We need a Pike era Star Trek series

One of the best things about the vastly improved second season of Star Trek: Discovery has been the addition of the pre original series Enterprise crew of Captain Pike, Number One and a youthful Mr Spock. It’s helped transition the series into feeling more like Star Trek, and has also done some interesting stuff with a character who barring the original pilot episode and the 2009 film is pretty much a blank slate.

The final episode of Discovery can be seen to act in several ways. One is to give a complete reboot of the series, remove it from existing canon (keeping the uber-fanboys happy) and throwing it a millennium forward in the series timeline opening up a whole new set of possibilities. It also tidied up a few things regards the aforementioned canon and wrapped things up in a bow.

The other thing done is to have much of the last episode effectively act as a soft pilot for a Pike era Enterprise series. Anson Mount has been superb as Pike and this would make the logical prequel as the series builds up to the arrival of Kirk as captain and everything we know now.

In fact I think its impossible to look at the scene below and not think this is the plan.

But TV producers are fickle things so we’re as likely not to get this as we are to get it however it strikes me as missing a trick as fan reaction is overwhelmingly positive to the point where all the creepy wee MRA types  complaining have been shut up.

So, CBS, you have the power. You know it makes sense and it’d be fucking ace! Make it so!

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What I thought of Daredevil season 3

I didn’t mid season 2 of Daredevil. Yes, it did die off after the first half of the season and ended in a terrible final episode designed more to set up The Defenders that provide good storytelling. Also the Marvel series on Netflix are overlong, with some episodes being glacially slow or just there to pad out the season. Daredevil season 3 is as good as the Marvel Netflix universe gets. It never feels padded out, there’s no filler episodes and the story moves to a satisfying ending that essentially would have set up future seasons had Netflix not cancelled the series,With Marvel/Disney being coy as to whether this cast returns.

Season 3 picks up after The Defenders with Matt Murdock (still played wonderfully by Charlie Cox) battered and broken being cared for by Sister Maggie (Joanne Whalley reminding us that she’s still a talent) while Foggy and Karen carry out their own fight against the Kingpin (a fantastic Vincent D’Onofrio). 

Season 3 also throws in Bullseye, though he’s never referred to as that name, it very definitely is that character and he gets a backstory too where he’s either a broken child or vicious bastard depending on your point of view. And this moral nuance is embedded throughout the season as characters aren’t black and white, but various shades of grey. Even the Kingpin isn’t a total bastard as there’s some humanity there but overall he’s still a monster, as well as Marvel’s best cinematic villain. Forget Thanos or Loki, Wilson Fisk is magnificent with how evil his corrupting influence is being the slow burn of his evil this season as Fisk uses one good man to his own needs.

That good man is Agent Nadeem played by Jay Ali. Nadeem is a good man working in the FBI trying to do what’s right, but desperate for money after paying for his sister-in-law’s cancer treatment so he pushes himself into a position that places him next to the Kingpin and Matt Murdock/Daredevil. This season Daredevil sheds his red costume for the plain black one he started out with, as Matt struggles with himself trying to work out who and what he is.

There’s a lot going on this season, which means there’s no padding, or filler episodes. Indeed one episode which could have been a filler (Karen) gives us essential background on Karen Page plus it allows Deborah Ann Wolf to show us what she can do. Overall all the main players get their moment, the introduction of Bullseye means we’ve got an equal in fighting ability to Matt which also means plenty of scenes where Daredevil takes a beating, in fact there’s a lot of fight scenes where various protagonists take a hellish beating.

Daredevil season 3 is the best thing Marvel’s done for Netflix. It’s an almost perfect crime/superhero drama that uses the potential for these characters while utilising the comics history of them to tell new stories. After the cludgy second seasons of Jessica Jones and Luke Cage (not seen the second season of Iron Fist & probably won’t) this shows how things are done just in time for it to get cancelled as Marvel/Disney pull as much of their intellectual property back in-house. Whether Disney/Marvel will have the creative bollocks to do something like this season of Daredevil in-house remains to be seen (and I’m wary they will) but this will stand as testament to what can be done when creators work together to do something good.

What I thought of Star Trek: Discovery season 2 episode 1

The first season of Star Trek: Discovery contrary to what some fans said, wasn’t actually bad as it tried to do something different with the Star Trek formula, though the season was let down by a staggeringly awful final episode which wrapped everything up so poorly that it undid much of the good work the season did though the last shot tease of the Enterprise was a nice touch.

Then comes this first episode which in one fell swoop brushes away many of the criticisms of the first, so the overall tone isn’t as grim, supporting characters suddenly have names, and although it takes much of its tone from the 2009 J.J Abrams reboot though buried in what is a pretty action packed episode is something akin to Star Trek.in the what is the season’s overall arc which is finding out what the strange red bursts happening across the galaxy are..

Sonequa Martin-Green returns as Michael Burnham, while Anson Mount débuts as Captain Pike, the first captain of the Enterprise who plays it like the the film version of Pike rather than the original series. These two are clearly the main two protagonists but it feels slightly more of an ensemble piece that last year so all is good right? Not everything. It feels slight and there’s not enough in it to detract from the feeling it’d rather be about the action that anything else. As a whole though the series kicks off well; it’s fast paced action with a touch of fun missing from the first season that seems to be intent on taking us on an adventure rather than just tread the grounds of the first year.

So good start, let’s see where it goes from here.

What I thought of Doctor Who: Resolution

I’ve not minded the first series of Doctor Who with Jodie Whittaker. She has massive potential, and the soft reboot is a still a great idea as is changing things up with the music and a larger budget spent on episodes. The problems still lie in scripts and in the New Year’s Day special the problems started right away.

The story starts with a bunch of Vikings beating an impossible alien menace in the 9th century, and in victory cutting the creature into three parts to hide across the world with one of those parts ending up in Sheffield in 2019 as its uncovered as part of an archaeological dig. Brilliant start, great setup and we’re in for an hour of action and adventure as the new Doctor comes face to face with the Daleks for the first time.

And we get that. The pace and speed of the opening ten minutes or so are breathtaking then we get the introduction of Ryan’s dad and suddenly a B plot is introduced which manages to suck the life out of the episode stone dead. Literally all the momentum is drawn out as the story stops for a long scene where Ryan and his dad have a long conversation. Sure, the storyline picks up again but it’s fell to pieces by this point as we have no idea what the tone of the episode is meant to be? Is it family drama? Is it an action/adventure ride for a bank holiday? Is is a satire? The writer and showrunner Chris Chibnall decides on all of the above while trying to ram it into an hour of screentime which means things go missing including the plot-thread about the other two parts of the Dalek and what’s happening with them, and more importantly, the Doctor.

Now I like Jodie Whittaker a lot. She’s got huge potential and she can act. Just look at her at the start of the clip below. Its terrifying subtle stuff.

Resolution has the problem in it doesn’t know what to be. It doesn’t settle on a tone, and instead slaps around like a drunk on a speeding bus on Christmas Eve battering its way from scene to scene because Chibnall hasn’t decided what he actually wants the episode to be. Because of this the Doctor gets lost which means we get her coming into a scene, saying a few lines and then being drowned out by the large supporting cast and because Chibnall seems scared to actually explore the potential of a female Doctor mixed with often piss poor direction, Whittaker is massively wasted.

Doctor Who can be anything it wants each episode. The show has infinite potential and a minimal respect for continuity, and unless you’ve got the skill of a writer like Douglas Adams or Robert Holmes trying to mix and match as you’re going on ends up in a mess like Resolution. Yet it doesn’t need to be like this. Take Legends of Tomorrow, another time-travel based show which struggled with tone in its first season. It didn’t know what it was. Was it fun and games based superheroics that threw everything at the wall or was it grimdark stuff for the Edgelords? In the second year they decided to throw out the grimdark stuff and have fun. Sure, it sometimes gets serious but most of the time it adopts a tone where you can have scenes like this.

If something flits tone too sharpish, or worse, takes you out the story then it becomes harder to reinvest the time back into something, and if it keeps doing this then why bother?

But it can be fixed. Less companions. Better scripts. Pick a direction and stick with it but most importantly, let Jodie Whittaker develop because a series into her era I have no idea what her character is. I did with Capaldi, Smith, Tennant, Eccleston, McCoy, etc and hell, I even got the jist of Paul McGann’s Doctor who had an hour or so of screentime. Whittaker isn’t being allowed to explore the role except in tiny glimpses where something glorious is hinted at.

So the next season hasn’t started filming yet. I hope the production team listen to criticisms (not the ”ITS POLITICAL CORRECTNESS GONE MAD” type as I’m glad the show is becoming political again after Moffat’s era)  and come back in the autumn with am improved show that allows Whittaker to show what she’s capable of.

 

What I thought of Black Mirror: Bandersnatch

A day ago Netflix announced a new Black Mirror film called Bandersnatch with zero previous publicity. A Bandersnatch comes from the works of Lewis Carroll and that knowledge should provide a clue as to what this new bit of Black Mirror is all about, and if you’ve played a ‘choose your own adventure’ type game back in the day either with a book or work like The Hobbit for the ZX Spectrum.

See this is a story set in the mid 80’s and as a period piece is almost perfect. I especially liked the old shit-brown livery of the W.H Smith branch Stefan (the main character) goes into at one point, as well as a perfect reconstruction of the stock it had in it. Stefan is a programmer working on adapting a ‘choose your own adventure’ book, Bandersnatch, into a computer game.So far this is prime Charlie Brooker, and the scenes in the game company office seem ripped from his days as a games journalist.

The thing is the version of Bandersnatch I watched will be different to the version you watch as it too is a ‘choose your own adventure’ story but the difference here is that Stefan as well as Colin, his idol in the games world, are aware they live in a story but have no control over their own destinies. but in thinking you as a viewer have power, you suddenly realise you’re being manipulated by the programme makers in making certain choices. Essentially this is a giant work of meta-fiction influenced by the likes of Philip K. Dick, Alan Moore, Michael Moorcock and especially Grant Morrison’s work on Animal Man. Issue five’s The Coyote Gospel especially with it sort of being referenced into the film itself.

Does it work? On the whole yes but at times it does fall into itself as it shows off how clever it’s being, with one ending (there’s five main endings and loads of other lead-ins) that references Netflix itself and the technical prowess needed to make such a film, which to be honest, is just distracting wankery.  The story is what’s important and although well acted and directed (the vastly underrated David Slade directs) it suffers from being stilted at times, plus if you opt out of the end the first time, you lose the sense of being trapped in a never-ending hell.

As an experiment and episode of Black Mirror, it works fine. The performances are good, the script is fine and the direction is excellent and while all the meta-textual stuff is good, there’s always this feeling with Brooker that he’s sharing an in-joke but that this time the viewer is the object of that joke which is of course, the entire point. We’re the victims of modern technology and we’re not in control of it.

Everything wrong with the UK in one handy image

It’s Boxing Day today which means for me, a day slobbed out trying to whittle down my Netflix list, but one image from Christmas Day is standing out because nothing says ‘poverty is a bad thing’ than a multi millionaire born into inherited wealth, power and privilege sitting in front of a golden piano.

For those saying ‘ah well, it wasn’t her choice to be born into that life‘, no it wasn’t but it is her choice to remain in it taking all the advantages and associated privileges coming from it.

We’ve suffered a decade of austerity and cuts since 2008 which was turbo-charged in 2010 with the advent of the coalition government between the Tories and Lib Dems. In 2018 we face the oncoming storm of Brexit which will ensure austerity is the norm forever for large parts of the UK, and there’s The Queen saying ‘poverty is bad, m’kay‘ in a room which could fund a hospital near you.

If there’s ever going to be a better picture as to why Britain and all it’s outdated, unequal ‘traditions’ needs to end it’ll always be this picture. Have a great Boxing Day folks…

What I thought of Elsewords

The CW’s DC selection of DC series are often a bit dull and tedious (part of the problem with having 20-odd episodes a year) but on the whole, Flash, Arrow, Supergirl, Legends of Tomorrow and now, Black Lightning, are pretty fun and the now annual crossover has been great.

This year sees the crossover scale back a bit from last year’s in terms of characters as it focuses mainly on Flash and Green Arrow, with Supergirl providing support with her cousin Superman. The scale though, is cosmic as the producers decide to up the stakes, not to mention trust the audience that it grasps concepts like alternate worlds and books that can rewrite reality which is what’s going on here as Oliver Queen and Barry Allen change places so Queen is the Flash and Allen is the Green Arrow. This is because a cosmic being called The Monitor has given a Dr. John Dee the Book of Destiny in order to rewrite reality so he can test heroes for a ‘crisis’ that’s coming.

Got it?

Truth is that if you’ve not been watching the programmes over the years you’ll be lost, and if you’ve no idea of DC Comics and its history you’ll be even more lost. For those of us familiar with both, Elsewords is playful fun, even if it also acts (sometimes tediously) as soft pilot episodes for Superman and Batwoman getting their own shows.but the entire story serves as prologue for the Arrowverse doing their own version of Crisis on Infinite Earths next autumn.

Crisis is generally considered to be not only the best of superhero comics vast crossovers (mainly as it had an actual purpose and not just to make money) but it gave DC the chance to clean house, which it didn’t quite do as DC have spent the decades since trying to tidy up after Crisis, but here the tease is for all (or the ones they can afford/get) of DC’s television and film adaptations. We’ve already seen the return of the 1990 version of The Flash, so what’s to stop anyone else turning up next year barring money and death?

Overall Elsewords is fun, and done by people who clearly don’t just like the characters but the comics too. If only the people making DC’s films did the same.