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: Star Trek Discovery

I embraced the Star Trek universe when I was 14 years old. In culture jargon, I became a Trekkie at that impressionable and informative age, and I have remained one since that time. In ways that are difficult to put into words, Star Trek has shaped my life by modeling for me how to boldy go, and how to expand my known universe.

Tonight, with great excitement and anticipation, I watched the premiere of the newest installment in this long running franchise…Star Trek Discovery.

Star Trek Discovery stars Sonequa Martin-Green, Doug Jones, Michelle Yeoh, Maulik Pancholy, Shazad Latif, Anthony Rapp, Jason Isaacs, Kenneth Mitchell, and James Frain…among other upcoming season regulars. The sci-fi series premiere was directed by David Semel and is based on the Star Trek universe, as created by Gene Roddenberry. The series has a weekly run time of 1 hour and carries a MA (mature audience) rating.

Tonight’s episode, titled The Vulcan Hello, opens by reintroducing us to the warrior race known as the Klingons. Discovery takes place 10 years before the Enterprise sets out on its five year mission. At this point in the Star Trek storyline, the Klingons have not been seen for generations, except on rare occasions. But they are rallying the 24 noble houses, with an intent that seems less than peaceful. Commander Kol (Mitchell) is the formidable leader.

On a desert planet, we meet Captain Georgiou (Yeoh) and her first officer, Lt. Commander Michael Burnham (Martin-Green). The women have served together for seven years, long enough to develop an understanding of each other and build trust between them.

However, when Lt Commander Burnham makes a startling discovery involving the seldom encountered Klingons, long buried emotions from her past threaten to spill over.

While serving with the Vulcans, Burnham’s parents were killed during a Klingon attack. Orphaned, Burnham was raised by the Vulcan ambassador, Sarek (Frain). Although she has adopted logic, and learned to repress her emotions, finding the Klingons in Federation space brings Burnham’s distrust and desire for retaliation into sharp contrast with her cool intellect.

The Federation appears to be on the brink of a fresh war with the Klingons.

Other members of the crew of the USS Shenzhou that were introduced tonight include Dr Nambue (Pancholy), Lt Tyler (Latif), Lt Stamets (Rapp), and Lt Saru (Jones), an alien with the ability to sense approaching death. Jason Isaacs’ character, Captain Gabriel Lorca, will be a regular, although he was not present in the pilot.

There was much for me to love about Star Trek’s return to television after a 12 year absence. The movie quality visuals, special effects and musical score were amazing. There were moments of familiarity, such as seeing a young Sarek, that warmed my heart. And enough new material, species and technology to make me want to know more.

Discovery’s opening sequence was so good that it brought tears to my eyes. I had to watch it again after the episode ended. For Trekkies there are iconic depictions of the hand phaser, the flip open communicator and the beloved Vulcan salute. And within the new musical number, stirring notes from the classic Trek score can be heard. Watch the opening sequence HERE.

The stories in this series are told, for the first time, not from the captain’s perspective, but from the second in command’s viewpoint. There is a very diverse crew, portrayed by an equally diverse cast. The choice to make the commanding officers female is a tribute to Nichelle Nichols, who played Lt Uhura in the original series.

And there are unanswered questions at the end of episode one, the primary one being is Discovery the name of a replacement ship for the Shenzhou…or more of a theme? The series tagline is At the edge of the universe, discovery begins. I like that. My own discoveries, about who I am and what I am capable of, began at the edge of my known universe too. Going beyond has become my own personal trek.

The question that I had at the beginning of tonight’s episode has been answered. Another first for this franchise was moving the series to CBS All Access after the premiere. The first episode was on network television. The rest can only be seen with a paid subscription. I didn’t know if I would be joining the streaming network.

But…it’s Star Trek. This show and its concepts have been a part of my life for 45 years. I am a most loyal fan and devotee. I don’t try to make Star Trek fit within my parameters and perceptions. I accept it, in all of its storylines, series and movie adaptations, and remain open to the lessons that I can learn by doing so.

This is how Star Trek expands me. This is how Star Trek takes me beyond where I currently am. This is how I boldly go, where I have not gone before.

I am happily joining CBS All Access. It is a nominal fee. Episode two of Star Trek Discovery is waiting for me there.

Documentary Review: For the Love of Spock

As a long time Trekkie, I became interested in this documentary, created and produced by Adam Nimoy, shortly after Leonard Nimoy's death in 2015. Adam had already begun the project, which initially focused on the character in Star Trek that his father made famous. After Leonard passed away, his son expanded the concept to include the late actor's life as well.

Released last year, I have not been able to find a free online source for watching the 1 hour and 51 minute documentary. I was willing to rent it for a nominal fee through Amazon. While at the gorgeous Joplin Library last week, I suddenly felt an intuitive nudge to look for the DVD among their free to check out movies. In the documentaries section I found it. What joy!

This documentary full of heart takes a look at the life and career of Leonard Nimoy, focusing primarily on the role that Leonard turned into a cultural icon. Portraying the half Vulcan, half human science officer Spock, of the USS Enterprise, became a role that Leonard would embrace for 50 years.

Featuring footage of Leonard, as an actor and as a family man, and cameos by the many actors and actresses who worked with him in the Star Trek franchise, Adam's work of love does an excellent job of fleshing out who Leonard was, beyond Spock.

Although Adam and his father went through a time of estrangement, when Adam was entering young adulthood, it is evident from the film that there was a close bond between them. Leonard worked long days as an actor and at times saw little of his wife, daughter and son, however everything he did was to provide consistently for his family. The father and son later enjoyed a restored relationship that became crucial for both of them.

I appreciated learning more about Leonard's life. He starred in many movies and tv shows, before and after Star Trek, and performed on the stage. And he had an active artistic life that encompassed more than acting. He played the guitar and sang, and wrote poetry. And his love of photography became his passion later in life.

One of Leonard's photos.

Yet this talented man never ventured far from his alter ego, Spock. He reprised the role in recent years in the reboot of the Star Trek movies, under JJ Abrams, a move that delighted Leonard and his legions of fans.

I have long been one of those fans. I fell in love with the original Star Trek series as a young teen when the show entered syndication. Although I loved Captain Kirk and Dr McCoy and the rest of the main crew members, the character that most intrigued me was Spock. Being an alien, an outsider, struck a chord with so many of us who lived on the fringes too. The half Vulcan's struggle to dwell among emotional humans allowed me to see myself in fresh new ways. He was not a man who lacked emotions. He was a man who controlled them…something I strove to do as well. And yet, the moments that touched my heart most deeply were those in which Spock loosened his tight grip on control and smiled, or smirked, or called his captain and best friend by his name, Jim.

I watched this documentary with tears in my eyes and great love and appreciation for the father and the son. I learned more about Leonard and Spock. I saw that as complex as Spock was as a character, he was merely a facet of the man portraying him.

Thank you Adam Nimoy for this insightful look into such a beautiful life. You accomplished what Spock attempted. You made this gracious man more human. You shared his career and life highlights and his struggles as he won his battle with alcoholism. You showcased his many talents and let me see how much you missed your dad while he worked. You shone a bright light on my favorite Vulcan and revealed the depth of Leonard's humanity.

All this was accomplished and presented with gratitude and deep affection for your father. I add my heart felt sentiments to yours. It is all for the love of Spock…and Leonard Nimoy.

Star Trek 50th Anniversary 

Fifty years ago today, a sci-fi series began on television that was so groundbreaking, it changed the world. And if that claim seems preposterous, I can add that Star Trek, at least, changed my world. 

Created by Gene Roddenbery, this series, originally described as Wagon Train to the Stars, premiered on September 8, 1966 with the episode The Man Trap.  William Shatner, as the daring Captain James Tiberius Kirk, provided the voice over for the opening monologue, promising that the voyages of the starship Enterprise would boldly go where no man had gone before. 

And they did. 

Set in the 23rd century, Kirk and crew showed viewers in the late 1960s a future that offered equality, diversity, acceptance and hope. As they explored the far reaches of space, they also explored the depths of humanity, the mysteries of the unknown and the strengths of friendship. They boldly went, and we went with them. 

That first series only lasted three years. But in syndication the franchise continued to grow its fan base, eventually launching six more tv series, including Discovery, premiering next year, and 13 feature length movies. A reboot began in 2009, introducing a younger generation to Star Trek. Add in hundreds of novels, comics and video games, and the huge scope of this fandom can be seen. 

Star Trek not only inspired additional series and movies, but influenced technology and science as well. We are using, well before the 23rd century, devices that in 1966 were the stuff of fantasy. What was imagined then, has become reality. The list includes small handheld computers, flip phones, diagnostic beds, tractor beams, hyposprays, computer tablets, voice activated computers, bluetooth headsets, transparent aluminum, GPS, automatic doors and a VISOR for the seeing impaired. 

I couldn’t let this day pass without recognizing this extraordinary show and the impact it has had on the world, and on me. As a young teen figuring out my place in this often confusing world, Star Trek expanded my mind and heart and taught me to think about and see a bigger reality. In ways that go immeasurably beyond being a fan girl, the Star Trek universe was my safe place for years. In that expansive space I had the freedom to explore who I was and what I could do, and discover what I could offer to the world.

I was thrilled with Facebook’s commemoration of the day by switching the response emoticons to Star Trek based ones. And I added a Live Long and Prosper banner to my profile picture on that social media site. This evening I enjoyed the episode The Naked Time, from season one of the Original Series. A virus allows repressed and hidden traits within each crew member to surface, creating hilarity, vulnerability and anguish. Star Trek was genius…and light years ahead of its time.

I am grateful for Gene Roddenbery’s vision. I hope Star Trek journeys on, so that in another 50 years my great, great grandchildren smile about their Trekkie Yaya who embraced that  vision and lived a bigger life because of it. And then go visit me in the holodeck. 

Live long and prosper, Star Trek. Happy 50th!

Movie Review: Star Trek Beyond

Tonight I had the pleasure of watching the newest release in the long running Star Trek franchise. My sister Linda, my grandson Dayan and I settled into our theater seats, ready for an adventure in the far reaches of space. The opening scene began, and in the musical score, a few familar notes rang out. The Star Trek theme song instantly transported me into another time and place. 

Star Trek Beyond stars Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Karl Urban, Zoe Saladana, John Cho, Simon Pegg, Anton Yelchin, Idris Elba and Sofia Boutella. This sci-fi/adventure was directed by Justin Lin and has a run time of 2 hours and 2 minutes. It is rated PG-13, for intense action and violence. 

The crew of the starship Enterprise, captained by James T Kirk (Pine), is at the edge of known space, three years into their five year mission. Scotty (Pegg) has settled into the bustling engine room. Lt. Uhura (Saladana) and Commander Spock (Quinto) are having relationship issues. Young Chekov (Yelchin) and Sulu (Cho) use their brilliance to navigate the massive starship, while sharp witted and sharp tongued Dr. McCoy (Urban) oversees the health and well being of the entire crew. 

The ship docks at the deep space station, Yorktown, to take on supplies and allow the crew much needed R&R. It’s a few days before Kirk’s birthday, and he feels restless, lost, unsure of his purpose. He is considering a career change, as is his first officer. While in Yorktown, Spock learns that his older self, Ambassador Spock, has passed away. With the planet Vulcan destroyed, young Spock feels an obligation to take his counterpart’s place on New Vulcan, to further the development of his people. 

In the midst of these shifts, an emergency arises, an urgent need best met by the experienced captain and crew of the Enterprise. This adventure will propel Kirk, Spock, Bones and the crew into uncharted space within a nearby nebula. There they will encounter a new ally, Jaylah (Boutella), and a dangerous new enemy, Krall (Elba). Will unity among the command staff and crew become their greatest strength? Or their biggest weakness? 

This was a great movie, especislly for a Trekkie like me. ST Beyond hit all the right notes, creating an action packed, high energy film that fully honors the Star Trek universe, while continuing to develop the characters in this alternate timeline. The actors did a superb job of capturing the well known mannerisms, expressions and voices of their counterparts. Watching them, I could believe they were my Spock, Bones, Kirk, Uhura, Scotty, Sulu and Chekov. 

Although the action scenes are intense, without being graphic, there is an abundance of humor sprinkled strategically throughout the movie. Especially welcome was the familar verbal sparring between Bones and Spock. I also relished the deep friendship and loyalty between the three primary chatacters. That relationship has always drawn me to Star Trek. 

Chris Pine has really matured into the role of Captain Kirk. Kirk’s approaching birthday reminded him poignantly that he was about to become older than his father, who died in space when he was an infant. Wandering in deep space, with no tangible goal to reach beyond the five year mission, left his soul adrift and questions in his mind. The movie was as much about Kirk’s journey and his personal battles, as it was about the crew of Enterprise. 

There was sadness for me tonight, watching this third film in the reboot. Leonard Nimoy’s death last year created a need to say good bye to Ambassador Spock. The photos of his character brought tears to my eyes. He felt like my long time friend as well. And I was very aware of the brevity of life as I watched Chevov’s scenes. Anton Yelchin, who portrayed the young Russian crewman so passionately, died in a freak accident last month. He was 27 years old. My old beliefs want to wail over a life ended too soon, and close me down with fear over the seemingly random cruelty of life. My new beliefs allow me to feel gratitude that Anton discovered his gifts at such an early age, and that he shared them so beautifully with the world. 

I loved Star Trek Beyond. It was wonderful to revisit this universe. I’ll be watching this film again…soon. 

To Boldly Go

Today was one of those days where I repeatedly came across something. Without specifically looking for it, Star Trek popped up over and over…on a TV commercial, Facebook, Twitter and other social media. I opened my Amazon Video app to check the availability of a movie my daughter recommended, and Star Trek was featured. Not the most recent films in this long lived franchise, but the three seasons from the original series and the early movies. 

Granted, there is a new release, Star Trek Beyond, playing now in theaters. I’ll see it this week. And this year is Star Trek’s 50th anniversary. And…a new television series, Star Trek Discovery, premieres January 2017. However, today, my awareness was pulled again and again to this campy sci-fi phenomenon. 

I gave in to the taps on the shoulder. And happily so. I am a Trekkie, and have been since age 14. As an eight year old, when the series premiered, the show was a bit too intense for me. I watched the second episode, Charlie X, and it scared me. Six years later I caught the series in syndication and I was hooked. Hurrying home after school each afternoon, I’d catch the next episode. 

Five TV spin offs, an animated series and 13 feature length films later, I’m still a devout fan. I’ve faithfully watched every series and movie. And when I was in between episodes and films, I read Star Trek novels. At one time I owned a couple of hundred paperbacks chronicling the continuing adventures of Kirk, Spock and McCoy. My family can verify that along with the usual fan momentos, I also had in my collection an Enterprise telephone, life size cardboard standees, and a set of Vulcan ears that slipped over my own. 

With great pleasure, I settled back this afternoon and watched episode one from the original series, The Man Trap. Although I’ve seen every episode many times, it’s been several years since I’ve watched anything from the television series. Being familiar with the story left me free to see with fresh eyes and a perspective that has shifted since I last viewed Kirk, Spock and Dr. McCoy, affectionately known as Bones. 

I was enchanted, again. I know the sets and special effects are not up to today’s  standards. And the women wear short dresses. And William Shatner is dramatic as Captain James T Kirk. But c’mon…it was the 1960s. The stories and concepts were way ahead of their time. The gadgets and science of Star Trek inspired future technology. The cast was multiracial and multicultural.

Watching today, with a tender smile, I loved it still. Why? Because of the relationships and friendships. Kirk, Spock and Bones form an unbreakable bond that continues across time and the galaxy. If one is present, the other two are near by. They journey with each other. Protect each other. Challenge each other. Sacrifice themselves for the others. That strong friendship inspired me as a teen and continues to today. It is unconditional love, respect and trust, combined. 

The half human, half Vulcan character Spock, portrayed by Leonard Nimoy, captivated me the most. His struggles with his humanity allowed me to learn more about myself. His attempt to keep his emotions tightly under control was of particular interest to me as I attempted to do the same. Although I was okay expressing positive emotions, and Spock was not, we both clamped down on the negative ones. Our shared journey was to discover how to live with the rawness of powerful emotions that threatened to overwhelm. I was horribly sad when Leonard passed away last year. And grateful to learn today that a documentary, For the Love of Spock, created by Leonard’s son Adam Nimoy, will be released this fall. 

I’m glad that today I was reminded of just how important Star Trek has been in my life. In many ways, the impact was much deeper than just me being in the fandom. Star Trek has shaped my life, and taught me to reach, to expand, to grow, and yes…here it comes…to boldly go. 

I am thrilled to celebrate 50 years of Trek. I look forward to future films and TV series. As I was saving pictures for my blog post, my grandson Dayan texted to ask if I was aware there was a new Star Trek series coming out. He had no idea I’d been immersed in the franchise all day. It was the final attention getting tap. Dayan introduced me to Doctor Who. It is time for me to introduce him to another long running series. 

Live long and prosper, Star Trek.