So my dad and me got drunk over thanksgiving and started arguing over the greatest show of the 90s. He said it was Pensacola: Wings of Gold. I laughed in his face and said James Brolin is a little bitch ass compared to Chuck Norris in Walker: Texas Ranger.
I won the argument.
Co-created by Academy-Award winning and legally troubled director/screenwriter Paul Haggis, Walker: Texas Ranger changed television history by giving us the greatest character from the greatest action star of all time: James “Jimmy” Trivette played by Clarance Gilyard Jr.
Norris and Gilyard made an iconic duo as two Texas Rangers delivering justice in the good old fashioned Texas way: using martial arts, roundhouse kicks, and driving around in a Dodge Ram 1500. There will never be another show like it.
So RIP Clarance Gilyard. You made quite an impression on me as a kid. Thankfully your work will live on forever in Walker: Texas Ranger.
So over the Thanksgiving weekend, I made my family watch arguably the worst Star Trek film, Star Trek V: The Final Frontier. When the Sybok interrogation scene of Kirk, Spock, and McCoy came up, it occurred to me: “Star Trek is REALLY good at doing this.”
Doing what exactly?
They’re good at creating emotional climax scenes where character arcs come full circle. Trek films may not be the flashiest of the science fiction genre, but that’s not really their intention. Star Trek is at its best when it’s theatrical, or allowing the actors to fully explore their characters. Two of the franchise’s most notable faces, William Shatner and Patrick Stewart, are quite effective stage actors and that’s where Star Trek is at its strongest: being character driven.
So you have to let the actors ACT.
Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan: Mutara Battle/Death of Spock
This is probably one of the most famous and most parodied death scene in all of film. But this sequence is quite remarkable on multiple levels.
It’s a shame that William Shatner didn’t get any accolades for his performance in Star Trek II. His portrayal of Captain/Admiral Kirk is often viewed as hammy, but in truth, Shatner was quite nuanced in his approach. Director Nicholas Meyer figured out that his leading man was far more effective when doing more takes, which caused the actor to slowly dial back his performance. In short, Meyer wore out Shatner, which perfectly suited a beat down and aging Kirk at the beginning of the film. Obviously, Meyer let Shatner return to form at the end which had a huge emotional payoff.
Not only does the villain Khan get his comeuppance by succumbing to his own wrath but…in pursuit of vengeance…he ends up becoming a force for creation. Spock, of course, delivers the ultimate sacrifice, but Kirk finally faces the very thing he’s cheated his way out of throughout his illustrious career: a no-win scenario.
Thus, everything comes full circle.
Of course, it also helps that there’s exceptional editing and the score that made James Horner a sought after composer is playing in the background.
Star Trek III: The Search for Spock: Stealing the Enterprise
James Horner is typically given credit for the success of this scene. But you have to tip your hat to the editing and, again, the performances.
While we can criticize Shatner’s acting choices all we want, he always makes it perfectly clear what his characters are feeling. And James B Sikking’s arrogant-ass performance almost makes you forget how shitty the Excelsior bridge set is.
It’s a shame that Leonard Nimoy didn’t direct more movies. While he directed some television before, it’s hard to believe that this was his first motion picture because he REALLY elevated this scene. If you pay attention, not much happens here: the Enterprise slowly backs up to the space doors before they magically open and then the Excelsior begins its failed pursuit. But it’s fucking intense! The hairs on my neck always stand when the Enterprise clears space doors and Kirk orders warp speed. That’s a testament to Nimoy’s superb direction of an otherwise ‘meh’ script.
While this isn’t the “emotional climax” to the film, it is an emotional highlight for the Original Series crew; they’re sacrificing EVERYTHING to save Spock. Now Star Trek III isn’t the best Trek film, but the “stealing the Enterprise” scene is one of the best in the franchise.
Details are scant, but it appears that this new iteration will take place in Toronto, where Paramount+ studios are conveniently located. But to be honest guys, I’m not too thrilled about the direction of this show.
For example, in the pilot episode, we learn that Frasier Crane was “canceled” from his Seattle radio program for dropping racial slurs on air IN ADDITION to facing numerous sexual harassment allegations from Roz Doyle which Frasier attributes to his relapsed alcoholism. As if that wasn’t bad enough, Jordan Peterson has been cast to play himself as he advocates for Frasier’s employment as a professor at the University of Toronto. Since David Hyde Pierce will not be returning as a series regular, Peterson will be stepping in as Frasier’s sidekick. The two will, presumably, share colorful banter regarding Freudian vs Jungian schools of psychology as they lament cancel culture on college campuses.
Another strange decision from Paramount+ is the casting of Slavoj Zizek, again playing himself, for frequent guest appearances. Not much is known about this role, but it is presumed that Zizek will serve as Peterson’s arch nemesis by interfering in his numerous failed romantic relationships (i.e. by cockblocking him).
Kelsey Grammer will serve as executive producer and head writer.
I’m left scratching my head on why Paramount+ greenlit this project. Frasier is a beloved show. It’s just an odd decision from Grammer to make his most famous character a rabid 9-11 Truther. Perhaps Paramount should go back to the drawing board on this one.
Yeah, like everyone else in the early 2010s, I was addicted to Breaking Bad. It came at a turning point when we started evaluating the male ego in art and storytelling. Many bitch about this paradigm shift, but honestly it’s given me a fuckton of creative fuel to write my dumbass stories.
Without it, I wouldn’t have a writing career at all! So thanks Breaking Bad for all the digital trees I’ve wasted on the internet.
But as time has passed, it’s obvious that there were problems with the show. Now I try to evaluate art by the intentions of the artist. So what were the showrunners trying to do here?
Apparently, creator Vince Gilligan didn’t know either. While I think everyone involved did their jobs in the most competent and effective way possible, in my opinion, there was a fundamental difference between Gilligan’s vision and Bryan Cranston’s portrayal of Walter White/Heisenberg.
I base this opinion on zero research, but hear me out…
I’m assuming, when the show was pitched, that the thrust behind the story was to watch the protagonist turn into the villain. At least this is what drew me into the show. But if that’s the case, we run into an age old Clark Kent/Superman problem.
Philosopher and film theorist Slavoj Zizek, while discussing The Joker, claimed that the real identity of a superhero IS the mask and the person beneath it is the alter ego. Or, in other words, the MASK is what permits us to be our true selves.
In that sense, Heisenberg-the “MASK”- is really what Walter White is. If Heisenberg was ever wearing a mask for a disguise, that mask was the man Walter White. Therefore, Walter White…or, more accurately, Heisenberg…was ALWAYS evil.
I’m glad all of that makes sense.
But the problem is Walter White doesn’t always ACT like the bad guy. In fact, he’s usually shown being a loving father and Jesse’s guardian. Sure, he poisons a child, watches a woman choke to death, etc etc. but Walter White…probably due to Cranston’s acting choices…seems to signal horror at some of his decisions. In fact, if memory serves, he shows a sigh of relief when he learns that the child WON’T die from the poisoning attempt.
He even begs for Hank’s life for fuck’s sake!
Would Gus Fring, Walter White’s arch nemesis, have done that?
And therein lies the fundamental problem with Breaking Bad: the audience never severs its sympathy with Walter White. Nor, I would argue, were they ever encouraged to do so.
Was this a deliberate choice by the showrunners? Was Cranston too damn competent at his job? Did anyone think any of this through?
I don’t suppose that this undermines the quality of the show. It’s just annoying to consider while re-watching it. The show seems to fail at meeting its own objective.
In fact, this concept…displaying a totally deplorable character in the most engaging way possible…has been successfully done before. Perhaps you remember it: The Wolf of Wall Street.
To be fair though, Martin Scorsese has a knack for this kind of thing. In fact, the movie that put him on the map, Taxi Driver, does something similar. The audience is exposed to a deranged world of a protagonist, we even empathize with him to a certain degree, but we can’t ever imagine coming to his defense (as fans of Breaking Bad have done many times before with Walter White).
With the Wolf of Wall Street, Scorsese “let’s you in on the joke.” Jordan Belfort is an over-the-top nutcase, and Scorsese allows you to indulge in his depravity, but you know that the end will come crashing down at any moment.
Scorsese isn’t afraid to “pull the trigger”…or show you the moment when a protagonist looses his grip on reality.
While Walter White certainly had his over-the-top moments, the audience is never encouraged to lose sympathy for him. This is reinforced through the writing. White should have never of begged for Hank’s life, his relationship with Jesse should have been established as being purely manipulative and nothing more, his role as a father should have deteriorated, etc etc.
Perhaps that’s the limits of television. When you spend five or more seasons with a character, it’s hard NOT to have sympathy for them.
But it always felt as though Walter White never quite broke bad.
I’m not gonna rank every fucking uniform that Starfleet produced. Some were designed to simply be shown once. So I’m only evaluating the uniforms that were created to be the full-time outfits for a particular series or film.
13. Star Trek Discovery
To my surprise, there are devoted fans to this show. I don’t get it, but to each their own. But we can all agree that these uniforms are just straight up shit. They are neither militaristic nor do they look comfortable. This is just reason #57482 of why I hate this show.
12. TOS- The Cage/Where No Man Has Gone Before
I’m sure there’s a difference between the uniforms in these two episodes, but whatever they are, they’re minor. Now these outfits do look comfortable, however they look a little too warm. Under a stressful situation, I’d burn the fuck up in those sweaters. Plus, in the early days, there were only TWO Starfleet divisions: Command Gold and Science Blue. Without the Engineering/Security/General pissant Red, these uniforms don’t pop as well.
11. The Motion Picture
A part of me likes these uniforms. I think it’s very important that you’re able to see the outline of a Starfleet Officer’s junk. But I understand people’s objections. They do lack the color that made the TOS uniforms so iconic.
10. TNG Films/DS9 Seasons 4-7
I thought these were cool when I was a kid. But now, they just lack the fun of their predecessors. The grey shoulders just seem pointless. I dunno, this is just ‘meh’ for me.
9. Voyager/DS9 Seasons 1-3/Generations
I like the idea of these uniforms. It’s supposed to make officers seem more “mechanically inclined”. Which is fine. DS9 teased out the idea that ship crews wear standard TNG uniforms while crews stationed everywhere else wore these. But they didn’t stick with that concept, which annoyed the shit out of me. That’s why they’re ranked this low.
These are just cheap knockoffs of the TOS classics. They’re a clear downgrade from the next ones on the list.
7. ST09/Into Darkness
They took an iconic look and turned it into something fresh. That’s incredibly hard to do. They seem both practical and comfortable. The only knock is that the pattern looks cool from a distance, but upon closer inspection, it’s just a bunch of Starfleet emblems. Kinda lame, tbh.
Probably the most realistic of the bunch. There’s not much to say about it, other than it would make sense that these would be the first uniforms for a new space fleet.
5. TNG-Seasons 3-7
It feels wrong to put these down this low. These are great uniforms. But they simply got beat out by the last 4.
4. The Wrath of Khan
These uniforms come and go with me. God knows I love Nicholas Meyer, but sometimes I wish he didn’t take the uniforms in this direction. Starfleet *technically* isn’t a military organization. But these uniforms say otherwise.
As a former military man, I can tell you that these would be impractical for standard military operations (unless, I assume, you’re bridge crew in the Navy). For those purposes, the pajama-like outfits worn in TOS are far more suitable, and for that reason REALISTIC, which runs contrary to what most people think about the military. You gotta be comfortable, protected, and not constricted.
So that’s my main beef with these outfits. But aesthetically, they’re incredible! And since Strange New Worlds has updated their appearance, these uniforms look better than ever.
3. Strange New Worlds
The producers of Discovery fucked up when they reintroduced the iconic uniforms in Season 2. I don’t know what the fuck was up with that collar. But they remedied that mistake in SNW.
I’m glad that the designers trusted what came before and didn’t try to do too much to update it.
Which leads me to…
Gold, blue, and red. What else is there to say?
1. TNG- Seasons 1 and 2
“You’re fucking kidding right?”
We all know how this uniform was taken away: Patrick Stewart’s chiropractor had a lot to say about them. Which kinda makes Stewart an important figure in Starfleet uniform history.
Prior to TNG, commanding officers wore the color gold…for example: Captain Kirk. Then Patrick Stewart was cast and the producers realized that he looked terrible in gold. So now the commanding ranks wear red. And that change has never been explained in Star Trek canon 👍
But I love these jumpsuits. If I ever decide to pay money for one of these uniforms, this is the one I would buy. Are they cheesy? Absolutely. To me, they’re the most sci-fi looking of the bunch.
And besides, yeah they might’ve been bad for his back, but Patrick Stewart looked DAMN good in this uniform.
I was reading an article somewhere by someone that ranked all the Star Trek TV series. They placed placed SNW at #3.
Only four episodes have aired.
But here’s the sad part: I’d rank it there too 😔
Yes, SNW is pretty damn good. I’m ashamed to admit it. The nerds may nitpick the series to death. They may question its science or its adherence to canon. They may bitch about nuTrek being too “woke” (Star Trek’s always been woke). They, like me, may never want to admit Alex Kurtzman finally did something right. But they know in their hearts: SNW is quality Star Trek.
I knew Star Trek had a JJ Abrams/Alex Kurtzman problem when Into Darkness went into production a little late because, it seemed, they just straight up forgot about it. And the final product was predictably shit.
That’s when I came to the conclusion that Star Trek should have died with the ending of Enterprise. OR they should have waited longer than 5 years to reboot the franchise.
ST just wasn’t out of the public consciousness long enough to make much of an impact, I felt. And to be honest, I still kinda feel that way.
Can you imagine if Paramount waited until NOW to reboot Star Trek?
We probably would have been given an “R-rated” treatment directed by Denis Villanueva, where the 24th Century would have been presented as completely alien to the 21st Century audiences. Probably graphic violence and nudity galore as Starfleet officers take it all in stride due to Vulcan, stoic ideals permeating the Federation.
It was a missed opportunity tbh because Paramount wanted to continue exploiting the pockets of Trek fans.
But, finally, 13 years after ST09, we finally get quality Star Trek. 👍
We can all agree: Kurtzman era Star Trek has been godawful. There was no reason to think that Strange New Worlds would be any different, but then the first episode became available on YouTube. So I thought: “fuck it, I’ll give it a shot.”
Whoever’s running SNW had the right idea: just tap the ball into the hole. Don’t try to do too much.
It’s common to assume that Trek fans are notoriously hard to please . This is false. In fact, they’re a little too easy to please. Furthermore, I’d say that Star Trek is stupidly easy to write: minimize drama between the main characters, the Federation humanistic…almost utopian…ideals always win out, the “alien of the week” is analogous to current events, and everything can be solved using science…even if the science is totally pulled out of your ass.
This is also called the (Gene) “Roddenberry Box.” TNG writers initially struggled with it until Michael Piller turned staying within it into an art. The Next Generation is now considered one of the best shows in the sci-fi genre. It’s also the benchmark for which all other Trek shows are evaluated.
Hollywood writers, especially ones that aren’t familiar with Star Trek, might think they have to do MORE to make the story interesting. But they really don’t. You can “challenge” the box every now and then, but the optimism and science MUST win out.
So using this criteria, based on the first episode, Strange New Worlds is Star Trek…which is more than I can say for Discovery and Picard. Yes, that’s a low bar to hurdle but I guess third time is a charm. Maybe the rest of it will be shit, but as long as the show runners don’t try to do too much, they might have a pretty good show.