Star Trek: Discovery (Episodes 1 & 2)

SPOILERS: Don’t read this post if you haven’t seen, or don’t want to know, details from the first two episodes of this new Star Trek series (available on CBS All Access).

The Importance of the Star Trek Universe  

I recently learned that inventor of the cell phone was inspired by the communicators used by Kirk (William Shatner) and his Enterprise crew on Star Trek (the original series- TOS). MANY young people (incl. scientists) were inspired by creator Gene Rodenberry’s imaginative writing, characters, etc. The Vulcan nerve pinch was invented by Leonard Nimoy (who played the iconic Spock); Shatner went along w/ it and ad-libbed the fainting effect. Roddenberry loved it, so it became part of the canon. Though the newer J.J. Abrams films operate on the alternative (Kelvin) timeline, they build on earlier works. The power and influence of the Star Trek universe (starting in TV, then branching off into movies) is comparable perhaps ONLY to Star Wars.

As some of you (who follow me on Twitter) know, I’m a big fan of Star Trek: The Next Generation (TNG), which I caught towards its later seasons, then went back to watch. I saw a bunch of eps w/ my younger sibs and (sometimes) my parents. FYI: My favorite captain is Picard (Patrick Stewart). I was a BIT disappointed that Picard and Dr. Crusher (Gates McFadden) never became more than friends; the actors had such great chemistry together. Riker (Jonathan Frakes- who directed some Discovery eps) was one of the few men who looked better w/ a beard. And who could forget the friendship between engineers- LaForge (LeVar Burton) and Data (Brent Spiner)? I saw Star Trek: Deep Space Nine (DS9) when it originally aired, though I haven’t seen the final season. I was excited when Alexander Siddig’s name (he’s British of Anglo  and Algerian heritage) popped up in the opening credits; I loved his character, too. Sisko (Avery Brooks) was NOT only a strong captain, he was a widower and loving single father to Jake. It was refreshing to see a different side of Worf from TNG (Michael Dorn) during his romance w/ Jadzia Dax (Terry Farrell) on DS9. My favorite romance  was the slow-burn relationship that developed between long-time co-workers and friends, Kira (Nana Visitor) and Odo (Rene Auberjonois). The bromance between Dr. Bashir and O’Brien (Colm Meaney) was one of the rare male friendships on TV (at that time). Unlike TNG, there were a FEW supporting characters on DS9 that operated in shades of gray. This show was NOT afraid to delve into controversial issues, primarily military occupation and religion (incl. types of worship and the existence of gods). 

My Initial Impressions of Star Trek: Discovery 

Some people were hating on Star Trek: Discovery (set 10 yrs before TOS) even before it aired; they feared that Star Trek’s legacy would be ruined (whatever that means). The main character is an African-American woman w/ a male name, Michael Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green), who starts off as “Number One” (First Officer) to Capt. Georgiou (Michelle Yeoh- internationally known, primarily in martial arts films) aboard the Shinzou, a ship of exploration at the edge of Federation space. They have served together for 7 yrs, so are NOT only co-workers, BUT share an almost mother-daughter relationship. I liked the chemistry between these two characters. 

The main antagonists in this show will be the Klingons, BUT they don’t look anything like Worf (or even those on TOS). The Klingons we meet here have no hair, different skin tones, and a LOT of ridges on their bodies (or just clothing). I think their costumes are unique, BUT it’s tough to see the actors’ expressions through so much prosthetic (which takes about 3 hrs. to apply). We hear a LOT of the Klingon language; this could put-off those who are new to Star Trek. Some critics compared these rogue/fundamentalist-type of Klingons to ISIS; others thought that their ideologies were similar to white nationalists. 

Michael’s birth parents were killed by Klingons during a battle. Now here is where some fans take issue: she was raised mostly on Vulcan by Sarek (played by one of my fave Brits- James Frain), who is also the father of Spock. Michael still adheres to the Vulcan way of thinking, though she has also has emotions that can’t always be suppressed. The banter between Michael and science officer, Saru (Doug Jones), was pretty interesting; Martin-Green said in an interview that these two characters were BOTH ambitious, so were competing to please their captain. Critics are saying that Jones is one of the strongest aspects of the show so far; he is of a (new) species that “can detect the presence of death.” Speaking of positive aspects, the special effects are VERY good (“like a movie,” as some viewers noted).

TV critic Matt Mira asked (in After Trek, the after-show following E2): “Where is the Discovery?” Well, you won’t see that spaceship until E3, as these first 2 eps were more like a prologue (as a few critics noted). We will meet more of the regular cast in E3, including Capt. Lorca (Jason Isaacs); the British actor got heat for his tweets re: Trump supporters. I saw on IMDB that there will be three South Asian actors (WOW)- one American (Maulik Pancholy, noted for Weeds, but also a theater actor), one Canadian (Rekha Sharma from Battlestar Galactica), and one Brit (Shazad Latif from The Second Best Marigold Hotel and The Man Who Knew Infinity). 

One of the main issues is that this series is behind a pay wall ($5.99/mo. w/ commercials is the plan I chose). As one critic (on Collider) commented, a Star Trek series should be accessible to ALL (free). Is the show taking advantage of its (already existing) fan base? Will it find an audience among those who are NOT “trekkies” (or “trekkers,” if you prefer)? The TV shows and movies on CBS All Access may NOT be appealing to everyone, BUT I was glad to see that The Good Wife was available.

Are you planning on watching this show? Please share your thoughts in the comments below! 

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Game of Thrones: Season 7 – Thoughts & Questions

SPOILERS: Don’t read this post if you haven’t seen, or don’t want to know, details from Season 7 of Game of Thrones.

My initial thought was that Arya and Sansa were plotting this eventuality all along, which is why they went along with Littlefinger’s scheme just long enough to put him in a position where they could kill him. But if that’s the case, why were there so many scenes featuring just the two sisters, scenes that Littlefinger couldn’t plausibly know about? And if going along with Littlefinger wasn’t an act, then the storytelling is even stranger, because Sansa and Arya spent a lot of time fighting about things that seemed largely out of character, as opposed to all of the things they really did have to fight about. Todd VanDerWorff (Vox)

Of course, while it was Arya who actually did the executing, and it was Bran who provided some key intel, the bulk of the credit for Littlefinger’s death can go to Sansa. She was the one smart enough to see through Littlefinger’s machinations, and also the only one with enough sparkle to make him crawl on the ground while weeping and begging for mercy. -Joanna Robinson (Vanity Fair)

MANY viewers polled (on Amazon) considered Sansa the MVP of the finale. She had such a crazy journey over the the oast 7 yrs, BUT survived to become Lady of Winterfell, and FINALLY defeat Littlefinger (YAY)! We get a rundown of the “chaos” that Lord Petyr Baelish caused over the years; w/o him, there would be no story. It was he who had Catelyn Stark’s younger sister, Lysa (crazy in love w/ him) poison her husband, Jon Arryn (Hand to King Robert Baratheon). Robert needed a man who knew, as well as someone he could trust, so he trekked North w/ most of his family.

King Robert convinced his oldest/closest friend, Ned Stark, to move to King’s Landing and take over the role of Hand. (Robert had loved Ned’s long-dead sister, Lyanna, BUT that’s another part of the tale.) To sweeten the job offer, Robert betrothed his son/heir, Joffrey, to Ned’s eldest daughter, Sansa (who had dreamed of living in the big city and being married to a handsome prince). In time, Ned discovered that Joffrey (and all Robert’s supposed children w/ his wife, Cersei Lannister) were fathered by her twin brother, Jaime. The common people of realm thought that their king was killed by a boar during a hunt; he was actually poisoned by his cupbearer, Lancel, a young cousin/lover to Cersei. The plot to kill Robert was Cersei’s plan (and Littlefinger was allied w/ her); they had never loved (or even liked) each other. After Ned (kind/honorable/artless) revealed what he knew re: Prince Joffrey’s illegitimacy to (clever/power-hungry/ruthless) Cersei, it ALL went downhill for the Stark clan! 

This obsessive analysis of every line of dialogue and scene scene was possible because the series established and followed a distinct set of rules that kept the chaos in check. 

The patterned logic made it possible to hypothesize outcomes, for any viewer to wax poetically on Twitter about the theoretical fate of their favorite characters. It made a close reading worth it… 

…Season 7 shed these rules in order to sprint towards the story’s conclusion. And in doing so it became a very different series, one that has left the old Game of Thrones in the dust. -Kelly Lawler (USA Today)

“We” (English majors) analyze nearly everything (things we read, listen to, and see in media). That’s why GoT is such a treat; I haven’t been a “superfan” of any other show before (though I have followed MANY TV series in the past). There is SO much going on w/ the action, costumes, sets/locations, music, and (most importantly, IMO) characters and dialogue! This series has some of the MOST complicated characters and quotable lines we’ve encountered in recent years on TV. No wonder we get disappointed when the show doesn’t live up to its potential!  

Let’s not mince words: The Loot Train Battle was a masterpiece. Director Matt Shakman’s first Thrones episode [“The Spoils of War”] featured one of the single greatest battle sequences in the show’s entire history… The pacing and choreography involved in the imaginative battle, not to mention the sheer sight of dragon fire scorching the soil of the Seven Kingdoms, launch this episode into elite status. -Josh Wigler (The Hollywood Reporter)

There were some great moments in S7; the best action scenes happened in E4 (check out the behind-the-scenes segment from HBO, if you haven’t done so yet). This was the first time that Jaime (commander of the Lannister forces) saw a dragon- whoa! He lived (thanks Bronn) to tell Cersei, BUT she didn’t realize the gravity of their situation (until the finale).  As Jaime was riding away from the city, Winter (snow) came to King’s Landing for the first time in the series. 

QUESTIONS: (I hope these get addressed in Season 8!)

  • Why was Tyrion creeping around outside Dany’s cabin on the boat? 
    • I think he feels that these two rulers hooking up  (or “personal alliance” as Peter Segal called it) before the end of the war is a bad idea. 
    • Some YouTube reviewers think that Tyrion MAY have betrayed Dany, so is feeling guilty about it (a la Jorah w/ the poisoned wine murder plot). 
    • I don’t think this is the case, BUT wanted to share this theory also: Most likely, Tyrion goofed up and secretly fell in love with his queen. Game of Thrones has pretty much set this scenario up as an inevitability. Tyrion pretty much told her as much, right before they shipped out from Meereen: “He wasn’t the first to love you,” he said, referring to Daario, “and he won’t be the last.” -Vinnie Mancuso (Collider)
    • Will the fact that Jon—not Daenerys—is technically the rightful heir to the Targaryen throne put a damper on their burgeoning romance? -Joanna Robinson (Vanity Fair)
  • Is Tormund alive? If so, then will he ever be able to win over Brienne (hmmm). 
  • Is Beric alive? (He’s on his 7th life, having been killed and revived 6 times, as The Hound explains in E6.) I just LOVE this actor’s voice, and he has that cool flaming sword. Maybe Melisandre can revive him? 
  • Is Cersei actually pregnant? This has turned out to be one of the MOST discussed issue by fans online! Some even think that the baby could be Euron’s (after all, he is still loyal to Cersei).
  • What’s next for Jaime? Finally, he has escaped Cersei’s power (YAY)! I’m sure he will ally himself w/ Dany, BUT it may take him some time. Will he reconnect w/ Brienne? They has great chemistry together.
  • Will Theon be able to rescue Yaara from Euron?
  • What’s next for Euron? Related issue: Can The Golden Company (sellswords) stand up to Dany’s army?
  • Who will end up on the Iron Throne?
    • One could assume someone has to end the series on The Iron Throne, but there’s an equal possibility there won’t even be an Iron Throne. Or any people left alive, for that matter. -Vinnie Mancuso (Collider)

Game of Thrones: Season 7, Episode 7 (“The Dragon and The Wolf”) – Top 10 Lines

SPOILERS: Don’t read this post if you haven’t seen, or don’t want to know, details from the Season 7 finale of Game of Thrones.

10) You don’t need to choose. You’re a Greyjoy and you’re a Stark. -Jon says to Theon.

9) This is the only thing I’ve ever seen that terrifies me. -Euron admits before sailing away to the Iron Islands (or perhaps not?)

8) You stand accused of murder, you stand accused of treason. How do you answer these charges… Lord Baelish? -Sansa asks. / My sister asked you a question. -Arya adds (seeing Littlefinger’s shocked face and silence).

7) Thank you for all your many lessons, Lord Baelish. I will never forget them. -Sansa says to Littlefinger (before Arya cuts his throat w/ the Cat’s Paw dagger).

6) I never could have survived what you survived. -Arya says. / You could have. You’re the strongest person I know. -Sansa replies w/ a (rare) compliment.

5) Have you ever considered learning how to lie, just a bit? -Tyrion asks Jon. / When enough people make false promises, words stop meaning anything. There’s no answers, only better and better lies. -Jon (channeling Ned Stark?) explains.

4) Your capital will be safe until the Northern threat is dealt with. You have my word. -Dany says to (a rather skeptical) Cersei

3) I cannot serve two queens, and I’ve already pledged myself to Queen Daenerys of House Targaryen. -Jon reveals to Cersei (and others assembled in the dragon pit).

2) The crown accepts your truce. Until the dead are defeated, they are the true enemy. -Cersei decides (finally).

1) Robert’s Rebellion was built on a lie. Rhaegar didn’t kidnap my aunt, or rape her. He loved her, and she loved him. -Bran (AKA The Three-Eyed Rave) reveals. / He’s never been a bastard. He’s the heir to the Iron Throne. He needs to know. We need to tell him. -Sam adds (re: Jon’s legitimacy).