15 February 2012

Trek Review: The Cloud Minders & The Savage Curtain

The Cloud Minders
Kirk and Spock look up at StratosKirk and Spock arrive at Ardana to pick up supplies of zenite to assist with a botanical plague threatening Merak II. Whilst there, they are attacked by terrorists and get caught up in a struggle between the workers and higher classed society in Stratos, a huge city floating in the clouds.

Our duo soon discover that there is severe inequality on Stratos where the troglites are being forced to work endless hours in the mines for the benefit of the more educated population living in Stratos. The troglites don't gain from any of their work.

One of the terrorist leaders manages to kidnap Kirk, but he manages to turn things around and while trapped in one of the mines, has the High Adviser beamed to their location so he can witness the conditions first hand. Meanwhile, Spock develops an interest in the High Adviser's daughter, Droxine.

This wasn't a bad episode, the message was clear from early on but done quite well. My only nitpick would be that Spock appears slightly out of character here in sharing intimate details with Droxine and his appreciation of the Stratos society. Some of the fight scenes could have been improved but this may have been due to the poor budget available for the series at the time.

Nevertheless, a reasonable episode from what feels like a mediocre season.

Overall Rating: 7/10

The Savage Curtain
SurakWhile exploring a desolate planetoid, the Enterprise encounters President Abraham Lincoln floating in space, talking to the crew. He is given a full tour of the ship before bringing Kirk and Spock with him to the planet's surface where Spock meets the legendary Surak. Soon enough, a creature in the form of a steaming dung heap (later informed to be hot lava) pits the four 'peacemakers' against four of the universes most renowned adversaries including Genghis Khan and Klingon legend Kahless the Unforgettable, who is apparently very good at doing impersonations.

Cue a revisit to the storyline from the Season One episode Arena, with four vs four and you have this episode sorted out. The difference being that a portion is taken up with President Lincoln being offered a tour of the ship with another look at the Original Series dress uniform on our senior staff members.

I will say this episode was good to introduce us to other interesting figures through history, notably Kahless (who would be mentioned in the remaining Trek series) and Colonel Green from Earth's 21st Century (would come back in Enterprise). What's not so convincing were the fight scenes (again) and how good eventually managed to win over evil, even when outnumbered two to one.

Not sure I liked this episode so much, so it gets an overall rating of 5.5/10

There remain two episodes for the series, it will be interesting to see how it all ends...

11 February 2012

Discovering Pink Floyd - Beyond the Dark Side of the Moon

Pink Floyd Album GirlsI'm writing this while listening to some of the best music in the world for inspiration and reference...

Following my review of The First Seven Pink Floyd albums it's about time I got around to the last seven and arguably the most recognised albums from Pink Floyd's catalogue, starting with Dark Side of the Moon, including the popular Wish You Were Here, The Wall and on to The Division Bell.

I've already confessed I had much less knowledge of the first seven albums, so I feel that this review should be easier - we'll see!

Dark Side of the Moon is easily the most popular and most recognised Pink Floyd album ever. It was this album that elevated the group into greatness and there are statistics surrounding this album to this day that are amazing - like that it remained in the Top 200 albums chart for over 700 weeks, remaining in the chart from release in 1973 through to 1988! Dark Side of the Moon introduced the concept album to Pink Floyd which would provide them with more success in the future. The album's popular songs include Time and Money, which are also favourites for radio stations around the world. The Great Gig in the Sky is also a recognisable song - an interesting and powerful 'instrumental' track.
One of my father's favourite tracks is Eclipse, which follows from Brain Damage. He and I were able to see Roger Waters' live show of this album in 2007 and it was a brilliant concert to behold.

Wish You Were Here is most recognised for the multiple parts that make up the intro and outro tracks Shine On You Crazy Diamond. Five parts make up the beginning of the album and the remaining four close out the end. Each of the songs from Wish You Were Here seem to be popular among radio stations including shortened versions of Shine On You Crazy Diamond and the title track Wish You Were Here, while Welcome to the Machine and Have a Cigar aren't uncommon. The album has a more relaxing feel to it and interestingly is quoted as being a favourite of band members Richard Wright and David Gilmour.

Animals feels like the forgotten album of this era of Pink Floyd. Along with The Final Cut, I had never recalled any of its songs. Happily though, Animals is a decent album with some great tracks on it. The feel of Animals is slightly different to the other albums, faster beats and riffs helps lift the three middle songs Dogs, Pigs (Three Different Ones) and Sheep.

The Wall. For me, this is the definitive Pink Floyd album. With famous lyrics like 'We don't need no education' from the powerful and perhaps controversial song Another Brick in the Wall, Part 2 and the awesome guitar solos that would come out of Comfortably Numb. Add the fact that this double-CD album would be made into a movie - what's not to like? The rebellious lyrics can be misunderstood by those of a younger age but helped in the appeal of the album. Other standout songs such as Mother and Run Like Hell appeal for different reasons. I would say the first half of the album works for me more than the second which ends in the operatic 'court sequence' of songs, but the second half does include the aforementioned Comfortably Numb.
I am really looking forward to seeing Roger Waters' live show of The Wall this coming week. If it is anything like Dark Side of the Moon from 2007, we should be in for a treat!

The Final Cut (as it turns out) was released four days after I was born in 1983 and is a look at the Falklands War that took place the year prior. It wouldn't be until I re-watched the movie for The Wall that I also realised that several songs from this album helped make up the soundtrack that accompanied the movie, also released in 1982. Of the latter Pink Floyd albums, The Final Cut is probably the weakest and has no real standout tracks on it (for me). It's outright political (or anti-political) messages aren't what I have come to know and appreciate of Pink Floyd's work. Unlike the album Animals, which features some fine pieces.

A Momentary Lapse of Reason begins the 'end' of Pink Floyd. Released in 1987 with the band mostly reformed (Richard Wright returns, but Roger Waters has departed), it features the final change in sound for the band and Gilmour's influence is able to shine through in vocals and sound. Perhaps another thing to like about this album is the first single released, titled Learning to Fly which shares Gilmour and Mason's love of flying. The following single On the Turning Away is another uplifting song for the album. Interestingly, the darker tones of The Dogs of War are quite likeable (to me) but this song wasn't converted into a single and let's not forget the awesome album ending track, Sorrow.

The Division Bell brings about the end of Pink Floyd. Interestingly, the album was released in 1994, the longest gap between successive Pink Floyd albums. The undeniable theme of the album being communication/talking with songs such as Keep Talking and Lost for Words. The first single from this album, Take it Back features an uplifting feel to it, while the final song and last single released, High Hopes is slower and more reflective. An impressive song nonetheless which harks back to their simpler and earlier days in Cambridge. Interestingly, even my wife commented that this was a nice sounding album when she overheard it for the first time.

All up - purchasing the Discovery Box Set was definitely worth the money in allowing me to review the entire catalogue of one of the best bands of the 20th century. While I know Pink Floyd will never release another album, or tour together (Rest in Peace - Richard Wright), I am still glad that Roger Waters chooses to tour and has brought us Dark Side of the Moon and soon, The Wall. I am also grateful for the impressive cover bands out there, bringing the music to all generations. Music like this needs to be remembered and passed along.

04 February 2012

Trek Review: Requiem for Methuselah & The Way to Eden

Season Three and the Original Series is starting to come to an end as we get into the last few episodes...

Requiem for Methuselah
RaynaWith most of the crew suffering from the deadly Rigellian fever, the Enterprise arrives at a planet to gather ryetalyn, the key ingredient for the antidote.

On the surface, Kirk, Spock and McCoy come under attack from a robot which is halted by the arrival of an old man named Flint.

Flint claims the world is his and asks the landing party to leave regardless of their situation. Kirk orders the Enterprise to lock phasers on their coordinates which forces Flint to back down.

Flint instructs his robot, M-4 to retrieve the ryetalyn and invites the landing party to his place, a massive castle where they meet another, a woman named Rayna. Flint invites Kirk and Rayna to get to know each other, with consequences for everyone.

Kirk develops feelings for Rayna while the landing party are continuously delayed both directly and indirectly by Flint who reveals that he is an immortal who has lived for many milennia and
bore the names of several famous human's such as Brahm's and Da Vinci. The landing party eventually discover that Rayna is in fact an android, created by Flint to be his companion. Kirk becomes determined to let Rayna be free and choose her own destiny - but her conflicting emotions and feelings for both Flint and Kirk cause her to die.

With the ryetalyn in hand, the Enterprise crew are able to be cured. It is also discovered that Flint will eventually die.

I'll be honest and say that there wasn't much keeping me interested in this episode and it just appeared to be another 'filler' for the Season. All right up until the very end. Kirk realises his actions were less than honourable and Spock does not understand why the Captain is grieving so much. McCoy explains it to Spock and pities the Vulcan for not being able to relate. But the one thing Spock does at the end of the episode to help Kirk, his friend made this episode worthwhile.

I wasn't keen on the idea of an immortal like Flint actually being the same person as Brahms and Da Vinci, but I guess they had to relate the character to some well known icons from Earth's past to drive home the point.

Overall Rating: 6/10

The Way to Eden

Sevrin & AdamThis is the episode of the space hippies! The Enterprise is in pursuit of a space cruiser, the Aurora which has been commandeered by a group that are in search of the planet Eden.

The group begin infiltrating the ship's crew to find out about the Enterprise and its operations and to win people over for their cause should they wish to follow. Their leader, Dr Sevrin is deemed insane by Spock, but Spock does agree to help the group in their search.

While performing a concert for the crew, others from Sevrin's group go about taking control of the ship and plot a course for Eden - through the Romulan Neutral Zone.

On arrival, Sevrin and his group steal a shuttle to the planet surface. Kirk and crew pursue to find one of Sevrin's followers dead from eating a poisonous fruit and Sevrin with burns on his feet from the acidic grass. The planet is ultimately deadly to humans, but Sevrin continues to explore and eventually dies. The rest of the group are brought back to the Enterprise which leaves the Neutral Zone without incident.

A bit of a silly episode that also provides a bit of fun. There are some good moments between Spock and the 'hippies' and the musical instruments of the 23rd century include a Sword with strings and a bicycle wheel - what's not to like? "Herbert! Herbert! Herbert!"

Overall Rating: 6/10