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Doctor Who Edition: The Great Fandom Swap

With Michael of My Comic Relief

Michael from My Comic Relief and I have been good friends for years now, as we both started blogging within a few months of each other and discovered each other’s blogs early on. I even had the pleasure of meeting him during a family vacation, as my family and I arranged to meet up for lunch with him and Kalie, who writes Just Dread-Full. For awhile we have good-naturedly pushed the other to start watching our favorite fandoms- which for Michael is Doctor Who and for me Star Trek, specifically The Next Generation. What is amazing about both our series is that they both began in the 1960s, had a few speedbumps to overcome, but then were re-tooled for the better in recent years. So we both choose eight episodes to best represent our favorite fandom and had the other watch them, after giving each other some introductory comments.

This swap has been months in the making, as I mailed my Star Trek episode guide to him back in July and I slowly started to work my way through the episodes he assigned me. This slow going actually proved to be beneficial to me, as I was able to tie this post into Doctor Who Day aka Tardis Day, and I got to experience the most recent season coming to a close. To read Michael’s thoughts on the Star Trek: TNG episodes I assigned him, click here!

Michael:  Doctor Who is the longest-running sci-fi show in history so jumping in can be…overwhelming.  I debated choosing one Doctor or giving you a sampling of several Doctors.  Then I decided to chose “thematic” types of episodes Doctor Who regularly uses.  It was HARD not giving you any of Christopher Eccleston’s Ninth Doctor and I still don’t know if leaving the Daleks and the Cybermen out was the right move.  But I made my choices so allons-y!

The Woman Who Fell To Earth (S11E1)

Photo credit- BBC’s Doctor Who

Michael: This was Jodie Whittaker’s first appearance as the Doctor as well as Chris Chibnall’s first episode as showrunner. To my mind this regeneration episode explains the process and how all the Doctors are the same yet have their own unique personalities better than any other. Moments before the episode begins, the Twelfth Doctor (Peter Capaldi) regenerates into the Thirteenth Doctor (Jodie Whittaker). The regeneration energy damages the TARDIS and sends the Doctor plummeting towards Sheffield, England where she will meet her new companions – Yaz (Mandip Gill), Ryan (Tosin Cole), and Graham (Bradley Walsh). As a result, we see the Doctor sort who she is without her TARDIS or her sonic screwdriver as it was in the TARDIS. Oh, when she crashes and pops back up, it isn’t because the Doctor is invulnerable but rather, within the first fifteen hours of a regeneration cycle, there’s enough residual cellular energy to repair damage such as that fall or regrowing a lost limb.

Nancy: I was excited to see this as my first assigned episode since I had already watched it before with my brother-in-law Chris, who is a big Doctor Who fan himself. He and I had watched the previous episode, which was the last for the Twelfth Doctor when my family was visiting for the holidays, and months later watched this introduction to the Thirteenth Doctor. While I have been aware of Doctor Who for decades, and remember watching a few with one of my Grandmas as a child, these modern-era episodes are brand new to me. I had asked Chris a lot of questions at the time, so having this as my first episode was a stroke of luck as I had some prior knowledge built in this time around.

So the thing is when you get a new Doctor, you almost always get new companions. That can be a lot to take in, but the people that the Thirteenth Doctor befriends are an appealing lot. So imagine my dismay, when one of the companions dies in this first episode! Since this was my second watch, I obviously knew Grace would die, but it still stung. I liked Jodie’s take on the Doctor and felt that she was perfect for the role.


The Rings of Akhaten (S7E7)

Photo credit- BBC’s Doctor Who

Michael: This is my favorite “first trip” episode! Here Clara Oswald (Jenna Coleman) takes her first trip in the TARDIS after meeting the Eleventh Doctor (Matt Smith) and agreeing to travel with him. The Doctor does some poking around in Clara’s past because she’s a mystery to him; he encountered a version of her already in the 1800s and in the distant future buuuuut that’s not really important to this story :). Still, it explains why he’s confused by her and probing her past before he takes her on her first trip. Bonus! The young actress who plays Merry Gejelh is Emilia Jones who was just nominated for an Oscar for Coda!

Nancy: While I gave Michael a chronological journey through Star Trek: TNG, he did not do the same for me. He had his sound reasoning for his episode choices, but I admit I had a bit of whiplash as I watched these episodes, as they bounced around and I ended up watching episodes with four different Doctors. This time around, I was introduced to Matt Smith, who I previously watched in The Crown, so to me it seemed as if a young Prince Phillip with bad hair was gallivanting about space. And while Michael mentioned the child actress Emilia Jones later was in Coda, I recognized her from the three-season Locke & Key series I recently wrapped up on Netflix.

This series is not known for its special effects, and they seem to just lean into it, with the many different aliens looking quite cheap. I made a joke to Michael afterward that the show made the aliens from Star Trek: TOS in the 60s look high-tech. I noticed that this second episode also killed off an appealing character- Clara’s mum. But her leaf ended up being the most important leaf in history! When I mentioned this second death to Michael, he then shared that the series showrunners at the time were criticized for pulling their female companions away from their families, but that’s a digression for another time…

The Unicorn and the Wasp (S4E5)

Photo credit- BBC’s Doctor Who

Michael: This episode features the Tenth Doctor (David Tennant) as he travels with Donna Noble (Catherine Tate). They are a pretty heavy fan favorite Doctor/companion duo amongst Doctor Who fans. This is a great example of just a “fun” episode – as well as a historical episode – as the Doctor and Donna find themselves in England in 1926…where they work to solve a murder mystery with Agatha Christie! Doctor Who loves dropping famous people in their historical episodes and this is a personal favorite.

Nancy: The phrase I used to describe this episode to Michael was that it was ridiculous fun! I had heard that IRL Agatha Christie disappeared for a time and offered no explanation as to where she had been, so this was as solid an explanation as any. One of the actresses in this episode was Felicity Jones, who I recognized as Jyn Erso from Star Wars: Rogue One. I also know Catherine Tate as a comedian, so sometimes it was disconcerting to see actors and actresses I associate with other roles in these Doctor Who episodes.

The Zygon Invasion Part 1 (S9E7) & Part 2 (S9E8)

Photo credit- BBC’s Doctor Who

Michael: Doctor Who loves two-parters so here’s an example of that as well as a story which shows a companion traveling with two different regenerations of the Doctor (which happens sometimes but not all the time). This episode is set in the present day and it follows the Twelfth Doctor (Peter Capaldi) and Clara as they try to prevent war from breaking out between the human race and the Zygons, a race of alien shapeshifters who have been living as refugees on Earth for a few years. It also features UNIT (United Nations Intelligence Taskforce), the military group the Doctor worked with steadily in the ‘70s and has popped up semi-regularly ever since. It is their job to investigate the odd and unexplained and protect the Earth from alien threats. You also see Kate Stewart (Jemma Redgrave) who serves as UNIT commander like her father, Brigadier Alistair Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart (Nicholas Courtney), did in the 70s.

Nancy: These were my least favorite of the episodes, mostly because I didn’t connect with the grumpy Twelfth Doctor. And the evil Zygons looked like an octopus and lobster had an ugly love child together. I think the franchise needs to buck up more for the special effects. I also had to text Micahel several times to understand why there were multiple Doctors featured at the beginning of the episode, and why most are numbered but then there is a War Doctor. This can be a hard franchise to get into, as there are a lot of backstories to try to figure out. Luckily, Michael kept the episodes in the modern era, as there are hundreds to choose from since the franchise began in 1963. This two-parter had a good message, but I thought the ending was self-indulgent. It reminded me of Star Trek: Discovery which I feel tries too hard and is too preachy.


Blink (S3E10)

Photo credit- BBC’s Doctor Who

Michael: Always counted among the best episodes of Doctor Who in online polls and fan countdowns and critically acclaimed as one of the show’s best dramatic episodes, it introduces the Weeping Angels – creatures who have become as iconic as the Daleks and Cyberman (dating back to 1963 and ’65 respectively). Creatively, this episode sees the Tenth Doctor and Martha Jones (Freema Agyeman) trapped in the 1960s while Sally Sparrow (Cary Mulligan (two years before she’d get her Oscar nomination for An Education (yes, pretty much every famous British person has been on this show)) serves as the main protagonist trying to solve the mystery unfolding around her.

Nancy: The Weeping Angels were awesomely creepy! The beginning actually threw me off, as it seemed to be a murder mystery vs a Doctor Who episode, In fact, the Tenth Doctor wasn’t in the episode much at all. I’m glad Micahel included this episode, for I have perceived the entire franchise to be on the campy side, but this was an excellent atmospheric stand-alone episode that introduced new deadly aliens. I’d love to shop at the Sparrow & Nightingale Bookstore!

Can You Hear Me? (S12E7)

Photo credit- BBC’s Doctor Who

Michael: As Kalie put it when she started watching the show, one of the best things about Doctor Who is (as corny as it may sound) it makes you proud to be human. Garnering high critical acclaim and positive fan responses as well for its depiction of mental illness and the importance of mental health care, this is one of those episodes. The Thirteenth Doctor leaves Yaz, Ryan, and Graham in Sheffield in 2020 for some “shore leave” as she travels to Aleppo, Syria in 1380. A mystery stretching from Aleppo to the present will pull them all to a space station orbiting a distant planet in the far future.

Nancy: This episode was meh for me. I expected more because Michael hyped it, but since I was just dipping in and out of the Doctor and companion’s lives, this didn’t resonate for me as it would for long-time fans who are invested in the characters. I thought the mental health angle was solid, and I did appreciate getting to know more about the companions, but the time jumping took me out of the narrative flow.

Vincent and the Doctor (S5E10)

Photo credit- BBC’s Doctor Who

Michael: This episode just makes you feel good. It has everything that makes Doctor Who great – history, space creatures, excitement, humor, and all kinds of heart. It is often held up, critically and by fans, as an example of how compassion-centric a sci-fi show Doctor Who is. So this is our feel-good note to end on. The Eleventh Doctor takes Amy Pond (Karen Gillan) to Auvers-sur-Oise, France, in 1890 to meet Vincent Van Gogh and it’s all so beautiful!

Nancy: Unrealistically, I wanted a happy ending for Van Gogh that included ginger babies with Amy (Nebula from Guardians of the Galaxy)! I agree with Michael it was a beautiful episode, but the term I would also use is bittersweet- although they showed Van Gogh that his works would be considered masterpieces in the future, his demons still got the better of him, and he still had the sad ending. On a side note, I saw a very cool Van Gogh Immersive Exhibit in Chicago last year, so this episode was a neat connection for me as I had recently seen much of his work.

Michael:  I had twelve episodes that “almost” made the final cut!  Choosing which I’d assign you was so difficult!  But this was so much fun, too :D.  It was really special to share Doctor Who with you in this way – to give you a little sampling of a show I love so much while you shared a show you love so much with me.  I’m still unsure about leaving the Ninth Doctor off but his thirteen episodes feel like such a connected story to me.  But had I included any of his episodes it (probably) would’ve been either “The End of the World” (S1E2) or “Dalek” (S1E6).  I hope you had fun and enjoyed your time in the TARDIS, Nancy!  For anyone else interested in getting in Doctor Who, you can follow the course Nancy journeyed here or use this piece – “Should I Watch Doctor Who? / How to Begin Watching Doctor Who – I wrote a while back.

Nancy: So will I continue watching Doctor Who? Yes! I have already watched the last episode of Jodie’s Thirteenth Doctor and saw her regenerate into a surprisingly familiar face for the Fourteenth Doctor. The next episodes are a full year away (timed to coincide with the 60-year anniversary!) and I believe will only consist of a few episodes, before yet another regeneration occurs and we finally meet the actor who will be playing the Fifteenth Doctor in 2024. Watching these episodes has led to some nice communication with my quiet brother-in-law, as he texted me after the recent season ended to discuss the reveal. I had also sent him Michael’s list and he suggested a few others for me to watch, so I will try to watch those before I see Chris next. While I don’t see myself being a consistent watcher, I now feel confident in my background knowledge of Doctor Who to check out some future episodes, so this franchise swap experiment has been a success!

Star Trek Edition: The Great Fandom Swap

The following is a repost from Michael of My Comic Relief in regards to the fandom swap we recently worked on together!

Friendship is wonderful, isn’t it?  It can lead you to do all sorts of things you’d never do on your own.  I’d start listing examples but, c’mon, then we’d be off on a tangent (a beautiful, nourishing, and entertaining tangent to be sure!) which could fill pages.  Let’s cut to the chase!  My friendship with Nancy of Graphic Novelty2 – my oldest, longest, and dearest blogging friend – has led to an historic first.  I, Michael John Miller, author and operator of the blog My Comic Relief, am writing about Star Trek for the very first time.  You see, Nancy loves Star Trek and I’d never seen a single episode of Star Trek (only the JJ Abrams films).  I love Doctor Who and Nancy had only seen a few episodes in passing.  So, in the name of friendship, AMAZING THINGS, and blog content, we did our first ever Fandom Swap!  Eagerly sharing what we love with the other, Nancy chose eight episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation (her favorite iteration of the show) for me to watch and I gave Nancy eight episodes of Doctor Who

What follows is a unique piece, a sort of dialogue.  You’ll see Nancy’s intro material leading me, a Star Trek newbie, into each episode, followed by my thoughts, feelings, and reactions to the episodes as well as my general feels on wading into the world of Star Trek for the first time.  Enjoy!

NancyStar Trek: The Next Generation ran for seven outstanding seasons, but I am starting off with an episode from S3, for truth be told most series take awhile to gain their footing and attract a fan base. 

Yesterday’s Enterprise S3E15

Photo Credit – Paramount’s Star Trek: The Next Generation

Nancy: This episode was the perfect “going back in time to right wrongs” episode.  It features Tasha Yar, a character from the first season who had been the first Head of Security in S1 and was killed in the line of duty.  IRL the actress wanted to leave the show (so foolish!) and was given a rather ignoble death scene, so this episode in S3 gives her a fitting end, plus I liked the subplot about the possible romance between her and Castillo.  It also ended up setting up another amazing twist storyline in future seasons.  Some background knowledge: The Enterprise NCC-1701-D  is the fourth Enterprise, under Captain Picard (A was Captain Kirk, B was Captain Harriman, C was Captain Garrett). 

Michael:  My very first thought as I began my very first episode?  “Is that Whoopi Goldberg???  It is!!!”  I had no idea she was on Star Trek!  The size of The Enterprise is something my mind kept sticking on.  I’m not used to “good guy” ships being so big/full.  In Star Wars, the Rebels’ ships are so much smaller than the Empire’s and in Doctor Who the TARDIS is infinite on the inside but it’s always just the Doctor and a few companions.  To think of this ship’s “ecosystem,” as it were, is staggering.  It’s so much more “polished” than the world of Doctor Who, where the Doctor is essentially a vagabond setting things right where they find things needing sorted.  I got lost

thinking on the Tasha/Castillo romance.  The idea of meeting someone, having that connection, and then knowing they have to go back into the past which will reset your timeline and make you forget ever even having met them??  That’s a heavy thing to wrap your mind around.

It’s not as jarring as I thought it’d be, jumping into the world of Star Trek for my very first time.  My most vivid connection to a character from this episode was Tasha then Picard (obvs.) and Data and Whoopie.

Sins of the Father S3E17

Photo Credit – Paramount’s Star Trek: The Next Generation

Nancy: Worf, Klingon Head of Security, defends his family’s honor and has to make a sacrifice.  This episode really showed Klingon society.  Worf has proved to be one of my favorite characters, and later very capably made the jump to Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and helped anchor the series that was initially struggling before it hit its stride. 

Michael:  Worf is one of my most vivid Star Trek memories from my youth, seeing him in ads in my comics or on TV.  I always thought he was a villain (he kinda scared me) given the way he looked.  Since Klingons freaked me out as a kid, it was interesting to see an episode so focused on their culture.  They were as intense and violent as I would’ve expected but there was a surprising warmth and familial connection.  As I observed above, the very military nature of this show is so foreign to me.  I don’t normally watch or read things like this.  The hierarchy.  The routines.  The protocol.  It all fees so…strict.  I got a rush o’ feels when Worf asked Piccard to serve as his cha’DIch.  And when Picard replied in Klingon??  It felt surprisingly sweet for a show I was only on my second episode of.

The Best of Both Worlds S3E26 & S4E1 (two-parter)

Photo Credit – Paramount’s Star Trek: The Next Generation

Nancy: The Borg, cybernetic humanoids that assimilate individuals into their hive-mind, are introduced.  Captain Picard is captured and assimilated!  His time there would forever change him and would tie him to another character (Seven of Nine from Star Trek: Voyager – which was Captain Janeway’s ship) who also was formerly a Borg, and the two co-star in the series Star Trek: Picard.  This was an excellent cliffhanger episode and really made me anxious for the start of S4.  In the years since, the Borg have become the Big Baddies of the franchise, and are over-used TBH. 

Michael:  What came to mind whenever I thought of Star Trek as a kid, before ever seeing an episode, was their color coded uniforms, the shape of the Enterprise, Picard, the Klingons, and the Borg.  So to see the introduction of the Borg was exciting!  The Borg gave me major Cybermen vibes – a cyborg species seeking to assimilate everything and operating through a hive mind.  So this was kinda cool :).  This threat felt familiar.  It makes me wish I gave you an episode of Doctor Who with the Cybermen in it!  I get your anxiety over the summer, too.  My notes at the end of Part One literally said, “That’s where they did the ‘To Be Continued…’ cutoff??  How did people wait all summer to see the next one?!?

This episode was the first time through this I felt really invested in the story.  Like I was on the edge of my seat watching!  I also keep thinking of how often I saw the Borg, the assimilated Picard, and their big ol’ cube ship in my comic ads as a kid.  So much of my sense of Star Trek comes from those ads.  Going into the second episode, even though I knew Picard would be ok (somehow), I still felt a pit in my stomach as Ryker takes charge and Guinan gives him his li’l pep talk to do so.  My notes for the end of Part Two, “What was with that ending??  Was it just a sobering reflective moment or are they still in his head someway??”

The Inner Light S5E25

Photo Credit – Paramount’s Star Trek: The Next Generation

Nancy: Probably my favorite TNG episode ever!  Picard is always so stoic, but here he gets to raise a family and the ending will gut you.  The flute…tears!!!  It makes you wonder how long you yourself would fight against knowing you were in the wrong era/world and give in and live the best life you could under the new circumstances.

Michael: Knowing this is your favorite TNG episode ever had me really excited to see it!  I can see why you like it (and I don’t even have the emotional connection to the series/characters that you do!) and it did give me a lot to think about!  Waking up in a world I know is wrong but everyone else says is correct would be so overwhelming!  I presume I’d spend a lot of time crying and ultimately find myself committed.  Even if I had another family and natural supports, I’d be haunted by what I knew was right and what I knew I’d lost.  Could I go to bed with a women I just met who was certain we were married?  When would I commit to an illusion?  When would I accept it as “real”?

I figured out the twist when Picard and Batai were talking about the planet being doomed but that didn’t make it any less emptional.  What a beautiful reflection on the power and purpose of history!  History, when done right, should pull us into a people and we should come to love them – their life, their culture, their ways, their world – just as we do our own family.  But history often fails.  Though when it doesn’t, well it can forever change our lives as it did for Picard.  The flute scene at the end, while I was expecting something like it, was so poignant!  This was an episode!  I see why you love it so much!  On the one hand, my gut reaction was it was kind of a dick move on those people’s part, to hijack a consciousness to share their story with the world.  But as soon as I thought about it for a few moments I realized…what else is the point and purpose of history?  Yes, it’s hard but it should be.  WOW.

I, Borg S5E23

Photo Credit – Paramount’s Star Trek: The Next Generation

Nancy: An injured Borg drone is captured and Picard has to decide if he will use him as a weapon against the Borg, who have become a huge threat to the Federation.  What happens when this former Borg begins to demonstrate free will? 

Michael:  Seeking out an area “for colonization” carries a different connotation in our age of growing awareness of the horrors of empire.  Dr. Crusher’s immediate compassion for the wounded Borg boy was welcome, especially after their last encounter.  I really like her character for that :).  Picard plotting a potential Borg genocide with Data is not unsurprising (heck, Star Wars adores genocide) but it still makes me sad.  The whole military-centric drive of the show, in fact, is something that has yet to feel like it “fits comfortably” for me.  I love how the more Geordi gets to know Hugh, the more uncomfortable he feels with the program he’s designing.  Conversation breeds connection and connection breeds communion.  The last episode tugged on the ol’ heartstrings but watching Hugh voluntarily go back to the Borg to protect Geordi from their pursuit hit hard.  I just wanted them to save Hugh!  Why couldn’t they take him with them??  Why didn’t he become part of the crew??  Siiiiigh.

The First Duty S5E19

Photo Credit – Paramount’s Star Trek: The Next Generation

Nancy: Wesley Crusher, the doctor’s son who had been a regular in the first few seasons but had left the Enterprise to attend Starfleet Academy, is back in this episode and he is in trouble.  He and some other cadet pilots made a stupid decision while flying and a crewmate died.  This isn’t truly one of my very top episodes, but it ties in nicely with the next episode I am having you watch.  Aside – the actor playing Nick Locarno would later be recast and play Tom Paris in Star Trek: Voyager.  For legal reasons, he couldn’t be the same character in two different series. 

Michael: “Captain’s Log: Stardate…”  “Space – the final frontier.  These are the voyages of the starship, Enterprise.  It’s continuing mission, to seek out new life, to explore new star systems, to boldly go where no one has gone before.”  “Resistance is Futile.”  It’s so cool to finally be experiencing these classic lines for myself as part of their narrative rather than just hearing them as an oft quoted piece of pop culture!  Picard told Wesley the duty of every Star Fleet officer is to the truth – scientific, historical, and personal truth.  I really like this frame of what they do.  And I got to see future Earth – future San Diego, it looks like – for the first time!

Lower Decks S7E15

Photo Credit – Paramount’s Star Trek: The Next Generation

Nancy: We get a look at the younger crew members of the ship, and one of them is from the episode The First Duty.  This gives us a different perspective of the ship, seen from the crew who are part of the “lower decks.”  This premise is the basis for the new series Star Trek: Lower Decks, which is a cartoon, but ties in with the entire franchise.  A very bittersweet ending, but realistic that sometimes captains need to make decisions that they know could hurt or kill their crew, but is for the greater good.  

Michael:  In some ways this episode reminds me of Scrubs S9, with it’s focus on the ensigns on the ship and their concern about their careers and promotions and coming up in Star Fleet.  I was really happy to see Sito back from the last episode.  I like her.  Watching her talk with Picard in the wake of what happened at the Academy was hard.  We’ve all been haunted by mistakes but how do you come back from something like that.  Do you?  Can you?  I like how this episode explored that.  I love how often they hang out in the bar/restaurant on the Enterprise.  I like the overlay of senior officers and the ensigns playing poker – regular poker on a regular poker table

with regular cards – and chatting, too.  It gave a strong sense of continuity between those on the Enterprise and us.  It felt more like our possible future, you know?  Ok, so here are my literal stream on consciousness notes:

“If Sito dies in this episode…I’ve not seen enough Star Trek to learn their narrative rhythm yet but it seems like this could be setting her up for a tragic ending.  I am rooting for her!  I really like her as a character!  She can’t die here!  If I lose Sito after the flute scene and losing Hugh, I am gonna be in a rough place!  I am not comfortable with this whole hostage ruse/escape pod pickup scenario.  I am not liking this one bit!”

What a heartbreaking way to end.  I mean, it makes sense.  It is bittersweet, as you said.  And it certainly leaves me awash in my own emotions around the crew of the Enterprise.  Part of me is surprised I became so connected to these characters in just eight episodes – and Sito who was only in two of them! – but part of me isn’t.  I’m an empath by nature and I’m easily pulled into a well written story.  Also, Star Trek has been popular for sixty years precisely because it pulls people in like this.

Nancy: I hope you enjoyed your window into my beloved franchise, and if I had another episode I would recommend the last episode of the series, All Good Things, which wraps up the series nicely.  It had a perfect ending scene with all the main characters.  While of course Star Trek: The Original Series is the granddaddy of the entire Star Trek universe, I believe you can truthfully say it was Star Trek: TNG that revitalized the franchise, and all series that came afterward are truly based on TNG.  For anyone interested in getting into Star Trek for the first time, of course, I recommend TNG, but the new Star Trek: Strange New Worlds is absolutely fantastic and will make a Trekkie out of you yet!  In the meantime, Live Long and Prosper!

Michael:  I did enjoy this!  In fact, I enjoyed it so much by the start of “The First Duty,” I began to consider watching Star Trek on my own, making it another big series I explore alongside Classic Doctor Who.  This is HUGE as I feel I never have time for the TV people tell me I “should” be watching (in fact, I just wrote about my reluctance to jump into new TV shows here).  But I was open to – even eager – to explore more of the Star Trek universe on my own.  The main reason I haven’t yet was I wasn’t sure if we’ll make this Fandom Swap an annual thing we return to so I held off ;D.  But I’m SO GLAD we did this!  And I’m really happy you chose TNG for me to begin with as almost all the Star Trek memories I have from my youth are about TNG.  Now I finally got to see it for myself!

I chose to end with this picture as a) I mentioned above how much I enjoy the characters regularly hanging out at this bar on the Enterprise, b) Worf is one of Nancy’s favorite characters, and c) my heart still hurts for poor Sito! / Photo Credit – Paramount’s Star Trek: The Next Generation

Nancy: Stay tuned for my piece on Doctor Who next week!!!!!

Star Trek Strange New Worlds: Season One

I adore Strange New Worlds! While I have been disappointed with recent Star Trek shows (I hate Discovery and Picard was only been ok) this newest series hit it out of the park. I shared in a previous post that I feel the episodic storytelling serves it well- while of course there is continuity over the episodes, the self-contained episodes have been working to SNW‘s advantage.

Strange New Worlds

The first episode lays down some background for Captain Pike, establishing his knowledge of what he knows will befall him, and his affable nature as the first captain of the USS Enterprise. When his second-in-command, Una goes missing on a planet during a first-contact mission, Pike needs to work around Starfleet rules when he realizes the planet’s government has recreated some technology and possibly will use it as a weapon. This protocol breach results in the Prime Directive.

Children of the Comet

A comet is headed towards an inhabited planet, and when trying to course correct it, the Enterprise is blocked by a group of zealots who tie the comet’s journey into religious significance. Of course, the crew figures out how to modify its trajectory, and realizes that the comet is some sort of living entity. We have some lighter moments of seeing Pike host crew dinners in his personal quarters and viewers get to know some background on Cadet Uhura and find out the pilot Ortega is quite the jokester.

Ghosts of Illyria

A colony of Illyrians, who have been kicked out of the Federation due to genetic engineering, have disappeared and the Enterprise crew tries to find them. We learn a secret about Una in this episode, plus that the widowed Dr. M’Benga has been keeping his terminally sick daughter in stasis while he tries to find a cure for her.

Memento Mori

While bringing an air filter to a space colony, the Enterprise crew finds out that many of the colonists are dead due to a Gorn attack. Security chief La’an Noonien-Singh recognizes the threat since she is a childhood survivor of a Gorn massacre. (Aside- In TOS Kirk fought off a Gorn in a ridiculous wrestling match, and the actor in a reptile suit was comical looking, even by 1960s standards).

Spock Amok

The crew is given shore leave, and Spock plans to reconnect with his fiancee T’Pring, but is called away for a mission. There is some levity, with Spock and T’Pring accidentally changing minds for a time, and the serious Una and La’an trying to understand a bingo game that new crew members play. Spock and T’Pring show some serious chemistry (to Nurse Chapel’s disappointment), so I wonder how they will handle the relationship in SNW, as in TOS the engagement ends.

Lift Us Where Suffering Cannot Reach

This was a heartbreaking episode, as the crew meet a child who is doomed to be a sacrifice so his people can live in paradise. Pike is horrified that the child will endure years of pain, and tries to thwart the ceremony to no avail.

The Serene Squall

A space pirate captain fools the Enterprise crew for awhile, but then reveals her true motive- she demands her lover, who is being held by the Vulcan government be released. It is revealed in the last moments that the prisoner is Sybok, Spock’s half-brother, who was infamously in the movie Star Trek V: The Final Frontier (directed poorly by William Shatner). This movie has been derided for years, but hey, SNW is leaning into it.

The Elysian Kingdom

I loved this fun high fantasy episode! When surveying a nebula, the crew is knocked out and wake up dressed as fairytale characters. Only Chief Engineer Hemmer, who is a telepath, realizes that the nebula has a consciousness and is trying to entertain the doctor’s daughter. Later the doctor is given a heartbreaking decision, as the nebula can cure his daughter but she will have to remain behind. But the nebula is kind and will give her a good life, and the doctor can come back and visit her in the future. You can tell the actors had fun with these roles- they got to act against type and go full-out camp. See the below YouTube video for a fun preview of the episode.

All Those Who Wander

The Gorn are back! The crew beams to an ice planet to try to save the survivors there, but one of the main characters of this season becomes infected and they bravely sacrifice themselves so others can live. This death took me by surprise, and I was saddened to realize this character won’t be in S2.

A Quality of Mercy

Pike’s vision of his future death tie into this episode, as Pike thinks if he changes a few choices he can prevent his death, but a future Pike comes back to warn him that those changes set off an even worse chain of events. Despite this sobering news, Pike remains optimistic as he knows his sacrifice will be for the greater good. We also are given a surprise cameo of the future Captain Kirk played by Paul Wesley (famous for his role Stefen in The Vampire Diaries) and I like the casting. But in the last minute, a cliffhanger is established when the Federation shows up to arrest a member of Pike’s crew.

I really believe the producers and writers of Star Trek really took fans’ concerns to heart in this new series. The tone is much lighter, similar to the iconic original series that started this entire franchise. While they still tackle big issues, we aren’t burdened with overly long and dark story arcs. I like all the main roles, and I personally find Pike incredibly dreamy. SNW is everything I hoped it would be, and I speak for many when I say that this series is exactly what the franchise needed. In the meantime- live long and prosper!

Star Trek Picard: Season Two

As I said in my synopsis of S1 of Picard: While I had been fond of Star Trek (TOS) from watching re-runs, it was Star Trek: The Next Generation that cemented my love for the franchise. I have watched every episode of the seven-season series (many multiple times) and the four movies afterward. I was also a big fan of Voyager, DS9 and the Kelvin timeline movies but didn’t care for Enterprise and have found the recent Discovery unwatchable; so when I heard that there would be a new series about TNG’s iconic Captain Picard, I was in! Plus, I was thrilled that my husband would watch the series with me, for while he was a fan of TNG and DS9, he hasn’t watched any newer series with me, until now.

Overall, I was pleased with S1 which was set in 2399 and showcased the retired Ambassador, who had left Starfleet in disgust after they backed out on their promise to help the Romulan population escape a planet-destroying catastrophe, as he covertly worked with some “synths” (like his former crewmate and friend Data). Picard works with a new crew but a highlight was Picard working with Riker and Troi from TNG, who are now married parents, but I missed the original crew.

Set two years later in 2401, this time the premise is that the alien Q traps Picard and many of the S1 crew in an alternate reality, and they must travel back in time to the 21st century to save the future of the galaxy. First off, I have to say- I have always hated Q. That the entire second season revolves around his whims, already set me on edge. While they brought everyone back from S1, a few characters’ roles were reduced, which was fine with me, as I hadn’t really jelled with everyone.

Having Star Trek episodes set in our era is an easy way for producers to save money on sets and costumes, but is overused, paling in comparison to when TOS utilized it in the movie Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home. In fact, there is an awesome Easter egg that connects that movie to this series (hint-they both take plus on a bus) that had me so excited that I rewound it a few times to enjoy it again. There is also a connection to TNG when we meet a younger Guinan before she and Picard meet officially in the future. One other character falls in love with a doctor, and predictably but implausibly chooses to remain behind with her once the mission is over. The Borg Queen is merged with someone else, making them less evil, but TBH, I’m a bit confused if that changes the future. Finally, we are given a surprise (and kinda weird) cameo by Wil Wheaton as Wesley Crusher, with the show doubling down on him remaining a Traveler (even though he didn’t seem to be one when he returned for Riker & Troi’s wedding in the movie Star Trek: Nemesis).

All in all, this was a mediocre and uneven season. But then I found out they are bringing back the original TNG crew in season three!!!! Forget about everything else- we will see Worf, Geordi, Crusher, Riker, and Troi again. So while I eagerly await the third and final season of Picard, I wish that you may live long and prosper!

Sorry Picard crew, I want the TNG crew back!

Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan

It has been 40 years since the second Star Trek film, The Wrath of Khan, was released in the theatres. This now classic film saved the franchise, as the first movie had been rather underwhelming. When my oldest son told me that Fathom Events was sponsoring the movie for a week in the theatres and wanted to know if I’d like to go, I was ALL IN! While Star Wars has been an easy sell to my children, and all three are fans of that franchise, sadly, none (until now) have shown any interest in the Star Trek universe.

In preparation for watching the movie, we first watched the episode Space Seed (1967) which was one of the last episodes of season one of TOS. My God- was it equal parts awesome and cringy! The Enterprise crew come upon an old spaceship of 1990s origin, a time referred to as WWIII and the Eugenics War, thus records were spotty during that era. The ship is named Botany Bay, in reference to the penal colony of Australia from the late 1700s to the early 1800s. Kirk, Spock, Scotty and ship historian McGivers beam down and find 70+ people in deep hypersleep. The first to revive was no other than Khan Noonoen Singh, a genetically enhanced human who ruled much of Earth in the 1990s. McGiver is much taken by him, attracted to his charisma, and the feeling is mutual. As the rest of his followers awaken, he convinces McGivers to help him overthrow the Enterprise, in a disturbing masochistic scene. Of course, they don’t succeed, and in a surprising move, Kirk offers them sanctuary on a nearby uninhabited planet, with McGivers very willingly choosing to go with Khan. In the last lines of the episode, Spock and Kirk ponder what their society will be like 100 years from now.

Flash forward fifteen years, and Kirk has now been promoted to Admiral but a recent birthday makes him feel old and out-of-touch. Spock and Scotty are training a new batch of recruits on the Enterprise while it is docked, and Kirk, Bones, Uhura and Sulu head to the ship together for a tour. In the meantime, Chekov, who is now a first officer on another ship, and his captain encounter Khan and his remaining crew on the now desolate desert planet, that was knocked off orbit six months after they arrived. Khan’s wife and many of his followers are dead and he wants vengeance! This all ties in with a group of scientists who are developing the Genesis device, that alters dead matter into new life. Khan is able to use Chekov’s ship to capture the Genesis tool and they go into battle with Kirk and his ship of young and untested crew members. While Khan has the chance to escape with his followers with an incredible cargo, instead he is a revenge-obsessed megalomaniac, who is determined to make Kirk pay. An epic battle and a devastating sacrifice are made, while these two men helm their ships in a game of cat and mouse.

While I had seen both the original episode and the movie years ago, it was obviously the first time for both for my son. He laughed at the sexism (both unintentional and intentional) found in Space Seed, but he was impressed with the movie and now wants to watch the fourth movie, The Voyage Home (the one with the whales!) with me in the future. As with books and movies you revisit years later, you pick up on new things that you didn’t notice or had forgotten about. Why was Khan now so old, yet his followers were so young? I was glad that my son also noticed the glaring inconsistency with Chevok (which the actor later admitted knowing about, but he didn’t want to ruin his chance for a juicy scene) but I was truly bothered by the lack of character development that was given to Uhura and Sulu. In light of Nichelle Nichol’s recent death, it made me angry to see how little they gave her and some of the other characters to do in these movies. I still cried at Spock’s sacrifice and admired the brio Ricardo Montalban brought to the role of Khan.

This was a fun experience to share with my son, and reminded me why I became a fan of Star Trek so many years ago. Live long and prosper, my friends!

This much-parodied line is the best!

Star Trek: Strange New Worlds

I LOVE Strange New Worlds! I now consider it one of the best Star Trek shows, giving my beloved The Next Generation a run for its money.

I have to admit I have been disappointed with Trek for many years now- although I will always be a die-hard Trekkie. As a child, I watched re-run TOS episodes and watched all of the original movies, but it wasn’t until college that I became a true fan because of TNG and Captain Picard’s tenure. I also adored Captain Sisko’s DS9 and Captain Janeway’s Voyager series. However, I was disappointed with Captain Archer’s Enterprise, which I considered not up to par and not Trekkie enough, but now it has moved far up in my estimation due to my extreme dislike for Discovery. The new Picard series has been good but doesn’t have the same appeal as TNG (but the original crew will be back for S3!).

Many Star Trek fans have been very critical of Discovery and accused it of being too “woke”, and for awhile I tried my best to embrace the show, but eventually I gave up early into its third season. The main character Michael Burnham was much too much for me, it had long convoluted storylines, and it kept on introducing new characters and ignoring its bridge crew. The only bright spot was the second season was when Captain Pike, who was Captain Kirk’s predecessor, came aboard to help the USS Discovery crew. He brought along a young Spock who had a ridiculous plot line with Burnham, and these two plus Pike’s second-in-command Una became fan favorites.

These three hit it out of the park on Discovery and are anchoring SNW!

Anson Mount has done an admirable job of playing Captain Christopher Pike, a role originated by Jeffrey Hunter in the 1960s. Hunter shot the original pilot for Star Trek, but tv execs wanted to re-tool the concept, and Hunter was let go and replaced by William Shatner who played Captain Kirk. Only the character Spock, played by Leonard Nimoy, was kept, and eventually, the footage of the first pilot was brilliantly worked into the episode The Menagerie linking Spock and the two captains of the Enterprise. That episode establishes that Pike will have a terrible accident and he will become disfigured and live his final years on an alien planet. Strange New Worlds is a prequel, as was Discovery for the first two years (before they jettisoned into the far future-gah!), so the specter of the accident hangs over the dashing Pike who has had a vision of his fate.

The original pilot, in addition to Captain Pike and Spock, featured Pike’s second in command Una Chin-Riley whom he typically called Number One. She was played by creator Gene Roddenberry’s soon-to-be IRL wife, Majel Barrett, who later played Nurse Chapel on TOS and Counselor Troi’s mother on TNG. Plus, we have more familiar characters- Doctor M’Benga who served under both Pike and Kirk, Nurse Chapel (which is funny because Majel Barrett played both her and Una), La’an Noonien-Singh who is a descendent of the famous Khan from Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan movie, Spock’s fiancee T’Pring, and best of all a young Nyota Uhura. Then there are a few new characters such as the brash pilot Ortegas, and the gruff blind engineer Hemmer.

This season had ten episodes, which nowadays is considered a full season, and every single one was excellent. The first episode laid down some background for Captain Pike, establishing his knowledge of what he knows will befall him, and his affable nature as the first captain of the USS Enterprise. We meet all the characters I mentioned in the above paragraph, and as the season progresses we get to know every single one of them. What I found a problem on TOS and on Discovery (but not so much on TNG, DS9, Voyager or Enterprise) is that some people fade into the background and they concentrate too much on only a handful of the main characters. Of course, a series can’t always be equal, and some characters will naturally get the main storylines, but they seem to be really trying to flesh out all of these characters and also a few others on the ship.

The episodic storytelling is going well- while of course there is continuity over the episodes, the self-contained episodes have been working to SNW‘s advantage. They have been able to have episodes that center on certain characters, and have some dark storylines but also have some comedic moments, with one episode going full-out fantasy. In fact, I will have a future post just centering on the episodes!

All in all, this new series has hit the sweet spot for me and many other Star Trek fans. I look forward to season two and picking up the threads that were left in the finale. In the meantime- live long and prosper my friends!

Fiction’s Fearless Females: Star Trek’s Beverly Crusher & Deanna Troi

As Women’s History Month draws to a close, I am concluding our Fiction’s Fearless Females series with two Star Trek friends, Doctor Beverly Crusher and Counselor Deanna Troi. This is the fourth year that Kathleen and I have participated in this series and joining us is Michael of My Comic Relief, Kalie of Just Dread-full, and Jeff of The Imperial Talker.  What is wonderful about this series, is there are no winners, as each woman featured is fabulous and ALL are deserving of praise!

Star Trek is my favorite fandom, as many of the posts on my blog revolve around the movies, television and web series that have been inspired by the original classic. While some of my previous posts were about the iconic Lieutenant Nyota Uhura and the indomitable Captain Janeway, here I picked a duo who were on the series The Next Generation, which is the series that forever cemented me as a Trekkie. Many of our FFF posts this year have centered around female friendships, so these two women aboard the Enterprise-D came immediately to mind.

The Next Generation was the first Star Trek to feature a brand new crew (there had been Star Trek: The Animated Series in the 70s and there had been the movies, but both utilized the original crew) so establishing a new set of characters is a fraught move, as you want everyone to work well together. And while I could wax poetic about my favorite Trek show’s crew, I want to feature the two characters that ended up standing out to me.

Hanging out when off duty

Authentic female friendship representation in books, tv shows and movies is scarce. Perhaps you have heard of the Bechdel Test, which is a measure of the representation of women in fiction. It asks whether a work features at least two women who talk to each other about something other than a man. So often the only time you see females interact is because it somehow revolves around a man, or the women are being snarky and undermining one another. I think there is more effort nowadays to represent female friendships, but when this show was on the air from 1987 to 1994 it was still rare.

Doctor Beverly Crusher was introduced as the ship’s doctor, a widowed mother whose teenage son Wesley later became an ensign on the ship. Counselor Deanna Troi was a half-alien empath who gave counsel to Captain Picard and offered much-needed counseling to the crew during their long space journies. The first season was a bit dicey, establishing the tone of the show and fleshing out the characters and how they related to one another. The character of the doctor was off the ship during the second season, but once back on during the third season and onward, Crusher and Troi’s friendship developed in a believable manner.

At this time IRL, I was in high school and college and developing my own female friendships, some of which were fleeting, while others I still have to this day. I have seen females support one another, and others backstab one another, but in this ideal, Crusher and Troi rocked their friendship. Sure there were times that they met to talk about men (the below picture of them meeting to exercise showcased a bawdy conversation between the two that was refreshing to hear) but talking freely and without judgment is a true indicator of the realness of a friendship.

Meeting to exercise and gossip

Another plus with these women is their development in their professional life on the Enterprise. The actresses were hired partly because of their beauty and their potential to be love interests (Crusher with Captain Picard and Troi with Commander Riker) but they were able to grow as officers on the ship. Both characters retained their original jobs, but got command experience and moved up in ranks during their tenure on the Enterprise. And they supported each other as they moved through the ranks.

I have been blessed with some wonderful friendships, many of them lasting for decades, and I realize that it takes time and effort to maintain them. But I truly think watching women who developed a genuine friendship and who supported one another, during a critical time in my life, helped shape my ideas of the worthiness of prioritizing friendships and extending kindness to others.

Crusher was at Troi’s side when she married Riker

Star Trek presents an idealistic and Utopian future, with Earth moving past its racial and cultural differences, and ready to explore space. The tagline was “Space: the final frontier. These are the voyages of the starship Enterprise. Its five-year mission: to explore strange new worlds. To seek out new life and new civilizations. To boldly go where no man has gone before!”.  And boldly go it did- the series has given us many iconic friendships (both male and female)- and seeing people look for connections and community in the future is something we can all aspire to.

Live Long and Prosper, my friends.

-Nancy

My post is the last in this year’s series, so make sure you check out the previous entries:

Michael of My Comic Relief- Harley Quinn & Poison Ivy

Kalie of Just Dread-Full- Ellie and Sandie from Last Night in Soho

Kathleen- Black Canary/Birds of Prey

Jeff of The Imperial Talker- Shmi Skywalker

Please give them a follow to catch their posts as all have great content outside of #FFF!

TV series + four movies together!

Fiction’s Fearless Females: Lieutenant Nyota Uhura

In celebration of Women’s History Month and for my entry in this year’s Fiction’s Fearless Females series, I am choosing Star Trek’s original fearless female – the one and only Lieutenant Nyota Uhura!  This is the third year that Kathleen and I have participated in this series and joining us is Michael of My Comic Relief, Jesse of the newly revived Green Onion, Kalie of Just Dread-full, and Jeff of The Imperial Talker. Please give them a follow to catch their posts (all have great content outside of #FFF), or look out for them here, throughout the month. 

My first entry in this series was the brilliant Captain Janeway of the Star Trek Voyager series and my second was the ever-vigilant Sarah Connor of the Terminator movies. For my third entry, I circled back to Star Trek and choose Uhura, for all strong female Star Trek characters owe a debt of gratitude to her. Beautiful, smart, ambitious, and an equal to the men – she is the original Star Trek role model. Even Uhura’s name has important meaning – Nyota means star in Lingala, a language from the Democratic Republic of Congo, while Uhura is the Swahili word for freedom.

Star Trek is my favorite fandom, as many of the posts on my blog revolve around the movies, television and web series that have been inspired by the original classic. The series was conceived by Gene Roddenberry to present an optimistic view of life in the future and show a diverse crew, thus actress Nichelle Nichols was cast as a 23rd-century Starfleet officer aboard the U.S.S. Enterprise and she served as a communications officer. The crew’s mission was “to explore strange new worlds; to seek out new life and new civilizations; to boldly go where no man has gone before.” Fluent in a myriad of languages, human and alien, not only was she head of the communications department but she was an excellent bridge officer, as she could additionally work the helm, navigation, and science stations as needed.

The show debuted in 1966 and was groundbreaking because of its disparate cast, and Uhura’s role as a professional Black woman was a rarity on television, as they were usually relegated to portraying characters with menial jobs. Now I am going to take a brief detour here and mention that IRL Nichelle Nichols was not only an actress, she was a singer and was hoping for some Broadway success, so she briefly considered leaving Star Trek to pursue other creative opportunities. She told creator and producer Roddenberry that she wanted to leave, but before she made her final decision she attended a National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) luncheon and was introduced to Martin Luther King Jr. He wanted to meet her and express his admiration for her, as Star Trek was one the only shows he let his children watch, as Uhura was an example he held up to them, as what could be achieved in the future. Shocked and thrilled by his words, she stayed with the show, and the rest is history. For an exaggerated but hysterical reenactment of this incident, watch the Drunk History video – Nichelle Nichols Lives Boldly – at the end of this post!

Another pioneering moment in the Star Trek franchise was the first interracial kiss shown on US television between a Black woman and a white man that involved Uhura and Captain Kirk. Lore has it that producers were worried that the kiss would run up against Southern censors so they were supposed to film two versions – one with a kiss and one without. But Nichols and co-star William Shatner deliberately messed up the without-a-kiss scene, so that the kiss scene would have to be used. That indeed was a fearless move, for everyone involved knew that interracial relationships were taboo and in some places against the law at that time.

The Enterprise’s five-year mission proved to be only three, but Uhura’s story did not end there. A few years later in 1973 Star Trek: The Animated Series gave the crew another year on the ship (and this animated series gave her some surprisingly good plotlines), and in 1979 Star Trek: The Motion Picture premiered in the theatres. Uhura would play an integral part in the six theatre movies that spanned twelve years. While Kirk, Spock and Bones always got the lion’s share of character development; Uhura, Sulu, Scotty and Chekov were shown as moving up in rank and with key moments hinging on their assistance. In fact, Uhura continued to be an influential character, as she was shown as a mature woman who was lovely, capable, professional and didn’t need a man to fulfill her life. She put her career first, and the universe was better for it, as she is now ranked as a Commander (and Admiral in some non-canon books and movies) in Starfleet.

Star Trek presents an idealistic and Utopian future, with the Earth moving past its racial and cultural differences, and ready to explore space. Its opening line, “Space, the final frontier…” proved prophetic, as I must once again mention Uhura’s real-life counterpart Nichols, as she became a space ambassador for NASA from 1977-2015 and helped recruit diverse astronauts, including women and minorities such as Mae Jemison. Uhura and Nichols have merged into one incredible icon – who is fine, fierce, and fearless!

As I wrap up this post, I now pass the baton to Kalie who is planning to write about Norma Bates from the Bates Hotel (of Psycho fame). Bringing us home will be Jeff with a post on Nomi Sunrider from Star Wars Legends. Please check in weekly as this series unfolds.

Live Long and Prosper, my friends.

-Nancy

Star Trek: The Animated Series

Could I truly call myself a Star Trek fan without watching this series from the 70s? I felt I was missing out on some classic Trek, so what better time than quarantine to watch all 22 episodes!

There are a few changes in this series vs TOS, although chronologically it would only be a year later. Due to cost-cutting, Walter Koening was not invited back, with Nichelle Nichols and George Takei barely making the cut due to Leonard Nimoy advocating for them. Nurse Chapel (Majel Barrett- Gene Roddenberry’s IRL wife, who would later play Troi’s mother in TNG) gets a larger role, and two unlikely crewmembers are added- a feline woman and a strange three armed long-necked alien.

At first not considered canon, the series is now considered the fourth season that TOS never got, and information found in it is considered part of the Star Trek chronology, with references to characters and situations in future Trek series. Warning- some spoilers! But really, are you reading this post truly worried about learning plot points? 😉

 

Season One

Beyond the Farthest Star

As the first episode of the series, thus establishing the caliber of this series, it wasn’t good. The Enterprise is being pulled into the orbit of a dead star. An evil non-corporeal alien entity tries to trap the ship there, but the crew is able to engage a slingshot maneuver and escape. The animation took some getting used to, as the characters are simply, if not crudely, drawn caricatures of the crew from the 60s show. The space shots were fun, with some psychedelic coloring.

Yesteryear

Spock enters the Guardian of Forever to correct a time discrepancy in his childhood. He masquerades as a distant cousin and helps his young self correct the problem that will right the timeline. This was a surprisingly poignant episode that showed young Spock’s homelife and the bullying he endured by his peers for being half-human. This storyline was replicated in the 2009 Kelvin Star Trek movie that had a scene of Spock’s childhood that obviously was inspired by this episode. This proved to be one of the better stories.

One of Our Planets Is Missing

A massive space cloud is destroying planets and is on course to destroy a planet that has a Federation colony on it. Aiming the ship into the cloud, they discover that this cloud is actually a living entity so Spock mind-melds with it to show this creature that it is destroying life. The creature then decides to find lunch in another part of the uninhabited galaxy and the Enterprise has saved the planet from destruction.

The Lorelei Signal

Uhura and Chapel kick some ass! The ship is nearing a Burmuda Triangle of space where several ships have disappeared in a 27-year cycle. On a planet nearby they discover a race of beautiful women aliens who lure men to their planet to suck their life force from them. As the males are immobilized Uhura and Chapel are able to save the day, plus find a hospitable planet for the women to move to where they can lead regular lives and meet men without having to kill them. I was glad that the women crew members were able to get a significant storyline and didn’t have to depend on the men to save the day.

More Tribbles, More Troubles

Klingons HATE tribbles so when they are at risk of being overrun with them. Kirk reluctantly works with Cyrano Jones, an intergalactic trader. Jones knows how to neuter them, yet the Tribbles still grow to ungainly sizes and are still a threat. When the Klingons (who still don’t look anything like Worf from TNG and what we have come to expect them to look like) threaten the Enterprise with a weapon, Kirk is able to negotiate a treaty by giving the Klingons a Glommer, a creature that feeds on Tribbles.  Here the Tribbles are pink, which is yet another animation mistake.

Similar to a scene in TOS, but this time the Tribbles are the wrong color.

The Survivor

When the Enterprise finds a small private ship they think they have found Winston, a human philanthropist missing for five years, and reunites him with his fiance who happens to work on the ship. But he is actually a Vendorian, an alien species that can shapeshift, and the real Winston is dead. But because he absorbed the feelings of Winston, he begins to fall in love with Winston’s former fiance and he rebels against his Romulan captors. This was actually a touching episode and made you think about loving someone for who they are not what they look like.

The Infinite Vulcan

Written by Walter Koening (Chekov) who unjustly was not in this series due to budget constraints, this was a rather convoluted episode. While on an away mission, Sulu is poisoned by a plant, but the plant-like creatures residing there save him. The crew discovers the planet was damaged by a plague brought in by a human scientist escaping the Eugenics War (which was a war led by Khan in Earth’s past). A clone of this scientist kidnaps Spock and makes a giant clone of him, but the crew convinces him that the war he escaped is no longer a threat.  The two clones remain on the planet to restore the plant civilization, leaving the regular crew to head back to the Enterprise. So, a giant Spock is left behind???

The Magicks of Megas-tu

The Enterprise encounters an alien species that for a time lived on Earth, and set off the Salem Witch Trials when their alien skills were perceived as dark magic. The alien Lucian puts them through a trial similar to what happened in Salem, but their evolved humanity shows him that he needs to forgive them. His form is revealed to look like a cloven devil, so the connection is made that our mythology is based on prior alien contact. This episode had a noble idea but the follow-through was messy and is an example as to why this series is often laughed at.

Once Upon a Planet

Crew members are looking forward to some shore leave at a planet known for being similar to an amusement park. But the caretaker has died, leaving things to go awry for the crew who beam down. For a time Uhura is kidnapped, as the sentient computer resents its duty and rebels. But Kirk teaches it to be a good boy and to enjoy obeying. This episode rubbed me the wrong way- as this computer and the robots are tricked into being subservient again.

Mudd’s Passion

Harry Mudd is back with a new con- a love potion! Mudd is an iconic character that only appeared twice in TOS, and once in this animated series. Here he preys on Nurse Chapel who has a crush on Spock and soon he falls in love with her once the portion actually works. But the potion has a kickback turning love to hate, and once again Mudd is sent to the brig. I enjoyed that Discovery had him in two episodes plus a Short Trek, and I am hoping the Pike series will use this character who is now portrayed by Rainn Wilson.

Gotta love Mudd’s comb-over!

The Terratin Incident

This was an amusing episode where a mishap causes the crew to start shrinking. They desperately try to fix the situation before they become too small to use the controls. This is an example in which the animation was an effective way to have this type of story that would have been impossible to film in live-action at the time.

The Time Trap

The narrative of entering yet another space Burmuda Triangle was utilized again, with the Enterprise and a Klingon ship both being drawn into a pocket of the universe in which other ships have become trapped in over the eons. Descendents of these crews have formed an alliance and have formed the Elysian Council. Although these aliens say there is no escape, we all know Kirk will figure a way out!

The Ambergris Element

While on a water planet, Kirk and Spock are in an accident that makes them become water breathers and they discover a lost city under the sea, very similar to our fabled Atlantis. There is an amusing scene where Kirk and Spock are in a water tank on board the Enterprise where Kirk expresses he can’t captain while in a fish tank. The duo work with this planet’s swimming aliens and are able to fix themselves and save the civilization from ruin. Barrett voiced all the extra females in the episode and it was distracting to have them all sound so similar.

The Slaver Weapon

This episode concentrated completely on an away mission with Spock, Uhura and Sulu- so it became my favorite, as those three happen to be my favorites from the TOS crew. While transporting a relic from an ancient alien race, they encounter the war-like Kzinti, who look like felines wearing some groovy pink uniforms. These aliens became canon in the new Picard series when Riker mentioned that the Federation  is “having some trouble with the Kzinti.” When I watched Picard the quote meant nothing to me, so I find it amusing that a few short weeks later I discovered the meaning of this Easter egg comment.

The Eye of the Beholder

Telepathic aliens put Kirk, Spock and Bones in a zoo when they go to a new planet to rescue crew members from another Federation ship. But the crew members work together to send messages to the aliens and convince them to release them. Scotty plays an important role when a baby alien is beamed onto the Enterprise and he communicated with it before reuniting the baby with the parents.

The Jihad

Spock and Kirk are called upon to join a motley group of other aliens to retrieve a stolen religious artifact. Oh man- this series creates the most ridiculous aliens! They obviously felt they could design animated aliens that could not be shown on a live-action series due to the cost of special effects. Even nowadays with better special effects, these aliens have not been replicated into series, because they were so damn absurd. Plus there was an additional laugh of an alien woman who blatantly puts the moves on Kirk.

Why is Kirk’s shirt orange? Just another example of sloppy animation.

Season Two

The Pirates of Orion

Spock contracts a deadly disease and the Enterprise arranges to rendezvous with another ship to get him a cure. Some space pirates intercept the ship and Kirk has to negotiate with the deceptive Orians to get the medicine that Spock needs. Guess what- he wins.

Bem

This was a surprisingly streamlined episode, that despite its laughable colony-creature (its body parts can separate and move on their own) actually had a good message. Always a Uhura fan, I liked how she had a moment taking the helm of the ship and demanding crew members follow her orders as procedure dictated they do.

This episode also included Kirk saying “There are times, Mr. Spock when I think I should have been a librarian.” Spock observes “The job of librarian would be no less challenging, captain, but it would undoubtedly be a lot less dangerous.” As a librarian myself, I enjoyed the idea that my job is as challenging as a spaceship’s Captain!

The Practical Joker

The computer gets a virus and becomes a practical joker. Not a fan of slapstick humor- this episode was really lackluster for me. That Barrett voiced the computer is a precursor that she would voice most onboard computer interfaces throughout several of the future Star Trek shows. The highlight of the episode was seeing Kirk wear a shirt that says Kirk is a Jerk that I have seen on memes but not understood the context until now. And yes, sometimes he is.

Perhaps a joke about William Shatner who is known for his testy relationships with co-workers?

Albatross

Dr. McCoy is accused of causing a plague on an alien planet 19 years ago and is put in jail. Determined to prove his innocence, Kirk finds an alien whom he helped during that era, but then the entire ship falls ill. When I think the aliens on this series can’t get any stranger, TAS proves me wrong!

How Sharper Than a Serpent’s Tooth

This episode was problematic and included the trope of gods-were-really-aliens again.  Within the first minute, I clued in that a crew member at the helm that we never met before, Ensign Walking Bear, was going to be important, yet a one and done character. He recognizes an attacking ship as looking like Kukulkan, a Mayan deity since he is Comanche and studied other Native American cultures. This alien beams Kirk, Walking Bear and others to his ship where it is revealed that this alien visited Earth in the past and influenced the Mayan and Egyptian civilizations, but feels rejected as they did not meet his expectations of gratitude. Kirk convinces this alien that humans have grown since he last visited and to let them go and continue evolving. I think this line of thinking reinforces some misguided people who believe that some non-white civilizations couldn’t have developed as advanced as cultures as they had at one time and thus must have had outside influence. The title of this episode refers to Shakespeare’s quote from King Lear “How sharper than a serpent’s tooth it is / To have a thankless child” which is a good quote but quite derogatory here.

The Counter-Clock Incident

This last episode was also cringe-worthy and reinforced that the show needed to end. Traveling on the Enterprise is Commodore Robert April who was the first Enterprise captain and his wife Dr. April as they prepare for mandatory retirement at age 75. They encounter a supernova that pulls them into an opposite universe and they began to de-age. Spock and the April’s maintain the ship since they are older and aren’t turned into babies like the rest of the crew, although they too grow younger. The problems I had with this episode were the ageism and sexism- Dr. April is referred to as Mrs. April repeatedly and they are not utilized to help until the end when the need for their assistance was quite obvious from the beginning.

My youngest son asked what was worse- this series or the Star War’s Holiday Special. I had to pause and think because they are both unique and horrible in their own ways. But these last two episodes pushed me to pick this series. I must keep in mind that this series was a product of its time- the early 70s was still mired in old-fashioned stereotypes. But the crude animation torpedoed this series, as their numerous continuity mistakes were obvious, and their stock footage (there should be a drinking game for how many times the same footage was used of Spock looking into a viewfinder on the bridge) was distracting. Some of the storylines were more nuanced than others but that begs the question- was this series geared for children or adults? But overall, I am so glad I watched The Animated Series. It was an interesting look into Star Trek’s uneven history and there were nuggets of good storytelling found in it. I now await Discovery’s third season and was thrilled with the recent announcement that Captain Pike, Number One and a young Spock would be getting their own series Star Trek: Strange New Worlds. In the meantime- Live Long and Prosper!

-Nancy

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