Category Archives: Blog

I Wish You Could See This ‘Cause There’s Nothing to See

I’m a great deal of things, but somehow remembering to update my site and talk about myself becomes a distant, far off concept that I lose a grasp on when I’m, myself, sort of aimless. Because that’s where I’m at right now: completely aimless as a creative mind and trying to figure out my next move.

That doesn’t mean that I’ve not been writing, because I have been writing. Not as much as I’d want to, but at the same time, life can get in the way sometimes. Not even just life, but my own mind can be my own worst enemy.  I’ve written a few sci-fi short stories and have been chipping away at another project, but I’m still not entirely sure what I should be doing.

Redundancy might be my motif on this blog, because there are countless posts on here about how I’ve been grappling with the idea of commercial writing and just writing for myself. For most people it seems like a simple concept: you want to do something, just go ahead and do it, there’s nothing to lose. For a writer there’s something almost comforting about the constant stream of rejections.

They suck, that much is for sure. For someone like me you end up in a strange in between world where the groundwork has been done through workshops, school and writing a lot of stuff that was bound for a heap, never to be read by more than a few people. At times I mull over the idea of going back to school for a master’s degree, or to try writer’s groups and whatever else, but it doesn’t click for me. Not that I’m averse to continue to learn and grow or anything, it just feels like most of the work at this point is just to write.  So, yeah, those rejections suck and are incredibly discouraging, but they aren’t without their silver lining.

My friend James sent me this Ira Glass video about “the gap” what feels like a million times (in hindsight, it was probably just twice), to the point of, well, redundancy. That’s my theme for tonight. I’ve been mulling over the idea of making music again to have another outlet for the time being. In part because music always feels like a safe place for me. I’m comfortable with music. I’m comfortable both playing it and writing it, as well as I’m okay with my skill level.

While I’m still not sure that I’ll delve back into music or not, it got me to thinking about what my influences were in music, what my taste was. It was an eclectic mix of things, because, that tends to be what I gravitate towards. I was always prone to enjoy the Axl-heavy Guns N’ Roses stuff, like Use Your Illusion II’s second half, Chinese Democracy and whatever else, just like I was a big fan of Roger Waters, Neil Young, Prince, Bowie and a few others. A lot of those things don’t neatly fit together, when it dawned on me that my taste in books is perhaps a lot like that as well, which is why writing sort of straight-forward stuff was as frustrating to me as writing and playing straight-forward metal music was.

I’m not really a metal guy, although I was as a kid. When it comes to music, I’m a lot more mellow now than I was before, which isn’t a surprise, but I still gravitate towards darker music at times. When it comes to literature it’s not that different. I grew up an obsessive Isaac Asimov fan, which makes one of the reviews I read for Terminus Cycle a while ago ring true when someone said it reminded them of early Asimov. We’re talking everything, right down to the books published after his death that branched off from the Robots series and were kind of sort of canonical. Philip K. Dick, Kurt Vonnegut, Haruki Murakami, NK Jemisin, Dan Simmons, Donna Tartt and Thomas Pynchon are probably, at least for right now in this turbulent mind, my favorite authors. Maybe Frank Herbert. Maybe, because I loved Dune and my love for the series dropped off with each additional book.

That list meanders between genres, skill and ideas, but that right there is my core. Getting over that fear of actually writing what I want to write is perhaps my biggest struggle right now, as is finding the consistent time to work on a project without losing focus, then trying to go back to it only to find that my enthusiasm as disintegrated into dust.

Just don’t ask me to write about Westworld. My god, I hate Westworld.

Star Trek Discovery Season One Finale: Eye-Rolls on Top of Eye-Rolls

Here we are, with one full season of Star Trek: Discovery in the books. Finally, after far too long, Star Trek returned to the smaller (and this time even smaller) screen and the verdict is mixed, at best. Star Trek: Discovery was an attempt to bring Trek into modern times, which meant marketing of really selling the diversity featured on the show, only for the showrunners to find themselves backed into a corner because they worked so hard at selling the diversity aspects of the show that, inevitably, they would fail because their intentions couldn’t quite live up to the story that they wanted to tell. First Trek gay couple! Oh, right, one dies in a throwaway scene. A character with realistic PTSD! Oh, right, he was really a double agent! There’s more, too, but the thing is, Star Trek has always been a forward-thinking franchise, which is one of the things that has helped it endure the test of time (albeit, older episodes still wouldn’t live up to modern standards, but they were trying), but Discovery’s big push on it ended up feeling like smoke-and-mirrors.

They just didn’t deliver on those promises at all, which shouldn’t detract from the show, but it does. The other fault of a modern Trek is trying to appeal to the Peak Television audience that is looking for really long story arcs as opposed to taking the traditional Trek route of telling smaller, more intimate and personal stories. Back when I wrote for Uproxx, I remember writing up stories about how they were touting that Discovery would be different because the show wouldn’t focus on the captain — oh no — it would focus instead on one of the officers instead. At the time, it was all well and good. Write it, nod along that it’s a fine idea, but really, why is that a radical concept? Was The Original Series the Captain Kirk Show? Not really. Was The Next Generation the Picard Show? No way at all. Was DS9 the BENJAMIN SISKO Show? I mean, no, although I’d watch the hell out of that. Was Voyager the Janeway Show? Was Enterprise the Archer Show? It’s no, to all of the above. While the captain may have been a big focus, these showrunners and producers somehow missed the point that Star Trek was never about one, singular character. Star Trek has always been a collection of characters that you learn to know and care for.

Enterprise, long thought to be the ‘worst’ of all the Treks, featured not just Captain Archer, but T’pol, Trip, Malcom, Phlox, Travis, Sato and others that were each given a spotlight. The most engaging characters ended up being T’pol and Trip and I’m not sure that there’s another way to view it. How many Voyager episodes were about Harry figuring out who he is, or Tom fucking around in the Holodeck, Neelix trying to help the crew, the Doctor coping with being a hologram, 7 of 9 grappling with her humanity and a whole bunch more that I’m missing?

Discovery decided to play up like it was a premium cable show that belongs on HBO, following the ten-episode format, being gritty and casting big names like Michelle Yeoh, but continually missed the mark in focusing on any of the characters at all. After ten episodes I’m not sure that I can name anyone on the bridge crew outside of the nicknames I came up with in my head for them. Does it really matter, anyway? They’re set dressing, but instead of the interchangeable extras that we saw on previous series, they kept the same actors throughout. So while a show like Game of Thrones or Breaking Bad will have multiple point-of-view characters, Discovery sorta just stuck by Michael throughout the whole thing. Every episodes saw detours into other characters, but Michael was always where they went back to. The problem was that a few episodes into the series Michael’s story stopped mattering. Her redemption, her guilt and her proving herself to everyone was just a formality so the story could move at a breakneck pace.

What better place to talk about pacing than in this last episode? Throughout my own writing I’ve found myself making mistakes, obviously, but it’s frustrating to see these mistakes made by someone still trying to really nail what his style should be being made by people at the wheel of one of the biggest and most beloved franchises in science fiction history. The resolution for this giant fucking war was, in a word, hilarious. None of it was in any way believable. At all. Let’s recap here: Michael accidentally starts a war with the Klingons because she was wild and curious, Phillipa sorta let her be that and encouraged her to be just a bit wild. Michael sees the Klingon threat and decides that Phillipa’s refusal to take action could get everyone killed, so she stages a failed mutiny. Her beloved captain dies while Michael is silently redeemed and forgiven, but nobody can see this. Michael is being transported on a secret ship and is just kinda let out and everything is forgiven because Captain Lorca is insane and willing to do anything to win the war. Okay.

From there we fall into bullshit about the mycelium network, Lorca is a madman by Starfleet standards and then the Mirror Universe happens. By now, nobody doubts Michael and it seems like she’s not just in the clear, but right on track to be second-in-command again as soon as the dust settles. Her story is pretty much over, although a love affair with Ash Tyler — A SECRET KLINGON~! — is trying to keep us interested in her. Now she’s just there, driving the plot forward for the rest of the show, with little flourishes here and there, until the end, where she needs to learn her lesson and recite it in front of everyone like a kid giving a fucking book report. The lesson she learned was that humanity needs to keep its humanity or else what’s the point of winning?

So EVIL PHILLIPA was going to blow up Qo’Nos to save humanity and win her freedom because conveniently being a genocidal maniac from a different universe meant that everyone could wash their hands of genocide, except Michael saw the folly in it and realized they had a Klingon on board the Discovery! You know, the one they kept there for THE WHOLE SERIES and only really served to be the adversary to Ash, as well as the one that was able to save his life later? Talk about a deus ex machina! Much to no one’s shock, she’s once again the machina needed, beamed down to the cave where EVIL PHILLIPA and Michael are debating ethics and told to basically take a detonator to her species extinction and threaten her entire race to rally behind her as the great leader and end the war. Why? Because Michael made a rousing speech to the Admiral, who apparently said, hey, fuck it, let’s do this instead of secure our existence?

But this plan doesn’t just work, it works within a matter of minutes. The whole big build of the first season of Discovery was to a Klingon with a finger on a button — not even explaining what the fuck it was or what would happen — and the Klingons immediately giving up on a sure victory to say “oh wow, we better just give up and listen.” The idea was that the Klingon houses were fractured by the war, all searching for their own glory over the glory of the Empire and that this move would unify them… But… why? There was no tension, it was just another convenient set of plot elements and twists to forgo telling an actual, compelling story.

Oh, and apparently Michael still needed to get pardoned at the end. Because they were letting her run around and do all of this shit while still a condemned criminal wearing a Starfleet uniform with a position on their best starship. What the hell.

I didn’t even get into how this show is supposed to be so much more progressive and how that means that Captains will now fuck scantily clad alien women AND men, not just women like in The Original Series.

Star Trek Discovery Episodes 13 and 14: The Overuse of the Plot Twist and Underuse of Good Characters

A good plot twist is enough to keep an audience on their toes, to keep them guessing and wanting more, but the thing about plot twists is that they need to be used sparingly. A part of what makes plot twists effective is that they happen when you either least expect it or when you most dread them. A good plot twist has been foreshadowed, either discreetly or directly, depending on the story being told. When a plot twist is pulled off properly it can feel overwhelming, exciting or even rewarding. So why do people, like myself, complain about them?

Watch Star Trek Discovery and you’ll see why. The sheer amount of plot twists that have been thrown at the audience in the span of just a few episodes is not just overwhelming, it’s downright ridiculous. Much like the early portions of the season, nothing in this series ever really gets a chance to breathe or take shape, instead it’s just a mad dash to the next plot point without concern over anything beyond BLOWING FUCKING MINDS~! Blowing minds is cool and all, but it can also feel cheap when overused, which is what we have here. I didn’t write about episode 13, What’s Past is Prologue, because, in my mind, it was going to be one line and one line only:

Another fucking plot twist.

I’m trying not to be too down on everything here, so it felt like a waste of time to just do that and post it, plus I didn’t watch it until Wednesday night or so. Stuff happened, it pushed the plot along, but there had to be another fucking PLOT TWIST at the end of the episode and this is bordering on parody at this point. Guess what? They came back, but it’s nine months in the future and the Federation is almost destroyed by the Klingons! This alone is a good plot point, but the whole Mirror Universe diversion was nothing but a series of plot twists to the point where I can’t imagine giving a shit about this. It’s an easy and cheap way (both storytelling-wise and production-wise) to escalate the Klingon War without having to actually show any of it. They want to convey a sense of being overwhelmed, of desloation and loss, but instead it’s just another amped-up way to tell this story and commit the biggest sin of fiction: telling and not showing.

I am aware of this because I’ve always had a proclivity of telling and not showing in my own work. Look, I kinda like exposition dumps sometimes, the same with skipping key action to get to the good stuff, but there’s a time and a place for it. Other times it’s just sort of lazy storytelling (myself included) and the same thing can be accomplished by being creative. This brings us directly into episode 14, The War Without, The War Within, which is perhaps one of the best episodes of Discovery and shows just what this series is actually capable of.

Star Trek Discovery boasts a great cast that works well together, amazing special effects and the Star Trek name. Those things alone are enough for most, but what really makes this show work when it does is just how well these characters interact with each other. The cast just gel and, for the most part, feel natural with each other. It’s the kind of thing that you usually don’t see in a Star Trek series for a season or two. Granted, we’re at the tail-end of this season, but still. This episode takes time to stop and let the characters interact with each other, to react to their circumstances and actually figure stuff out instead of dashing headlong into another quandary only to find things COMPLETELY DIFFERENT THAN EXPECTED WHOOOOOA.

The Ash Tyler twist was predicted well in advance, mostly because of IMDB snooping, not because of actual in-story clues, but whatever. Part of the annoyance of the reveal was that they had worked pretty hard to push that he was surviving with PTSD and trying to cope with life afterwards, only to say, “nope, he’s just a secret Klingon and didn’t know it! HA!” Thankfully, they didn’t stop there and are going to explore matters with him further, although it was alarmingly easy to get him all fixed up, wasn’t it? There are tense moments with Stemets and Michael, as well as getting to watch Saru seem to grow into his role as a commanding officer by believing in himself and his crew more. There’s also Tilly who learned by playing Captain in the Mirror Universe more about herself, her ambitions and the realities of war. This kind of stuff is indispensable, just like the Michael and Tyler interaction near the tail-end of the episode.  This is what this show should be and what this show has mostly failed the live up to. Star Trek is never about the adventures, the bad guys, the war or the action, it’s about the people and how they interact with the universe around them. That’s what this show has failed to embrace while trying to reach a broader audience and why people like myself get so frustrated with the show.

A show like DS9 took the idea of the super-advanced Federation, void of racism, sexism, inequality and poverty and explored why that isn’t always easy. The show placed a grieving commander in charge of a station that was once a mining prison for a group of people that were being oppressed by another group of people, who now all had to interact and live together. The show explored why there was a bad side and a good side, but that the good side had some really evil portions and the evil side was being defined by the evil actions of a few, not defining a race as a whole. We also saw Sisko reflect on the past numerous times and how humanity wasn’t always “good,” which helped to give further perspective into the ongoing struggles, I’d even argue with those episodes helping to frame DS9 as whole.

The Mirror Universe in Discovery was supposed to show the crew what humanity was capable of if it gave in to its darker urges, but it was perhaps a bit too over-the-top. We’ve seen the Mirror Universe utilized in the past, but the best applications were usually deeply personal to the characters involved and exploring their own duality, instead of trying to make an overarching point about humanity’s problems. Michael, out of her own conflicted feelings, saved Phillipa the Emperor and brought her back to the original universe, with her now playing a key role in the fight against the Klingons. The struggle that we’re supposed to be focusing on is how desperate times lead to desperate measures and how someone like Michael, who opened up the series by making a call that started a war out of desperation, now sees that humanity needs to hold onto that very humanity in how we conduct ourselves otherwise there’s nothing left after the fighting is done.

The Federation installing Emperor Phillipa as Captain Phillipa, claiming her to be found after being lost at sea — not actually an evil version of herself from another dimension — was totally fine. It was another twist, but at least this one had some build to it. Like I said, I mostly liked this episode and found it to be one of the best of the series, but mostly because it gave everything room to breathe and helped to pay off some lingering story threads that were left dangling while there was a lot of shooting, stabbing, kicking and probing going on.

Star Trek Discovery Eps 11 and 12: Hail the Emperor and Also I Am Son of None

I missed out on writing about last week’s Discovery because life can sometimes get in the way of writing something just for the sake of writing it. Truth-be-told, I sorta enjoyed last week’s episode and felt like the show was really starting to hit its stride. Sure, the show had a really rocky start and is still pretty rough around the edges, but at least they’re trying to work within the sandbox that they’ve built for themselves.

Spoilers ahoy.

So Ash Tyler is absolutely Voq, Son of None. All of the obnoxious fan theories said it would be true and yeah, they did an atrocious job of hiding it. Part of what was annoying about the whole series is the marketing and PR push behind it. They try to find all of these delightful ways to describe what they’re doing in the series, but most of it tends to fall flat in the execution. First on-screen homosexual couple? Yeah, one’s in a fucking mushroom coma and the other one was unceremoniously killed by a fucking Steven Seagal neck snap by the guy that discovered that he was actually a Klingon and can sometimes fight being a Klingon, but apparently not when it comes to people knowing his secret.

Okay.

I know that I’ve railed on this whole idea of “peak television” in the past when talking about Star Trek, but I stand by it: I hate the concept of PEAK TELEVISION and all of the ceremony that comes with it. I remember watching a YouTube clip from Sons of Anarchy where the cast shaved Opie’s beard after he was killed off on the show and it was shot in this manner of “oh wow this is such an emotional moment for the cast and crew, oh my god we’re losing a brother, but wow was a special fucking journey this was and what a grand story we are telling.” If you liked Sons of Anarchy, that’s cool, I get it, but man, it was fucking Dukes of Hazzard with a biker gang that tried to relate itself to Shakespeare early on, only to abandon it for convoluted plot twists and folk rock covers of classic rock songs to use during action montages to skip to the good stuff near the end of the episodes.

Last year I railed on Westworld for being so amazingly hollow and devoid of anything of value and, believe it or not, I stand by that. They tried so hard to establish an ensemble cast in the span of ten episodes while spinning up a complicated, dense story without doing much storytelling that when things finally happened it all felt so cliche, forced and ridiculous. A large part of it felt like pandering to a crowd of fans that love to theorize online, to wonder what the next plot twist will be and which trail of breadcrumbs they should be following in the show itself.

Look, there’s nothing wrong with foreshadowing your plot points, in fact, you should do it, but the problem comes when you’re writing just to make these big moments. Not everyone reading is going to have a background in wrestling, but it reminds me a lot of modern pro wrestling where wrestlers put on matches that are all about escalation of moves until they finally do something bigger and crazier than they have before, all of it to make the live crowd go nuts.

That sort of wrestling is exciting, but ultimately candy because it’s not about making the viewer emotionally invested in what they are doing, instead it’s about making them excited and getting that feedback loop with the crowd where you feed them something, then they feed you right back with applause. It’s definitely a method of storytelling, but it’s become so pervasive that wrestling itself is sort of bland. Maybe I’m just an old man yelling at a cloud right now, because I’m pooh-poohing these darned kids these days and what they like, I don’t know, but I’ve also got a lifetime of enjoying a lot of stuff and over that period of time have built up something that we call a “taste profile.” I’m not saying if it’s right or wrong, just that I do have it and this stuff feels pretty off.

So much of Star Trek: Discovery feels like they’re pandering to this crowd and not delivering on their promises. I’m not sure if these promises weren’t there if this would somehow be more enjoyable or not, but the Ash Tyler story isn’t a look at PTSD and the impact of it on a person, it’s a fucking double-agent story masquerading as one. The Stemets/Culber relationship wasn’t to show gay people in a different light in the Star Trek universe, it was to rope in viewers and then yank the rug out from under them and say, “see, don’t you feel something?”

Are we that fucking desperate to just feel anything that we’re willing to accept something this cheap as our emotional payoff on the stuff that we consume?

I guess the problem with me reviewing two episodes at once is that I liked the first one and now the actions of the second episode have bled into the first one, painting it in a different light. Because the last episode I didn’t particularly mind, but at the same time, fucking plot twists. Apparently this was also a big ole’ fan theory as well: Lorca isn’t the real Lorca! He’s the Mirror Universe Lorca! They have to spoon feed it to you so much that when it’s revealed that in the Mirror Universe humans have a negative reaction of bright lights they literally fucking blink to a clip of him reacting to a bright light from earlier in the season for Burnham to put it all together.

Lorca wasn’t a character that really fit in with the Star Trek universe, but instead of doing something mildly interesting with him by having him be different, perhaps even a dynamic character that grew and morphed, he was just a Mirror Universe baddie masquerading as the ‘other’ Lorca.

Stemets is lost in the mycelium network in a dream where he meets Mirror Stemets who is, of course, eeeeeevil. How evil? He’s corrupted the mycelium network to the point where the whole fabric of reality could be destroyed! Oh my! Good Stemets discovers this because good Culber is an apparition that appears to him in corporeal, mushroom form, to share good memories, to give a pep talk and tell him that to fix everything he needs to just open up his eyes.

They have a truly touching, human moment — one of the few in the series thus far — only for it to feel sorta cheap within the context because Culber died for absolutely no reason without being that developed of a character just to shock the viewer.

In theory I don’t mind Ash being Voq or Lorca being Mirror Lorca, it’s just when stacked upon each other like this it begins to feel like a bit of a slog. The show is setting itself up that nothing really matters outside of the plot twists and looking for meta-narrative on IMDB or in interviews with the writers or cast, which is a bummer. Michael was starting to feel like an interesting character and the crew of the Discovery was finally starting to grow some personality. They can still be saved, but damnit.

Star Trek Discovery Episode Ten: The Mirror Universe

The first season of any new Star Trek tends to ebb and flow between god awful and okay, sometimes even unwatchable. I’m not sure what it is about Star Trek, but the franchise as a whole has a difficult time introducing a new crew without fucking a lot of things up. That’s why the initial idea behind Star Trek: Discovery was so ridiculous: Star Trek as an anthology series probably doesn’t work. If you’ve been following my musings on the current iteration of Star Trek, you know that my thoughts on it jump between loathing and acceptance, but near the end it was more acceptance than hatred.

So we return from a winter break with, get this, an alternate universe episode. Aren’t those everyone’s favorites? It’s the Trek trops of all Trek tropes and they’re here to prove…. Something. I’m not entirely sure what they’re looking to prove, but once again, they feel a bit shackled by canon here. If you’ve watched Star Trek before, you know that alternate timelines, realities and universes play a key role in the lore of Star Trek, especially when the writers get bored and don’t feel like doing a holodeck episode or two. In this instance it is used as a way to move the plot of Discovery forward while doing something familiar.

This isn’t just an alternate timeline, though, this is THE MIRROR UNIVERSE. You know the one, where everyone wears black, has an edge to them or is downright evil? Yeah, that one. So, of course, the Federation is the Terran Empire and they’re evil, awful racists who fight the rebels, which are all of the alien races combined. The pacing in this was par for the course in Discovery, which means that it was pretty damned fast and left little time to really see how the whole thing is impacting the crew. In the Mirror Universe Tilly is a captain who gained her role by murdering her previous captain during sex, which of course, the whole thing is a play on her big dream of making captain and a joke because she’s so bubbly and sweet.

I’m gonna hit up some spoilers now, so if for some reason you haven’t seen this yet or won’t see it for a while, it might be good to skip the rest. Thanks for reading, though.

Some of the story beats were okay, some were rushed and some were so rushed that they came across as comical. Remember Stemets? How he couldn’t do the spore drive anymore and went catatonic? Well he’s now babbling about “The Palace” and nobody knows what he’s talking about, until about halfway through the episode it’s clear that there’s an Emperor and a palace and the plot is that Michael Burnham, a captain, went missing in this Mirror Universe to capture — get this — Lorca. What exactly is Mirror Universe Lorca like? He’s a freedom fighter who was attempting to stage a coup against the evil emperor while Burnham was tasked with finding him and bringing him to justice.

So yeah, Mirror Lorca seems like a pretty okay guy, which just cements further that real Lorca is oooooh bad. Okay, whatever. Fine. We get it. Remember the fan theories that Ash Tyler was secretly a Klingon that was sliced and diced and put back together as a human? We get a few short scenes of him having flashbacks to his surgery, he tries to question the torturer chick who recites a Klingon prayer meant to awaken him, which fails, then he goes to the good doctor, who is already dealing with his partner being violently catatonic, mumbling about the palace, to see if he can find any evidence that he isn’t who he claims to be. All of this when he’s supposed to go on this big ole’ mission with Lorca and Burnham to the palace to turn in Lorca.

The most perplexing thing is that the doctor finds evidence that Tyler’s bones were shortened, his organs were transplants and his brain was tampered with that was somehow written off as simple torture before? So he breaks the bad news that Tyler is probably a Klingon and Tyler just, you know, snaps his neck like we’re in a cheesy Steven Seagal flick. That’s it, it just happened. Recently I rewatched The Phantom Menace and what stood out the most was how poor the pacing was. There were points of the movie where they’d do really fast cuts from character to character to move the plot along and we’d be bouncing along a jumble of emotions, from sadness to elation to fear to everything else. It just made it all feel really, really flat. “Despite Yourself” suffers from this in perhaps one of the most vital scenes with a major crew member of the Discovery.

There was no emotional link, there was no remorse from Tyler over his latent Klingon side taking over and murdering someone he trusted, the catatonic Stemets just mumbled “the enemy is here” and that was it, that was the scene. No focus on the doc’s lifeless body, or long juxtaposition of his partner potentially having a scrambled brain for life and him being dead all because Lorca is a madman, just a shrug and “let’s get right back into the pew pew action!” Dr. Culber just dies.

This was so poorly played that there were pre-canned interviews released right after the episode aired about how “this won’t be the end for Culber, stay tuned!” It was almost like they knew that this was so hilariously bad, how it was thoughtless, emotionless and sends a strange message for a show that was billed so heavily about being inclusive where the gay Puerto Rican doctor was the most expendable member of the crew just to move the story forward. The original Star Trek had those red shirts for this very reason. Killing off Culber wasn’t more effective because we know a bit more about him, it was ineffective because we barely know enough to care about him. If they use some Mirror Universe or Spore Drive shenanigans to bring him back that just further makes it meaningless. Why bother?

There’s also the fact that Tyler’s turn was such an easy thing to predict, seeing as though they did a rather mediocre job of obscuring it, then sort of just dropped it altogether, then in this episode advanced the storyline rather quickly like they had forgotten to do it prior and needed to get his character to a certain point to bring him up to speed with the rest of the characters in the plot.

I get that PEAK TELEVISION has no time to let things ferment, but they really need to slow this show down a bit. Just a bit.

Star Trek Discovery Episode Nine; or, Is This Finally Not Sucking?

What does an out-of-work writer who is intentionally not working to care for his toddlers do with the few, fleeting moments of free time that he gets? He watches the latest Star Trek series, Discovery, then complains about it on his personal blog. Makes sense, right? Television is a pretty okay medium for storytelling and, when done right, can be something really special. Otherwise it’s either just there or it’s downright awful.

This week’s episode of Star Trek: Discovery was the mid-season finale for this year, with the show returning in January. Thus far it’s been a sort of bumpy ride. Sort of. The show started off giving off those strong “JJ Abrams” vibes with the action-heavy stuff that didn’t do much to establish the cast of characters beyond simple tropes before settling into the middle section where they did a lot of talk about characters from The Original Series with it all feeling mildly silly and like the show couldn’t stand on its own feet.

Then it finally started to come into its own. Yeah, there are still major, major fucking problems with the show and they are bound to come up again because, well, this is the ditch they chose to dig with this series. That being said, the final two episodes before the winter break were, well, pretty good. Last week’s show I didn’t have a lot of complaints about it. Sure, there was some bullshit, but it wasn’t astounding. This week, sure, there was some bullshit, but less-and-less of it actually mattered. The show actually felt like it was standing on its own and blending in the action well enough with the actual character stuff where things kinda sorta feel like they matter?

Sure, Lorca’s obnoxiously-cartoony ambiguity and “shades of grey” for a Star Trek world are still there, in fact, they are what led the crew to being marooned at the end of the episode. Why? Because he knows he’s in trouble and, once again, he’s willing to risk the lives of his crew for his own, stupid hide. It’s befuddling that a guy that killed his whole crew and saved himself, who is this insane, somehow made it through Starfleet’s rigorous command program. To top it off, nobody saw that he was unstable and undeserving of his own command yet again, well, until a few episodes ago.

They wanted to give him a medal, actually. Because he saved the day while completely ignoring orders. While this happens in Star Trek, often, even, there’s usually a base level thrown down of how important these rules and regulations are and that these captains will only take risks if there is absolutely no other risk. I get it, not everyone is a boy scout like Picard or as willing to do whatever it takes to do the absolute right thing like Sisko, but we’ve got years and years and years of this hammered into our heads: Starfleet Captains are the highest order of humanity/the Federation. The ones that aren’t are weeded out pretty quickly.

The show’s very premise is on Michael Burnham being not just demoted, but imprisoned for disobeying an order and holding what most would consider a soft mutiny. In fact, that whole thing has been more-or-less dropped completely, which is sort of astounding. It was a really stupid storyline anyway, but it’s just sort of gone. It feels like Lorca’s evil ways are going to somehow lead to Burnham not only moving up in ranks, but being awarded the fucking Discovery. Am I crazy for thinking that? Maybe it’s that I just finished watching season two of Stranger Things where just about everything that we called happening happened. At a certain point it just felt insulting.

The former first officer is straight-up dead because she was just as fucking ridiculous, stupid and cavileer with Starfleet regulations as Lorca is, leaving Saru. Look. Saru is a nice guy and all, but his complete inability to handle a first contact situation with the Pahvo and his aversion to any sort of risks sorta paints him as completely incapable of command. There was that one episode where he was in command and he was completely inept. They haven’t done much to build up his character outside of those two episodes and, well, he just doesn’t seem the captain type, does he? So there’s a chance that Burnham goes from detestable mutineer to captain of the fleet’s most capable and experimental ship all because the current captain is some cut rate villain that somehow completely avoided medical and mental scans to show just how fucking nuts and awful he is.

See, this show brings me to these strange asides. This episode wasn’t awful! I kinda liked it and it felt like the show was finally getting on track a bit. Because, like I said, it didn’t try to fuck with the Trek canon too much, it didn’t try to pander to older fans too much by completely destroying things that they vaguely remember, nor did it rely solely on action as the tool to propel the characters and the plot forward. Yes, there was action, but it wouldn’t feel out-of-place compared to, say, Borg-era TNG or Voyager where there were complex plans in place to fight off the Borg by outsmarting them instead of overpowering them. That’s what happened here and it was a nice, brisk change of pace from Lorca being a homicidal maniac.

The crew was left in a precarious position, with Anthony Rapp’s Stemets ready to stop taking psychedelic trips into the land of mycelium because it was remapping how his brain functions, only for Lorca to throw a wrench into the whole thing to save his own ass. So we have the ship’s crazy, unsustainable drive no longer functioning, its head of engineering probably fried, a Klingon torturer on the ship, the admiral that Lorca both bedded and abandoned to the Klingons to keep his post and they’re stuck in a location that they can’t pinpoint.

This feels a bit like Star Trek and I’m actually looking forward to watching the rest of the season, where I’ve been sort of dreading it prior. Good job.

Star Trek Discovery Episode 8: Okay, I’m Fine With This

Over the previous few weeks I’ve been documenting my odyssey of spending one hour a week (well, two on the first week) watching CBS’s latest attempt to bring Star Trek back to [sort of] television. At times it is painful, other times it is okay, sometimes it’s obnoxious and rarely it’s sort of fun. There are a lot of things about the show that miss the mark of the classic Treks, just like there are a lot of throwbacks to previous Treks that can feel trite and meaningless, like shallow attempts to satiate a fanbase unhappy with the direction of the show.

I’m an unapologetic fan of the Ronald D. Moore era of Star Trek, which was later TNG into DS9 and very briefly on Voyager when it was in its uptick. I even loved his take on BSG until it became a show about the ONE TRUE GOD and characters hearing All Along the Watchtower in their minds all of the time. Who am I kidding, I didn’t even mind it much then, either. That isn’t to say that I don’t enjoy Moore-less Trek, because I do enjoy it. I was able to get into Voyager eventually and while Enterprise had a god-awful start it really did get a hell of a lot better as time wore on. That’s what I’m hoping happens with Discovery, as long as they keep with this story, these characters and this time and don’t go for the “anthology” format they originally talked about.

My biggest complaint about this series is that it doesn’t feel like it can stand on its own feet. It’s trying to serve too many masters and, by doing so, instead doesn’t seem to serve anyone in the end. While I know people that are enjoying the show, it isn’t at the same, weird, fanatical level that a Star Trek usually gets. Inevitably, what I hear is “have you checked out The Orville?” When people are pointing towards the Family Guy-creator’s satire on Star Trek as a more authentic Star Trek, well, things aren’t looking great. No, I haven’t watched that show yet and I’m not sure that I will. So while past episodes of Discovery have hinged on cheap tricks with characters from previous iterations of Star Trek (namely from TOS), finally we got an episode that was so uniquely Star Trek that it was hard to dislike.

The plot was simple: the crew has discovered a planet emitting a message through this giant, organic pole and they wanted to see if they could harness this to help in their battle with the Klingons. Oh yeah, remember that? It’s kinda nice that we have a big story arc and that they’ve moved away from it being all-encompassing like it was earlier on in the season. Space is big, they have a starship that can go just about anywhere and there’s a lot to do. So here we are, on a planet with secrets, inhabited by, wait for it, the planet itself that takes form via an ethereal light, that is just looking for company. This is such a Star Trek episode, right down to one of the crew having his mind taken over by the well-meaning planet and almost sabotages the mission.

The episode ends with a cliffhangar involving a showdown with the Klingons heading into the mid-season finale and it’s all pretty much fine. While not a classic episode of Star Trek, it felt like an episode of Star Trek. We got glimpses into the stories of individuals on the crew during the downtime and we didn’t have to deal with Captain Lorca’s inane bullshit and whatever grey brush they are lazily painting him with that serves as depth these days. Like I said, mostly fine, kinda fun, classic Trek. Not a classic episode that we’ll reflect on for years and go back and rewatch, but a step in the right direction for a rather listless, ineffective ship that points towards the second half of the season being a smoother ride.

Star Trek Discovery Episode 7: Harry Mudd, Hardened Killer

At a certain point it’s an exercise in futility talking about why Star Trek: Discovery is disappointing, what it gets wrong, what it gets right, and why when it gets something right it can be more frustrating than when it gets something wrong, because you know it’s gonna eventually bungle the whole thing.

So bringing back the character of Harry Mudd is, well, complicated. It’s also not. The first appearance of Harry Mudd in the series was on a Klingon prison vessel, he was there running away from his crappy decisions. He’s skinnier, which makes sense, but yeah. He was slimy and looking out for himself, but that wasn’t exactly weird for the character. All-in-all, hey, it was sorta fun and harmless.

Then they brought him back again. This time he causes a time paradox to steal the Discovery where they repeat the same 30-minute loop, each time he learns another step in how to take over the vessel. The only problem is just how willing Harry Mudd, a character defined in his two appearances in The Original Series and one in the Animated Series, is to murder a lot of people to get his way.

While the original Harry Mudd was slimy and clearly a rogue, he also had enough charm and wit to where Kirk found himself having to rely on Harry Mudd to help clean up the messes that Mudd made. There was a begrudging respect that yeah, Harry Mudd was a piece of trash, but he was a cunning one with a broken moral compass, but one that still existed.

Rainn Wilson’s Harry Mudd was nothing more than yet another killer willing to do whatever it takes to get his way, which included feats of not just daring, but skillful infiltration that only a well-trained military vet could accomplish. He’s hiding in space creatures, starching people with phasers, setting off explosions that destroy the whole goddamned ship and all of it was so nonchalant.

The character that was established already would’ve absolutely seen a caper like stealing a Starfleet vessel as something within his grasp, especially while desperate, but he’d have some sort of miracle drug at his disposal to drug the crew to allow him to sneak by, or he’d have some gadget that made them forget that they saw him. He was cunning, not a guy that just ran out, guns a’blazing against innocent people.

Sure, further into his adventure, after a few cycles of killing the entirety of the Discovery and each and every time intentionally murdering Captain Lorca in cold blood, he was able to sneak through undetected, so in the final instance of this time loop he created he didn’t actually kill anyone. Still, he was so comfortable just killing folks that it sorta blinded out that they elaborated on this rather minor Star Trek character’s backstory just a bit further and found a way to give Rainn Wilson a recurring role in this series.

But it felt like further proof that the creators of the show just don’t understand the original feel or cultural ethos behind Star Trek. This darker, edgier Trek is just borderline obnoxious and canonically makes no sense. Here I am, at 34 years old, arguing about Star Trek canon. Look at what you’ve made me do, CBS.

Prepare to Talk About Everyone’s First Japanese Wrestling Tape: Super J-Cup ’94

For a while now I’ve been making periodic appearances on Aubrey Sitterson’s wrestling podcast, Straight Shoot. It’s mostly to talk about Japanese wrestling and, of late, older stuff. I’m 99% certain that in every episode I’ve brought up the Super J-Cup ’94 and how it was basically everyone’s first tape to snag when getting into this stuff in the 90’s.

So, it should come as no shock that we’re gonna talk about it this coming Thursday at 9pm eastern/6pm pacific.

If you’re a bit rusty on your Super J-Cup ’94, the whole thing is up on NJPW World. If you’ve never seen it, well shit. Start on page two and go backwards. They sorta give away the final match, but hey.

Star Trek Discovery Episode Six: Bound to the Past, Shackled to Canon

At times it feels like a broken record when it comes to the latest installment of the Star Trek franchise. The show isn’t horrible, but isn’t great, either, and it’s hard to tell if it’s just a good sci-fi show being held back by years of a franchise, canon and expectations on its shoulders or if it’s just a bad Star Trek show. Voyager and Enterprise had notoriously bad starts, but were able to salvage their respective shows by trudging forward, learning from their mistakes and investing in their characters more.

The news broke that Star Trek: Discovery was picked up for a second season and there’s still a question of if they’ll stick to the “anthology” style that was originally proposed to telling different stories about different crews or if we’ll stick with Michael, Lorca and everyone else that we can’t remember their names because they aren’t distinctive characters just yet. This episode didn’t really bug me as much as past ones, which is either the show beating me down and lowering my expectations or them slowly learning that Star Trek as a focused arc is kind of dull and doesn’t work if you have no emotional attachment to your characters while dragging a story out for 15 episodes. This isn’t a movie where the pacing is supposed to be quick. The first two episodes served as a de facto film to bring us into the time of Discovery, but the idea of the focused arc still doesn’t really make sense.

This episode could mostly stand alone, which makes it feel a bit more like a traditional Star Trek episode than most of the rest. The focus was on Burnham’s relationship to Spock’s dad, Sarek, who went on a diplomatic mission to negotiate with the Klingons but was the victim of Vulcan extremist terrorism (the fuck?) because he has a human wife, a half-breed son and, apparently, an adopted human daughter.

The biggest annoyance here is that Spock’s absence is felt because they mention Spock and he becomes an integral part of the plot between Sarek and Burnham. It feels cheap, much like using Sarek at all. The closer you hold this plotline and Sarek’s relationship with Burnham to scrutiny, the more it falls apart, though. That’s a problem. When it was initially established it was weird, but forgettable. But now they’ve really gone all-in on Sarek being not just a caretaker or observer, but her adoptive father and you get the full spectrum of it on display here. The gaping plot hole is that Spock, a character that is so well-established, as were his problems with his father, somehow never mentions that an integral part of his growing up was having an adopted human sister who was the first known mutineer in Starfleet history. She started the fucking Klingon War!

It feels like an odd and huge thing to happen in the Star Trek continuity to never come up again. While I understand the need to work in characters from The Original Series like Harry Mudd, bringing in Sarek and making him this important just outlines how ludicrous this all is. Michael Burnham is goddamned infamous to Starfleet, as she should be. She’s toxic and while she may go on to redeem herself here and make herself a legend (duh), there’s still the fact that this never came up afterwards that leaves this all feel hackneyed and forced.

Like I said, this episode wasn’t really awful. This wasn’t one of those JJ Abrams-style shoot-em-ups without any Star Trek in it. There was Stark Trek in this episode, it’s just that the Star Trek wasn’t exactly done well. What’s worse is it feels like this team in charge of the show does love Star Trek and is trying, they’re just bogged down by the restraints of being stuck in a strange place, canonically, with their hands bound. They’re always gonna fuck something up, they’re always gonna get something wrong. Why not just set it post-Voyager and let people who love Star Trek do Star Trek right?

I want to love this, but it’s just not easy. Side note here, though: they’re really repeating a lot of stuff, huh? Like, is Lorca’s tribble gonna hate this new guy or what?