Star Trek: The Next Generation Season 7 Review

  • Series Title: Star Trek: The Next Generation
  • Season: 7
  • Episodes: 25
  • Discs: 7
  • Network:  First-Run Syndication (produced by Paramount)
  • Cast: Patrick Stewart, Jonathan Frakes, Gates McFadden, Brent Spiner, LeVar Burton, Marina Sirtis, Michael Dorn

The final season of Star Trek: The Next Generation, as with the rest of the series, suffers from “hitting the reset button” in every episode, lack of an arc plot, and flat character arcs. Additionally, some of the episodes really felt like they had developed and filmed scripts that were rejected earlier in the show’s history – such as when Dr. Crusher is seduced by a ghost or when the main characters de-evolve back into animals. Guinan is gone by this point and she is sorely missed. Wesley Crusher returns for one episode ends up on a vision quest with some “Indians” and joins “The Traveller” in a higher form of existence. The entire episode was extremely uncomfortable because everyone from Picard to Wesley keeps referring to the Native Peoples as “Indians”, a pejorative term. Further, there is no groundwork laid other than in the episode itself for Wesley to suddenly abandon Star Fleet and join the Traveller. The planet Crusher stays on is also in Cardassian territory – leaving him vulnerable and unable to contact the Federation.

In Season 6, Captain Jellico admonished Troi for her unconventional dress sense. She starts to wear a standard blue Star Fleet uniform. In season 7, this lasts for a while, but we also see her in the god-awful lilac jumpsuit with the extremely deep V-neckline. The Star Fleet uniform is actually more flattering. And seriously, I never got why she was allowed to wear whatever she wanted. She’s not a civilian, she’s an officer and she should dress like one.

Ro returns, with a promotion to lieutenant. Picard and the admiral with a bad track record with Cardassians decide to send Ro into deep cover with the Marquis, a Bajoran resistance and freedom fighting group that is challenging the Cardassians. The Federation has signed a new treaty with the Cardassians, which, among other things, moves the border and creates a demilitarized zone. This does come up a couple of times in various episodes. The Cardassians, however, are harassing civilians in the neutral zone and those who have suddenly found themselves in Cardassian territory. It isn’t really surprising when Ro, pushed in a corner by the Federation and its politics decides to resign her commission and join the Marquis. Ro is one of the most fascinating characters in ST: TNG, but it was like the writers didn’t know what to do with her. She was strong-minded, had her own history, had her own culture, and had risen from a childhood of horrors to a Star Fleet lieutenant. Honestly, I would have watched a series about Ro and the Marquis – at least for a season or two.

The final episode is “All Good Things”, a two-hour finale. It brings back Q of course. I actually have always liked John DeLancie as Q, but his character is also a Deus Ex Machina, almost by definition. It’s a little disappointing to see him used to resolve the entire series. Picard seems to be moving back and forth in time, between a future 25 years from the current stardate and a past of the period of the first ST: TNG episode, “Encounter at Farpoint”. Slowly, Picard realizes that by investigating a new space anomaly, he causes it in the future – and if the anomaly of anti-time continues to expand it will threaten all life on Earth because it will never develop in the first place. It is a paradox and realizing it sets Picard on a journey to solve the conundrum. Picard, of course, realizes what he needs to do and not do, and he sacrifices three Enterprises in three time periods to stabilize the anomaly and control the anti-time in an artificial warp field containment shield. We get to see three Enterprises explode. But it works, the anomaly is contained and stops expanding, then collapses, and Picard returns to his current Enterprise.

Overall, I like the characters on Star Trek: TNG, especially Picard and Dr. Crusher (and the hint of their romantic feelings towards each other is wonderful), and I thought Guinan was great, even though she’s not in this season. I love Data and his cat, Spot! Geordie is an interesting take on an engineer, he’s a lot calmer than Scotty. And Worf is, well, he’s Worf. I never cared for Troi, but she does manage to deliver exposition when needed. I just feel ST: TNG could have been more than it was. Still, given its limitations, it’s worth watching at some point. I’m glad I was able to get the season sets on sale.

Read my Review of Star Trek: The Next Generation Season 3.
Read my Review of Star Trek: The Next Generation Season 4.
Read my Review of Star Trek: The Next Generation Season 5.
Read my Review of Star Trek: The Next Generation Season 6.

Free Comic Book Day 2019

I have been going to Free Comic Book Day for a few years and I had a good time this year. It was a sunny and beautiful day, warm, but not too hot like last year. I wore my Doctor Who trenchcoat and a Doctor Who t-shirt and I was comfortable. The line was long, wrapped around the corner, but it moved quickly and everything was managed extremely well.

I choose three free comics.

Doctor Who The Thirteenth Doctor The Journey of a Lifetime Starts Here by Titan Comics

I love Jodie’s Doctor and I’m looking forward to her series by Titan Comics. Doctor Who The Thirteenth Doctor: A New Beginning will be released by Titan on May 7, 2019. There is also Doctor Who: The Road to the Thirteenth Doctor which I picked up today, and coming soon Doctor Who the Many Lives of the Doctor. The FCBD volume has the Doctor and her fam, Ryan, Yaz, and Graham, landing near a giant amusement park. But the Doctor and her companions’ vacation is cut short when Graham tries out a carnival game and ends up with more than he bargained for. The Doctor quickly comes to the rescue. This is a fun short story, light-hearted, and an enjoyable read.

Lady Mechanika by Joe Benitez

Lady Mechanika is an independent Steampunk comic book. This book introduces the characters and world in one story, plus includes excerpts from other graphic novels in the series. There is information on the six volumes, so far, of Lady Mechanika included as well as the short story and excerpts. The first story has some sort of “monster” upsetting a small Victorian town. Lady Mechanika catches up with the “beast” and is surprised he can talk. He is scared, hungry, and hurt. Lady Mechanika offers him some food, and in return, he offers her a clue to her identity – something she desperately wants to know. But before he can offer much more, the locals show up and he is shot dead. Lady Mechanika is upset and even seeks some non-lethal revenge. The excerpts give one a real feel for this series. The art is beautiful, with sepia and mono-color pages, and detailed panels. Lady Mechanika has mechanical arms and legs and has lost all memory of who she used to be, where she’s from, her family and background, etc. She makes a new life for herself as a detective and paranormal investigator. This series sounds fascinating and I really need to pick up some of the graphic novels.

Riverdale – Archie Comics

Riverdale has both Jughead’s running monologue (which I read in Cole Sprouse’s voice) and characters who are drawn to resemble their counterparts on the CW TV series. The story involves “Picture Day” with Betty and Jughead covering the events of the day for the Blue and Gold school paper. Someone switches out the typical superlatives for the school yearbook (e.g. “Veronica Lodge Most Reformed Snob”) with terrible, but accurate, attacks on the students. However, this conflict isn’t resolved. Meanwhile, Archie and Betty meet for their annual gift exchange. Archie gives Betty a new camera case – Betty gives him a new guitar case. But Archie had sold his guitar to buy the camera case, and Betty had sold her camera to buy him a guitar case. References to O. Henry and the Gift of the Magi abound. Riverdale was cute and fun but doesn’t have the teeth of the actual CW series. Still, I don’t regret picking this one up.

Free Comic Book Day is a great event and I enjoyed attending this year. There were two girls in front of me in line dressed as Carol Danvers and Goose from the movie Captain Marvel, which was awesome! There were also additional folks in costume from local costumers guilds and from my local comic book store. Free Comic Book Day exists to promote independent comic book stores and to promote Geek Culture. Give it a try – you’ll have fun!

Star Trek: The Next Generation Season 6 Review

  • Series Title: Star Trek: The Next Generation
  • Season: 6
  • Episodes: 26
  • Discs: 7
  • Network:  First-Run Syndication (produced by Paramount)
  • Cast: Patrick Stewart, Jonathan Frakes, Gates McFadden, Brent Spiner, LeVar Burton, Marina Sirtis, Michael Dorn

As with all of my ST: TNG reviews I skipped the first episode of Season 6, which was reviewed with Season 5 and I also will include the first episode of Season 7 with this review. This is due to the season-ending two-parters. Much of Season 6 of Next Gen I found to be very flat, and at times even boring. The stories weren’t bad, but they weren’t good either. I’m not sure if this is due to the unhappy coincidence of having just watched series 11 of Doctor Who and season 2 of The Handmaid’s Tale both of which are extremely good, or if, objectively Season 6 of ST: TNG just isn’t that good. I just felt that even in comparison to Season 5 of ST: TNG, Season 6 just doesn’t hold up. Season 5 gave us episodes with ideas to think about, even disagree with (“The Perfect Mate”) but many of the episodes of Season 6 are just there.

This season includes the two-part “Chain of Command” aka “Picard is tortured and develops Stockholm Syndrome”. In Season 5, rogue Star Fleet officers tried to use a Bajoran freedom fighter to involve the Federation in a war against the Cardassians. This time around, a Star Fleet Admiral relieves Picard of his command of the Enterprise and appoints the war-mongering Captain Jellico in charge of the Enterprise, and sends him on a “diplomatic mission” to meet some Cardassians. That’s right, this Admiral replaces Star Fleet’s best diplomat with a guy determined to start a war for fun. But that’s not all – Picard, Dr. Beverly Crusher, and Lt. Worf are sent “behind enemy lines” to a Cardassian outpost to search for WMDs, specifically a biogenic plague. Of course, when they get there, there is no plague and no weapons of any kind. Crusher and Worf escape but Picard is captured. A Cardassian (played with relish by David Warner) tortures Picard for information on the defenses of a Star Fleet Outpost – which Picard has no information about. Even after it’s obvious that Picard doesn’t know anything about the Outpost, the Cardassian continues his torture and mind games. Meanwhile, the Star Fleet Admiral and Captain Jellico seem determined to turn the diplomatic talks into a war. Eventually, events force the Cardassian to release Picard. And because there is no follow-up between episodes of ST: TNG, Picard’s severe physical and psychological torture is never mentioned again.

“Face of the Enemy” has Counselor Troi turned in to a Romulan. The episode involves helping some of Spock’s Romulan Resistance members escaping and seeking asylum in the Federation. It’s actually a good episode, and one I enjoyed.

“Birthright” is another two-part episode, focusing on Lt. Worf, who is having a Klingon crisis of faith. He receives some information from an information broker that his father is alive and living in a Romulan prison camp. Worf’s father isn’t one of the survivors of Khitomer but several Klingons and their children, including children of Romulan/Klingon matings are living in a community on a hidden Romulan colony. At first, Worf is appalled – Klingons and Romulans have been mortal enemies for centuries. He begins to teach the children about their Klingon heritage and beliefs, something their parents and the Romulans in the colony haven’t done. Things come to a head as several of the children desire to leave the colony and see the Klingon homeworld. Eventually, Worf decides on a compromise – he will take the children and anyone who wishes to leave with him, but he will not tell anyone they are survivors of Khitomer, rather he will say he found survivors of a colony ship crash. Worf also will not tell anyone about the colony where Klingons and Romulans live together in peace.

“The Chase” involves an old archaeology professor of Picard’s showing up and offering him a new job on a fantastic project. Picard, of course, declines, because he doesn’t want to give up command of the Enterprise. Who could blame him? The professor is killed, but the Enterprise gets some of his research. Before long, the Federation, some Klingons, some Cardassians, and eventually some Romulans are all trying to crack the code of the professor’s research, which includes DNA fragments that are shared by all intelligent space-going races in the Federation. Dr. Crusher and Picard even convince some of the players to combine their resources and information to crack the code. They finally wind-up on a long-dead planet, where they find a tiny bit of DNA and play a message. the message is from a humanoid being who explains they left this message and coded it in the Primordial Soup of many planets because they were lonely in the galaxy, and wanted to help new life to develop in their image. The Klingons who wanted a weapon, the Cardassians who wanted a power source and the Romulans are disappointed, to say the least. And even the Federation who wanted information about the galaxy seemed to think this message wasn’t worth the hassle to get it. Essentially, the entire story seemed to be inspired by the folk song, “One Tin Soldier”. Also, it explains why “aliens” in Star Trek look so human.

“Descent Part 1” finishes the season with part 2 on Season 7. This episode brings back the Borg, Lore, Data’s “brother”, and the Admiral who was out to start a war with the Cardassians. A Federation Outpost is attacked and the Enterprise discovers it was a Borg attack – but these Borg seem different. The Admiral shows up, orders thirty starships into the area to defend the border, and reads Picard the riot act for releasing Hugh-the-Borg last season. Data starts to act weird. The Enterprise crew figures out that the ship that attacked the Outpost uses a “transwarp conduit” to get away. It’s basically an artificially generated wormhole. They follow. Data leaves the Enterprise. The Enterprise searches for him and discovers a planet of Borg with individuality. They are being led by Lore, who is using a carrier wave to control Data by feeding him addictive emotions. Although Data a first tortures Geordi at Lore’s command, in the end, with some help with Geordi and Picard rebooting his ethical program, Data kills Lore (who is later disassembled) and the Enterprise crew are rescued. Hugh is left in charge of the new Borg.

Overall, I just wasn’t that impressed with Season 6 of Star Trek: The Next Generation. I missed Guinan, who only seems to show up once. I even missed Spot, Data’s cat, who is mentioned but never seen. Although we do see Spot in part 2 of “Descent”. Still, it’s worth having the season set.

Read my Review of Star Trek: The Next Generation Season 3.
Read my Review of Star Trek: The Next Generation Season 4.
Read my Review of Star Trek: The Next Generation Season 5.

The Complete Man from U.N.C.L.E. Boxed Set Extras Review

The Complete Man from U.N.C.L.E. DVD Review Special Features and General Review
Previously published on my Live Journal (now hosted on Dreamwidth) on: 05/20/2008

The U.N.C.L.E. DVD set is very nice. If you order the complete set from Time/Life, it comes packed in an (albeit cardboard) silver-colored attaché case, with the U.N.C.L.E. logo on the front. The handle moves and the metal locks work. However, the inner liner is cardboard and can’t be taken out, so you’re stuck with it being set to hold the four season sets and the two bonus discs. The bonus discs are in simple cardboard sleeves (CD size). I took mine out of the sleeves and put them in a plastic DVD case, then slid the empty sleeve into the plastic case front.

NOTE:  You only get the two bonus special features disks and the attaché case if you purchase The Complete Man from U.N.C.L.E. as a set from Time-Life. Yes, it’s worth it, to get the extra discs.

Each season set is boxed separately, and the cases are glued on the left and each page (which holds two DVDs) opens like a book. There’s also an annoying clear plastic sleeve that you have to pull up towards the top (or towards the bottom) and remove completely before you can open the DVD set. Unfortunately, the discs overlap, which is bad for long-term storage. I’m going to have to re-package my sets into the same thin-line plastic DVD cases I put the bonus discs in. (Update: I did leave the discs in the Season Set boxes on my DVD shelves, because they do look nice, but I worry about scratches on the discs due to the overlapping nature of the discs in the cases.

Restoration: The Time-Life website claims the entire set is digitally restored. The problem is the restoration seems really hit and miss. Season 1 (which was filmed in black and white) actually looks really, really good, with the only problems being with the ubiquitous stock footage. And even then, the stock footage shots look cleaner in black-and-white. However, in the color seasons, for the most part, the actual U.N.C.L.E. shots look either really good or OK, but again the stock footage looks awful (at the very least having a lot of white “dust”, or vertical scratches). By the third season, some episodes even suffer from scratches, dust, etc. For example, “The Hot Number Affair”, with Sonny and Cher (one of my personal favorites from season 3) has long vertical black scratches on several scenes – and these are on scenes shot for the episode, not re-used footage or stock footage lifted from the MGM library. Season 4 though looks a tad better. Overall, I’d give the restoration effort 3 out of 4 maybe 5 stars.

For a comparison, try watching some classic Doctor Who episodes on DVD. The first season of Doctor Who originally aired in 1963, and although it was filmed (or done on video) in black and white until 1970, the restoration team’s work is better than the work done on Man from U.N.C.L.E., hands down. We are talking about material that’s the same age or older. Not to mention that videotape is even more fragile than film.

Oh, and while on the topic of restoration, I do realize that U.N.C.L.E. was probably done using Technicolor, and the cameras are huge and the restoration process is difficult because of the four separate rolls of film that must be synced. Also, I will say that the color sparkles in the three color seasons and in the color pilot included as a special feature. The color restoration is perfect, it is flaws in the film itself that I found annoying.

Briefly, here’s what the Complete U.N.C.L.E. set includes:

  • Season 1 (black and white), 29 episodes, 11 discs, 3 episodes per disc plus special features disc.
  • Season 2 (color), 30 episodes, 11 discs, 3 episodes per disc plus special features disc.
  • Season 3 (color), 30 episodes, 11 discs, 3 episodes per disc plus special features disc.
  • Season 4 (color), 16 episodes, 6 discs, 3 episodes per disc plus special features disc. NOTE:  Disc 6 includes the last 2-part episode of the abbreviated season, and the special features.
  • Two bonus discs.

Season 1 Special Features

  • “The Clock and Swagger Affair: The Untold History of the Man From U.N.C.L.E.”
  • “Solo” – Original Color (70 minute) Pilot
  • U.N.C.L.E. VIPs – A Celebration of The Man from U.N.C.L.E. (First Season) Guest Stars

Season 2 Special Features

  • “The Spy-Fi Tour:  Archives, Art and Artifacts”
  • Feature Film:  One Spy Too Many, 1966
  • U.N.C.L.E. VIPs — A Celebration of The Man from U.N.C.L.E. (Second Season) Guest Stars

Season 3 Special Features

  • Interview –  Double Agents: The David McCallum and Robert Vaughn Reunion
  • The Secret Tapes of Illya Kuryakin: (David McCallum’s) Home Movies from the Set of The Man From U.N.C.L.E.
  • U.N.C.L.E. VIPs – A Celebration of The Man from U.N.C.L.E. (Third Season) Guest Stars

Season 4 Special Features

  • MGM’s Secret Operations (overview of what it was like making the show at MGM, such as the studio lots, the access to classic film sets, and the last breath of the Studio System)
  • U.N.C.L.E. VIPs – A Celebration of The Man from U.N.C.L.E. (Fourth Season) Guest Stars

The Man from U.N.C.L.E. Debriefing Bonus Disc 1


Cold War, Hot Spies: U.N.C.L.E. and the Cold War
Guns, Gizmos, Gadgets, and Garb
Behind the wheel: U.N.C.L.E.’s Piranha (the gull-winged sports car used in Season 3)
Fandemonium (U.N.C.L.E.’s male and female fan base. Including the similarities and differences)
The Music from U.N.C.L.E.
The Girls of U.N.C.L.E.

Promos and Trailers:

The Man from U.N.C.L.E. Show Promo – Summer, 1964
The Man from U.N.C.L.E. Show Promo – 1966-67
The Man from U.N.C.L.E. Show Promo – “The Test Tube Killer Affair” (9/18/67)
The Man from U.N.C.L.E. Show Promo – Fall, 1967
The Man from U.N.C.L.E. Feature Film Trailer – To Trap a Spy, 1964, 1966
The Man from U.N.C.L.E. Feature Film Trailer – The Spy with My Face, 1965, 1966
The Man from U.N.C.L.E. Feature Film Trailer – One Spy Too Many, 1966
The Man from U.N.C.L.E. Feature Film Trailer – One of Our Spies is Missing, 1966

Official Debriefings: Interviews with U.N.C.L.E. Actors and Production Staff

Dean Hargrove, Writer
David McCallum, actor, Illya Kuryakin

The Man from U.N.C.L.E. Debriefing Bonus Disc 2

Official Debriefings: Interviews with U.N.C.L.E. Actors and Production Staff (continued)

Richard Donner, Director (yes, THAT, Richard Donner of Lethal Weapon and Superman fame)
George Lehr, Producer
Joseph Sargent, Director
Robert Vaughn, Actor, Napoleon Solo

TV Appearances and Spots

The Golden Globe Awards for 1965, aired live on The Andy Williams Show, 1/31/1966 (Vaughn and McCallum)
1965 Emmy Broadcast 9/12/65 – Robert Vaughn and David McCallum, presenters
David McCallum on The Andy Williams Show 9/20/1965
Tom & Jerry Cartoon – “The Mouse from H.U.N.G.E.R.” MGM, 1967

Photo and Image Galleries

Behind the scenes designs and Blueprints from the Set of U.N.C.L.E.
Hidden Camera: An U.N.C.L.E. Photo Gallery
Classified Files: Network and Studio Docs
For Collectors Only: U.N.C.L.E. Memorabilia
Top Secret:  U.N.C.L.E. Motion Picture Advertising and Publicity

Needless to say, the extras are extensive and beautifully produced. All of the featurettes are introduced (on audio) by either Robert Vaughn or David McCallum. The featurettes also have tongue-in-cheek credits such as “With special thanks to the United Network Command for Law and Enforcement, music division.”

The best, and not to be missed, extras include: the interview of Vaughn and McCallum together – it’s truly marvelous as I remarked in my S. 3 review, as are the separate additional interviews of Vaughn and McCallum. Vaughn’s especially was very touching, and almost made me cry. I knew he was a personal friend of Bobby Kennedy and has worked on Kennedy’s campaign for the Democratic Nomination in 1968, prior to Kennedy’s assignation. But I didn’t know that Vaughn also knew Dr. Martin Luther King. Hearing him remark that he was on a plane when the pilot announced that King had also been assassinated – frankly, it must have been hell. Considering that both assassinations happened in 1968, the year U.N.C.L.E. was canceled. It must have been a very hard year for Vaughn, to say the least, and you could see he was, thinking back and remembering how upsetting it was. That moment in the interview just felt very personal. McCallum, of course, is also fun to watch, especially in interviews, but he’s more career-focused than personal or politically-focused. Other excellent extras include, the Fandemonium featurette, which includes an interview about the female fan base, as well as the more well-known male fans (such as the two hosting various featurettes on collecting U.N.C.L.E. memorabilia and U.N.C.L.E. gadgets and such), and of course all the TV spots, especially the one for the Golden Globes.

Overall, I’m pleased with the Complete set. I got my money’s worth. I’m really happy to finally have gotten to see ALL of U.N.C.L.E., something I missed since I initially saw it in syndication on TNT in the 1980s. Also, no doubt, that in the future, U.N.C.L.E. episodes will be something I pull out of the DVD shelving unit when I want to watch something fun, adventurous, and full of danger, escapes, and really good-looking men!

The Man from U.N.C.L.E. Season 3 Review

  • Series: The Man from U.N.C.L.E.
  • Season: 3
  • Episodes: 30
  • Discs: 11
  • Cast: Robert Vaughn, David McCallum, Leo G. Carroll
  • Network: NBC
  • DVD Format: DVD, Technicolor, Standard
  • Originally Published on my Live Journal 05/05/2008, now hosted on Dreamwidth

Note: This is an older review, previously posted to my Live Journal and now hosted on Dreamwidth. I’ve decided to copy it as is, silly asides and all. I did correct typos and formatting. Enjoy!

Finally finished off Season 3! (Hey, my life has been busy lately!) Okay, Season 3 of UNCLE, it’s no surprise is not a favorite of fans because of the campiness/silliness. It’s time to re-evaluate Season 3 because it’s not all bad (mind you, at times it’s not all good, but anyway). Yes, Season 3, gets into more fantastic episodes, especially the first couple (“The Sort-of-Do-It-Yourself Dreadful Affair”, “The Super-Colossal Affair”) are incredibly fantastical. Tho’ “..Do It Yourself Dreadful” is a Harlan Ellison script so it has a snarky fun-ness to it (Ellison was a writer-for-hire at the time and also wrote Classic Star Trek’s “City on the Edge of Forever” which is often listed as the best Classic Trek ep.) Ellison also wrote the UNCLE Third Season episode “Pieces of Fate Afr” which is great fun. But, there are plenty of Third Season episodes, which are no more fantastical than season 2 (One of which is “Pieces of Fate” – in which a Midwestern School Teacher writes a b*mbshell book about a secret spy organization — which just happens to resemble quote “real” unquote UNCLE and Thrush operations. Napoleon and Illya are assigned to find out where she got her information for the book, but when they reach her at a publicity event someone tries to shoot her – and although she’s physically fine she’s conveniently lost her memory. So the episode involves the two trying to piece together the woman’s life to figure out her past to find out how her fictional book could resemble “real” events. It’s a great episode, which I won’t spoil, but it’s also full of Ellison’s typical twists and turns and snarky writing.)

Another episode I really liked was the 2-part “The Concrete Overcoat Affair”. The ep. has everything — Napoleon barely avoiding a shotgun wedding to a young Italian girl (he’s caught in her bedroom, though he’s actually completely innocent for once). The girl’s mother and mafioso’s Uncles (yes, I said uncles!) chase after Solo to get him to marry the girl. Meanwhile, Illya and Napoleon are on an assignment to stop Thrush from changing the gulf stream and thus (a) warming Greenland turning it into Thrushland (b) melting the polar caps and flooding coastal cities, and (c) freezing northern Europe, esp. England, Ireland, parts of France, etc. Which, incidentally, is now all stuff that any scientific journal will tell you will be a result of Global Warming, but, I digress. So there’s the typical running around, finding clues, getting captured, escaping, etc. But what makes it fun is that while Solo and Kuryakin are doing all that typical stuff, you have these three older character actors playing old-time mobsters chasing them in order to get Solo to “marry the girl” as the saying goes – and all of them were in any number of old Warner Brothers gangster films. The other aspect of the episode, and a reason I’m sure most UNCLE fans consider it a favorite is that wonderful scene between Napoleon and Waverly. Napoleon and Illya get separated, and Napoleon ends-up back at UNCLE HQ, and he’s talking to Waverly and asking to go after Illya who’s been captured by Thrush. Waverly tells him flat out, no. Waverly explains UNCLE’s going to b*mb Thrush’s island back to the stone age. Napoleon then makes a really good, grand speech, saying first, “OK, fine, Illya’s expendable, so are the rest of us. But what about the girl, she’s innocent, are you going to let her die too?” Which cracks Waverly’s tough exterior and Napoleon is allowed to go rescue Illya and the girl, provided he do it and get out before UNCLE planes get to the island. The whole sequence on the Island is fantastic, I mean, in a good sense. It’s really well done. “Concrete Overcoat Afr” is the only two-parter I’ve seen so far that I really liked; the other ones are incredibly slow moving.

However, there are some negatives to Season 3 as well. First, although there are some good episodes (“Concrete Overcoat Afr”, “Pieces of Fate Afr”, “The Suburban Afr”, “Hot Number Afr”, “Yo-Ho-Ho and a Bottle of Rum Afr”, etc), there are also some really, really bad episodes (“The Abominable Snowman Affair”, “The My Friend the Gorilla Afr”, “The Jingle Bells Afr”, “The Apple a Day Afr”). Another problem was that even in the mediocre or average episodes (which most of the Third Season is), had a tendency to make Illya and Napoleon at times look almost incompetent – all the captures, missing clues right under their noses, etc., just really works against the characters. After all, Illya and Napoleon are supposed to be UNCLE’s crack enforcement agents.

Finally, special features. There is a special treat for fans on the S 3 special features disk. The modern-day interview with Robert Vaughn and David McCallum is wonderful. Absolutely wonderful. There’s so much warmth to it! And, you can just see the two are still friends. It is one of those cut & paste interviews, with the questions on a place card, then the filmed interview of the two of them – but it’s fun to watch anyway. The interview is also quite long, it is over an hour in length. There’s a few basic, probably been asked a hundred times questions at the front of the interview, but there are some very insightful questions as well. Definitely watch it!

Read my The Man from U.N.C.L.E. Season 1 Review.

Read my The Man from U.N.C.L.E. Season 2 Review.

The Man from U.N.C.L.E. Season 2 Review

  • Series: The Man from U.N.C.L.E.
  • Season: 2
  • Episodes: 30
  • Discs: 11
  • Cast: Robert Vaughn, David McCallum, Leo G. Carroll
  • Network: NBC
  • DVD Format: DVD, Technicolor, Standard
  • Originally Published on my Live Journal 04/01/2008, now hosted on Dreamwidth

Note: This is an older review, previously posted to my Live Journal and now hosted on Dreamwidth. I’ve decided to copy it as is, silly asides and all. I did correct typos and formatting. Enjoy!

The second season of The Man from U.N.C.L.E. is probably the most UNCLE-ish or proto-typical of UNCLE’s four seasons. The plots are more fantastical than the more serious first season, but not as silly as season 3 (review forthcoming once I get a chance to watch the entire thing and re-evaluate it). Illya’s been “promoted” to number 2 of Section 2 (Operations and Enforcement) and full partner status with Napoleon, though there are still episodes where one or the other agent is heavily featured and their partner is hardly there. Season 2 also contained “The Moonglow Affair” which introduced Agents April Dancer and Mark Slate, who would be re-cast (to Stephanie Powers and Noel Harrison) and spin-off to the short-lived series, The Girl from U.N.C.L.E. – both Napoleon and Illya are taken out at the beginning of the episode by a radioactive gas, and April gets to strut her stuff finding the cure for our two agents and stopping yet another Thrush plot. Despite the lack of Napoleon and Illya, the episode isn’t actually that bad, especially as Normal Fell plays Mark Slate.

During Season 2 of U.N.C.L.E., Thrush becomes THE villain of the show – most episodes involve stopping Thrush’s plots in some way or another. Also, just as in the first season (well, all of UNCLE actually), Napoleon or Illya often gets captured and his partner needs to rescue him, and occasionally both agents are captured and need to figure out a grand escape. Also, in season 2, though we normally see both Illya and Napoleon, there are episodes where the two agents are separated, working on a case from different angles, such as “The Bridge of Lions Affair” (2 parts) where Illya’s in London Soho and Napoleon is in Italy (or France, I forget).

The move to color brings more life to the series (yes, those were the days of Technicolor), with brilliantly lit sets, and colorful backgrounds. However, as I said in my Season 1 review, because of the sheer size of the new color cameras (and the requirement of using dollies to move the camera around) the direction took a turn to the extremely static. Also, black and white, by its very nature, gave the series a more serious tone, while the color just makes things look bright and fun.

The partnership and friendship between Illya and Napoleon are more developed, though, and they work together more often, though not in every single episode, as I said earlier in this review.

Also, in both season 1 and 2, there are plenty of shots of both men that are just really, really nice to look at (after all both Robert Vaughn and David McCallum are incredibly good-looking men, especially back then. And, actually both have aged well, and Vaughn, especially is extremely good-looking now).

Read my The Man from UNCLE Season 1 Review.

The Man from U.N.C.L.E. Season 1 Review

  • Series: The Man from U.N.C.L.E.
  • Season: 1
  • Episodes: 29
  • Discs: 11
  • Cast: Robert Vaughn, David McCallum, Leo G. Carroll
  • Network: NBC
  • DVD Format: DVD, Technicolor, Standard
  • Originally Published on my Live Journal 04/01/2008, now hosted on Dreamwidth

Note: This is an older review, previously posted to my Live Journal and now hosted on Dreamwidth. I’ve decided to copy it as is, silly asides and all. I did correct typos and formatting. Enjoy!

I finally got the money together to order The Complete Man from UNCLE and The Complete Get Smart from Time-Life (and received them). Now, with five seasons of Get Smart and four of The Man from UNCLE, it’s going to take me a while to watch everything, not to mention writing reviews, but I aim to get everything posted in the next couple of months (yes, I said months – I gotta’ work for a living!).

The Man from UNCLE is one of two series that established media fandom (the other is the obvious original Star Trek). Like Trek, UNCLE fans have produced fanzines (and still do, as well as online fan fiction), established conventions or fannish get-togethers, and just created fandom as a creative and positive place to be. One can even argue since UNCLE was incredibly popular from the very beginning, and the second season debuted at number 1 in the Neilson ratings (and never left the top ten for that season), UNCLE fandom preceded and eclipsed Trek fandom. Personally, I wouldn’t quite go that far, but I’ve seen the argument that UNCLE was really the first (and biggest) female-centered media fandom.

Briefly, in case you don’t know, U.N.C.L.E, the United Network Command for Law and Enforcement is an international organization devoted to peace, order and good government (no, sorry, that’s Canada. Sorry that’s a joke – god, I don’t think I should have had wine tonight). Well, UNCLE is devoted to peace and order anyway. They basically step in to combat criminal activity. Often they are combating Thrush – an international organization of evil. Napoleon Solo (played brilliantly by Robert Vaughn) is the American number 1 of section 2 based in New York. Illya Kuryakin (David McCallum – who’s also brilliant) is Solo’s Russian partner. Alexander Waverly sends Napoleon and Illya on their missions – he’s UNCLE’s version of James Bond’s M or Austin Power’s Basil Exposition. And yes, UNCLE is the type of spy series that Austin Powers is satirizing.

Another thing to remember about UNCLE is that, like SeaQuest DSV, each season of the series had a different flavor. (It’s like Linux, we have flavors! Sorry, computer geek joke!) Anyway, each season had its own distinct flavor, though the seasons weren’t quite so different as Sea Quest (season 3 of SeaQuest is practically a different show entirely).

Here’s the basic breakdown:

Season 1 – filmed entirely in black and white, much more serious than later seasons, more intrigue/less camp, established the basic “look and feel” of the series (the Innocent, Napoleon and Illya’s partnership, Waverly playing the M/Basil Exposition role).

Season 2 – Probably the most UNCLE season of all. Details to follow when I watch all of it and post a review.

Season 3 – The campest UNCLE, but still fun and adventurous (details to follow when I watch all of it and post a review.

Season 4 – A return to serious UNCLE. I actually don’t think I’ve seen much of it. Also, only a half-season. (details to follow when I watch all of it and post a review.

Watching Season 1 – I really enjoyed it. Filming in black and white adds to the seriousness of the first season stories. Also, the writing has a much more serious tone than the campy/silly season 3.

The other thing about season 1, is that occasionally there are some absolutely brilliant directing, and fantastic shots. Some of the episodes actually remind me of The Outer Limits and The Twilight Zone, not in content or story type but in shots and direction. Later, of course, with the switch to color, everything has a flat “locked-off” look (the same happened in early Technicolor films – the jewel tones look gorgeous but directing suffered because you can’t move a 1-foot square camera! – Yes, 1-2 foot – the early Technicolor film cameras were huge, mostly because they held four rolls of film, synced together.)

Anyway, there are some truly lovely shots in season 1 UNCLE – looking thru’ a glass table from the bottom for instance, and outdoor scenes with a sense of unreality to them.

The only bad thing about season 1 is “not enough Illya”. Illya is definitely a secondary character, especially in the early episodes of the season. As the season moves on, you do see more of him, but he and Solo tend to be separated. UNCLE works best when Napoleon and Illya are working together as unlikely but excellent partners and friends. Illya does get to be the lead agent in “The Bow Wow Affair” (which, unfortunately, is not a great episode), and “The Odd Man Affair”, because Napoleon gets shot half-way through the episode, and Illya takes over the mission (course, it’s the ubiquitous shoulder wound, and he’s fine at the end of the episode, except for a sling on his arm).

Oh, and I most emphatically don’t dislike Vaughn/Napoleon – Vaughn’s excellent (watch his expression in “The Love Affair” when he knows Illya’s been hurt or killed by a hand grenade for example, or his rolling his eyes at Illya in the beginning of “The Girl from Navarone Affair”). Anyways, I’ve always liked Vaughn, and he’s at his young, spry, and suave best in UNCLE. It’s just there’s something about Illya. Well, McCallum actually – who’s magnetic on the screen (I also love him opposite Joanna Lumley in Sapphire and Steel), and he’s also done several brill episodes of both the original and the remake of The Outer Limits.

Overall, I really enjoyed the first season of The Man from U.N.C.L.E. I wouldn’t say it’s the best season, but only because I like David McCallum, and miss Illya when he’s not in an episode.

Book Review – Dick Grayson, Boy Wonder

  • Title: Dick Grayson, Boy Wonder: Scholars and Creators on 75 Years of Robin, Nightwing, and Batman
  • Author: Kristen L. Geaman
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 02/09/2019

Dick Grayson, Boy Wonder is an excellent essay collection about Dick Grayson – Robin, Nightwing, Agent of Spyral, and the heart of the DC Universe. Some of the essays in this collection take a strictly chronological approach – summarizing different eras in Dick Grayson’s career from his earliest days as Batman’s “young sidekick” to the New 52 Era of Grayson. Other essays use a particular lens to examine the character from Freudian psychology to Feminism. Grayson’s relationships with other important characters in his life including Alfred and also the Teen Titans are examined. Finally, the book concludes with interviews with some of the more influential writers of various DC Comics.

I really enjoyed this book, though it took me a while to read parts of it (I never was a fan of Freud and Miller’s All-Star Batman and Robin left me cold. So the chapters devoted to those topics were tough going. But, on the other hand, the essay on New 52 including Grayson was very interesting – and I’m not a fan of New 52 either.) I also learned a lot about the history of the character and of DC Comics. I highly recommend this book to Grayson’s many fans, and to anyone who would like to learn more about the character and the history of DC Comics. Each essay is meticulously researched and documented with footnotes.

ST: TNG – Darmok Episode Review

  • Series Title: Star Trek: The Next Generation
  • Story Title: Darmok
  • Season: 5
  • Episode: # 2
  • Discs: 1 (Part of “Season 5” – 7 discs total)
  • Network:  First-Run Syndication (produced by Paramount)
  • Cast: Patrick Stewart, Jonathan Frakes, Gates McFadden, Brent Spiner, LeVar Burton, Marina Sirtis, Michael Dorn, Colm Meaney
  • Original Air Date: 09/30/1991
  • Format: Standard, Color, DVD, NTSC

The Star Trek: TNG episode “Darmok” is a fascinating study of linguistics and culture and I really loved it. The idea was very cool, even if I figured out exactly what the Tamarians were doing a lot earlier than the crew of the Enterprise. The episode starts with the command crew of the Enterprise discussing that they have received a message from the Tamarians, an alien species that the Federation has encountered before, but has also utterly failed to establish any sort of relationship with. In fact, all the previous Federation captains had declared that the Tamarian language is “incomprehensible”.

The Enterprise meets the Tamarian ship and open communications – the Captain, and at times his crew, make declarative statements, of proper names and places, but of course, the crew of the Enterprise doesn’t understand. Finally, the captain and his first officer make statements to each other, the first officer backs down and Picard and the Tamarian Captain are beamed down to the surface, like in the Classic Trek episode, “Arena”, where Kirk and the Gorn are forced to fight each other by a third entity. But unlike “Arena”, the Tamarian doesn’t want to fight Picard. What Picard discovers is that the Tamarian is both trying to teach Picard his language and that by facing an adversary together, a monster on the planet, they may learn enough about each other to communicate. And of course, both communications and the transporter are cut off by the Tamarian ship. This makes Riker and Worf nervous and prone to doing dumb things – like interfering. The Tamarian’s plan works, as Picard, slowly figures out that the Tamarians communicate by example, by metaphor. Unfortunately, Riker’s attempt to beam up Picard during the battle with the monster results in the Tamarian captain’s death. Picard figures out enough to communicate with the Tamarians and then the Enterprise leaves.

OK, so far, so good – but why did this episode resonate with me so much? Because the Tamarian language reminded me not so much of “metaphor” but of the short-hand language that fans use. For example, if I said, Picard and Tamarian Captain like “Arena”. A Star Trek fan would probably know what I meant. But to someone who had never seen Star Trek or the episode “Arena” that would be incomprehensible. Besides, in this story, although Riker and Worf assume the situation is “Arena” and are therefore worried about Picard, that’s not actually what was going on. It’s actually a lot more like “Enemy Mine”. (A 90s SF movie where a human and an alien who are in a war no less crash land on the same planet and have to work together to survive.) See what I did there? Again, without the explanation of “Enemy Mine” a reader may or may not understand the reference.

In the episode, “Darmok”, Data and Counselor Troi eventually figure out that the phrases being used by the Tamarians are proper names, places, and then even locate references to those names and places in the Enterprise‘s databanks. But there is no context. And in this case, context is everything.

I watched the entire episode with the subtitles on, and that may have helped make it obvious that the format of the language was to refer to something. E.G. what the Tamarian was saying was, “this situation is like the situation of “Darmok and Jamel at Tanaka”, but of course, Picard had *no idea* what had happened at Tanaka or who Darmok and Jamel were. He figures it out. At the end of the episode, Picard’s monologue and eventual dialogue with the First Officer of the Tamaran ship is fascinating because as a viewer you only understand part of it – but the Tamaran First Officer grins – he understands, and although he’s sad at the loss of his captain, he knows there has been a connection made.

There are a few other things in the episode, Troi, out of the blue tells Riker the Tamarians have “no sense of self-identity”, which is both a pretty big assumption and probably wrong. They do have a strong sense of community and connection through shared experience and stories. Again, like fans. I remember once discussing a television show with a friend and she mentioned how the ending had ruined it for her. I’d stopped watching that particular show before the last season so I asked, “Why? what happened?” And she said, “They Blake’s 7‘d it.” I said, “Oh, I’m sorry.” Now again, some out there might understand both what my friend said, and why I was sorry about it. For those of you scratching their heads, going, “huh?” and reaching for IMDB, Fandom Wiki, or Google, let me explain, Blake’s 7 was a British SF show most famous for its last episode, in which, Spoiler – they killed everyone off. This, in a show which routinely killed off regular characters. So she was basically saying “they killed off everyone” in this show she liked but using fannish shorthand to explain it. Again, this is how the Tamarians talk to each other all the time. In fact, when the Captain and his First Officer are arguing about what to do it’s clear they both are citing a story or an idea – the Captain’s idea for getting the Enterprise crew to understand is “Darmok and Jamel at Tanaka”, the First Officer’s is “[somebody] his sails unfurled”. We never really learn what that means, so who knows if it would have worked or not. But it also seems clear in that first scene that the Tamarians think the Enterprise crew is somewhat dumb to not understand them. Even the Tamarian Captain gets frustrated with Picard at times. Again, those of us with our fingers on the pulse of pop culture can relate.

I did feel that as someone with some background in linguistics, although some languages on Earth use more metaphors than others, and as my examples of fannish shorthand show, sub-cultures often can use metaphor, shared experience, and shared cultural knowledge to augment language – it’s not possible to construct an entire language that way. Imagine if instead of saying, “I’d like to a cup of coffee,” it would be, “Special Agent Dale Cooper in the Cafe”. But then that might get you pie not coffee. And another approach, which Picard actually tries on the planet, is to define basic words – like “fire” or “give”. This is part of how he and the captain do learn to communicate, but it’s Picard who learns the alien language, not the other way ’round, which again, is a major point in this episode’s favor.

So again, I really liked the episode and I hope the rest of the season is this good. I usually just review ST: TNG episodes by the season, which is what I’m planning on for Season 5. But I just had to address this particular story, because I just loved it.

Star Trek Season 1 Review

  • Series: Star Trek (aka ST: TOS – Star Trek The Original Series)
  • Season: 1
  • Episodes: 29
  • Discs: 10
  • Cast: William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, DeForest Kelley, James Doohan, Nichelle Nichols, George Takei, Walter Koenig, Majel Barrett, Grace Lee Whitney
  • Network: NBC (Paramount Productions)
  • DVD Format: DVD, Technicolor, Standard
  • Originally Published on my Live Journal 08/09/2009, now hosted on Dreamwidth

My first comment is WOW – oh, wow – Star Trek has never looked so good! The original series must have been filmed in Technicolor because it looks absolutely fantastic! The bright primary colors of the uniforms really, really pop, especially the blues and reds. Consistently, every frame of every first season story looks good. The restoration work going into the set must have been immense – and it looks better than even The Man from UNCLE (which had some flaws and artifacts).

If only all DVDs, especially TV DVDs had such excellent restoration. The Technicolor look is that of the Errol Flynn and Olivia deHaviland’s The Adventures of Robin Hood, Gene Kelly’s Singin’ in the Rain, or Judy Garland’s The Wizard of Oz. Which just goes to show how truly beautiful Technicolor really was – especially when properly restored. The other technical notion is that Star Trek, though filmed and filmed in Technicolor at that, was filmed in 4:3 ratio – the only ratio available at the time, especially for TV (If you watch the fully restored films mentioned above you’ll note they also are properly 4:3 ratio – not widescreen.)

I did have a technical problem with my set – discs 3 and 4 did not play properly. “Miri” skipped horribly, as did the opening CBS logo and episode 1 of  “The Menagerie”. I didn’t check Episode 2 of  “The Menagerie”, because by then I knew I’d have to exchange the discs. I called Amazon (from whom I purchased the entire 3-Season set) and found I could not simply return the bad discs. They wouldn’t even accept exchanging Season 1. This is annoying. I have found before, especially with DVD sets with extremely large pressings, that sometimes you just get bad discs. The problem with exchanging an entire set is that you don’t want to exchange 1:1 and take the chance that different discs are bad if you follow me. I’ve watched all of  Season 1 – and found no more errors, so when my replacement arrives I should be able to take discs 3 and 4 out of it, put them in my original set and send back the replacement. And I’ll only have six episodes to check instead of 29.

The first season of Star Trek is a bit uneven – I missed Ensign Chekhov greatly, and in some episodes, major characters are completely missing (chiefly Scotty and Dr. McCoy, though Sulu also disappears occasionally, as does Nurse Christine Chapel). However, there are some classic episodes as well. “The Naked Time”, “Dagger of  the Mind”, “Shore Leave”, “Tomorrow is Yesterday”, “Speed Seed”, “This Side of Paradise”, “The Devil in the Dark”, “Errand of  Mercy”, “The City of the Edge of Forever”, and “Operation – Annihilate!” are all first season episodes. Of these, certainly, “Devil in the Dark” and “The City on the Edge of Forever” were personal favorites of mine.

But with the release of the new Star Trek movie (which I absolutely loved!) and now my taking the time to re-watch classic Trek, well, in the words of a guy a recent media convention during the Trek movie panel – “Isn’t it great to be a Star Trek fan again?” This is something that has happened over and over with Star Trek. After all, the original series did not do that well – it never got good ratings and was canceled after a mere three seasons. It was the action of the fans – especially fans who organized clubs and conventions (Shout out to Bjo Trimble who created the Star Trek Welcommittee) and the female fans who kept Star Trek alive in fan fiction that not only kept the show alive (Star Trek Lives! – Great book, not only for fans of Star Trek but for anyone interested in cultural/media fan history) – but made the subsequent series and movies possible.

Special Features:  Many, including preview trailers of all episodes.