30 October 2011

Trek Review: The Paradise Syndrome, And The Children Shall Lead & Is There In Truth No Beauty?

The Paradise Syndrome

Obelisk on AmerindKirk, Spock and McCoy find a strange obelisk on planet Amerind. Kirk ends up inside and loses his memory after a fall and interaction with a device within. Emerging from the obelisk he is worshipped by the local inhabitants as a god prophesied to save the people from an upcoming disaster.

This is another episode where we find a duplicated development of Earth on another planet. The local inhabitants represent American Indians, a society Kirk is introduced to when he is found by two women who bring him back to their tribe.

Spock and McCoy fail to find Kirk after he goes missing (inside the obelisk) and must return to the Enterprise to avert an asteroid from colliding with the planet. Spock pushes the engines to reach the asteroid in time which reduces the power they have available when it comes to deflecting it. They must now spend the next 59 days in close proximity to the asteroid and restore power to destroy or deflect it from impacting the planet.

During this time Kirk becomes the 'medicine man' of the tribe and marries the priestess, Miramanee. They live together and Miramanee bears Kirk (Kirok)'s child. The tribe believe Kirok will be able to activate the obelisk and save them from a coming darkness (the asteroid).

A jealous Salish, the original medicine man catches Kirok out when he can't activate the obelisk. The tribe begin stoning him and Miramanee as Spock & McCoy beam to the surface, scaring them away. Spock performs a mind-meld to restore Kirk's memory and gain entry to the obelisk using the unique sound of a communicator, they activate it, ultimately deflecting the asteroid.

Not a bad episode and it spans a long amount of time (nearly two months) allowing Kirok's life in the tribe to develop with his wife Miramanee. I'm not sure if it was intentional but Spock seemed to make a number of calculated risks that don't necessarily pay off in this episode.

The remastered version benefits from updated graphics and effects as expected including a rare shot of the Enterprise firing it's deflector dish at the asteroid.

Overall Rating: 6/10

And The Children Shall Lead

Kids take over the EnterpriseThe Enterprise arrives at outpost Triacus to find the colony of scientists have committed mass suicide. Their children however remain unaffected by what's happened. During transport aboard the Enterprise they summon a dark spirit who tells them to take over the ship and kill anyone who would get in their way, just as they did on Triacus.

This episode was doomed to fail (for me) as soon as a bunch of kids were placed aboard the ship to take it over. Unfortunately it doesn't help when the musical score adds in sound effects to the movements of the children pumping their fists which somehow takes control of the crew, or places horrific images in their minds. The fact that the kids can control the crew with these actions and no one thinks to remove the children instead of fall under their spell is slightly unbelievable.

Unfortunately there's not much to like or comment on with this episode. A dark entity is using the children to transport itself to the colony Markos XII where they will find 'new friends'. Markos XII is probably a stepping stone to gather more people to invade further into the Federation and mount a takeover of some sort.

Due to the annoyance of the episode and the children involved with it, it's hard to appreciate the benefits of the remastered effects. There are some decent shots of new places aboard the Enterprise including what appears to be a recreation room where the children are seen playing and eating ice cream.

Ho hum,

Overall Rating: 3/10

Is There In Truth No Beauty?

Spock & Kollos on the bridgeKirk and crew are given the responsibility of transporting Medusan Ambassador Kollos and human Dr Miranda Jones to his home planet. The sight of a Medusan is so hideous it will drive any human insane. Vulcan's are able to look upon a Medusan with the use of a special visor.

Diana Muldaur returns to Star Trek to play Dr Jones in a Christmas Tree outfit. Many of the male crewmembers continuously comment on her beauty and her telekinetic abilities through training on Vulcan. Jones appears intimidated and jealous by Spock and resistant to his curiosity about Ambassador Kollos.

Larry Marvick is aboard ship as well during this time, a designer of the Enterprise's engines and a man admired by Scotty. He is also in love with Dr Jones and doesn't want her to go with Kollos. With her abilities, Jones detects that Marvick is thinking of murder and he leaves and makes an attempt on Kollos' life. Kollos reveals himself, driving the human Marvick insane. He lashes out and heads for engineering, takes control of the engines and warps the ship beyond the galactic barrier and lost. Marvick dies soon after, leaving the ship with no way of returning home.

The Medusan's have far better navigational systems and a mind-meld between Spock and Kollos is suggested so Spock can pilot the ship with Kollos' knowledge. Of course, it works and Kollos experiences what it's like to be in Spock's body and see as we do. When he returns, Spock forgets to place the visor over his eyes and is driven insane by the sight of Kollos. Dr Jones is the only one who can help Spock but she remains reluctant due to her jealousy. Kirk gets through to her and she is able to help Spock return to normal.

A decent episode and pick-up in quality from the previous one. The continuous mentions of Miranda's beauty by the male crew were a bit odd and had the subtlety of a sledgehammer. When it's realised that she is in fact blind, it makes a little more sense and also explains how she is able to be assigned to Ambassador Kollos when she is human. The Enterprise makes another trip beyond the Galactic Barrier (the most of any starship Enterprise in Star Trek I'm pretty sure).

One thing I'm not sure about is why all decks and even the transporter room had to be clear of all personnel when Kollos arrived when this wasn't done for his departure.

Overall Rating: 6/10

Season Three has had a pretty slow start in terms of ratings so far, but there's a few episodes to go yet. It will be interesting to see if there's improvement...

25 October 2011

Discovering Pink Floyd - The First Seven

For a long time and probably due to my Dad's influence I've been a fan of Pink Floyd. Much like anything passed down to me from my Dad though, I only really knew their newer, more popular works such as their epic Dark Side Of The Moon album, Wish You Were Here and The Wall.

On 23 September 2011, their entire catalogue was re-released and I chose to take the dive and buy it up in the Discovery Box set which contains all 14 of their albums as well as an exclusive 60 page special booklet of artwork. In purchasing the set, I now own more Pink Floyd albums than my father!

Pink Floyd Discovery Set

As I said, I didn't know much about the 'older' Pink Floyd with the exception of a few tracks such as Echoes from the album Meddle and Set The Controls For The Heart Of The Sun from A Saucerful Of Secrets. Expanding my knowledge of their catalogue, this post will look at reviewing the first seven albums of Pink Floyd - before Dark Side Of The Moon.

The Piper At The Gates Of Dawn presents the ultimate of early Pink Floyd music and is quite a short album, more likely due to the restriction of the amount of audio that can be recorded onto an LP than anything else. The album starts with the popular Astronomy Domine and ends with the cheerful song Bike. The songs all feature a very 60's sound to them, almost likened to The Beattles. I might have to track down copies of Arnold Layne and See Emily Play, two singles that were released before this album was pieced together.

A Saucerful Of Secrets is similarly short but features some interesting songs like the opening track Let There Be More Light and dark/haunting tracks, such as Set The Controls For The Heart Of The Sun.

Music From The Film More is an interesting listen to a soundtrack performed by Pink Floyd. It makes me interested to see what the movie is actually like just because Pink Floyd are involved with it.

Ummagumma is described on Wikipedia as an experimental album and this definitely comes through when listening to the studio album half of this 2-disc set. I wouldn't consider Ummagumma a musical album, rather a blend and mix of different noises and sounds to try to create something! The first half of this album includes live performances of songs from the first two albums.

Atom Heart Mother starts out with a nearly 24 minute anthem of the same title as the album. I remember hearing this song when my Dad was introducing me to 'early Floyd'. A short number of tracks feature on this album due to the length of Atom Heart Mother and the 13 minute Alan's Psychadelic Breakfast. The latter being a mix of different styles and more experimentation with the in-between tracks having a more folk-like sound.

Meddle is one of my favourite albums from the early Floyd era, particularly with the second half belonging to the awesome 23.5 minute long Echoes. Other notable tracks include Seamus which is about a dog and very different from the rest of the songs on the album and the intense opening track One of These Days.

Obscured By Clouds, much like the More album is a soundtrack recorded for a French film, La Vallée. The music again is quite interesting and has quite a unique sound, even for Pink Floyd. The opening track Obscured By Clouds features a deep bass feel which is unique for the band to this point while the rest of the album has a 70's rock feel about it.

The second half of Pink Floyd's discography will be easier to review as it's more familiar territory, kicking off with Dark Side Of The Moon through to The Division Bell.

24 October 2011

Trek Review: Spock's Brain & The Enterprise Incident

So we begin with Season Three, the last live action season of The Original Series. The opening episode, Spock's Brain is known for being one of the worst episodes and all I could really remember from it was McCoy operating on Spock, re-attaching his brain with the help of none other than Spock himself...

Spock's Brain

Spock wearing a neural stimulatorThe Enterprise is approached and boarded by what appear to be an advanced alien race. They steal Spock's brain forcing Kirk and McCoy to retrieve it.

Throughout the whole series we've been constantly seeing that Spock is super smart, too smart. That Vulcan's can compute things just like a computer really makes you wonder how they're content to serve the lives they do and in Spock's case, be subordinate to Kirk.

The idea though that an alien race would take Spock's brain in order to replace the computer on their planet is a little far-fetched, even for a science fiction show. But this episode pulls out all the stops and has his brain retrieved from the computer system it's tied into and replaced back into Spock's head, with Spock assisting Dr McCoy as he does it.

I'm not sure if the episode was designed to be taken seriously or if the producer's were having a laugh. In any case, the episode doesn't rate well. However, it did bring up some interesting elements about the people who stole Spock's brain which aren't explored deeply enough.

In the remastered version there's some nice touches with the new planet effects and the clarity is as it would be expected by now.

Overall Rating: 3/10

The Enterprise Incident

Spock and the Romulan CommanderThe Enterprise finds herself on the wrong side of The Neutral Zone and surrounded by three Romulan ships. The Romulan Commander takes a liking to Spock while Kirk embarks on a mission to steal a new piece of Romulan technology.

One of few episodes I remember of the third season, however there is very little action in it. The Enterprise is basically on a mission of espionage to capture a new device developed by the Romulan's which allows them to appear invisible to others.

Kirk begins to display irrational behaviour while Spock keeps the attention of the Romulan Commander. McCoy then alters Kirk's appearance so he can better infiltrate the Romulan ship and steal the cloaking device. Scotty, the miracle worker is able to tie the device into the Enterprise's systems and allows their escape.

It's an interesting episode featuring one of my favourite alien races, the Romulan's but I'm not quite so sure why the Romulan Commander took such a liking to Spock so quickly. The Romulan's notoriously don't trust people easily and for her to let her guard down around Spock was just odd. Maybe they learned from her mistake.

Ultimately, Kirk and Spock are successful in their mission, though capturing a single cloaking device obviously doesn't halt the Romulan's from using it in future and the Federation don't develop their own from the device captured.

In the remastered edition there's plenty of colour and vibrancy as is to be expected. The CGI team had a bit more fun and replaced one of the Klingon/Romulan ships with a typical Bird of Prey and painted the orange bird of prey on the underside of the Klingon ships. A nice touch for the ship geeks :P

Overall Rating: 6/10

09 October 2011

The Big Day Draws Near

Something a little less than sci-fi related today. We're under 2 months away from our big wedding day and it's amazing how much we still have to do. But we're also at a point where we're ticking off the milestones one at a time and at an increased rate, so that's great as well!

In these recent weeks we have been attempting to organise some entertainment outside of what our venue is providing. This has proved a little frustrating but we think we're getting close to a solution. Just yesterday we finalised our wedding rings (not a requirement, but of symbolic importance) and we are very close to settling on some transportation for the bridal party to the venue. Suits have been arranged for myself and the best man while the bridesmaid dress is being inspected as I type.

This coming week we will be busy meeting with our marriage celebrant, cake maker and other vendors. Visits that I'm sure will become more common and more frequent as the days wind down.

Last weekend we attended our last wedding as guests before our own so we were eagerly taking and making notes on what we liked and what perhaps wouldn't work for our own day. In my last wedding as a single guy I finally caught the garter - and have no idea what to do with it now :P

While a little stressful at times, I think we have managed our time well and we have to keep in mind that there's much more to come as the days pass by.

06 October 2011

Star Trek: The Next Generation HD

To mark the nearing 25th Anniversary of Star Trek: The Next Generation, CBS Paramount have announced that the series will be released in high-definition on blu-ray!

Star Trek: The Next Generation Title

Initially, a sampler blu-ray disc including four episodes will be released. The episodes include Encounter at Farpoint Parts I & II, Sins of the Father and The Inner Light. At the moment the sample is scheduled for the end of January 2012 but the seasons will follow throughout 2012, the year in which TNG will celebrate its 25th Anniversary.

I am super excited, even though I currently own the all seven seasons on DVD! They're unwatched and I'm hoping I can move them along in preparation of the jump to HD. Hopefully the release of the series will be swift and available for Region B (UK and AU) for us to enjoy it.

In the meantime I have the rest of Season 3 of The Original Series to watch on blu-ray before hitting The Animated Series and then the six original movies. So there's plenty of time for the TNG release :)

Watch the little spoiler below to see a couple of scenes from TNG in HD - Engage!