it allows its characters to be human.
 
9/19/11

Canadian Primeval Spin-Off in the Works

 
Canadian cable channel Space is working on a spin-off of the british hit Primeval. The channel has ordered thirteen episodes of Primeval: The New World. While the new show will take place in the same universe as its parent, there was no word on whether any characters from Primeval would appear in the spin-off. It will be set in Vancouver.

Production is set to begin early next year, but there was no word on a potential premiere date. The fifth season of Primeval debuts in November in the U.K. and early next year in the U.S. You can find more info on the Primeval spin-off here:
 
9/13/11

Star Trek: TNG Coming to Blu-Ray

It appears to be all but official: CBS will be releasing Star Trek: The Next Generation on high-def Blu-Ray discs in the near future. An official announcement could come as soon as tomorrow, but several sources have confirmed that the studio will release a 4-episode "sampler" disc before the end of the year. Season sets will likely follow next year as the episodes are converted. The first disc will include the series pilot, "Encounter at Farpoint" Parts 1 & 2, "The Inner Light," and "Sins of the Father."

TVShowsonDVD.com has more info on the upcoming TNG Blu-Ray release here:
 
9/12/11

Sci-Fi and Fantasy Fall Premiere Dates

Here's a look at this fall's sci-fi and fantasy tv series premiere dates.

Fall SF Premieres (All times Eastern)
09/15 08pm     The Vampire Diaries (CW) 3rd Season Premiere
09/15 09pm     The Secret Circle (CW) Series Premiere
09/16 08pm     Star Wars: The Clone Wars (CARTOON) 4th Season Premiere
09/23 08pm     A Gifted Man (CBS) Series Premiere
09/23 09pm     Fringe (FOX) 4th Season Premiere
09/23 09pm     Supernatural (CW) 7th Season Premiere   
09/26 08pm     Terra Nova (FOX) Series Premiere
10/01 10pm     Bedlam (BBCAmerica) Series Premiere
10/07 10pm     Sanctuary (SYFY) 4th Season Premiere
10/16 09pm     The Walking Dead (AMC) 2nd Season Premiere
10/21 08pm     Chuck (NBC) 5th Season Premiere
10/21 09pm     Grimm (NBC) Series Premiere
10/23 09pm     Once Upon a Time (ABC) Series Premiere

Mid-Season/Early 2012 (Dates and Times TBA)
Alcatraz (FOX) Series Premiere
Awake (NBC) Series Premiere
Being Human (BBCAmerica) 4th Season Premiere
Being Human (SYFY) 2nd Season Premiere
Merlin (SYFY) 4th Season Premiere
Primeval (BBCAmerica) 5th Season Premiere
The River (ABC) Series Premiere 
 
9/9/11

SyFy Orders Second Season of Alphas

 
SyFy has ordered thirteen more episodes of its latest original series, Alphas. The series premiered in July to SyFy's best numbers since the premiere of Warehouse 13. It's currently averaging 3.3 million viewers including DVR viewing. Alphas' first season is currently airing on Mondays at 10 Eastern.

Alphas' second season will air next summer. You can find SyFy's full press release announcing the renewal here:
 
9/8/11

Star Trek's 45th Anniversary, Pt. 5

 
Today is the 45th Anniversary of the premiere of Star Trek on September 8th, 1966. Here are my picks for the five best episodes of Star Trek, ever:

05. The Inner Light (TNG)
When an alien probe puts Picard in a coma, he lives a lifetime with a wife and familiy in the course of a few minutes. Patrick Stewart's finest work makes this character study TNG's most poignant episode. The experience impacts Picard's character for the remainder of the series, a rare thing for TNG.

04. The Corbomite Manuever (TOS)
Kirk faces the destruction of the Enterprise when the ship unknowingly enters alien space. The original "no win" scenario builds the characters of Kirk, Spock, and McCoy and begins to form their bonds as the perfect triumverate. It's hard to imagine how TOS would've developed without the building blocks established in this episode, the first produced after the two pilots.

03. The Visitor (DS9)
Jake spends a lifetime trying to rescue his father from a spatial anomaly. DS9 takes "City on the Edge of Forever" and goes one better, having an elderly Jake sacrifice himself to save his father from oblivion. It's simply the most moving episode of Star Trek ever produced, period.

02. Balance of Terror (TOS)
The Enterprise must respond when a Romulan ship attacks the outposts guarding the Neutral Zone. A taut storyline with a strong moral and a great performance by Mark Lenard as the Romulan captain makes this the best episode of TOS. The Romulans are the first of Trek's great villains, and have made their mark on every Star Trek series since.

01. Best of Both Worlds, Part 1 (TNG)
The Enterprise encounters a Borg ship invading the Federation, and Captain Picard is abducted and assimilated into the Borg collective. The ultimate cliff-hanger makes this the best episode of any Star Trek ever. The final scene, with Picard as Locutus staring down the bridge crew, and Riker ordering their secret weapon fired, was perfect. 

What are your picks for the best of Star Trek? Click here to comment.
 
9/7/11

Star Trek's 45th Anniversary, Pt. 4

 
Here's the penultimate installment of my 45 Best Treks Ever list:

15. All Good Things… (TNG)
Picard faces a riddle in the past, present and future. If he can't solve it, Q's dilemma will wipe humanity from existence. The conflict between Picard and his nemesis Q fills out a tremendous high concept sci-fi story. It's full of great character moments with the likes of Captain Beverly Picard, Professor Data, Governor Worf, and Admiral Riker. A fitting end to a great television series.

14. Yesterday's Enterprise (TNG)
The Enterprise-C is catapulted twenty years into a war-scarred future where Guinan must convince Picard to send it back, regardless of the cost. TNG's best time travel story sets an unusually dark tone, and manages to give Tasha Yar a much better death the second time around. The cast does a nice job portraying grimmer versions of themselves.

13. Journey to Babel (TOS)
A conspiracy endangers both Kirk and the Enterprise while carrying a group of diplomats that includes Spock's parents. Mark Lenard returns as Sarek, one of Trek's most enduring guest roles, and the combination of internal and external threats makes this episode great viewing. It also establishes lots of Trek background, including the Andorians, the Tellarites, and the Orions.

12. Relics (TNG)
The TNG crew finds Scotty in a trapped in a transporter beam, and he and LaForge must save the Enterprise from a Dyson's sphere. The best of Trek's crossover shows combines a great performance from James Doohan with an intriging sci-fi concept. The holodeck scene with Picard and Scotty discussing "old girlfriends" on the original Enterprise bridge is worth the price of admission all by itself.

11. City on the Edge of Forever (TOS) Kirk must let the woman he loves die in order to set the timeline right. Harlan Ellison's script won the Nebula award. Gene Roddenberry's re-write won the Hugo. "City" sets the bar for all time travel stories.

10. Far Beyond the Stars (DS9)
Sisko is given a vision of Benny Russell, a struggling African-American science fiction writer on Earth in the 1950's. DS9's ensemble delivers tremendous performances in a provocative story from Ira Behr. Seeing Rene Auberjonois, Armin Shimmermin, Mark Alamio, Jeff Combs, J.G. Hertzler, Casey Biggs and Aron Eisenberg perform without makeup made it even more special.

09. First Contact (TNG)
The Enterprise crew struggles to save Riker after he's injured and captured during an unusal first contact mission. TNG takes the clichéd first contact scenario and turns it on its head by putting our heroes in the alien role. It's a brilliant look at the actual mechanics of making contact with a new race, something rarely seen in the later Treks.

08. Best of Both Worlds, Part 2 (TNG)
After annhiliating a fleet sent to stop them, the Borg close in on Earth and the Enterprise races to intercept. The resolution to Trek's best cliffhanger falls a little short with its deus ex machina ending, but still boasts great scenes where Riker struggles to take Picard's mantle, and the Enterprise comes across the destroyed fleet at Wolf 359. The coda, where we realize Picard is still dealing with his assimilation, is superb.

07. The Doomsday Machine (TOS)
Kirk and his crew struggle to stop a planet-killing weapon from entering Federation space. William Windom gives an inspired performance as Commodore Decker, who's become suicidal after losing his crew to the planet killer. The hard sci-fi premise and real world analogy to nuclear weapons makes this episode still powerful today.

06. In the Pale Moonlight (DS9)
Sisko enlists Garak in a covert plan to bring the Romulan Empire into the Dominion War on the Federation's side at any cost. Avery Brooks is flawless in portraying an man so bent on achieving victory that he blinds himself to the immorality of the actions he condones. "Moonlight" is the quintessential DS9 episode, putting Trek's shining ideals to the test in the gray shades of the real world.

I'll post the final part tomorrow. Click here to comment on this post.
 
9/6/11

Star Trek's 45th Anniversary, Part 3

 
Here's the next batch:

25. Tinker, Tailor, Doctor, Spy (Voyager)
Aliens observe Voyager covertly using the Doctor's interface, but soon learn all is not at it seems. Robert Picardo creates a tour-de-force performance when the Doctor is caught in his Walter Mitty-type fantasies. This is one of Star Trek's funniest episodes.

23. Rightful Heir (TNG)
Spiritual doubts lead Worf to a Klingon monestary where Kahless, the originator of the Klingon religion, returns from the dead. Ron Moore takes his revision of Klingon culture to its height, fleshing out the "Klingon Jesus" and putting Worf back into a power struggle at the center of the Empire. Robert O'Reilly is once again superb as Gowron.

24. Duet (DS9)
Kira interrogates a Cardassian who may be an infamous war criminal. This is the ultimate "two people in a room" story. It's carried by a bravura performance from Nana Visitor as she's swayed first one way, then the other by her discussions with Darhe'el/Marritza, and the final twists are just as agonizing for us as they are for her.

22. Mirror, Mirror (TOS)
Kirk, McCoy, Scotty and Uhura find themselves in a parallel universe where the Federation has become an evil empire. This episode spawned seven episodes of DS9 and Enterprise set in the "Mirror Universe," and for good reason. The bearded Spock, the treacherous Chekov, and the scheming Sulu each made fantastic counterpoints to the characters we know and love.

21. Twilight (Enterprise)
When Archer loses his long-term memory, T'Pol must confront him each day with the news that their mission to stop the Xindi failed and Earth was destroyed. Enterprise takes the well-used alternate timeline idea and turns it into a touching story of unrequited love. This is Enterprise's finest moment, not because of the outstanding special effects, but because it allows its characters to be human.

20. Blink of an Eye (Voyager)
Voyager becomes trapped in orbit of a planet where years pass every second. The best of Voyager's hard sci-fi high concepts gives Kate Mulgrew and Robert Picardo a chance to shine. Lost's Daniel Dae Kim has a nice guest role.

19. Trials and Tribble-ations (DS9)
Sisko and crew are thrown back in time, and must prevent history from being changed by finding a sabotaged Tribble. DS9's characters are seamlessly merged into footage from TOS' "Trouble with Tribbles" in a brilliant homage for the series' 30th anniversary. The story has just the right balance of humor and historical reverance and adds perfectly to the original.

18. Measure of a Man (TNG)
Picard must defend Data's existence as a sentient being when a Starfleet scientist wants to disassemble and mass produce him. Trek's best courtroom drama has Picard and Riker argue opposite sides, and Whoopi Goldberg makes a great cameo in a key scene. The story achieves a nice balance, moralizing without being preachy.

17. Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan
Khan attempts to avenge himself on Kirk with the ultimate weapon. The best of the big screen Treks boasts superb performances from Shatner, Nimoy and Ricardo Montlban. Spock's death scene is still moving more than two decades later.

16. The Trouble with Tribbles (TOS)
Kirk faces a crisis on multiple fronts when Klingons, bureaucrats, saboteurs, and Tribbles come together on one space station. Trek's best comedy puts slapstick in sci-fi, and deals with a real-world problem at the same time. Scotty's confession after starting the bar fight is still hilarious.

I'll post the next installment tomorrow. Click here to comment on this post.
 
9/5/11

Star Trek's 45th Annivsary, Pt. 2

 

Here's the second installment of my forty-five best Treks ever list:

35. Dark Frontier (Voyager)
The Borg Queen lures Seven of Nine back to the Collective, and Janeway mounts a rescue mission into the heart of Borg space. Despite the premise, this two-hour episode succeeds not as an action show, but because of the flashbacks to Seven's past. Her parents' obsession with the Borg plays almost as a Greek tragedy, and gives new depth to Seven's quest to regain her humanity.

34. Arena (TOS)
When an outlying colony is destroyed and the Enterprise is ambushed, Kirk pursues the attacking vessel into unexplored space, only to find himself facing the alien captain in single combat when the advanced Metrons invervene. Not only do we see Kirk turn his rage to understanding as the motives behind the Gorn attack are revealed, but we also see him apply his itelligence to building a canon from native elements. That bit has become part of pop culture, and a chemistry lesson to kids everywhere.

33. The Ship (DS9)
Sisko attempts to salvage a crashed Jem'Haddar ship, but is soon trapped by Jem'Haddar reinforcements. Sisko faces the ultimate dilemma as he must choose between surrendering to get help for a mortally injured crewman, or holding out to prevent the enemy from gaining their objective regardless of the cost. The final twist, which reveals that both sides could've achieved their goals if they'd been willing to trust each other, is heartbreaking.

32. Darmok (TNG)
When confronted by the Tamarians, who communicate solely by metaphor, Picard struggles to learn to communicate while Riker considers risking war by using force to rescue his captain from a potentially deadly situation. This episode provides the answer to the question how do you communicate when the universal translator doesn't work? It's one of TNG's best hard sci-fi stories.

31. The Forge (Enterprise)
Archer's investigation of the bombing of Earth's embassy on Vulcan turns up evidence of a deadly consipracy. Not since TOS' "Amok Time" has an episode of Star Trek delved so deeply into Vulcan culture. Add in Manny Coto's reconciliation of Enterprise's arrogant Vulcans to the calm, serene ones in later shows, and "The Forge" becomes one of Enterprise's best episodes.

30. Sacrifice of Angels (DS9)
Sisko's attempt to retake DS9 from the Dominion results in a huge space battle, while on the station, Quark and Ziyal must decide which side they're on as Kira, Jake, Leeta and Nog are to be executed. The epic six-part arc which opened the Dominion War is brought to a satisfying close as one character dies and several others are transformed. We also get the first hint of the lengths Sisko will go to win the war.

29. Devil in the Dark (TOS)
The Enterprise is called in to protect a mining colony from a mysterious and deadly creature. This classic episode presents all of Roddenberry's idealism as Spock slowly convinces Kirk that killing the Horta might not be the best solution, and it's revealed that the miners are at fault for the conflict. It also includes one of my favorite McCoy-isms, "I'm a doctor, not a brick-layer!"

28. Scorpion, Part 1 (Voyager)
Voyager arrives at the edge of Borg space, and discovers that the only passage free of Borg ships is filled with an even more deadly threat. Janeway makes a quintessential deal with the devil in order to get home. Species 8472 is the perfect foil for the Borg, and having Voyager caught between them was the ideal way to up the stakes. It's too bad they only appeared two more times in the series.

27. Q Who? (TNG)
Q introduces the crew of the Enterprise to the Borg. This episode introduces Star Trek's greatest alien threat, who'd rather assimilate you than kill you. The interplay between John DeLancie and Patrick Stewart is brilliant, and Whoopi Goldberg has some great scenes playing against type. The final moment, when Picard realizes the Borg are coming, is superb.

26. Call to Arms (DS9)
After Sisko mines the wormhole, the Dominion attacks DS9 with overwhelming force, and not everyone gets away when Starfleet is forced to evacuate. This episode kicked off the Dominion War, and proved even better than the Klingon attack two seasons earlier. Every character in the ensemble has a part to play, and the tension is racheted up steadily, but rather than ending with the typical "everyone in jeopardy" cliffhanger, Ira Behr lets the audience know it'll be a long time before things are back to the status quo.

I'll post the next installment tomorrow. Click here to comment on this post.

 
9/4/11

Star Trek's 45th Anniversary, Pt. 1

 

As we close in on the 45th anniversary of Star Trek's premiere, I've been thinking about all the Star Trek episodes and movies that have been made. Counting the films and animated series, there are 737 hours of Star Trek. I've tried to pick the 45 best stories, one for each year of Star Trek's existence. I'll be posting them over the next few days. Tell me what you think of my list, and feel free to post your own. Without further ado, here's the first installment of the Forty-Five Best Treks Ever, IMHO:

45. The Defector (TNG)
Picard must decide whether to violate the Neutral Zone based on a warning from a mysterious Romulan defector. James Sloyan gives a strong performance as the defector, Jarok, while the subplot exposes Data to the benefits and difficulties of relying on human instinct instead of fact. The late Andreas Katsulas reprises his role as the smug Commander Tomalok.

44. The Siege of AR-558 (DS9)
Nog looses a leg when the crew of Defiant are trapped on a remote communications post during a Dominion attack. Deep Space Nine set itself apart by depicting the darker side of life in the Federation, and this grim war story displayed the show's willingness to do permanent harm to it's central characters. Billy Mumy (Lost in Space, Babylon 5) has a nice guest role.

43. Second Skin (DS9)
Kira wakes up as a Cardassian, and is told that she's been a sleeper agent, and her life as Kira Nerys was just a cover. DS9 did a wonderful job of torturing its characters, and this episode was a good example as Kira begins to questions all her assumptions about the Cardassians.

42. Sins of the Father (TNG)
Worf's brother reveals that their father has been posthumously accused of treason, and they travel to the Klingon homeworld to defend their family honor. Michael Dorn and Patrick Stewart own this episode as Worf faces trial in the Klingon court while Picard tries to discover the truth. This was the beginning of Star Trek's first real story arc, where everything wasn't resolved neatly at the end of the episode.

41. Star Trek (2009 Movie)
Director J.J. Abrams reboots the Star Trek universe in an alternate timeline where Kirk and Spock are rivals before becoming friends. While there's definite room for improvement, this film infused the Star Trek franchise with a sense of drama and passion that had been missing for over a decade.

40. The Tholian Web (TOS)
Spock and McCoy think Kirk is dead, and must figure out how to save the ship and crew from the Tholians. One of the few great episodes of the orginal Trek's third season, "The Tholian Web" showcased the Spock/McCoy dynamic in all its glory. It also provided part of the basis for one of Enterprise's high points, the "In a Mirror, Darkly" two-parter.

39. Dear Doctor (Enterprise)
Archer and Phlox disagree over whether or not to supply a cure to an alien race. Enterprise was at its best when it showed the genesis of the things we take for granted in the later Treks. All of the philosophical debates over Starfleet's Prime Directive began here. Superb performances by John Billingsley and Scott Bakula make this one of Enterprise's few great moments.

38. Rocks and Shoals (DS9)
Sisko and crew must serve as executioners when a treacherous Vorta offers them their only chance to escape after being marooned behind enemy lines. TOS invented the Romulans and Klingons, and TNG the Borg and Ferengi. DS9's great contribution to Trek's illustrious list of alien cultures is the Dominion with its multi-layered society of Jem'Hadar, Vorta, and Founders. "Rocks and Shoals" manages to turn the Jem'Hadar into perfect soldiers, and our heroes into the villains of the piece.

37. Timeless (Voyager)
An accident with a slipstream drive sends Harry Kim and Chakotay back to Earth, but destroys Voyager. Voyager's 100th episode demonstrates that Garrett Wang was woefully underused in the series. Wang carries the episode with a manic obsessive intensity as Harry is intent on correcting his mistake, and rises above the plot which borrows a little too much from Ellison's "City on the Edge of Forever." A cameo by director LeVar Burton as Captain LaForge adds a nice touch.

36. Cause and Effect (TNG)
The crew experiences the destruction of the Enterprise over and over again when they are caught in a time loop. Brannon Braga contributes a brilliant high-concept idea, which is directed flawlessly by Jonathan Frakes. A myriad of tiny details make the storyline stand up to repeated viewings when it ought to be annoyingly repetitious.

I'll post the next part of the countdown tomorrow. Click here to comment on this post.

 

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