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Splitting Infinitives Almost Twenty Years Later

By Jason Davis     March 27, 2006

I remember it like it was yesterday. I want to say it was ENTERTINMENT TONIGHT that broke the news to meit was a short segment as I recall. Simply put, the following week, a sequel to STAR TREK would hit the airwaves. I was nine and had been a fan of the original series since seeing STAR TREK II: THE WRATH OF KHAN in the theatre. One of my earliest memories is of those damned Ceti Eels crawling across Commander Chekov's cheek toward his too-vulnerable earit freaked me out for years and continues to send a shiver up my spine in repeated viewings. My pal Charlie and I had, between us, all the movies on VHS as well as a burgeoning collection of technical manuals detailing the location of various bridge stations alongside diagrams of rank insignia, uniforms, and other such fannish minutiae. In short, I was a big geek who would happily forego weekly Tae Kwon Do lessons to sit at home and watch a rerun of "The Savage Curtain" or "All Our Yesterdays" (the two episodes I have the most vivid memory of watching from those halcyon days).

Thus, it was with great trepidation that I crouched before my parent's bed with my beloved babysitter, Karen, and viewed "Encounter at Farpoint." Little did I know of the long history behind this particular pilot. I knew nothing of STAR TREK: PHASE II, Paramount's attempt to launch a fourth network with TREK at its heart (gee, where have we heard that one before?). I had no notions of "first-run syndication" or of Gene Roddenberry being ousted from the development of the films after the initial installment. And I really had no idea of the tumultuous development that had eaten too many good writers alive while STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION was being born. All I knew was that it looked like STAR TREK and seemed pretty cool to me. Aside from whatever nonsense was going on between Lt. Cmdr. Data and Lt. Yar in her bedroom the next week (which I had to ask Charlie about), I was fully onboard and eager for each week's outing of the Enterprise crew.

What's that on the horizon? It's a point! Look, guys! He's coming near a point!!! It's been nearly twenty years since Captain Jean-Luc Picard assumed command of NCC-1701-D. Since then, Captains Benjamin Sisko and Kathryn Janeway have broadened the scope of the STAR TREK franchise while Captain Jonathan Archer sought to re-imagine it for a new audience in 2001. In all that time, I've rarely looked back. I watched NEXT GEN from beginning to end and became increasingly distressed as Picard and company trudged from one lackluster big screen outing to another. I watched DS9 from opening night and eventually got bored of its liberal use of BABYLON 5 storylines in later years drifting away until the final few weeks. I thought VOYAGER had a strong start, but couldn't abide much of the first season and gave up early in year two. ENTERPRISE's pilot put me off right out of the gate and I checked back in three or four times until Manny Cotto's fourth season take intrigued me enough to become a regular viewer for the continuity-laden last year. So, there you have my STAR TREK pedigree and here comes my point.

I've been revisiting these shows recently and have to say that I might have made some mistaken judgments over the years. Courtesy of Paramount's recently released Borg set, I've re-watched some iconic episodes from NEXT GEN while acquainting myself with hitherto unseen episodes of VOYAGER. I'm shocked by how much the former have aged while awed by some of the more daring concepts employed in the latter. I still think Q's introduction of the Borg is a masterpiece of drama with one of the few worthwhile uses of deus ex machina in modern TV. "The Best of Both Worlds Part One" is still an absolutely stunning piece of television and sustains the arresting quality it had upon me in a Little Rock hotel room sixteen years ago. Though I've maligned part two over the years as not paying off the promise of its precursor, I think I have to relax my opinion as it's actually quite well-conceived in retrospect.

Wisely, Picard and company's subsequent meetings with the Borg continue to offer new shades on modern TREK's most compelling adversaries and the process continues in some truly remarkable episodes of VOYAGER. Now let's get one thing straightI hate STAR TREK: FIRST CONTACT. As I dodge the phaser blasts, I'll simply state that I think it does an end-run around Jean-Luc's personal development through the latter years of the series. The man had a chance to wipe out the Collective in "I, Borg" and he did not take it. Yet, FIRST CONTACT offers up an Ahab-esque Picard on the edge of obsession who violently machine guns the invading Borg with a blood thirst that would make Worf proud. For a complete account of the film's offenses, hunt down a copy of the Sci Fi Universe magazine wherein FREE ENTERPRISE creators Mark Altman and Robert Meyer Burnett dissect it like the rotting cadaver it is (if anyone knows the issue, feel free to post it in the talkbacksmy copy is stowed in the bowels of a closet inhabited by a Balrog and I fear the necessary excavation).

Back aboard the original train of thought, I made my carefully calculated derision of the eighth film to preface the one thing I found unsatisfying in later Borg outings with the VOYAGER crew: the Borg Queen. I understand the concept. Effectively, she's TREK's version of DOCTOR WHO's Dalek creator Davros. She's there to be a figurehead for the Collective. She's another riff on Locutus, but I can't help but feel she's antithetical to the very concept of Borg. She's a bloody individual! The whole point of the Borg is that they are the absence of intellectual and personal freedomthe very ideals at the core of Roddenberry's Twenty-fourth Century. So, while I find Seven of Nine's development, and the futuristic Borg drone from "Drone" fascinating, my interest was tried by the Queen who seems to me like a convenience for the writing staff.

Lest you feel that this diatribe has ill-served the two remaining TREK children, let me assure you that my attentions are far from absent the even-numbered kids. In fact, I've just recently embarked on a complete chronological watching of DS9. I'd forgotten how fun those characters were right out of the pilot and though I've yet to witness a truly exemplary episode like the ones I know are coming up, it's still a lot of fun (I've just watched "Dax" for those keeping score). Similarly, I had the pleasure of viewing the whole of ENTERPRISE as the DVDs were released and must aver that the show's poor reputation is more a function of expectation than execution. It's definitely not your daddy's STAR TREK and trying to reconcile it comfortably with accepted continuity would drive a bugger mad, but the first two seasons are a very interesting exercise in redefining a known concept for a new audience. I love the incremental steps in the first season as the NX-01 embarks on a series of firsts that slowly draw the STAR TREK universe as if it was completely new. The poorly conceived pilot aside, the series builds quite satisfactorily as Archer and company explore. Sadly, year three's Xindi arc puts a spanner in the works for me and the show doesn't perk up again until Manny Cotto's year four turns the original series upside down, shakes it vigorously, and makes stories out of what falls out of the pockets. Again, we have an interesting exercise in playing with continuity, but such audience-narrowing exclusivity doubtlessly condemned the show to its fate.

Well, that's this week's trip into the Wasteland. I'll be interested to hear your thoughts on modern TREK below in the talkbacks or at wastelandjason@hotmail.com. Next week, I think we'll talk about FIREFLY's Tim Minear and what he's been up to lately if you guys are game. Live long and resistance is futile...or somesuch.

MONDAY, MARCH 27


24 (8 PM PST, Fox) "Day 5: 9:00PM 10:00PM" Jack must evaluate the quality of a revelation made by an informer.

PRISON BREAK (9 PM PST, Fox) "By the Skin and the Teeth" Michelle Forbes guest stars. Doubtless she'll shoot someone in the head for disobeying her orders. If there are any Cylons in this prison, rest assured she'll find them.

DARK KINGDOM: THE DRAGON KING (9 PM PST, Sci Fi Channel) "Part 1" Produced in Germany, this mini-series dramatizes Wagner's Ring of the Nibelung. Sounds cool to me.

TUESDAY, MARCH 28


SCRUBS (9 PM PST, NBC) "My Bright Idea" After a season of relentless sex, Turk and Carla's parental ambitions seem near at handplease don't let the child be a shark-jumping event...

THE UNIT (9 PM PST, CBS) "True Believers" The Unit must protect Mexico's drug minister from assassination.

DARK KINGDOM: THE DRAGON KING (9 PM PST, Sci Fi Channel) "Part 2" If you missed it last night or tonight, the Sci Fi Channel will happily repeat it throughout the week for you.

TEACHERS (9:30 PM PST, NBC) "Substitute" A mere month after creator Steven Moffett assured me that the UK version of COUPLING was kaput, it's star Sarah Alexander premieres across the pond in this new comedy series that NBC is promoting no end. Hopefully, it'll do better than the last time something from COUPLING crossed the pond.

WEDNESDAY, MARCH 29


LOST (9 PM PST, ABC) "Lockdown" The latest Locke-centric episode features a malfunction of the hatch that forces Locke to rely on some questionable assistance.

VERONICA MARS (9 PM PST, UPN) "The Rapes of Graff" Steinbeck anybody?

SOUTH PARK (10 PM PST, Comedy Central) Last week, I expressed doubt that Trey and Matt could top "Trapped in the Closet." Clearly, my faith has been reaffirmed by "The Return of Chef!"

THURSDAY, MARCH 30


SMALLVILLE (8 PM PST, WB) "Hypnotic" James Marsters guest stars in an episode that finds Clarkyou guessed ithypnotized.

MY NAME IS EARL (9:00 PM PST, NBC) "Boogieman" Earl tries to undo some damage he caused by hiding under a kid's bed while escaping a burglary.

SUPERNATURAL (9 PM PST, WB) "Hell House" I somehow doubt this is related to Richard Matheson's novel of the same name, nor the film adaptation THE LEGEND OF HELLHOUSE which is a shame, because they're both pretty cool.

THE OFFICE (9:30 PM PST, NBC) "Michael's Birthday" For the titular celebration, Michael takes the staff ice skating.

FRIDAY, MARCH 31


GHOST WHISPERER (8 PM PST, CBS) "Fury" Melinda helps the ghost of a murdered man seek justice in an episode starring Ken Howard, star of the marvelous 1970s series THE WHITE SHADOW now available on DVD from Fox.

STARGATE SG-1 (8 PM PST, Sci Fi Channel) "Stronghold" (R) Ba'al kidnaps and brainwashes members of the Jaffa High Council.

DOCTOR WHO (9 PM PST, Sci Fi Channel) "Aliens of London" The Doctor brings Rose back to present day London just in time for a pivotal moment in human history.

LITTLE BRITAIN (9:40 PM PST, BBC America) More madness courtesy of David Walliams and Matt Lucas and loopy narration from Tom Baker to boot.

NUM3ERS (10 PM PST, CBS) "All's Fair" The FBI investigates the murder of a female Iraqi activist.

STARGATE: ATALANTIS (10PM PST, Sci Fi Channel) "Epiphany" Colonel Sheppard experiences time dilation in a story co-written by actor Joe Flanigan.

SATURDAY, APRIL 1


HU$TLE (10 PM PST, AMC) "Episode 12" Unless my count is off, this should mark the final episode of HUSTLE second season. AMC is co-financing the third, so expect to see it on both sides of the pond almost simultaneously.

SUNDAY, APRIL 2


THE WEST WING (8 PM PST, NBC) "Election Day Part 1" For the first time in two years, I watched last week's WEST WING and found it a very interesting experience. On one hand, the cast I remembered was virtually sidelined in favor of the presidential candidates. I was on the verge of condemning the show for being more about unimportant plot points instead of human moments when Ron Silver found Congressman Santos' briefcase and things got very interesting indeed. Fine performance from Alan Alda, I might add.

DESPERATE HOUSEWIVES (9 PM PST, ABC) "Everybody Says Don't" Gabby learns the truth about her child while Lynette testifies regarding Bree's alcoholism.

THE SOPRANOS (9 PM PST, HBO) "The Fleshy Part of the Thigh" Barone Sanitation is put up for saleso much for Tony's long-standing front.

BIG LOVE (10 PM PST, HBO) "Eclipse" By an accident on behalf of HBO On Demand, I had the privilege of watching the third episode a week early. The result has been a seemingly interminable wait for this installment.

HUFF (10 PM PST, Showtime) "Maps Don't Talk Part 1" This will be the most painful decision I've made in years--BIG LOVE or HUFF? Sure, I'll watch the other one only an hour later, but this is a serious conundrum!!!

ROBOT CHICKEN (11:30 PM PST, Cartoon Network) "Suck It" Seth Green's...I'm not sure what you'd call it series returns for a second season. Watch it. It's fun.

COMMENTS AND RESPONSES

Showing items 1 - 8 of 8
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teabagging2000 3/27/2006 11:24:11 AM
And thus is was spoken "Let the avalanche of Geekiness Commence!" So it is written, so it shall be.
lracors 3/27/2006 3:51:01 PM
This is Lracors Star Trek review: TOS was Good ST the Motion Picture was very boring, but the Director's cut gave us some great character scenes sorely missed from the theatrical cut. ST 2 was possible the 2nd best. ST 3 Was a good follow up. I didn't like this Savek. ST 4 was outstanding and the best trek film ever. ST 5 just plain sucked. I have no good feelings towards this film... I still bought the special edition. ST 6 was a good finish for the final crew. Star Trek TNG was a great show. ST: Generations was O.K. not much more than a made-for-tv film. ST: First Contact the best of the TNG films. ST: Insurrection another made-for-tv movie. Yawn. ST: Nemesis personnally I enjoyed it and thought that it was a nice send-off for TNG. DS9 despite the obvious parallels to Babylon 5 in the later seasons was the pinnacle of what Star Trek could be. Voyager what started out as a great concept fizzled and languished for 2 to 4 years too long. Seasons 1&2 were very weak. 3-5 were the best then 6-7 slide as I watched in dismay that the couldn't get home... what a cheap ending. Enterprise I loved this series, but the time-battle took too much away from the joy and fun of seeing continuity in Trek. More of season 4 would have been totally awesome. Also a weak ending.
lracors 3/28/2006 8:00:14 AM
Karas... CSI, CSI: Miami, CSI: New York, Bones, Evidence.... come on... same same same. Were you around when westerns ruled the airwaves? There was a huge fight and many comparisons between westerns. Have Gun Will Travel, Rawhide, Gunsmoke, and a miriad of other were very similar and often compaired. The one with the sheriff. The one with the stranger. The one with the family. I agree that DS9 wasn't as grandose as B5, but drew comparisons because the DS9 storyline didn't become as engrossing until the success of B5 took off, suddenly there was massive character changes (characters changed very little to non in years 1-3) intreague and depth. DS9 finally became the pinnacle of Trek in seasons 4-7. My humble opinion...
hbasm 3/28/2006 8:53:45 AM
Its rather rare to encounter someone who doesn't like First Contact, but I agree with you that Picard was out of character. I never envisioned Picard as an action hero. First Contact in particular tried to give that impression. Wrong, I say. Not only for the character, but for the message of Star Trek to have such aggressive role-models. Similary, Data was out of character in the movie Generations. While in theory, his behaviour could be explained by his emotion-chip, the result was some really bad jokes. Don't get me started on Deanna Troi's character that suddenly merged with that of the actor, Marina Sirtis. In my opinion, all the TNG movies have a different spirit than the TNG series, and that is why they fall short. Well, I can't speak for Star Trek Nemesis because, its the only incarnation of Star Trek that I have never seen. I also agree with you that the shows ENTERPRISE and VOYAGER are underrated by some. I think some fans have become blinded by their own emotions, thus totally bash these series, as well as the producers Rick Berman and Brannon Braga. That's just over the top. Not all of Star Trek is everyones cup of tea, but each series have both weaknesses and strengths. I have never been unable to find and appriciate the strengths. These are, of course a subjective matter. What appears to me as a strength, may to others appear as a weakness. But generally I think our emotions are playing games with us, when we say "I liked the pilot of Voyager but not Enterprise" or the opposite. "This episode was boring". Well perhaps you just had a bad day. In short, I think Star Trek's current reputation, state and fall, is more a function of expectation than execution. Unfortuntely I have no idea what the future will bring.
lracors 3/28/2006 9:16:02 AM
Right now the future will bring an extended layoff.
lracors 3/29/2006 8:24:25 AM
I'm a huge die-hard trekker, but I have balk at the notion that without Trek there wouldn't be any x, y or z science fiction series on TV, you specifically mention B5 and BSG. That is just silly talk. To begin with, there would not have been the original BSG without Star Wars which the show was modeled after. Later BSG has much better writing and human conflict that most shows die for and has become in a way, original itself. Another example is “Stargate” which, is much more reminiscent of Dr. Who because they go anywhere in the galaxy and sometime any when. Speaking of Dr. Who, that show has only influenced other science fiction (mainly time-travel shows), and is not in existence because of Star Trek. X-Files drew influence from Kolchak: The Night Stalker, not Star Trek and that’s also Science Fiction. So, that brings us to B5, which is an attempt to create a more realistic Trekverse, but also draws heavy influence from LOTR which makes it a blended tail that took elements of what people like about Trek (Aliens... aliens... and aliens) and improved upon the show in such a way that the characters grew, changed and were much more realistic (3-dimensional) then any Sci-Fi show at the time. While there was some influnce here, it vastly improved upon Trek and was not enslaved by Trek by drawing from other sources. I’m done… later.
lracors 3/29/2006 8:24:55 AM
tail-tale... oops
lracors 3/30/2006 10:33:40 AM
I won't argue with you on the Dr. Who influence on Trek.
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