Star Trek

Star Trek Beyond (2015)

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startrekbeyond0August is invariably a quiet time for Taking The Short View in terms of items to review, the TV schedules having been swept clear of new material and left devoid of anything anything much worth reviewing, especially in a summer dominated by the Olympics. While I could have used all this sudden free time to go to the cinema instead, I increasingly find it difficult to find anything worth getting excited about in this age of big-spectacle but empty-headed superhero blockbusters.

However, there are always exceptions. Ever since I was a young kid, I’ve had a steadfast tradition of going to see the latest movies in three franchises in particular the minute they come out in the cinemas: James Bond, Star Wars and Star Trek. It was the turn of the latter to premier a new instalment this month and sure enough I maintained my tradition and saw it shortly after it came out. Which was, of course, some weeks ago now.

Why the delay in posting a review? I could say that an unexpected spike in work in the meantime has thwarted my attempts to write up a review, and there would be some truth in that, but it would only be part of it. The wider answer is that after seeing the film I just couldn’t get up enough enthusiasm to write anything, and that admission probably speaks as eloquently as to my feelings about Star Trek Beyond as any words that follow. Read the rest of this entry »

Star Trek V: The Final Frontier (1989) [Blu-ray]

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Star Trek V: The Final Frontier has the notorious reputation of being hands-down the worst Star Trek movie of all time. It’s said to be so bad, in fact, that I don’t think I’ve ever watched it a second time after originally seeing it in the cinemas at the time of its release nearly 24 years ago. That has allowed my memories of how poor it is to fester, grow and multiply over the intervening years. That is until this week, when I had a strange moment of … I won’t say weakness, let’s just say unguarded curiosity to see whether it really was as bad as its reputation would have us believe.

postedThe good news: it’s not the total unmitigated catastrophe that it had established itself in my memory as being. There are even some good moments in it. And it’s certainly no where near as awful and unlikeable as, say, the corresponding fifth movie in the Die Hard franchise turned out to be. In fact you might say that it would make a middling episode of the original TV series’ third and final season (which as true fans will know is indeed damning with faint praise.)

The bad news: it’s still unbelievably poor. It’s dull, witless, poorly written, weakly directed, tonally uneven with a disinterested cast and the worst effects of the series and indeed pretty much of any mainstream science fiction film of the late eighties. It justifiably has a total lock on the title of ‘worst Star Trek movie’ and always will. Read the rest of this entry »

Star Trek Into Darkness (2013)

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These days I strictly ration my visits to the cinema, with the exception of two franchises that will immediately override the austerity lockout: one is the James Bond series, and the other consists of the Star Trek films. Currently the tally of each stands at 13 for the former up to last year’s Skyfall (or 14 if you include Never Say Never Again, which of course I don’t) while Star Trek Into Darkness marks the 12th film of the science fiction series that I’ll have dutifully trotted out to see during its initial theatrical run.

trek1Let’s cut through the suspense and deliver the bottom line: is it any good? The answer is yes, very. If you love the 2009 JJ Abrams-helmed reboot (see my contemporary review here) then you’re almost guaranteed to love this follow-up since it contains all the elements that made the first film so successful, including the jaw-dropping spectacular visuals, non-stop adrenalin-rush thrills, the jittery camerawork and jump zooms and of course the lens flare that slathers every shot to the point of self-parody. Of course if you were among that group that felt the first film made a travesty of the original spirit of the Star Trek series then none of this is going to do anything to persuade you to the contrary this time, either. And I confess, I had at least one foot in that camp and wasn’t as utterly thrilled with Abrams’ first outing as many people were as a result. Read the rest of this entry »

ArchiveView: Star Trek (2009)

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Ahead of seeing Star Trek Into Darkness, here’s a review of the first JJ Abrams that I wrote on its original release in May 2009 and reproduced from the general topic blog that I had at the time …

The new Star Trek movie is a great piece of entertainment and easily one of the best action movies of the year. As a relaunch of the Trek franchise, it’s an outstanding success. But for all that, don’t believe the hype – it’s good, but it’s just not great.

Viewed as an attempt to reboot, revive and recast a moribund franchise, it’s an unqualified success. While remaining true to the underlying Trek ethos, the film manages to be fast, funny and action-packed where the old series and movies could be slow, ponderous and preachy. Yet despite any carping from die hard fans, the film is remarkably true to Gene Roddenberry’s vision of an optimistic, altruistic and inspirational future. And despite the misgivings of many a fan, myself included, the recasting of iconic roles is almost without exception a collection of huge successes.

Zachary Quinto, for example – so great in Heroes, where he plays arch villain Sylar with an intelligence, subtlety and an outrageous amount of scene stealing that he’s almost the only reason for watching that show any more – is beyond perfect as Spock. He is both convincingly a young version of Leonard Nimoy’s character, and yet his own man as well, much more expressive, on edge and volatile than the refined and dignified Nimoy. He’s so good that you almost believe that this film and the entire Trek reboot has been sitting on its hands for seven years since the previous film just waiting for Quinto to be ready to accept the role. Read the rest of this entry »

Star Trek: Voyager (CBS Action)

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Since we were talking about Star Trek: The Next Generation the other day (yes, we were, honestly – remember? Because of the remastered season 1 being aired on SyFy!) I thought I’d slip in another quick Star Trek post while I was in the general neutron flow.

After the original Kirk/Spock series and its animated postscript, the Next Generation revival in 1987 and the subsequent spin-off Deep Space Nine, the fifth television series in the Star Trek franchise was Voyager which ran for seven series from 1995 to 2001. It’s currently airing in syndication on multiple digital channels – not remastered like similar reruns of the original Star Trek or Next Generation, but by this point in the franchise the series had top notch quality production values and looks absolutely fine, albeit in the old 4:3 ratio.

I was, I confess, never a great fan of Voyager in the day and it always seemed to me that by this point the DNA of the show was wearing very thin. The words I’ve used most often to describe Voyager in the past have been ‘plastic’ and ‘artificial’, right from the character line-up which seems as though a computer algorithm has selected the optimally diverse line-up from archetypes not yet tapped by the show: a female captain, a Native American first officer, an Asian ensign, a junior Kirk, a black Vulcan who sadly ends up being a thin echo of Leonard Nimoy’s Spock, a female Klingon/Human hybrid who only makes us miss Michael Dorn’s Worf, and two alien hitchhikers (a Talaxian called Neelix and an Ocampa called Kes) who could easily have been left behind and no one would have noticed or much cared. The one character who does spark almost from the start is the unnamed Emergency Medical Hologram: he could have been a tired retread of Spock, Data and Odo from past shows, but Robert Picardo’s playing of the role instantly makes him so much more and his holographic computer program nature seems to consistently inspire the writers to some of their best high-concept science fiction ideas throughout the entire seven years. Read the rest of this entry »

Star Trek: The Next Generation S1 (SyFy)

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Let’s get bang up to date with a review of a show that’s 25 years old, shall we?

Well actually, this is new – because the SyFy channel in the UK is showing the all-new remastered versions of the 1987 Star Trek spin off The Next Generation starring Patrick Stewart. These were originally created for a pricey Blu-ray release as the latest way of wringing more money out of the franchise, but they have also found their way onto a broadcast channel in HD.

Yes, the Next Generation is in high resolution. That came as a huge surprise to me when I heard about the remastering project, as I always understood that the series had been produced on video for cost reasons being a straight-to-cable production. That resulted in a rather blurry picture at the very low end of the NTSC conversion quality stakes when it aired here on Sky and the BBC. But it turns out that all the series was actually shot on film, and the film footage then transferred to video in order that the low-resolution FX work could be added at a more economical rate. Fortunately the production kept all the original film reels, and has now rescanned this at high definition to which new high-resolution FX sequences can be dropped in. It’s virtually a case of redoing the entire post-production process of each episode from scratch, from cutting and editing onwards – certainly not for the faint hearted.

Now, first things first – I don’t have a High Definition subscription on my cable service, so I can’t analyse how good the HD is per se. Sorry if you were waiting for me to do that, but at least I’ve spoken up about it early. All I’m watching is the standard definition version of the SyFy channel instead, at which point you might wonder if it’s possible to tell any difference from the 1987 aired episodes at all. Read the rest of this entry »