Comic Review: IDW 20/20 – Star Trek: The Next Generation

Published: January 20th, 2019
Written by: Peter David
Art by: J.K. Woodward
Based on: Star Trek by Gene Roddenberry

IDW Publishing, 36 Pages

Review:

It’s hard to believe that IDW Publishing has been around for twenty years already. In that time, they have published comic books for just about every franchise you can think of. While they’ve had some of their own in-house creations, it’s the intellectual properties that they’ve managed that has been their real bread and butter.

To celebrate their 20th anniversary, they are doing this IDW 20/20 event, which sees many of the IPs they publish getting one-shots that either rewind or fast forward the clock 20 years. The first to come out is this one-shot for Star Trek: The Next Generation.

This one-shot goes back twenty years before The Next Generation television series and shows us an early career mission for Captain Picard. It’s pretty interesting, as it also shows how Picard and his long-time friend, Dr. Beverly Crusher, first met.

What’s really cool about this is that it is written by Peter David, one of the best comic book writers of the last few decades. I’ve always enjoyed David’s work, so seeing him take on the iconic character of Jean-Luc Picard was pretty neat.

Overall, the story was enjoyable and it showed a younger, much more flawed version of Picard. While it’s nice seeing him in a different light, before he evolves into the great leader he becomes, it felt kind of odd, as it comes off as a bit uncharacteristic. I get that he’s younger and probably more of a hot head but certain decisions, despite taking his age into account, seemed very un-Picard-like.

The only thing I wasn’t really a fan of was the art, which was also odd as I’ve liked the work of J.K. Woodward in the past. This comic does that thing that most comics of large IPs do, which is it takes existing reference photos of live action characters and either runs them through a filter or traces them. Here, we are given an art style that looks pretty, as it looks hand painted, but it is so perfect that it looks like PhotoShop filters or just paint enhanced photos. It’s just not a style I’m fond of and everyone from IDW to Marvel is guilty of it. I don’t want to come off as harsh on Woodward but it feels like maybe he was rushed on this project and had to wedge it in between his regular jobs.

In the end, this wasn’t memorable but it was a decent way to kill twenty minutes. I think a story like this could work but it should be something with more depth than you can get out of a one-shot.

Rating: 6.75/10
Pairs well with: other IDW Star Trek comics.

Retro Relapse: The Soon-To-Be Forgotten History of Star Wars

RETRO RELAPSE is a series of older articles from various places where I used to write before Talking Pulp.

*Written in 2015. And looking at this now, I think I was right.

Tonight is the night where Star Wars: The Force Awakens opens in theaters. With the release of this film, everything we know changes for this franchise going forward. There is a lot of hype, a lot of hope and a lot of apprehension from those of us that never recovered from the awfulness of the Prequel Trilogy.

Fact is, there isn’t a single Star Wars fan that doesn’t want this to be as amazing as the original films. But we all thought The Phantom Menace, without question, was going to be an amazing film before we saw it. There really is no way to know if The Force Awakens will be as great as the Original Trilogy until we experience it.

Films with this much hype usually fail to live up to it. In my opinion, J.J. Abrams, the director, has a pretty crappy track record. He did destroy Star Trek for those of us who liked it when it was boring and mostly a bunch of talking to avoid conflict. But I get it, we can’t all be smart and Abrams catered to the broader, dumbed down audience. And well, he admitted that he wasn’t a fan of Star Trek and was really just a fan of Star Wars. Good for him.

But this isn’t about J.J. or my “lack of faith” in him. It is about what this film and Disney’s purchase of Lucasfilm has done to the vast wonderland that is the universe Star Wars exists in.

I was a huge Star Wars fan and I still am, even though I feel a bit of betrayal. Reason being, everything I have invested in the universe is mostly moot now, at least in regards to what the new owners of the intellectual property say.

Thirty-plus years of reading all the books I could get my hands on, playing all the video games I bought at hefty price tags and collecting all the toys and other random memorabilia and now, none of that fits into Disney’s vision of the franchise.

When they announced that they would be making Star Wars films yearly from now until the end of time, I knew that the Expanded Universe was dead. They didn’t come out and say it immediately, but knowing that an Episode VII just wouldn’t fit in anywhere with what was established in the books and video games of the Expanded Universe, I knew that Disney would take extreme liberties, ignore all that established mythos and just do what they want.

I understand why they have to do it but with as much as I love many of the stories and what the EU has become, there is that part of me that feels a stronger allegiance to it than to Disney, who really doesn’t give a crap about it. And this is the same Disney that keeps making mediocre Marvel films after buying them a few years earlier. They are on a mission to own and reshape my childhood. Once they acquire Hasbro and Nintendo, they will own the souls of every young boy who experienced childhood in the awesome ’80s.

If The Force Awakens is a stellar movie, I will accept it as the new canon. If it sucks, I will completely dismiss it and always consider the Expanded Universe to be my canon. I don’t have to turn my back on the EU just because Disney says so. It isn’t just Star Wars history, although soon-to-be forgotten, it is history for the millions of people who invested their time, heart and money into the Star Wars brand for several decades. And whether it is fair to Disney or not, people with knowledge of the EU will always compare Disney’s work to the tales they’ve held dear for years.

The EU fan base is certainly a small percentage of Earth’s population and Disney has to look at the bigger picture. And I guess all of us hoping for more movies one day, knew that something like this would have to happen, it just kind of sucks.

And it doesn’t suck in that the EU will be ignored and washed away, it won’t be for those of us who love those stories and characters, it sucks because there will be no new stories in the EU. It isn’t dying because Disney has to ignore it, it is dying because it can’t continue to live and grow going forward. What exists within the EU is all that it will ever be now. That world is cemented. That’s the hardest pill to swallow.

I know that a lot of the stuff in the EU was pretty awful. Many books were just bad or too bizarre or didn’t fit within the established mythos. Some of the earlier attempts at expanded fiction tales went in strange directions. Splinter of the Mind’s Eye, one of the first Star Wars books ever written, doesn’t make much sense. But it is the great stories and great characters that people cherish and there was a lot more good than bad in the Star Wars Expanded Universe.

So even if I dismiss the new movies, as I have dismissed the rebooted universe of Star Trek since J.J. Abrams took over that franchise, I still have nothing new to look forward to in the EU. Even if I were to treat the EU as my personal Star Wars canon till the end of time, it is dead. No more books to read, no more games to play and the fate of many characters will be unresolved.

Despite my reservations, I am going into The Force Awakens with an open mind. I am trying to keep my expectations at bay. I just want to sit there and experience it. And yes, it will certainly drum up some nostalgia, because that’s the point of carrying this franchise on, but I’m going to be as objective as possible.

I want this new movie to be good. I want everything Star Wars to be good going forward. But I remember how I felt waiting for The Phantom Menace to start and how I felt after it and the next two films ended. Again, films with this much hype typically can’t live up to it but we shall see.

And maybe I will be pleasantly surprised to the point where the blow of losing the EU won’t sting as bad. I guess I’ll know in about twelve hours.

Comic Review: Star Trek/Planet of the Apes: The Primate Directive

Published: September 9th, 2015
Written by: David Tipton, Scott Tipton
Art by: Rachael Stott
Based on: Planet of the Apes by Pierre Boulle, Star Trek by Gene Roddenberry

IDW Publishing, BOOM! Studios, 133 Pages

Review:

I read this right after coming off of the crossover between Planet of the Apes and Green Lantern. While I did enjoy this, I didn’t have the same level of fun and excitement that I felt while reading the other tale.

Still, this pits two of my favorite franchises against one another and seeing Charlton Heston duke it out on the Enterprise with James T. Kirk is just absolutely f’n badass no matter what their reasoning.

I guess my biggest problem with this was how talkie it was. I get that it is a crossover with Star Trek of the ’60s and it wanted to emulate the spirit of that show but what works for one medium doesn’t always work for another. This should have been more action heavy and when comparing it to the Planet of the Apes and Green Lantern crossover, the action was minimal.

Still, this was a well crafted story, the plot made sense, even if most of these crossovers have the same sort of premise, which involves a portal being open for nefarious means to see two universes collide.

The story also features classic Klingons, which I liked but they didn’t even feel necessary to the story other being used for the setup and to have a reason for a starship battle at the end. I think it would’ve been more interesting to see Kirk and crew marooned on the ape planet, having to fight in a more primitive way like Charlton Heston did in the original film.

If you like both franchises though, this is a decent read.

Rating: 7/10
Pairs well with: Other similar crossovers: Planet of the Apes/Green LanternPlanet of the Apes/Kong, as well as Star Trek/Green Lantern I and II.

Film Review: Star Trek: Nemesis (2002)

Also known as: Star Trek X (working title)
Release Date: December 9th, 2002 (Hollywood premiere)
Directed by: Stuart Baird
Written by: John Logan, Rick Berman, Brent Spiner
Based on: Star Trek by Gene Roddenberry
Music by: Jerry Goldsmith
Cast: Patrick Stewart, Jonathan Frakes, Brent Spiner, LeVar Burton, Michael Dorn, Gates McFadden, Marina Sirtis, Tom Hardy, Ron Perlman, Kate Mulgrew (cameo), Wil Wheaton (cameo), Whoopi Goldberg (cameo), Bryan Singer (cameo), Majel Barrett (voice), Stuart Baird (voice)

Paramount Pictures, 116 Minutes

Review:

“We supported you, Shinzon, when you assassinated the Senate. You told us the timing was perfect for an attack on the Federation. I don’t understand why now you delay.” – Commander Suran

A lot of people despised this movie. Well, good thing I don’t really care about what most people think because this is one of my favorite Star Trek films of all-time. I certainly have some issues with the plot but I’ll discuss that as the review rolls on.

To start, this was a really dark chapter in the Star Trek film franchise, which was definitely welcomed at the time, as the previous film, Insurrection, was a pointless romp and almost felt like a nice vacation for the Enterprise-E crew. This mirrors First Contact in its level of darkness and even eclipses it, as there aren’t a lot of funny scenes like all the Earth stuff from that movie. I guess some people didn’t like how “doom and gloom” this picture was but I dug it in the same way I really dug The Wrath of Khan, twenty years earlier than this.

The thing that really made me like this picture too was that it featured the Romulans heavily. It took ten Star Trek motion pictures to get a Romulan story and this one really setup what could have been a good trilogy of films surrounding the oncoming storm of Romulan civil war.

So many things happened in this film that changed the playing field for not just the Romulans and the Federation but also the crew of the Enterprise. I feel like this should have kicked off a trilogy within the film series, sort of like how The Wrath of Khan started its own trilogy of films surrounding the Genesis Project. I really, truly wanted to see the Enterprise with Picard fighting alongside the Titan with Riker with good Romulans on one side and bad Romulans and Remans on the other. This could have lead to massive, epic things but the film series ended with this picture. I heard that the novels that covered Riker’s time as captain on the Titan were pretty good though. I should check those out.

Anyway, I also really liked Tom Hardy as the villain Shinzon, even though I didn’t like his backstory. Shinzon was a clone of Jean-Luc Picard and was there to sort of challenge the core of who Picard is. Could he be this psychotic evil man under different circumstances? At the same time, could Shinzon be a noble and heroic character if he were raised under similar circumstances as Picard. I like how this plays out even though I felt that the clone part was incredibly cheesy and friggin’ strange.

But this also tapped into Data sort of having his own clone in the movie too, as the crew discovers an older model of Data on a remote planet. Data spends time trying to help the new android evolve and adapt beyond his simple programming and B4, this new android, is even given Data’s memories at one point and essentially carries Data inside of him.

It’s interesting that Brent Spiner, the man who plays Data, helped write the script, as this is very much a picture where Data is the focus and his journey here is his most important in the character’s history. I feel that Spiner’s inclusion in the writing process helped to enrich this part of the story in a more personal way.

I also thought that the special effects were a big step up from Insurrection, which was the first Star Trek movie to go full CGI instead of using models for the ships. This film didn’t feel as cheap as its predecessor, which came off like a “made for TV” movie for the SyFy channel.

I also loved the design of Shinzon’s battleship. That thing was sick and is one of my favorite Star Trek vessels of all-time.

I really like this film but unfortunately, it didn’t give fans the right sort of closure that they should have gotten with this exceptional cast. And for me, it left me hanging, wanting to see where the Romulan storyline could have gone.

Rating: 8/10
Pairs well with: The other Next Generation films: Star Trek: GenerationsStar Trek: First Contact and Star Trek: Insurrection.

Film Review: Star Trek: Insurrection (1998)

Also known as: Star Trek IX, Star Trek: Nemesis, Star Trek: Prime Directive, Star Trek: Rebellion, Star Trek: Stardust (working titles)
Release Date: December 10th, 1998 (Cinevegas Film Festival)
Directed by: Jonathan Frakes
Written by: Michael Piller, Rick Berman
Based on: Star Trek by Gene Roddenberry
Music by: Jerry Goldsmith
Cast: Patrick Stewart, Jonathan Frakes, Brent Spiner, LeVar Burton, Michael Dorn, Gates McFadden, Marina Sirtis, F. Murray Abraham, Donna Murphy, Anthony Zerbe

Paramount Pictures, 103 Minutes

Review:

“If a court-martial is the only way to tell the Federation what is happening here, Admiral… I welcome it.” – Captain Jean-Luc Picard

This is my least favorite Star Trek film of all-time. Yes, I even like The Final Frontier more than this. The problem is that this just doesn’t work as a story or an event worthy of a Star Trek motion picture.

When you get to the end of this film, you realize that it is almost worth forgetting. It really just feels like a mediocre episode of The Next Generation TV show. It has some grandiose moments but it is a very small story when compared to the scale of what all the other Star Trek movies were. I mean, you just saved the Earth from a time traveling Borg invasion and now you’re off to La La Land to protect a mere 600 people from being tricked by a villain to live in a Holodeck that is made to resemble their village. I mean, really? This was the story? It felt like a rejected script for a filler episode of Star Trek: Voyager.

I liked that F. Murray Abraham was the villain and he did do a tremendous job in the role, fully committed to playing an insane person with a face that looked like beef jerky stretched over a basketball. But it wasn’t anywhere near enough to save this picture from being a lame and stale bore.

Star Trek films’ special effects have always been pretty amazing. However, even that area lacked in this picture. This was the first Trek movie to go full CGI instead of using models for its starships. The Enterprise-E looked good for the most part but the ship with the sails looked bad, the effects of the nebula weren’t well refined and then the attack drones on the planet’s surface looked terrible. It was like watching a cheap TV movie on SyFy from twenty years ago.

This film was also heavy handed with the lightheartedness and humor. Most of it was hokey and weird. There was an entire subplot about Lt. Worf going through puberty. He had a big zit, an angry teenage temper and pretty much just constantly reminded us that his body was going through some changes.

They also emphasized the relationship between Riker and Troi, which was actually fine but most of the scenes seemed out of place and sort of interrupted the flow of things.

Picard also had a love interest in the form of a 300 year-old woman that looked like she was forty-five.

The producers wanted a lighthearted movie after the doom and gloom of First Contact. They admitted to the fact that they were trying to do their generation’s version of The Voyage Home. It just didn’t work nearly as well, as The Voyage Home felt organic and natural where Insurrection felt odd, strange and incredibly dull.

Surprisingly, this wasn’t the death knell of the franchise. We would still get one more movie from The Next Generation‘s cast after this one.

Rating: 5.75/10
Pairs well with: The other Next Generation films: Star Trek: GenerationsStar Trek: First Contact and Star Trek: Nemesis.

Film Review: Star Trek: First Contact (1996)

Also known as: Star Trek VIII, Star Trek: Borg, Star Trek: Destinies, Star Trek: Future Generations, Star Trek: Generations II, Star Trek: Renaissance, Star Trek: Resurrection (working titles)
Release Date: November 18th, 1996 (Hollywood premiere)
Directed by: Jonathan Frakes
Written by: Ronald D. Moore, Brannon Braga, Rick Berman
Based on: Star Trek by Gene Roddenberry
Music by: Jerry Goldsmith, Joel Goldsmith
Cast: Patrick Stewart, Jonathan Frakes, Brent Spiner, LeVar Burton, Michael Dorn, Gates McFadden, Marina Sirtis, Neal McDonough, Alfre Woodard, James Cromwell, Alice Krige, Robert Picardo (cameo), Adam Scott, Majel Barrett (voice)

Paramount Pictures, 111 Minutes

Review:

“[Quoting “Moby Dick”] And he piled upon the whale’s white hump, the sum of all the rage and hate felt by his whole race. If his chest had been a cannon, he would have shot his heart upon it.” – Captain Jean-Luc Picard

After the torch was passed from one generation’s crew to the next in the appropriately titled Star Trek: Generations, it was only a matter of time before The Next Generation‘s cast got their own film series. This is the first movie that is wholly theirs.

This is also the first and only movie to utilize the Borg as a threat on the big screen. Really, the next film should have probably followed this up with a bit more Borg stuff instead of whatever the hell Insurrection was supposed to be. However, the Borg would be used a lot on Star Trek: Voyager where things got more intense and the Borg mythology was greatly expanded.

I love that this film added in a bunch of talented actors other than just the standard crew. Alfre Woodard and James Cromwell are both great in this and are two of my favorite Trek characters because of this film. Cromwell would reprise his role again on television but Woodard sadly never returned for more. Also, you have a very young Neal McDonough in this. I wish he would have gone on to continue to appear in these films but he met a bad end. Then there is Alice Krige as the Borg Queen and while this is probably her most famous role, she’s had a great career in the horror and sci-fi genres. You also get to see Adam Scott and a cameo by Robert Picardo, which was a nod to his Star Trek: Voyager character.

The plot of the film sees the Borg go back in time to prevent humanity from inventing warp drive and thus, attracting the first alien contact with Earth. The reason behind this was that the Borg would have an easier time assimilating Earth and its population. The Enterprise crew also goes back in time to prevent this from happening.

The story is pretty good and although this isn’t the first Star Trek movie to utilize time travel as its main plot device, this all still takes place in the future, so the “fish out of water” shtick that made Star Trek IV so friggin’ great, wasn’t rehashed. But that’s good because this wasn’t trying to be Star Trek IV, it was certainly its own thing and the film worked on its own merits.

While this is considered to be the best of The Next Generation set of films, I’m the weirdo that really likes Nemesis. But that’s probably because I had been yearning for a movie featuring Romulans since around the time of Star Trek IIIFirst Contact is still really damn good and my favorite after Nemesis.

I like that Jonathan Frakes got to direct this, which followed the path of the original cast’s films where Nimoy and Shatner both got chances to direct.

First Contact is in the upper echelon of Star Trek movies. It is much better than its followup, Insurrection, and it had an edge over Generations.

Rating: 7.75/10
Pairs well with: The other Next Generation films: Star Trek: GenerationsStar Trek: Insurrectionand Star Trek: Nemesis.

Film Review: Star Trek: Generations (1994)

Also known as: Star Trek VII, Star Trek: The Next Generation: The Movie (working titles)
Release Date: November 17th, 1994 (Hollywood premiere)
Directed by: David Carson
Written by: Ronald D. Moore, Brannon Braga, Rick Berman
Based on: Star Trek by Gene Roddenberry
Music by: Dennis McCarthy
Cast: Patrick Stewart, William Shatner, Malcolm McDowell, Jonathan Frakes, Brent Spiner, LeVar Burton, Michael Dorn, Gates McFadden, Marina Sirtis, Whoopi Goldberg, James Doohan, Walter Koenig, Alan Ruck

Paramount Pictures, 118 Minutes

Review:

“Good luck, Captain.” – Picard, “Call me Jim!” – Kirk

After the original series of Star Trek films came to a close and The Next Generation television show aired its final episode, it was natural to have the torch passed to Picard and his crew for a series of films. However, with Star Trek: Generations that passing of the torch was done quite literally.

This wasn’t the first time that the original Star Trek crossed over with The Next Generation, as Leonard Nimoy’s Spock crossed over in the two-part Unification story arc, James Doohan’s Scotty appeared in the show, as did DeForest Kelly’s Dr. McCoy. Also, Sarek had some notable moments in The Next Generation. This was, however, the first time that two captains from two different generations met on screen. Obviously, not counting the time travel episodes with one-off characters.

The highlight of this film is seeing James T. Kirk and Jean-Luc Picard come face to face and fighting alongside each other in an effort to stop a madman played by the great Malcolm McDowell.

This film sort of gets a bad rap with fans but I like it and it’s better than the worst films in the series: The Final Frontier and Insurrection.

I liked the plot, I loved the villain and seeing the Klingon sisters Lursa and B’Etor Duras come back and closeout their story was really cool. I always love it when secondary characters from the show get to return in the films in some way, even if it is just a small cameo. But here, the sisters got a real moment to shine and were a real thorn in the side of the heroes and instrumental in the events that destroyed the much beloved Enterprise-D.

The plot was kind of goofy but it worked for me. Soran, the madman wants to get back to this energy ribbon that sucks you in and makes you feel nothing but pure joy. Picard enters the ribbon, meets Kirk and pulls him out in an effort to defeat Soran. Yeah, it’s hokey and the fans probably just wanted to see both Enterprises with their famous crews working together in a grand space battle.

Sadly, most of the original crew didn’t want to return after they wrapped up their story in Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country. So I guess this story was the backup plan. But it was still fine, at least with me, and it gave The Next Generation crew more time to shine and build up their own cinematic universe.

There is still joy in seeing Patrick Stewart and William Shatner share the screen together though. They are still the best captains in the Star Trek franchise and even if it wasn’t in the way that most people had hoped, their scenes were still fun and made me smile.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: The other Next Generation films: Star Trek: First ContactStar Trek: Insurrection and Star Trek: Nemesis.