[SciFi/Star Trek] Star Trek: Deep Space Nine (25th Anniversary)

Today marks the 25th anniversary of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine (aka DS9). It marks the branching out of the Trek Universe, five years after the launch of Star Trek: The Next Generation and was running in parallel to the latter one.
It first aired on January 3rd 1993 and in my opinion constitutes the best of the Trek Universe and follows the life of the Deep Space Nine station under the command of Benjamin Sisko. Some people claims DS9 took the idea from Babylon 5, indeed DS9 preceded Babylon 5 by a year roughly.
The series starts chronologically right by the end of TNG Season 2/beginning Season 3 “Best Of Both Worlds”  when Capt. Picard is captured by the Borg collective and became Locutus of Borg. Under his command, the Borg lead the massacre of Wolf 359. The DS9 pilot starts here in which Benjamin Sisko (played by Avery Brooks) serving on a Federation ship amongst his wife. As they try to evacuate the ship, Benjamin lost his wife from collateral damage and constrained to abandon ship in an escape pod. Back in Earth and a couple of years following the Borg encounter, Benjamin is offered the command of the Deep Space Nine station (also referred as Tevok Nor), recently recovered from the Cardassians following their retreat from the Bajor planet, ending their occupation of the planet.
For any means, getting command of the Deep Space Nine is not the most enjoyable assignment: located in the deep end of the Alpha Quadrant, near a planet that remains primitive (Bajorans lack spaceship transportations) and a highly mystical civilization (Bajorans share many similarities with Bhuddism). In order words, this station is considered as being assigned at the frontier of the Federation.
Benjamin comes in with his son Jake, in a dirty, rusty and isolated station and get command of the station under the Federation mandate. As we discover Benjamin Sisko exploring the station, we get introduced to newcomers of the Federation. We have some familiar faces in the person of Senior Chief Petty Officer Miles O’Brien (played by Colm Meaney) transferring from USS Enterprise (we have seen O’Brien in several TNG episodes) amongst his wife Keiko (played by Rosalind Chao) and their daughter Molly. We also have newcomers in the persons of Dr. Julian Bashir (played by Alexander Siddig) and Lt. Jadzia Dax (played by Terry Farrell). Bashir is this young and prodigious doctor eager to discover new horizons. For him, assigned to the frontier of the Federation is a boon and considers it as an formidable opportunity. But behind his joyful and prodigy hides an important family secret that comes in later to haunt him.
Dax is the second time we got introduced to the Trill alien race, a race that is involving a symbiont as corporal support. It is a very interesting character as Trills carry over memories of their previous hosts and often change their gender through the circumstance. Jadzia (female) is the 8th host, following the transfer from Curzon (male) Dax. Benjamin knows Curzon very well and gently refers as “old man” and keep that friendly relationship with Jadzia. It is an interesting concept by bringing the discussion of transgender and LGBT into the Trek Universe.
Amongst the members of the Federation, we also discover the “locals” of the station. We have firstly Major Kira Nerys (played by Nana Visitor), commander from the Bajorian Forces and representing Bajor in the station. We get introduced to Odo (played by Rene Auberjournois), a “changeling” alien that is a fluid-like alien capable to morph into any shape and structure. He was the Chief of Security under the Cardassian occupation and remains as is in the current station. We also get introduced to the Ferengi in more details by the presence of Quark (played by Armin Shimerman) owner of the bar. Quark hold the bar business with the help of his brother Rom (played by Max Grodenshik) and his nephew Nog (played by Aron Eisenberg). In addition to serving alcholic beverages, Quark also maintain some Dabo tables (a complicated gambling game looking like a roulette game) animated by the presence of Leeta (Chase Masterson) and by the presence of Morn  (Mark Allen Shepherd). Finally, the last but very important protagonist is Elim Garak (played by Andrew Robinson), the owner of a tailor shop. Behind his jovial and very warm character, Garak hide a heavy and dark secret that we only learn later in the series.
Early on, the discovery of a wormhole leading to a brand new uncharted Quadrant (the Gamma Quadrant), transform this remote space station as a formidable frontier hub for those traveling to this Quadrant and coming from it.
This congregation of different characters coming from different horizons and different species make this melting-pot that made the DS9 station unique. It look like a Babel tower in space, in which different cultures and aliens cross their way through. The first two seasons are sure campy and make the rides bumpy but by the end of Season 2, the magic formula slowly started to take in and take some radical different directions than the utopia set of Gene Roddenberry. DS9 shows us that the future is full of shades of grey, with characters fighting their own demons and depicting that the Federation is not as shiny as it is.
We get into very interesting story arcs: the Federation-Cardassian treaty that surely ended up the bloody war (we learnt about Miles past as a soldier) but failed to consider the impact of setting DMZs on the population (creating the splinter cell known as the Maquis, taking the name of the French Resistance during WWII). We also get introduced to the Bajoran-Cardassian relationship and the relationship between an occupier belligerant and the occupied, shattering through the idyll of the David versus Goliath. Both camps shed blood and blind terrorism in the name of a cause. But also both camps knew to fell in love (thats really speak to me, as I see it as a metaphor of the occupation of France by German Nazis, with the French population). We also get introduced to the Dominion, a metaphor of the Pax Romana that offers you peace with the condition that you surrender your authority to the Roman Empire) and his army of the Jem’Hadar. An army genetically conceived with one mission: “Born to kill” and maintained in check by the use of a drug referred as Ketracel White (we can see similarities with soldiers given wine and liquors before giving the charge). I also see the Jem’Hadar as a metaphor for the child soldiers that were actively involved in various civil wars in Africa.
Things really starts to kick in when Worf (played by Michael Dorn) join the series by Season 4 (right after Star Trek: First Contact) and when Sisko takes on the “Samuel L. Jackson” goatee look. This exponentially increased the awesomeness of the show by deeply exploring the whole Klingon folklore superficially explored in TNG.
In addition to the story arcs, we have important topics discussed through different two-series episodes with some of the best Star Trek episodes ever created in the whole Trekverse. Look at the “In the Pale Moonlight”, “Assault on AR-558” and many others.
If you have not seen DS9, you have been missing big time. I would however recommend to skip some episodes in Season 1 and 2, especially those that are not associated with the main story line (Bajor or Maquis).


[SciFi/TV] Star Trek: The Next Generation 30th Anniversary

Today we celebrate the 30th anniversary of Star Trek: The Next Generation (aka TNG), aired on the US television with the two-part episode “Encounter at Farpoint”. It was the second installment of the Star Trek franchise on the TV, a bit less than 20 years after the last episode (but many syndications through the 70s and 80s made Trek being a staple in the pop culture), a year after the release of “Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home” and in my opinion one of the most ambitious TV Sci-Fi project from the 80s.
The show itself takes place in the 24th Century, almost a century later after “The Original Series” took place, with a new crew and the “Enterprise-D”, a brand-new class of starship.

It is interesting to get back to it, considering its anniversary coincides with the beginning of “Star Trek: Discovery” last week on the CBS All-Access, trying to cash in the fanbase as Games of Thrones do through a subscription fee (honestly, it is outrageous considering the rest of the world have it included inside their Netflix package). It is also interesting how many fans were outraged on the new crew of the USS Enterprise. Apparently there are some fans so extreme they even do not recognize Captain Jean-Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart) as canon. But back then, there was no Internet so not much amplification chamber for trolls.

What I can say that for most (I say most) 170 episodes, it was such an engaging ride spanned through 7 seasons. What I think made it a success?

First, the design of the ship. The ship is wonderful, the computer system (voiced by Majel Barett, Gene Roddenberry’s second wife) and interface (the LCARS) was such a savvy and eye-candy UI interface (remember, the Apple Macintosh just came in few years before and Windows was not the most gorgeous GUI), the bridge is a spartan but yet well designed and spacious, clearly designed for exploration and diplomatic missions.

Second, it was the crew. You can have the nicest ship, yet have a crew you dont feel attached to. Thats how I felt for example with the NX-01 Enterprise crew (ST:Enterprise). Captain Jean-Luc Picard (acted by Patrick Stewart) was in my opinion the best Captain of the Trek franchise. Picard maintained the hierarchy intact but also knew to listen to his senior officers. Picard was the man putting diplomacy first before setting the phaser on maximum charge and most of all Picard had the best quotes ever in episodes highly charged with philosophical meanings. There are so many episodes I can cite where Picard was completely awesome showing his remarkable acting.
For instance “The Inner Light” in which Picard has his brain held captive by a interstellar probe making him revive the last years of a scholar in a planet slowly dying from its star becoming a supernova. Try not to cry on this one. There is also the episode “The Measure of A Man” in which Picard defends Data (always referred as “Mr. Data”) in court as a scientist proclaim that Data is dispensable machine, even if it has a conscience. You have also the famous “Best of Both Worlds (part I and II)” in which the Federation gets first-hand contact with the Borg and get assimilated as Locutus of Borg, leading the massacre of Wolf 359. You have “Darmok and Jalad at Tanagra” in which Picard and the Captain of a new alien race are beamed down on a planet, such alien race using a metaphoric language in their communication. Another one is “Sarek” and “Unification (part I and II)” in which Picard decides to mind-meld with Sarek suffering from a sort of Vulcan form of dementia, holding his condition the time of his diplomatic mission and Picard travel to Romulus to find Spock.  Want some more awesome Picard-centric episode? “The Drumhead”, in which a sabotage on the Enterprise becomes the spark in a chain of reactions resulting in a witch hunt and with one of the most memorable quote from Picard “With the first link, the chain is forged….”. Or “Chain of Command (part 1 and 2)” in which Picard captured and tortured by the Cardassians (playing a saber rattling dance with the Federation via the intermediate of Captain Jellico) is standing up to his oppressor by yelling him “there are four lights!”. Or “Sins of Father” in which Picard stands by his Lt. Commander Worf in front of the Klingon High Council, serving as his mentor in front of the accusations of treasons of his late father. You know what, just check out the video below:

As a first officer, we had Commander William “Will” Riker (played by Johnathan Frakes). He was the man to get beamed down with the away team, he was the womanizer but yet sharing this ambiguous and odd relationship with Deanna Troi (I will come back later to it). You know it is interesting how the “Riker’s beard” made a huge effect on him, by Season 2 you have to admit that such beard was making Riker a pretty handsome man. He was harboring this side of James Kirk, boldly going where no man went before, but was also capable of the most calculated and stern decision that you would expect from a first officer. If I have to pick an Riker-centric episode, I would definitely recommend the episode “Frame of Mind”. Another episode is “The Outcast” in which Riker falls in love with an androgynous alien, discussing about the place of transgenders in society and their acceptance, thirty years before “Caitlin Jenner” and the infamous “bathroom bills”.

We had also Lt. Commander Data (played by Brent Spiner), a unique (well there was two copies, Lore and B-4) android created by Dr. Noonian Soong (the descendant of Arik Soong, the scientist that created the “Augments”). Data was in my opinion one of the best representation of the diversity in the TNG universe. He was unique and very puzzling for any human. I felt Data was showing an allegory of a Aspie: friendly, socially awkward that has trouble to identify social cues, very savvy and sometimes tell much more than expected from him. But Data sometimes showed how much humanity he had. For instance, this “Pen Pal” episode in which he violates the Prime Directive to save a girl he had sympathized through communication channel from a catastrophic geologic event. The other one that really shed a tear was “The Offspring” in which Data creates a child android, giving this child android the choice of its own gender identity (Hello! 1987!). The android decides to become a girl and named “Lal”. Data becomes a father, enjoying fatherhood only to discover that Lal suffers from a fatal electronic malfunction that needs her decommissioning. Try not to shed a tear as a parent, if you learn your child has a terminal disease. But maybe the best acting from Brent Spiner was playing the role of “Lore”, Data’s “older brother” that was dismantled by Soong because of his mercurial and psychopathic traits. Seeing Brent Spiner playing both the naive and friendly Data and the manipulative, deceptive and murderer (he summoned and lured the crystalline entity on Omicron Theta resulting in the killing of any lifeforms on the planet and even tried to do the same to the Enterprise crew). Brent Spiner remarklable acting was again to be seen on Star Trek:Enterprise in the episodes he played Dr. Arik Soong.

We also had Lt. Commander Worf Rozhenko (acted by Michael Dorn), the only Klingon from the fleet taking place after the Khitomer accords that settled the feud of the Klingon Empire with the Federation of planets. Worf grew up amongst humans torn between his Klingon heritage and growing amongst the Federation.  There are so many good episodes with Worf, especially the ones involving his Klingon heritage and his struggle to get accepted amongst his compatriots. For instance, you have this episode in which the Enterprise rescues a Klingon vessel containing three outlaws, putting Worf at odds between his loyalty for the Federation and the loyalty for the Klingons. There is the “Reunion” episode that set Worf into a character of a Greek mythology that will haunt him even in Deep Space Nine.

We had Lt. Commander Geordi LaForge (acted by LeVar Burton), a engineer born with blindness but equipped with a particular set of visor. Despite’s being congenitally blind, Geordi showed to be one of the most talented engineer in the Federation, saving the Enterprise from many situations. Geordi also showed some pride in his disability, in the episode “The Masterpiece Society” in which he faces the astounishment of a society in which eugenism is considered as a virtue and disability a failure that does not have a place.

We also had Counsellor Deanna Troi (played by Marina Sirtis) that played the role of a Betazed, capable to read others mind and emotion. She was the ship counsellor and also part of the dilemma of serving in the same ship than Riker, her former “Imzadi”. Deanna Troi role was at the beginning though to be defined but as the series goes, she showed to be instrumental to the series. My favorite episode with Troi? “Face of The Enemy” in which she is posing as a Roman agent of the dreaded Tal’Shiar, playing diametrically the behavior that is associated with her by playing a ruthless and fearless Romulan agent. We also had Dr. Beverly Crusher (played by Gates McFarren) that played the doctor and confident to Jean-Luc Picard due to their close relationship (Dr. Crusher’s husband was Picard best friend) and of course Wesley Crusher (played by William Wheaton). Wesley was honestly a pain in the neck during the first two seasons, leading to the climatic “Shut up Wesley!” quote.

Another niceties of the Enterprise-D is the holodeck, allowing to recreate a virtual environment that is too real to be true. Imagine breaking the fourth wall and entering inside a movie. Some of the best episodes were Holodeck-centered episodes. For example, the episode in which Picard see himself re-enacting Dixon Hill, giving this “roman noir” episodes straight outta the Prohibition era, the episodes in which Data plays Sherlock Holmes with Geordi as his buddy and by mistake giving life to Moriarty.

But there are so many episodes that really raises questions on the society as we know it and address questions that very few series ever bring on the TV: gender identity (there are even in the season 1 episode a few times you can see men wearing sort robe uniforms), the impact of interfering on a “primitive society” (the episode “Who watch the watchers” is another good one to watch), the issue of being born with a disability and societies in which eugenism is considered as the norm, the challenge of becoming a senior in a society in which becoming a senior is considered inadequate and is marked by your death at your 60th birthday (the episode “Half A Life”) or getting brought into a world in which money and material possession so dear to us has no more meanings (the episode “The Neutral Zone”). There is an episode that question to which extent can we allow us to develop warfare against our biggest enemy (“I Borg” and the virus to contaminate the Borg Collective).

There are also some single gems that does not fit the Trek narrative but are damn good. For example “Yesterday’s Enterprise” in which the Khitomers accords never happened resulting in an all-out battle against the Klingon for over 30 years. There are the episodes with Q, this malicious superpower entity presented in the pilot as the judge setting a trial on the Enterprise crew for the crimes mankind was held responsible. Some of them are plenty funny, some of them are deadly costly to the Enterprise such as “Q Who” in which Q introduce Picard to the Borg.


If you want to watch TNG but not interested to buy the whole collection, you have two choices: BBC America usually play them on the weekends and Netflix gives you access to everything Trek (except the movies). I am just warning you that the first two seasons are pretty campy as Roddenberry hired most of the old writers from TOS and feels most of a time some sort of reheated dish. But by the mid-season 2 and the injection of a new generation of writers, the show takes up and becomes very fascinating.



[Sci-Fi/Star Trek] Star Trek: Discovery First Official Trailer

Just in time as I concluded my six-months journey (I started last Thanksgiving) through the Star Trek franchise (including the different movies), CBS just popped out the first official trailer for “Star Trek: Discovery”. It was generating enough interest that the server containing the video was completely saturated with requests.

The plot puts it 10 years before TOS and based on the trailer, it feels like a seamless transition from ENT in terms of the Starfleet uniforms (harboring the electric blue uniform) but also transitioning into TOS by the presence of ribbons marking the different classes (executive/gold, sciences-medicine/silver, operational/copper). The interior design of the ship look sleek, the photography pretty awesome. The only thing that bugs me are the Klingons (that look even more ridged and bald).

Now the thing that is bothering me: It will be only on CBS-Access (there are rumors that Netflix may propose them in his streaming offer) and that means $$$ to watch it.

Now, its gonna be a long summer…..



[TV/Horror] Buffy The Vampire Slayer – 20th Anniversary

Today marks the 20th anniversary of the first airing of “Buffy The Vampire Slayer”. I got into it sometimes in September of 1997, as it was part of the late Saturday night programming on one of the French TV free-to-air channels. I did not know back then that is was inspired or an attempt to revive the story of a 19XX movie also called “Buffy The Vampire Slayer”, that have similar plot line but for some reasons never went over in Europe or at least never got the exposure it needed. Up until now I did not watch that movie maybe because I could not find the opportunity to put my hands on or perhaps because I am reluctant to watch a cheesy teen-movie from the 80s? I don’t know but lets refocus our attention to the TV series.

At first, I thought it would be just another series, a improbable collision between “Beverly Hills 90210” and vampire themed TV series. Turns out I was wrong and got hooked to it for almost all of the seasons (although I started to let it go by the end of Season 6 for some reasons). The story plot maybe simple but yet it quickly grows in by the characters: the story starts as we follow Buffy Sommers (played by Sarah-Michelle Gellar) and her mother Joyce moving in Sunnydale, a typical Californian suburbia. Things starts pretty mellow as she got introduced to her high-school and things start already to look interesting: Buffy comes in with a probation from her previous school as we was found guilty of arson (she burnt down a whole gym to kill off vampires). This curious detail is rapidly followed by her introduction to Giles, the school librarian. He somehow was aware of her coming and welcomed her with a big old book written “Vampyr” on it, mentioning she maybe surely interested to read into it.

We are also introduced one by one to what will become the “Scooby Gang”, an hodgepodge of various characters very similar to the “Breakfast Club”. All different representative of the teenage tribes: the cheerleader (Cordelia, played by Charisma Carptenter), the nerdy girl (Willow, played by Alisson Hannigan), the dropout student (Xander, played by Alexander Lavelle), the weird but cool guy working on his garage band (Oz, played by Seth Greene) and the mysterious and handsome stranger (Angel, played by David Boreanaz).

The pilot quickly transition from a teenage TV series straight into vampire hunt during the concert scene at “The Bronze”, the local hang-out bar for teenagers. This is where a couple of vampires started an attack on the public and Buffy reveals her true power: a vampire slayer, knowing how to fight (Gellar holds some Tae-Kwan-Doo belt) and give them their death wish with a spike straight into the heart.

All these different ingredients made the series great: the main character was a teenage girl, away from the “blonde stereotype” knowing to kick butts and impale vampires. She had everything to be popular and yet she is an outcast, gravitating around her small circle of friends and her duty as a Chosen one. Buffy struggles to conciliate her school life and her professional life and surely brings on the parallel with many students trying to transition into adulthood by combining part-time jobs and academic performance.

Buffy was indeed a remarkable icon of what many GenX-ers were ongoing back then, growing in a single parent family, dealing with popularity in school and not fitting into the mold. Transitioning from teenage years to adulthood and the turbulences going on with. It brought on some hard times about feelings of love (Buffy/Angel, Xander/Anja), heartbreak (Willow/Oz), death (Angel/Buffy/Joyce), not living to your parents/mentor expectations (Faith and her rebellious stance against the Order, standing by the wrong side and becoming an outcast amongst her friends for the mistakes she had done). Even the most impeccable character (Giles) had his own inner demons, his own dark secrets from his teenage years (we learned that Giles back in his teenage years was a punk dealing with occultism, enough to cause some serious damage).

 But certainly one of the best moment by its ability to break down the 4th wall was that famous episode in which Joyce (Buffy’s Mom) dies at home from an hemorrhagic stroke, right in the middle of a school day. The whole episode is about that day, no music and a clear and nervous photography bringing us as a witness of the moment. We are here, watching Joyce dead and seeing Buffy frantically try to revive her, calling 911, and getting to learn the abrupt news from the doctor: her Mom is dead. Facing death in your teenage years is not easy, facing one of your parent’s death is even less easy. Facing your only parent’s death as you are just trying to get out your teenage years is simply heartbreaking and we as the audience see one of the most gentle character left us without any chance to say goodbye.

What what also great was the inclusion of many things, little details about what we go through during our adolescence. For instance, the opening credentials was performed by Nerf Herder. Rock and its different iterations (punk, metal, alternative, indie….) was the common music playlist for many GenXers and was acting as an inclusive media into the Buffy-verse. But it was not only the opening sequence, it was also part of the social life in that universe. For instance, Joss Whedon was ensuring to use “The Bronze” local concert as a link to reality inviting small rock bands to perform in almost each episodes.  I still remember an episode in which K’s Choice was performing at The Bronze.

Joss also allowed the exploration of different facets of a teenager’s life have to deal with: inclusion and fitting into a group, exploring his/her sexuality and even touching LGBT issues (Willow for instance moving from an heterosexual relationship with Oz into a lesbian relationship with Tara), hate and jealousy (that episode of Tara dying from the jealousy of some nerds, killing her with one of their inventions), self-destruction and suicidal tendencies (I found the character of Spike matching this very-well), path to redemption and getting back in track (Angel’s path to redemption) and ultimately performing the ultimate sacrifice (when Buffy jumps into the vortex in one of a Season finale, giving her life for the sake of the whole humanity).

Rarely such TV series marked a whole generation (especially the GenX generation) as Buffy and even after all these years it shines into my psyche on how this TV series helped me move on into my transition from teenage into adulthood.

[TV/Sci-Fi] Star Trek 50th Anniversary: How I learned to stop worrying and love being a Trekkie.

As 2016 closes to end with its many tumultuous and tragic toll over this year, I wanted to also highlights some of the good things that happened on a personal level this year. One of them is discovering “Star Trek” through watching “Star Trek The Original Series” as 2016 marked the 50th anniversary of the original series on NBC.
For a long time now since my initial exposure to Star Trek universe when I was a kid, the airing of the original (remastered) episodes on BBC America provided a plato how I learned to stop worrying and love being a new member of the Trekkie family. As I am finished up binging on the original series (I am in the almost done with the first-half of Season 3, watched the original movie and the two JJ Abrams movies), I thought it would be great to put that into a blog and why I think Star Trek surpasses Star Wars in many aspects, at least based on my binge level and current knowledge of the lore.
My first experience of Star Trek was maybe when I was 3-4 years old, when the series was aired on some French public TV channel. I was intrigued but quickly stopped by my Dad skepticism about the seriousness of the series, impersonated by Spock Vulcan trait (in other words his pointed ears). So this eagerness was stopped and stayed latent until now, as I moved into Star Wars and fueled by the misconception that Star Trek was boring. This I feel define the rivalry between team Star Wars and team Star Trek.
Indeed both are different and addressing two distinct philosophies: the former is highly impregnated by religion and beliefs (indeed Buddhism, Zen and other religions have highly influenced Georges Lucas) whereas the later is driven by logic, skepticism and critical thinking (that I guess why Star Trek is highly popular amongst scientists and also a trademark of Gene Roddenberry humanism). It is also driven by their very distinct plot development: the former constitutes a clever blending of sword & buckler (lightsabers) and Western (the famous Han solo cantina duel) whereas the later prone the diplomacy approach before the use of violence (even there, the crew use their phasers on stun mode) to solve a hard-time situation. This lack of action in the latter is probably why folks often chastise Star Trek as a boring series due to its lack of action (the first Star Trek Original Motion Picture was indeed exemplifying this stereotype).
However, “Star Trek – TOS” provide a much richer environment than Star Wars although being 10 years older than then Star Wars. In Star Trek, we are not dealing with the Star Wars skeleton crew. We are dealing with a whole navigating team, each with their own expertise, pros and cons. We have Captain James “Jim” P. Kirk (played by William Shatner), a charismatic and womanizing ship captain, seconded by Spock (played by Leonard Nimoy), a Vulcan science officer and champion of logic. Contrasting with Spock personality, Dr. Leonard “Bones” McCoy (played by DeForest Kelley) provides the mercurial and hard-boiled doctor, using any of the situations to verbally joust with Spock.
In addition, we have key elements that made the series very innovative by its cultural inclusiveness and progressive views:

  • Lt. Nyota Uhura (played by Nichelle Nichols), a Afro-American woman in place of the key communication officer.
  • Lt. Hikari Sulu (played by Georges Takkei) as a Japanese helm officer. Sulu is the man behind the “USS Enterprise” maneuver into warp drive, putting the defenses on and firing phasers and torpedoes against hostile encounters.
  • Ensign Pavel Chekov (played by Walter Koenig) a Russian second-in pilot
  • Lt. Montgomery “Scotty” Scott (played by James Doohan), easily recognized by its strong Scottish accent, key engineer that have the spaceship “USS Enterprise” run in good hands. He is the man behind the transporter that made Star Trek as it is.\
  • Nurse Christine Chapel (Majet Barett, Roddenberry love affair and second wife), assistant to McCoy and Spock secret lover.Aside from taking (limited) control of the ship during absence of Kirk, none of them are dispensable (unlike Star Wars in which almost everyone knows how to fight and fly the Falcon Millennium). Almost each episodes of Star Trek is centered about the discovery of a novel planet and its inhabitants or around a spaceship encounters. This is what I love about Star Trek: they don’t go blindly into a planet. They scan it, study it, define its composition and identify any presence of living beings. Even after living beings, the crew stands on a strong ethos driven the Prime Directive: do not interfere with the population technology or beliefs. Observe and limit interactions. Sounds sciencey no? It is. Many things that are appearing in Star Trek have crossed the science-fiction into the science: the use of miniature storage device that almost look like flash drives, the health monitoring system in sick bay that is now a common device in every hospitals….There are things that still into the science-fiction realms like the Tricorder, the propulsion system called warp drive…..The Original Series spans on 79 episodes split in three seasons. Overall most of them are interesting but there are also inequalities: some are excellent, some are just kind of a reheated episode, some are completely weird or infamously bad.

    These are some of the greatest episodes that i recommend to watch. Season 1 is certainly one of the best season as there are many episodes that made my favorite list:
    Season 1 (1966-1967):
    – S01E04: “The Naked Time”. In this episode, the crew is investigating the death of a federation outpost, only to be contained by a transmissible parasite that makes the crew hallucinating and schizophrenic.
    – S01E05: “The Enemy Within”. A damn good episode! One of the few written by Richard Matheson (you may heard his name as a screenwriter for many “The Twillight Zone” episodes and “I Legend”). In this episode, a malfunction in the transporter results in having Kirk personality split into two Kirks: the good-hearted Kirk and the evil-minded Kirk. This is the episode in which Kirk appears completely insane!
    –  S01E07 “What Are Little Made Of”. In this episode, the crew investigates a distress call from Dr. Roger Korby, an exobiologist that is also Nurse Chapel long lost finance. He has been working on creating humanoids replicas and try to use the Enterprise as a vehicle for dominating the world.
    – S01E10 “The Corbomite Maneuver”. In this episode, the crew face an encounter with ah alien spaceship, putting the crew into a nerving mouse-and-cat game.
    – S01E11-E12 “The Menagerie”. Based on an unaired pilot repurposed in this 2-part episode. It sees Spock mutiny decision to follow Captain Pike’s order, former USS enterprise commander.
    – S01E14 “Birds Of Prey”. This is the first episode that introduce us to the Romanian faction, one of the faction at war with the Federation. It is also has this classical feeling of chivalry that was noted in WW1 air and sea battles.
    – S01E16 “The Galileo Seven”. This episode is one of the most stressful as Spock and the team are stranded on a transport shuttle crashed into an hostile environment, fighting form their survival and trying to get back into the Enterprise.
    – S01E18 “Arena”. This is probably one of the classical episode that looks weird and outdated but yet fascinating. In this episode, Kirk and the captain of a hostile spacecraft (a paper-mache reptile) are put on a planet with only their intelligence and natural resources to develop lethal weapons, as only one will leave this place alive.
    – S01E22 “Space Seed”. This is an important episode as it introduces us to “Khan”, one of most fearsome foe of the Star Trek Universe.
    – S01E23 “A Taste Of Armageddon”. Thats another great episode by the political meanings. The Enterprise crew arrive in a planetary system that appears thriving and  peaceful, only to see that a 500-year war has been running between two factions. A virtual war but with deadly civilian tolls, as each faction have to disintegrate its own civilians as “collateral damage”.
    – S01E25 “Devil in the Dark”. This is the episode that was used in one video made from someone of my home region, using a vernacular regional German dialect (Alsatian), with a creature (referred in the parody as “la merde de l’espace”) that terrorise a mining company. One of these weirdest episode highlighted by Spock mind-melding with the creature.
    – S01E26 “Errand Of Mercy”. Not a great episode but worth in the list as it is the first episode to introduce the Klingons (their appearance and language will greatly differ in the subsequent iterations).
    – S01E28 “The City on the Edge of Forever”. Certainly one of the best episode due to its dramatic tense. Following an accidental injection, a delusional McCoy beams himself into a planet hosting a time-travel portal transporting him, Kirk and Spock into the 1930s depression-era. Kirk and Spock faces not only the dilemma hold by the Prime directive but also the consequence of saving someones death on the historical timeline.

    Season 2 (1967-1968):
    Season 2 was also very good but some episodes have this feeling of “deja-vu” by using a plot already explored. These are my favorite Season 2 episodes in my list:
    – S02E04 “Mirror, Mirror”: Another great epidote in which a disturbance in the transporter beam leads to a mix-up between two parallel universes, sending Kirk and its teammates in which the Federation is more like a pirate and terrorizing organization.
    – S02E06 “The Doomsday Machine”. Another favorite episode. In this episode, the Enterprise faces a huge doomsday machine that is fueling on planets and galaxies that he swallows. He sees the demise of an another spacecraft and captain that will make the ultimate sacrifice as a ship’s captain.
    – S02E10 ” Journey To Babel”. A unique episode as it brings various races of the Federation into the Enterprise, in particular Spock’s parents. All on a “whodunit” intrigue as well as a unique father-son relationship makes this episode unique and original.
    – S02E15 “The Trouble with Tribbles”. THE episode with the fur balls!
    – S02E16 “The Gamesters of Triskelion”. One of the action-packed episode seeing Spock, McCoy and Kirk becoming gladiators.
    – S02E17 “A Piece of The Action”. What would Star Trek would like if it took place in the 1920’s Chicago prohibition-era? Well this episode!
    – S02E21 “Patterns of Force”one of these episodes using a planet as a mirror to human history, in particular to something looking like the Nazi Germany. Worth the seeing.
    – S02E24 “The Ultimate Computer”. Before computers were even outside, this episode had this visionary feels as it predicts the danger of considering any computer devices as fool-proof, devoid of any “bugs”. Wargames’ WOPR or Terminator’s Skynet anyone?
    – S02E26 “Assignment: Earth”. An odd but fun episode, playing with Star Trek colliding with modern-day (1967-69) Earth, straight in the line of “Tomorrow Is Yesterday” (S01E19) episode.
    Season 3 (1968-1969):
    Season 3 in my opinion started to go into weird direction, brining some of the worst episodes and maybe explaining why the series was plugged off. This seasons feels like a roller-coaster as it feels an a succession of “yeah” and “meh” episodes. Here are some of the best and worst episodes that I was given to see:
    – S03E01 “Spock’s Brain”. The worst episode in my opinion, just look at the plot: A lost civilization sent a woman into the Enterprise, put everyone to sleep to steal Spock’s brain. Not only Spock remains alive without a brain, even better McCoy find a way to make a remote-controlled Spock!
    – S03E02 “The Enterprise Incident”. Maybe of the best of that season, in which Kirk and Spock decide to stealthy steal a Romanian technology. One of the few times Spock kicks away his logic and use his seduction to the female Romulian ship captain  to plot the theft. When James Bond collides with Star Trek, it makes one interesting episode.
    – S03E03 “The Paradise Syndrome”. Another terrible episode in which Kirk becomes amnesic and fall in love with a Native-American like indigenous inhabitant and becomes a God-like symbol.
    – S03E05 “Is There in Truth No Beauty”. Another terrible episode in which Kollos, a Medusean ambassador is locked into a box due to transportation, any human seeing Kollos (in other words the inside content of that box) become insane before dying. I never knew that psychedelic visuals would make someone to die, unless you are on LSD. I guess that was maybe the message behind that episode “Don’t do drugs”.
    – S03E07 “Day Of The Dove”. Thats another great episode in which Kirk and a rival Klingon ship have to work together to fight a common enemy, an energy-made creature feeding on anger and violence.
    -S03E08 “For the World Is Hollow and I Have Touched the Sky”. Not a great episode but worth mentioning as it has the only episode in which McCoy have a love affair with a priestess from a drifting spaceship turned into an asteroid.
    – S03E09 “The Tholian Web”. One of the darkest episode. As Kirk investigates the wreckage of USS Valiant, the crew faces multiple challenges that put them into the most challenging situation: a disease that makes crew members bezerk, Captain Kirk declared dead by Spock only to be found lost into another dimension running low on oxygen, the attack of a Tholian fleet resulting in major casualties and mechanical damage, putting Spock and McCoy into the most tense decisional fight in decision making.
    – S03E10 “Wink of an Eye”. A very boring episode in which Captain Kirk moves at the speed of light following the incursion of some aliens inside his ship. The only noteworthy moment in my opinion is when Captain Kirk went the extra mile, above the call of duty with the female alien :p.
    – S03E11 “Eylaan of Troyius”. An interesting but also weird episode, with Kirk having to discipline a tin-foil clad but spoiled princess and a sabotage by some Klingons. We knew Kirk was a womanizer but making up with a princess-bride was priceless.
    – S03E12 “Whom God Destroys”. An overall okay episode taking place in a space asylum taken by Garth of Izard, a former Starlet captain turned psychopath (and capable to take others apparence). What make this episode very interesting? Two things: seeing the false Captain Kirk getting loco as Scott refuses to beam him inside the Enterprise, the cruauty of Garth that does not hesitate to let suffocate Marta (her love affair from Orion) by exposing her to deadly poisonous gases but also to explode her alive remotely all on the prime-time screen.
    – S03E14 “The Mark of Gideon”. A bizarre episode in which the Enterprise try to establish diplomatic contact with the habitants of the Gideon Planet. The only problem is that such planet is overpopulated by mute folks in spandex moving using Brownian movement. Choosing Kirk for helping to control the population is certainly sarcastic.
    – S03E19 “Requiem For Methuselah”. I liked this episode as it has some Twillight Zone twist to it. The Enterprise is beamed down a planet to harvest and extract some ryetalyn to treat some a Rigelian fever outbreak (I wonder if there is any association  with the Ritalin drug used for ADHD patients). At the surprise of the captain, they found two humanoids on the planet that not what they appear to be.
    – S03E20 “Way to Eden”. Oh my, this is an awful episode. Imagine hippies into space looking for their ashram and raising a mutiny inside the Enterprise. Ugh!
    – S03E21 “The Cloud Minders”. An interesting episode by its inspiration for Lando Carlissian’s cloud city of the Bespin planet. It has also a strong inspiration with Fritz Lang “Metropolis” by the social class divide (the intellectually poor are relegated to terranean surface, whereas the rich ones are living in the clouds).
    – S03E22 “The Savage Curtain”. Another interesting one, as the crew of the USS Enterprise are encountered by a replica of Abraham Lincoln, only to be forced to participate in a gladiators game similar to “Arena”. Kirk, Spock and Lincoln team with Saruk (a legend amongst Vulcan history) into a deathmatch against some of the greatest villain of Earth History including Gengis Khan and Captain Green. The second time that a rock-based alien is the center of attention.
    – S03E23 “All Our Yesterday”. This is a must-watch, one of the best episode by its darkness and probably the first time Spock showed his human emotion. The USS Enterprise is visiting a planet that has 4 hours to live before its destruction by its star that became a nova. Spock, Kirk and McCoy are beamed down into a library and greeted by the last librarian. At their surprise, the librarian tell them everybody else have left into safety (despite their lack of knowledge in rocket science and space exploration). The trio discovers the fate of its population as they are trapped in some holographic portals.
    – S03E24 “Turnabout Intruder”. The last episode before NBC cancelled the production. Also one of the worst episode of TOS franchise. Captain Kirk is visiting Camus II following a distress signal from Dr. Lester, a scientist and former Kirk love affair during its time at the Starfleet Academy. Using an ancient device, Dr. Lester traps Kirk and use it to switch minds. This episode is awfully bad essentially for the mostly misogynistic allure of it. The whole  plot is centered on Dr. Lester venality, as women are barred from becoming Starfleet Captain. Dr. Lester also use many mysogynistic techniques such as “slut-shaming”, physical and verbal violence (she tries to kill Kirk imprisoned in Dr. Lester’s body several times) and “gaslightning”.

[Manga] Saint Seiya Sanctuary 30th Anniversary

Today marks the 30th anniversary of the airing of Saint Seiya – Sanctuary from TOEI animation on Japanese TV Network based on the original manga by Masami Kurumada. It was aired in France sometimes in 1987 as “Les Chevaliers du Zodiaque” (translated as Knights of the Zodiac) and from there will spawn a huge success across Spain, Portugal and by ricocheting through Latin America.
What makes this anime so awesome? Maybe a mix of different things that I will discuss more about in debt.
First the synopsis of the series. The series take place sometimes in the present era, on the eve of the Galactic tournament gathering the best martial arts fighters from the whole world. Interestingly, most of these fighters came from the same orphanage under the patronage of Mitsumasa Kido. According to the legend, every 200 years the evil force try to conquer Earth only to be stopped by Athena and an army of valiant knights, these knights being numbered as 108, the number of constellations in the sky. In the present era, Saori Kido (the granddaughter of Mitsumasa Kido) is believed being the incarnation of Athena. The birth of Athena is not known but it appears the Grand Pope in Greece plot to assassinate her, only saved by Sagittarius Aiolos, a Gold Saint. Aiolos dies on the feet of Mitsumasa by giving her Saori and his Sagittarius cloth. Back in Japan, Kido adopt Saori as his granddaughter and set her to reign on the Graude Foundation, that is in charge of the orphanage. Interestingly enough, Saori has a relationship with many of these knights as she used to wander in the orphanage and bully some of these orphans.
As these kids raise the age of 5, Mitsumasa decide to send each of these kids around the world to train to become Bronze Saints and earn the bronze cloth. The Galactic Tournament brings back all these kids now young men to fight this tournament in order to earn the Sagittarius golden cloth. However, things are not going the way it should and will trigger a frenetic chain reaction that kept the audience blast for over 50 episodes.
What makes this series so great is perhaps the absence of a single hero by its own. Yes, there is the main protagonist, Seiya (that gave the name to the Japanese title) that under the training of Eagle Marine learn to unleash his cosmo energy, such cosmo being both an energetic and psychic force capable to inflict remote damage to its opponent. We got introduced to Seiya by the first episode as he is fighting for the Pegasus bronze cloth a giant named Cassios. As Seiya is crushed in by Cassios hands, Seiya finally unleash his cosmo and earn the Pegasus bronze armor. At the beginning, Seiya compete against his former friends until the heist of the Sagittarius armor by the Black Bronze Saints (the antithesis of the Bronze Saints) headed by Phenix Ikki (brother of Andromeda Shaun) will force them to join their force and becoming a strong team. This idea of brotherhood and friendship is the key element of Saint Seiya as they all face the challenges together in all different parts of the manga.
Maybe the differences in temper between the different characters. From the cold and distant Cygnus Hyoga (still under the trauma of his mother death, trapped by the frigid waters of Finland) to the antipathic brother Ikki contrasting with the fragile and sensible mood of Shaun. Because of these different moods and strengths of each of them, at least each child could refer to one of them.
Maybe it is the endurance and perseverance of the protagonists, ready to sacrifice their life for justice, facing each week opponents each time stronger than ever. First they defeat the Black Bronze knights, to only defeat some of the best Bronze Knights (in particular, the epic fight of Dragon Shiryu and Algol Perseus in which Shiryu blind himself to avoid petrification by Medusa shield. This was also an episode that created some controversy as Perseus did not hesitate to use his shield to transform children trying to escape into stones. Not only the team defeated all the Bronze Saints that gave their allegiance to the Grand Pope and declared Saori as heretic, they also face Silver Saints that have a more powerful armor and speed to finally face on Gold Saints represented by the twelve signs of the Zodiac.
Maybe it is also the particular atmosphere and discussion raised by some characters sexual orientation. There is a discrete but consistent homoerotism in the series that may have surely intrigued young men growing into their puberty. For instance, Shaun is harboring Andromeda Bronze cloth, an armor color dominated by pink. Shaun also has this effeminate traits giving this androgyne look (this was also resurgent with Lizard Misty  Silver Saint and APieces Aphrodites Gold Saint). There is also this particular scene that surely has shaken many boys watching it. In one episode, Hyoga is trapped into a block of ice by Aquarius Camus Gold Saint (his mentor in the manga, the mentor Crystal Saint, mentor of Hyoga in the TV version) to avoid his confrontation and ultimate death. As Hyoga is untapped from his ice coffin, Shaun decide to bring Hyoga back from hypothermia by laying naked on top of him to exchange heat. That was some bold scene for a young male to watch.
Maybe it is the music of Seiji Yokohama that brilliantly mixed classical soundtrack instrumentations with metal tones giving this winning formula. The opening sequence is simply majestic, giving the tone of the whole series. Using the main themes of Yokohama and giving to Make-Up (a J-Pop band that was strongly influenced by the rock, punk and metal scene), it literally blow your inner cosmo. Just by listening to the opening, you realize how terrible anime opening and ending credits have become in 30 years. Just by watching it, you feel like to watch the whole series. This was not exclusive to Saint Seiya as a lot of anime of that period aimed to Shonen (young boys) were having this rock and rebel feel

The ending sequence is as well refined, as well by Make-Up and named “Forever Blue”

After the end of Sanctuary, TOEI decided to branch out and followed a non-canon direction with the second part by creating “Asgard” taking the Bronze Saints into the Scandinavian frozen lands and exploring the Nordic mythology, whereas the third chapter came back to the canon with “Poseidon”, this time a confrontation of Poseidon (impersonated by Julian Solo) and his Marine Generals.

I followed up to Saint Seiya Hades and Elysion in which the Bronze Knights fights off the army of Hades and reaches the Elysion to fight over deities. I kind of lost interest when the latest chapter “The Lost Canvas” explore the previous Holy War that took place 200 years before the original.

The anime has probably aged badly but definitively worth to be watched if you ever have chance. I am pretty sure you can grab some Mexican copies under the name of “Caballero Del Zodiaco” and I strongly recommended the original Japanese with english subtitles (Spanish worked very well for me, as I could translate some words into French and get the sense).

[TV/Horror] The Walking Dead Season 1-6 feedback and thoughts.

I admit, I have been late, very late on catching on the Walking Dead frenzy. So late that it took me this summer to hang and binge watch 6 years worth of the Walking Dead seasons in less than 6 weeks. But thanks to AMC “The Walking Dead” marathons ran every Sundays this summer, I caught it. I still have to catch “TWD” Comic book series but dang, it was worth it. So much for me to catch and hang on a TV serie, the last one that I hanged on from beginnning to end was……Lost. I guess there are several elements of Lost narrative that are also present in the TWD.
I am not gonna spoil that much on TWD but there will be elements of the six seasons discussed. You are warned.
First, the walkers, the rotten, the crawlers….in other words the living dead. They are the closest of the orginal living dead from Georges A. Romero’s “Night of The Living Dead”. Flacid, slow, flesh-eating creatures that are only ghosts of their former past life. Those bitten by them are also becoming part of the living dead as well. They are devoid of any feelings, any memories and solely relying on their reptilian brain. Indeed, this has became the main method to kill them (by stabbing a knife straight throught the temporal lobe). Again, as in the “Night of the Dead”, we dont know the origin of the outbreak, although at the end of the season 1, as Dr. Edwin Jenner (I guess it is not a coincidence he shares similar name than Edward Jenner, the inventor of the vaccination process), one former scientist of the CDC implies it is a viral infection that is present in every person. Such virus is spreading fast and transform the outbreak into an unsustainable mass extinction, enough to overrun the National Guards.
The starting of Season 1 really felt a lot like “28 days later…” as Rick Grimes (portrayed by Andrew Lincoln) wakes up from a coma to only find a deserted place in chaos. As Rick wanders around, we discover the gravity of the situation and met Morgan, the first survivor we witness as Rick. Morgan also will become a redudant character through the six seasons as we see him loosing his mind to better come back to sanity after his encounter with Eastman. The wandering of Rick in Atlanta streets on a horseback ride was surrealistic, as he will meet Glenn and seal one of the pillar of TWD. Glenn, an Asian-American, strongly remembers me from Romero’s main hero that was an antipode of the classical white man savior. Glenn is certainly the voice of reason and patience of the group that certainly made him one of my favorite character.
It seems that each season will bring one essential pillar to the team.
Rick becomes by default the leader of the group by default, without asking for it. Same that Jack Shepard from “Lost” did by the middle of the first season. He helps the small group of survivors located into a building in Downtown Atlanta to escape, not without leaving Merle (Darryl’s brother) handcuffed on the rooftop without the key to unlock his cuffs. As we progress through, Rick found his wife Lorie now in bed with Shane, his workmate and best friend that once saved his life during the intervention that sent Rick into a comatose. Tensions flare progressively between Rick and Shane for his wife and Carl, his son. This season also learn us a very dramatic and redudant thematic of TWD: the double grievance of seeing one of your dearests dying before your eyes and also the killing of their reincarnation as a living dead. This is certainly what makes the serie so captivating as you get sentimentally attached to many of these characters, making their separation much harder (this is why I speculate it is Eugene that will eat Negan’s baseball bat at the beginning of Season 7, unless the writers are complete jerks ready to infuriate the hardcore fans).
As the seasons go, we end up in a central location that will make the central theme of the season. In Season 1, it is Atlanta and the camp outside it, in season 2 it is Hershel’s farm, in Season 3 and 4 it is the Prison and Woodbury, in Season 5 it is the Terminus and Gabriel’s Church and in Season 6 it is Alexandria.
We see solid characters building tough to the situation such as Carol and Carl, we see hard-boiled men keeping on their principles such as Abraham and Darryl, we see fearless characters becoming human such as Michonne. We see characters that went into Hell and back as Morgan, but we also see characters forging a toughness without sacrifying their humanity such as Glenn and Maggie couple.
All brings this idea that the group finally found a safe haven in which they will be resting and possibly thrive, to only see their hope fading away in flames and torn apart by the walkers. It is probably an allegory of life in which we only learn to savior the comfort of our lives only to be taken by a natural disaster. This is one thing that this serie made me appreciate is to cherish any time of the day because it may vanish within a glimpse of a moment.
One of the remarkable aspect I have to admit is the impressive job done by the decoration and photography, that has made the post-apocalyptic environment so realistic you would expect. It we had some outbreak tomorrow that would shut down the society as we know it, we would be something similar to this.
A thematic that is also present is this idea of tribalism and clanism. We consider it in our modern society as an obsolete and archaic concept of primitive society. Yet, it becomes the essential aspect of survival. Look at Hershel’s family, the Governor’s town, the Terminaliens, the communities of Alexandria and Hilltop and finally Negan’s Saviors and the forecoming Ezekiel’s kingdom. Some are into insane cultism (as the Terminus reverted to cannibalism as their method of survival), herd survivalism (the cops holding in Atlanta’s Gray Memorial Hospital) to the closest form of democracy (Alexandria is appeared the closest of a semblant of democracy).
There are sometimes we feel the writers lost in their writings leading to a lot of empty periods broke only by intense final seasons and new seasons. In particularly I really felt a major chunk of Season 4 and a good half of Season 5. It reminds a lot what we experienced with the hatch and the early Dharma experiment.
Well, now I am back on track I cannot wait on TWD premiere in October and also giving a try to “Fear The Walking Dead” that leaves the Peach state for the arid region of Tijuana and the American-Mexican border.