‘Star Trek: Picard’ Falls Short Of Expectations In Its Debut Season

Courtesy: Paramount/CBS/CBS All Access/CBS DVD

CBS All Access’ latest entry in the ever-expanding Star Trek universe, Picard is another disappointment in the “new generation” of Star Trek series, next to Discovery.  The 10-episode debut season of Picard gives audiences little reason to remain engaged or even entertained in its writing and acting.  That is not to say that this season is a complete failure.  It is saved at least in part by its special effects and the packaging of its home release.  Other than those aesthetic elements, there is really no other reason for viewers to even try out this attempt to resurrect the TNG era of Star Trek.

The debut season of CBS All Access’ Star Trek: Picard is a rough first outing for the show.  It is not a complete failure, though.  It does have at least a couple of positives, one of which is its special effects.  Technology has come a long way in terms of the use of special effects, and they were used quite well throughout the course of Picard’s debut season.  Audiences will marvel at the upgrades made to the Borg cube that was so badly damaged in an epic battle with the Enterprise back in the days of TNG.  In a similar vein, the effects that were used to create the home world of the “synths” and the Federation headquarters is just as impressive.  The space battles that took place were just as  enjoyable to watch, even though they looked more like something out of Battlestar Galactica and Babylon 5.  The effects that were used to create the early destruction of the Mars shipyards is worth acknowledging, too.  Those sequences are pretty brutal, even though again, one can’t help but think of BSG in this case, too.  Simply put, the special effects that were presented throughout the course of Picard’s debut (and hopefully only) season give viewers at least something to appreciate here.  Going back again to the mention of the BSG comparison, that item is just one of many that brings about the season’s one major detractor, its writing.

The writing that is featured in the first season of Picard is problematic to say the very least.  The whole thing starts off as essentially a “sequel” of sorts to Star Trek: Nemesis, the finale to The Next Generation’s cinematic universe.  That 2002 movie was the lowest point for the TNG franchise at the time, but Jean Luc’s desire to find Data’s consciousness here is just cheesy to say the very least.  The real Jean Luc-Picard did mourn for Data in Nemesis, but he ultimately would have accepted Data’s passing.  So to have this story open like this makes suspension of disbelief difficult to say the least.  From there, audiences are presented with the all too familiar topic of whether artificial intelligence can become fully sentient.  It is a topic that became central to TNG, but was addressed far before Star Trek was a thing, thus the reference to Isaac Asimov throughout this season.  It has been used and used again so many times throughout the sci-fi world that it has become little more than a trope.  The over-the-top preachiness that ensues in regards to the Romulans’ blind hatred of synths is yet another echo of something that has been addressed so many times in other movies and television shows that preceeded Picard.  To that end, it makes the topic that much more unengaging. 

Of course for all of the negative in the show’s writing, it does have some positives.  One positive element of the writing comes in Jean Luc’s revelation about the Borg being “victims, not monsters” as he visits the Borg cube in which he himself became a Borg in TNG.  He realizes that the Borg were in fact real, living beings who were transformed by the sentience.  That is a direct connection to the bigger discussion on the synths’ place in the universe, but is still far less preachy than the other noted talk.  Considering that the story line in Star Trek Discovery states the Federation essentially made the Borg when it created “Control,” Picard’s statement holds even more water so to speak.

Staying on the topic of Jean Luc’s revelations, his comment early on that the Federation does not decide which society survives is powerful in itself.  It echoes back to Luke Skywalker’s disillusionment with the Jedi order in the Star Wars universe.  The Federation’s Prime Directive was to not get involved directly in any society, so for his fellow Admiral to declare the Federation does hold that power makes Jean Luc a more sympathetic character.  It shows that there is at least a little bit of positive to the writing.  Sadly though, other than these revelations, most of the writing still poses its share of problems.  There is so much exposition and waxing philosophical throughout the season that the show’s pacing starts to suffer many times.  It isn’t the lighter but direct writing that audiences enjoyed in the “old days” of Star Trek.  Audiences are even made to endure an extensive discussion on mortality in the season finale (not to give away too much) that is way heavy. 

As if everything noted was not enough, the blatant foul language and often gory content written into the scripts detracts from the writing even more.  TOS, TNG, DSN, Voyager, and Enterprise did not need violence and foul language in order to work.  To that end, why did the show’s creative heads think these elements were so necessary in this case?  It leaves one shaking one’s head in disbelief that much more.

Simply put, the writing detracts from the presentation of Picard: Season One noticeably.  That is even with its rare positives.  While the writing does considerable damage to this season’s presentation, there is at least one more positive for audiences.  It is the packaging of the season’s home release.

Audiences will note that Season One’s packaging actually is its own positive.  The set’s three discs sit on their own “plate” inside the box.  This protects them from being damaged in any form.  Brief but concise episode summaries are also printed on the inside of the set’s cover art.  This is where things get a little bit problematic.  Due to being printed on the inside of the case’s art, some of the summaries are partially covered by the package’s “bones.”  This leads to the need to shift the box so that they can be better read.  Even doing that is problematic because even in doing that, there is still some difficulty in reading said summaries.  Thankfully it doesn’t happen with all of the summaries.  To that end, the inclusion of the summaries is still mostly positive in its own fashion.  When all of this noted packaging presentation is considered along with the show’s special effects, the show’s presentation proves to have at least something to appreciate

The debut season of CBS All Access’ Star Trek: Picard is a rough start for this series.  It does not give audiences much to appreciate.  Rather, it comes across more as a cash grab attempt by someone to get fans of The Next Generation to welcome the “new age” of Star Trek.  That is evidenced in large part through the season’s central story and writing.  The writing comes across as some kind of attempt by the  show’s creative heads to see if they could make up for the failure that was Nemesis while also rehashing the far too familiar topic of artificial intelligence and the potential results of said intelligence becoming sentient.  It all feels so forced.  To the show’s defense, there are at least a couple of positives to the writing, but they are just not enough to make this season memorable.  The only real positives to this season are its special effects and the packaging of its home release.  Even as much as they do to help the season’s presentation, they just are not enough to save Season One.  Ultimately, one can only hope that considering all of the problems posed throughout the season, the now confirmed second season will be anything but the failure that is Season One.

More information on Star Trek: Picard is available along with all of CBS All Access’ latest news at:

Website: http://www.cbs.com/allaccess

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Twitter: http://twitter.com/cbs

To keep up with the latest entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it. Fans can always keep up with the latest entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at https://philspicks.wordpress.com.

‘Short Treks’ Is The First Fully Successful Presentation From The ‘Star Trek: Discovery’ Universe

Courtesy: Paramount/CBS/CBS All Access

CBS All Access’ Star Trek series Discovery has proven over the course of its current two-season run.  The series, and its cast and crew are hoping to “right the ship” when the series’ third season debuts next month – Oct. 15 to be exact – on CBS All Access.  Until Season Three makes its debut, audiences have another way to pass the time in the form of Star Trek: Short Treks.  Released June 2 on DVD and Blu-ray, this latest addition to the Discovery universe is a rare ray of light for the otherwise maligned over-the-top series.  That is due in part to the shorts featured in the single-disc collection.  They will be addressed (along with the one short that did not make the final cut).  The bonus content featured along with the stories adds to its appeal and will be discussed a little later.  The collection’s average price point proves relatively worth the money, considering the featured content and its value.  It will also be addressed later.  Keeping all of this in mind, the collection proves to be the first truly successful offering so far in the Discovery universe.  It gives hope that maybe, just maybe, the series’ third season will be just as enjoyable.  Even if not, at least audiences will have this rare bright spot in the series.

Star Trek: Short Treks is the first great presentation that fans of Star Trek Discovery have received since the series made its debut in September 2017.  It is a presentation that gives hope for the series’ third season upon its debut Oct. 15.  That is due in part to the shorts that are featured in the single-disc collection.  The shorts in question have loose ties to the series, but are still their own unique stories in themselves.  One of the most notable of the nine total featured shorts comes in the form of “Ask Not.”  Directed by Anson Mount, who also plays Captain Pike in the series, this story focuses on Pike testing a young cadet named Thira Sidhu (Amrit Kaur – The D Cut, Kim’s Convenience)  to see if she is ready to serve on the Enterprise.  There is really little to no real connection to Discovery in this story.  Though considering that a spinoff series involving Pike’s time on the Enterprise is allegedly in the works, that short might in fact come into play somewhere down the line.  Getting back to the subject at hand, there is something compelling about this story.  Maybe it is the acting between Mount and Kaur.  Maybe it is the writing.  Maybe it is the production (which Mount mentions in his commentary – this will be discussed a little later).  Maybe it is all of the above.  Regardless, the approach that was taken in front of and behind the camera, made this story something unique that shows in its own way what make this collection worth watching.

“The Girl Who Made The Stars” is another key addition to the collection.  This story, which goes back to Michael’s childhood, finds her father having to come check on her after she has a bad dream.  Her father, by the way, is played here by Kenric Green (The Walking Dead, The Originals, Hawaii Five-O).  Green is the same man who played her father in the series.  In the case of this animated story, Mike (played by Green) tells a then young Michael Jr. the story of how the stars came to be.  The very act of a parent sharing a bedtime story with a child is something that will appeal to any viewer.  It is just a portion of what makes the short so appealing.  The other portion of the short’s appeal comes in the fact that Mike Sr. used the story to help Michael learn a valuable lesson while also connecting her to the rich history of her African ancestors.  In reality, there is no story of a girl who created the stars, though there is a myth from the Khoisan people of the Kalahari about a girl who threw embers from a fire into the sky and created the Milky Way galaxy, which included the stars.  So to that end, maybe Mike’s story was rooted to some extent from that real life African myth.

“The Trouble With Edward” is another key addition to Star Trek: Short Treks.  Like many of the other shorts, this one boasts no connection to Discovery.  In this case in fact, its connection is to the infamous Star Trek: TOS episode “The Trouble With Tribbles.”  The short and simple of the short’s story is that it tells how the Tribbles came to be so reproductive and hints at how they likely ended up on the Enterprise.  According to the story Federation scientist Edward Larkin (H. Jon Benjamin — Home Movies, Bob’s Burgers, Archer) was responsible for all of the problems.  Larkin tells his cohorts during a meeting that they actually reproduced slowly and that he was able to speed up their reproduction.  Larkin revealed the whole intent was to be able to do just that so as to use them as a food source for a non-human race of beings.  This just seems odd.  It’s right up there with the revelation in the second season of Discovery (***SPOILER ALERT) that the Federation black ops group Section 31 essentially created what would go on to become The Borg in what was then called “Control.”  It’s hard to imagine that an organization that was meant to bring the universe together would be responsible for two such destructive species (if one even wants to call the Borg a species).  While the story just seems so suspect Benjamin’s performance here is so entertaining to say the very least.  His demeanor as he talks about being able to use the tribbles as a food source is so unsettling, but all a person can do is laugh because he is so unsettling in his persona.  The same applies as he reveals whose DNA was combined with the tribble DNA to make them reproduce so quickly.  Even as he is being overtaken by the tribbles (not to giv away too much), he holds character.  That makes that moment just as hilarious even though it is supposed to be a tense moment.  It leads to the final scene being such a powerfully entertaining exclamation mark to the story.  It is hardly the last of the collection’s most notable stories.  “Calypso,” with its tie to the Greek myth of Odysseus, and its minimalist approach is another powerful work in its own right.  There is allegedly even a chance that it might end up having a tie to the third season of Discovery after all.  “The Escape Artist,” with its standalone story about the infamous Harry Mudd (who also appeared in an episode of Star Trek: TOS) makes for its own entertainment.  It allows for Rainn Wilson (who played Mudd in Discovery) to expand and really show his chops even more.

Now for all of the value that the noted shorts (and those not noted) offer audiences, it should be noted that there is at least one short not featured in this set.  That short is “Children of Mars.”  Why it was omitted from the collection is anyone’s guess.  Maybe it was a copyright issue.  Maybe it was an intentional saving for a second volume of shorts.  With those potentialities in mind, one cannot be but so displeased with that issue.  Hopefully it will end up on a second volume of shorts in the not too distant future.  Keeping all of this in mind, the shorts featured in this collection give audiences more than enough to appreciate in themselves.  For all of the value that the shorts themselves offer audiences, they are just a portion of what makes the collection stand out.  The set’s bonus content adds its own share of appeal for audiences.

The bonus content that accompanies the set’s shorts adds its own appeal because of the background that it offers audiences.  Case in point is the audio commentary in the episode “Ask Not.”  As previously noted, Anson Mount (who stars as Captain Pike in Discovery) directed the short “Ask Not.”  Mount talks in the short’s audio commentary about directing the short as well as its production values and tone.  He notes the use of the camera work as he and co-star Thira Sidhu circle one another in the simulation and his intention in using such an approach to help heighten the tension of the moment.  It was an approach that worked, too, as audiences are led to believe fully at first that what was happening was anything but a simulation.  He also addresses the sound balance, considering everything that was going on in the tight space, while also offering praise to Sidhu for her own portrayal.  Mount is so reserved as he talks about everything, and it serves to really draw audiences in that much more and appreciate everything he has to talk about.

Staying on the same track, Rainn Wilson directed his feature short “The Escape Artist.”  He talks in the bonus content “Covered in Mudd” about directing the short and everything that went into directing.  His humility in his discussion is refreshing.  It will please any longtime Star Trek devotee.  What’s more, Wilson talks about how the final scene was created.  It gives a new appreciation for the painstaking efforts that those responsible for special effects make to entertain audiences.  As if that is not enough, Wilson also addresses getting the chance to allow Harry Mudd to expand as a character through the short.  This goes back to Wilson’s humility as he discusses taking on the short in front of and behind the lens.  It really is a discussion that audiences will appreciate just as much as any other. It certainly is not the last of the most notable bonus features.  The bonus feature “Score!,” which is featured as a companion to the short “Ephraim & Dot” is yet another standout bonus feature.  When that feature, which explains the short’s connection to Discovery — ***Spoiler alert, Ephraim is the Tardigrade from Discovery) – is considered along with the other bonus content addressed here and the rest of the disc’s bonus content, the whole of said content adds even more reason for audiences to check out this presentation.  That whole, together with the disc’s primary content makes the collection’s average price point a positive in its own right.

Star Trek: Short Treks was released this past June on DVD and Blu-ray.  The average price point for the collection’s DVD presentation is $15.38.  Its average price point on Blu-ray is $22.44.  Those prices were reached by averaging listings through Amazon, Walmart, Target, Best Buy, Barnes & Noble Booksellers, and Books-A-Million.  Amazon and Walmart offer the least expensive DVD listing at $12.96 while Amazon offers the least expensive Blu-ray listing at $19.74.  Barnes & Noble Booksellers and Books-A-Million are the only major retailers listed whose prices — $28.96 and $25.99 respectively – exceed the average for the Blu-ray.  They are also the only retailers of those noted whose prices exceed the average for the DVD, at $18.39 and $17.99 respectively.  Keeping that in mind, they are the only retailers that audiences should avoid when ordering the collection on either platform.  All of the other retailers stay within the bounds of the averages on each platform.

The price itself is its own positive for audience.  Audiences should also take into account with the noted average prices that they are going to get the same presentation on each platform.  The primary and secondary content is the same on DVD and Blu-ray in other words.  Keeping that in mind and the fact that a DVD can play in a Blu-ray player, audiences really will do themselves more of a service purchasing this on DVD than Blu-ray.  That is especially considering that the DVD’s average price listing and its separate listings are all below the $20 mark.  As the sticker on the box notes, audiences get more than three hours of content (including the bonus content) for less than $20 on DVD.  That is a positive that cannot be ignored.  It puts the final touch on a presentation that in reality is the best Discovery presentation so far.

CBS All Access’ latest Star Trek: Discovery presentation Short Treks is the best presentation that the company has released to date.  That is important to note considering all the problems presented in the series’ first two seasons.  This standalone collection shines in part because of its featured shorts.  They exemplify acting and writing done right, in comparison to everything presented in Discovery.  It is known widely that a new creative force was brought in behind the lens during the second season of Discovery.  Maybe these shorts are a reflection of the stylistic change brought on by the new crew addition.  The bonus content featured with the shorts adds to the set’s appeal.  It offers background that enhances the experience even more.  The collection’s average price point (especially on DVD) adds even more appeal to the collection’s presentation.  Each noted item is important in its own way.  Collectively, they make Star Trek: Short Treks a welcome watch for any true Star Trek fan.  The collection is available now.

More information on Star Trek: Short Treks and Star Trek: Discovery is available online now at:

 

 

 

Websitehttp://cbs.com/shows/star-trek-discovery

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Twitterhttp://twitter.com/cbs

 

 

 

To keep up with the latest entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it.  Fans can always keep up with the latest entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at https://philspicks.wordpress.com.

Paramount, CBS Announce Release Date For ‘Star Trek Picard: Season 1’

Courtesy: Paramount/CBS/CBS All Access/CBS DVD

Paramount and CBS are bringing CBS All Access’ latest Star Trek series to DVD and Blu-ray.

The series’ first season is scheduled for release Oct. 6 on each platform.  The 10-season debut season follows now retired Starfleet Admiral Jean-Luc Picard as he comes out of retirement an embarks on a whole new journey.  It begins 20 years after the events of the last of the Star TrekTNG movies, Nemesis (2002).  Data’s death and the destruction of the planet Romulus have had a deep emotional impact on him.

When a mysterious young woman named Dahj (Isa Briones — TakersLonely BoyBrown Soup Thing) approaches Picard for help, he realizes she might have a connection to his own past.

Season One also stars Harry Treadaway (The Lone RangerHoneymoonCity of Ember), Alison Pill (Scott Pilgrim vs. The WorldMilkDan in Real Life), Evan Evagora (Fantasy Island), Michelle Hurd (BlindspotAsh vs. Evil DeadLethal Weapon TV series), and Santiago Cabrera (Big Little LiesTransformersThe Last KnightHeroes).

More information on Star Trek Picard and other CBS and CBS All Access series is available at:

 

Website: http://cbs.com/shows/star-trek-picard

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/CBS

Twitter: http://twitter.com/cbs

 

To keep up with the latest entertainment news and reviews, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it.  Fans can always keep up with the latest entertainment news and reviews in the Phil’s Picks blog at https://philspicks.wordpress.com.

‘Star Trek: Discovery’ Shows Some Growth In Its Second Season

Courtesy: Paramount/CBS/CBS All Access

Early next year, CBS All Access will debut the latest entry in the long-running Star Trek franchise in the form of Star Trek: Picard.  The series’ debut is set for April 2020.  According to information from multiple media outlets, the third season of the streaming service’s other Star Trek series, Discovery will premiere.  While audiences wait for the premiere of Discovery’s third season, they have the series’ to take in on DVD and Blu-ray.  Officially released Nov. 12, the series’ second season is a slight improvement from its debut season.  That is proven in part through the season’s writing, which will be addressed shortly.  At the same time that the writing has provided a certain improvement from the series’ first season, it also has proven to be a negative to the season.  This will also be addressed.  The season’s acting rounds out its most important elements and will also be discussed here.  Between the writing and acting, audiences get in the second season of Discovery, an example of a show that is improving, but still has a very long way to go before it can be considered among the best of Star Trek’s series.Star Trek: Picard

The second season of Star Trek: Discovery is a small step up from the series’ debut season.  It shows that the series has some potential.  That is due in part to the series’ writing.  The writing offers audiences far more lighthearted moments this time out than in Season One.  There are more jokes and casual moments featured throughout the season’s 14 episodes this time around.  That could be perhaps because the crew of the Discovery has more breathing room, what with the war with the Klingons ended after Season One.  It is nice to see those more lighthearted moments, as it shows that the show’s writers apparently don’t constantly take themselves with a lot of seriousness and can offer some entertainment.

The writing offers entertainment not just through lots of lighthearted moments this season, but also in the more action packed moments.  Those moments are many throughout the season, too.  From the crew’s dealings with “Control,” which are essentially the ancestors of the Borg, to the fights with Capt. Leland to the final epic battle in the season’s two-part finale, there is just as much enjoyable action throughout the season as there is joking and lightheartedness.  The combination of those elements shows that clearly a lot of time and thought was put into improving the writing for this season.  The time and thought paid off, clearly.

For all of the payoff that the noted time and thought had in the writing, it also proved just as much a negative as a positive.  That is proven as there is an overabundance of unnecessary, over-the-top drama throughout the season, too.  From the season premiere to its exciting two-part finale, the show’s writing team gave star Sonequa Martin-Green more than her share of screen time and just as many opportunities to shed a river of tears and then some.  Between her personal moment with Saru when it appears he is going to die (not to give away too much here, but Saru doesn’t die), her nonstop emotional confrontations with Spock and her adopted parents, to her full-on emotional breakdown after another of her ship mates forced her to send her out of an airlock, killing her, Martin-Green gets plenty of crying time on screen.  As if all of that is not enough, Anson Mount’s extraordinarily (and unnecessarily) long speeches as the season nears its end make it quite easy for audiences to hit the fast forward button on their remotes.  The ongoing drama between Hugh and Stamets, and the seemingly never-ending drama between Michael and Ash adds to that overabundance of drama, too.  That overabundance of drama sadly detract quite a bit from the season’s overall general effect and make it difficult for audiences to take seriously.  Rather, they give the season more of a feel of one big supernova of an interstellar soap opera than an action, science fiction series.  Simply put, the overabundance of drama tied into Season two’s presentation does just as much to hurt this show even more as the more lighthearted moments do in order to make the show more enjoyable.  To that end, one can only hope that the show’s writers will continue to infuse more light dialogue next season than drama.  If they don’t go that route, odds are, it will just continue to alienate fans (no pun intended) and find itself ending sooner rather than later.

While the writing incorporated into Discovery’s second season is both a pro and a con, the one element that can be said to be a full positive is the work of the show’s cast.  Anson Mount (Hell on Wheels) is a wonderful addition to the cast.  His portrayal of Capt. Pike makes him one of the best additions to the cast.  He really conjures thoughts of Capt. Kirk as he directly contrasts the much harder-edged presence of Capt. Lorca.  Getting off topic for a moment, the writes mention Lorca in the opening episodes of the season, but still do nothing to explain away what happened to the prime universe Lorca, since it was revealed that Discovery’s Lorca was from the alternate universe.  Getting back on topic, Mount effortlessly makes Pike a character that every viewer loves just as much as the Discovery’s crew.  He cracks jokes with the bridge crew, shoots sarcastic remarks at Ash and Emporor Georgiou, and takes control when the heat is on, just as a good leader would.  He just shows so much charisma throughout.  It makes it too bad that he allegedly will not return for the series’ third season.

Another notable acting job from Season Two comes from newcomer Tig Notaro.  Notaro, who takes on the role of Federation Engineer Jett Reno plays expertly off of Anthony Rapp (Paul Stamets).  The verbal barbs that Reno so willingly shoots at Stamets are among the best of the season’s lighthearted moments.  Her timing and general presence makes for some of the season’s best laughs.  In the same breath, she shows her own unique brand of care as she talks to Hugh about his relationship with Paul (yes, Hugh does return this season, albeit in a rather comic book-esque fashion, which is another issue with the writing that detracts from the season’s general effect).  She maintain’s Reno’s edge, but still manages to show Reno has a heart in the process.  It makes her quite the sympathetic character and talented actor.  Between her acting, that of fellow newcomer Anson Mount and Ethan Peck (who plays Spock – Peck’s take on the timeless, beloved figure is noteworthy in its own right), audiences have just as much reason to watch this season for its acting as for the growth exhibited in the show’s writing.  One can only hope that between the growth exhibited in the writing and the positive acting jobs of the cast, the improvements made in this season will continue in Season Three and continue to help this show prove its potential.

Paramount Pictures and CBS’ latest entry into the Star Trek universe, Discovery has show n significant growth in its second season from its debut season.  That is evident in part in the season’s writing, which attempts to offer more lighthearted moments to balance out its overabundance of unnecessary over the top drama.  Speaking of the drama, there is a lot of that, which seriously detracts from the season, along with the oftentimes dizzying cinematography.  Thankfully, as much as those items detract from the season’s presentation, they are not enough to make the season completely unwatchable.  The on-camera work of some of the show’s new cast members adds its own share of engagement and entertainment.  Each item is key in its own way to the whole of the season’s presentation.  All things considered, they show this season has the potential for growth, if only its creative heads won’t let it become the full-on interstellar soap opera that it largely become this season.  Here’s to hoping Season Three will avoid all that drama and instead opt for more action than overdrawn, overabundant and unnecessary tear-filled jaunts.  If they do that, it can make Season Three a major turning point for Discovery; if and only if they go that route.  Star Trek: Discovery Season Two is available now on DVD and Blu-ray.  More information on the series is available online now at:

 

 

 

Website: http://cbs.com/shows/star-trek-discovery

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/StarTrekCBS

Twitter: http://twitter.com/cbs

 

 

 

To keep up with the latest entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it.  Fans can always keep up with the latest entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at https://philspicks.wordpress.com.

No Joke, Time Life’s Robin Williams Retrospective Is 2018’s Top New Box Set For Grown-Ups

Courtesy: Time Life

The final hours of 2018 are upon us, and with those final hours nearing their end, so do Phil’s Picks’ annual year-ender lists.  One of this year’s final yea-enders examines the year’s top new box sets for grown-ups.

Grown-up audiences have quite a few options from which to choose this year in regards to box sets.  From the multitude of dramas turned out by CBS to the wider variety of titles released via PBS to material released via Time Life, audiences had plenty to enjoy this year.

This year’s list was actually relatively easy to develop even with the number of titles released for grown-ups.  Taking the top spot in this year’s list of best new DVD/BD Box Sets for Grown-Ups is Time Life’s Robin Williams retrospective, Comic Genius.  The multi-disc set, which spans two separate volumes, offers hours of entertainment while chronicling Williams’ evolution as a comedian.  This set is well worth the money and time.

The second spot in this year’s list goes to the second season of PBS’ British import crime drama Endeavour.  From its debut season years ago to this season, the prequel series to Inspector Morse has proven to be so infectious and head and shoulders above its American counteraprts.  That is thanks to its strong writing.

The bronze in this year’s list goes to the debut season of The CW’s Black Lightning.  The CW is filled out by so many superhero series today that it should re-brand itself as “The DC/Superhero Network” — note the sarcasm here — and even with all of the shows that it airs, this series stood out proudly in its first season thanks to its writing, acting and bonus material.

Along with these three titles, is a bevy of other wide-ranging titles, such as the second season of NBC’s The Good Place, the debut season of PBS’ new cooking series Milk Street and the fourth season of the network’s family history series Finding Your Roots along with Shout! Factory’s recently released Super SentaiGojin Sentai Jetman — The Complete Series and plenty of other titles.  As always, the top 10 titles on the list are just that, while the five that follow are honorable mentions, making a total of 15 titles.

Without any further ado, here for your consideration is Phil’s Picks 2018 Top 10 New Grown-Up DVD/BD Box Sets.

PHIL’S PICKS 2018 TOP 10 NEW GROWN-UP DVD/BD BOX SETS

  1. Robin WilliamsComic Genius
  2. EndeavourSeason Five
  3. Black LightningSeason One
  4. Finding Your RootsSeason Four
  5. Milk StreetSeason One
  6. The Good PlaceSeason Two
  7. Super SentaiGojin Sentai Jetman — The Complete Series
  8. The Durells in Corfu: Season Three
  9. Rowan & Martin’s LaughInThe Complete Series
  10. Star Trek DiscoverySeason One
  11. Rowan & Martin’s LaughInThe Complete Second Season
  12. Rowan & Martin’s LaughInThe Complete Third Season
  13. Rowan & Martin’s LaughInThe Complete Fourth Season
  14. Rown & Martin’s LaughInThe Complete Fifth Season
  15. Rowan & Martin’s LaughInThe Complete Sixth Season

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CBS All Access’ New ‘Star Trek’ Series Fails In Its First Season

Courtesy: CBS Television Studios/Paramount

In a little more than a month, CBS All Access’ latest entry into the Star Trek universe – Star Trek: Discovery — returns for its second season.  While audiences count the days until the fledgling series returns, they have its debut season to take in on DVD and Blu-ray courtesy of CBS Television Studios and Paramount Home Entertainment.  Released in stores Nov. 13 on separate DVD and Blu-ray sets, Season One’s home release offers both pros and cons to note, beginning with the series’ very writing.  It will be discussed shortly.  The set’s bonus content is its own positive, and will be discussed a little later.  The set’s average price point is also important to discuss, and will be addressed later.  Each item noted here is important in its own right to the whole of the season’s presentation.  All things considered, the debut season of Star Trek: Discovery proves to be a new start for the Star Trek universe that is worth at least one watch, but sadly not much more.

The debut season of CBS All Access’ new Star Trek offering, Star Trek: Discovery is a rough new start for the Star Trek universe’s latest offering.  It is not the franchise’s worst entry, but definitely is not the franchise’s best entry, either.  That is due in part to the writing, which like Paramount’s 2009 big screen Star Trek reboot, is little more than just another revisiting of the Star Trek universe’s past.  It takes audiences into the past, attempting to show what led to the never-ending tensions between the Federation and the Klingon Empire.  The result is a presentation that conjures thoughts more of SyFy Channel’s most recent Battlestar Galactica reboot than any Star Trek entry, either on the big or small screen.  This is just the beginning of the problems with the writing, because the set-off is actually somewhat ambiguous.  Were the Klingons already planning to rise up before the incident with Michael Bernham and the Klingon warrior, or did it only happen after that incident?  Audiences know that said incident played at least in part to the conflict, but because of the dialogue featured throughout the early episodes of Season One, audiences will be left scratching their heads to a point as to that setup.

As season one progresses, it resurrects some ST story elements that are all too familiar to longtime ST fans.  One of those elements is a time loop arc. Another is the alternate universe story arc.  The time loop has been done already in Star Trek: The Next Generation while the alternate universe arc was used in Star Trek: TOS.  This series’ writers try to freshen up the time loop arc by setting it off through a character that fans of TOS will recognize, and while it does work to a point, the story starts to plod along after a while, getting lost in itself along the way.  The alternate universe arc proves even more problematic not only because it’s already been done, but also because it creates its own share of plot holes.  Not to give away too much for the sake of those who haven’t yet seen Season One, but if the alternate universe has the evil twins of the Discovery “prime” universe – the term “prime” is actually used by Berham in this arc – then where is the “good” twin of Capt. Lorca and the “evil” twin of Bernham?  Bernham’s doppelganger is mentioned by the “evil” Phillipa, but the writers never address where she is in a bigger sense.  Nor is it mentioned where the “good” Capt. Lorca is or if there even is a “good Capt. Lorca.  The writers try to explain it away in an early scene in the arc between Discovery’s Bernham and Lorca, but it is still ultimately left up in the air.  Even Paul Stamets’ double is introduced as he sits in a coma.  This is its own problem as one can’t help but make comparison to so many soap operas, as every major soap opera has done the coma “dream sequence” way too many times.  Getting back on track, even as Discovery gets back to its own universe, the whereabouts of the “evil” Discovery ship is not addressed, either.  Where is it?  Did it go back to its universe when Discovery jumped back to its universe?  Again, here audiences have a plot hole that is left wide open even as the writers struggle to address the situation in the story arc’s finale.

Another plot hole that is left wide open involves Bernham’s adoptive father, (who also proves to be the father of another even more well-known Star Trek character) Sarek.  Again, not to give away too much, but Sarek is rescued after his ship is sabotaged (in a moment that makes one think of something from Iron Man 3), but after his rescue, his character is ignored until the season’s final two episodes.  Audiences don’t hear from him after Bernham leaves him laying in sick bay, recovering from his wounds.  Next time he’s seen, he’s in full health.  This is problematic as it doesn’t take long after that instance for the problems to start again for Discovery.  Was Sarek still on the ship at that point?  When did he leave the ship?  Again, this is a plot hole that simply cannot be ignored.  It proves the writing that much more problematic.  This still is not the last of the issues raised through an examination of the writing.  The introduction of Lt. Tyler creates its own issue.

The introduction of Lt. Tyler is a direct comparison to Battlestar Galactica.  This critic will attempt to not give away too much information here, but the revelation about who and what Tyler is makes that comparison far too easy.  The recent reboot of Battlestar Galactica saw the Cylons infiltrate the humans’ ranks by making them look like the humans.  This in itself was a lifting from Terminator 2 (if not other previous movies and TV shows).  What the writers did here with Tyler is very similar, but instead of making him a robot, they made him something else.  Audiences who have yet to see this season will be left to make that discovery themselves, but it goes without saying that it has been done before.  In this case, it is the same thing, just altered slightly and in more gory fashion.

As if the general story elements, the plot holes and that they create, and the rehashing of another element are not enough, the smaller items of the writing prove just as problematic for this presentation.  There is lots of overt bloodshed, gore, sexual content and foul language.  Given, maybe her and there, there has been some mildly suggestive material in previous Star Trek incarnations, but never was it to the point that it is here.  There are flashes of a sex scene between one of the lead Klingon characters and another character late in the season’s run.  There is also enough bloodshed and overt violence to appease the most bloodthirsty person.  It’s a disappointment because none of the Star Trek universe’s other series’ needed any of that in order to be even mildly entertaining.  So, why did the writers think it was needed here?  Have audiences really become that dependent on violence and sexuality?  If so, then that is in itself is a troubling statement.

While the writing exhibited in the debut season of Star Trek: Discovery does a lot to detract from its presentation, the set is not a total loss.  That is thanks to the bonus content featured throughout the set.  Throughout the set, audiences are treated to featurettes, which focus on the series’ sets, costumes, makeup and even the philosophical aspects of the storylines as well as other items.  The discussions on the stories’ deeper ruminations are interesting, and do create at least a little bit of appreciation for the work that the writers put in.  After all, this is not the only Star Trek entry that has striverd to use its stories to create dialogues on certain deep topics.  However, it sadly is not enough to make up for the bigger problems posed through the writing.  The discussions on the sets and costumes make for fun glances behind the cameras,  Audiences will be interested to see how the costume and makeup departments used modern 3D printing technology alongside more traditional methodology to create the look of the Klingons.  In the same vein, the thought and effort put into the sets is just as interesting.  This feature will appeal just as much to theater production specialists as it will to general audiences.

As the season comes to an end, audiences are treated to another, different type of feature in the season retrospective, “The Journey of Season 1.”  This roughly 20-minute featurette features discussions from the show’s cast and creative heads about their favorite episodes and the importance of those episodes to the season’s overall presentation.  This brings everything full circle in regards to the bonuses.  It brings back those discussions on the season’s philosophical elements while also letting more people offer their own perspective on those themes.  Of course it is just one more of the bonus features worth watching.  The bonuses, including deleted scenes (at least one of which gives a hint about Season 2), are spread throughout the season’s discs.  This is important in that it shows Paramount and CBS Television Studios did not try to just cram a bunch of random featuerettes onto the last disc, unlike what so many other studios do.  It shows the companies wanted to give audiences the biggest bang for their buck.  They succeeded at that, too.

Speaking of bang for the buck, the set’s average price point is respectable.  The average price point for the season’s Blu-ray presentation – using prices listed at Walmart, Target, Best Buy, Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Books-A-Million – comes to $39.86.  In other words it comes in at just under $40.  The DVD set’s average price – using those same outlets – comes to $32.14.  Both sets feature the same bonus content and the same episodes.  There is no real difference between the two platforms in terms of content.  Considering this, the pricing here is on part with other DVD and Blu-ray sets for other TV series, so there is that to appreciate.  Considering the entertainment that the bonus material (and to a slightly lesser degree, the primary content) offers, that makes both platforms’ average pricing respectable.  When this is considered alongside the noted bonus and primary content, the whole of Discovery: Season One proves worth at least one watch, but sadly, no more.

CBS All Access’ latest journey into the Star Trek universe, Star Trek: DiscoverySeason 1 is a presentation that is nothing like its predecessors.  More akin to Syfy’s most recent Battlestar Galactica reboot and Disney’s most recent Star Wars movies, this latest revisiting of the Star Trek universe history’s past (it has already been done in 2009 with Paramount’s big screen Star Trek reboot) suffers severely from writing problems, such as lagging story arcs that are often times overflowing with plot holes and general lack of creativity.  Additionally, the overall cinematic nature of the season, and the knowledge that the series is a serial (unlike its predecessors) makes this season feel more like one big movie than a general TV series.  Some people will like it, but others – like this critic – will very much dislike these aspects.  The bonus content spread across the set’s discs does at least a little bit to make up for the problems posed by the writing.  The average price point for the set’s separate DVD and Blu-ray platforms lets audiences know that their money spent was not entirely wasted.  Despite that affordable price point and the positives in the bonus material, the problems posed by the writing are just too much to overcome.  In general, the positives of the pricing and secondary content makes this set worth at least one watch, but sadly no more than that.  Star Trek: DiscoverySeason 1 is available now in stores and online.  More information on Star Trek: Discovery is available online now at:

 

 

 

Website: http://www.cbs.com/shows/star-trek-discovery

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/StarTrekCBS

Twitter: http://twitter.com/cbs

 

 

 

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PBS, Smithsonian Channel Partner To Release New ‘Star Trek’ Documentary

Courtesy: PBS Distribution/PBS/Smithsonian Channel

Courtesy: PBS Distribution/PBS/Smithsonian Channel

Star Trek is one of the most iconic and influential programs in the modern history of television.  It has been argued (and successfully so) many times that if not for that series, much of the technology that we have today might not exist.  It is because of that series that people were influenced to try to make science fiction into science fact.  Earlier this summer Smithsonian Channel presented a documentary feature centered on that subject in the form of Building Star Trek.  Now audiences everywhere will get to own the program for themselves thanks to PBS Distribution.

PBS Distribution will release Building Star Trek on November 1st. The documentary runs 92-minutes.  It follows a team of conservators from the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, led by Dr. Margaret Weitekamp, as they strive to restore and conserve the original U.S.S. Enterprise model used in the recording of Star Trek: The Original Series. The model stands 11-feet and weighs 250 pounds.

Also featured in the documentary is Brooks Peck, curator of Seattle’s EMP Museum. The program follows Peck as he attempts to rebuild a model of the bridge from the original Enterprise by using original pieces of the show’s set and props.

Along the way discussions on the series’ influence on the real world are shared through discussions with the likes of Star Trek TOS star Nichelle Nichols and stars of the new Star Trek movies Simon Pegg and Karl Urban.

Building Star Trek will be released Tuesday, Nov. 1.  It will be available exclusively on DVD and will retail for MSRP of $19.99.  It can be pre-ordered online now at a discounted price of $14.99 via PBS’ online store.  More information on this and other titles from Smithsonian Channel is available online now at:

 

 

 

Website: http://www.smithsonianchannel.com

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/SmithsonianChannel

Twitter: http://twitter.com/SmithsonianChan

 

 

 

More information on this and other titles from PBS is available online at:

 

 

Website: http://www.pbs.org

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/pbs

Twitter: http://twitter.com/pbs

 

 

 

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Star Trek: TOS DVD Set Is One Of 2015’s Best New Re-Issues

Courtesy:  CBS DVD/Paramount Studios Home Entertainment

Courtesy: CBS DVD/Paramount Studios Home Entertainment

As 2015 begins to wind down, most people are beginning to turn their thoughts to 2016. For those that might not have known, 2016 is a big year in the history of television. That is because it will mark the fiftieth anniversary of one of television’s most iconic series. The series in question is none other than Star Trek: The Original Series. While its original run on NBC lasted only three seasons, it has proven in the years since to be one of television’s most beloved and important series. Since it ended its run in 1969, no fewer than four other series have come and gone along with a number of big screen features and box sets containing each series. This includes box sets containing all three of the original series’ seasons. The original series has been released in its own standalone sets on both DVD and Blu-ray and a full series set on Blu-ray. Interestingly enough for all of its various releases Star Trek: The Original Series has never gotten a full series run on DVD. That is until now. Paramount Studios Home Entertainment released Star Trek: The Original Series–The Complete Series on DVD for the first time ever on Tuesday, November 3rd. In examining this first-time release it can be said that there is so much to say to its benefit that it is one of the best of this year’s new box sets for grownups if not the year’s best. The main reason for that is the very presentation of the episodes in their setting here. That will be discussed in more depth shortly. Moving on, another reason that the box set proves so enjoyable is its bonus material. There are trailers, commentaries, retrospectives and so much more added to the set from its first disc to its last (for the record, the series’ seventy-nine episodes and bonus material are spread across a total of twenty-fix discs in this box set) for more than seven hours of extra entertainment and insight for audiences. Last but hardly least worth noting in this brand news DVD box set’s positives is the combined work of the series’ writers and cast. The adventures crafted by the series’ writers were (and are) more than enough reason in themselves for any fan to purchase this box set. The cast’s interpretation of the episodes’ scripts rounds out the presentation of Star Trek: The Original Series–The Complete Series. Each element in and of itself plays its ow important part in the overal presentation of Star trek’s new full series run on DVD. Together they make Star Trek: The Original Series–The Complete Series a must have for almost any Star Trek fan and one of the best of this year’s new box sets for grownups.

Star Trek: The Original Series–The Complete Series is one of the best of this year’s new box sets for grownups. It is a collection that those without any of the series’ previous releases on DVD and Blu-ray will especially appreciate. That is thanks in large part to its very presentation. All three seasons of Star Trek: TOS (as it will be referred to from here on out) have been previously released in their own standalone season sets both on DVD and Blu-ray. The series has even received its own full-series set on Blu-ray as recently as 2009. For all of these releases, the groundbreaking sci-fi series has never received a full series release on DVD until now. All seventy-nine of the series’ original episodes are included in this set. The twenty-five disc (yes, twenty-five discs) is just as impressive because of its price. It retails between forty and forty-five dollars. Considering the ratio of the number of episodes to discs and the amount of bonus material that is actually not that bad of a price. That is especially the case considering that the show’s full series Blu-ray box set retails for nearly double that depending on the retailer. It proves the DVD box set to be relatively affordable. What’s more, the episodes look and sound quite impressive from one to the next. It is even obvious where the episodes have in fact been re-mastered just as is advertised on the set’s outer box. That is even discussed in one of the set’s bonus features, which will be discussed later. Getting back on the subject at hand, the only major downside to the overall presentation of the series here lies in its packaging. Unlike most multi-disc sets released today, the discs are packaged in what would now be considered something of an unconventional fashion. They are placed two to a side on each of the set’s plastic inserts with the discs overlapping one another. This is not the best idea when it comes to packaging. But considering that the set is spread across twenty-five total discs, it is something of a necessary evil. Had the discs been placed one to a side as is the case with most multi-disc sets, it would have potentially taken up twice the space and required even more space for the discs. To that extent Paramount’s home entertainment division can be forgiven for the set’s packaging. All things considered here Star Trek: TOS–The Complete Series‘ packaging proves that while it is not perfect, it is still be a solid positive to the set’s overall presentation. The presentation of its episodes on the other hand is wholly positive. The end result of both elements together creates a presentation that every Star Trek fan will appreciate.

The packaging of Star Trek TOS–The Complete Series, while not perfect, is a necessary evil. It allows all twenty-five of the set’s discs to be housed in a single box rather than forcing them to be spread across multiple boxes. The presentation of the episodes across each of those discs is in itself quite impressive to say the least. Together they make up just one part of what makes Star Trek: TOS–The Complete Series an impressive new release for this classic series. The bonus material included throughout each of the series’ twenty-five discs adds even more enjoyment to the series in whole. There is an ongoing series of featurettes titled “To Boldly Go” that spans all three seasons. This series of featurettes examines the series and its impact on both television and American culture in whole. If that isn’t enough for audiences, Season One includes a bonus featurette titled “Spacelift: Transporting Trek Into The 21st Century.” This leading bonus examines the work that went into re-mastering the series in terms of its special effects. Those special effects include the look of the Enterprise against different planets, interior shots of the Enterprise, and other elements including the work done to re-master the Enterprise for the special inclusion of the Star Trek: DSN episode “Trials and Tribble-ations.” Speaking of that episode, it is included, too, in whole as a companion piece to the famed TOS episode “The Trouble With Tribbles.” There is even a complete episode of Star Trek: The Animated Series titled “More Tribbles, More Troubles” included as its own companion bonus to the TOS episode. There’s also a bonus in which the cast of TOS discusses the many romances that took place throughout TOS. This includes not only Captain Kirk’s own various romances but those enjoyed by other members of the cast including a rumored romance between Spock and Uhura. And even that bonus isn’t the end of the set’s extensive bonus material. There are discussions by the cast on a number of different topics throughout the set that will entertain audiences for hours if not days. That vast collection of bonuses set against the presentation of the series’ episodes here and its packaging makes Star Trek: TOS–The Original Series that much more entertaining for audiences and that much more of a must have for any Star Trek fan.

The bonus material included in Paramount and CBS DVD’s new re-issue of Star Trek: TOS–The Complete Series couples with the presentation of the series’ episodes and its packaging to make it one of the best of this year’s crop of new re-issues. As important as all of the noted elements are to the whole of this massive box set, they are not the set’s only important elements. The cast’s interpretation of the scripts rounds out the whole of this presentation. William Shatner has been spoofed countless times over ever since Star Trek: TOS went off the air for his portrayal of Captain Kirk. Yet for all of the jabs that have been taken at him over the years, there is no denying his work on camera. No, there will be no dumb puns here. The fact of the matter is that Shatner was (and is even today)wholly believable as the head of the Federation’s flagship starship. Sure, he gets a little cheesy in his interactions with all his various female co-stars. But in general his firmness as he leads the crew through some very tough situations makes suspension of disbelief quite easy. Leonard Nimoy and DeForest Kelley are both just as impressive as Spock and Bones respectively. Whether on their own or together with one another (and with Shatner) both men hold their own throughout every episode. From handling serious moments to more light-hearted, comical moments all three men are a joy to watch. That is not to ignore any of the show’s other main cast members either. Nichelle Nicols, James Doohan, Walter Koenig, and George Takei are equally enjoyable to watch when they get their time in the spotlight. Whether for their work, for that of the series’ main cast, or any of the supporting and guest cast, it can be said that the work of the series’ cast plays its own important part in the whole of Star Trek: TOS. Together with the work of the show’s writers and the overall presentation of the episodes in this new DVD box set, all the noted elements make this collection a must have for any Star Trek fan. Those elements coupled with the set’s packaging and companion bonus material, the set in whole proves to be one of the best of this year’s crop of new re-issues.

Paramount and CBS DVD’s new DVD presentation of Star Trek: TOS–The Complete Series is one of the best of this year’s new re-issues. Its episodes look just as impressive today as they did in their original run on television. In some cases they even look better thanks to the work of those that re-mastered the series for its presentation here. The writing and acting that went into each of the series’ nearly eighty episodes make the set in whole even more of an enjoyable presentation. The set’s packaging, while a necessary evil, partners with its bonus material and those already noted elements to make Star Trek: TOS–The Complete Series a must have for any Star Trek fan that does not already own the series’ Blu-ray box set. Not only that but they combine to make Star Trek: TOS–The Complete Series one of the best of this year’s crop of new re-issues, if not the best. It is available now in stores and online. It can be ordered online now via Amazon at http://www.amazon.com/Star-Trek-Original-Leonard-Nimoy/dp/B013Q1BVIE/ref=sr_1_1?s=movies-tv&ie=UTF8&qid=1448647397&sr=1-1&keywords=star+trek+the+original+series.  More information on this and other Star Trek DVDs and Blu-rays is available online now along with all of the latest Star Trek news at:

Website:  http://www.StarTrek.com

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/StarTrek

Twitter: http://twitter.com/StarTrek 

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Automan: The Complete Series Will Be An Automatic Hit With True Sci-Fi Fans

Courtesy:  Shout! Factory/Fabulous Films

Courtesy: Shout! Factory/Fabulous Films

Science fiction has a very rich history in television’s annals. Looking back through the medium’s rich history, it is easy to find any number of series that have left their mark on that history. Those series include the likes of Lost in Space, Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, Star Trek, and so many others. While there are plenty of important, influential sci-fi series that have come and gone over the decades, there are just as many that sadly have come and gone without so much as a glance. Some of those series deserved to be cut short. Others, such as ABC’s short-lived series Automan, never really got the chance that they rightly deserved for one reason or another. Automan never really got a fighting chance because at the time of its original broadcast (1983 – 1984) there was little to nothing on television like it at the time. This includes other sci-fi series. It was at its core a series about an artificial intelligence that was also something of a superhero. On another level, it was also a buddy comedy of sorts. It only lasted for a total of thirteen episodes, though only twelve of those thirteen episodes ever actually made it to air. That is until recently. Thanks to the people at Shout! Factory and Fabulous Films, Automan has finally been given a new life in the four-disc DVD box set Automan: The Complete Series. Whether or not audiences are familiar with the short-lived series, they will agree in watching it that it was a series well ahead of its time and that this new box set is a welcome return for the series. The show’s writing (including its stories, character development, and dialogue) shows this. The work of the show’s cast is just as important to note of its overall presentation. Last but hardly least of note that makes this set worth the watch among sci-fi fans is its bonus material. All three elements are equally important to the whole of Automan: The Complete Series’ presentation. Altogether they make this series set one that every sci-fi fan will want to see and should see at least once if not more.

Automan is one of the most underrated and under-appreciated sci-fi series in the genre’s rich history on television. It only lasted a total of twelve episodes in its run from December 1983 to April 1984. Looking at other series (including other sci-fi series) on television at the time, there was little if anything like it on television at the time. So it is safe to say that it was ahead of its time. That is likely why it was cut short in its initial run. Thanks to Shout! Factory and Fabulous Films, though it has now been introduced to a whole new generation of audiences in the new box set Automan: The Complete Series. And those audiences that give this series a chance will find that there is plenty to like about it beginning with its writing. The writing behind Automan is the core of its presentation. This includes not only the stories that were crafted for the series but also the show’s dialogue and it character development. The episodes are, in all fairness, standard fare. The series premiere sees Walter and Automan globe hopping to stop an international crime ring and solve a kidnapping case in the process. Later in the series’ run Walter and Automan have to clear one of Walter’s partners in “Flashes and Ashes.” There is also a murder mystery to be solved in “Murder, Take One” when a former movie star is suspected of killing a gossip columnist. A crooked studio head is involved in the mystery, too. There’s even a standard story in which Walter and Automan have to stop a counterfeiter in “The Great Pretender.” These are just a few of the episodes that are featured through the course of the series. While they are standard fare that doesn’t take anything away from any of them or those not noted here. As a matter of fact the execution of each episode will keep viewers of any age fully engaged. There’s just a certain camp about the writing that is entirely 80s. And it makes each episode so fun. It’s just one aspect of the show’s writing that makes the writing stand out, too. The dialogue that is incorporated into each of the series’ episodes is just as worth noting as the stories.

The stories that were crafted for Automan are in themselves a collective prime example of the importance of the series’ writing. While the stories are by and large standard fare, there is still a certain campiness about the stories that makes them and their execution engaging and entertaining all at once. As important of an element as that is within the bigger picture of the series’ writing, it is just one part of the writing that makes the writing in whole so important to the series. The dialogue that is incorporated into each episode is just as important to note as the stories themselves. That is especially the case with Walter and Automan. Automan’s innocent defiance of Walter even as an artificial intelligence makes for plenty of laughs throughout the series. He happily declares in one episode that Walter is basically level-headed and would understand him going out even thought he was told to not go out. It’s not the only time that he makes such a declaration either. Walter’s surprised reactions to Automan’s abilities early on are even more example of the dialogue’s place in the show’s writing. Perhaps most interesting of the dialogue that is used in this show is that for all of his superhuman abilities and knowledge the writers never have him use any of the standard, pompous lines that were far too common among action heroes on TV and film in that era. Rather, he comes across more like Data, from Star Trek: The Next Generation with his constant curiosity and straight forward demeanor. It is just one more way in which the show’s dialogue proves to be just as important to the show’s writing as the stories themselves. And it is not the last example of the writing’s importance. The character development within the series is just as important to note as the stories and the show’s dialogue.

The stories that were crafted for Automan and the show’s dialogue are both important parts of the show’s writing in their own way. As important as both elements are to the whole of the writing they are only part of what makes the writing so important to the series. The character development within the series is just as important as the writing and dialogue. Audiences will note that as the series progresses, Walter actually becomes more welcoming of Automan taking part in the cases that he is working. There is also a growing friendship between the pair that becomes increasingly obvious in each episode. It starts off as an odd couple friendship. But then grows to become a real friendship that is centered not only on their pair’s drive to solve crimes but in their own differences. Audiences will love seeing Walter play both the straight man and the comic relief in one while Automan is the innocent yet still confident figure. The juxtaposition of the two totally different personality types makes for plenty of entertainment in each episode. Together with the dialogue incorporated into the show and the work put into crafting each episode’s story the character development within each script rounds out the ways in which the series’ writing displays its importance to the whole of the show. Of course the writing behind Automan is just one part of what makes the series well worth the watch by any sci-fi fan in its new DVD release. The work of the show’s cast is just as important to the show as its writing.

The writing that went into Automan clearly shows in each of its separate elements exactly why it is so important to the show. From each episode’s story to the dialogue within each episode to the very development of the characters (specifically Walter and Automan) the writing proves quite integral to the series. Of course the work of the show’s cast in interpreting the writers’ scripts is just as important to the series as the writing itself. Both Desi Arnaz, Jr. and co-star Chuck Wagner impress in their interpretations of the show’s scripts. Being a superhuman figure of sorts, it would have been so easy for Wagner to put on more of an air of superiority to Arnaz’s Walter. Yet he doesn’t go that route at any point. Rather, he takes the knowledge of Automan’s superiority and instead gives him a sense of humility and almost alien interest in everything. Yet he does still maintain a certain sense of confidence throughout each episode. That mix of confidence and innocent curiosity about the human world makes Wagner’s portrayal perfect with each episode. And when set against Arnaz the two make a pair that is so sorely missing from today’s television offerings. Speaking of Arnaz, he is just as entertaining as Walter Nebicher. His portrayal of the high-strung cop makes for plenty of laughs especially as Walter tries to keep Automan’s identity secret in so many different situations. That nervous energy set against Automan’s cooler, more collected demeanor is a wonderful juxtaposition of personalities. That applies both as the duo tries to solve the given cases and even when just the two are together on screen in general scenes. Taking all of this into consideration it can be said even more so that Arnaz and Wagner’s work in interpreting the series’ scripts is just as important to its presentation as the scripts. OF course even that is still not the do all end all for this first-time release. The bonus material that is included within the box set rounds out the box’s presentation.

The writing and acting behind Automan collectively does quite a bit in showing why this classic sci-fi action series was so far ahead of its time in its original run. As important as both elements are to the show, they are not all that makes it worth the watch in its new DVD box set release. The bonus material that is included in the set is just as important to its presentation as those noted elements. The standard cast and crew bios are there as are other little extras. At the heart of the bonus content is the near hour-long documentary “Calling Automan – The Auto Feature.” Audiences learn through the forty-two minute documentary plenty of interesting tidbits about the series. Most notably audiences learn that it might not have been ratings that doomed the show but the costs to produce the show. There is also an interesting little piece about star Chuck Wagner’s professional training in musical comedy and its influence in some of the bits incorporated into the show. And Wagner even admits that in auditioning for the part of Automan, he was worried he wouldn’t get it because of the other men auditioning for the role. Wagner explains how the look of the other candidates made him wonder if he had a chance at the role. As if that isn’t enough for audiences, Wagner and Arnaz jokingly discuss the car that Automan used in the show and how little the pair actually used it because it was such an exotic car. The duo reveals that most of the car scenes were actually shot with the pair in a scaled up model of the car’s interior on a sound stage. These are just a few of the items covered in “Calling Automan – The Auto Feature.” There is far more for audiences to discover for themselves over the course of the behind-the-scenes featurette. Those other extras combined with everything noted here shows in whole why “Calling Automan – The Auto Feature” is so important to the whole of Automan: The Complete Series. Those revelations add even more depth to the stories presented in each of the series’ episodes and to the show’s writing in whole. It adds just as much appreciation for the work of the series’ cast, too. All things considered Automan: The Complete Series’ shows in whole to be one of the most surprisingly enjoyable sci-fi series sets to be released this year. It proves to be one that actually deserves a reboot and unless or until that happens, one that every sci-fi fan should have in his or her own home DVD library.

Automan: The Complete Series is one of the most surprisingly enjoyable box sets for grown-ups to be released this year. The thirteen-episode series is one that even being more than three decades old is still one that every sci-fi fan should have in his or her own home DVD library. That is evident in large part to its in-depth writing. In watching the series’ thirteen total episodes, it is obvious that a lot of work and attention was put into each of the series’ scripts. That is just one part of what makes this box set so interesting. The work of the show’s main stars works in conjunction with the writing to make the series that much more enjoyable for every sci-fi fan. The bonus behind-the-scenes documentary “Calling Automan – The Auto Feature” rounds out the box set’s presentation. The revelations discussed within the course of the documentary’s near hour-long run time bring everything full circle and make for even more appreciation for this short-lived and under appreciated classic sci-fi series. That appreciation will leave audiences agreeing that Automan: The Complete Series is a must have for every sci-fi fan. It is available now in stores and online. It can be ordered direct via Shout! Factory’s online store at https://www.shoutfactory.com/tv/tv-sci-fi/automan-the-complete-series. More information on this and other titles from Shout! Factory and Fabulous Films is available online now at:

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Captain Kirk’s Boldest Missions Are Also Some Of The Original Series’ Greatest Episodes

Courtesy:  CBS DVD/Paramount

Courtesy: CBS DVD/Paramount

When NBC first brought Star Trek to the airwaves in 1966, it was not the only sci-fi series to come to audiences at the time.  The Twilight Zone ran on CBS from 1959 – 1964.  ABC responded in 1963 with The Outer Limits.  From 1964 to 1968, ABC took audiences beneath the waves in Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, which itself stemmed from the 1961 big screen feature of the same name.  CBS also had Lost in Space from 1965 – ’68 and My Favorite Martian from 1963’66.  From 1967 – ’68, ABC also ran The Invaders.  Looking at all of this, it goes without saying that Gene Roddenberry’s series had its fair share of competition in its original run on television.  And interestingly enough, it actually ran for about the same amount of time—three seasons—as those other series.  In some cases, it ran longer than its competition.  Yet having only run three seasons it has gone on to become the most successful of all of the franchises that came before and after.  From the time of its original broadcast on NBC, Star Trek has gone on to spawn no fewer than six big screen features, five more series, four more movies linked to one of those series, and countless video games, books and box sets.  The latest of those box sets—Star Trek: The Original SeriesCaptain Kirk’s Boldest Missions—was just released this past March.  More specifically, it was released March 17th.  Regardless of audiences’ familiarity or loyalty to Star Trek: TOS, this latest collection of episodes proves itself a worthwhile addition to any fan’s Star Trek collection.  The main way in which it proves itself a worthwhile addition to any fan’s collection is through the episodes culled for the collection.  From playing a game of cat and mouse in “The Corbomite Maneuver” and “Balance of Terror” to facing off against a device that could destroy entire worlds, Kirk and company face some huge odds in the episodes collected for the set.  And these are just a few examples of what fans have to expect from this set.  There is much more for audiences to enjoy from these and the set’s other episodes in whole, proving why the episodes collected for the set are the foundation of its enjoyment.  The bonus commentary included with the set adds even more enjoyment to the set even as limited as it proves to be.  It is one more reason that audiences should check out Captain Kirk’s Boldest Missions.  Last but not least worth noting of this collection is its collective production values.  The episodes presented here look and sound just as impressive as in their previous DVD and Blu-ray releases with the other episodes from the series’ full season sets.  That means that all eight episodes prove just as enjoyable to watch here as in the series’ full-season sets.  And it solidifies Captain Kirk’s Boldest Missions as quite the bold outing itself.  It is a collection that Star Trek fans of all ages should have in their collection regardless of whether they already own the previously released stand-alone full season sets or not.

Star Trek: The Original SeriesCaptain Kirk’s Boldest Missions is obviously not the first collection of classic Star Trek episodes to have been released since the series first hit the airwaves in 1966.  It is however a great addition to any Star Trek fan’s personal collection regardless of their familiarity or loyalty to the series.  It holds its own quite well against all of the other TOS collections that have come before (including the stand-alone full-season sets).  The main way in which it holds its own so well is through its featured episodes.  It features eight total episodes spread across two discs.  The episodes culled for this set are not just some of Captain Kirk’s boldest missions but also some of the most memorable episodes of the series’ overall.  Disc one sees Kirk and company playing a high stakes game of cat and mouse in “The Corbomite Maneuver” and “Balance of Terror.”  They also come face to face with Khan for the first time in “Space Seed.”  “The Conscience of the King” features an interstellar murder mystery of sorts.  Disc Two presents just as much entertainment for audiences.  It offers up two alternate timeline/universe stories in the form of “The City on the Edge of Forever” and “Mirror.”  Both stories are classic alternate universe stories in their own right, too.  “Mirror Mirror’s” alternate story sees Kirk thrust into a universe in which the crew of the Enterprise is anything but honorable.  “The City on the Edge of Forever” sends Kirk and company back in time to an Earth that is ruled by the Nazi party.  And it’s up to them to change that.  “The Doomsday Machine” is just as gripping and thought provoking.  That is because the machine in question was a humanly created machine meant solely for warfare.  And it has gone rogue so to speak.  Now it’s yet again up to Kirk to lead his crew and stop the machine before it destroys the Enterprise.  “Return To Tomorrow” offers its own interest as it raises the question of whether or not beings from other worlds visited Earth eons ago. The manner in which the show’s writers raised this discussion is itself short. But it definitely opens up the door for that discussion. And it’s just another way in which the episodes featured in Captain Kirk’s Boldest Missions prove themselves the most important part of the set’s enjoyment.

The episodes collected for Kirk’s Boldest Missions each offer audiences their own share of enjoyment, showing from one to the next why they sit at the center of this set’s enjoyment. As enjoyable as each episode proves itself to be, the episodes can only go so far on their own merits. Luckily for fans, there is additional commentary included with the set, too. Of course it is limited. There is no commentary within the episodes per se. But there is still commentary included on both discs. The most extensive commentary precedes “The City on The Edge of Forever.” William Shatner and co-star Joan Collins (who guest stars on the episode in question) discuss the importance of the episode and the implications of World War II’s outcome. It drives home the importance of what the Allied Forces accomplished in stopping Hitler’s Nazi regime. Didn’t think that sci-fi could be so deep? It most certainly can be. And as in this episode, it most certainly is deeper than many people think. Speaking of that depth, Shatner offers even more depth in the bonus commentary included in the set’s first disc as he discusses the importance of the captain keeping a log on Star Trek and how that mirrors a person keeping a personal journal in real life. He also relates the characteristics of a good captain to a good leader in real life, and the legacy left behind by Captain Kirk. Yet again, he makes a real world comparison to the legacy that people leave in their own lives. These discussions continue the depth presented in the one episodic commentary included in the set’s second disc. All of the commentaries combined, they offer their own insight and entertainment for audiences. Those commentaries added to the episodes prove even stronger why Kirk’s Boldest Missions is a great addition to any Star Trek fan’s collection even if said fan(s) already own the series’ stand-alone season sets.

The bonus commentary and episodes featured at the center of Captain Kirk’s Boldest Missions collectively give Star Trek fans plenty of reason to add the compilation to their own DVD libraries. Having noted both elements, there is still one more element to note to its positive. That last element is the look and sound of the episodes, or its overall production values. The episodes culled for Captain Kirk’s Boldest Missions look and sound just as good as they do alongside the series’ other episodes in its previously released stand-alone season sets. As lacking as this seems in terms of importance to the whole, it is actually rather important. There are some companies out there that try to churn out compilations such as this one for other series without trying at all to make them look or sound even presentable. Those companies will remain nameless here. But they do exist. Luckily for fans, those at Paramount and CBS Video have made certain to make these episodes look and sound their best once more for fans regardless of whether or not fans already own the series’ standalone sets. Because the episodes sound and look as good as they do, they make for all the reason for fans to watch the episodes and commentary and add this set to their personal Star Trek collections.

Star Trek: The Original SeriesCaptain Kirk’s Boldest Missions offers the series’ fans plenty of reason to add this collection to their own personal DVD libraries. It offers audiences eight episodes that are not only some of Captain Kirk’s greatest (and boldest) missions, but eight episodes that are also fan favorites. On top of that, it also includes some rather in-depth commentary form Captain Kirk himself. Topping of the ways in which this set proves itself worthy of Star Trek fans around the world is its collective production values. The episodes presented here look and sound just as good as in their previous presentations. All three elements combined together prove this double-disc set one that every Star Trek fan of every age will appreciate with every watch and should have in their own home DVD collection. It is available now in stores and online. It can be ordered online direct from CBS Home Entertainment at http://cbshe.com/STKirk. More information on this and other titles available from CBS Home Entertainment is available online now at:

 

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