Sunday, 26 October 2014

My Random Journey Through Trek #17

Star Trek

S1 The Man Trap

In The Man Trap we have the Enterprise visiting the planet M-113 to provide the annual medicals to the research team, in a twist the wife of Professor Robert Crater is an old flame of Dr McCoy's maybe even the one that got away so a little gentle ribbing is called for when the Captain grabs some weeds and offers them to McCoy as flowers for Nancy. Nancy turns up at their camp and the three members of the landing party which comprises Kirk, McCoy and Darnell unbeknownst to them all see her differently, McCoy sees her as she was when he last knew her, Kirk as a middle aged woman and Darnell as a young piece of ass, sorry but that was the intent from his words and actions and no doubt if this episode was produced later she would have been wearing much less as well. Darnell is excused and is later joined by "his" version of Nancy who lures him away to his death which doesn't say a lot for the discipline of Starfleet junior officers and crew when on duty. Professor Crater arrives and it's obvious he is not happy about Starfleet being here, he would be delighted if they resupplied him and went on their way but after learning that they have met Nancy and that McCoy is the man she has spoken of he calms down probably realising that at this point playing the game out is the less suspicious option but then a scream and Darnell is found dead the remains of a plant in his mouth.
Spock examines the Borgia root and confirms that it's poisonous but it's revealed that Darnell died due to all the salt being removed from his body, faced with this threat which had never been documented Kirk returns to the planet with two more crewman but Crater flees and one of the crewman is found dead. 
DeForest was excellent in this scene
They return to the ship but now "Nancy" is disguised as crewman Green and is drawn towards the salt on the food tray Rand is taking to Sulu, when that fails she changes again and talks to Uhura in a new form and is able to speak fluent swahili but she escapes before he can suck her dry.  Nancy then visits McCoy and winds him around her finger and once asleep she takes his form and actually sits in on staff briefings and while acts a little "off" no one really seems to notice but as the noose tightens she flees to McCoy and when confronted by Kirk she attacks and McCoy seems helpless to act until Spock strikes her repeatedly and is then thrown across the room, McCoy realising his Nancy is gone asks for forgiveness and fires his phaser twice killing the creature, the last of it's race.

The Man Trap is a very good early episode of Star Trek, yes everyone is still finding their place but the story is solid and has some emotional and ethical quandaries embedded within it's well monster of the week format, Trek could have gone that way but for the strength of Roddenberry. The act of killing the last surviving member of an alien race despite it's action asks some serious questions, given "Nancy" had lived peacefully when a reliable supply of salt was offered it left the door open for the Federation to hold out the olive branch out regardless of the deaths caused but when you get right down to it the selfish desires of the Professor who kept the secrets of this world to himself.
Ok we have to mention the rather animated Gertrude aka Beauregard which thankfully didn't become a regular of the show but it was good to see Sulu as something other than a fly boy and there was certainly some chemistry between Spock and Sulu, granted his reaction could be taken as logical but that little bit of spark was certainly there which begrudgingly allows for the 2009 movie to make use of that element even if they did go a little over the top which TOS never did.... 
Rating 8


Saturday, 25 October 2014

USS Enterprise

Yeah that's my new Diamond Select USS Enterprise NCC 1701
Love the model but the supplied stand is a bit on the flimsy side and limits how you can position the ship for a more dynamic look rather than on an more or less even keel.

Saturday, 18 October 2014

Ex Machina Review

While Christopher L. Bennett is an established author both in and out of Star Trek the novel Ex Machina is the first novel of his that I have read, it may be because he's written more for other aspects of Trek than the original series and perhaps because when the book was originally released I wasn't reading Trek after the market moved away from TOS to the more modern series which I had little interest in reading. I have started reading more Trek which is going hand in hand with more new original series offerings and as we all know once you scratch the surface there will be plenty of older work which will be new to you. Ex Machina is one of these old yet new gems released in 2005 and telling a story shortly after The Motion Picture when Kirk and the Enterprise crew were trying to get to know each other again and faced with a mission from their past when has personal and Federation wide implications.
In Ex Machina we see a Captain James Kirk who is very unsure of himself, his crew are openly voicing their doubts over his command and since most were hand picked by Will Decker and supported his multi-species approach to crewing a Starship there is plenty of blame being pointed to the new Captain in terms of how he got the command the loss of two elements of senior staff. Spock is perhaps in even worse condition, his contact with V'Ger shook him to the core and has led him to question all things Vulcan and dealing with some of his people on board just shows how far away from balance he has travelled. McCoy is perhaps in even worse condition, drafted back in Star Fleet, dealing with Chapel as an equal and the mission dealing with the people of Yonada and his brief romance with their leader Natira. On their new world the people are dealing with a life free from direct mental conditioning from a super computer disguised as a god and religious elements are clashing with more forward looking aspects of the government. As bombings and attacks grow leaving innocent men, women and children dead the Federation via Kirk decide to intervene first very gently but more aggressively but the solution is far more complex than anyone could envision as Kirk is seen by some to be a God killer after the V'ger incident and Natira by supporting modernisation and the throwing down of old beliefs complicite in the betrayal of their ancestors when Yonda was launched ten thousand years previously.

Ex Machina is a weighty tome, there is little of the light heartedness many of the previous TOS novels were happy to provide which mirrored the series itself but the subject matter deserves the more constrained and deep approach. This novel focuses on the characters and the changes that have taken place over the years after the first five year mission most of which have been artfully ignored in the media. I suspect print media is the logical place to explore much of what has gone on before we were once again introduced to Kirk and company in ST II with a more action/adventure story line. An excellent original series novel, fills a hole I wasn't really sure needed filling but now after reading the book the timeline is more complete and helps to build continuity which for me doesn't always means relying on television or the movies. Highly recommended and while I doubt I'll be looking at Christopher's work on other aspects of the franchise his Enterprise novels could very well turn up on my reading list :)

Official Site
Ex Machina Amazon US  UK



My Random Journey Through Trek #16

Star Trek

S2 The Doomsday Machine

A distress call from the USS Constellation leads to an investigation into a wake of devastation and what remains of a solar system, their crippled sister starship is found with only Commodore Matt Decker on board. He is emotionally unbalanced and raves about a "devil" and the loss of his crew beamed down to a planet which subsequently was obliterated by this "planet killer". Kirk and a few men stay onboard and Decker is returned to the Enterprise but when an object is detected, a huge machine with a gaping maw and an energy beam that can slice apart worlds the chase is on. A transporter failure caused by weapons fire limits the ability to beam the landing party back and the Doomsday machine then departs towards Rigel. Decker is a little upset believing a stand has to be made now rather then get word to Starfleet and the Federation and he seizes command of the Enterprise. The attack on the Doomsday machine is not going well and Kirk finally having some power restored to the Constellation attempts to distract the machine, it works and draws the attention away from the Enterprise. Communications are restored between the two ships and Kirk orders Spock to remove Decker from command, he does so and Decker is escorted off the bridge but escapes in a shuttlecraft and launches himself into the machine, the explosion causes a response and it's believed that a bigger explosion inside the machine may destroy it and that means the sacrifice of the Constellation. Kirk is the last man on the ship and steers it towards the Doomsday Machine and at the last second he is beamed off and the huge antimatter explosion within the machine succeeds in disabling it.
William Windom


The Doomsday Machine is regarded as one of the jewels in the Star Trek crown and I totally agree, it has some excellent performances and the story is both compelling, exciting and intense. We get all the drama and action you would expect from a feature but packed into a television episode so while the pacing is very high you don't come away with the feeling that it was rushed. 

So it's always good to see one of the Enterprise sister ships although they never seem to fare very well on their five year missions, Decker (William Windom who does an excellent job) seems like a competent commander but we meet him battle scarred and emotionally broken which at least explains some of his actions but there are some questions about this aspect of the episode. I don't really understand why a Commodore is in command of the Constellation, granted it gives him the leverage to grasp command of the Enterprise but there is no question McCoy had the regulations and opportunity to prevent that, Decker had no right to be on the bridge of any ship in his condition as witnessed by the landing party that found him. It was a little disappointing that Lt Palmer (Elizabeth Rogers) at communications got quite a few lines which begs the question where was Uhura for this episode but Scotty and Sulu got some solid screen time. I had to smile when Scotty pointed out how shall we say finicky the transporter was considering how much use it gets but when the plot requires everything can be a death trap and again a shuttle launch only indicated after the fact, Starfleet security and procedures need serious updating. We've had nice touches that retconned that this could have been created to take on the Borg by a long lost race is interesting and Matt being the father to Will Decker who we meet in The Motion Picture just makes so much sense.
Finally it's also worth pointing out that this episode got a very impressive update via the restoration project, the CGI really adds a whole new level to the existing core story and takes nothing away, credit to everyone involved in polishing this episode into a masterpiece of Star Trek and one of my favourite episodes of the franchise.
Rating   9

Friday, 10 October 2014

Goodies

I finally picked up Frozen on Blu-ray part of the Disney buy one get one free but alas there was no other movie I needed or really wanted but I did like the shiny covers so got Tangled as a double dip and covered most of the cost by using my loyalty points with the retailer. I also got Mrs Bradshaw's Handbook which is linked to the Discworld novel Raising Steam.