‘Star Trek: Lower Decks’ Neither Succeeds Nor Fails In Its Debut Season’s Home Release

Courtesy: Paramount/Paramount+/CBS Studios/CBS All Access

Paramount+’s latest addition to the ever-expanding Star Trek universe, Star Trek: Lower Decks, is scheduled to launch its second season this summer, roughly a year after the series saw its debut season premiere.  As audiences wait for the series’ second season to air, they can take in the show’s first season on DVD and Blu-ray beginning Tuesday.  The debut season of this newest addition to the Star Trek universe is an intriguing presentation even in its new home release.  While Lower Decks is not a complete disappointment or failure in its debut season, it also is not a total success.  That is proven in part through its writing, which is itself both a positive and negative.  It will be discussed shortly.  For all that the writing does to both benefit and detract from the series’ presentation, it is just one of the elements to examine in addressing the home release of the series’ debut season.  The bonus content featured in the home release of the show’s lead season is a positive in its own way.  It will be discussed a little later.  The two-disc set’s packaging rounds out its most important elements and will also be discussed later.  Each item noted here is important in its own way to the whole of the home release of the series’ lead season.  All things considered, they make the presentation such that Star Trek fans will find it worth watching at least once.

Paramount+’s home presentation of Star Trek: Lower Decks Season 1 presents the series as neither an improvement on nor a lessening of the long-running franchise that is Star Trek.  That is proven in large part through its writing.  The writing benefits the show first and foremost in the fact that each episode is only half an hour instead of a full hour.  What’s more, the writing brings the franchise back to the episodic presentation style that was once the franchise’s norm.  Every episode finds the crew of the U.S.S. Cerritos going from planet to planet facing all kinds of adventures.  The whole thing opens with a zombie plague overcoming the Cerritos in “Second Contact” and Ensign Boimler inadvertently being the one to save the day.  “Moist Vessel” keeps the action on board entertaining as Captain Freeman (who is revealed early on to be Ensign Mariner’s mother) teachers Mariner a lesson about maturity as she continues to cause trouble for her mother and much of the ship’ senior staff.  “Veritas” meanwhile presents audiences with a familiar twice-told tale type plot element that is so common to sitcoms.  It’s a surprisingly funny story that, as with the other noted episodes and the rest of the season’s stories, boast a certain stylistic similarity to the writing used in Futurama.  To that point, the writing does a lot to make the debut season of Lower Decks worth at least a chance.  At the same time, the writing also suffers from one major downfall, that being that it takes itself too seriously in trying to not be serious.

Yes, the stories featured throughout the first season of Lower Decks are original and funny, the dialogue that is used therein proves very problematic.  The snarkiness and the amount of foul language that is used throughout each episode proves very problematic.  Considering that the series is the creation of Rick & Morty writer Mike McMahan, that should come as no surprise.  Things like Mariner getting drunk, Captain Freeman essentially cussing out lower ranking officers, and the overtly over the top silliness as the ensigns testify before a court for something that happened, and more, the writing just suffers in terms of its general content.  That against the enjoyment brought by the less serious nature of the stories and that the episodes are standalone presentations offsets one another.  It works together to once more show why the writing makes this season worth watching at least once.  While the writing featured in the first season of Lower Decks proves both good and bad, the bonus content is featured in Season 1’s home release proves positive, somewhat offsetting the  concerns raised in the writing.

The bonus content presented in the home release of Lower Decks Season 1 is positive in that it gives audiences a look behind the show’s scenes.  The most notable of the bonuses comes in “Hiding in Plain Sight.”  This roughly six minute bonus featurette presents just some of the items used in past Star Trek series that are tossed in here.  The shows’ creative heads point out in this segment that the inclusion of the classic items was intentional as a means to add to appeal for fans of those shows.  Any diehard Star Trek fan will agree that there is something special in seeing this generation of Star Trek so lovingly throwing back to the franchise’s early days.  As with the writing, this follows in the shoes of the writing of Futurama.  It is interesting to see the tasteful way in which so many classic Star Trek items and characters were thrown into this series, not just to generate nostalgia, but to use them as story elements, too.

“Hiding in Plain Sight” is just one of the set’s notable bonuses.  The “Lower Decktionary” segments give even more insight into the show’s creative process.  From the animation, to the title credits (which themselves throw back to the look of TNG’s credits), to the show’s music, audiences get brief but in-depth discussions on so much of the show’s “secondary” content.  Those discussions, along with the talks on the throwbacks to classic Star Trek will add its own level of engagement and entertainment for audiences in this presentation.  Together with the more positive side of the show’s writing, the two aspects collectively make the show slightly more worth watching.

The bonus and content and writing featured in the home release of Lower Decks Season 1 does well to make this debut season of the Star Trek universe’s latest addition worth watching at least once.  They are just a portion of what works to the presentation’s positive.  The set’s packaging rounds out its most important elements.  Audiences will note that a brief but concise episode summary list is printed inside the case’s front and rear box art.  This inclusion allows audiences to make a quick decision as to which episode they want to watch.  Making this aspect even more appealing is the fact that the episodes are aligned specifically with each of the set’s two discs.  This means that audiences immediately know which episodes are on which disc, and in the process, will be that much more capable of deciding which episode to watch.  Those behind the presentation in this aspect are to be commended for this move.

Making the packaging even more of a positive is the fact that the set’s discs are wisely presented inside the case.  Disc one is placed on a leaf inside the case by itself while Disc Two is placed on its own spindle on the box’s rear inside.  This protects the discs from marring one another.  On yet another level, the smart placement of the discs also makes the packaging ergonomic.  This will appeal to any viewer who prefers the physical object to streaming.  Keeping this in mind along with the positive impact of the packaging’s episode listing, there is no doubt that the packaging proves important in its own way to the whole of the set’s presentation.  When this element is considered along with the positive impact of the set’s bonus content, and the mixed impact of the writing, all three elements make the home release of Lower Decks’s debut season somewhat engaging and entertaining, but still neither an improvement nor lessening of the Star Trek universe’s overall legacy.

Paramount+’s new home release of Star Trek: Lower Decks Season 1 is an intriguing first outing for the latest addition to the ever-growing Star Trek universe.  The show is neither an outright win nor a total failure.  That is proven in part through the season’s writing.  The writing brings together the best elements of Star Trek and Futurama, but the worst elements of shows, such as Rick & Morty and Family Guy at the same time.  That whole makes the writing somewhat entertaining, but also equally lacking.  The bonus content that accompanies the season in its new home release makes up for the writing’s concerns.  That is because of the background that it offers on the show in its lead season.  The packaging of Season 1 in its home release rounds out the set’s most important elements.  It enhances the viewing experience because it makes choosing an episode easy for viewers while also protecting each of the set’s two discs.  Each item noted is important in its own way to the whole of this set’s presentation.  All things considered, they make the debut season of Star Trek: Lower Decks worth watching at least occasionally, but not much more.  Star Trek Lower Decks Season 1 is scheduled for release Tuesday through Paramount, Paramount+, CBS Studios and CBS All Access.

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Star Trek TNG’s Sixth Season Is The Series’ Best Season Yet

Courtesy:  CBS Blu-ray/Paramount Home Entertainment

Courtesy: CBS Blu-ray/Paramount Home Entertainment

Paramount and CBS Blu-ray will release Star Trek: The Next GenerationSeason 6 on Tuesday, June 24th. This penultimate season of TNG (as it will henceforth be known here) is one of the best of the series’ seven-season run. The primary reason for that is the same reason that the series’ previous seasons remain so enjoyable to this day. The reason in question is the series’ writing. Another reason for the success of this latest box set is the inclusion of the standalone Blu-ray containing the two-part episode “Chain of Command.” This is not the first season to include a key episode as a standalone feature. And odds are that it won’t be the last with one more season to go. Last but not least in examining this latest season’s box set and its companion Blu-ray is the bonus commentary included in both features. Audiences will learn some interesting pieces of information in listening to the companion commentary included with certain episodes. All three factors noted here come together both on the Season 6 BD box set and companion BD to make them collectively one more must have for any Star Trek fan that has yet to add Season 6 to their library.

Writing, whether it be for television or movies, is key to the success of failure of a script. It is the heart of everything. That being the case, the writing behind Paramount’s Star Trek: The Next Generation is to thank in large part for the series’ success. And in its penultimate season, TNG presented to audiences some of the series’ best writing to date. One of the key examples of the strength of the writing in Season 6 comes in the pivotal two-part story episode “Chain of Command.” This episode saw Captain Picard the victim of torture after being captured by the Cardassians. The performance on the part of Sir Patrick Stewart as he struggled to survive his horrible treatment was beyond believable. To an extent, it makes one think of what POWs in Vietnam and other settings of war must have gone through. That makes this even more of a powerful reflection of real life. It’s such a powerful episode that no matter how many years it’s been since audiences have seen it, it has just as much power today as it did in that original broadcast. It’s just one example of the wonderful writing exhibited in this season of TNG.

Audiences still needing convincing of the solid writing in Season Six need look no further than the episodes “Relics” and “Birthright.” These episodes are bookends of sorts for this season of TNG. “Relics” is a wonderful episode first and foremost because it brings back another member of the original Star Trek cast in the form of James Doohan. The commentary regarding this will be discussed later. But in learning how he was brought into the episode, audiences will see even more clearly why this minute aspect of writing is just part of what makes this episode so enjoyable. It might be a bit of a stretch, but one could potentially compare the writing in this episode to a religious allegory. That’s because Scotty (Doohan) was essentially a man brought back from the dead. He was resurrected in a manner of speaking. He is forced to come to terms with that fact that he is a man living on borrowed time and that he is completely out of place. The end result won’t be given away for the sake of those that have not seen this episode or haven’t seen it in years. Others might have a different interpretation of the script than that of this critic. But those that do prove even more the solidity of the writing in TNG’s sixth season.

One more example of the solidity of the writing in TNG’s sixth season lies in the season’s second two-part episode “Birthright.” Just as “Relics” brings back the original days of Gene Roddenberry’s beloved universe, “Birthright” presents in not so subtle fashion, the future of the Star Trek universe. Deep Space Nine is introduced along with one of the series’ lead characters, Dr. Julian Bashir. It even puts Worf onto the station, hinting at his future role in the series. This bookend is heightened even more thanks to the bonus commentary included on the previously discussed episode. Again, that commentary will be discussed later. But put simply, audiences will learn that the inclusion of Dr. Bashir and the station was no coincidence. Such willingness to show the future of the Star Trek universe at this point is key to TNG in terms of its writing as it showed that there was intent to end TNG’s run in the not too distant future. And of course as fans know, the series’ seventh season would be the last for this series. To that extent, one could easily argue that it was a respectful way of saying to TNG’s that the series would come to an end, but that they had no intent of just leaving viewers hanging. Once more, it is one more expert exhibition of how the writing in TNG’s sixth season was some of the series’ best.

On a more subtle note, audiences that pay close attention in the episode “Starship Mine” will notice actor Tim Russ capturing Captain Picard. Those more familiar with the Star Trek universe will recall that Russ would eventually go on to play Vulcan officer Tuvok aboard the starship Voyager. Of course he wasn’t Tuvok in this episode. But it’s one more interesting little tidbit proving one more time the strength of the writing in TNG’s sixth season.

Courtesy: CBS Blu-ray/Paramount Home Entertainment

Courtesy: CBS Blu-ray/Paramount Home Entertainment

The writing behind this season of TNG is some of the best that the series had seen to this point. That should be obvious by now. The episodes cited here are just parts of the proof of that. There are many more episodes that prove this argument. Moving on, Season Six is accompanied by the two-part episode “Chain of Command” on its own standalone Blu-ray disc separate from the primary box set. This episode was seen as being so pivotal because of its powerful story. Rarely had any TV show before or after tackled the entirely political topics of torture and war. And rarely had any series ever tackled them in such fashion. The bonus commentary included with this standalone episode makes it even more interesting. Audiences learn that there was apparently a certain amount of tension both in front of and behind the camera as a new Captain was brought in albeit temporarily as Picard was in the hands of the Cardassians. One of the individuals that discusses the episode compares the cast of TNG to a big family. So even bringing in a new cast member albeit for a short time can cause a feeling of being unsettled among the cast even behind the lens. That and the powerful writing show just why this was the proper episode to separate into its own disc versus the season’s other two-part episode, “Birthright.” It’s one more positive to a whole that every Star Trek fan will appreciate in this season.

The writing behind each of the episodes included in Season Six and the companion standalone episode are both important parts of the whole that makes this season another memorable piece of the Star Trek universe. There is still one last aspect of the whole set to note in examining this set. That aspect is the commentary included on various episodes. Audiences learn in the commentary that comes with “Relics” that it had been so long since the show’s writers and runners had kept from bringing members of the original series’ cast on to this series simply out of concern. It’s explained in the commentary that there had been an edict of sorts early on in the show’s run that there would be no mention of the previous series. It is ruminated that this was done out of fear that it would only heighten the comparisons between the two series. Yet purely out of chance, that episode in question came to life. And the inclusion of James Doohan happened organically. On another side, the commentary included in “Chain of Command” offers more depth than can even be touched upon here. Needless to say, that the commentary in question is quite in depth. And that depth serves to show once more what makes not just this episode, but the season in whole such a success. There is commentary included in other episodes of Season Six. What is noted here is only a glimpse of why the season’s commentary is a pivotal part of the season’s success. Audiences will find even more entertaining and informative commentary when they purchase TNG Season Six for themselves. In doing so, audiences will attain an even clearer view of why this season is one of the best from TNG’s seven total seasons, the set’s other factors aside.

Star Trek: The Next Generation Season Six will be available Tuesday, June 24th in stores and online. It can be ordered online via Amazon at http://www.amazon.com/Star-Trek-Generation-Season-Blu-ray/dp/B00IURL19Y/ref=sr_1_1?s=movies-tv&ie=UTF8&qid=1402717281&sr=1-1&keywords=star+trek+the+next+generation+season+6. The “Chain of Command” standalone Blu-ray can be ordered via Amazon at http://www.amazon.com/Star-Trek-Generation-Command-Blu-ray/dp/B00IUR3YI0/ref=sr_1_1?s=movies-tv&ie=UTF8&qid=1402717308&sr=1-1&keywords=star+trek+the+next+generation+chain+of+command.

More information on Star Trek: TNG Season 6 and other home releases from Paramount Studios is available online at http://www.facebook.com/ParamountMovies and http://www.paramount.com/movies/home-media. To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it. Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at https://philspicks.wordpress.com.

Inescapable A Nice Escape For Action Movie Fans

Courtesy:  IFC Films/mpi media group

Courtesy: IFC Films/mpi media group

There is nothing more powerful in the world than the love of a parent for his or her child.  This common theme has been used time and again throughout the history of motion pictures.  A quick glance through the annals of movie history will show no fewer than at least a dozen films whose plots are based on this theme.  One of the most recent films to use this theme comes from mpi media group.  The movie in question is the action/thriller Inescapable.  While it isn’t the first movie of its kind, it does have quite a bit going for it.  The story itself offers viewers a different take on the classic theme that sets it aside from the likes of Liam Neeson’s Taken franchise.  It also has going for it an all-star cast led by Alexander Siddig (Da Vinci’s Demons, Primeval, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine).  Most people are more apt to know the names of Marisa Tomei and Joshua Jackson.  And most of all, it has some very interesting commentary courtesy of writer/director Ruba Nadda and cinematographer Luc Montpellier.  These three factors offer so much more than can even be discussed within these confines; so much so that one would be best served to watch the movie by one’s self or with friends to really take in everything that the movie has to offer.  Regardless of alone or with friends, it is a work that is worth at least one watch.

Inescapable offers viewers first and foremost a take unlike that of other movies within this vein.  Something interesting to learn (as viewers will learn in watching this movie with additional commentary) is that writer/director Ruba Nadda in fact wrote this movie in 2005, three years before Taken premiered.  This makes the comparisons to that franchise in question understandable.  Sadly, this type of thing happens far more often than audiences realize both within the confines of the movie industry and the music industry.  Understanding that this movie came years before the Taken franchise took off, it makes it easier to take in its differences from the franchise in question.  This story does have its share of action.  But the character development (again as noted in the commentary) of Siddig’s Adib is a big part of what makes the story progress.  The story becomes just as much about learning about Adib’s past as it is about his journey to find his daughter.
Adib’s quest to find his daughter is the most obvious comparison that critics and audiences have made in discussing the story of Inescapable.  His search for his daughter is entirely unlike that of Taken.  The latter of the two films centered on human traffickers kidnapping a man’s daughter. Inescapable, on the other hand, centers on a group of figures that kidnapped a man’s daughter to use her as a political pawn of sorts.  Why they kidnap her is typical movie fare.  But the revelation of why they kidnapped her is revealed.  And it is just enough of a twist to leave viewers guessing and cheering for Adib especially in the eventual happy ending.  Yes, it does have a happy ending.  That much will be revealed.  Though, that is the extent of what will be revealed. 
The script behind Inescapable should visibly unlike that of either of the movies in the Taken franchise by now.  So from here, it would serve viewers best to move on and focus on the movie’s cast.  Veteran actress Maris Tomei (Parental Guidance, Crazy Stupid Love, The Wrestler) and actor Joshua Jackson (Dawson’s Creek, Fringe) are billed as major stars of the story.  But the reality of the story is that much as in the case of Johnny Depp in Chocolat for example, Jackson and Tomei are really just lures to get viewers’ eyes.  They are in fact just supporting cast.  Alexander Siddig is the real star of this movie.  And considering his personal background, he could not have been a better choice.  For those that don’t know, Siddig was born in the Sudan in North Africa.  Keeping that in mind, and adding in his professional resume, his was a natural choice.  He looks and sounds every part the role of a Middle Eastern man.  His experience with some of the U.K.’s most well-known acting schools and on the large and small screen made him even more the natural choice for the movie’s lead role.  He had a real ability to take his character and bring such depth out of him.  It makes Adid that much more of a believable character for viewers.  That, along with the understanding of the story helps to make the movie even more worth the watch.
Audiences should see by now that despite early preconceptions about it, Inescapable has far more to offer viewers than they might have thought without seeing the movie.  If what has been noted already is not enough, then perhaps the additional commentary by writer/director Ruba Nadda and cinematographer Luc Montpellier will change viewers’ minds.  Their discussions range from politics of the Middle East and their effect on shooting, to shooting on location in Damascus, to so many other topics.  It adds so much more depth to the story in a second watch.  That second watch will hopefully prove to viewers that have yet to see this action/thriller just how underrated it is.  Hopefully it will serve as one more example of the fact that indie flicks can be just as enjoyable and interesting as the big screen pieces to which they are so quickly and close-mindedly compared far too often.  Inescapable is available now on DVD and Blu-ray from mpi media group and IFC Films. 
Indie flick audiences and fans can keep up with all of the latest from IFC Films and mpi media group online at http://www.facebook.com/IFCFilmsOfficial, http://www.IFCFilms.com and http://www.mpimedia.com. 
To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it.  Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at https://philspicks.wordpress.com.