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!

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.

About the Star Trek: Discovery finale…

I’ve mentioned previously how much I’ve thoroughly enjoyed Star Trek: Discovery and how against a core of fan’s howling at the moon, it has managed to actually do something different with the Star trek formula. This week was the final episode of the first season and from here in there’s spoilers.

The last half of the first season has been superb. Based in Star Trek’s Mirror Universe where baddies are goodies and vice versa, this allowed the writers to play with the idea of what is Starfleet and what are the principles of the Federation. Plus it had Michelle Yeoh fighting…

That kick Yeoh does at 1.22 is, well, more than impressive for someone of 55. Anyhow, everything was set for a fantastic finale then I saw Akiva Goldsman’s name smeared over the credits like dripping phlegm. Goldman is the man who brought us Batman and Robin, and who’s writing C.V is peppered with shite. Shite which makes Hollywood money so he’s managed to get into a position beyond his actual talent and thus was the finale of Discovery placed into his hands.

It was to be utterly nice; average. If I was being honest I’d say I was utterly let down by it mainly because it was badly written. The main plotline of the Klingon War was finished too quickly and characters barely had time to breathe as the episode tripped and stumbled to a close which didn’t feel earned. We’ve followed these characters (And I think what Discovery has been great at is introducing new characters into Star Trek that are more than variations on a theme, plus in Stamets and Tilly they have a pair of fantastic characters to build on, while Doug Jones is doing tremendous work as Suru.) through hell, and them *poof* everything’s solved and we’re onto the cliffhanger.

Before I get to that cliffhanger I can’t make it clear how much of a shame this was. It could have been better as opposed to alright at best but now they’ve told the big over-arcing storyline in the first season I hope they learn from their mistakes in their second. Build on the characters more and give the bridge crew more to do than just look over their shoulders at Suru but that cliffhanger. Again, spoilers, but if you’ve read this far you probably don’t care by now.

At some point they would have to deal with being in the same era as when Pike captained the Enterprise, but to my surprise they’re going right into it now and isn’t that a lovely looking Enterprise?

So with the promise of big things in season 2 Discovery I hope improves, learns from mistakes made and becomes better because we need a good, positive bit of Star Trek so now we’ve got over the grim war, we can build up the positive vision of the future we could all do with dreaming about.

Star Trek: Discovery has become essential television

Back at the start of Star Trek: Discovery (abbreviated to STD which will never stop being funny)  I was cautiously optimistic about it. We’re now nearly halfway through the first season and I think I can safely say this is the best bit of Star Trek we’ve had since Deep Space 9. This Cracked article covers many of the reasons why this series is head and shoulders above expectations, though I’d not say it was the ‘best ever made’ as the series has a long time to go with a second season confirmed and a third likely.

Every Star Trek series has reflected the times. The original series reflected much of the upheaval of the 1960’s, Next Generation was at times very 90’s, DS9 dealt with a post Cold War world and threats coming from religious fanatics which predicted the future a tad. Even Voyager and the mainly terrible Enterprise occasionally had some depth in them. STD is different because the crew aren’t perfect human beings, nor are they the cardboard cut-outs of the last few films.

Take Captain Lorca (wonderfully played by Jeremy Isaacs) who is the warrior the Federation needs in their war against the Klingons.

He’s also a psychopath who is out of control and has only been saved from being locked up because his admiral has been captured by the Klingons. So Lorca is free to scheme and plot. Lorca though isn’t the main character. That’s Sonequa Martin-Green’s Michael Burnham who starts as a first officer, before starting a war which is killing millions. It’s Burnham’s story we’re following which is STD’s strongest and weakest point. Strong because it means we have a character taking us on their story. Weak because it means the focus on the ensemble (I especially like Cadet Tilly) is lesser which is a shame as this is a strong support cast.

There are problems. The supporting cast are sometimes neglected, the scripts sometimes have holes in them and by keeping most of the action focused on the Discovery we have no idea of how the war is affecting the galaxy barring the odd passing mention. The positives outweigh the negatives. Star Trek needed a kick up the arse as well as being redesigned while still remaining familiar while still being Star Trek, and on the whole they’ve done that. Of course a section of fans are crying like the man-babies they are that ‘it doesn’t look like the Kirk era’, or ‘do we need a female lead’, but it’s easy enough to ignore most of this as wankers crying about a programme not being endless fan-service.

Then of course there’s the prudes and religious loons whining about the programme’s use of the word ‘fucking’.

But they too can be ignored.

Star Trek: Discovery isn’t perfect.It needs work, but a Trek series that I want to watch each week in 2017 is a nice thing, and I hope the programme improves and continues to try new things because this is what Star Trek should do. The series is being shown on Netflix here in the UK. Go try it out.

What I thought of Star Trek: Discovery

The new Star Trek series, Discovery, has two shiny new episodes on Netflix and it really is interesting viewing purely for the fact it tries to do something different with the concept while at the same time ticking off as many boxes you’d expect from a Star Trek series as you can imagine in around 90 minutes.

Sonequa Martin-Green stars as Michael Burnham, the first officer of the USS Shenzhou, a starship commanded by Michelle Yeoh’s Captain Georgiou.

Martin-Green plays Yeoh’s first officer and this shift in focus from the captain to a member of the crew pays off right away in that Star Trek: Discovery feels different. We’re not having a story told through the eyes of a captain, but rather a first officer, and one that is related to the original series Mr Spock.  So from the start everything is familiar but slightly new, fresher and it feels better rather than just go through the motions which considering the jaw-dropping amount of executive producers on the programme it’s a wonder the show actually got made in the first place.

Thankfully the names of Nicholas Meyer (director of Star Trek’s best two films, The Wrath of Khan and The Undiscovered Country) and Brian Fuller (ex of Hannibal) show there isn’t just someone who gets what Star Trek should be, but someone who gets how to make a series work.

The plot revolves round the Klingons coming back after a century as T’Kuvma (a sort of Klingon ultra-nationalist like Nigel Farage but with a Mars bar stuck on his head) hopes to reunite all the houses of the Klingon Empire to take the fight to the Federation to stop them for corrupting the purity of the Klingon race. Very topical and done surprisingly well as we see the Federation at first avoid conflict before being dragged into battle but only reluctantly.

In the middle of this Martin-Green holds the thing together from just being another Generic Space Adventure, which at times this does creep into being. She manages to convey enough conflict between what’s best for her crew and how that contradicts Starfleet’s ethics well, and it’s that conflict that drives these first two episodes. Backed up by a strong performance from Yeoh and some nice supporting performances, these opening episodes establish the world we’re in and the central character. Having the Klingons as the central antagonist keeps that sense of familarity too, though I’m not keen on the redesign at all.

There are flaws. Apart from the main two characters everyone else barring Doug Jones’s lanky alien is a one-dimensional cardboard cut-out so when people start dying there’s little emotional attachment to them, and for a programme named after a starship, the Discovery doesn’t actually show up in these episodes then again the basic design is an abandoned one for a Star Trek film from 40 years ago. Neither does Jason Isaacs who makes anything better by just being in it.

Overall this is a nice start. Dark enough to keep a section of fans happy while still being positive enough to be called Star Trek. How it develops remains to be seen but all those folk hating on this because it had a female lead, or there’s a gay relationship (this is in future episodes I assume) are just the sort of people who don’t get that Star Trek is supposed to be an inclusive vision of the future. These people are essentially like the racist Klingon zealots in these episodes. Anyhow,this is good stuff and I look forward to seeing where it goes.

A word of appreciation for Star Trek: The Next Generation

A friend said on Facebook the other day that I’m perhaps too locked into talking about depressing miserable things like Brexit, and perhaps do something a wee bit more uplifting and here it is! A quick appreciation of in my eyes, the programme that refined Science Fiction on American television, Star Trek: The Next Generation (STNG).


From 1987 to 1994 STNG managed to turn American SF from something locked into episodic aliens/monsters of the week plots into something different by adopting a few things. The main thing it did was to turn programmes like this into soap operas, though from the first season it’s hard to see how it could become a success at anything as the first season is complete and utter crap with only a handful of episodes having any substance or quality at all.

I’ve been in and out of hospital of late so I’ve had the time to go back over all seven seasons as they’ve been recently added on Netflix, so all of STNG is fresh to me. Watching the first season is an easy task as so many episodes were terrible but a few stand out, and although the second season is better (the introduction of the Borg, a genuine threat to add real drama), it’s still mainly quite poor. It isn’t until the third season that STNG starts to really click and it’s here the soap opera of later seasons really starts to form, which isn’t a bad thing. Soap operas can be used to tell stories relating to people’s lives (Eastenders and Brookside are two examples of such programmes that did that very well back in the day) and science fiction can deal with current affairs in ways more palatable to an audience than say, a Ken Loach film. Combining both seems a simple idea yet for STNG it was groundbreaking and managed to form the basis of its third to seventh seasons where some of the best SF drama on American television was broadcast.

Of course it helps the cast were good solid actors, but with Patrick Stewart they had a then fairly hidden gem and his Captain Jean Luc Picard was the bedrock on which the entire programme rested, and Stewart also helped the programme work through some terrible scripts, even in the good years. When he had great scripts though he shone and the cast (who are all good solid, if unspectacular actors) raised themselves in accordance with what Stewart was doing.

By the end of seven seasons STNG had changed from a pretty poor SF series to a full-on drama series which was science fiction, and that in its own way helped change American TV and helped push it towards looking at SF with less contempt that it used to. As for the spin off series that followed STNG they have their good points, but it is with STNG for me that Star Trek hit its full potential for greatness and it’s a joy to be able to revisit some fine pieces of television again on Netflix.

Simon Pegg’s comments about SF and comic fans are actually right

Simon Pegg had an interview in the Radio Times that the American site IO9 picked up that led to this quite extraordinary piece by one of IO9‘s bloggers Katherine Trendacosta in it’s knee jerk defensiveness that proves Pegg has a point about how some ‘geeks’ (a term I despise) have a lack of self-awareness about how actually childish some genre material actually is.

For example, this:

Before Star Wars, the films that were box-office hits were The Godfather, Taxi Driver, Bonnie And Clyde and The French Connection – gritty, amoral art movies. Then suddenly the onus switched over to spectacle and everything changed … I don’t know if that is a good thing.

… Obviously I’m very much a self-confessed fan of science fiction and genre cinema but part of me looks at society as it is now and just thinks we’ve been infantilised by our own taste. Now we’re essentially all consuming very childish things – comic books, superheroes. Adults are watching this stuff, and taking it seriously.

It is a kind of dumbing down, in a way, because it’s taking our focus away from real-world issues. Films used to be about challenging, emotional journeys or moral questions that might make you walk away and re-evaluate how you felt about … whatever.

Now we’re walking out of the cinema really not thinking about anything, other than the fact that the Hulk just had a fight with a robot.

Is entirely correct. For Trendacosta and the majority on IO9 it isn’t as she says:

It’s internally inconsistent to say that adults are taking “childish” things seriously, and say that this is making us dumber.

Something instantly contradicted by the next point:

  • It’s clearly not impossible to have a film with the Hulk fighting a robot and come out not thinking about real-world issues, or emotional journeys. If nothing else, the strong polarized reaction to Black Widow in Age of Ultron proves that.

The Hulk hitting Iron Man in the latest Avengers film isn’t going to make anyone think of real world issues unless their perception of that world has been so infanitlised and dumbed down to the point where a fight scene speaks about the world. The reaction to Black Widow is interesting but it’s not because of any deliberate or unintended message the film wanted to make, but instead is a reaction of the endless echo chamber politics that is genre fandom and Twitter.

That isn’t to say a piece of genre fiction can’t hide or discuss serious issues. It can and the likes of  Star Trek or Quatermass did this often on television, while something like Planet of the Apes is a fantastic allegory not to mention a fine work of satire, but the Hulk fighting Iron Man is really only the Hulk fighting Iron Man. Nothing especially wrong with that but it’s not exactly Dennis Potter or Jimmy McGovern using the medium to tell us something about us. It’s fun and that’s good, fun is good but we can’t live on that alone or we do end up seeing the world through different eyes ending up in a situation where people seriously think the world can be seen as well through genre fiction as more obviously serious material.

The next point is bizarre:

The whole history of film before Star Wars did not consist of “gritty, amoral art movies.” Let’s put aside that it’s completely bizarre to call The Godfather an “art movie”

No it isn’t. It’s considered one of the finest films not just of it’s decade, but ever. It is essentially an art film played as a blockbuster, and remember the idea of a blockbuster in the 1970’s before Star Wars is entirely different to that of today. Even today The Godfather stands as a superb work of art that does speak of evil and power, and how that power corrupts but suggesting it’s ‘bizarre’ to call it an ‘art movie’ shows a bit of ignorance of film history but a narrow point of view.

This is compounded with the next point:

  • Is Simon Pegg taking the side that Star Wars was the turning point for the dumbing down of movies? That simultaneously gives George Lucas too much and too little credit.

To an extent he is, and he’s sort of right as most critics and historians will point at Star Wars for creating the turning point, but the real culprit lies with Spielberg’s Jaws. That film redefined the idea of a ‘blockbuster’ from something like The French Connection, or All the President’s Men (films steeped in reality) to Jaws and Star Wars (films steeped in fantasy). so the focus moved from the real to the fantastic and again, there’s nothing wrong with that in doses small enough that you’re not swamped in robots smashing the fuck out of cities in every other film at your local multiplex.

Moving to the last point worth dealing with is entering a world of brain damage:

  • He’s also acting like comics and science fiction haven’t always dealt with very serious issues. X-Men is pretty famously in that category. And so was, oh, what was the name of that TV series? The one Pegg’s writing the next movie script for? Oh, right, Star Trek.

First of all, yes, the X-Men has dealt with serious issues. On rare occasions the comic has done it well, the God Loves, Man Kills graphic novel for example,


On the whole the X-Men, and most superhero comics, are glorified soap operas with fight scenes. You’re not going to find out the realities of life in Middlesbrough or Cleveland or anywhere by seeing Wolverine fighting ninjas, or Cyclops moping around for the 400th time.

It’s the defensiveness of the entire IO9 piece that’s extraordinary as not for one sentence does it even remotely think that perhaps Pegg just has a point, partly because I assume the writer and staff are too closely connected to the material they clearly love so they see Pegg’s comments as an ‘attack’ on them themselves rather than a general discussion of genre culture and of course, Pegg’s career.

And here’s the thing, Pegg has taken crap in his career before. I remember Pegg as he started out in comedy as one of many accused of following in Steve Coogan’s shadow, but it wasn’t Spaced that showed Pegg’s real talent (as good as that series is) it was his work in the superb Big Train that sealed the deal for me in regards Pegg’s clear comedic talent.

Not to mention his often forgotten about part in the Paedogeddon episode of Brass Eye.

Pegg’s career before being known as a ‘geek’ icon is steeped in the world of comedy, and his work with Chris Morris shows he’s not scared of getting involved with something that was comedy, but dealing with serious issues as the media’s handling of paedophilia was. Obviously that’s not as serious as Iron Man fighting the Hulk, but there you go…

This article prompted Pegg to reply in a thoughtful way. It’s clear he does love things like Star Trek but like most people, he realises that isn’t, nor should it be the only thing they take in, and here’s the point in all of this. The fact is that for Pegg having to explain himself fuller shows that ultimately he’s right. People are dumbed down and they are hiding behind The Avengers or Harry Potter or anything popular that doesn’t set out to do anything but primarily entertain, but the moment when your primary view into the world is defined by Iron Man then perhaps you have made yourself infantile. Perhaps you have succumbed to the commercialisation of genre fiction which is ‘geek’ culture, an example of how consumerism eats everything and spits it back at you.

Now I’ve spent large chunks of my life working in comics be it retail or publishing. I still enjoy reading the works of Jack Kirby as much as the works of Charles Burns, but as a quick shufty through my blogs will show I don’t talk endlessly about comics unlike some fans now that do only speak about the comic, telly or films they endlessly consume, and in doing so, have allowed these things to completely define them which has sucked the sheer fun from it because it’s become them.

Conventions now look less than the often shambolic events of old as seen in this rather glorious old BBC programme about the 1979 Worldcon in Brighton.

Now conventions are less about fans making it for themselves in an almost punk/DIY ethic to one where their entire identity is defined by the things they buy and the endless state of nostalgia this form of consumerism brings. The point is that Pegg is right. People have been dumbed down because they’ve lost perspective and don’t have the mixture of backgrounds that Pegg had as he was starting his career. People now choose a tribe, and defend it to the bitter death even if that means that often smart people end up proving the point they’re fighting against.

So don’t just see the world through the latest Avengers film or an X-Men comic, but have something else to your diet apart from endless sugar. Have some serious substance and challenge your own worldview because otherwise you’ll be one of these fans that comments from people like Pegg as a personal insult when they’re not. The moment you see comments like that as insulting to you and the stuff you like then it’s time to step back, go outside and understand the world through your own eyes, not that of Iron Man or Black Widow.

Leonard Nimoy is dead, long live Spock



Leonard Nimoy passed away yesterday. I only found out when I staggered back from the pub and saw the reports on the news and unlike when most celebrities die, I’m not just sorry for the man’s family and friends, but this upset me because not only has Nimoy always seemed like a decent human being (something quite rare) but because he’s never going to play Spock again, and I’m mourning Spock as much as Nimoy, probably more so.

As regular readers know I grew up in Glasgow during the 1970’s which was a tough period to grow up in as working class communities started falling apart but one of the first things I remember that gave me joy was Star Trek every Monday night on BBC One. At school we’d play at Star Trek with people split about whether they wanted to be Kirk or Spock. I always wanted to be Spock, not because I didn’t love William Shatner’s Kirk who was a brilliant, intelligent human captain for the first couple of series before they turned him into a misogynist boor in the last season  but because a slightly alienated kiddie in Glasgow saw Spock as more relatable, as did millions of people across the planet.

Spock was the alien, The outsider. He couldn’t relate to these emotional humans but he tried, and that formed the relationship of the Star Trek trinity of Kirk/Spock/McCoy that made the programme more than an excellent bit of SF adventure. One of the best memories I have growing up is seeing Star Trek: The Motion Picture as the ABC in Glasgow on a snowy winter’s night that I talk about in detail here, but there’s one scene in it that made the entire cinema sit up and that’s Spock’s entrance back on the Enterprise.

It’s a great scene that Nimoy does perfectly in a film that could have been so much better (though I do recommend the director’s cut DVD quite highly as one of the few director’s cuts that makes a film much, much better, plus the film has a brilliant Jerry Goldsmith soundtrack) but it’s that scene in The Wrath Of Khan that had me bawling quietly in the same ABC in Glasgow on a sunny summer’s day in 1982.

It’s a brilliant scene that both Nimoy and Shatner act (Shatner never gets enough credit for his part in this scene) and sell to the audience perfectly. They’ve earned the tears unlike the scene in Into Darkness that hasn’t. Of course Spock returned and eventually Nimoy embraced the role that he’d spent a time trying to run away from with a nice appearance in Star Trek: The Next Generation that’s one of that programmes many, many high points.

Although Nimoy was a director, photographer and many other things, it was always his portrayal of Spock that is going to live on because it meant so very much to so very many people. It showed you could be a bit smart and be part of the gang, have friends and be a good person that would lay their life down for you. So when the 2009 Star Trek reboot/sequel happened it was logical to have Nimoy be the link between the old original cast and the new ‘original’ cast. Also the remarkable performance of Zachary Quinto giving not only a good impression of Spock but also be able to add to what Nimoy did in order to create a slightly different, yet familiar Spock was one of the best things about a pretty good film. The less said about the next film the better, but the first of new films has a lovely scene between Quinto and Nimoy’s Spock’s that really is fabulous.

I wish that had been Nimoy’s final scene as Spock so let’s imagine it is as it’s a lovely send off, topped off by Nimoy’s reading of that famous opening dialogue at the end of the 2009 film.

Nimoy took Gene Rodenberry’s alien first officer and didn’t just create a character in an American SF adventure series, but he did something few actors do which is to create something that genuinely touches people. He created a character that people admired, loved and respected because of what they could see of themselves within that creation and I really can’t think of anyone else apart from possibly Tom Baker that is so loved on the same scale by not only the SF fans, but the larger mainstream population that aren’t as obsessed with things like Star Trek as the likes of me. That’s an impressive thing for an actor to do.

As said, Nimoy did other things but he’ll always live on as Spock.

Call Me Dave

It’s call everyone Dave day in tribute to the actor, Roger Lloyd-Pack who died recently. He was one of these actors who was always around but never seemed to get the praise or credit he deserved, so the outpouring of affection towards him is lovely in this cynical age. I have to say I prefer the earlier years of Only Fools and Horses where it’s still a comedy, but it’s rough round the edges, but Lloyd-Pack’s performance as Trigger is one of those quiet wee comedy performances that works on repetition and subtlety. It’s a great performance.


Cheers Dave…..

My Top 20 SF Films-Extra!-The Star Trek series

I’ve ran down my top 20 SF films over the last month or so, but as I promised there’s one last bonus blog on the subject that I wanted to separate from the main list as it really is something of it’s own.

This is the Star Trek series of films…

I grew up like many kids watching Star Trek on TV on the BBC in the evening, and like many kids fell utterly in love with this very American, though at the same time, Humanist vision of the future. When as a bright-eyed 12 year old I saw Star Trek: The Motion Picture I was in awe.

Like a lot of the blockbusters of the 70’s, my memories of this is queuing in the cold, or the snow in Glasgow with one  or my parents, but in this case both took me because they too loved Star Trek. My dad loved Kirk and Bones, while for my mum it was all about Spock.

So they took me to the ABC cinema in Sauchiehall Street on a dark winters night to see Star Trek: The Motion Picture. I’d been nagging them for months that I wanted to see it the minute I saw an ad for it on the back page of various Marvel Comics of the time.

I couldn’t wait. I wanted to see this more than any of the other blockbusters of the time, bar one, but I’ll get to that one another time but that night I remember vividly. We got the bus into the city centre, walked the short distance from the bus stop to the cinema and joined what was already a huge queue in the snowy winter cold. I remember being upset we wouldn’t get in but both parents convinced me we were early enough to get a good seat, and true enough as the queue grew behind us I became convinced we’d get in but I wanted to get near the front.

After what felt like an eternity, we got in and the three of us, (well me dragging my parents behind me) legged into into the vast theatre, strode down near the front by the aisle (I still sit in the same position if possible today when going to the cinema) and I positioned myself between both my parents. My dad vanished to get some ‘snacks’ via the cinema bar, but returned in time for  the performance to start.

This is where I need to point out that in 2013 the cinema going experience is akin to a quick knee- trembler round the back of the bins. In 1979 it was like falling in love for the first time, not to mention it was the working class version of going to the opera. Films still had intermissions. Cinemas were glorious places of red and gold. Men and women in sharp suits guided you everywhere. It smelled of excitement, and of course screens were huge.

So we sat in our seat near the front by the aisle. A large cup of something fizzy in my hand, the lights dimmed, and the trailers and adverts ran. This still transfixed me though I wanted the main event and my heart sank as the lights came up, only for the screen to get wider, and wider as the main event came nearer, then the lights dimmed and the overture played…

See, this was part of the experience. This was the build up. Listening to Jerry Goldsmith’s still amazing score in the dark with several hundred impatient but obviously excited people, and then the film began….

A few hours later I’d seen my heroes return. I was tired, but I wanted chips and to talk about how awesome it was. Yes it didn’t have fights or anything but I didn’t care as the thing was simply majestic. I knew both my parents liked it too as they were talking to each other about it as I dozed on the bus home with my chips.

That night I went to bed exceptionally happy. It was simply a joyous night and for that night, I’m always going to love that first Star Trek film. As I was writing this I went to stick the DVD, but FilmFour was on and oddly enough, Star Trek: The Motion Picture was just starting. I watched it again with those same happy memories I’ve always and will always, have.

It’s my favourite of all the films because of this. There is however a close second.

A few years later things were a bit crap. My mother had died recently and I was 15 with a body full of raging hormones and a brain full of a lot of problems as I tried to make what I could of what was an increasingly depressing situation. One amazing lovely summers day I decided to go for a long walk and ended up walking along past the same ABC cinema which was showing Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.

I went up, checked the times and saw I could make the next showing easily so in I went. got myself a ticket for what was a pretty empty cinema because, well, it’s a beautiful summers day in Glasgow. Those don’t come along often. However a few dozen other people joined me, possibly because the ABC was air-conditioned or they were fans, either way I wasn’t alone but I decided to position myself in the third row from the front as there was all the room in the world there.

The lights dimmed, the trailers and ads ran, and then the lights came up with the screen getting wider, which is what I expected, but it continued to get wider, and wider and wider. Then I remembered this was in 70mm and the ABC was one of the few screens in the city which could show 70mm prints. The screen was massive. Imagine the biggest screen in today’s multiplex’s and double it, and you’re about halfway there.

I was in the third row.

When the film started my eyeballs were wide open for the rest of my time at the cinema watching what is in my mind, the single best film featuring starships in combat. Forget about anything else, this is about a battle of mind and will, not to mention it’s about heroism. It’s about not lying down when it seems like you’re staring defeat in the face. It’s about dealing with death and moving on.

This is immensely cheesy but those couple of hours watching one of the most enjoyable films you’ll ever see helped me through a very bad time. It gave me the strength of mind to go on. For that reason I’ll love this film.

One thing though, sitting three rows from the front of a film being shown in 70mm is an experience and a half. Imax has nothing on this!

By the time Star Trek III: The Search for Spock rolled into cinemas, I was more settled in life for a while. I was doing my exams at school, and had fell in with the comics scene in Glasgow and had picked up friends outside of school.

Star Trek III is the sort of film that would never be made today. It’s fun. Nothing too dark or broody. It’s a bunch of old friends trying to save another and in the meantime they have an adventure and fight baddies. It’s simple but not simplistic. It’s good, bit not a spectacular effort compared tot he first two but it’s huge fun.

Again let’s skip a few years to Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home.

This is just a joy. Like Wrath of Khan I saw this at a dark time. I didn’t know what I was going to do with life, and frankly I needed cheering up. Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home did that perfectly. It’s utterly impossible not to watch this film and come out smiling with a positive attitude to, well, everything.

This film captures what Star Trek’s enduring message is. Humanity sometimes fucks up but we’ll sort it out, and we’ll do it by sticking together. It’s a bit 1960’s and in today’s Hipster ridden cynical age, seems childish but I’ll take inspiring humanity over empty cynicism any day of the week.

By the time Star Trek V: The Final Frontier came out, I’d moved from Glasgow to Leicester. It’s also a terrible film, but not without it’s enjoyable moments. That’s the best I can say about it so let’s move on…

In the early 1990’s I was firmly stuck in the limbo of the East Midlands, and it’s here on a day out in Nottingham with a friend Roz, that I saw Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country.

This is the last film with the full original cast which as the years goes by is something that’s increasingly sad as your childhood heroes pass away slowly one by one, but this film gives them a fantastic farewell as it again drives home the message of humanity and decency that Star Trek should be telling us.

See, we need positive science fiction. Dark, dystopian SF is fine but we need something to aspire to rather than being told we;re all rapists, cannibals and murderers really. We need something like Star Trek to say that with all our problems, we have something to aim for, or simply we can be better than this.

Star Trek VI gives our heroes a great farewell, in a great story. It’s a fitting end and although on TV there was still Star Trek: The Next Generation to keep the flag flying, though everyone knew that the next film along in the series would see the Next Generation crew take their place.

That film was Star Trek: Generations.

Now I like Generations. Yes, it’s an awful film in places, but I spent a glorious Sunday at a cinema in Leicester with Roz and some other friends watching all seven films in a row, though there were a lot of people taking a drinks and food break during Final Frontier.

This was a passing of the torch from the old crew who people of my age grew up with, to the Next Generation crew who people my age came to love because it was Star Trek after all, but really it’s a film of some good scenes wrapped round a bad film.

Star Trek: First Contact proved to be the Next Generation film most people were waiting for.

When this one came out I was still living in Leicester,which meant any escape was to be welcomed, so a crowd of us piled into the cinema for opening night, including one chap who took his Trek love so far he stuck a Mars Bar on his forehead and had to put up with it melting for the first part of the film.

There’s cosplay for you!

I like First Contact a lot. It’s not really Star Trek but it’s a harmless enough action film that makes you switch off your brain, which sadly starts to become a trait with Trek films from here on in.

At this point I skim over the cinematic nightmares that are Insurrection and Nemesis. Though I do think Nemesis is at least a better film (just) they really aren’t worth wasting time over like I did when I paid money at the cinema to sit through them both.

After Nemesis, Star Trek as a cinematic experience was pretty much dead. That is until 2009 when J.J Abrams Star Trek came out.

This is how modern American blockbusters should be, even if it’s not really Star Trek. It’s still the sort of fun, fairly mindless space action film that passes for SF these days, but it’s so well made and at times, genuinely affecting.

It’s a film that’s meant to be just enjoyed. Best to treat it that way and it won’t insult you too much!

And this takes this blog to 2013 and the latest film, Star Trek: Into Darkness.

Now some fans hate this film. I don’t, apart from the ending. It’s conrtieved beyond belief but otherwise up til then it’s a  solid action adventure film. Ok, again it’s not especially Star Trek, but it’s a fun film which passes the time.

Sadly, this is what Star Trek has become. It doesn’t give you an experience or make you think but it does allow you to pass a couple of hours now and at least enjoy those few hours. There are films there which don’t do that. These now at least are entertainment.

I’ll always go back to those first few films though, with the first two especially meaning an awful lot to me. Those films are always going to be a tough benchmark to beat, and hopefully one day someone decides to do a smart Star Trek film that isn’t all about the shooting and stuff.

So there you go, I’ve done my top SF films. I’ve poured my heart out about Star Trek and lived to tell the tale, and I’m going to carry on doing a few more Top 20 lists. Next time, my Top 20 Comic Books films…….