24 May 2015

All the leaves are blue... (Review: 'Star Trek 1.11': "The Menagerie: Part I")

The ship is summoned to Starbase 11, where the ship's former captain, one Christopher Pike, is being looked after following serious radiation exposure that has confined him to a Davros-style wheelchair and being only able of communicating via a blinking light. Spock, who had served under him previously, then proceeds to seemingly abandon all good sense, taking Captain Pike and essentially hijacking the ship for a journey to Talos IV.

And the risks are high; Talos IV is off limits by Starfleet order... on pain of death...

****
The guest cast budget for this episode, the first of a two-parter, must have been high indeed; a quick guess... maybe 30 plus extras? Then again, see my comment below. Well, they weren't filming in location; the old painted backdrops get frequent appearance, although at least the set designers are good enough to not to have a completely flat floor.

Spock demonstrates some real cunning here through his actions to assume command of the ship, including falsifying orders (including edited voice recordings) and also some use of the Vulcan nerve pinch.

However, Kirk again demonstrates why he is the boss, chasing after Spock in a shuttle, deliberately going beyond his fuel limits and forcing Spock to pick him up, along with Starbase 11's CO. Spock then surrenders without a fight.

The second half of the episode then sees Spock's court martial, the debut of some very fancy dress uniforms and as his mitigation, Spock introducing what is basically a flashback sequence as his evidence, namely his previous visit with Pike's crew to Talos IV thirteen years earlier (complete with heavily redressed ship), a planet seemingly home to a shipwrecked Earth expedition, a good number of blue leaves and aliens with big heads of the sort that have been aped considerably since, including in Mars Attacks! among other works.




What is good is the fact that this evidence is displayed on screen... but there seems to be an IC explanation for why it looks like a TV drama. However, we seem to get a lot of unnecessary stuff, including a scene with Pike and the then ship's doctor. My OOC guess... and I'm going to hold off on looking this up (although a quick look for "big headed aliens" suggests I'm right)... is that we're seeing an awful lot of the material from "The Cage", the unbroadcast pilot.

The cliffhanger is interesting with a further twist; it's less of a "dun dun dun!" and more of the sort that ends the first half of a play.

Conclusion

While I'm intrigued as to how this is going to be resolved in the second part, the extended flashback sequences were not really needed or could at least have been seriously trimmed down.

6/10

20 May 2015

Reviving Covert-81

You may be interested to know that my Cold War spy sim, Covert-81, is hopefully going to be revived at Phoenix Roleplaying after the site acquired AJJE Games and its associated intellectual property.

My original post on the matter can be found here. If you wish to sign up, the proposal thread is here.

09 May 2015

Seriously, was this episode made on drugs? (Review: 'Star Trek' 1.10, "The Corbomite Maneuver")

I have to begin this review with the sad news of the death of Grace Lee Whitney, aka Yeoman Rand, at 85. While Rand's role in the series isn't that big, she certainly adds enjoyment to every scene she appears in, with this episode featuring a great one involving Kirk getting an unexpected dinner.

Rest in Peace.

****
The late 1960s were known for, well, drugs. Lysergic acid diethylamide, aka LSD, no longer patented at this time and not yet criminalised in most countries, is well known for its psychedelic effects. After watching this episode, I'm wondering whether this played any part in writing this episode. A quick Google search revealed one unsourced Reddit post on the matter and Roddenberry's ashes going into space with one Timothy Leary (him who popularised "Turn on, tune in, drop out").

This episode sees the Enterprise, while exploring an uncharted region of space, accosted by a radiation emitting spinning Rubik's Cube-esque object (the Cube, arguably the best thing to come out of communist Hungary, had to yet to be invented). Once they destroy it (the first use of ship weapons in the franchise), they're stopped by some strange sphere in space that wants to destroy them for trespassing... and is operated by a reject from the Blue Man Group:

http://vignette4.wikia.nocookie.net/memoryalpha/images/b/b3/Balok_puppet.jpg/revision/latest/scale-to-width/589?cb=20110331033507&path-prefix=en
(This one has popped up in most of the end credits sequences and I have to say that I was looking forward to actually seeing him in the flesh)


There's another twist, but I won't say any more bar than I think Roddenberry was on something... So, I'll cover some other points in more depth:
  • Kirk is again superb in this one; demonstrating a tactical master stroke in how to bluff on nothing. Also, he gets his shirt off yet again, to the point of wandering the corridors without it on. At least he doesn't do so on the bridge!
  • Much of this episode revolves around a guest crewman, one Ensign Bailey. Definitely a novice; it was probably a good thing we don't see him again.
  • Spock has some great lines; Vulcans do seem to have a sense of humour, that's for sure.
  • We get to see some good old "Starship Acting" on several occasions in this one; i.e. the ship gets hit and the crew throw themselves in an exaggerated manner around the room, sometimes not all in the same direction...
  • Why is Uhura wearing gold? She should be wearing red.
    • My research says this was produced third (i.e. the first ep after the two pilots) and ended up airing tenth.
    • I also note that I'm watching a remastered version with improved effects, so not everything is as was in the 1960s.

Conclusion

A very, very weird episode, but nonetheless very enjoyable. One wonders if it would be even better stoned.

8/10

08 May 2015

VE Day - 70 years on

As the UK deals with the election result, let us pause to remember those whose sacrifice made this election - and elections in many other nations - possible by defending our freedom.

Many of those who fought in that war will go to their rest in the next few years; it is our duty to ensure that what they experienced is not forgotten.

Because if we do, we may find ourselves having to fight for our freedom again.

Election results 2015

It's fair to say that I'm very disappointed in the results of the election. I never thought I'd see the Conservatives do as well as they did, with an overall majority, albeit a small one, now projected.

Ed Miliband should step down and we need to have a long look at what went wrong. We did run a very good campaign, but it clearly wasn't good enough. Were we too left wing? Were we not left wing enough? Were we both? Was it the economy what swung it? Something that needs some serious focus grouping. We are facing serious challenges to our support from both the Greens and UKIP in England; I don't need to mention the SNP.

Small consolations were Galloway losing in Bradford West, Labour actually making a small gain on vote share from 2010 and our London performance. Also, the completely unexpected near total wipe-out of the Lib Dems.

David Cameron is in for possibly the next five years; it's entirely possible that he might get ousted before then, but don't count on it.

Instead, the left needs to focus on winning councils in 2016 (including London's Mayoralty) and use all our legal influence to mitigate the damage Tory policies will do to the disadvantaged in this country.

I'll do a fuller analysis in a couple of weeks once the dust has settled.

06 May 2015

General Election 2015 - Final call

  • Conservatives narrowly win popular vote, but don't exceed 35% or 290 seats.
  • Labour just get most seats.
  • Lib Dems end up under 25 seats, but Nick Clegg hangs on.
  • SNP win over 50 seats in Scotland, but don't get a clean sweep.
  • Farage loses narrowly in Thanet South.
  • No easily viable government emerges.
  • We have another election by this time next year.

02 May 2015

Second World War post delayed

Due to lack of time on my part with the General Election, I'm planning to put my post on the neutral nations of the Second World War back to the summer; closer to the anniversary of VJ Day. I intend to make this a more global affair covering the major neutrals around the world.

30 April 2015

One week to go

The polls have been all over the map on this one. Anyone who claims to know for certain how this will turn out is a person with far too high a level of self-confidence.

I severely doubt the Tories will get a majority, but largest party at least in terms of national vote is a distinct possibility. In which case, any Labour government is going to have a hard time gaining popular legitimacy.

And this sort of thing would still happen under PR...