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Twilight Zone (2019): Season One

I am a huge fan of the original Twilight Zone, and have watched many of the 1959-1964 series episodes over and over again. Indeed, my family looks forward to the TZ marathon that the Syfy station puts on television every New Years Day. I also was a big fan of the 1985-1989 series, although I did not watch many episodes of the 2002-2003 series. So when I heard Jordan Peele, of Get Out fame, was producing and hosting this new version, I was in! Careful- a few spoilers in the following quick recaps.

Episode One: The Comedian

A comedian isn’t connecting with his audience when he is convinced to use info from his own life in his performance. The thing is- when he mentions people by name they disappear from existence, so he begins to exploit this by getting revenge against people he hates. While his new show begins to bring him fame and fortune it obviously comes at a price. As the episode concluded, it pans out and the comedian is found in a group picture that reminded me of the movie The Shining, plus a few people in the crowd had distorted features found in the original episode Eye of the Beholder. I was disappointed with this first episode, I believe it would have been better shown later in the season.

Episode Two: Nightmare at 30,000 Feet

One of the original series most famous episode’s had William Shatner (before his famous Star Trek role) as a passenger on a plane that was the only one that saw a gremlin on the plane’s wing, putting everyone’s safety at risk. This episode pays homage to that episode but with a more modern retelling of it. A man traveling home finds an I-pad that is playing a podcast about a downed plane, and as he listens to it, the details match with the plane he is on. He keeps on seeing signs that point to this flight crashing and he does everything in his power to prevent the tragedy but he ends up causing more problems for the crew. In the end, you are made to wonder was this disaster going to happen no matter what or did the man make it worse by getting involved? A stuffed animal gremlin, based off the creature found the original episode of this name, washes up on the island that they crashed on it the end.

Episode Three: Replay

A black single mother and her college-aged only child travel to take him to school through the mother’s hometown area, known for its racism. At a roadside diner, she playfully tapes her son on a recorder and experiences her first déjà vu that day. Later when they are pulled over for a traffic violation by a racist white police officer things get out of hand and the son is shot by the officer. She discovers if she plays back the recording she took earlier she and her son will go back in time to the diner before the accident happens. Determined to change the outcome she changes her plans, but no matter how many times she tries to alter the future, the officer finds them and kills her son. Finally, with her brother’s help, they are finally able to outwit the officer and make it to college safely. But it’s the Twilight Zone, so there is one more twist at the end. This was a very strong episode and should have been the first to set the tone for the remaining season.

Episode Four: A Traveler

A Christmas story set in Alaska, it puts a spin on colonialism and the white savior complex. Every holiday the white sheriff wishes to pardon an inmate in the local jail so one of his Native deputies reluctantly picks up her drunk brother, knowing he won’t be charged this time, to fulfill this sham her boss insists upon.   But in the jail is another prisoner, that no one arrested, who insists on being part of the party because he says the sheriff’s exploits are legendary. While the sheriff gets puffed up with pride, his deputy suspects something is amiss, and this Traveler starts sowing seeds of dissent in the community. This sly episode relates to fake news and harkens to the original TZ episode The Monsters are Due on Maple Street.

Episode Five: The Wunderkind

John Cho headlines this outing, which already elevates it, as I am a huge fan of his Lt Sulu role in the new Star Trek movies. Here he is a young political manager, who crashes and burns when the sitting president candidate whose campaign he led, is not re-elected.  He improbably takes on an 11-year-old boy as his next candidate who is a YouTube sensation and gets him elected President on a platform of change. Giving someone who is not qualified unlimited power is a recipe for disaster, and this allegorical tale of presidential madness can be directly compared to our current administration. It also had shades of the original TZ episode It’s a Good Life when a child begins to terrorize the adults who have given their power away to a little dictator.

Episode Six: Six Degrees of Freedom

Five astronauts are about to blast off to Mars when a nuclear war begins on Earth and they make the soul-crushing decision to continue with their mission- knowing they might be the only survivors and they will not have any help going forward. They endure some interpersonal drama but seem to be holding up well in the months it takes to reach Mars when one of the crewmembers seems to lose touch with reality and believes it is all a test and none of the crisis is real. Of course, there is the requisite TZ twist at the end for the long-suffering crew.  This was a strong episode that had me guessing to the end, and had a movie-type scope narrative.

Episode Seven: Not All Men

A young woman has a date with a co-worker to watch the meteor shower and when she rebuffs his advances he gets angry. The next night while at a bar with her sister and friends, men in the town begin to go crazy, and she believes it is exposure to the meteor that is effecting the men only. After finding her teenaged nephew who resists the anger, and the army comes to save the women of the community, she wonders if the meteor shower was just an excuse for toxic masculinity to go haywire. I’ve now noticed a few Easter eggs such as the number 1015, a Busy Bee Cafe logo and the name Whipple are cropping up in several episodes.

Episode Eight: Point of Origin

This episode has a clear message about illegal immigration when a privileged white woman, played by Jennifer Goodwin, is detained as an illegal alien. The episode begins with this wealthy woman planning a party, and you can easily see how she marginalizes those that work for her. When her foreign nanny is forcefully taken from her home, she and her entitled friends sniff that it’s the immigrant’s fault in coming here in the first place and they deserve their fate. But when she herself is placed in custody and interrogated, the first hints of her early life in another desolate dimension, are hinted at. The interrogator is the actor who plays Sarek (Spock’s father) on Star Trek Discovery, so this sci-fi connection was a further nod to the alienness of the episode. The ending was bleak, but I won’t reveal why.

Episode Nine: The Blue Scorpion

A man is shocked when his elderly father commits suicide, as he had been a pacifist hippy, and was not known to own a gun. Jeff is going through a divorce that he doesn’t want and this additional blow throws him into a depression. As he cleans his father’s house, he discovers a safe that had held the previously unknown gun and bullets, when he finds a bullet with his name engraved in it. He later begins to meet many other Jeff’s such as his wife’s lover and lawyer, and you begin to wonder who the bullet is intended for.  While the story is seemingly resolved in a satisfactory manner, there is an additional twist at the end, that is like a punch in the gut.

Episode Ten: Blurry Man

This very meta episode began with a story you thought was going in one direction, but then caught you by surprise by having the episode be about a writer for this Twilight Zone series. She lives and breathes TZ, and her complete dedication to it begins to take a toll when she has hallucinations. But are they real or not? Who the Blurry Man is (look for him in all the preceding episodes!) is pure gold. It was a fun and atypical way to end season one, although we never did find out the significance of the number 1015 or the other Easter eggs that have been sprinkled throughout the season.

This series was good- a real good thing (I just did my own TZ Easter egg!). It had some well-known actors and actresses take interesting roles, and they all did a remarkable job with it. After each episode, I went to YouTube and watched videos put out by GameSpot Universe that had excellent recaps, commentary and spotted Easter eggs.  The show was renewed for a second season, so I will need to continue my subscription with CBS All Access so I can watch it, Star Trek Discovery and the upcoming Star Trek Picard!

-Nancy

Star Trek Discovery: Season Two

I have a secret…although I profess my love for Star Trek, I have had a hard time following this new series, and have only very recently finished the second season although the finale came out months ago. In theory, I DO like this series, as I’ve shared in the posts I wrote about the beginning of Season One and then when I finished it. But each season I’ve had some time constraints that popped up mid-season and I had to put my watching on hold, and then I struggled with finishing the final episodes.

The first season was atypical to what most Star Trek series have been like, and I came to think of it as more Star Trek-inspired than truly a Trek show. With a mid-season break, the creators seemed to do a bit of course correction and tried to hew the last few episodes of season one towards established canon. Captain Pike, the predecessor of the Enterprise’s Captain Kirk, was introduced and it seemed as if season two might try to actually be more Treky. They even cast a new Spock to be introduced as a pivotal character as the foster brother to Michael Burnham, the lead of this series. I truly enjoyed the four Short Treks that started off the season as teasers for the regular episodes to come. But alas, season two went off the rails with an extremely convoluted storyline.

*Spoiler alert* At the end of season one, Discovery meets up with Enterprise that had been on a faraway mission and sat out the recent war with the Klingons. With Captain Lorca no longer with the ship, Captain Pike is sent over to captain the USS Discovery as the USS Enterprise is docked for repairs. This sets us up to meet a young Spock who is in the midst of a mental breakdown and not anything like what we expect from TOS. Spock and Michael are brother and sister as Spock’s parents took in an orphaned Michael as a child and their connection is forced and ridiculous. There is a huge absurd storyline about a Red Angel visiting at pivotal battles to help and it ends up with the two of them needing to save ALL HUMANITY with a time-traveling space suit. In the midst of all this,  a character is brought back from the dead and my favorite character Tilly has to fight the most annoying alien ever. Three of the Short Treks tie into the narrative at the conclusion, and in the end, the crew splits up, with some of them having to go to the future with the USS Discovery.

It doesn’t bode well that many of my favorite characters were left behind in their present-day, while Michael and many of the younger crew members were sent to the future. I assume that’s not to say we will never see them again, cause come on its Star Trek; but I will miss Captain Pike, young Spock, Number One, love-struck Ash, Klingon Chancellor L’Rell and mirror-universe Georgiou. Michael was really grating on my nerves, with way too much focus on her and her earnestness, so more of her next season is not appealing. This turned out to be a pretty negative review of Discovery, but I’m not ready to give it up yet. The recently announced new Short Treks look promising and I will be all in for the new Picard series next year!

Live long and prosper, my friends!

-Nancy

Star Trek Discovery: Season One

Star Trek Discovery has been quite a ride!

I had been anticipating this new series for over a year, but with several production delays, it did not premiere until September 2017. I eagerly watched the first three episodes and felt it was intriguing, although I had some major issues with the feel of it considering it is a prequel to TOS. I basically was having a hard time with suspension of disbelief that all the changes fit in with established canon. I then took an extended break from the show, as I was in my last semester of grad school and had to concentrate on my portfolio and final projects. It wasn’t until after Christmas that I binge watched all the episodes I had missed.

Watching the episodes in a cluster really changed my viewing experience for the better. All of a sudden I was immersed in the Star Trek universe and looked at it as a whole instead of dissecting the parts like I have tended to do in the past. With all of it swirling in my head, I was able to watch the final episodes as they were released and came away pleased with the series.

Image result for star trek discovery cast

I read an interesting article “The Fascinating Ways Star Wars and Star Trek Are Challenging Their Own Franchises”  which compares the new directions that both Star Wars and Discovery have chosen to take with their leads. I found I have some personal contractions in how I feel about these new antiheroes- for I was aghast at Luke’s portrayal in the recent The Last Jedi but was okay with how Captain Lorca of the U.S.S. Discovery was a warhawk and quite arrogant.

Discovery also changed up the pacing of the series with a prequel to a prequel in the first few episodes, with the series first starting on the U.S.S. Shenzhou and for it’s lead character not being a captain. The odd pacing also included what seemed to be a season ending arc concluding a few episodes shy of the finale, with the last two episodes taking a sudden u-turn that seemed to aim towards story lines that might align with TOS.

I think what has tipped the scales for me is the characters. I like them! They are diverse in the very best way. Michael Burnham is an appealing lead, whom I predict will eventually become a captain and be the one that will be included in captain montages with the other Star Trek series leads.  Commander Saru is a unique alien that has captained ably, but I worry that his quiet fortitude will be overshadowed by more dramatic staff. Crusty Lt. Stamets and his husband Dr. Culber are a perfect example of showing a loving relationship and Ash Tyler showed male vulnerability (before his huge secret was revealed). Sure, I liked Captains Lorca and Georgiou, but it is the regular crew that has elevated the show for me.

And Tilly- I shall devote a whole paragraph to her! I love her! She is me! She is sweet, and can often be overlooked or not taken seriously because of her kindness. She is curvy and has wild curly hair plus a parent that she never could please. But she is also extremely competent and has a steely resolve that takes some people by surprise due to her being underestimated. When her Mirror Universe counterpart was Captain Killy (she was bad-ass there!) I was thrilled. More Tilly please!

As proof of how much I like the show, when I saw the picture below- I teared up in happiness. Included are additional bridge members (the two on the left and the three in the back row on the right) who haven’t had much development yet, but have so much potential! The picture makes me hopeful that the episodes won’t always concentrate on the leads, and that lesser known ship crew can get their due. They deserve a #DiscoParty!

Was the series perfect? Hell no! I have come to think of it as not quite Star Trek, for it is a grittier and less idealistic show than I have come to expect. Instead, it is sci-fi adventure show that pays lip service to the series, and I suspend logic (Spock!) for the sake of enjoyment. It is quite rare for me to do, but my tendency to make mountains out of molehills would only do me a disservice and I would miss out on this flawed but captivating new series.

I look forward to season two! In the meantime- live long and prosper!

-Nancy

Star Trek Discovery

Star Trek is back on the small screen!

Now, I can’t exactly say it’s back on television, because that wouldn’t exactly be the truth, now would it, CBS All Access? But I’ll get to THAT in a bit.

So, this post on Star Trek Discovery won’t necessarily be a straight forward review, and perhaps that’s for the best, since I have the habit of being spoilery at times. So strap on your seat belts, because I have some OPINIONS on this new series!

Now I do not mean to shock and offend my Star Wars friends, but I love Star Trek more. There, I said it! I adored the original trilogy of Star Wars as a child, for it was a cultural phenomenon. But it came and went, and it wouldn’t come back until 1999. In the meantime, Star Trek: The Next Generation became my geek cornerstone. If you knew me as a child and teen you knew I had my geekish tendencies, but I hid it pretty well. I had watched Star Trek: The Original Series on reruns and had enjoyed most of the movies, but when TNG came along, and I was IN LOVE. The series ran during some of my high school and college years, but it was in college that I became a super fan. My sorority sisters knew when the show was on, I took over the telly, and if they walked in during the show I would excitedly give them recaps and tell them who every character was. That they were so accepting of this, and would buy me Trek memorabilia, is one of the many reasons that I am friends with them to this day. (In fact a group of ten of us are having a ladies-only winery tour weekend later this month!)

What does this have to do with Discovery? Nothing and everything! Having also been a fan of the other Trek series (except Enterprise-hated it, let’s never mention it again), I have been eagerly anticipating this new series. With production delays, my wait became longer, and then I heard the show would be moved to a paid subscription platform on CBS All Access. So lets, get this part out of the way- I am pissed that I have to pay a monthly fee to watch this show. One episode to get the public watching, and then the show switched to a paid subscription. This is a classic bait and switch. F*** that. I am already ripped off by Comcast, so to have to pay extra to watch is unacceptable. I do not watch much television, and I don’t believe I watch a single other CBS show, so I am paying $10 a month just for Discovery. It better be worth my while!!

So, is it worth my while? Yes (ish)!

I am three episodes in, and it is very promising. Discovery is a prequel to TOS, but it feels like anything but. I think prequels are always a dicey bet, no matter what the series. How do you show a time frame before the original, when technology IRL has advanced so much? I thought Star Wars did a good job visually with episodes I-III (but not so much with the storytelling) to match the original, but Star Trek doesn’t want to look as cheesy as the first set admittedly looked.  Ok…it’s a reimagining, I can live with that.

The narrative angle has changed for this series, as we follow a non-captain lead, Michael Burnham. The first episode starts out on the ship USS Shenzhou under Captain Georgiou, with Burnham as the First Officer. Burrnham is a human, but was raised on Vulcan with foster parents Amanda and Sarek, making Spock her foster brother. As the ship nears the outer limits of Federation territory, they run into the Klingons, who have not been seen in 100 years. Things do not go well, and Burnham makes a radical decision on the ship, partly fueled by her hatred of the Klingons, as they killed her parents when she was a child.

The first two episodes end up being a prequel of a prequel, for we do not meet Captain Lorca (♥♥) or the ship USS Discovery until episode three. The Klingons are obviously going to be the baddies of this series, as they have not entered into a peace treaty with the Federation yet as in the TNG era. Burnham is specifically brought onto the USS Discovery by Captain Lorca despite what she did on the USS Shenzhou (look at me- I avoided spoilers!) and a mysterious mission is under way.

The visuals are outstanding- film quality in fact, with a bit of an Alien movie vibe.. They have assembled an excellent cast with some big names. Jason Isaac is easy on the eyes, plus Michelle Yeoh is regal and my favorite Bond woman ever. Sonequa Martin Green is wearing the mantle of being the lead well, and the other characters are a solid crew.

But what I can not let go of is the new Klingon look. They made this alien species look so very different than the Worf-era look. You must understand- Worf from TNG is the perfect Klingon, and the series and movies since then have followed that template. In this series they are too extreme. While I like how the actors speak Klingon, with English subtitles, Discovery is pushing the envelope too far. They need to ground themselves in the universe most fans are familiar with and tweak it, not radically change it.

Another big variance is knowing Michael was raised with Spock. In a TOS movie Sybok, an older half brother was introduced, which many fans hated, so does Spock have even more siblings to be discovered? Why would the producers take a previous issue that fans had and add to it? I will try to be understanding of little inconsistencies, such as a Tribble on Captain Lorca’s desk (which should not have been discovered yet), because I aim in the future to look at the big picture, and not nitpick, thus ruining the experience for myself.

In conclusion, I am pleased with Star Trek Discovery. I just hope that it’s success doesn’t mean more networks will move to paid subscriptions for prestige projects.  Star Trek was created to show a united future, and making fans pay for it seems to go against that very notion.

Live long and prosper, my friends!

-Nancy

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