Star Trek: Deep Space Nine

download-1I watched the premiere of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine back in 1993, and I hated it. I was a teenager, and this show bored me to tears (it’s called Trek, but they don’t actually go anywhere!). I did the natural thing: I forgot it existed for more than two decades.

I checked out some episodes on Netflix recently, and I was quite amazed: Deep Space Nine is awesome!

If Rogue One is Star Wars for grown ups, Deep Space Nine is Star Trek for adults. Even the opening credits (whose slowness baffled me as a kid), illustrate this contrast. Where the first two Star Trek series had zippy, bombastic anthems playing, DS9 has a somber, stately processional.

And I never knew that DS9 was a tense political thriller! World building is a big thing in the realm of fantasy writing these days, but unlike the rest of the franchise up to that point, DS9 isn’t an obvious analogy for the political environment of our time, but has completely invented its own wholly complete and complex political milieu from scratch.

And it’s unabashedly a military thriller! This is a story of the world at war. (Gene Roddenberry always wanted Star Trek to be about a hippie Utopia without real violence; hence the emphasis on families on board the Enterprise in season 1 of TNG, and hence the detachable saucer to whisk them off to safety in time of need–both awful plot devices that quietly disappeared as that show became much better).

But DS9 is absolutely saturated in military conflict. It’s everywhere, all the time. And, again, it’s a rich, mature world of serious political intrigue. This will definitely be my next Netflix binge show. For anyone else who might have written this off back in the 90s, do yourself a favor and give Deep Space Nine another chance.

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“Flower of Scotland”

I’ve reached the age where, whenever I discover something new in this world that I love, I wonder how I made it this far without ever coming across it. Such is the case wth this weekend’s discovery of the song, “Flower of Scotland.” How did I, an inveterate Celtiphile and music lover, never hear this beautiful little song in four decades?

It’s wonderful–a Scottish “Edelweiss,” if you will. Here’s the most beautiful version I’ve found so far:

Horowitz in Moscow

I first read about this concert over a decade ago, in Charles Kuralt’s memoir A Life on the Road.  Intrigued by Kuralt’s portrayal of the pianist’s passion, I picked up a recording of the performance on CD.

It’s an incredible musical experience. I can’t believe I’ve never written about it here until now. Vladimir Horowitz’s return to his homeland produced a night of sentimentality and triumph.

Clever Short Horror Films

I recently discovered the popular short films of David F. Sandberg and Lotta Losten. These are terrifically inventive little no-budget slices of dark fantasy, only 2-3 minutes each. Rich micro-storytelling with clean content, folks. I think “Attic Panic” is my favorite.

 

 

Rogue One Reviewed

download-1Q: Let’s get right to it: Is this a good movie? 

A: Yes, this is a very good movie. Definitely go see it.

Q: What’s your new power ranking for the franchise?

A: Rogue One is a worthy entry in the series; however, just as it comes between the two existing trilogies in the timeline, it comes between them in quality, as well.

  1. The Empire Strikes Back     2. Return of the Jedi     3. The Force Awakens     4. A New Hope     5. Rogue One     6. Revenge of the Sith      7. Phantom Menace     8. Attack of the Clones

Don’t let that low ranking fool you–it’s only because the films above it are so awesome. Rogue One is a terrific bit of entertainment.

This is my purely subjective preference, though. Actually, I think that, as a film, Rogue One is better made than The Force Awakens.

Q: Is this film really dark? 

A: Yes, though it’s not a tragedy–it’s a tale of triumph in the face of overwhelming adversity.  But here’s the thing: this movie is an experiment. Disney wants to see if the Star Wars universe can support different kinds of stories. I think the risk totally paid off.

But they’ve given us something new here: there’s no gee-whiz childlike wonder in this movie. This is a gritty film about adult choices; it’s a meditation on redemption through sacrifice for a greater good. Thematically, tonally, structurally, it’s not at all like most Star Wars movies. It is, however, closest to The Empire Strikes Back.

I read one review that likened it to Ocean’s 11. That was dumb. It’s much more like Saving Private Ryan. In a good way.

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“Silent Night” In “A Christmas Carol”

The rest of the world seems to have ignored the existence of this great 1999 film version of the classic story. I really like the use of “Silent Night” to illustrate people’s troubles to Scrooge. (Coincidence: this is the 2nd video with Patrick Stewart I’ve posted this week.)

Patrick Stewart Performs Shakespeare’s “This Sceptered Isle” Speech

I like each of the four versions in this video, but the final one–starting at 5:35 and delivered by Patrick Stewart, from the Richard II segment of The Hollow Crown–really gives me chills.

My Favorite Scene From It’s A Wonderful Life

My favorite scene from It’s A Wonderful Life; a great–but tough and sobering–lesson is taught here:

“Your brother, Harry Bailey, broke through the ice and was drowned at the age of nine.”

“That’s a lie! Harry Bailey went to war! He got the Congressional Medal of Honor! He saved the lives of every man on that transport!”

“Every man on that transport died. Harry wasn’t there to save them, because you weren’t there to save Harry.”

Face Melting Bagpipes

I took my family to Celtic Thanksgiving IV on Saturday. Among other great acts was bagpiping stud Stuart Liddell (pronounced like the children’s book mouse), and this guy was AWESOME. I’ve never seen such blistering shredding! He has a bunch of videos on YouTube; here’s a good one:

Sherlock and The X-Files

untitledI’ve seen a couple of episodes of BBC’s great Sherlock series with Benedict Cummerbatch, but now I’ve been watching them all on Netflix. As I watched the pilot, “A Study in Pink,” I realized that this show is built on the same dynamic as The X-Files.

Each show is about a man who already investigates mysteries. The man is a social outcast because of his peculiar interests and obsessive personality.

Each series starts with a new partner teaming up with him. The partner is much physically smaller than the man, and has a much more reserved personality. Clearly, the two main characters are foils.

The partner is a medical doctor.

Throughout the series, each character grows by becoming just a little more like the other.

Their adventures are complicated by powerful behind-the-scenes interests who alternately help and oppose them.

It’s a great foundation for any high-energy mythology. Surprising it isn’t used even more often.

“St. Matthew Passion”

Today I’ve been listening to a wonderfully simple, old fashioned performance of Bach’s “St. Matthew Passion.” It’s perfect for a cool, cloudy, windy Sunday in October; and this recording even provides English subtitles of the scriptural text. (I mentioned another performance of this oratorio back in 2009.)

CineFix

I’m a bit of a film nerd, and as much as I love YouTube channels like CinemaSins and WatchMojo, those are just fluff. However, I get a much deeper enjoyment out of the CineFix channel. I’ve really learned quite a bit about film from them. Here are a few of their more recent videos that I think are especially valuable for the critical film fan:

 

Buster Keaton’s Best, Funniest Movie

I love Buster Keaton–nearly 100 years on, his movies are still some of the most amazing, hilarious, creative, and wild ones out there.

Earlier this year, I showed my family his little masterpiece Sherlock Jr. At only 45 minutes, it didn’t strain anyone’s attention span, nor did the lack of dialogue confuse even the youngest kids.

The jokes, the stunts, and a very early bit of meta-commentary on film itself make this one of my favorite movies. The kids, too, have asked to see it again since then. Enjoy!

 

Here’s a great analysis of Keaton’s work and legacy:

Which Episodes of Star Trek Should Be In The Reboot Universe?

planet_killer

With Star Trek Beyond set in the middle of the “5-year mission,” we’ve officially reached crossover time with the original series.* Despite the alternate universe of the reboot, V’ger is still out there, the whale probe is still on its way, and the Klingon moon is still likely to explode.

Besides those later movie references, the TV series itself offers some rich grist for the mill. Consider the great 2nd season episode, “The Doomsday Machine.” This one featured a giant automated device with an impenetrable hull from beyond our galaxy that would slice up entire solar systems. It drifted in from off our charts and wreaked havoc. Nothing in the altered timeline would change that. It’s still out there, and at about the right time to merge with the reboot universe.

The original episode does a decent job of conveying the machine’s size and strength, but obviously the budget and effects of the time left it largely to imagination. Today, a story on such a scale could be realized much more effectively. If the Starkiller Base in The Force Awakens was a big step up from the old Death Star, a new Doomsday Machine could make Starkiller Base look like child’s play.

Future reboot movies could do a lot worse than including a new Doomsday Machine.

 

* I used to worry that the reboot series was moving too far too fast, but then it struck me that Kirk probably joined Starfleet several years later in this universe than he would have in the original series. Having them in the “5-year mission” era already seems defensible. Besides, its the 3rd film in the series; no need to hold off forever on the timeline.