Saturday, December 30, 2017

Pettiness in Comedy & Good Trek/Bad Trek #52 Wolf In The Fold

Intro: I’ve loved Star Trek since I was a kid. I started by watching TNG in 6th grade. I’ve been a fan since then and though I’ve spent a lot of time watching Star Trek, I’ve never watched The Original Series. So, I’m watching and reviewing them as a fan of Star Trek, but one who’s never seen any of them. So I’m watching all the TOS episodes for the first time and saying whether or not they suck. At the end, I give examples of better and/or worse Star Trek episodes to watch that remind me of this episode. Usually, I ramble on about some bullshit before the Trek. That’s it.

I’ve been a comedian for a while. You wouldn’t know that unless you’re reading this or know me as most people don’t know that I’m a comedian. Having been doing comedy a while, you get to know a lot of other comics who’ve also been doing it to little or no avail. I’m sure it’s no different in music or art or poetry, but a lot of conversations among comics, especially among comics who haven’t gotten what they feel they deserve can be bitter and petty. Being bitter and resentful is just kind of part of the game until hopefully one day hopefully, it’s not. But you have to get to the point where you have a reason to not be bitter. Until then, sometimes it feels good to sit and bitch.

Bitterness can take many forms. Sometimes it leads you to sit around bitching because too many straight white guys get stuff. Sometimes it leads you to sit around bitching because you think your straight white maleness is holding you back. You need to let this stuff out sometimes, but it’s important to remember that you can’t let it get the better of you. If for no other reason, then people won’t want to ever be around you. I’m as guilty of this of the next one. I’ll see someone get something. I won’t get anything and I’ll get upset. In my darkest moments I get angry about folks getting shit I don’t even want or think I’d be a good fit for. That’s when I’m at my worst.

I’m sure musicians and actors and poets are probably the same, but comedy is what I’m around so that’s what I’m familiar with. In my years as a comic, I’ve seen a lot of petty horse shit. I myself have been guilty of this. When I first started I used to troll comedy message boards and make fun of comics I didn’t think much of. It was stupid and immature, but also kind of fun and helped me pass a lot of time at my job. 

I'm not here to talk about my petty bullshit though. I'm here to talk about the absolute most petty thing I ever saw as a comic. That would be something having to do with actor Dustin Diamond. For those of you who don't know, Dustin Diamond used to play the character Screech on Saved By The Bell. Now he bills himself as a comedian. I don’t know the guy. I’ve never worked with him. I know people who have and have heard mixed things about him as a person. I've also I’ve heard universally bad things about his act. That’s probably because he’s not a comic. He’s a former actor who now does comedy to pay the bills. I honestly don’t even know if he still does comedy, but he used to when this took place. The reasons to not like the guy as a comic are valid. He used to steal jokes from other comics which is a huge no-no. But of course he stole jokes. He was never really a comic. I'm not condoning it. I think joke thievery is universally bad, but if I went to see any washed-up celebrity doing comedy I can't say I'd be surprised to see them do some questionable material. The people who went to see Dustin Diamond weren’t comedy fans interested to hear Diamond’s take on life. They were folks who recognized his face and wanted to see words come out of his dumb mouth for an hour because they remembered Saved By The Bell. And because they remember it they think it was a good show. It was not.

None of that matters though. I’m not talking about anything that Dustin Diamond did. What I'm talking about is a comic who worked with him and ended up hating Dustin Diamond. A lot of doing comedy sucks. You write jokes and you perform them for nobody and sometimes people you don’t think much of get a lot of money and recognition while you toil away in obscurity. This thing of ours can be really frustrating and a lot of doing this really just plain sucks. 

Anyhow, this guy, whose name I don't recall or care to bother looking up, worked with Dustin Diamond. By his own accord, the guy did well. Also according to him, Dustin Diamond did not do very well. He felt great because of his great set and thought that Diamond should feel bad about his shitty set. He wanted to share the legendary story about the time he did better at comedy than a guy who isn't really a comic but he wasn’t content to share this story with friends or normal social media or on the message boards that already existed. This guy thought that this story needed a platform all it’s own. So he set up a website. A website called screechsucks.com. 

The about of the site said it was set up so folks could read and share stories about Dustin Diamond and how much they hate him. There was ever only one such story. From the guy who made the website. I know it was the guy who made the website because it said this site is set up to share stories about how much we all hate Dustin Diamond and he said I’ll start and then shared his story about doing better than Dustin Diamond that one time. Zero comments. He thought that this website would be a place comics from all over the world would come and swap stories both about times that Dustin Diamond did them wrong and times that they really put Dustin in his place. And nobody did. From what I can tell I was the only one who ever read this account of his epic feature set. 

My mom would say "looks like someone has a crush!"

It’s hard to keep on doing comedy when literally everything is telling you not to. When shit gets bleak, which it usually is, it can be hard not to get petty and resentful. I'm trying to be more positive. Just keep on working and hope for the best. That's something I plan on working on in 2018, more positivity and less pettiness. If that doesn't work out then I'll probably debut my new website screechsucksbutnotasmuchastheguywhomadethewebsitescreechsucks.com.com. Becuase no matter how down on myself I get at least I’m not either one of those assholes. 

Know what else is bad? This terrible episode of Trek. Have at it. 

Recap:

We open the episode with a belly dancer. Not a great start. Star Trek gets a lot of credit for the good they do, but holy shit, you’d think Gene Roddenberry should’ve hired someone of middle eastern decent to just sit and shake his head periodically at some of these awful ideas. It goes on for so long. Scotty and Kirk just talk about how Scotty needs to have sex. Then Bones and Kirk talk about how much Scotty needs to have sex. Supposedly, he needs to get laid so bad because he got a concussion. A concussion caused by a woman. Seriously. The belly dancer music is familiar. I know in TV you have to cut corners where you can but they have reused this particular piece of generic belly dancing music a lot. I don’t know why we keep on having belly dancers. But they do seem to pop up often. I would bet dollars to donuts that Gene Roddenberry’s wife, Majel Barrett was forced to parade around in some vaguely middle eastern costume from time to time.

This show that gave America its first interracial kiss also gave us a whole lot of this

Scotty isn't even given time to fuck his woman caused concussion away with the belly dancer when there’s a scream. Looks like there’s been a murder. A murder of a belly dancer most foul. Looks like we’ve got ourselves a good old-fashioned murder mystery. Murder on the Enterprise express. 

We’re just getting into the first murder mystery when someone else is stabbed to death. This time a member of the Enterprise. Also a woman. Also, Scotty was the only one present at the time. These people get multiple stab wounds yet they only let out a single scream. Seems like there’d be more blood curdling going on there. Scotty again was left alone with a vulnerable woman. Seems like maybe someone should be keeping an eye on him seeing as he’s the only suspect that anyone has at this point. 

The future

They keep on leaving women alone with Scotty and these women keep on ending up dead. Seems like maybe he should be in a brig or something. Because they have a seance to figure out what's going on. The lights go out and another woman ends up stabbed. This is getting out of hand. We’re already at three dead. That’s too many. 

They put Scotty on trial and then the episode goes fucking apeshit. Turns out that Jack the Ripper is responsible for the murders and he takes over the ship. They somehow trick Jack back into the body of one of the folks putting Scotty on trial and beam him out into space. It’s pretty messed up. 

Good Trek?

No. These are just so bad. Each episode since I stopped watching Discovery has been worse than the one before. Next week’s episode is The Trouble With Tribbles which is a classic, so I got that going for me. Then Discovery comes back that following week so I'll probably start on those again. Looking forward to some good Trek coming up because watching these are a real bummer. I wasn’t sure what I was expecting when I started watching these, but these are such a drag. When they’re bad they’re just so bad. Like this one. This one is so very bad. Even a couple really good Bones zingers weren't anywhere near enough to salvage this piece of shit for me. 

That's right. Practice workplace safety or get Jack the Rippered. 

I’m trying to think of how many episodes have featured belly dancers. I think like three or four and each time those scenes go on forever. I don’t know if Roddenberry had a belly dancer thing or what, but these scenes do really seem to drag. I’ve yet to see a lady dancing to vaguely middle eastern music scene that went on for an appropriate amount of time. I like watching pretty ladies dance as much as the next guy, but I gotta tell you that's not why I'm watching. I mean, don't you guys have a spaceship? I kinda want to see what's going on up there. I don’t want to shit on pretty ladies dancing, but there are other places to get my fix for that. I would kinda like to see some space stuff. 

I wonder if anyone watching at the time had the opposite reaction and was really disappointed when this turned into a murder mystery. Like they were halfway through the cold open and were like hell yeah, a whole episode about Scotty getting laid to overcome a blow to the head. Finally. And then all the women end up good and dead and he’s on trial and they were just cursing that fact. Some awfully sexually repressed dude in the sixties who was jazzed at the prospect of ladies belly dancing for the full hour and now has to watch whatever this is. 
Laughing about not knowing if he stabbed three women to death. 

For an episode I did not like I watched it in parts a lot. I put this on a dozen times and kept on zoning out. I would look down at my phone and next thing I know it would be already well into The Trouble With Tribbles and I had no idea what had happened. Finally, I was watching and heard them say that Jack the Ripper was the killer and said, out loud to nobody “yo, what the fuck did you just say?”

I know I’ve had this same criticism for the past three episodes, but this one also felt like three episodes all kind of taped together. This one more than just about any other episodes I’ve watched so far made me angry. Fuck this one. 

Better Trek?

This episode made me so angry that you should watch literally anything else. This is one of those that's so bad I see why people hate Star Trek. If this was all I knew about Trek I would hate it too. Fuck this show and its weird-ass Jack the Ripper ending. It's messed up. I’m glad that Discovery is back next week. Because Discovery is very good and this episode is very bad. Watch a couple past Discovery episodes and get ready for its return. Also, the Dark Mirror episode that pokes fun at Star Trek was really cool. I just watched it last night and it was really solid. There are some fun Trek jokes in there and has fun at TOS's expense. It's not really a Trek episode, but it's cool as hell and worth a watch. I really like Cristin Milioti. Even though I hated the ending of How I Met Your Mother I loved her character (until the end, but that's not her fault). Everything I've seen her in she kills it. This Dark Mirror is no exception. 

In terms of Trek episodes then there are a few. None of which are great, but none of which are worse than this one. If you want to see a member of the Enterprise hang out with a ghost who travels time and space then you have TNG's Sub Rosa. Largely considered one of the weirdest and worst episodes of the run. Dr. Crusher starts having sex with her dead grandmother's ghost lover. It's pretty messed up. But makes more sense from an afterlife perspective. I’m not telling any ghosts out there how to spend eternity, but I can tell you that when I’m shuffled off this mortal coil and I’m given the choice of murdering ladies or laying in spooky congress with Gates McFadden that I will definitely be choosing the latter of those two. 

If you want to see members of the crew being put on trial on a planet they're not from then I'll give you two to choose from. First is TNG's Justice. In this one, Wesley Crusher is almost put to death because he's a clumsy idiot. A charge for which he most definitely is guilty, but probably not death penalty worthy. I understand this planet is supposed to be a utopia but it seems that maybe Dr. Crusher should've investigated the laws and punishments before letting her teenage son frolick with the natives. Nothing against Dr. Crusher. I'm a fan. 

Lastly, I'd go with a VOY episode Ex Post Facto. Probably the best of the three I just listed. Though not as good as the Black Mirror episode. Paris is found guilty of murder and Tuvok tries to prove he didn't do it. It's a neat episode that lets Tim Russ really have at it. I've said it before that I think his take on Tuvok is just phenomenal. So any episode that focuses a lot on Tuvok is worth watching for that reason alone. If you want to get the full Wolf In The Fold experience watch half of Ex Post Facto then switch over to Sub Rosa. It won't make sense, but neither did the original episode. 

That's it for this week. Here's to a bunch more good Trek in 2018 and a lot less bad Trek. Happy New Year!


Friday, December 22, 2017

My 2017 End of Year Media Power Rankings & Good Trek/Bad Trek #51 Obsession

Intro: I’ve loved Star Trek since I was a kid. I started by watching TNG in 6th grade. I’ve been a fan since then and though I’ve spent a lot of time watching Star Trek, I’ve never watched The Original Series. So, I’m watching and reviewing them as a fan of Star Trek, but one who’s never seen any of them. So I’m watching all the TOS episodes for the first time and saying whether or not they suck. At the end, I give examples of better and/or worse Star Trek episodes to watch that remind me of this episode. Usually, I ramble on about some bullshit before the Trek. That’s it.


It’s the end of the year, which means it’s time for end of year lists. I like year-end lists. I like reading them and I like writing them. I tend to be a little closed off when it comes to the media I take in. I rewatch a lot of the same stuff that I have for years. I'm pretty closed off on the music that I take in. There are so many good books out there already and so much more that comes out every year. So I don’t like to do lists of stuff that came out within the year, but just of what media that I took in and enjoyed the most. Doesn’t matter when it came out or when I first heard it, it’s just a matter of whether or not I took it in this year and enjoyed it. So here we go, my 2017 year-end media power rankings!

Movies

5. Logan - I didn’t really like any of the X-Men movies. Even the ones that I liked the most I thought were just okay. X2 isn't’ bad, but it just seemed so lazy and bland and trying to appeal to everyone and left me bored. They all just felt really empty to me. Say what you will about Logan, but this is not a movie that’s trying to appeal to everyone. It’s violent and profane, almost to a silly degree. But it was still really damn good.

4. Rogue One - I’m not a huge Star Wars guy, but I like the movies fine. I think this is one of the finest Star Wars out there. I’m also glad that the “this is a rebellion” line didn’t make the final cut. Because fuck that. 

3. Wrath of Khan - I got to see Wrath of Khan in the theater. I wrote about it earlier in the year. I’d of course seen this movie multiple times before and really enjoyed it. But I saw it before I started watching TOS in earnest. Now that I have a relationship with these characters the movie took on a whole new 

2. The Big Short - Whoof. If you haven’t seen it, see it. It’s about the housing and banking crisis. I know it isn't the point of the movie, but watching it makes me want to be a banker because who gives a shit. The world is fucked anyhow, might as well cash in and drink champagne like these monsters. However, this movie also makes me want to throw a molotov cocktail through the bedroom window of every banker and watch while they burn up in their beds. It’s pretty good.

1. Guardians of the Galaxy 2 - These movies are just so much fun. I’m a little sick of the whole Marvel Universe. They’re all good, but I still just don’t really give a shit about any of them at this point. That goes double for the tv universe. I really liked this one though. It’s hard to keep these movies fun after so many of them. These ones do. The opening credits scene was one of my favorite things I saw this year. 

Honorable Mention - Wonder Woman It’s good. I liked a lot of it. DC movies have a very distinctive look and feel for their action climaxes. It’s a look and feel that I really don’t care for. Most of what leads up to it is pretty good though. 

Dishonorable Mentions - Batman Vs. Superman Nothing prepared me for just how bad it would be. It’d be almost impressive in how bad it was if it wasn’t so goddamn boring.  Also, The Dark Tower I haven’t seen it yet. I was looking forward to this movie for over a year and as soon as I saw the trailer I said “nah.” Maybe I’ll get around to it in 2018, to give my anger at it even more credence. 

Music
5. Brandi Carlile: The Firewatcher's Daughter - I’m a big Carlile fan. The Story is one of my favorite songs of all time. This album doesn’t have The Story on it, but it’s really good from start to finish. It's folk without being annoying about it. Her voice is distinctive and she sells every song on this album. Give it a listen if you haven't. Even though it doesn't have my favorite song of hers on it, I think this is my favorite album as a whole. Favorite track: Wherever Is Your Heart

4. Neutral Milk Hotel: In The Aeroplane Over The Sea: This has been one of my favorite albums for years. It continues to be so. I can't count how many times I've listened to this album and I just never get sick of it. Favorite Track: All of them

3. Days N' Daze: Rogue Taxidermy - Fun catchy acoustic punk rock from a bunch of very dirty looking folks from Texas. I just found out these guys exist this year. I’m glad I did. They're so much fun. Favorite track: Misanthropic Drunken Loner

2. Ezra Furman & The Harpoons: Inside the Human Body - Ezra Furman is another person I just started getting into when they came up on my Spotify Discover playlist. The music is just so much fun. I’ve listened to a few of their albums, but I think this is probably my favorite one. So far. Honestly, I like them all so far and have been really enjoying getting into an artist I was unfamiliar with. Most new music I listen to just leaves me so empty and bored. Turns out all the music my friends have been trying to get me to get into just kind of sucked. Get your heads out of your asses, folks and recommend me some better music. Favorite track: We Should Fight
1. Jay-Z: 4:44 -  What could I possibly say about this that hasn’t already been said by people who are better at saying shit about music? It’s so personal that I almost feel guilty listening to some of these songs. I feel like I’m listening in on something that was written for someone else and I was never supposed to find it. I'm glad I found it though. Favorite track: Story of OJ

Books

5. Kindred: Octavia Butler - I can’t remember who recommended this book to me, but someone told me to read it and I did. Which is rare, because I will very rarely read a book that someone insists I’m going to love. Usually, they’re wrong. Books are more personal than most other kinds of media. How are you to know that just because you liked that I’m going to? Who the fuck do you think you are? That being said, I read this one and really liked it. 

4. Song Of Susannah: Stephen King - I made the mistake of reading all of the Dark Tower books in a row. That was probably a mistake because there’s a lot of them and by the time you’re into book seven you might be a little sick of them. I kind of was. I still enjoyed this one, but not nearly as much as some of the others. 

3. Our Story Begins: Tobias Wolff Wolff - is probably my favorite author. I try to read something by him every year. He has a great memoir, a collection of essays about Vietnam, a novel, and a few short story collections. I read Our Story Begins which is a short story collection. It’s like a greatest hits book with a handful of new ones at the end. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve read his story Bullet In The Brain, but it gets me every time. 

2. The Underground Railroad: Colson Whitehead -  Everyone should read this book. It’s brutal and weird and vivid and great. The descriptions of what the main character went through being a female born into slavery are rough. The book gets really fantastical, but the world feels very real. I’m reading Zone One now. Who knows maybe next year this list will be dominated by Colson Whitehead. 

1. The Dark Tower: Stephen King - The final book in the Dark Tower Series. I’m not a fast reader and this is an 8 book series so I spent a lot of time in Midworld with Roland and the gang. I was almost nervous to get to the end. Particularly because King has a reputation as a guy who has trouble ending his books. I mean, he kind of has to because he couldn’t end The Gunslinger so then he just kept on writing these. That being said, King pulled out all the stops with this one. It's such a perfect ending for the series. 

Dishonorable Mention - The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay - Michael Chabon I want to unfriend every piece of shit who told this would be “right up my alley.”You obviously don’t know me or anything about my alley. You don’t know me at all. 

TV. 

5. Game of Thrones - This season wasn’t nearly as good as some of the other ones, but still pretty damn good. 

4. Bojack Horseman - It’s funny that one of the most emotionally raw shows out right now is one filled with silly sight gags that’s about a depressed horse.  

3. The Good Place - I did not really expect to like this show. My little sister tried to sell me on it when I was staying with her and I only half watched it and wasn’t really all that into it. My wife and I decided to give it another shot and man this show is something else. 

2. Better Call Saul - Who would’ve thought what this show would be? I did not have high hopes for it. I liked Breaking Bad. I like Bob Odenkirk. But who would’ve thought that a spinoff could be this good?  

1. Star Trek: Discovery - I wrote a lot about Star Discovery already. It’s just so good. It’s not at all the show I was anticipating and that’s probably a good thing. I already wrote a lot about this show. Why? Because it’s so fucking good. I can’t tell you just how cool I think this show is. It’s 100% not the show I thought I was getting and that’s great. Aside from minor timeline qualms, I think it’s just an amazing show and everyone should be watching it. I can’t speak from the perspective of someone who’s initiated, but it seems like this is the kind of Trek that can appeal to old fans and new fans alike. 

Dishonorable mention - Breaking Bad - I loved Breaking Bad when I first saw it. I kept with it from near the beginning to the end and it was a hell of a ride. I rewatched it and felt completely different this time through. When you know how it’s going to end up it makes you look at Walt in a completely different light. He’s a fucking asshole and I’m glad he’s dead. 

Recap

Spock, Kirk, and a few redshirt bags of shit are hanging out on the surface of a planet taking samples. There’s danger though because they’re being followed by, what appears to be a hipster vape nerd. Kirk smells honey and tells the bags of shit to go vape cloud hunting. Even though Kirk explicitly tells the bags of shit to fire on the vape cloud as soon as they see it the bags of shit do not. The one actually throws his phaser down as soon as he sees it. What the hell, bro? They all deserve to die. Fuck these idiots. 

Turns out one of them is alive. Kirk goes plain old nuts. He’s got a history with this cloud. But he’s not letting on what the issue is. He goes hunting with some more bags of shit and wouldn’t you believe that more bags of shit end up dead via vape cloud. The new security officer fails to kill it and Kirk goes ballistic. His erratic behavior and the fact that Kirk won’t leave to deliver medicine to the Yorktown leads Spock and McCoy to do a little intervention. They’re afraid that he’s obsessed. Just like the name of the show. And his behavior is putting everyone at risk. Turns out Kirk has beef with the vape cloud. It killed most of his coworkers on his first ship. He was the young officer who couldn’t fire and now he wants revenge. 
Spocks shits on people for being dumb, but using your hands to hold off vapor seems less than logical 

Kirk convinces Spock and Bones that he’s not too nuts for the time being. The vape cloud leaves and the Enterprise goes on the hunt. It’s a pretty smart vape cloud though. Because it dodges the phasers and enters the ship. It’s personal now. 
Can you smell what the Spock is cooking?

Because Spock has green blood he’s able to make vape cloud run off where for some reason they know it’s going to breed. I don’t know how they know this, but they seem to. This means they have to hunt it down and kill it. That seems like some fucked logic. But they track it down. They devise a blood baited anti-matter bomb(??) which Kirk and Ensign Garrovick take to the planet. They get out in the nick of time and go to the ship so Kirk can regale the once-disgraced ensign who couldn't fire in time with tales of his father. 

Good Trek?

There have been a few stinkers in a row, but this one is pretty good. I’m beginning to think that the more time they spend on the ship the better. It’s not just that the on planet sets are generally pretty terrible. Generally, episodes that take place on planets have a bunch of new aliens. Generally, the aliens all look like absolute shit. 
Peekaboo! Vape cloud sees you!
I absolutely loved it when Garrovick attacked Kirk. What a great scene. It did a great job of subverting my expectations. I fully expected him to knock Kirk out and sacrifice himself to save his captain and the crew. Then he completely doesn’t. I guess I should’ve expected that ending considering that Garrovick’s father was Kirk’s old captain, but I didn’t see that coming and thought it was really funny. 
Three dead redshirt bags of shit before the credits. Impressive.
This is yet another episode that would’ve made a better movie than either Into Darkness or Beyond. This is the third episode I think that would’ve been amazing had they decided to translate it to the big screen. Balance of Terror, The Doomsday Machine, and this one all would have made such great movies. I don’t understand with so much out there to choose from they decided to remake Khan and do whatever it is they did for Beyond. As I watched this I kept on thinking about how much cool stuff they could’ve done with the original attack on Kirk’s old ship. Even though it wasn’t a good movie it was a pretty goddamn good episode. 
Hats off to Kirk for his passable emoting in this episode
I shit on Shatner a lot. Mostly because he sucks and deserves it. He’s easily the weakest actor on the show. So I hate to say that he did a pretty damn good job in this episode. He’s not nearly as intense as Avery Brooks but he does intense pretty well. Shatner is generally such a bad actor that watching him takes me out of the episode multiple times usually. Not with this one. I was pleasantly surprised by how well he acted this one. 
Food in the future is just giant-sized Runts
I like this episode because the very best scenes are the ones in which folks are just talking to each other. That’s when Trek can really shine. I like all the explosions and assimilations and whatnot, but I love Trek because of how the characters interact. The effects in this episode are used very sparingly and when they are they look pretty shitty. But when Spock and McCoy are discussing whether or not Kirk has become unstable enough to remove from command, it feels real. Same with when McCoy confronts Kirk in the next scene. Kirk is one of his best friends and you can tell calling him out is killing him, but it needs to be done. This was just a solid entry and I’m glad I watched it. 

That’s some fine social commentary, fellas

Better Trek?

DS9’s For The Uniform. This is a good one if you want to watch a captain in full Captain Ahab mode like Kirk. In this one, Sisko goes after his old adversary Michael Eddington who used to be his security officer before it turned out he was a spy. After finding that out Sisko was none too pleased and turned into a real grumpy Gus. Avery Brooks plays angry so great and angry Sisko seems like an absolutely terrifying person to have coming after you. You can see why Starfleet would think that maybe Sisko isn’t the best person for this job. 

TNG’s Silicon Avatar. I don’t remember when I first saw this episode but I remember it just absolutely blowing me away. Now that I’m older it does less so, but I remember just thinking that the guest star Ellen Geer just knocking this one out of the park. She plays a woman whose son is killed. She's not taking it well. Most of the episode is her using Data to help her cope with her son's death and also about someone going full Ahab on an unconventional antagonist. This one is about the Enterprise chasing after something they call the Crystalline Entity, which is a giant space crystal that destroys life on planets. Like the vape cloud in Obsession, you don’t know who or what it is which comes up in terms of whether it has a morality and should it be hated for what it does. Does it even know? There are a lot more gray areas than in Obsession because TNG was a much better show with better writers. They’re all good. So watch all three. 

That’s it for this week. Last Trek of the year next week. Hopefully, it'll be a good one. 

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Star Wars, Roy Moore, Tribalism & Good Trek/Bad Trek #50: The Deadly Years

Intro: I’ve loved Star Trek since I was a kid. I started by watching TNG in 6th grade. I’ve been a fan since then and though I’ve spent a lot of time watching Star Trek, I’ve never watched The Original Series. So, I’m watching and reviewing them as a fan of Star Trek, but one who’s never seen any of them. So I’m watching all the TOS episodes for the first time and saying whether or not they suck. At the end, I give examples of better and/or worse Star Trek episodes to watch that remind me of this episode. Usually, I ramble on about some bullshit before the Trek. That’s it.


Today is a big day for nerds out there. And when I say nerds, I, of course, mean fans of heavily marketed big budget multi-billion dollar film franchises with multiple heavy corporate tie-ins. You know nerds that if they don’t buy their tickets weeks in advance are out of luck because of all the other nerds that bought their tickets sooner. Goddamn nerds. Nerds that when they're not watching Star Wars and nerding out then they're probably listening to The Beatles. Not just the hits though, they're out there nerding out to the deep cuts, like the ones found on Rubber Soul. I have nothing against Star Wars, but when it comes to sci-fi franchises I’ve always preferred my stars trekked not warred. And never ever gated.

Bros, I’m such a nerd, bros. I’m really into the most popular film franchise of all time, bros 
I don’t really consider myself part of nerd culture despite writing a Star Trek blog for the past year. I’m into some traditional nerd stuff, and maybe I did until I met some real self-proclaimed nerds and found most of them to be insufferable. As a Trek guy though I have always been resentful of Star Wars. Even though I like Star Wars just fine it takes up so much oxygen in terms of the cultural landscape that it makes me jealous. I wish Star Trek held the same place in our collective hearts. I’d love to welcome a new Star Trek in line with a bunch of strangers all giddy with excitement. I’d love new Star Trek movies to be treated by studios with something aside from ambivalence. I’d love the strangers I’m in line to see these movies not be the smelly weirdos who usually are in line with me to see them. I’m just jealous is all.

Big election this week. Not sure if you’ve heard but a guy named Roy Moore lost a senate race to a guy named Not Roy Moore. It was a huge victory that will have long-lasting repercussions and I’m sure won’t in any way result in victory dancing and forgetting what made this race unique. A lot of folks are heartened about how terrible this has been going for Trump, and by extension America. I don’t know if I really am. Politics is still mostly just tribalistic horse shit. And when it comes to dumb tribalist horse shit the right are much better at it.

When I think of how well the right is at lining up behind a guy even though he’s against almost every interest of theirs but happens to share the same view on one or two hot-button social issues I think back to when I was at my first real protest. It was big and exciting and we were really sticking it to the dumb old system.

My friend and I were passing out flyers. Trying to get folks to come to an event that, had been better attended, probably would’ve brought the system down. We passed a group of hippies and gave them flyers to try to get them to come. Soon as I held out the flyer the group of hippies started chanting. They were protesting us. Which came as a shock. I wasn’t there to be protested at. I was there to protest.

“Next time print on tree-free paper!”
 Oh, what’s that now?
“Next time print on tree-free paper!”
Oh you mean the paper our flyer is printed on isn’t that good? I’m sorry. I’m sure you could recycle it if you wanted.
“Next time print on tree-free paper!”
Oh, okay. SO you’re not going to come to this, are you?
Next time print on tree-free paper.”

Then we left. They didn’t come. Almost nobody came. Which is why the system stands. When I think of silly tribalism I think of them. How they wouldn’t even listen to us. They couldn't set aside their qualms with us because of our paper choices. That would never happen on the right. A Republican could use a flag to wipe his ass so long as he promised to be anti-abortion or use a fetus to wipe his ass so long as he promised to love the flag and they'll get 100% support.


They wouldn’t even talk to us. Had they opened a dialogue about our poor paper choices then maybe we could make better choices in the future. But they wouldn't. They saw that we didn't use tree-free paper and wouldn't even talk to us. And that's why we're doomed. Because when I think of how united the folks on the other side, I think of them and their inability to work with me. And I also think of me, who as long as I live will never ever print anything on tree-free paper. I don’t care if I’m staring at the last tree left on Earth, I will cut it down with my own ax and then use bare hands to bash it into pulp just so I can print a single flyer that says “Hey hippies, fuck you!”




Know what also deserves a "fuck you," this episode of Star Trek? But only half a fuck you.
 

Recap

It’s just a routine mission to resupply mission of some research outpost. Wondering if something will go wrong that will make this go anything but routine. And boy does it ever. One of the folks they’re there to resupply is dead. Very dead. He’s an old dead man and this freaks Chekhov out to no end. Then the other two folks who were manning the station show up and they are old as well. But they’re not. The two scientists are 29 and 27, but they look old as shit. Something is going on. Something most foul.

Pretty quickly we learn that everyone who was in the landing party is getting older too and not just in the way that we’re all getting older, but in a spooky sci-fi way with awful makeup and every time they enter a room there’s dramatic music so we know that they’re not long for this world.

They figure out that it was radiation from a passing comet that’s making them age so rapidly, but that doesn’t really help them with how to solve it or why Chekhov isn’t affected. That and now that Kirk is aging 30 years every day a commodore who is on board doesn’t trust Kirk’s judgment. ALSO! They’re near the Neutral Zone! Oh man, there’s a lot crammed into this one.

Kirk gets too old so they have a trial to remove him from command. Then the Commodore takes command and takes the ship into the Neutral Zone. Which was a bad idea. Because the Romulans don’t like it when you encroach into their space. So they attack, as is their right. But then they figure out how to counteract the super-aging process and Kirk becomes young again just in time to use one of his previous mistakes to trick the Romulans. Fin.  


Good Trek?

I’m gonna say half Trek. I really liked a lot of it, but there was too much garbage to be fully good Trek. This episode, like last weeks, had the feeling of a few episodes mashed into one. Maybe it’s just because the pacing is just so off in a lot of these old shows. It’s like they had no idea how to keep anyone’s attention for an hour. Kirk’s old flame is introduced and then doesn’t really play a role at all in terms of plot. 

"Don't trust anyone over 30!" - Dr. Robert Johnson

I did like the idea of the doctor and Spock having to race against the clock to come up with a cure, but the again effects looked so very bad that the threat was hard to take seriously. I can suspend an awful lot of disbelief, but at the same time every time Scotty or Lieutenant Galway complained about how little time they had I kept on wanting to shout just take the goddamn wig off for Christ’s sake.

This exact show was in there last week.

I liked the concept and I really liked the resolution. A lot was mucked up in between though. Kirk using his previous old man mistake to his advantage was great. Plus I liked that not only was it a cool scene, but it was a callback to a season one episode. The courtroom scene could’ve been done well but wasn’t. It shouldn’t have come to that. Listen, I know that Picard and Kirk are two very different people, but if Picard had been affected in such a way then he would not have had to be forced out of command before he stepped aside. He’s the captain, but the ship’s safety should come first. Step the fuck down.


In space, no one can hear you scream at your newly unfuckable face. (I think this is the third time a woman has screamed in disgust at her own face. I've also made that joke three times)


Also, how much does Chekhov suck? I mean what the fuck is wrong with this guy? He sees a dead body and he starts running around and screaming like a scared child. You’re a Starfleet officer, you jackass. Are you really this bananas about an away mission going awry? Aside from just being a plain old chickenshit, Chekhov is just a piece of shit officer. He’s the worst. He pisses and moans about tests having to be done. He’s the only one who isn’t affected while everyone else is dying. His body holds the cure for whatever is going to kill his captain. Not just his captain, but three superior officers are going to die probably. And all he does is bitch about having some blood drawn. There is absolutely no excuse for this kind of behavior. None. If I’m Kirk then Chekhov is removed from bridge duty and never allowed on any away mission ever again. Unless it’s one of those where you need someone to die right away to get a feel for how dangerous the mission will be. I.E. the next one. 


Chekhov, get a hold of yourself or I'll make you wear that weird Wesley Crusher rainbow colored half an ensign uniform

I do not like how the Romulans have a bird painted on the bottom of their ship. Yeah, it’s called a War Bird, but still. Romulans just don’t seem like folks who would take the time to make their ships look cool. Klingons I could see doing that just to look badass, but the Romulans are just too much all business to waste time with shit like that.

Scotty's mugshot for huffing

So the warp engines were working while they were under attack? Kirk comes in. Uses the carbomite maneuver and warps the hell out of there. Did the Commodore not think of leaving? If that’s the case then he has no business being a Commodore. I don’t exactly know what a Commodore does, but this guy is one incompetent commodore.


Better Trek?

I've got three. All linked to this episode as tenuously as possible. All TNG episodes. Firstly, if you’re looking for an episode where a captain is forced out of command because of some fucked up aging accident? Well, then you should watch Rascals. Picard and a few others reverse age and become children. You can’t have a child running a starship so Picard temporarily steps aside and lets Riker take over. Unlike Kirk, he isn't forced. He knows what the right decision is. Then the Ferengi show up. It’s a silly and fun episode and tonally completely different than this one, but still features weird aging and a captain and it's good.

Much Better Trek? 


The Measure of a Man was one of the first watchable episodes of TNG. Seasons one and two are largely sacks of shit. There are a handful of episodes that show what they were all capable of. This is one of them. The suits at Starfleet decide that they want to open up Data and see what makes him tick. Data does not want this on account of there’s a pretty good chance that when they do they won’t be able to figure out how to get him all back together again. Riker is forced to act as the lawyer for Starfleet arguing as to why Data, his friend, is not a real sentient being. Picard argues for Data not getting torn apart. I don’t know why they’d make Riker argue that his friend wasn’t a person. That seems silly. They probably should have gotten a different advocate from a different ship, but they didn’t and then they lost their case so. That’s what they get I guess. Still, this features one of the best Trek courtroom scenes.

Best Trek?

The Defector is the last one I’ll do. It’s about a Romulan who defects because his government is up to some shady shit. It brings up a lot of important topics like loyalty, family, patriotism, and duty. Mostly I’d recommend this one because it features one of my absolute favorite Neutral Zone showdowns in all of Star Trek. The one in The Deadly Years was good but doesn't hold a candle to this one. Also, I’m realizing that maybe I need to reassess my nerdom if I have a favorite Neutral Zone showdown. But whatever.

That’s it for this week and remember don’t ever print on anything on tree-free paper.

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Skeletor's Snake Mountain Makes a Great Gift & Good Trek/Bad Trek #49 Friday's Child

Intro: I’ve loved Star Trek since I was a kid. I started by watching TNG in 6th grade. I’ve been a fan since then and though I’ve spent a lot of time watching Star Trek, I’ve never watched The Original Series. So, I’m watching and reviewing them as a fan of Star Trek, but one who’s never seen any of them. So I’m watching all the TOS episodes for the first time and saying whether or not they suck. At the end, I give examples of better and/or worse Star Trek episodes to watch that remind me of this episode. Usually, I ramble on about some bullshit before the Trek. That’s it.

One of my favorite gifts I ever got was the Masters of the Universe Skeletor's Snake Mountain. It was, in a word, sick! It had a little drawbridge. It had this thing like a microphone that gave you a spooky voice so you, as Skellator could really get in He-man’s head. Freak him the fuck out before you kill him. He didn’t know who was talking. It was madness. Seems like the folks over at Hasbro put a lot more thought into Skeletor's Snake Mountain than they did Castle Grayskull. The show might have been called He-Man, but it was Skeletor's show. My folks got this for me. I was stoked. who wouldn’t be? It’s a great gift. I'd be happy to get one now, so you don't even know how off the wall I was when I was a small child. 

I figured the next year I’d do my dad a solid and get him a sweet gift. Thinking of matching a gift as sweet as Skeletor's Snake Mountain is a nearly impossible task, but I thought I’d give him a gift that has the ability to become any gift out there: cash. So for the next year, I squirreled away all my extra money in a secret hiding place which was the empty Skeletor's Snake Mountain box. I was only a little kid so I didn’t have much but whenever I had any extra change I’d put it in that box. At a certain point, my mom found my cash stash and put an end to project cash 4 dad. I can’t say for certain, but I’m pretty sure she was just jealous. She wanted a sweaty bunch of change from her son as a token of love and was pissed to learn that my dad was gonna get the windfall. 

In retrospect, I’m pretty glad she did put an end to it because how shitty would it have been had I actually gone through with this gift. My dad gets a giant box from his son and opens it up. He sees that it's Skeletor's Snake Mountain and for a minute he's ecstatic. He'd been watching me play with mine and had been more than a little jealous. Probably really wanted to borrow mine, but felt too guilty on account of that's what he already gave me. He can’t take it back. Now we’d have matching Skeletor's Snake Mountain that we could set up next to each other and get our play on. 


Then he opens it up and all that’s in there is some money. Not a lot. Not even enough to buy his own Skeletor's Snake Mountain because if I, as a kid had access to that kind of scratch I wouldn’t have needed my folks to buy me one in the first place. I didn’t have a job, all I had was the allowance that my parents gave me. It was just what I didn’t use from week to week and it wasn’t much. So my dad would open a giant box and in it would just be barely enough to buy a Battle Bones Troop Transporter.

He'd be disappointed. As disappointed as I was watching this week's Trek? Maybe. I watched Friday's Child and it was kind of a stinker.

Recap:

The gang is on a planet trying to secure some mining rights for the Federation. Kirk, Spock, McCoy, and some redshirt bag of shit beam down leaving Scotty in charge of the Enterprise. Soon as their down there the redshirt bag of shit freaks out even though McCoy explicitly told everyone that freaking out would be a bad idea. He sees a Klingon and when he reaches for his weapon he meets the business end of a throwing stick and dies. 
This whole episode is one giant Prime Directive violation

So it looks like the Klingons also want to mine on this planet. They’re both giving them they’re best efforts. The Klingons offer weapons and the like and all that Kirk seems to offer is a promise not to invade their planet. The Klingons have given no indication that they will, so this seems like an odd gambit. I don’t know what else the Federation is offering. Hopefully, they’re bringing more to the table otherwise that’s not a great offer. 
In the future, it’s cool to address people by just shouting their race. Neat. 

Up on the Enterprise, someone is trying to lure them away from the planet. Is it an Earth vessel in distress, or a Klingon trap? It’s obviously a Klingon trap. This B plot takes up some time for no real reason. 

A 7-foot tall warrior is taken out by lightly tossed pillow

All of a sudden everyone is fighting. I don’t know why. I guess a power struggle between two factions of the aliens. The leader who liked the Federation is dead in the orgy of violence. The new guy likes the Klingons better, which makes sense. They’re pretty similar. Makes sense that they’d get along. 

I think slapping a slapping a pregnant woman in the face is the opposite of
slapping a newborn baby on the bottom 

The new leader sets out to kill the wife of the old leader to avoid any competition. Kirk gets all chivalrous and decides to save her, but this is against the law so now Kirk and the pregnant widow have to die together. Seems messed up but when in Rome. While they’re all waiting in a tent to die Kirk and Spock attack their guards with some throw pillows (???) and are able to escape with the doomed widow. They head off into some hills. 

Great. 

The rest of the episode is devoted to hiding from the folks trying to kill them and to delivering the baby. It takes up a lot of time, but they get there. The baby is born and then the lady clobbers McCoy with a rock to knock him out. Even though he just saved her baby. Seems like kind of a dick move. She does it to try convincing her people that she killed everyone so as not to worry about them having to kill them too. The Klingon sees through this ruse and pisses off the aliens for questioning the word of their former leader’s widow. Even though she very much is a liar.  

Fearsome warriors

The Klingon dies, the Federation gets their mining rights, the baby gets named after McCoy and Kirk, and Scotty beams everyone up. Lots of loose threads, but it all gets tied up in a nice little bow. 

Good Trek?

Not particularly. It’s a standard length episode, but good gravy does this one drag. It felt like three hours long. I don’t know the whole history of this one, but it felt like three different episode ideas that were all smooshed together. Some of these threads might have worked as a standalone, but all together it’s just a jumbled mess. Also, I shouldn’t have taken any breaks to do Discovery because these look so ridiculously outdated when compared to it. I mean they don’t look outdated, they just are outdated. It’s ridiculous. 
There’s very little that’s more Trek than the role of Spock. A nonhuman trying to come to terms with his own humanity and learn about humans. Every incarnation of Trek has had at least one similar character. It’d be a shitty cliche if it wasn’t done so well. I think McCoy’s doctor is kind of overlooked in how much of a template he’s become. Maybe it’s not a sci-fi cliche but just how doctors act. I don't really ever interact with doctors so I don't know. 

Where is the Prime Directive in all this? From what I can tell this particular planet is definitely not a warp drive civilization. Why is anyone ever screwing around with them? They should be allowed to progress naturally. So, the prime directive applies unless the Federation needs something from that planet? I have to say that I am not on board with this. The Federation of Captain Kirk is really messed up. 

I don’t want to harp on this too much, but this is why the Discovery being set when it is kind of screwed up. So the Federation is great and moral and right and allows female captains and admirals and then five years later it’s totally fucked? That doesn’t jive. The last two episodes of Discovery are about Discovery doing everything they can to save a lifeform they just discovered exists from being annihilated because the Klingons might destroy them. Not just the fact that they need something from that planet. That’s secondary. 

I know this is really in the weeds, but the whole episode seems to be built on sand. The whole thing is them just openly flouting the Prime Directive. They shouldn’t even be on this planet bartering for mining rights. how are these people able to communicate with spaceships in the first place? Everyone seems to live in tents and huts. Where are the subspace communicators in these huts? They don't even have phasers. They have throwing sticks that they use as their weapons. They don't even have gunpowder. They explicitly say that there's no gunpowder. How is it that aliens beaming down to their planet isn't just blowing their minds? It doesn't make any sense and I don't like it. 

Worse Trek?

You want an Enterprise crew dealing with a shitty tribalist society that wants to kill some members of the crew? What’s that, you don’t? Well then don’t watch Code of Honor. This episode is one of the worst episodes on any Trek that’s ever Trekked. I don’t know if this episode is specifically why Denise Crosby left TNG, but I’d be willing to bet that a bunch of people decided not to watch it anymore after this. It’s brutal. The folks who are all very backward look very African. It’s not easy to watch. Everyone does what they can with it, but there's nothing to be done. It’s so bad that I’m happy it wasn’t the first episode I saw because even as a twelve-year-old I’d like to think that I’d have stopped watching right then and there. It has nothing going for it aside from the fact that Denise Crosby is still in the cast. It’s a shame she wasn’t given anything good to work with until after her character was killed off. I would’ve loved to see what she was capable of had she stayed on. 

Another early TNG episode that kind of sucks is Angel One. It's one in which Riker has to go to a planet dominated by women. It’s pretty screwy. It involves another pre-warp civilization that the Enterprise seems to have no problems whatsoever just disturbing to get what they need. It also involves gender roles I guess. Kind of implying that the dominant gender is purely a matter of who's taller. But at the same time, some of these giant women want to be subjugated because they're women first and tall second. I don't know. It's a mess.

Better Trek?

I’m trying to think of a better one.  These aren’t amazing, but the VOY episode Random Thoughts fits the bill. In this one, the Voyager crew goes to a planet for some trading. But these folks have a law where they’re not allowed to think violent thoughts because they’re telepathic enough where it causes them to be violent. The gang does their damndest to weasel out of paying the price after B'Elanna Torres thinks some bad thoughts. Of course, B’Elanna thinks violent thoughts, she’s a goddamn badass. I’m a big B'Elanna fan. Not an amazing episode, but it’s pretty fun and it’s a whole hell of a lot better than this one. If it wasn’t for the Bones banter than this episode would’ve been largely unwatchable.