EAS Today Archive
25th Anniversary of EAS
The world of Star Trek was a very different one in the mid-1990's, a full generation of fans ago. I will always remember this as the one and only Golden Age, although after the end of TNG "only" two series, DS9 and Voyager, were on the air at the same time. I had to wait for the episodes at least half a year until they were released on VHS, but it didn't feel like I was left behind. It was a great time to be a Trek fan, especially if you were a nerd. The emerging internet was populated by tech-savvy people like me, who were sitting in front of bulky CRT monitors and were more or less patiently waiting for their downloads to complete. I personally had the advantage of a much faster connection at my university, but generally video streaming and most of the bandwidth-consuming pastimes of today were still a dream in the age of the 28.8 kBit/s modem. Every byte of data we could obtain was somehow precious. Smartphones or social networks would not exist until a decade later. Yet, information on Star Trek was relatively easy to come by if Altavista was your friend. While the studio and the network still mostly relied on traditional communication channels, plenty of fan websites provided pictures, episode reviews, production news and links to other sites. Star Trek in Sound and Vision, Sector 0-0-1, The STArchive, Maximum Defiant, Star Trek: The Next Generation and Mr. Video Productions were among my early favorites.
Following the previews and the speculation on the upcoming feature film "Star Trek: First Contact" and particularly the evolution of the Enterprise-E design in 1996 was my probably most impactful early internet experience. My real-life friends and I used to look up the news almost every day. This arguably fueled our anticipation of a new movie like never before and never again. Then "First Contact" was released, and we loved it! And that was just the start of the madness. It may be hard to believe in the digital age, but after purchasing the VHS cassette, my friend Thorsten and I knelt in front of TV, freeze-framed the movie and tried to sketch up the new ships with pencil and paper. After discussing the ship classes from "First Contact" and other technical issues with other fans in newsgroups and forums, some time in 1997 I felt like sharing my Trek knowledge and creating my own site. Incidentally, I had just started a job as a research assistant in the field of microelectronics. I argued that our university institute shouldn't be the last one without a website, and so my professor assigned the task to me. I began to learn a bit of HTML, or rather how to use the WYSIWYG editor Microsoft Frontpage, so I could kill two birds with one stone.
On 21 January 1998, I uploaded an effectively nameless site "Star Trek - by Bernd Schneider" to the university server - actually to an obscure sub-directory of the new institute website so it wouldn't raise too much unwanted attention. This initial version of the site consisted of pictures of six starships designed by me, a review of the Enterprise-E model (which I had bought in the NASM shop on a trip to an electronic devices conference in Washington D.C.), an outline of my later time travel analysis, a short list of inconsistencies (not even including the Klingon foreheads) and a few jokes. There were 43 files with a total size of 314 kilobytes.
Read the rest of the story: 25th Anniversary of EAS.
Strange New Worlds Half-Time Review
Strange New Worlds, the fifth Star Trek series since 2017, premiered a couple of weeks ago. As already announced, I have decided against joining the rat race. I will take care of the episode reviews at a later date. But here is a brief half-time assessment of SNW.
The series is clearly much better received in the fan community than Discovery. It is even praised by several critics of new Trek, although SNW inherits the burden of the "visual reboot" and the overblown technology and history established in DIS. I think the popularity of the show has two reasons, of which the first one is obvious. The producers kept their promise and brought back the classic episodic format. Strange New Worlds, unlike Discovery or Picard, is not plagued by dragged out storylines and by episodes that feel like nothing is going on. The series comes with a fresh story every week, while not neglecting the character development. The second reason is that the characters are more natural and more likable than those of the other recent live-action shows. They laugh, they have fun, they are amiable. The basic mood is as positive as it last was in 2005. It has taken them a couple of years, but the people around Kurtzman have finally learned how to get the Trek feel right.
Strange New Worlds is not a groundbreaking show, however. It returns to an old recipe. But it additionally plays the nostalgia card like no other live-action series in the history of the franchise. Pike, Spock, Number One, Uhura, Chapel and M'Benga appear, all as regular characters. There is even a descendant of Khan Noonien Singh against all reason, and a certain George Samuel Kirk. But are these the same characters that we know from TOS? Majel Barrett's Nurse Chapel used to be demure and dutiful, as it was expected from a woman in the 1960's. The new Chapel played by Jess Bush does not only look a lot hotter, her personality is quite the opposite in most ways. She is energetic, self-assured and always good for a tongue-in-cheek remark, the way it is expected from a female character in a modern TV show. No one seriously wants to go back to the 60's. But do characters from the 60's need to be "fixed" just like the technology level and the ship's size? Or shouldn't we rather leave them alone?
Robert April is yet another check mark on the list of canon characters that SNW works off. I personally have no big problem with the casting of Adrian Holmes as Admiral April. TAS is animated and only "proto-canon" in my book, and SNW itself has more important canon issues that need to be addressed. Still, it should not remain uncommented. I appreciate if the casting for a new character is color-blind. I don't even mind if "marginalized" ethnic groups or genders are preferred in the process, as it is the rule in modern Trek. But Robert April is an established character from a series that the current creators of Trek regard as canon. And just as the casting of Scarlett Johansson for "Ghost in the Shell" stirred up a controversy for her having the wrong ethnicity, it must be allowed to criticize the decision that SNW's April is black. The preemptive stigmatization of all critics as racists in many channels killed any reasonable discussion of the topic.
All these issues aside, Strange New Worlds is an enjoyable show that brings back some the old spirit of TOS. Four of the first five episodes are revivals of classic Trek plots with superb effects. I wouldn't mind seeing more of this, but SNW should strive to step out of the shadows of TOS in more ways than only by having a bigger ship and more modern characters. In any case, I am looking forward to the second half of the season.
Keep watching out for facts from SNW that I have begun to include to articles at EAS. These are currently tagged as "Discovery Reboot" because the continuity issues are the same in both shows. I may switch to a new name such as "Discoverse" as an umbrella term for them.
No Discovery Season 4 Reviews Any Time Soon
On November 17, Netflix clandestinely removed Star Trek Discovery for good from all of its international streaming services. I was aware that the deal with Netflix would expire some day, knowing that ViacomCBS produces fresh Star Trek content primarily as a crowd-puller for their streaming service Paramount+. But Paramount+ doesn't yet exist in most countries. I am angry about how ViacomCBS effectively bribed Netflix to suddenly pull the plug, only two days before the fourth season was to go up on Netflix. Even though Discovery is not exactly my favorite series, I was looking forward to it, I had slots reserved in my professional and private schedules to view and review it and everything was set on my website.
It seems that fans outside North America are only second-rate fans in the eyes of the people at ViacomCBS. Every season premiere of streamed Trek so far was overshadowed by the question if, where and when it would become available. We already had to wait several months for the release of Lower Decks and we also miss out on Prodigy until further notice. Being barred from watching Prodigy and now Discovery as well, there is no way for us to join the discussion or to stay informed at all, without running into spoilers just everywhere. At least, there is no legal way. If Paramount+ wants to scare away international customers or foster content piracy, they are on the best way!
For EAS, the delay means that there will be no coverage of Discovery's season 4 for the time being - no reviews and no updates to any articles either. I will eventually (have to) get Paramount+, but although the prospect is to have all Trek in one service, I'm not really looking forward to it, especially if it will require to subscribe to an expensive Sky package.
On a positive note, perhaps I can use the involuntary break to tend to some side projects without the deadline pressure imposed by newly released episodes. I can't absolutely promise it, but I think that EAS will remain spoiler-free for people outside North America.
I am not even sure if I will write episode reviews again any time soon. Already before being locked out from Prodigy and now from Discovery, I felt like it was more like a self-imposed duty. Even when US and international releases are aligned again, EAS just can't compete with news sites that don't only have veritable wordsmiths at work but also receive new episodes several days in advance. This head start gives them the opportunity to analyze everything frame by frame and also paves the way for an accommodating consensus that makes it hard for more critical fans to be still taken seriously. Actually, in recent years, most reactions to my reviews were like "You missed an Easter egg!", "Didn't you get what it was supposed to mean?" or even "Reviews must be positive or they ain't worth shit." - even with regard to Lower Decks, a series that I criticize a lot less than Discovery. Looking around on other sites that used to keep a critical distance, it seems I am not alone with my reluctance to write down my honest impressions, in a time when most people compress their comments to 280 characters, and anyone with an opinion is assigned to either the group of the "cheerleaders" or the "haters".
This was not really meant to be another rant on the state of the fandom. But keeping in mind how we are already divided, at least I hope that there won't be yet another schism, this time between North America and the rest of the world.
I will have patience. But once Discovery and Prodigy are available, I will likely watch them without an obligation in mind to catch and write down every single detail.
Strange Old Worlds
I can't remember any Star Trek announcement of the past two decades that was so well-received in the fan community as the one of Strange New Worlds, the Discovery spin-off series with Captain Pike (Anson Mount), Spock (Ethan Peck) and Number One (Rebecca Romijn).
As much as I personally hate the prospect that the reckless reboot of Star Trek continues, Strange New Worlds (SNW) is proof that the people at CBS are listening to the fans, and willing to revise some of their errors they made with Discovery and, to lesser extent, with Picard:
- Like TOS end every other classic Star Trek series, SNW is going to be episodic again. This is a clear departure from the heavily serialized concept of DIS and PIC, which at the time these two were announced was deemed the only way to produce a "modern" TV series.
- As per Akiva Goldsman's affirmations, the new show is "going to try to harken back to some classical Trek values, to be optimistic." This is an implicit confession that these values were not present or not perceptible enough in Discovery and Picard.
- The example of Captain Pike and his classic virtues illustrates what is wrong with the "edgy" characters of Discovery, most of whom are eccentric, obstinate, deceitful or otherwise unlikable - and simply not Trek-like. The moment Pike comes aboard in DIS: "Brother", it is obvious he is designed as the savior of Discovery, and is well-received by fans and "haters" of the show alike.
On the downside, SNW will be the creatively most limited Star Trek series ever produced. It will have the reboot look and the anachronistic technology of Discovery (at least the one whose existence Starfleet doesn't lie about). It will feature the characters of Pike, Spock and Number One we already know. It will have to fit into the barely eight years from Discovery to the Kirk era. This does not sound at all like the premise Star Trek needs to boldly go and explore strange new worlds (at least not without giving rise to even more major continuity errors).
In this regard, SNW is the logical culmination of a trend. For some reason the producers of new Star Trek are obsessed with "going back to the roots", with reducing the complex universe to a very simple formula and with focusing on known characters from the TOS era.
- Abrams did it in "Star Trek (2009)" with the formula "Star Trek = Kirk + Spock + Enterprise". An alliance forged by destiny in this alternate universe, and against all logic.
- All Star Trek movies of the past 20 years did it by designing a villain similar to, or even identical to Khan, because "Star Trek movie = fight against a villain who wants to destroy the Enterprise, Earth or the galaxy" and "ultimate Star Trek villain = Khan".
- Discovery initially tried something new and brutally anti-nostalgic, I'll give them that. The story would have worked infinitely better in the far future and with a race other than the Klingons, but it was forcibly squeezed in the pre-TOS era, with the only benefit that it could use the punchline "Back to the roots, before Kirk, etc.". When the series went downhill, it was decided to throw in the usual high dose of token nostalgia, because "Star Trek before Kirk = Pike + Spock + Enterprise", which now becomes the premise of SNW.
The people at CBS fail to see Star Trek as a whole, as a universe that has a future and not just a past, that waits to be further explored. Picard is a small step in the right direction but it too lives too much in the past. Strange New Worlds may become a success because of its likable characters and the return to classic values. But it is further sad proof that the Star Trek Universe has become a canvas that no one wants to extend anymore, and that simply gets painted over.
The Continuities of Star Trek
The live-action TV series and movies produced by Star Trek's copyright owners are canon by definition. Until 2009, all canon Star Trek was set in the same timeline (although owing to time travel it was frequently subject to subtle changes). But the continuity is becoming increasingly complex. The Abrams movies explicitly take place in a detached timeline and hence in a new continuity. And although Star Trek Discovery is meant to exist in the same continuity as TOS, this official claim is hard to uphold.
A new article looks at the continuity of Star Trek and how the concept changed over time, from a single timeline to something like a multiverse. The article takes into account the official policy of CBS but also outlines a way to handle reboot series such as Discovery. Note that the purpose of this article is not to discuss whether or not the Abramsverse and Discovery are in contradiction to classic Trek, which I have already done in excruciating detail in several other articles and episode reviews and don't want to rehash here. Regarding the existing continuity issues, there are only summaries.
Read more about how the different series and movies fit in: The Continuities of Star Trek.
The Visual Continuity of Star Trek
Star Trek has a legacy of more than 50 years. The franchise is famed for the iconic looks of its characters, species, sets, props and starships. They so far contributed greatly to the continuity of Star Trek. Every new series or movie could rely on what had been established before, also and especially on the visual side, but also had to respect it.
Star Trek's canon incarnations comprise the "classic" five series (TOS, TNG, DS9, VOY, ENT) and ten movies that were produced over the course of almost 40 years, plus the movies of the "Abramsverse", plus the sixth series Star Trek Discovery. The two latter take many liberties regarding the visual continuity with the "classic" Star Trek. At latest the total redesign of the Klingons and other radical alterations in Discovery cross a line. While the producers of the series don't deny that they "re-imagined" the looks of species and other designs in their series, they fail to provide a rationale whether visuals still have any canon value in their view, or whether they are arbitrary from now, like if Star Trek were not TV but a novel series. Some self-proclaimed "loyal" fans go as far as asserting that visual canon never existed in Star Trek!
It is my intention to create awareness for the significance of visual continuity in a visual medium. Read my new article on The Visual Continuity of Star Trek with many examples and pictures.
Discovery Coverage at EAS
It has been a long and sometimes bumpy road from the first announcement of a new Star Trek TV series in November 2015, but now Discovery is only two months away. After a long time of uncertainty about the direction of the show, it is now clear that Discovery takes place ten years before Kirk and Spock, that it is supposedly set in the Prime Universe as it existed before Nero showed up and that it will tell an ongoing story with heavy Klingon involvement.
No one could have seriously expected that Discovery would go back to the coarse set and prop finish and to the visual effects of the 1960s. But Discovery does a lot more than just giving the era a visual update. Regarding the production design, only the handheld Starfleet devices such as the tricorder, communicator and the phasers fit into the continuity of TOS. Everything else was heavily "reimagined", such as the starships, none of which looks remotely like one from the 23rd century, and the interior design that is like in the Abrams films. And all this is still nothing compared to what was done to the Klingons. The very look of the species as well as their whole styling and technology was altered far beyond recognition and far beyond what might have been an acceptable update.
It remains to be seen whether Discovery has the spirit of Star Trek in spite of everything, and whether I will be able to find this spirit in an ongoing war story with ongoing character conflicts. The series may still surprise me. Right now, I absolutely hate the design decisions and the visual overkill in the SDCC trailer puts me off. It likely won't be my kind of Star Trek. Still, I'm not going on a crusade against Discovery. I will just keep a critical distance to the series, which, like the Abramsverse, does not fit into the established continuity and which, for me, may not become a desirable vision of the future.
Discovery has to be and will be covered at EAS just as every other canon part of the franchise, quite possibly with something like a "Reboot" tag. But not any time before the end of the first season. People will put me under pressure, saying "Bernd Schneider ignores Discovery at EAS because he hates it". I know this moaning just too well from the time just after "Star Trek (2009)". But the actual reason for me to take a backseat is a different one. Maintaining this website in my spare time is very demanding, even without a controversial new series on air. Collecting evidence from Discovery episodes and gradually updating the site (sometimes back and forth) will be extremely time-consuming and impossible besides my various professional and private commitments, not to mention occasional health issues. It has to wait until I can do it in an economical fashion, or the pressure to keep the whole site updated will be too much for me.
Please respect that until further notice I can't do anything more than review the Discovery episodes. There will be
- No articles specifically on Discovery
- No Discovery-related updates to articles
- No discussions about Discovery's continuity with me
- No exceptions even for "popular" topics
50 Years of Political Messages in Star Trek
50 years ago today, on September 8, 1966, the very first episode of Star Trek, "The Man Trap", aired on NBC. Although this TV production was ambitious and accordingly expensive for its time, no one would have anticipated the long success story of the franchise. Star Trek is the yardstick for intelligent science fiction on television still today. Leading scientists and engineers tell us Star Trek has been an inspiration in their career. And looking beyond the merely scientific or technical aspects of the show, to this day Gene Roddenberry's creation is unrivaled within the genre as a vision of a bright and desirable future. We could say that Star Trek's positive prospect is so powerful that no television producer would dare to enter a competition with the clear market leader in the field of utopian science fiction.
These days, columnists like to muse about what Star Trek would be if Gene Roddenberry were still alive, which they interpret in a way to either praise or criticize recent developments. Would Roddenberry like the Abrams movies? A gay Sulu? Bryan Fuller's still unaired "inclusive" series Star Trek Discovery? I don't like to engage in such speculation, so I rather look back at the political messages I see in Star Trek, and ahead at what I expect from it in the future.
Read the full essay.
A Universe by Any Other Name
Fans and critics used to refer to the timeline created by Nero's incursion in "Star Trek (2009)" as "Reboot Timeline", "NuTrek", "JJVerse" or "Abramsverse". It has now been confirmed that Denise and Michael Okuda came up with "Kelvin Timeline" as an official name to be used in the new edition of the Star Trek Encyclopedia.
I appreciate the new name, and I have already begun to use "Kelvin Timeline" in my articles. But you will still find many instances of "Abramsverse" at EAS. This is because I see a difference between the new timeline established in "Star Trek (2009)" on one hand, and the general philosophy, look and feel of the Abrams movies on the other hand. The latter is what I still call "Abramsverse". The Abramsverse, in my view, includes more than just the Kelvin Timeline. It also stands for a fatalistic view of time-traveling villains, or for huge ships even before that particular timeline change, to name only two examples. The Kelvin design is part of the Abramsverse, yet (somewhat ironically) not of the Kelvin Timeline.
I like "Kelvin Timeline" as a real-life designation for the new timeline. But it troubles me that the name corroborates the fixation on the Kelvin that already exists in-universe in the Abrams movies. There's the Kelvin salt shaker in ST09, the Kelvin Memorial Archive in STID and the Kelvin pod in STB. I wouldn't be too much surprised if someone in "Star Trek Beyond" casually mentioned "We're living in the Kelvin Timeline" (which could be called, less politically correctly, "the timeline created by that Romulan madman"). In a "normal" universe the Kelvin would be just one of many ships that Starfleet lost and George Kirk just one of many casualties. But this particular universe is aware of its nature as a spin-off, it seems to need unsurpassed heroes or martyrs in its creation myth. Star Trek has always been and should be about people deciding about their own destinies, which is hampered by the idea that the Kelvin Timeline is something that shouldn't have happened, something that doesn't get fixed and something that is apparently celebrated in several ways.
Anton Yelchin 1989-2016
Star Trek turns 50 this year, and it is only natural that some of the familiar faces of the franchise have left us. It was sad to lose Leonard Nimoy and Grace Lee Whitney last year, among several others. But it comes as a shock that Anton Yelchin died in an accident at the age of only 27. Actually, when a coworker mentioned this morning that "Mr. Chekov is dead" I would have thought of someone different...
It is true that I'm giving the reboot movies a hard time. Still, the cast of talented young actors has become a part of the family. They are people with whom I use to spend a couple of hours every week, in a manner of speaking. I will miss Anton Yelchin. And I'm looking forward to seeing him one last time in "Star Trek Beyond" this summer.
We are used to people dying of old age, or perhaps of diseases like cancer, because that's the "normal" way it happens. That makes Anton Yelchin's death in a stupid accident, killed by his own car, so hard to accept. But it reminds us how precious life is.
Rest in peace, Anton! You could do zat.
The Trouble with Star Trek's Self-Image
Now that I have seen "The Force Awakens" I can attest it is 100% Star Wars. In a positive way, the new movie remains perfectly true to the roots of the franchise - the eternal struggle between the good and the evil enters a new round as everyone would have expected. In a negative way, the "The Force Awakens" is awfully repetitive as it includes all the same themes as Episode IV and hardly anything new.
Star Trek is treated radically differently by the people in charge. The so far two films set in the Abramsverse have very little in common with the old Star Trek - new universe, new style, redefined characters, new philosophy. In a positive way, Star Trek moves on in some fashion*, unlike Star Wars, which ultimately proves to be a "static universe" where the same story repeats with every Skywalker generation. In a negative way, Star Trek isn't Star Trek any longer. While the much criticized Beastie Boys trailer for "Beyond" may have been designed for an "action kid" audience, it is symptomatic of a general cluelessness of how to create and how to present Star Trek in our time, of how to make Star Trek something special that stands out from the crowd of action movies.
*If we are generous. "Star Trek Into Darkness" heavily suffered from the "everything-repeats-like-in-Star-Wars" snydrome.
The perhaps decisive difference between the two franchises is that the makers of Star Wars are proud of its heritage and handle it with great care. That's why they manage to gloss over the many weaknesses in the story, in the characters and in the philosophy. And they don't change anything about the recipe in the first place anyway because it is known as a money-making machine.
The people currently in charge of Star Trek desperately try to incorporate always more action and more coolness, and they remove ethical dilemmas in favor of pure character conflicts, because they know the recipe (of Star Wars and other action spectacles) or were told to make use of it. It is symptomatic that Simon Pegg has to tell us that there's more Star Trek in "Beyond" than the trailer insinuates. This appeasement will probably continue even after the film has premiered. In contrast, no one ever needs to justify how a Star Wars movie turns out. And in the few cases where something met general disapproval it was fixed the next time (Jar Jar Binks) and not simply played down, ignored or denied (lens flares). BTW, where are Abrams's beloved lens flares in "The Force Awakens"?
The makers of Star Wars care for the commercial success, for the "purity" of their franchise and for their audience (perhaps in exactly that order). The makers of Star Trek want to earn money too, they try to preserve some aspects of the legacy but they don't really know their audience in the first place.
As sad as it is, Star Trek currently presents itself as some sort of second-rate Star Wars. Without self-confidence, and with a promise like "Look, we've got plenty of action. And perhaps something for the nerds too."
Hotlinking Enabled Again
I have decided to revise the hotlinking policy of EAS due to popular request. Direct linking to images on the EAS server is now generally possible. But my position on hotlinking hasn't changed.
Around 2005 my server logs told me that an increasing number of "visitors" loading images from the site didn't even view a single page. I wouldn't mind if EAS images were posted on a message board with a comment like "Here are some images found at Ex Astris Scientia". But many of the hotlinks showed the images inline, without any credit, as a forum avatar, in forum posts without any relevance to the topic, in galleries or as pure decoration on personal websites. In other words, people passed the images as their own, or at least as hosted on their own server, and let me pay for it as if EAS were an image server.
Since at that time the hotlinking cost me around $10 every month, I had to act. I implemented the hotlink ban through a mod_rewrite rule set in the .htaccess file. It effectively replaced any image requested from any other server than EAS with the notorious "blocked.gif" image. It is technically not possible to distinguish whether the image was displayed inline (inappropriate in most cases) or whether it was a text link (usually tolerable). And so I was always aware that I also punished those who used my images with good intent, such as to illustrate something in an ongoing discussion.
I can understand that it's annoying to post something that produces a "blocked.gif" image. But the criticism directed at me was and is unfair. Hotlinking can be considered bandwidth theft, or at least bad style. Anyone posting in a community should be aware of that, instead of badmouthing the people who create, compile and host those images. This is like tourists who are caught stealing the towels from their rooms, and take revenge by giving the hotel a bad rating.
A few things have changed in more recent years. Conventional forums have lost importance. Social media are considered much more important, at least as the quantity and visibility of posts is concerned. Social media such as Facebook also demonstrate that hotlinking can be avoided by simply creating a copy of each image that a post directly links to. Unfortunately conventional forums have learned nothing in this regard the past ten years, although with a single line of code in the BBS software a credit for the originating server could be inserted under each inline image.
I'll have to wait what the server logs tell me. It is possible for me to reinstate the hotlinking ban for single referrers that misuse hotlinking, which will grow to a blacklist. I think that the server can handle the increased traffic, and that I can handle it financially. But not everyone can. The other day a fellow webmaster who produces great artwork and used to show it in his blog told me he had to take it down because of excessive hotlinking. I was close to discarding my plans to allow hotlinking again but I decided that I should give it a try.
The bottom line is that I'm still against hotlinking. But I'm tired of the frequent whining about EAS on message boards and of the bad reputation that I seem to have gained. I am also tired of bullshit suggestions that I should find a new image server and should post ads to be able to pay for it. Just in case it's not yet clear enough: EAS is a totally free website, you can visit the site and download as many images as you want - as long as you do visit the site and don't misuse it as an image server. I will never charge anything for it, I will never post any ads, I will never allow it to be sponsored in any fashion, I will never ask for donations. For me it is a question of honor. I expect and I am sure I deserve respect from the people who use my work. You can criticize me for old-fashioned web design or for not liking the Abrams films. But never criticize me for not paying your hosting bills!
Leonard Nimoy 1931-2015
Leonard Nimoy, in his role as Spock, has been at my side in some fashion for much of my life. For me it all started in 1973 when Star Trek aired in Germany on the second channel on Saturday afternoons and I was lucky that my father didn't watch the sports news on the first channel. I was a six-year-old boy whose pajamas happened to have the same color as Spock's shirt and who tried to re-enact the series, with phasers and tricorders built from Lego. We had "The Changeling" on two 30min VCR video tapes and I was scared by the hovering tin can that even Spock couldn't stop.
The repeated exposure to this perhaps inappropriate episode didn't cause emotional damage in me (at least none that I am aware of). On the contrary, I knew that I wanted to see more of it. But the unaired episodes as well as any other information about Star Trek was hard to come by, especially in a time when I struggled with being a nerd and the customary outcasting at school, in a country where science fiction was (and arguably still is) considered particularly uncool. Anyway, a German satellite TV channel aired the complete series for the first time as late as in 1988. The problem was that I didn't have a satellite dish, so I asked my dad to record everything for me, week after week. He didn't forget a single episode, and so my dad who passed away last year helped spark my passion for Star Trek perhaps just as much as Leonard Nimoy.
I usually don't like comparing actors to their roles, but I will make an exception for Leonard Nimoy. Not only did he add essential details to his character such as the Vulcan greeting (that he saw in the synagogue as a child) and the nerve pinch (that he considered a better way to disable someone than brute force). He also brought a sense of decency into the role as he showed it in real life as well. It is quite understandable that at some point Leonard Nimoy became tired of always being equated with Spock, and he decided to move on according to the motto of his biography, I am not Spock. But he still was Spock for millions of fans, and so it was logical for him to return to his role and, while he was at it, to confess I am Spock in a second book.
I regret that I never met Leonard Nimoy in person. But although I knew him only from the screen, losing him is like losing a friend. No one could write a better eulogy than Leonard Nimoy himself, in his last tweet: "A life is like a garden. Perfect moments can be had, but not preserved, except in memory. LLAP" I believe that despite his illness in the past few years Leonard Nimoy had a prosperous life with many perfect moments, and he deserved it. I will preserve the perfect moments I had with Leonard Nimoy and his fellow Star Trek cast members. I promise. And I will not forget how much Nimoy did for the self-confidence of the nerds, the visionaries and the scientifically minded people of this world.
Beam him up, Scotty!
TNG Reviews Finished
All good things must come to an end. After more than three years I have finally concluded my reviews of TNG episodes with "All Good Things".
Star Trek: The Next Generation was definitely a good thing. And no better title could have been chosen for the series finale. Actually, I think TNG was the best thing that ever happened to the Star Trek franchise since TOS until today. Looking back, however, it had a slow start. The first two seasons were too much influenced by TOS. Thery were too busy with presenting some kind of Star Trek that people seemed to love.
The showrunners and writers gradually learned to work with the new characters they had created but it took them quite some time to further develop the Star Trek legacy beyond the mere cosmetic changes since the time of TOS. The holodeck as a new place for adventures of all kinds was instrumental in taking Star Trek to the 24th century, the Ferengi as new villains were not. I think the introduction of the Borg and especially the double feature "The Best of Both Worlds" ultimately set the series apart from its predecessor, and united nerds and "normal" fans in front of the screen. The sixth season became the absolute highlight of the series, with great original stories and an unprecedented involvement of the whole main cast. At this time it seemed that TNG could carry on forever.
But all good things must come to an end. It may be some sort of self-fulfilling prophecy that the show went downhill a bit in its final season. Well, some episodes were simply badly done, such as "Sub Rosa" or "Masks". Others were apparently hampered by the prospect that the series would come to a closure. I like how some story arcs are wrapped up near the end of the series. However, I don't think it was a good idea to introduce new family members of the crew in several episodes, as if the writers were working up a list of relatives to be shown. Likewise, bringing together Worf and Deanna looks like a desperate (and much too late) attempt to get things moving on the romantic side of character relationships. Also, I have mixed feelings about long-standing assets that are falling apart: The warp drive is discovered to damage subspace (although it won't be mentioned again after TNG), the Federation fails to control the situation in the Demilitarized Zone, Wesley and Ro leave Starfleet for good. It seems like TNG prepares to pass on the baton to the somewhat dystopian DS9. I love DS9, but it is a different kind of Star Trek. And although my average rating of TNG episodes gradually went down to the same level as DS9's, I think TNG is closer than anything else to the "ideal Star Trek series".
The TNG reviews were the last reviews of any Star Trek series at EAS that were still missing. But seeing that it has been over a decade since I watched several of the episodes, I may start over with Voyager. I intend to add more details, and most likely I will revise my opinion on some of the episodes. It's time to rediscover another series!
I have received countless encouraging comments and suggestions after posting the article EAS on the Downturn on April 27, 2014. Thank you!
I have added a summary of the discussions that followed and some new thoughts to the article.
It turned out that social network activity has little impact on what I really seek to improve: the number of visitors to EAS. Few people seem to visit EAS from social networks, probably no one apart from those who would be coming anyway. Also, pages from EAS are shared in social networks only occasionally. If anything is shared, then only existing posts about EAS. It is a big disappointment that practically no one except myself posts anything about EAS is the first place.
The design and navigation of EAS was also the subject of some discussions. My judgment is that the suggested changes are either a totally unrealistic amount of work, or they wouldn't solve my problems, or cause new problems, or all of the above. I am aware that a site that works like it was customary ten years ago may have a massive perception problem today. But ultimately I would have to simplify the content or chop it into digestible bits to make it more accessible for a new generation of users - and less valuable for those who still enjoy elaborate content.
Finally, I am open to including new features and new types of content that may attract more visitors, as long as it is not at the expense of thoroughly researched and presented articles.
Read the complete update.
EAS on the Downturn
When I look at the number of visitors to EAS, it is a worrying development that between 2010 and 2012 the monthly visitor count halved from about 200,000 to no more than 100,000. The decline stopped a couple of months before STID was released in 2013. The counter went up a bit again and the figures have been more or less stable since then.
I am looking for answers why EAS has lost so much ground, much more than after the end of Star Trek Enterprise in 2005. The reason for the more recent downturn can't lie with the content of EAS (that got updated as frequently as ever and was further consolidated). Rather than that, I blame the radically changing usage of the internet during the past couple of years. So I was trying to find evidence of how it happened, and of how to boost the popularity of EAS again. This is not a commercial site, in which case a reduction of the audience by 50% would be a catastrophe. Still, I have a vital interest to prevent the site from slipping into total insignificance.
A poll in April 2014 showed me that the majority of visitors to this site have bookmarked it. This is a blessing but also a curse, considering that EAS is more or less isolated from the working mechanisms of social media. Various Google searches and social media searches confirm that there are extremely few mentions of EAS in social media, except for my own posts. That way, EAS seems to have no chance to gain any new visitors.
I believe that, in one way or another, we are all influenced by social networks and their working principles, even if we visit them only occasionally. The problem is that social networks are an additional (and a seemingly "democratic") layer of interaction that produces no content but serves to rate how good or how new something is and (for some people) to find content in the first place, without a need to browse any conventional sites. This principle discriminates against traditionally presented content and niche content by its very nature, and favors any kind of "content" such as a funny picture.
While I can't change the nature of the internet, I have a few ideas how I can regain the popularity of EAS or at least preserve what is left of it. But it isn't possible without the support of my visitors.
Read the complete article.
My Thoughts on STID
It took me two weeks until I decided to go and see "Star Trek Into Darkness", although it is shown exclusively in 3D and I can't focus my eyes on 3D movies. Watching STID was a surprisingly pleasant experience for my eyes, at least technically speaking. But the movie could have easily done without the almost unnoticeable 3D effects that were inserted into the live action scenes in post production.
Regarding the story of STID, I was prepared that the villain would be Khan, the justification being that the fans wanted him to return. It is clear that when Harrison reveals who he really is, saying "I am Khan", he is breaking the fourth wall. His true identity has no impact whatsoever on the story. On the contrary, it would make a lot sense if he were any other person, because Khan 2.0 (Cumberbatch) looks and feels very different than version 1.0 (Montalban), because Khan 1.0 never was a fighting machine with miraculous blood, and because Khan 2.0 has a weak back story, as opposed to the 15 years that Khan 1.0 spent on a desert planet.
But the worse rip-off was still to come. STID repeats the death scene from "Star Trek II", the sequence of events and the dialogues being almost exactly the same, only with switched roles. At this point the movie lost me. Abrams has given himself carte blanche to create a Trek universe it its own right, but all he does is recycling characters, stories and plot devices. It is bad enough that he includes all kinds of gratuitous references, as if he was saying, "Look, this is still Star Trek. We've even got Khan for you." When Kirk and Spock (who know one another for just one year in this universe) press their hands on the glass pane, it is an unintentional parody, and what was supposed to be the emotional highlight of STID drowns in deserved laughter.
The perhaps most definite failing on the long term is that Star Trek has stopped exploring and is just about chasing villains. Agreed, this tendency is anything but new and was already visible in the last few movies set in the Prime Universe. But isn't it dishonest that STID, like already "Star Trek (2009)", ends with the famous words "Space - the final frontier..." when true fans would rather ask, "Can anyone remember when we used to be explorers?" Extremely little of the old spirit is left in this new Star Trek, and the brief musings about friendship or the human nature feel like fillers between the action scenes.
STID had great action, but that is not what I want to see in Star Trek in the first place. Much less do I have a desire to see Kirk, Spock and the other characters jump around as if they had supernatural powers. In an effort to keep up with other summer blockbusters, Abrams has sacrificed the essence of Star Trek, and has turned STID into yet another superhero flick.
Read the complete review.
Comments on the STID Trailer
I'm not someone who customarily judges the book by its cover. I am well aware that movies are usually not as lurid as their trailers. Still, the first trailer for "Star Trek Into Darkness" creates expectations that I don't like at all. It borrows heavily from other action and fantasy franchises, rather than from previous Trek movies, and it puts much emphasis on the villain's vengeance and his trail of destruction. While I had many issues with how J.J. Abrams handled the reboot in "Star Trek (2009)", my apprehension is that there will be even less Star Trek spirit in the upcoming movie, perhaps except for some unnecessary namedropping.
While the course of the story and the identity of the villain is mere speculation, one technical aspect is already evident in the trailer and in the IMAX preview. The Enterprise (alt.) is built to operate under water. This may not seem like a big deal, considering that the stress on the hull at warp is possibly much higher than under the sea. Still, the concept of the submerged Enterprise is flawed, if not childish. The intention was apparently to enrich the movie with a James Bond-like gimmick, also considering that underwater CG effects look still cooler than those in space.
Anyway, if we believe in the published size figures for a moment, the ship is some 170m tall. This means that to be useful as a submarine it would require a corresponding water depth to start with, and the bottom of the engineering hull would have to withstand as much as 17atm. Sure, there is nothing that enhanced forcefields couldn't accomplish in the world of Star Trek. But that's only one of several additional features that would have to go into the design of the ship, others being a suited propulsion system (impulse engine under water - bad idea!) and special sensors such as sonar. And everything just for the very unlikely scenario that the captain feels like going down with his ship and crew. Not to mention that hiding a 725m behemoth may work in the open sea but would be a ludicrous idea near the coast. There is a good reason for spaceships and submarines being radically different designs in real engineering. And even if 23rd century technology may allow to build starships like Swiss Army knives, they should still remain where they belong - in space.
I can think of more interesting things to do than writing long rants and taking flak in controversial debates. So here is only a small commentary on the not officially confirmed news about the upcoming Star Trek movie.
- Childcare Trek: The Supernanny returns.
I appreciate seeing Leonard Nimoy in any role, and most of all as the original Spock. The latter, on the other hand, is exactly the reason why Spock Prime should have left the Abramsverse for good. The new universe was designed as a radical departure. As much as a I still disapprove of that decision, it is now the time for Abrams to allow his child to grow up if he wants it to be taken seriously.
- Catchpenny Trek: Cumberbatch is Khaaaaan!
Abrams and his team have pushed the big red reset button on the Star Trek Universe. They could send their crew anywhere, could have them meet anyone. And they should do so in order for their universe to become credible. But what are they doing? They fall back on an old Prime Universe adversary. Because Khan 1.0 and Khan 1.1 are fan favorites and fans allegedly want the upgrade to Khan 2.0. Irrespective of the explanation, if we will be given one, it makes the Abramsverse look so small and one-dimensional. And just for the record, after "Nemesis" and "Star Trek (2009)" it is the third time in a row that a movie promises to recapture the spirit of "The Wrath of Khan". If there is one thing in crew interviews and in discussions among fans alike that I am fed up with (besides speculations about a Shatner cameo), it is the fixation on Khan as the Savior of Trek.
- Cliché Trek: Send in the Klingons!
I'm impartial about Klingons in the new movie. Abrams already resisted the temptation once and even cut them from "Star Trek (2009)". Still, as much as they epitomize alien adversaries, we have to remember that Klingons were repeatedly written into the two last Trek series due to a lack of better ideas, and as a sort of reminder that it was still Trek after all. I still have to wait for more information on the involvement of the Klingons in the new movie. And I still have time to think of a sarcastic comments until it becomes clear that none of them has a smooth forehead.
Server Move Completed
Welcome to the new EAS server.
Tony, the server administrator, and I have been working hard for a whole month to make the transition seamless and to get everything to work exactly as it did on the old server. However, there may still be some issues.
It is possible that some files are in the right place but don't load correctly. I noticed after my first attempts to upload the site to the new server that particularly a number of images were corrupt. I re-uploaded major parts of the site and didn't find any more such problems, but naturally I can't check all 15,000 images on EAS visually. So if you should notice that images are broken, please tell me.
The second possible issue is with scripts. We spent many hours debugging the various CGI and PHP scripts (there were dozens of issues with file permissions, file formats, namespaces, etc.) and in a few cases we had to apply workarounds, rather than removing the reason for the problem. Some things still seem to be a bit fragile to me, so if you notice that scripts don't work correctly (for instance, if you fill out a form that is not completely processed or not at all), please tell me by all means.
All right, that's enough blurb for now. I hope that perhaps next week I will find the time to do something productive again.
DS9 Reviews Completed
When I began my systematic reviews of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine in 2008, I hadn't seen most of the episodes in years. I certainly remembered the series was terrific, but I had lost my memories to an extent that I used to mix up "Rapture" and "The Reckoning", to name only one example. In a way, however, I was glad that I had the chance to rediscover the series, with everything in mind that came before and after DS9.
When DS9 first aired in 1993, it was at the height of TNG's success, which can be seen as both a blessing and a curse for the new series. My expectations were accordingly high, but the first season of DS9 came out as a bit of a disappointment. The setting with focus on domestic Bajoran issues simply couldn't compete with TNG's "glamorous" theme of space exploration. And the story opportunities resulting from the discovery of the stable wormhole were not really used initially. From the very beginning, however, DS9 tried to compensate for the literally stationary setting with quite elaborate character relationships and conflicts, among the regular crew and with recurring guests - a concept that should pay off gradually. I admit I was late to recognize it. When I first watched the series, the double feature "Improbable Cause" & "The Die Is Cast", as late as in season 3, was the first time I was truly impressed with DS9, and "The Way of the Warrior" still ranks among my all-time favorite Trek episodes. Of course, to a certain extent my new excitement about the show should be ascribed to the introduction of the Defiant, although or just because in hindsight it was a simple vehicle to get things moving.
I know most fans think the fifth, sixth and most of all the seventh season of DS9 with the Dominion War outclass the rest of the series. I don't quite share this view. Well, there is the pacifist German media tradition to tolerate everything related to the military only as a necessary evil and to ignore it wherever possible (which I believe is the principal reason why DS9 ranks behind Voyager in Germany). But I try to absolve myself from such narrow views. I never had a problem with the premise of the Federation being at war. Rather than with the theme itself, I have issues with the storylines. In a nutshell, between the intense fourth season and the breathtaking Final Chapter at the end of season 7 the series appears protracted to me. In my view the war should have started or ended sooner and should have made way for a chapter showing the aftermath.
In any case DS9, like no other Trek series before or after it, tested the limits of the benevolent society of the Federation (and thereby confirmed them). It also tested the characters, who crossed the line to immoral or even criminal conduct on a couple of occasions, most notably in "In the Pale Moonlight". And it successfully tried out new ways of storytelling, such as with an off-topic story taking place on 20th century Earth in "Far Beyond the Stars". In a way DS9 was much more daring until 1999 than the reboot of 2009, which sort of prides itself for boldly blowing up whole planets.
Among the many DS9 characters Kira Nerys is my favorite, although I still can't tell exactly why. Perhaps it is the sometimes contemplative and sometimes explosive temper that makes her attractive as a character (rather than the always easy-going Jadzia Dax, for instance). I also like Odo very much. Of course, his character is in the tradition of Spock and Data, and his shapeshifting abilities are amazing, but I think it is first of all his decency and honesty that always impress me.
All in all, DS9 is an enrichment of the Star Trek Universe that I would never want to miss. Although my average ratings seem to indicate that it ranks behind TNG and Voyager, the series is right up there with the best of Trek and the best of television.
Firefox Thinks I'm Evil
Message to Firefox 4 users: A new CSS specification to prevent "attacks" based on your browser history disables the change of the color of the little arrows next to external links after visiting: Link. I hate how it looks on EAS when the arrows refuse to switch to the same color as the link text (especially on pages where they remain yellow) but I can do nothing against it. I will have to abandon the tags for external links, develop a new color scheme or put up with the awful color disparity.
So far I liked Firefox as a browser created by people who care for the needs of developers and users alike and Firefox 4 may be faster and safer than ever, but the new policy to punish everyone for a potential abuse is paranoid. I needed some time to understand that the "attacks" the Mozilla people are worried about would tell websites which of a predefined selection of links a visitor has previously been to. But that would have to involve a script for each single link to analyze its status separately and would cause an according traffic, as opposed to the tiny image that is loaded from the EAS server globally for all visited links and that doesn't tell me anything about your browser history. EAS has never sniffed out your browser history!
So why don't the Mozilla people simply disallow scripts in the CSS "visited" class, put a limit to script requests or block the offending websites altogether, instead of generally disabling a useful and popular CSS function (that took me a couple of days to implement on EAS, by the way)? It is depressing that stubborn bureaucrats not only invalidate my carefully developed CSS and make my layout look awful but also compel me to justify for what purpose I was using the alleged "evil code" in the first place.
TOS Reviews Extended
I just finished a 79-episode review tour of Star Trek: The Original Series. Although I know several of them almost by heart, I enjoyed it like it were the first viewing. It is part of the fun that there is always something new to discover in the old episodes. But speaking of something new, it was the first time that I watched the remastered version (TOS-R). When it was first announced by CBS in 2006, I expected a little more retconning from TOS-R, such as the correction of editing errors or the revision of more anachronistic props than just the mechanical clock on the bridge. However, I am now glad about the way it came out, without changing anything about the storylines and the very things that the characters interact with. TOS-R pays tribute to the original by improving its merely technical shortcomings and without trying to rewrite it.
Star Trek is the perhaps best known and most quoted TV series in the world still today. And unlike the media phenomena of our time that too often rise to fame effortlessly, I think Star Trek earned it because of its special qualities. The first one must be Trek's depiction of a bright future of humanity, in which war, poverty and discrimination had no place - in contrast to the dystopian ideas of most other science fiction series. In particular, Star Trek was probably the first TV series to show consequential racial diversity and equality. The "first interracial kiss" of Kirk and Uhura in "Plato's Stepchildren" symbolically confirmed a principle that had been in Star Trek's concept from day one. It should not remain unmentioned that Star Trek wasn't ahead of its time in questions of gender roles. Actually, aside from superficial details such as the omnipresent miniskirts of the female crew and the scantily clad alien women, Star Trek mostly put women in subordinate roles. Even if they were leaders, they were prone to fail because of a romantic interest or other emotional issues.
The second special quality in my view lies in Star Trek's storylines and scientific concepts. It presented us genuine science fiction: time travel in "Tomorrow is Yesterday", a parallel universe in "Mirror, Mirror", different time levels in "Wink of an Eye". But even where scientific phenomena were not so much in the focus, Star Trek excelled as a wonderful TV drama, such as in "The City on the Edge of Forever", "Amok Time" or "The Trouble with Tribbles". As much as some hardliners deride Trek as a "space opera" or as "science fantasy", the show found a way to unite the science buffs and the general audience in front of TV screen. Star Trek proved that a TV series could be both enlightening and entertaining - and even inspired careers in science and technology. Well, a couple of episodes such as notably "The Alternative Factor" went awry, but overall Star Trek episodes boldly defied the law that 90% of everything is crap.
The third reason for Trek's lasting success is its iconic style. Even most of those who have never seen a single episode can identify the Starship Enterprise, and many are even able to sketch it up half-way correctly (Try it in your school or company!). The same applies to the colorful uniforms, the layout of the Enterprise bridge and other sets as well as to the title theme that are immediately recognizable as being from Star Trek. Well, while Star Trek's look was shiny and new in the 1960s, we look back at the style with a good deal of nostalgia today. Among the characters especially Captain Kirk and Mr. Spock have become iconic. Not only their looks but various of their characteristics are common knowledge today. Star Trek has become part of our culture, and perhaps not just of the pop culture.
In any case TOS has a special place in my heart.
Thank you for memorable moments of TV, Gene! And thanks to everyone who worked on Star Trek and its spin-off series!
Comments on "Star Trek (2009)"
So this is the new Star Trek. I enjoyed the reboot "Star Trek (2009)" as the most exciting and overall most visually compelling Trek movie in a long time. It profits from great performances by most of the actors, and from the work of J.J. Abrams, who knows like few other directors how to bring a story to the big screen. But this story suffers from just too many unlikely coincidences and other plot holes. Everything in this parallel timeline is blatantly fabricated to get seven characters together on a ship named Enterprise now matter when and how, while many other things that used to make up Trek are deemed expendable. Finally, the spectacular yet shocking events in the movie are not likely to get me interested in seeing more stories set in this desolate universe. As a prequel to the Trek I love the movie definitely failed. "Star Trek (2009)" compares to the old Trek like a one-night stand to a decade-long relationship. Read the full review.
The six weeks after the release of the movie have been most turbulent for me. As I always do after a new movie I supplemented most sections with the available facts from "Star Trek (2009)", I summarized the movie's inconsistencies and I wrote up something about the size of the Enterprise. So much information was coming in that I had to revise some of the pages every day. The visitor numbers of EAS as well as my mail volume reached an all-time high in mid-May. I received numerous hints from fellow fans, a lot of praise for my work as well as moral support and I would like to say thanks to all of you!
But a small number of Trek fans apparently resent me finding any fault with "Star Trek (2009)", or only spotting evidence that contradicts the purported huge size of the ship. There were a number of hate mails and I found several anti-EAS threads at Trek message boards in which people who called themselves fans accused me of fabricating evidence, of ignoring non-canon explanation attempts or even of listing any inconsistencies in the first place. And while they were at it, some pathetically announced to boycott EAS. Also, as much as I am used to being insulted outside the geekosphere, Trekkers who scorn fans of the old Trek for "hanging around in the basement" is something totally new. Many felt compelled to call to my attention me that it's just a movie. Yes. And that is exactly why it may contain errors. But for some reason it is heresy to mention these errors. See the Star Trek (2009) FAQ.
I usually don't criticize fellow fans for their personal views of the Trek Universe, but some really need to lose their unbecoming "cool kid" attitude, which will happen when the hype is over. And while I am still not tired taking care of the new movie, I am looking forward to the time when the dust has settled and I can return to business as usual.
My Two Cents on the Premise of the New Movie
On April 21, 2006, Paramount announced that J.J. Abrams, creator of the hit TV series "Lost", would produce the eleventh Star Trek feature film. The name of the movie has been confirmed to be just "Star Trek". J.J. Abrams will also direct the film.
At this time, little is known about the movie's premise. "Star Trek XI" revolves around the character of Spock. The old Spock, played once again by Leonard Nimoy, attempts to stop a time-traveling Romulan villain named Nero from altering history. In the course of the movie we will see the TOS Enterprise crew as well as Christopher Pike, all naturally played by young actors. The familiar locations include the original USS Enterprise as well as Starfleet Academy. In spite of all rumors, William Shatner will definitely not be in the movie, not even for a cameo.
Although the principal shooting was finished in March 2008, few pictures of the shooting locations have leaked so far, owing to a strict nondisclosure policy. In January 2008 a trailer shown in the theaters in conjunction with the J.J. Abrams movie "Cloverfield" revealed that the familiar USS Enterprise from The Original Series (TOS) has been redesigned for the movie, and that apparently the complete assembly of the ship takes place on Earth's surface.
It is certainly too early to judge the movie at a time when we have nothing more but a coarse plot outline and some leaked photos. But perhaps it is just the right time for my two cents on the premise of "Star Trek XI", on what I expect from it and on the current hype about it. I do not intend to update this essay every time new facts about the movie become available, so I attempt to limit it to some basic considerations that will prospectively retain their validity.
Read the full essay.
The Demise of Trek Websites
As the owner of a major Star Trek website it is part of my "job" and a genuine interest to keep an eye on the development of the Trek online fandom. But the number of notable fan websites that I loved to visit keeps shrinking over the past couple of years. I know from discussions at the Subspace Comms Network that I am not alone with this worrying observation.
Many sites that used to be formidable resources and ought to have been kept alive by all means have vanished without a trace. To name only a few, Maximum Defiant is lost just as Star Trek in Sound and Vision, The Ultimate Star Trek Collection, Star Trek Australia, TrekEnterprise.com or Trek5.com. Others have not been updated in years and may disappear as soon as their domains or hosting contracts expire. Ironically the free websites hosted at Geocities or Tripod with all their technical limitations may survive everything else, even if they have not been taken care of in years. Yet, many of these practically abandoned sites have become places to avoid because of the overkill of banners and other ads forced upon them, as well as because of countless dead image links.
While old sites kept vanishing or have become hopelessly outdated, hardly any ones were launched in the past few years. At least there are almost no decent new sites that would have lasted more than a couple of months until they ceased being updated.
Read the full essay.
TAS Is Canon Now?
I was not acutely concerned when I saw the poll about making The Animated Series canon at startrek.com some time ago. I voted "no" for many practical reasons, not because I dislike the series (although it ranks far below the live action in my view). But now the decision has been made in favor of canonizing TAS, as it seems based on a majority of fans who voted positive. Perhaps I should be happy that finally, after 40 years, The Powers That Be at Paramount acknowledge how the fan base looks upon the series and the franchise as a whole. A two-way communication may be emerging where TPTB were previously not even listening. I don't contest the result of the quasi-democratic vote, but the circumstances are dubious and the outcome uncertain.
Read the accordingly revised page What is Canon? with my comments about the situation now that TAS is becoming canon.
Aside from other reservations the canon status of TAS means a lot of work for me, and I have decided to go with the compromise of the series being "proto-canon" here at EAS until my policy as well as Paramount's official policy on the issue is settled. This means that I will refer to TAS, but only where I deem it useful and only in side notes or in separate sections for the time being. So I hope that EAS visitors give me a break and don't bother me with requests when and how I will add all the information from TAS to my site. As mentioned before, it is an organizational reason rather than a dislike of the series why I feel unable to suddenly treat TAS as canon.
40th Birthday of Star Trek
What is Star Trek? First of all, it is the entirety of five live-action series, ten feature films, one animated series, a myriad of novels, many games and a vast amount of other merchandise. Star Trek is a brand, and as such one of the most profitable franchises in the television and entertainment business. However, there can be seen more in Gene Roddenberry's brainchild than just profit and perhaps an entertainment merit. It has become a seemingly indispensable benchmark, if not a vision, whenever people talk about the future of humanity, with all the technical as well as social progress it may entail. As part of our pop culture Star Trek may be the best-known and most often cited television series worldwide. And most importantly, a strong and very active fan base has been upholding the idea of Star Trek more loyally than any production staff could do.
But success and popularity always comes at a price and is not beyond criticism. The state of the franchise after the meager ratings and the eventual cancellation of Star Trek Enterprise is worrying, even though a new feature film promises relief.
Star Trek celebrates its 40th birthday on September 8th, 2006, commemorating the day when the first episode, "The Man Trap", aired on NBC in 1966. These are no easy times for Star Trek, but a fitting opportunity to look back on the long history of the franchise which may open perspectives for the future.
Happy birthday, Star Trek! And all the best for the next 40 years!
Canon Fodder - Fixing the Star Trek disContinuity
Star Trek, with its five live-action series and ten movies, is an extremely complex piece of fiction. As such, it can't be free of continuity issues. Whether it's the changing make-up of alien species, the contradictory size of Federation space or the design of Enterprise NX-01, there is no satisfactory canonical solution to many inconsistencies. But what would Star Trek be without caring fans who conceive ingenious theories to fix continuity issues, fans who attempt to tie up loose ends that exist in canon Trek?
With an initial emphasis on the legendary SCN posts of our fellow admin Bond, James Bond, we have built a database dedicated to such theories. In brief, Canon Fodder is a new site presenting theories on a variety of topics which include, but are not limited to: Alien Races, Starships, Science & Technology, History, Cartography, Society & Culture, Biographies. With its well-founded conjecture the site's scope is somewhere between the strict canonicity of the facts at EAS and pure fan fiction.
The site is organized as a simple content management system (CMS). If you have articles ready to be posted, please contact me. I may grant regular and reliable contributors access to the database so they can make changes themselves.
If you were always interested in knowing more than was explained on screen, you should check out Canon Fodder!
Galileo 7 Report 2005
We attended the Galileo 7 Convention in Neuss on Saturday, October 1st. William Shatner had been announced as the top guest of the convention, but Shatner cancelled his appearance, allegedly because his schedule didn't allow it. Still, apparently his schedule allowed to sign up for the Collectormania 8 in London the very same weekend he was supposed to appear in Neuss! It is no surprise that most fans at the convention were accordingly pissed. Fortunately René Ahlberg, the person in charge of the Galileo 7, could convince Jonathan Frakes to join the Con.
Here is a Con report with some pictures.
Comment on "These Are The Voyages"
Since the very first announcement I was opposed to Enterprise. I was convinced that Berman and Braga were joking when I saw their first list with blatantly stereotypical character drafts, and I thought even more so when the first pictures of the ship cropped up. I believed I would never get accustomed to Series V, much less that it would grow on me. I was wrong. Fortunately, because many single episodes of the first three years and nearly the complete fourth season lived up to the premise and gave us memorable moments of television. Not primarily stuff for nerds or for action fans, but quality entertainment with an attitude. Enterprise had several flaws most of which I had predicted. It may not have been the most original or the most compelling Trek show. But it ultimately proved to be a worthy part of the legacy, as worthy as any of its four predecessors. My heartfelt thanks go to the creative staff, and in particular to Manny Coto, Judith & Garfield Reeves-Stevens and Mike Sussman who did a terrific job.
However, even a mediocre show wouldn't have deserved to be dumped like this. "These Are The Voyages" is an abysmal installment that pretends in its unprecedented self-glorifying fashion to celebrate the series and to unite the fans but actually does quite the contrary. An episode that was hard to endure because of its artificiality and overall irrelevance of dialogues and interaction. I was glad when it was over. I'm trying not to be malicious, but it happened just when Berman and Braga used their privilege as executive producers and came up with a story by themselves. Read the complete rant.
Anyway, it is sad to see Star Trek go off air for the first time in 18 years and without a perspective for a new series. If it weren't for my website and the immense work I need to put into it (no matter if new episodes are produced or not), I would feel empty now. The fan base is in need of strength and unity now more than ever. Perhaps, by just carrying on and defying the many voices calling "Star Trek is dead" I can help a bit to get us and to get Paramount back on Trek.
Galileo 7 Report 2004
As already announced, I attended the Galileo 7 Convention in Neuss, Germany, with my girl-friend on Saturday, October 2nd. It was an extraordinary experience to see all the stars in person, albeit mostly from a distance, and to listen to their amusing and often very personal stories. Here is a Con report with some pictures.
By all means, we are likely to visit the next Galileo 7 Con too, even if it is without Patrick Stewart. The location will be the same, and it's barely 15 minutes to drive anyway. :-)
Memory Alpha - The Open Star Trek Reference
A new database has been launched for all Trek fans who always wanted to share their knowledge and ideas online, but never got around to creating their own website. Memory Alpha is an open Star Trek reference written collaboratively by the readers. The site is a WikiWiki database, meaning that anyone may edit anything that is not designated as a protected page. This is a unique and new approach in the Trek online community. There are no prerequisites except for interest in Star Trek; no HTML knowledge is necessary to become an editor of Memory Alpha. Users are not required to register an account, although it is encouraged so one's work is recognized.
With the help of the Trek online community, Memory Alpha may become the most definitive, most accurate, most recent, and most accessible encyclopedia and reference for everything related to Star Trek. And anyone who notices errors or omissions may just click "Edit this page" and fix them!
Memory Alpha is maintained by Dan Carlson of Star Trek Minutiae and Harry Doddema of Titan Fleet Yards. Sponsors include the Subspace Comms Network discussion forum, Trekmania, Federation Starship Datalink, and Ex Astris Scientia.
Anyone who is not yet convinced of the concept, just head over to Memory Alpha and see for yourself. It's *your* database!
Iraq War and Guestbook War
Okay. I'm back in business, but not without summarizing my thoughts about the Iraq War issues and putting it into a more suited place than the EAS front page: Iraq War and Guestbook War.
Astronaut and Cosmonaut Memorial
The exploration of space is one of the greatest achievements of mankind. It would not have been possible without "faith of the heart", without the determination and dedication of the scientists, engineers, technicians and other personnel involved in the projects - and especially of the protagonists. Astronauts and cosmonauts are heroes, not because they take unnecessary risks, but because they allow their visions and dreams to come true.
Going into space has not yet become routine. It bears many risks, as a number of fatal accidents during the 43-year history of manned space travel sadly demonstrate. Nothing could compensate for the loss of these lives. But as long as the responsible administrations learn from their mistakes and negligences and make future missions safer, the disasters may at least have a positive and lasting effect.
A memorial page is dedicated to the memory of the crews of Apollo 1, Soyuz 1, Soyuz 11, Challenger and Columbia.
Review of "Star Trek Nemesis"
On a different note, the premiere of "Nemesis" in Germany was on January, 16th. It may not have been the best Star Trek movie, but was anything but a disappointment. Quite obviously there were concessions to the big screen in the form of more action and a rather simple plot compared to most TNG episodes on TV.
Shouldn't the critics, who (once again) declared the death of the franchise, rather complain about a general trend especially in sci-fi/action movies? Let's face it, most of the recent flicks of this genre (and especially those numbered >1) have unremarkable stories, stupid dialogues and ridiculously exaggerated action sequences. They may be taken either as meaningless entertainment or as unintentional satire. One thing that will always distinguish Star Trek from such action mass products is that here is an overall serious tone, stories about characters and an attempt to make a point beyond the mere entertainment. "Nemesis" may be only average from a purely cineastic viewpoint, but is still light years ahead of the crowd. We can only hope for another TNG feature.
Read my full review.
It is not easy for me to maintain this site at the moment, as I am traveling a lot and I usually have internet access only on weekends. It is not even so much the mere entertainment factor I miss. It is rather the possibility to conveniently look up things like train schedules, city maps or technical information for my job (as well as for my personal website), without endlessly running around, asking people or making phone calls. I notice only now how much this has become a part of my life, and I don't think it's the worst part.
It is not possible to do everything offline, equipped with a laptop only. I hope those who are waiting for my e-mail replies or for promised updates have patience with me until the end of December.
Weeks of Trouble
The two last weeks were a very depressive time, but also a very joyful time. Depressive most of all because of the horrible school massacre in Erfurt on April 26th that paralyzed a whole nation. I admit that I was among the many people in Germany who had developed an almost cynical attitude that such things usually happen in countries with liberal weapon laws. I was mistaken. The student who killed 16 people had a license for two guns. What is the use of the best law if a madman is never recognized as such until it is too late? Like most other Germans, I'm at a loss here. But I will not simply accept that crimes like this may happen again. My heartfelt condolences to the families of the victims!
Compared to this, my personal misfortune is definitely of minor importance. Read about Strato's untrue assertions that led them to terminate my contract here. But help was already on the way. I received hundreds of e-mails and guestbook/forum entries with support and suggestions for hosting alternatives. I'm very grateful for that. I finally decided to go with Jak Crow's offer to host the site on his server. Thanks a lot!
On a different note, I am glad that my final Ph.D. exam is approaching and that I have finally found a very good new job. But I may not have that much time for updates in the near future, and I may have to cut down communication with other fans which alone usually takes one hour per day. Thanks for your understanding.
Interview with Rick Sternbach
After seeing the first few episodes of Enterprise I have changed my mind about the new series a bit. It does have the spirit of Star Trek in it, and for now it has the necessary story potential, even if half of the episodes were rather poor drama. I am also glad that the series is well received by a more general public, despite my still existing concerns that it will ultimately displace most of what made up Trek so far. Anyway, Star Trek is Enterprise, and I'm relieved that Enterprise is Star Trek too.
The other good news is that the tenth feature film will be released in 2002. One of the people involved in the production is Rick Sternbach, former Senior Illustrator and Technical Advisor of Star Trek Voyager. I had the opportunity to ask Rick quite a few questions. While he couldn't reveal any secrets about the upcoming movie, Rick talked about the making of props and ships for Voyager, his other projects and his opinion about Enterprise. Read the full interview.
The World Has Changed
This is not the time to go back to business as usual. I have written down a few thoughts about September 11th which may offer a positive perspective for the future.
No 35th Birthday Celebration
It's Star Trek's 35th birthday on September 8th, 2001. Many of my visitors would probably expect me to celebrate this event with extensive updates and new features, but I have to disappoint you.
The first reason for this is a joyful one. I am currently writing up the last pages of my Ph.D. dissertation. Although it will still need a few weeks of working day and night, I'm finally content with it, after messing around for almost three years with not much visible success.
There is, however, a second reason. Celebrating the past 35 years would require me to look ahead too, but this is what I'm very afraid of. My grudge against Enterprise is growing. And it's not only the impossible technology, the unfitting Akiraprise, or the boring sets that look like Voyager's interior with switches and buttons. My last hopes that the series could be something new and original are gone since I know the plot summaries of the first three regular episodes. They all seem to come straight from the replicator, with aliens, anomalies and dangerous planets of the week. Exactly what we have seen for 14 years in TNG and Voyager. They were both great series, but I'm not likely to enjoy the same stories in the wrong time.
A Bad Design Decision
It's a sad day. I was still hoping that the patch that showed up in the Paramount studios was a fake, or that it depicted an Akira class because an image of the new Enterprise wasn't available or not yet to be published. It hurt me when I saw that the Enterprise looks really like that.
It's a totally unfitting design, and a design that screws up a continuity that has been built for over 30 years. Take part in the poll and read my thoughts on the Enterprise.
Free Websites: Unwanted
Nothing in life is for free - at least nothing you actually need. Even if you get something for free today, you will regret it tomorrow. It is obvious that there must be a catch to free (or inexpensive) webspace, which becomes clear at the latest when a huge banner ad ruins even the best web design. The trouble several webmasters including myself have encountered recently, however, is even worse.
Virtualave/Hypermart lure their users into a trap when they demand a credit card number in case the site traffic exceeds a ridiculously low limit of 500MB per month. MyToday, where I host my galleries, has frequent down times and a file size limit of only 200k per file. Geocities keeps deleting member accounts at random. Homestead, finally, has announced to several of its members that they will charge a fee for the once free service. The really mean thing about it is that all websites on Homestead will be irretrievably lost unless the fee is paid, because the sites only work on their server.
The internet as a place to show and discover individuality, creativity and idealism doesn't exist any longer. It has become a marketplace where every free corner has to be filled with stock quotes, dating ads or other crap. Non-commercial websites, even if one pays for them, are only tolerated as platforms for banners and only if their traffic remains insignificant.
As for EAS, I'm sick of moving things around and of fixing or circumventing server or script errors for which I'm not responsible. I will either have to stop updating or pay a lot more money than presently. Only one thing I can promise: EAS will never have any banners or other ads.
Star Trek: An All-American Vision?
The question whether Star Trek may be too American is not new, but the announced "Enterprise" cast with three of five humans being American and four being English-speaking has recently raised the discussion again.
The American influence on Star Trek is universal. It's for once the fact that the overwhelming majority of characters and named extras are supposed to be Americans, and human foreigners seem to be a smaller minority than aliens. Even the names of human characters are usually chosen in a way that they sound Anglo-American. It's also that Star Trek is very fond of US history, food and customs as if the cultural diversity on Earth has been "assimilated".
Agreed, even though it is sold to many other countries Star Trek is still an American TV series primarily made for an American audience. My complaint is that a series about a future in which humankind is united and exploring the unknown shouldn't include such a lot of hints suggesting something narrow-minded like Earth being the backyard of the USA. The writers should get a world atlas and try heed the principle of IDIC.
What do you think about American influences in Star Trek? Tell me at the SCN (no registration necessary).
Launch of EAS Today
I'm still dismayed about the announcement of "Enterprise", which I fear may not only ruin a consistency that has been established throughout 35 years, but could also be detrimental to the whole idea of Star Trek as a science fiction show. While I really wish the new series could enrich the Star Trek Universe, I think it's not good to simply discard the apprehension and assume that everything will be fine. My criticism stands: Enterprise - Heading in the Wrong Direction
Now for the good news: In the course of the "Enterprise" hype I have noticed that it would be great to have always the most recent information at hand. TrekToday, probably the best source for Trek-related news, offers a great service to include their headlines into other sites which I'm using from now on.
Apart from the news, this page is also the place for informal and spontaneous thoughts that may come to my mind. Well, the idea is not really new, actually I have "borrowed" it from Star Trek Dimension. Sorry, Christian, it was just too good to resist doing the same. :-)
Web tips have been discontinued.