29th May2009

canchoo introduce YERSELF!?

by jerad.formby

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A Beginner’s Guide to Star Trek part one

Star Trek has a freakishly huge tapestry of characters, locations, ships, and lore. The new movie by J.J. Abrams invited you to forget all of that and embrace the adventure aspect of it. You were asked to embrace these characters as they hit the ground running and now they’ve run out of ground.

You’ve watched them disappear into the incredibly vast ocean of what Star Trek is. This is an ocean you might have ignored, or your parents talked about, or you had a friend who was there once or twice, whatever the case, you can see now that Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Simon Pegg, and all of the rest have shot over the horizon and they’ve left you at the beach.

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Well there’s a cruise leaving right now to explore that ocean and you the curious are certainly welcome to come along!

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The ocean of Star Trek is made up of over forty years of lore. The lore spans five separate series and eleven movies. Don’t worry, this boat refuses to get you bogged down. If you like, take a suitcase so that you can take this adventure with you to other places on the web!

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The first link I want to give you is where I go for Star Trek news. The site is run by a fan and he scours the internet for the latest in Star Trek happenings so I don’t have to!

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There is a “chronological” order to Star Trek, but I’m going to ignore that in favor of true logic. Instead of starting in Trek’s fictional past, I’ll start us in our own real present and take us back to Star Trek’s creation.

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This show features the guys you met in the movie. Kirk. Spock. McCoy. They are known as the “triumvirate.” Strictly speaking, fans theorize the idea that Spock represents “brains”, McCoy is “heart”, and Kirk uses both to make his final decisions. That’s really splendid poetry, but the bottom line is that it’s their banter that truly makes Star Trek great.

The popular favorites are “The City on the Edge of Forever” and “The Trouble with Tribbles.” They represent the most dramatic and the most comedic the series ever got. Both are great watches for different reasons.

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The first season is usually championed as having the best stories and I tend to agree. “The Man Trap” features a terrific monster who appears as ex-loves. “Balance of Terror” gives us our first ever Romulans. “Where No Man Has Gone Before” is a personal favorite of mine because it was the original pilot to feature Jim Kirk.

Star Trek had two chances to woo NBC back in the day. The first pilot was called “The Cage” and featured Captain Christopher Pike as the hero. The network decided Pike (and the show) was a little too cerebral for what they wanted and Jim Kirk was generated as a replacement in the new pilot.

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Also of interest: this first crew of the Enterprise featured Spock and a female first officer who was known only as “Number One.” The network insisted that Gene Roddenberry, the show’s creator, cut one or the other. I think you know how it turned out.

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The original aired for three years and was cancelled in 1969. What followed was a time where Star Trek gathered popularity in syndication. The early 1970’s saw the first ever Star Trek conventions and the development of a new Star Trek series that was never filmed. The new series was called Star Trek: Phase II.

Today, a group of fans film a “would-be” fourth season for Star Trek and they call it Phase II. Their bridge is nearly identical to the original series and Paramount has even borrowed some of their stuff because it looks better than stuff from their own prop shop.

In science fiction, awards are given known as “Nebula” awards. One of these fan-produced episodes was up for such an award and there was controversy. It seems that because Paramount (or CBS) doesn’t produce the show, the question was asked if the show was “legitimate” enough to be nominated for such an esteemed award.

The episode in question was called “The World Enough and Time.” And it stars George Takei (the original Sulu) reprising his role in what just might be the greatest Sulu story ever told –sanctioned or unsanctioned!

If you wanna have a look at it, just click this picture with the fish in it.


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If you are able to TIVO or DVR Star Trek locally, you will likely be treated to something called Star Trek: Remastered. A few years ago, CBS decided to prep Star Trek for HD broadcast and went through the painstakingly long process of digitizing every frame of the old show. They made the colors pop even more and made the series look gorgeous by today’s standards.

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They also used modern computer graphics to update all of the special effects and bring them into the 21st century. They did not alter any of the content within the drama, so the Star Trek you’re seeing is the same old Star Trek with a great new look. Do not confuse “remastered” with something called “special edition.”

Of course “special edition” is best applied to a property developed by Lucasfilm. I can’t think of what it’s called. It has ships and dogfights and glowing swords and smugglers and people who wear robes and stuff like that. Whatever its name is, there was a huge push by its creator to use “remastering” to alter the content within each piece to different levels of success.

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Time to head forward into the late eighties. Before the decade ended, Star Trek had four movies under its belt and a spanking new series called Star Trek: The Next Generation.

The new series was conceived to work “in syndication” only. All that means is that it would have no network and would be rented by local TV stations as weekend or late night fodder. In a genius move by Paramount, The Next Generation’s first season was offered for free. After the first season, local TV affiliates were then charged.

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Roddenberry’s approach to the show was very aggressive. He wasn’t interested in compromises like he made with “Number One.” He fought for a show that was every inch as cerebral as “The Cage” and even fought for an emotionally detached and highly professional Captain named Jean-Luc Picard.

Unlike the original series, The Next Generation (or TNG) featured a more ensemble cast. The main players are Captain Picard, Riker, and Data. However, other characters had a lot more to do then in the original series model. The entire cast reads: Geordi, Troi, Dr. Crusher, and Worf.

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Gene Roddenberry passed on during the run of TNG and the episodes “Reunification Part One” and “Reunification Part Two” are dedicated to his memory. These episodes also mark the appearance of Spock showing up on TNG. Interestingly, these episodes set up for Spock’s appearance in the new movie.

This is also one of the most popular series in the ocean of Star Trek. The episodes that I find most often referred to are “The Best of Both Worlds Part 1”, “The Best of Both Worlds Part 2” (because of the villain) and “The Inner Light” (because stupid Star Trek made me cry!).
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The TNG crew do not have a rapport similar to that found in Kirk’s show. There was an edict from Roddenberry that the characters could not have personal conflict interlaced with the drama. That order alone made TNG one of the most ambitious series in television history.

Think about it. Most television shows operate with a measured amount of “oh hell no! so and so said that to so and so!? Oh no you din’t! What’s so and so gonna do about that!? Tune in next week.”

Roddenberry argued that in three hundred years such pettiness would be the last thing on our minds.

His experiment yielded some really fantastic results. As TNG is more of an ensemble show and relies a little more on backstory than Kirk’s show, I recommend getting ahold of these episodes:

“The Offspring” is a drama in which Data builds his own android daughter who succeeds him. “Sarek” which is fantastic if you’re coming off the new movie and want to know more about Spock’s father. I would also encourage anyone to see the episode “Darmok” which is a fantastic showcase of just how much thought goes into the exploration of “Strange New Worlds, New Lifeforms, and New Civilizations.”

With the two major shows thoroughly introduced, I will save the other shows for another exciting episode. I’m sure you’re waiting with baited breath . . . that’s how cliffhangers operate. I’ll post about “Deep Space Nine”, “Voyager”, and the latest show “Enterprise” in an exciting upcoming blog.

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Why you don’t need IMAX Star Trek
Star Trek: The Motion Picture
The real reason New Star Wars movies suck
Star Trek continuity whores need to give it a rest
The new Doctor Who . . . or lack thereof!
Why the new Star Trek movie is gonna be cool
Joss Whedon’s Dollhouse
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Ronald D. Moore’s Battlestar Galactica
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Star Trek Optimism
Ugly Romulans and Vulcans

  • zancho

    thanks for another excellent episode jerad!

  • http://www.daytonward.com Dayton Ward

    How do I get hawt green chicks to pose for pics with my books? Hook a brother up!

  • Mysterious Stranger

    “*hated by David Ivy”

    That made me lol.

  • Mysterious Stranger

    Not to be confused with Lal, who almost made me cry last night.

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