Saturday, July 21, 2018

Star Trek Discovery Season 2 Trailer


Here's what the second season of Discovery, and our third version of Christopher Pike, is going to look like!

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Star Trek at the box office

I've always been interested in box office results.  Recently I've begun taking a closer look at different sets of figures: the international box office and the adjusted-for-inflation box office, which is something I previously didn't care too much about but now view as a window into comparative popularity.  This is going to be a look at how Star Trek movies look from these vantage points.  All figures come from Box Office Mojo, retrieved on 6/5/18.  (B = billion, M = million)

The first list is the US box office report:

1. Star Trek (2009) $257M
The first of the Abrams reboot series; this will be the most successful movie in two of the three lists.

2. Star Trek Into Darkness (2013) $228M
The second in the Abrams reboot series will take the top slot in one of the two remaining lists.

3. Star Trek Beyond (2016) $158M
This will be the third Abrams reboot series entry's best showing.

4. Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home (1986) $109M
The obvious favorite among general audiences, it's never been as popular among fans.  We might see why in another list.

5. Star Trek: First Contact (1996) $92M
The second Picard flick and by far the most successful.

6. Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979) $82M
This total is going to have long legs.  You'll see why its exposure caused problems.

7. Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982) $78M
Its inordinate popularity with fans always seems to indicate it was more successful than the first one.  It wasn't.

8. Star Trek III: The Search for Spock (1984) $76M
Yet fans are never as excited about its sequel, even though it was about as successful.

9. Star Trek Generations (1994) $75M
This meeting of Kirk and Picard was a huge disappointment in a lot of ways.

10. Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country (1991) $74M
The final full cast appearance of the original Kirk crew made up a lot of ground from its predecessor, but not quite enough.

11. Star Trek: Insurrection (1998) $70M
Surprisingly, despite its reputation the third Picard entry was about par for the course.

12. Star Trek V: The Final Frontier (1989) $52M
The first real flop of the franchise.

13. Star Trek Nemesis (2002) $43M
The second and far more disastrous was also Picard's fourth and last appearance.

Okay! 

Now onto adjusted for inflation, in which we see some interesting things develop:

1. Star Trek (2009) $316M
Still the most popular!  This is officially Star Trek as a whole at its most popular.

2. The Motion Picture (1979) $300M
Here's the biggest surprise!  Maybe it shouldn't be, being the oldest entry in the series, and therefore the greatest beneficiary of inflation.  But here we see that the first and subsequently much-maligned movie in the franchise was also its most successful for years.  Thirty years, to be exact!

3. The Voyage Home (1986) $264M
And here we see just how popular this one really was!

4. Into Darkness (2013) $250M
And here's where we see where all the fan outrage about Khan's second movie appearance comes from; it officially made more money, and thus had more exposure.

5. The Wrath of Khan (1982) $245M
Just a little more, but that's a little too much competition for some.

6. The Search for Spock (1984) $208M
When you look at the unadjusted box office, it looks like the follow-up follows more closely than in the adjusted box office. 

7. First Contact (1996) $189M
In the unadjusted box office this looks like a much more impressive hit.

8. Beyond (2016) $170M
You can see how far this one fell in comparison.  That's why it was so little talked about compared to its two predecessors.

9. Generations (1994) $165M
But it still did better than this one.

10. The Undiscovered Country (1991) $163M
Fans were so relieved to like a Star Trek movie again, they didn't really give this one its due.

11. Insurrection (1998) $134M
It doesn't look like par for the course in the adjusted box office.

12. The Final Frontier (1989) $120M
Although Final Frontier doesn't look as bad in comparison from this vantage point.

13. Nemesis (2002) $67M
Hard to make this one look good.


Okay!

Box Office Mojo doesn't have a full chart for international results (totals in parentheses include unadjusted results).  Here's what's available:

1. Into Darkness (2013) $238M ($467M total)
Here's where Wrath of Khan fans really have kittens.  It's technically the most successful Khan movie.

2. Beyond (2016) $184M ($343M total)
Surprisingly, this ranks above the first Abrams on this list.

3. Star Trek (2009) $128M ($385M total)
Still near the top, naturally.

4. First Contact (1996) $54M ($146M total)
Unsurprisingly charting high here.

5. Generations (1994) $42M ($118M total)
Here's where Generations most looks like a winner.

6. Insurrection (1998) $42M ($112M total)
And here's where you can see Picard made Star Trek more popular internationally than Kirk.

7. Nemesis (2002) $24M ($67M)
Even the least successful one was more successful than the most successful original Kirk film on the list.

8. The Undiscovered Country (1991) $22M ($96M total)
Which was the last one.  So internationally, Generations really was, comparatively, a huge hit, and original Kirk's biggest exposure, at least as far as Box Office Mojo knows.

And now you know!

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Every episode and every movie in the Star Trek franchise now has a review!

A journey that began in 2010 has now been completed.  I have now written a review for the Star Trek Fan Companion of every episode and every movie, from all seven series and across all thirteen movies, 1966 to 2018, from the first season of the original series to the first season of Discovery.  There have been plenty of starts and stops along the way, but started a few years back I started making a concerted effort to get it done, and incredibly, something that seemed a long way off just a few years ago is finished.  Wow!  This whole project has always been driven by the belief that fans new and old alike deserve to be able to explore the franchise from a different viewpoint than the increasingly cynical one that developed during the late 1990s, that saw it more likely to reject new material than attempt to embrace it.  It's possible in my reviews to find a positive take on every series, something few fans are willing to admit.  You can trace their legacies as they develop, and find a new vision of the classics, and a new conception of the worst episodes, and even new takes on what the worst episodes have traditionally been considered.

Along the way I refined a couple of times how reviews were written.  At some point I thought it would be fun to apply tags for notable guest-stars, and that required some revision of older reviews, but hopefully the results speak for themselves.  There are a number of ways to work through the reviews, including those guest-star tags, as well as star ratings and even by the peculiar set of criteria I chose to use in coming up with the star ratings.  I labeled the criteria "franchise," "series," "character," and "essential."  Each of them was a way of calculating whether an episode had any intrinsic worth.  The full impact of an episode was either aided or hindered by whether or not they were worth viewing on any of these scores.  If they managed none of them, they got no stars at all, and so that was how I determined for myself the all-time worst episodes. 

Of course, this is all subjective, but I hope it's a good starting point on an immersive journey of discovery throughout franchise lore.

Enterprise 3x24 "Zero Hour"

rating: ****

the story: The Xindi conflict's resolution.

what it's all about: Well, this is it!  And finally we see where Archer's bull-headed pursuit of victory has landed him, and that's almost more interesting to talk about than the episode itself.

But let's just acknowledge that seeing the crew defeat Dolim and the Sphere Builders is a terrific and thrilling reward, well worth investing in three episodes to see them beat the clock.  Archer first demonstrates his apparent lack of perspective by pushing Hoshi, who's just survived slightly worse pressuring by the Xindi-Reptilians in "Countdown," to help him destroy the weapon.  Then Daniels appears and at first it seems like a reversion to "Carpenter Street" making the Temporal Cold War arc look cheap, instead of "Azati Prime," which made it look strong.  Fans who think it's a little on the nose for Archer to be outright crucial for the birth of the Federation might gag at this material, and again, it makes the Temporal Cold War look weak if all it ultimately accomplishes is produce Daniels to say how important Archer is, in this instance putting truth to the old adage show rather than tell.  But by the end of the series Archer is once again being given credit for the Federation, and fans complain that we don't get to see his big speech in "These Are the Voyages..."  So I wouldn't worry too much about whether or not fans are happy about Archer's status so much as quibbling about how it's presented.

But the real treat of "Zero Hour" is its twist ending.  In a way, it redeems two other Temporal Cold War stories.  One is from near the start of the series, "Shockwave," which concluded the first season and began the second.  In hindsight "Zero Hour" links "Shockwave" with "Storm Front," the two-part story that opens the fourth season and concludes the Temporal Cold War arc.  Daniels showing up to warn Archer in "Zero Hour" in effect translates "Storm Front" into a rephrasing of "Shockwave."  "Shockwave" is about what happens if Archer is removed from history.  He and Daniels discover a future that has been devastated.  "Storm Front" suggests much the same, only instead of going with Archer and Daniels to the future, we go to the past, WWII.  Our last glimpse of Archer in "Zero Hour" is with Nazis staring down at him, and one of them is an alien.

Now, I began to view "Shockwave" as ultimately disappointing, and "Storm Front" has always frustrated me as a conclusion to the Temporal Cold War arc.  "Shockwave" shortchanges its story by making it too simple too early.  "Storm Front" shortchanges itself by providing no conclusive answers about "Future Guy," the leading antagonist of the bad guys in the conflict.  And yet, as Archer angrily states he's tired of being a pawn in someone else's conflict...he's also admitting what "Zero Hour" makes plain, that he has been a pawn.  The Temporal Cold War is a complex series of power plays.  "Storm Front" illustrates how a faction of antagonists becomes trapped in the past.  I always wanted to believe that alien Nazi was "Future Guy," but I guess that was never really necessary.  Archer's disgust is its own statement, and illustrative of his emerging need to take control of his own fate, and as such embrace his destiny.  But it's also a confirmation that Daniels wasn't kidding when he said Archer was crucial to the future.  Whether or not he ends up captive of the Nazis for a time, we see him isolated from his crew by the end of "Zero Hour," and so it's is Archer and not him and his crew that Daniels is worrying about.  It's his choice to destroy the weapon personally that Daniels worries about, the risk he's taking, and Archer is transported to the past, and the rest of the crew, separately, too. 

In a last desperate bid, Daniels is responsible for transporting Archer and the crew to the past.  Happily, he sets about the circumstances that stop the alien Nazi and also Archer's declaration.  So Daniels has actually helped push Archer out of the conflict.  You kind of need the whole context to appreciate this, and so I give "Zero Hour" most of the credit for this.  It's appropriate for Daniels' ultimate role to be obscure like this, as his first appearance, in "Cold Front," features his rival Silik trying to convince Archer it's not so clear cut about which of them to trust.  But both Silik and Daniels, or versions of them, die in "Storm Front," Silik more obviously as a hero.  So it really does even out.

criteria analysis:
  • franchise - The big conclusion to one of Star Trek's biggest arcs.
  • series - And the setup to the conclusion of another.
  • character - Archer's determination motivates him to the last of his extreme actions.
  • essential - Provides the key to unlock the Temporal Cold War.
notable guest-stars:
Matt Winston (Daniels)
Scott MacDonald (Dolim)
Tucker Smallwood
Rick Worthy
J. Paul Boehmer
Jeffrey Combs (Shran)

Enterprise 3x23 "Countdown"

rating: ****

the story: The Xindi-Reptilians become increasingly isolated, but it may already be too late to stop them.

what it's all about: It was always going to be inevitable to compare the heavily serialized Xindi arc with the most famous previous Star Trek serialized storytelling, the Dominion War in Deep Space Nine.  "Countdown" is where the comparisons really begin to find parallels.  The Sphere Builders are much like the Founders, the Xindi like the Dominion.  But where the Founders never quite pulled the trigger in active participation and the Dominion never quite splintered apart, the Xindi have and splinter still further during the course of the episode.

By the final episode of Deep Space Nine, "What You Leave Behind," the Cardassians have come to regret joining the Dominion.  Damar has led a full-scale revolt, which leads to the Dominion devastating the Cardassian homeworld in retaliation.  But the Jem'Hadar, the shock troops of the Dominion, never seriously consider leaving, or do the Vorta, the bureaucrats of the Dominion, or the Breen, like the Cardassians allies from the Alpha Quadrant.  But The Xindi have already splintered: the Primates (I have referred to them as Humanoids; Degra and the councilman played by Tucker Smallwood came from this species) and the Arboreals (the councilman played by Rick Worthy, for instance) were the first to believe Archer.  The Aquatics join the good guys in "Countdown."  The Insectoids (who like the Aquatics are fully CGI) rebel against the Reptilians (represented by Dolim) by the end of the episode.  There's a whole species who became extinct before we ever met the Xindi: the Avians. 

The Founders, meanwhile, as shapeshifters sowed distrust within the Federation and Klingon Empire, but they played no active part in the war aside from the Female Founder acting as a kind of general.  The Prophets, however, intervened on the behalf of the Federation.  That's what the Sphere Builders do in "Countdown," suddenly aware that their plans have reached a precarious state.

These are fascinating contrasts.  The momentum "Countdown" represents in the arc, meanwhile, is itself an interesting counterpoint.  Deep Space Nine limited even its serialized storytelling at the beginning of the sixth and end of seventh season to the conventional restraints of episodic and two-part installments.  Story elements keep the situation heightened to a crisis state, but each individual installment tends to stand for itself.  You have to go all the way back to the start of the second season, in an entirely unrelated story, to find material in this series comparable to the three-episode momentum that concludes the Xindi arc: "The Homecoming," "The Circle," and "The Siege," which encompass a Bajoran crisis that eventually sees a military seizure of the station.  Yet it's fair to say that Enterprise has more breathtaking momentum.

criteria analysis:
  • franchise - High stakes keep the action going in unprecedented serialized storytelling.
  • series - The Xindi have finally splintered completely apart.
  • character - Dolim attempts to exploit Hoshi's linguistic skills.  Also, Hayes proves to be the ultimate red shirt.
  • essential - This ends up as the template for Enterprise's fourth season storytelling.
notable guest-stars:
Steven Culp (Hayes)
Scott MacDonald (Dolim)
Tucker Smallwood
Rick Worthy

Enterprise 3x22 "The Council"

rating: ****

the story: Archer presents his case before the Xindi Council.

what it's all about: "The Council" is where the whole Xindi arc becomes operatic.  It's the end of a suite, in a way, the culmination of Degra's appearances and the conclusion of Dolim's transformation into the true face of villainy.  It also wraps up any lingering mysteries about the connection between the Xindi and the Sphere Builders.

Degra had emerged as one of the essential figures of the arc.  He became Archer's best shot at a diplomatic solution to the crisis through a series of events ("The Shipment," "Stratagem," "Azati Prime," and "The Forgotten") that saw him become go from enemy to ally.  In doing so he made an enemy of Dolim, the Xindi-Reptilian who rejects his logic, siding with the Sphere Builders and launching the attack without the full support of the council.

The council itself, as it represents the Xindi, is finally thrust fully into the spotlight, after having been featured throughout the season, with a full explanation at last.  We are given a history of the Xindi, and see the world they currently inhabit, the one ostensibly threatened by humanity.  Anyone still wondering what any of this was about will now have a definitive answer.

And Dolim murders Degra.  It's one of the great tragedies of the series, and one of its defining moments.  That's exactly the stature Degra had obtained during the course of the series.

criteria analysis:
  • franchise - Casual viewers will have very little excuse not to understand the Xindi arc now.
  • series - Another key moment of the arc.
  • character - Degra's last stand.
  • essential - Character deaths usually tend to mean something in Star Trek, and this episode nails another one.
notable guest-stars:
Randy Oglesby (Degra)
Scott MacDonald (Dolim)
Tucker Smallwood
Rick Worthy

Monday, April 30, 2018

Enterprise 3x21 "E2"

rating: ***

the story: The crew encounters its own descendants thanks to a time paradox.

what it's all about: Though "E2" closely mirrors Deep Space Nine's "Children of Time," there are plenty of other episodes throughout the franchise where time paradoxes or outright time travel present alternate outcomes and thus encounters that otherwise would not or could not have happened.  Actually, one of the more famous is Next Generation's "Yesterday's Enterprise," which features the Enterprise-C, from between the Star Trek Generations and Next Generation eras.  But the descendants bit definitely feels like a riff on "Children of Time."

The episode is mostly another attempt at something like "Twilight," where the urgency of the Xindi mission is emphasized via outlandish sci-fi storytelling, only this time it doesn't quite feel as justified.  Where "Twilight" ultimately focused on Archer and T'Pol, "E2" actually spends much of its time with a wholly original character, the offspring of Trip and T'Pol.  And an aged T'Pol exists in this scenario, where the crew had entered a region of space that spit them out more than a hundred years in the past.  The logic of why they didn't stop the original Xindi attack from happening isn't very sound, nor how exactly they managed to stick around for so long, nor why they didn't do anything or learn anything else...only to conveniently show up right when the crew is about to enter the region all over again...

But the interactions between the crews is good, and the aged T'Pol gives current T'Pol another chance to meditate on what's been happening with her, and even what may happen later, a real relationship with Trip, which the fourth season spends much of its time exploring.  I assume the only reason the episode wasn't focused solely on these elements is because "Children of Time" did that, too, with Odo and Kira.  So they had to find something fresh.  And pretty much...didn't.

criteria analysis:
  • franchise - A familiar trope receives new life.
  • series - Another rumination on the scope of the Xindi mission.
  • character - A soft spotlight on T'Pol.
  • essential - In hindsight, even if the episode hadn't completely paralleled "Children" by placing a hard focus on T'Pol and Trip, merely putting it on T'Pol herself would've been a nice complement for "Twilight."
notable guest-stars:
Randy Oglesby (Degra)
Tucker Smallwood
Rick Worthy
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