Star Trek:TOS Part 7:The old captain, the king’s conscience, and how to beat the deadlines by Rick Austin
Apr05

Star Trek:TOS Part 7:The old captain, the king’s conscience, and how to beat the deadlines by Rick Austin

One of the biggest problems facing Star Trek has always been the effects. While more recent shows and movies have had the luxury of computer animation, the original series had no such help. For them it was practical effects, some flashing lights and a handful of models. This may not sound like much, but it was still incredibly costly and very time consuming. While some props such as salt and pepper shakers got recycled into medical equipment, shots of the Enterprise held up editing and the show quickly fell behind schedule. In order to catch up, Roddenberry decided to use footage from the unaired pilot to fill two episodes and came up with The Menagerie. With a small amount of filming required from the new cast and crew, they managed to tell a two-part story that granted them some extra time for other episodes. If they hadn’t done this, it’s likely that the show would have been cancelled entirely and killed Star Trek right there. The other option is what became known as “bottle” shows, where the stories took place mostly on board the Enterprise itself and there were few effects required. Like Scotty in engineering, Roddenberry and his team of writers were slowly becoming miracle workers… The Menagerie parts 1 & 2 – Summary: The USS Enterprise arrives at Starbase 11 after Spock claims to have received an emergency call from his former captain Christopher Pike. Commodore Mendez states that it’s impossible, and shows Kirk, Bones and Spock why: Pike was paralyzed by delta rays and is confined to a wheelchair, where his only means of communication is by beeping “yes” or “no” when asked direct questions. Spock speaks to Pike privately, and despite Pike’s objections he commits mutiny and takes control of the Enterprise, leaving Kirk at Starbase 11. Spock sets course for the forbidden planet Talos IV taking Pike with him. Kirk and Mendez, realizing that the emergency call was a ruse by Spock, give chase in a shuttlecraft and board the Enterprise, while Spock freely gives himself up for court martial. Spock has set the ship’s computers to continue on course, and locked the program to ensure they continue while he stands trial. Kirk tries to delay the court martial, knowing that Spock will be found guilty and fearing for the fate of his friend. Spock insists that it continue though, stating that Kirk, Mendez and Pike fill the necessary requirements for the trial to occur. Spock’s offers little defense but insists that his explanation be heard. Spock’s explanation takes the form of video records of how 13 years previously Pike and the Enterprise visited...

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My thoughts on The Animated Series – “More Troubles, More Tribbles” by Gail Gerard
Apr03

My thoughts on The Animated Series – “More Troubles, More Tribbles” by Gail Gerard

The second season episode of the original series, “The Trouble With Tribbles” is where we originally meet the charming and somewhat sleazy Cyrano Jones who is just looking to offload the cute, fuzzy wuzzy, quadrotritcale-inhaling balls of fur known as tribbles. And you know what kind of trouble they caused that time..eating all the grain allocated for a group of settlers, multiplying like rabbits on speed and causing general mayhem aboard a space station. Well friends, he’s back. Episode five of the animated series, “More Troubles, More Tribbles” opens with the Enterprise taking two robotically controlled grain ships to a colony on Sherman’s Planet (who is Sherman anyway? And why does he get his own planet? Did they run out of generic science fiction sounding names?) which needs vast amounts of quadrotritcale to seed their fields so that they can produce grain and feed themselves. Suddenly, the ship veers off course to check out a Klingon battle cruiser not too far off. The Klingon battle cruiser is chasing a smaller ship of a common Federation design and Kirk wants to know why. Supposedly, the Klingons also have some kind of new weapon which, of course, bears investigating. When the Klingons start firing on the one man ship, Kirk demands that the captain of the battle cruiser identify himself. He also orders Scotty to lock onto the occupant of the smaller ship so they can pull his ass out of the fire. The Klingons, however, are slow to respond but they keep firing on the ship just the same and manage to blow it to smithereens just as Scotty plunks the lucky pilot onto the transporter pad. Unfortunately, however, it’s not good news. The occupant of the one man craft is none other than snake oil salesman non pareil Cyrano Jones. And oh goody GOODY! He’s got TRIBBLES in his pockets. Meanwhile back on the bridge, the Klingons shoot a beam at the Enterprise and her two robot grain ships, freezing them in place. Spock surmises this ultra high powered beam, which operates a little like a tractor beam slash freeze ray, is the new weapon they’ve all heard about but never actually had a chance to see in action until now. Oh yay. Upon discovering that the tractor beam/freeze ray has left them dead in the water and virtually defenseless, Uhura quips “Well, we could always throw rocks.” in a sort of dead pan voice that made me laugh a little bit. Spock speaks with a grudging admiration of the power of this new weapon. Uhura reports a message coming in and hey! Whaddya know? It’s our old frenemy,...

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Scales and Ridges, Part 13  by: Thomas Oakes
Apr01

Scales and Ridges, Part 13 by: Thomas Oakes

Kirk ran out of gas a couple of hours after the raid and excused himself to take a brief nap, leaving DeSalle in command. Once in his quarters, Kirk took the opportunity to have a conversation with Decker out of the Klingons’ earshot. “Matt, I’d like to keep your crew on the Enterprise until we get our own people back, if that’s all right with you. I’ll feel better having numerical superiority here, in case the Klingons get any ideas. There have already been some scuffles.” “I was going to suggest the same thing, Jim,” Decker replied. “By the way, you look like hell. When’s the last time you got some sleep?” Kirk smiled ruefully. “Now you sound like my chief medical officer.” “He giving you a hard time,” Decker asked. “No, he is one of the abductees, but I can just imagine what he’s going to say when we spring him.” “Jim, I’ve been meaning to ask you why you’re allowing several dozen Klingons on the flagship of Starfleet. You know they’ll steal every secret they can get their hands on.” “I know, Matt, but I had to roll the dice. We were stuck in the Neutral Zone, a lot closer to the Klingon fleet than to Starfleet. I did not want to be sitting there on my thumbs with a skeleton crew when they showed up. We would have been attacked immediately.” Decker pursed his lips and nodded. “I suppose you’re right, but what are you going to do once this is all over? You know as well as I do that Klingons can’t be trusted, and once this is all over, I wouldn’t be surprised if they tried to commandeer the Enterprise as a prize for their chancellor.” “Hence my desire to keep your crewmembers on board for a while. Are you sure you’ll be all right without them for a few hours – or perhaps days?” “Everyone will have to pull double shifts, which I imagine they’re doing on your ship, but we’ll be fine. What really has me concerned is how many more ships are lurking in this nebula, and what kind of armament the pirate base has at its disposal.” Kirk yawned. “I suppose we’ll find out soon enough. If the data we downloaded from the pirate ship computer is accurate, we should be within sensor range of the base in about three hours. With any luck, they won’t be expecting us.” “Agreed, Jim. Why don’t you get some shut-eye so you’re fresh for the assault?” “I’m already half asleep, Matt. Kirk out.” Kirk lay back on his bed and closed his eyes,...

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Star Trek:TOS Part 6:Insane in the brain and a pocket full of Corbomite by Rick Austin
Mar29

Star Trek:TOS Part 6:Insane in the brain and a pocket full of Corbomite by Rick Austin

Captain Kirk and Mr Spock represent the greatest pairing of characters in the whole of Star Trek. There have been others who fit the bill pretty well, the most obvious being Quark/Odo and Bashir/O’Brien from Deep Space Nine, but Kirk and Spock were the first and are still the best. This is a friendship that literally stands the test of time, to the point that it’s the pivotal character relationship in the latest film. Seeing a young Kirk and Spock individually was fine, but every fan waited for that crowning moment when they’d work together as a team. What is it that makes them work as a pair? The fact that they clearly shouldn’t fit together in any way at all. They’re fire and ice. Kirk’s style has always been bordering on reckless, with enthusiasm and determination pushing him to the limits. Spock is the iceman, the cool and logical voice of reason. Yet when united with a common goal they work as a flawless team and always succeed. They even cross over into each other’s territory sometimes. Kirk is smarter than people give him credit for and can be decisive at the most crucial moments. With his half-human lineage, Spock can smile and let himself go from time to time, although in Vulcan fashion will always find some way to rationalise it. The middle ground between them has always been McCoy, the grumpy-yet-lovable ship’s doctor who can argue with the both of them. Originally a replacement character, it didn’t take long for fans to warm up to him. If Kirk went on gut instinct and Spock was the brains, McCoy was pure heart. In these episodes, Dagger of the Mind and The Corbomite Maneuver, these characters would get their times to shine, with moments including a lovesick Kirk and Spock’s first mind-meld, to the ultimate gamble and McCoy laying down the law as to who’s in charge in sickbay. Dagger of the Mind – Summary: Orbiting Tantalus V, The Enterprise transports supplies to the rehabilitation colony for the criminally insane and receive a cargo container to. However, inside the container is an escaped inmate who overpowers the transporter officer and threatens the crew on the bridge with a phaser. The inmate appears deranged and refuses to go back, but is subdued by Kirk and Spock and taken to sickbay. Despite physical pain every time he has to answer personal questions, the inmate reveals he’s Simon van Gelder, assistant to the director of the facility, and warns them about the colony. Kirk communicates with the director of the facility, Dr Tristan Adams, who tells him that van Gelder was...

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My thoughts on The Animated Series – “The Lorelei Signal” by Gail Gerard
Mar27

My thoughts on The Animated Series – “The Lorelei Signal” by Gail Gerard

In this episode, the Enterprise is headed through an unfamiliar area of space where several Federation vessels have disappeared over the last century and a half. Apparently, whatever it is doesn’t discriminate because it’s taken Klingon and Romulan ships too. Spock says they have 20 seconds until…something and Kirk orders the ship to yellow alert. All of a sudden, Uhura reports that she’s getting a strange subspace radio signal that sounds like a siren song. Which of course, it is. All the men aboard the Enterprise are struck dumb, transfixed by the music emanating from the speakers. Kirk asks Spock where the signal is coming from and Spock reports it’s coming from the Taurean system about 20 light years away. I’m guessing that whoever is on the planet has their speakers cranked up to eleven if the Enterprise can pick up their music that far away. Scotty remarks that it seems to be calling them and Kirk agrees. Even uberlogical Spock is affected, although Uhura says she doesn’t feel the same compulsion the men do, and although Kirk makes a note of her opinion, he still orders Mr. Arex to head for the Taurean system in a hurry. Nurse Chapel comes on the bridge and Uhura tells her to keep a close eye on the men, because hey, something weird is going on here. Spock proclaims the music to be ‘fascinating’ and compares it to a Vulcan marriage drum. There is a image superimposed over Spock, an audio-visual suggestion, of a blonde haired woman in a revealing gold colored outfit kneeling in front of a drum. Spock comments on it and the captain admits that he, too, is getting a picture of a woman–this one with white hair and she’s sniffing a flower. Spock says the probe must be the source of these strangely enchanting visions. But only the men are seeing visions..the women see and hear nothing. How very odd. Kirk orders Chapel to take a medical reading and tells Uhura to get Bones on the bridge. But when Uhura calls down to sick bay, the good doctor doesn’t answer. He’s in his office, having a vision of his own–magnolias in bloom. Uh oh…things are getting worse…the closer they get to the planet, the stronger the signal and the compulsions get. Suddenly, a planet comes into view on the main viewer. There’s a shot of the bridge crew standing there looking goofy and I half expect Sulu to break out with an “Ooooh mmmyyyy!”. Kirk decides to leave Scotty in command while he and Spock and a team of red shirts go down to check out where the...

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Scales & Ridges Part 12 by Thomas Oakes
Mar25

Scales & Ridges Part 12 by Thomas Oakes

On the viewscreen, Decker jumped to his feet. “Lieutenant Buck, how long until the Orion warp core breaches,” he demanded. “Five minutes, forty seconds, sir. We’ve tried to eject the core from the Bridge, but the Orions have rerouted ship controls to Engineering and blockaded themselves in there. There’s no way we can get to Engineering and break through the bulkheads in time to stop the core breach,” Buck reported. “Then get to the shuttles and launch now,” Decker ordered. “Take as many of the hostages with you as you can. Federation officers get first priority; the Klingon captain has his own shuttle over there.” “Understood, sir.” Kirk was about to protest when Koloth beat him to the punch. “You would leave Klingon warriors to die just because they’re not human,” he demanded. “No, Koloth,” Kirk cut in, before the situation could deteriorate further. “I have an idea.” Kirk punched the intraship communicator. “Kirk to Engineering. Scotty?” “Aye sir,” the Scotsman replied. “I need some of the same transporter magic you used to beam us from Delta Vega to the Enterprise, times about 20.” Scott was incredulous. “Sir?” “Scotty, the Orion ship’s core is going to breach in less than five minutes, and we need to rescue the Klingon hostages. Pompeii is taking care of Federation officers.” “That’ll take a great deal of power, Cap’n,” Scott replied. “I don’t know if we can get them all in time.” “I understand, Mr. Scott,” Kirk replied. “Forgive me; I sometimes expect too much of you.” “I dinna say it couldna be done, sair,” Scott replied quickly. “If ye find the Klingons for me, I’ll get ’em over here.” Kirk turned to Koloth. “Can you scan for Klingons, Commander.” Koloth was impressed. “Already located, my dear Captain Kirk. I am sending their coordinates to your chief engineer now.” Koloth manipulated the controls on the science station, then turned to face Kirk. “Captain, can you really use your transporters in the nebula? Ionized particles and the ambient radiation in this nebula should prevent all forms of beaming.” “Normally it would, but my engineer happens to be a miracle worker,” Kirk replied, proudly. Koloth watched as Klingon life signs aboard the crippled Orion ship began to disappear into transporter matrices. “By the Sword of Kahless, it is true,” he said in awe. However, the Klingons beaming aboard the Enterprise were less gracious. When the last of them had been beamed aboard, they attacked Scott and his men. “Transporter room to Bridge,” Scott called out, before being clubbed by a Klingon warrior. “Kirk here,” came the reply. “Report, Mr. Scott.” “Human scum,” came the growling...

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Dr Strangelike… Or how I learned to stop criticising and enjoy Voyager by Rick Austin
Mar22

Dr Strangelike… Or how I learned to stop criticising and enjoy Voyager by Rick Austin

My sister is adamant that Star Trek: Voyager is the best Star Trek show ever. She’s a firm fan of Captain Janeway, claiming she’s the best captain ever. She thrills to the adventures of the lost Trekkers stuck in the Delta Quadrant. Tom Paris is the coolest pilot, Seven is the coolest Borg, B’Elanna is the coolest engineer, and Harry Kim is… well, he’s Harry. But she still likes him. She thinks Chakotay is more of a dish than the ship’s deflector, even if she does wish that he did more. It’s been 18 years since she first saw it, and she still loves it. It’s been 18 years since I first saw it too, only I’ve never loved it like she does. I loved the original series, sure. Spock rocks, and Shatner may have been hammy but Kirk was fantastic. Then I loved The Next Generation, and I think that that was where most of us really picked up on it. Picard was just cool, and still is. Then there was Deep Space Nine, which is easily the best-written and most personal series of all of them. How could anyone not love it? For me, Voyager was a step down. Don’t misunderstand me, I never hated it. In fact, I eagerly watched every episode as it came out, but the whole time I was hoping for more. I never felt the characters gelled, the stories seemed repetitive, and I just couldn’t understand why the ship’s nacelles had to lift up before it went into warp. And what did their bio-neural gel packs do? Nothing, so far as I could figure out. They seemed to have lots of Treknobabble but not enough Trek. After Deep Space Nine had offered us hard liquor, we were suddenly sipping on synthehol again. Sci-Fi Universe magazine ran a great article back in the late 90’s called Can Voyager Be Saved? The magazine loved Star Trek but felt just as disillusioned by the latest show as I was. They hit on the low ratings, offered some amusing ideas of how to save the show, and did interviews with all the actors where the stars themselves got to explain why they felt their characters didn’t work. Robert Beltran’s explanation of how Chakotay was a eunuch and needed to grow some genitals was fair, and Garrett Wang’s assessment of how his character was poorly fleshed out was accurate. Could Voyager be saved? Of course it could, but for me it remained the weak link in the chain. Lately I’ve been watching Voyager again though. It’s been a while, and I can’t tell if the rest has...

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Are Trekkies gullible cash cows? by Lee Hutchison
Mar20

Are Trekkies gullible cash cows? by Lee Hutchison

What can you spend £40 on? A return train ticket to London and see some of the great museums in the world. A night out In Edinburgh and on booze to get yourself so drunk you’ve got the courage to tell a girl you fancy them before being rejected and going home with only a pie from the all night bakery. You could get a last minute flight to somewhere in Europe, you could take a loved one and enjoy a sunny beach. Or you could spend it on a photo with William Shatner and spend 3 seconds next to someone who doesn’t acknowledge you are there and you get a photo of this brief moment. I don’t get it personally, I can see the appeal in meeting your heroes and Icons in the flesh and spending time that is ultimately shorter than the ‘Lost’ opening credits sequence in their company. Is this really value for money? Obviously £40 is the extreme end of all of this, it does start at £15 for a quick snap. But seriously, £15 for a photo with some person who was in the series for half an episode like Patrick Stewart’s son. Is this sort of price justified during a recession? My point is a waste of time really, why question it because I saw it first hand at Star Trek London how much money was being thrown at photos, autographs in the flash of a credit card. The demand is there, people will pay for it but are they being ripped off? Are these prices frankly a joke? It’s amazing to have a memento of meeting a hero but is the cost taking advantage of wide eye fans like me who stumped up silly money because we are wide eyed fans and viewed as a cash cow for the stars and the companies pricing these events. I only thought about this because when ‘Star Trek – the next Generation’ season 3 blu-ray first went online, it was priced as £75 on amazon and this caused a wee stir among some at this more expensive price than previous sets. I said to those I discussed it with that I’d pay that price without much hesitation. Once again, a sci-fi fan and their cash is there for the taking for companies because of blind devotion to their product. Thankfully it was a pricing error and it went down by £20. But it made me think, would I have bought it at such a stupid price that I could’ve spent the money on something better like a a flight, a weekend away or a steak...

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Scales and Ridges, Part 11  by: Thomas Oakes
Mar18

Scales and Ridges, Part 11 by: Thomas Oakes

For nearly six hours, Pompeii and Enterprise traversed the Betreka Nebula in single file without incident. At rendezvous plus 5:52, however, the Enterprise detected three Orion raiders in formation, 2,500 kilometers ahead and plus 10 degrees on the Z axis. Kirk quickly apprised Decker of the situation. “Matt, the third ship is carrying 95 Klingons and 55 other non-Orions,” Kirk explained over the Close-In Ship-to-Ship Communicator (CISCO) unit. “The other two ships are manned only by Orions. Suggest you disable them while we take care of the escorts. Be careful, though: they carry myotronic beams, which have a stunning effect on all weapons that lasts 30 or 40 seconds.” “Roger that, Jim. You take the ends, we’ll take the meat in the middle.” “OK Matt. I’ll order a torpedo strike of both vessels simultaneously. We’ll knock out their weapons with the fast salvo, and then target their engines. How are you going to handle your target?” “I’ll wait until the Enterprise is in position, Jim. Then we’ll hit them with full phasers at point blank range.” “Good. I haven’t got enough crew to spare for boarding parties, Matt, so I’m afraid I’ll have to rely on your ship to pick up our missing crewmen.” “Just leave it to me, Jim. Let’s get in position. Decker out.” “Kirk,” KadRiQ announced, “I want to take one of your shuttle craft to lead a group of Klingon warriors over to the Orion ship. My men are eager to fight, and the Klingons being held prisoner over there might not be too cooperate with Federation officers.” Kirk nodded. “You’re right, KadRiQ. Besides, I can hardly wait to see the look on the kidnappers’ faces when they’re confronted with a band angry, hatchet-wielding Klingons.” KadRiQ leaned closer. “It’s called a batleth, Kirk.” He clapped Kirk on the shoulder. “Qap’la!” “Excuse me,” Kirk responded, bewildered. “Success,” KadRiQ explained. “Qap’la!” “Ahhhh,” Kirk replied. “Kah-plaaaa,” he spat, sounding more like an irate water buffalo than a determined Klingon warrior. KadRiQ smiled and turned away, wondering if all Earthers had as much trouble with languages as Kirk and Chekov apparently did. Four minutes later, Pompeii signaled its readiness, and Kirk gave the go-ahead. Four photon torpedoes spat from the forward launcher, striking the first and third Orion ships midships. The first ship stopped dead in space, while the third went careering out of control. Meanwhile, multiple phaser beams from Decker’s ship licked out, illuminating the hull of the second pirate vessel in bright crimson for several seconds. The ship returned fire, briefly stunning the weapons on board the Pompeii, but it was too little, too late to afford...

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Star Trek: The Original Series Part 5: Sugar, spice, and not everything’s nice by Rick Austin
Mar15

Star Trek: The Original Series Part 5: Sugar, spice, and not everything’s nice by Rick Austin

Robert Bloch came to Star Trek with a long list of writing credits to his name. He was primarily a horror writer, having been mentored by H.P. Lovecraft and writing tales of otherworldly evil, before moving on to write tales of normal people with disturbed minds like Psycho. After an initial stint in Hollywood where he found his darker work for television finding limited support from the studios, he finally landed jobs working for shows like The Man From U.N.C.L.E. and ultimately Star Trek. However, his stories were still dark and he found his scripts being fixed up by Gene Roddenberry to take away some of their true horror. However, What Are Little Girls Made Of? still kept the core horror concept of people not being what they appear. Strangely, Miri is more terrifying and shows better writing. Here the horror plays on a smarter level. The initial mutated appearance of a being is a masterful piece of deception, before we realise that the children in the story are far more dangerous even if they’re only playing “pranks”. The contagion on the planet is a perfect ticking clock that helps to up the tension. It’s also a far more emotional piece of writing, showing everything from teenage crushes and jealousy through to frustration and helplessness… What Are Little Girls Made Of? – Summary: The Enterprise arrives at the icy planet of Exo III looking for Doctor Korby, a gifted exobiologist and Nurse Chapel’s missing fiance. Kirk makes contact with him and agrees to beam down with Chapel to the underground complex where he is. When Korby isn’t there to meet them, Kirk beams down two security officers, who are killed by a giant android called Ruk. Korby’s assistant Doctor Brown explains that the caves and the android-making machinery within it were left there by an ancient race. Korby soon explains that Brown and their female companion Andrea are androids he has created. Kirk tries to escape and kills the Brown android, but is captured by Korby’s protector Ruk. Korby’s plan is to replace Starfleet personnel with android duplicates that serve him. He creates a duplicate of Kirk, but the real Kirk has planted thoughts in is duplicate that will make Spock suspicious of it. When Korby sends the duplicate to the Enterprise, it insults Spock’s Vulcan lineage which convinces Spock that things are not what they seem. The android Kirk returns to Exo III, and Spock and a security team give chase. The real Kirk has been sowing seeds of doubt which convince Ruk that Korby will destroy him, and makes Andrea kill the android Kirk. Korby is attacked...

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