Star Trek Discovery Fall Finale

I’ve already written about my excitement over the launch of this newest series in the Star Trek franchise. Tonight is the fall finale for Star Trek Discovery, as Episode 9 streams. Because I catch another show at 8:00 Sunday evenings, for one more week, I wait and watch Discovery after the hour long episode is over. The midway point in this year’s season provides the perfect opportunity to post an update about why I absolutely love this Star Trek.

Sunday evenings used to be my favorite night for television. For nine years, The X Files drew my viewing loyalty. Sunday night I was there, with Mulder and Scully. And while the original Star Trek and The Next Generation both aired on prime time television, the three series following TNG did not, at least not in Joplin. I watched Deep Space Nine, Voyager and Enterprise on Sunday nights at 10:30.

I didn’t mind the late hour. Everyone else would go to bed or to their rooms and the TV was mine. I am, and will always be, a Star Trek devotee. I watched it, whenever and wherever it was showing.

Which is why Sunday nights have become my favorite night for television again as Star Trek Discovery claimed that weekend spot. And why it was a no brainer for me to sign up for CBS All Access so that I could watch. That is the only way to catch episodes as they air. The cost for a year subscription was nominal. It is worth it to me.

It is SO worth it to me. I am loving Star Trek Discovery, with a passion that rivals my fondness for the original series. I am fully on board. The episodes are incredibly engaging, with movie quality cinematography, sets and special effects.

The crew is the most diverse yet, and that is high praise because all Star Trek series strive for that quality. The actors and actresses portraying those characters are just as diverse, extremely talented, and for being new at working together, have already developed strong connections with each other.

What I appreciate most about Discovery is that it is an edgier, darker Trek. I’ve only just figured out what it is that causes me to anticipate each episode, and set aside Sunday evenings to join the Discovery crew.

In the Star Trek timeline, Discovery’s events take place ten years before Captain Kirk steps onto the bridge of the Enterprise. By then, the starship functions as an exploratory vessel, charged with keeping peace in the universe and discovering strange new worlds as they boldly go.

Discovery is a war ship. The Federation is at war with the Klingon Houses. They aren’t boldly going on discovery missions so much as they are trying to survive and safeguard the universe. And here is what I am loving. This is a time of expansion and growth for the Federation. Captain Lorca doesn’t always take the moral high ground. He is a warrior more than a diplomat. He is a strategist, and he and his crew will do what it takes to win peace for the Federation.

Each crew member has his or her struggles. Michael Burnham, the series main character, is a mutineer who faces a life prison sentence. Tilly is full of doubts about her abilities. Lt Stamets wavers between snarkiness and self sacrifice. Saru is hardwired to feel fear every second of his life. These people…humans, non humans, androids…are in the process of becoming. It’s not always pretty. It’s messy and dark sometimes and gritty. But it has the ring of truth, of authenticity. That’s how lives…and organizations and Federations…transform. And that is what Discovery is all about, growth and transformation.

I can identify with that process, as can we all.

In Discovery’s time, we are seeing the huge shifts that take place in the universe that usher in the time of Kirk, Spock and Dr McCoy on Enterprise. For me, it is a journey worth taking. It gives me hope that fiction and fantasy aside, humanity is capable of making these same huge shifts that will ultimately bring about a different universe…or a different Earth at least. And like Discovery’s trek, ours can be just as gritty and edgy, and oft times it is fraught with perils.

We have to boldly go though, into that future, and we will figure it out as we go.

Star Trek Discovery returns for the spring season on January 7. I’ll be waiting…

Series Review: Versailles

I don’t watch a lot of television, preferring movies instead. However, when I find a series that grabs my attention and stays with me, invading my thoughts and even my dreams, I become a faithful follower. I had seen previews for the upcoming season two of a series called Versailles. Described as “opulent”, “addictive”, “intriguing”, and the “best series on television”, I became curious. Serendipitously, when I checked to see if episodes from season one were available, I discovered that the final two episodes of that first season were being televised at that very moment, ahead of this weekend’s season two premiere.

It’s true. The historical show is rich in detail and well crafted, with outstanding performances and amazing sets and period costumes. And…it is oh so addictive.

This is Versailles.

Versailles stars George Blagden, Alexander Vlahos, Tygh Runyan, Elisa Lasowski, Anna Brewster and Noemie Schmidt. This weekly historical drama is rate MA, for mature audiences, and each episode has a run time of 58 minutes.

Set in 1667, King Louis XIV (Blagden) is France’s 28 year old monarch. He decides to build the greatest palace in the world, Versailles, and move his court there. In a world of uncertainty, danger and unrest, he requires the nobility of France to reside in Versailles with him. Far from being a generous gesture, Louis keeps his friends and his enemies close, the better to control them and discover their secrets.

With him is his queen, Marie Therese (Lasowski), his favorite mistress, Montespan (Brewster), his brother Philippe (Vlahos) and his wife Henriette (Schmidt), and a host of advisors including the man he trusts most to safeguard him and his family, Fabien Marchal (Runyan).

And what a job that is, for to be king is to have many enemies. From those who seek to invade his country, to those who wish to hurt him by attacking those closest to him, the Sun King is beset with conspiracies and dark deeds on all sides. Even his brother, who deals with his own dark thoughts and insecurities, cannot always be counted on to stand with the king.

And yet, amid all the turmoil surrounding him, Louis is building a palace that is representative of him and his great power in Europe. He will spare no expense, for the story of Versailles is his story and the world is watching as it unfolds.

Louis XIV and his brother, Philippe.

Although I came late to the party that is Versailles, I loved the final two episodes, out of ten, of season one. Apparently the network was rebroadcasting the first season before the premiere of season two. I was able to watch a 22 minute behind the scenes program, which did an adequate job of catching me up, but also created the desire to watch this series from the beginning.

Ovation is the network carrying the current season, however season one can be found on Netflix, iTunes and Amazon.

I appreciate everything about this show. Opulent is the perfect word for Versailles. It is lavish in all regards, from the period costumes to the sets. Great regard is given to details, which is vital for a historical series. And the opening credits, with the theme song, gave me goosebumps. Watch HERE.

Although the cast is completely unfamiliar to me, the portrayal of King Louis and his court is superb. I have already become a fan of George Blagden and Alexander Vlahos. Their interactions, as royal brothers who both love each other and compete against the other, are the fuel that drives the series.

The thing I most love about Versailles is that it sent me to Google, to look up the real Sun King and his brother, the queens, the mistresses and the palace itself. I enjoy historical pieces because they create in me the desire to know more. I found that Versailles is very accurate in portraying King Louis and his court, with a bit of creative license taken for the sake of good storytelling.

Overall, I am quite impressed and taken with this series. I will be playing catch up as I watch episodes 1 – 8 of season one, while I am enjoying season two. I know King Louis XIV experienced the longest reign of any European monarch. I hope that means there will be many more seasons of Versailles.

Doctor…Who?

I am a huge fan of the long running British television series, Doctor Who. This show, spanning decades, is so much more than a sci-fi or fantasy series. Doctor Who stretches my mind, touches my heart, engages my imagination and broadens my beliefs while delivering consistently good episodes about humanity.

At the heart of this show is an alien from the planet Gallifrey known simply as The Doctor. He serves as a protector and defender of peoples from across the universe, although he has a particular fondness for humans. What has made the longevity of this series possible is a unique characteristic of The Doctor. Rather than dying, he regenerates, taking on a new appearance and personality when he does so. This cleverness has allowed various actors to play The Doctor over a span of more than 50 years.

At the encouragement of my grandson Dayan, I began watching the episodes dubbed as "New Who", featuring the 9th Doctor (played by Christopher Eccleston). I have faithfully followed along through the regenerations of three doctors, which is tough on me! I came to love Doctors 10, 11 and 12, as portrayed by different actors. Each brought fresh perspectives and charm to the character. I was sad when each one stepped away from the show so that another could fill the role…and yet I quickly came to appreciate the new actor and the new Doctor.

It is time for the 12th Doctor, played by the wonderful Peter Capaldi, to regenerate into Doctor 13. The Christmas special in December will be Twelve's last appearance as he becomes Thirteen. During the last few months there has been a great deal of secrecy and speculation about who the new Doctor will be.


Doctors 9, 10, 11 & 12.

Peter Capaldi as the 12th Doctor.

During the rampant speculations about Capaldi's successor, the rumors began that the next doctor could be female. This would be a first, as all the other incarnations have been male. Some felt it was time for a woman to play the lead role, rather than that of the Doctor's traveling companion. And some felt changing the Doctor's gender, even though other Time Lords have been shown to do so, should not be done. It has been a hotly debated topic.

Honestly, I had mixed feelings. I like the male actors who have played the heroic Time Lord. I was especially fond of Scottish actor David Tennant, who played the 10th Doctor. And I have grown quite fond of Capaldi's older, sassier version. I wasn't sure if a female actor could capture the essence of The Doctor as well as these fine male actors.

As the time for the reveal approached, scheduled for last Sunday afternoon, I was sure I didn't want 13 to be female. The BBC planned to release which actor was assuming the role by way of a brief video shown during Wimbledon. I found myself fervently thinking, Don't be a woman…please don't be a woman.

Actress Jodie Whittaker was selected as the 13th Doctor, amid a furor of reactions. She is a fine actress, best known for her current role in BBC's crime drama, Broadchurch. I like that series. I like Jodie. I embrace change in my own life. So why my strong reaction to this change?

I have thought about that question all week. I am still sorting through my feelings about it. This is my concise answer to a complicated assortment of realizations.

I discovered that I have an appreciation, and perhaps even a need, for a powerful male lead as a father figure. As a child of divorced parents and the resulting consequence of seeing my dad on weekends and then less and less frequently as I grew up, I have longed for that strong male presence in my life. I have been drawn to characters such as Captain Kirk in Star Trek and a whole hosts of super heroes such as Ironman and Batman for that reason. The Doctor, who comes across as very fatherly with his wisdom and deeper understanding of the universe, satisfies that need as well.

But my goodness…I am no longer a child. I stepped up into my identity years ago. I learned to fill in any self perceived gaps in the parenting I had, by becoming the mother and the father to my inner child that I wished I had had. I have understood this week that I no longer need to look outside of myself for anything that seems lacking.

And with those thoughts, my attitude about the new Doctor, about 13, completely shifted. I am excited to see what Jodie brings to the role. I am a loyal Whovian. And I accept this change, just as I ultimately have which each previous regeneration. Yeah, it is just a television show. I know that. And yeah, it is more than that as it helps me to grow and expand my awareness and see life in bigger ways.

If I needed any other persuasion on embracing the first female Doctor, I received it yesterday. I asked my granddaughter Aubrey, who is a Doctor Who fan as well, if she had heard about who the new Doctor was going to be. She had not. Aubrey's favorite Doctor is David Tennant as well, as Ten. I was curious to see her reaction to Thirteen.

Holding her on my lap, I pulled up the video on my phone that the BBC used for the reveal. I watched Aubrey, as she watched the short clip. As the 13th Doctor's eye and forehead were shown, Aubrey turned wide blue eyes to me and whispered, "Is it a girl?!" I just smiled. As Jodie removed the hood covering her head and her face was fully revealed, my granddaughter squealed with delight and yelled, "It IS a girl! The Doctor is a GIRL! She just became my new favorite Doctor."

I still tear up when I think about Aubrey's response. It means so much to her that the Doctor is at last a woman. What a strong role model Jodie is going to be, for girls and for boys…and for me. I can imagine how many little girls will be wielding sonic screw drivers and dressing as The Doctor for Halloween in the years to come. Aubrey could be among those pretending to be a Time Lady. I hope so.

Throughout the day, yesterday, Aubrey would turn shining eyes toward me and ask, "The new Doctor really is a girl?" I was proud to answer that she was. And touched to my core by Aubrey's happy grin.

Welcome to the Whoniverse, Jodie Whittaker. I am so glad you are here. Take us all to new places, in the show…and in time and space…and within our hearts.

Watch the reveal video HERE.