Michael’s cry of joy and relief when her sensors report plentiful organic life is so raw and so beautiful. I think it actually coveys the stakes of last season much better than the peril itself did, and it makes it so believable that Michael and her Discovery family were willing to do what they did.
Michael being hopped up on truth drugs was fucking adorable, and her saying “I am done being reflexively supportive!” while still under their influence is such a fantastic bit of character writing.
The bulk of the episode juggles action and worldbuilding in a way that entertains and informs exceedingly well, and I really do enjoy all of it but besides Michael’s aforementioned cathartic cry of joy, my favorite part of the episode is the ending. It is so, so clear how much the Federation, and Starfleet, mean to Sahil.
The first time I saw this I was a bit guarded when it was clearly positioning Michael to restore hope to the Federation, because I was very worried it was going to do the same kind of exceptional hero, individualistic theming that made the first season feel so un-Star Trek, but rewatching it now that I know where it’s going I was able to relax and really enjoy what it meant to both of them to have that moment.
I love this season so much, I’m so glad the show got here.
3×02 “Far from Home”
Saru continues to be freaking amazing as a captain I’m so glad they give it to him this season. He’s such a great leader and he’s come such a long way, I just love it so much. And everyone being so happy to see Michael and her palpable relief after a year on her own is so, so, so good.
3×03 “People of Earth”
I kind of hate the whole earth isolationist thing, honestly? It doesn’t really make sense to me in light of earth’s place in the Federation. I get that they wanted to show the Federation being in shambles and having basically none of the major member worlds still in the fold is for sure a way to do that, but I think it would make way more sense for earth to be like “hey we’re still in the Federation in theory but we’re kind of super cut off and it sucks.”
I really love how Michael defused the situation with the “dilithuim bandits” though and I really, really extra appreciate the show not demonizing them and showing that they’re just desperate and trying to survive!! And that they’re projecting strength and ruthlessness not because that’s actually where they are but because they’re hecking scared and don’t think they can let that show. That’s so much more empathetic than it could have been.
I still hate the idea that earth would just stop supporting the rest of the solar system, though. The Burn doesn’t even explain that, because all travel in the solar system would still happen via impulse anyway. The solar system at least should still be supporting each other. I like what they did with it and all, but I kinda hate it conceptually, especially when contrasted with how good of a job the show does with Starfleet in the next episode. Again I think you can do “under siege and desperate” without doing “Earth First.”
Adira though!!!!!!!!!!! Welcome to the show.
3×04 “Forget Me Not”
Although it takes a few more episodes for them to come out as nonbinary, Adira Tal is the franchise’s first transgender and first nonbinary character. But they didn’t have to spend too long as the only transgender Star Trek character as they are joined in literally the next episode by their amazing trans boyfriend Gray Tal.
I love these two together so much, I can’t believe I lived long enough to see a franchise that was weirdly resistant to including gay characters have two trans characters who are gay for each other.
Their reunion takes place amid a ritual where Adira communes with their symbiont and all the previous hosts of the Tal symbiont. It’s such a powerful moment of love and triumph and when Adira wakes up and confidently says the names of all of Tal’s previous hosts my heart just swells.
(I will confess to quite a bit of annoyance that we have yet another “that really cool species I love, but make them a human instead” character in this show, but I love Adira so much I’m willing to overlook it.)
Oh and in the B plot Saru tries to help the crew deal with all their trauma or whatever and it kind of blows up in his face but that’s actually a positive development and yeah this show rules.
3×05 “Die Trying”
Season 1 broke my trust so much that I was genuinely expecting some kind of stupid twist where Starfleet was eeeeevil in the future or some bullshit like that, but nah. These are just traumatized people that have been beaten down over and over every time they try to make things better. The Federation is still the same ideal it always was, but it’s hard for people to believe it’s going to last when circumstances seem so stacked against that outcome. They’re still trying so hard to do the right thing but they don’t have a big picture hope to inspire them so everything has just become a neverending slog.
Michael and Saru’s belief that Discovery can rekindle that hope is so much better than the way they tried to make Michael the sole hero in season 1, or Discovery having to stop Starfleet (and Sarek, who has devoted his entire life to peace and diplomacy) from doing a genocide, even though the first time I saw this I was a little on guard because of how much it seemed to rhyme with that old approach. This is how you imperil Starfleet’s ideals to reinforce them. You don’t have to have literally everyone but one officer, and then one ship, walk right up to the precipice of abandoning those principles as soon as it becomes difficult to maintain them.
I know I’m risking sounding like a broken record but this is so much better. In a very substantive way, it’s just kind of not even the same show. The conflict doesn’t come from within Starfleet itself. Instead, Starfleet is confronted with a situation where their ideals don’t seem like they’re enough, but they maintain them anyway, and then someone brilliant comes and shows them the way forward. And they have trouble trusting them at first because they’ve been getting their asses handed to them for literally hundreds of years and they’re starting to lose hope, but in spite of that they have never even entertained the possibility of abandoning who they are. (We will see this even more explicitly later in the season.)
Michael and Discovery inspire them, but they don’t have to browbeat them into being who they are. They’ve been doing it for hundreds of years in spite of morale-crushing circumstances. Everything has become a slog and it doesn’t seem like it’s ever going to get better. They have no plan, no way back to how things were. They think it’s hopeless. They think they’re going down. But if they’re going down, they’re going down fighting. They’re going down as who they are, who they’ve always been.
That’s Starfleet. That’s the Federation. And that’s why season 3 of Discovery is quite possibly my favorite season of any Star Trek show.
STAMETS BONDING WITH ADIRA AND STARTING THE SUBPLOT WHERE HIM AND HUGH BECOME GAY DADS TO THEM AND GRAY, AAAAA.
The main plot was also pretty great, I guess. Burnham convinces Georgiou to go on an unsanctioned mission to rescue Book (“you had me at ‘unsanctioned mission’”), and she and Book basically lead a slave revolt, and before that we get plenty of Burnham having to pretend to be Georgiou’s servant as well as eye candy in the form of the Orion bully boy who’s in charge of the salvage yard. We also get our first hints of Georgiou’s illness and Michael trying to convince her to get medical help because this isn’t the Terran universe and “vulnerability is not a death sentence.”
I 100% agree with Burnham for going after Book and I 100% agree with Saru for revoking her first officer status because of it and I just have so much empathy for everyone in this situation. Also I really appreciate that Vance takes Burnham saving people’s lives (and freedom) into account in choosing not to punish her. For as grumpy as he always is he’s so good at exemplifying the Federation’s values.
Okay but to circle back around to what really matters: queer chosen family hype, though.
3×07 “Unification, Part 3”
This is a silly complaint but I kinda wish this had gotten a “Previously on…” sequence at the beginning featuring scenes from the TNG two-parter like “If Memory Serves” got of “The Cage.”
I love not only that we picked this story thread back up, but that Spock was successful in reuniting the Romulans and Vulcans. In a way I’m a little sad to lose the Romulans as antagonists because they were just so dang good at it, but the 32nd century seems long past time to move on to new things, so I’ll more than happily allow it. And Michael being so, so proud of her brother for achieving this seemingly impossible goal was incredibly moving, I felt so good for both of them in that little moment.
The science fight that makes up the bulk of this episode’s runtime might seem silly conceptually, but they did a great job with it and used it to do a bunch of stuff at once. Character work for Michael, filling in the gaps of what happened with the Burn and the Federation and Ni’Var, and to top it all off the beginnings of reconciliation between the Federation and Ni’Var.
That’s… a lot to get through in a show trial/debate club meet, but the way it gets there makes it feel totally earned? I loved Michael’s mother as a Qowat Milat, and the ways she challenges Michael get her to open up in a way that services all the aforementioned plot and character points. Also also, the character work for Michael is tied into her central conflict this season (questioning her place aboard Discovery and in the Federation writ large), and this season has been really great about having her actually incrementally make progress on that problem and not just leave it sitting on the back burner until she dramatically resolves it in the last episode or something?
This is functionally similar to Michael serving as Defender of the Faith for the Federation over and over in season 1, but it feels so much more honest and earned, and it doesn’t leave everyone else looking like an absolute stooge.
I get why the people of Ni’Var are reluctant to trust the Federation, and seeing them begin to overcome that is so much more rewarding when you really do empathize with them. I get why Michael is so determined to fix everything herself, and seeing her accept that that’s what she’s doing and let it go is so much more rewarding when you really do empathize with her.
Although this rightly takes up the majority of the episode’s runtime, believe it or not there is other stuff going on? Saru builds a rapport with President T’Rina of Ni’Var quite organically, and with T’Rina encouraged by the examples of Saru and Burnham, they part on hopeful terms. Furthermore, Ensign Tilly has been unexpectedly offered the position of acting first officer, and most of the crew gets together to tell her to say yes, and I’m not crying you’re crying, and Burnham gets there late and breaks the tension by saying “oh shoot, did I miss the cool ‘say yes’ part?” And I am just super, super okay with this show establishing a tradition of having the entire crew assemble to tell one of them that they’re awesome and they love them and making me cry, that’s a good tradition let’s keep doing that one.
3×08 “The Sanctuary”
ADIRA COMING OUT AS ENBY HYYYYYYYPE.
Stamets and Culber continue to be the absolute best gay space dads, I love it so, so much, I cannot believe I actually lived long enough to see a Star Trek series showing queer chosen families!!
The subplot about Georgiou’s condition has been a slow burn all season long, but this episode starts shifting it to the forefront so it can be the main plot of the subsequent two-parter. And despite everything going on with her, despite literally thinking she’s dying, when Discovery goes to red alert, Georgiou’s attention immediately shifts and she says, “Michael!” out loud before being intercepted by Dr. Culber before she can go do something stupid to protect her sub/daughter.
It was really cool seeing Book’s homeworld. I’m still definitely more interested in what’s going on with my Starfleet characters, but this is absolutely the way to do a Book-centric story.
Oh and not only is Osyraa an uncomfortably sexy/femdommy big bad for the rest of the season, she literally feeds one of her subordinates to a hypnovorey monster. I hate everything Osyraa stands for, but fuck I want her to step on me.
3×09 “Terra Firma, Part 1”
This is mostly setup for Part 2, but it’s fantastic setup. Saru and the others seeing Georgiou off was surprisingly affecting, especially the unexpected respect Georgiou and Saru exchanged. We finally get to see Captain Killy and Mirror Burnham. The former is just absolutely joyful to watch, honestly? But as much as the episode allows us to enjoy some of the more indulgent aspects of the Mirror Universe, it also lets us feel their horror, and Georgiou’s near-inability to conceal her discomfort really shows how far she’s come.
Again, the real payoff is coming in Part 2, but this is a great Part 1, and in a great two-parter you really do hope that most of the fireworks happen in Part 2. That’s kind of how it’s supposed to work!
3×10 “Terra Firma, Part 2”
The ending of this episode left me a sobbing wreck for a second time, so, yeah. Like, I was ugly crying and couldn’t stop until well after the episode was over. It just came in waves and there was nothing I could do about it.
Mirror Georgiou really gets to shine over the course of these two episodes, which are designed to show us how incredibly far she’s come thanks to her time aboard the Discovery, and with Prime Michael. Her interactions with Mirror Saru are incredible. It’s heartbreaking seeing her attempts to sway Mirror Michael to her side fail, but it’s wonderful seeing the attempt. It’s wonderful seeing her try to make things better. It’s the most like Prime Georgiou she’s ever been.
Her asking the Guardian if Michael can come with her is gutting. Their goodbye absolutely destroys me. This is just incredible television. And it’s worthy of the relationship between these two incredible women. It acknowledges what they are to each other, out loud, and it makes me feel all the feelings.
It’s still gutting that Michael won’t ever have either version of her mommy domme in her life again, but it is probably the best goodbye Star Trek has ever done. The sweetest sorrow, if you will.
Acting. Captain. Tilly.
I know Osyraa takes the ship from her (and is pretty hot in the process, ngl), but the way she holds her own in their first few confrontations was pretty badass. And I love, love, loved Michael’s pep talk to her and everyone being so completely behind her.
This episode starts a three-episode arc that wraps up all of the season’s plot lines in a satisfying way while also just being an extremely well-structured story as its own entity. Saru, Michael, and Culber go on a rather unique away team mission with a ticking clock. By the end of the episode, the away team is actually Saru, Culber, and Adira after Book swoops in to bring Michael back to Discovery and Adira stows away because they’re a badass.
This episode is definitely more about setting the stage for the last two episodes of the season, whereas those episodes are more about all kinds of shit happening omg, but it still manages to be a damn good episode in its own right.
3×12 “There Is a Tide…”
Michael Burnham IN Space Die Hard.
Also, Admiral Vance and Osyraa’s negotiations are badass. The conflict between the Emerald Chain and the Federation is made explicit when Osyraa actually says the word “capitalism” out loud. Vance and the Federation are actually totally interested in peace with the Chain as long as Osyraa steps down and faces justice for her many, many crimes.
Acting Captain Tilly really, really shines when her crew stages a jailbreak. She’s just totally on top of everything, and issuing orders like she’s been doing it her whole life.
But, yeah. Space Die Hard starring Michael Burnham is the main attraction here, and it totally works. And it’s fully justified by the narrative.
You guys, season 3 managed to do the same basic idea that drove me crazy in season 1 (Michael Burnham vs. the world), and make it actually good??? This is how you do an individual hero story. By making her part of something more, and not having that thing be an abstract idea that everyone around her should theoretically agree with. Instead, you make her part of a family, and have her explicitly fighting for them.
Even the heart-wrenching bit of storytelling where she sends an unwilling Stamets off the ship for his own protection and he explicitly describes this as a betrayal while begging her not to contributes to this. It explicitly morally imperils Burnham by attaching the stakes to her family.
It also shows her making a difficult command decision. The kind we’re told over and over, including by Michael herself, that a Captain needs to be able to make. Hmmm.
3×13 “That Hope Is You, Part 2”
Captain Michael Burnham.
In a way, this was always where this was going. This whole show, I mean. It still surprised me the first time I saw it, I had just kind of come to accept the status quo of her being the central character of the story without being the captain. But looking back over the series as a whole leading up to this point… what else could it have been leading to?
The idea of Michael having a command of her own is introduced in the very first episode of the series. It’s explicitly what Phillipa was preparing her for. And this season has been all about Michael’s growth, getting her to the point where she was really, truly ready for the center seat.
The moment when Acting Captain Tilly insists on Michael taking command is perfect. “You need to lead us. You. But, um, if it helps, that’s an order.” And then Admiral Vance asks her to take command officially and it just feels so completely right. My favorite part of this being the Admiral explicitly saying that Michael has been waiting too long, that she deserves this.
But to make this okay, we need something for Saru that’s more important than the center seat. And he finds that in Su’Kal, the lonely, traumatized Kelpian boy who caused the Burn. It’s very sweet seeing Saru patiently establish trust with him. Despite the urgency of their situation, he knows not to push too hard too fast. It makes their bond feel extremely earned.
Also also also, Gray gets a (temporary, holographic) body!! And gets to meet Hugh and they’re such a great family and Hugh explicitly promises that they’ll find a way to bring Gray back permanently and aaaaaaa.
So, uh, yeah. That wraps up… maybe the best single season of any Star Trek show… ever? It’s hard to say, because we’re talking about over 40 seasons. But… yeah. Regardless, this one really stood out.
This replaces and abridges an earlier review I did of these movies. I decided to read all the comics these movies are based on to give me more context for understanding the movies. Some of these movies weren’t based on any comics, so in those cases I just lightly edited my original reviews. Oh, and I didn’t read the Death of Superman for Superman: Doomsday because I’ll save that for the more faithful recent adaptation.
The DC Universe Original Movies are a series of high-quality direct-to-video (with a few exceptions that received limited theatrical releases) animated features. I first discovered them when I was working at Target in the (probably-defunct) Music, Movies and Books department. I was basically the person in charge of putting all the new releases on the shelf every Tuesday. There were these TVs all over the department playing this endless loop of commercials for movies and albums and even books. I know, right? Commercials for books? Anyway, they barely ever updated it, and it was so repetitive you usually ended up tuning it out if you had to spend much time in that department, but every now and then a new trailer would be added to the loop.
That’s exactly what happened about a week before Batman: Under the Red Hood was released. The first time I heard it playing, it snapped my attention away from my boring work routine and I was immediately transfixed. I resolved to pick the movie up as soon as it came out, and my excitement was rewarded with a frankly pretty great animated superhero flick.
As soon as I found out that there was a whole series of one-shot movies of similar quality, I started watching them. I didn’t always like them as much as Under the Red Hood. In fact, it’s still at or near the top of my list for best movies from this series, but the overall model of releasing high-quality animated features two or three times a year is still a pretty exciting one, and I wish more franchises would follow suit.
The history of the DC Universe Original Movies (so far) can roughly be divided into three eras. The first era is characterized by a bunch of largely unrelated one-shot movies. There was a loose continuity between this era’s two Justice League movies (minus New Frontier which was its own thing), and we saw the last gasp of that continuity in the opening scenes of Flashpoint Paradox, which is when the second era began.
Now, I’ll defer more detailed discussion of those second and third eras to my eventual megareviews of them, but suffice it to say both of them are characterized by much tighter continuity than this first era. I actually kind of appreciate the directionless nature of this first clump of mostly unrelated movies, and in a lot of ways I miss it. So it was a lot of fun to revisit.
Superman: Doomsday (movie, 2007)
The first entry in the series emphatically benefitted from being revisited. I had only seen it once before, and at the time I was way too turned off by what a radical departure it was from the source material. I especially found the BDSM-adjacent relationship between Lex and the Superman clone off-putting. This time I just found it pretty hilarious (and slightly hot if divorced from its context). The first DC animated original movie involved Superman getting smacked around like a little bitch while Lex said “who’s your daddy.” Wild.
I have my obvious boring complaints about how this movie paints cops and America in general as the good guys, and Superman killing a child murderer who was absolutely going to escape and kill again (he escaped prison twice in just this movie, and murdered a child!!) as a horrifyingly immoral act.
But, yeah. It’s a superhero movie. It’s gonna have totally fucked morals. But it had some great Supes/Lois stuff, some great character stuff for Supes in general, and some great action.
What really got me this time around, though, was when Lois showed up on Martha Kent’s (why did you say that name–sorry) doorstep and they had a tense at first exchange but then Lois finally lost it and started sobbing about how everyone else was mourning him for what he was to everyone, but he was theirs in a way the world could never understand, and that only they could understand the loss each other was feeling.
So, uh, yeah. Superman: Doomsday is Good, Actually. Who knew.
DC: The New Frontier (comic, 2004) & Justice League: The New Frontier (movie, 2008)
For a lot of these I will have seen the movie before I read the comic. That was the case for New Frontier, and I have to say when I got around to reading the comic (which I was not excited for) I found that it actually made a much better comic than it did a movie, and that somewhat improved my opinion about the story as a whole.
Even when I had only seen the movie, I noticed that The New Frontier felt somewhat Watchmen-adjacent. It lacks Watchmen’s genre deconstruction, and its politics aren’t nearly as forceful, but that’s hardly surprising. There’s a reason DC wouldn’t allow Moore to use canonical characters to tell the story he wanted to tell. But the parallels are even more obvious when enjoying the story in its intended form. Seeing it on the page, with its thick white borders around each panel and impressive full-page spreads and intertextual elements like newspaper articles and investigation notes makes it feel like a much more literary experience. Its narrative consequently feels less “boring”/slow and more… measured? Deliberate? There’s a pretty big difference with this kind of pacing when it feels on purpose, like it has a point.
I think probably the most important element of the plot that comes across better in print than on the screen is that the menacing threat of the Centre, which isn’t even fully revealed until towards the end of the penultimate issue of this six-issue miniseries, feels a heck of a lot more genuinely foreboding and threatening instead of just being a kind of boring and weird antagonist that doesn’t show up until the movie is almost over.
The print medium also does wonders for the clash of style between Golden Age and Silver Age heroes, an element that frankly didn’t even really come across in the movie? I do wonder if I would feel differently about the movie if I had read the comic first, but I guess that’s something I’ll never know. And while the comic is a huge improvement (anachronistically, given that it came first) over the movie, it does share many of its shortcomings.
You probably already guessed where I’m going here. This story, in either medium, is some serious American propaganda. Like, it goes out of its way to be propaganda. It ends with a speech from President Kennedy for crying out loud. It mostly portrays the U.S. as the good guys in the Cold War, the most egregious example probably being the ridiculously contrived scenario where Wonder Woman rescues a bunch of Vietnamese women from Viet Cong soldiers. Because yeah, sure! It was definitely the Viet Cong soldiers menacing the women of their own country, not the foreign invaders who came to enforce imperialism on them. Sure. Sure. That’s totally real.
The comic, while still largely misguided, does have two pretty substantial advantages over its movie adaptations in this arena. For one thing, while the U.S. comes across pretty unambiguously as the good guys in the Korean War in the movie, the comic actually gives a lot more weight to Hal’s pacifism having a point to it, with him explicitly saying he doesn’t think what the U.S. was fighting for in Korea is worth killing anyone over. This is difficult to reconcile against the comic’s otherwise wholehearted endorsement of the U.S. labeling communism as “tyranny,” but it’s something, and the movie had a whole lot of nothing on this front.
But when it comes to politics, and storytelling in general, the beating heart of the comic is just totally missing. And that’s John Wilson, who took on the persona of John Henry. The tragic story of John Henry, and the iconic panel of a young John Henry Irons sitting by his grave, is probably the single most affecting thing in this entire comic. It’s the only time the comic’s politics have the vital force of truth behind them. And they just don’t include it in the movie at all.
It completely reframed my opinion of this story. Its politics are still deeply misguided, it still seems to buy that the U.S. is an essentially good but deeply flawed country that can Do Better, that while the government’s responses to communism threaten civil liberties communism is still Bad Actually. But in spite of that, John Henry’s story is something raw, something real. Something bigger than the supposedly larger text around him.
And they just didn’t include it at all. There’s like two blink and you miss it references to it. It would be like excising Valerie Page’s autobiography from V for Vendetta. It’s so much more important than the rest of the text around it, it’s just kind of nothing without it.
I mean, the comic would still be way better than the movie for all the reasons I already listed, but that just makes it unfair.
(Comic: B-Rank; Movie: C-Rank)
Batman: Gotham Knight (movie, 2008)
This one is just a series of shorts loosely set in Chris Nolan’s universe. I like anthologies in general, so I didn’t hate it, but it was pretty mediocre on the whole and there isn’t really much to dig into, so I’ll be brief.
Have I Got a Story for You
Have I got a significantly worse version of The New Batman Adventures’ episode “Legends of the Dark Knight” for you. With the worst art style in the collection.
Mostly copaganda with a large side helping of shitting on neurodivergent people, but the art style is acceptable and the part where Batman stands in flames while basically opera music blares seriously rules.
Kevin Conroy’s voice coming out of an anime twink they tried to vaguely make look like Christian Bale’s Bruce is weeeeeird. But the art style in this one is pretty good overall and it’s a very character-driven story, which is always a plus in Batman.
In Darkness Dwells
This one owns. Batman gets to rescue someone and take on Killer Croc and the Scarecrow.
Working Through Pain
There’s some psychobabble about how pain works that ranges from unhelpful to genuinely harmful, especially the bit about how you can control pain that comes from inside of you. YIKES. NOT how that works. But it’s another character-driven one, and it has some great music and that sunset scene is the most gorgeous thing in the entire anthology.
Say, whatever happened with Batman’s parents? Are they still around or?
I wasn’t the biggest fan of this the first time I saw it, and rewatching it did not change that. Nor did I particularly care for the comic it was loosely based on. They were both frankly… kind of boring.
The best parts of the comic were probably the fights with Decay, Deimos, and Ares himself. And the first one wasn’t in the movie at all, while the latter two were substantially different to the point of not really being the same fights.
Another big advantage the comic enjoyed over the movie, despite being written over 20 years earlier, is that it didn’t center Steve nearly as much. Steve was basically the audience POV character of the animated movie, which is a mistake the live-action DCEU Wonder Woman movie also makes? It’s just a bizarre choice considering, you know, everything. Relatedly, while there’s an awkward moment or two here and there in the comic, in the animated movie the gender politics are just a fucking mess that’s superficial white feminism in its best moments and just totally regressive in its worst.
The movie also has frankly some hella “yikes” stuff with the depictions of the Amazons themselves. Like Artemis bullying Alexa for her liking to read and not being the best fighter. And can someone please explain to me why Hippolyta is so dang thirsty for a nuclear family? And “the Amazons are warriors, but we are women too” is the worst way to phrase that, just, yikes.
There is some good stuff in the movie, though! Like Wonder Woman teaching that little girl how to swordfight. That ruled. And her just totally drinking Steve under the table.
But mostly my favorite part of the movie was the ending. And I just wish the entire movie had been Wonder Woman being a superhero, and Steve being a boywife, rather than us getting nothing but her origin story. I just want to see her being Wonder Woman. Is that so much to ask for?
Green Lantern: First Flight (movie, 2009)
As far as I’ve been able to determine, this one isn’t based on any specific comic story, just kind of a general stab at Hal Jordan’s early days as Green Lantern. It’s a pretty solid by-the-numbers Green Lantern origin flick.
Green Lanterns are close enough to space cops that it’s hard for me to be as uncritically enthusiastic about them as I used to be, but there is still quite a bit appeal to a diverse team like this with cool superhero uniforms IN SPACE, so yeah. And all the different color-coded Lanterns having different powers based on different emotions. It’s kinda brilliant, honestly. Well, it would be if it weren’t for the assigning of some emotions as “good” and others as “bad” but y’know.
Superman/Batman, Vol. 1: Public Enemies (comic, 2003-2004) & Superman/Batman: Public Enemies (movie, 2009)
For the sake of context, this is another one where I saw the movie before I read the comic. After reading the comic, I can say that the movie is a super faithful adaptation, though it’s obviously trimmed quite a bit. The biggest change is that it totally removed the subplot where Angsty Future Superman tries to kill Superman and Batman to stop them from making the same mistakes they made in his timeline, which is a bold choice when he also could’ve just… told them what went wrong? So I kind of don’t mind that part being cut out.
There’s a few other tangents that get cut out, probably the most consequential of which are the Batkids and Superkids busting into the White House to try to break out Supes and Bats because they think they’ve been captured. It didn’t really add anything to the main story, so I don’t mind missing out on it in the movie, but I’m a huge Nightwing stan and big Robin fan and fan of all the other “hero, but kid” characters, so on a personal level obviously I missed them a little bit.
My favorite thing about the movie–which my boyfriend pointed out while we were watching it together–was that Bruce and Clark are just blatantly boyfriends in it. But that’s actually even more super obvious in the comics? So that rules.
Honestly, this whole offshoot universe where Lex is president and everything is a little Off is kinda weird and I don’t hate that it only got two movies, but I nevertheless actually kinda liked the comic kind of a lot? And can see myself reading more of it just for the heck of it. It just hits exactly the tone I’m looking for in DC stuff.
Justice League of America #29-30 (comic, 1964) & JLA: Earth 2 (comic, 2000) & Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths (movie, 2010)
For the record, this is another one where I watched the movie before I read the comics it was based on.
Justice League of America #29-30 are from 1964, and they are… very from the 60s. Not that there’s necessarily a lot of outdated slang or anything, or at least it didn’t jump out at me much if there was. The plot is just extremely straightforward (and kinda repetitive despite this “arc” only lasting two issues?) and quite a bit of the dialogue is either exposition that a modern comic would likely use visuals to dramatize or the respective sides in the conflict boasting that they’re gonna win. Honestly if you’ve ever read the first appearance of the Reverse Universe in the Archie comic series, this is a dead ringer for that. I wouldn’t be shocked if this was that comic’s inspiration.
Before I talk about the JLA: Earth 2 graphic novel, I should say: GRANT MORRISON IS NONBINARY??? HOW DID I NOT KNOW THAT??? I really enjoyed their run on X-Men, so this wasn’t my first time enjoying their work! And knowing this kind of makes me want to check out more of their other work!
All that aside, JLA: Earth 2 is also just a drastically better comic. It has more complex and sophisticated storytelling, but it preserves the core aspect of the original story which is that it’s just really hecking cool to see all these heroes fighting evil versions of themselves. The idea that good is always fated to win in our universe and always fate to lose in the other universe felt a bit silly, but it was a nice homage to the original story’s “we have to lose to win!” strategy.
The movie has a lot in common with the comics, but is essentially a streamlined version of the story. One kind of weird change is that the evil counterparts of the Justice League were literally just mobsters. There are definitely some elements of that in JLA: Earth 2, but it’s really ramped up in the movie. Hearing that kind of stereotypical diction was just weird. I would rather they had just talked and acted like supervillains. Just my take, though.
It was undeniably satisfying seeing Batman fight Owlman, Wonder Woman fight Superwoman, Superman fight Ultraman, etc, though. I mean, that’s what we all came to see, right?
I have mixed feelings about the subplot where these animated features give us the vital information that Bruce Timm is kinky. But seeing Batman get smacked around by Superwoman and having it be pretty explicit that she was a sexual sadist… really didn’t suck, honestly? I think it was the biggest thing from the movie that I was missing when I read JLA: Earth 2, where they’re just straightforwardly having an affair behind Ultraman’s back as far as we know. And when Wonder Woman finally wrangles Superwoman and demands, “Submit.,” I got all subby and thirsty, so.
Ultraman was fine in the comics, but was probably the most boring one of the big three’s counterparts in the movie. And he was also the one whose personality was the most just “he’s literally a mob boss.” So. Probably not a coincidence there. But aside from Superwoman’s explicit sexual sadism, Owlman being a philosophy-obsessed nihilist was probably my favorite change the movie made. A+. Epic. 10/10. Loved his overwrought arguments with Batman. Loved how much he resembled angsty Batman fans who think they’re smarter than everyone. Seriously, this was brilliant.
It’s probably pretty obvious that JLA: Earth 2 was my favorite version of this story (and my ratings reflect that), but all of them had their charm. The 60s comics are probably the only one that doesn’t have any specific, unique elements to recommend it, but it’s also the source the other two are drawing from, so you know. Something to be said for that.
Batman: Under the Hood (comic, 2005) & Batman Under the Red Hood (movie, 2010)
So, yeah, as previously mentioned this is the movie that really got me into this series. The obvious things working in its favor are that I freaking love Robin, Nightwing, and villains who are either corrupted good guys or evil versions of good guys or whatever. I just always find those kinds of conflicts compelling thematically and because they’re so evenly matched. We also get three other major villains in Black Mask, the Joker, and Ra’s al Ghul, and a brief recap of A Death in the Family, so yeah there’s kind of a lot here. Plus Christopher Drake’s soundtracks always slap, and there are some fantastic action scenes.
Jason Todd isn’t my favorite Robin by any stretch of the imagination, but uh, I did write some embarrassing crackship slash fiction of him and Nightwing as a teenager so clearly I found him at least somewhat compelling. (For the record: I wrote Jason as an extremely bratty power bottom and Dick as a very befuddled service top and this is objectively correct I will not be accepting feedback at this time.)
Anyway yeah this movie rules. There are parts of it that are emotionally difficult like Jason’s death and his tirade at Bruce for not killing the Joker after he killed him, which really drives the overall drama of the piece. And I feel a lot of empathy for everyone involved even Bruce even though he’s a dumbass and should kill the Joker for so many reasons, but especially for what he did to Jason. There’s just no coming back from that, and he’s shown time and time again that locking him up isn’t going to do shit, he’s just going to escape and murder more people again and again.
As has been the case for most of these I saw the movie before reading the comics, but yeah the comics kicked ass. The narration, the art, the action, and the dialogue were all top notch. There were a few diversions from the main plot that seemed kind of unnecessary (what was even going on with Mr. Freeze), but I still don’t have any real major complaints. And wow the fights kicked ass.
It was pretty novel this early in the DC Universe Original Movies line to get a direct sequel! In fact I think this might be the first one? So that was pretty cool! There were a lot of moments that worked really well in isolation but it felt kind of like there were more moments that were infuriating in isolation, and on the whole it just doesn’t cohere as something nearly as good as Public Enemies. But still, Batman gets vored (briefly), and goth Kara can absolutely step on me.
The movie is also exceptionally faithful to the source material, so that’s pretty cool! Although, I was kind of hoping I’d like the comic better than the movie since I liked the first comic so much, but seeing as it turned out the movie was basically a panel for shot remake of the comic, I had many of the same problems with the comic that I did with the movie. Worse, instead of helping like it did with the first story, Bruce and Clark’s narration actually emphasized further that this story wasn’t really about Kara, it was about Clark. And I just think that’s such a waste. I know that’s kind of this series’ whole deal, but they probably should have reintroduced her to the DC canon in a different title.
I never quite knew what to make of Jimmy’s cross-dressing in the movie. Like, my gut reaction was that it was a positive/neutral portrayal, but I just didn’t trust it? Like, it was hard to imagine D.C. having someone just casually be genderfluid and not making a big deal of patting themselves on the back for it? But having now read the comic where it’s portrayed exactly the same way, and knowing now that Grant Morrison is nonbinary, it makes a lot more sense that it was so positive and chill.
I do have some complaints. Most of them are for the movie specifically, but one that crosses over to both is that the entire premise of Superman overdosing on sunlight just seems completely ridiculous to me? But I guess that’s ultimately a matter of personal taste? And, again, now that I know this was written by a queer person it does make hella sense that they wanted to tell a story where Superman knew he was dying of a terminal illness, and was running out of time to accomplish everything he wanted to accomplish.
As previously alluded to, I have additional complaints about the movie specifically. And these are much less a matter of personal taste. Not telling his mother he’s dying is reprehensible, for instance. But nothing is as egregious as the additional details added in the movie’s expansion of the prison riot scene.
In both the comic and movie, Superman visits Lex Luthor in prison as Clark Kent to interview him. In the comic, he saves his life several times when a full-blown prison riot breaks out. He also rescues all of the guards. And he lets basically all the prisoners except Lex die.
What good is a “hero” who defends the blunt instruments of our oppression at the expense of their most immediate victims? Of course, this is consistent with Kal-El’s paradoxical commitment to “truth, justice, and the American way.” How he can even begin to think he can square the former two with the latter is anyone’s guess.
To be fair, there are also actually a couple things I like better about the movie!
A few of the adventures from the comic had to be trimmed down, but I actually think that worked in the movie’s favor at times? The movie deleted the Bizarro world stuff entirely, and while I didn’t mind it exactly, the movie doesn’t really suffer from its absence. But that means the movie needed a different reason for Superman to be absent from earth when Bar-El and Lilo show up. They solved this by having Superman embark on a long, interstellar journey to find a suitable planet to release the bottle city of Kandor on instead of just anticlimactically plopping it on Mars. This streamlines the narrative and keeps things more on theme, so I think it worked super well.
This scene also streamlines the process of Lois finding out that he’s dying. Instead of her finding out from someone else and being mad that he didn’t tell her, he volunteers the information before heading out on his interstellar journey. It’s a pretty moving scene, and it also includes the line I opened this review with which is a line I really missed in the comic.
What I love about both the movie and the comic are their willingness to be dorky. And how episodic they are. And most importantly, the Big Question at their core.
How does a god deal with the news of his impending death?
I don’t want to die, nor do I particularly want to grow old. I have never felt particularly sympathetic to the argument that life’s brevity is what gives it meaning. I don’t have enough time in the day, in the week, in the month, in the year, in the decade, in my entire godsdamned life to get my fill of holding my partners close, of learning new things, of bettering myself. I could live a thousand years and never get enough of any of these things. I don’t want the curtain to come down. It isn’t the end that gives meaning. It’s the end that takes that meaning away. And I will never be ready.
The writer of the movie adaptation died a few days before it was released, you know. He was 49. What kind of cruel joke is that.
So what the fuck does a god do when he finds out he’s dying? That his functionally immortal life has been cut shorter than the average human’s. That a fucking god is going to die young.
The stereotypical Superman Problem is that he’s too powerful, too invincible, too hard to relate to. That’s always been bullshit because his vulnerability has always been the entirely too squishy humans around him that he cares about so much. I heard about a Superman game where instead of having a health gage for yourself, you have one for the city of Metropolis, and even though the game was apparently not that great that concept is just fucking perfect.
But what this story does is take the ultimate vulnerability, the news of his own impending death… and instead of using it to humanize him, he becomes even more intensely himself. He tries to finish as much of his work as he can, work that only he can do. Work that makes him as remote from us as he can possibly be.
I mean, fuck, his last act as his body is starting to convert to pure, brilliant energy (he doesn’t even die like the rest of us) is flying to the fucking sun to fix it by becoming one with it, easily his most herculean feat yet.
A god doesn’t become one of us just because he takes on our most defining vulnerability.
The work doesn’t stop just because he’s dying.
Green Lantern: Emerald Knights (movie, 2011)
“Once again, the diversity of the corps has proven to be its greatest asset.”
I liked this a lot better before I started paying attention to the specifics of some of the stories.
I mean, the Corps is basically space cops, so I’m kinda always gonna have mixed feelings. But I think this kind of structure is kind of the perfect way to do a Green Lantern movie. Having all these different stories starring different Lanterns plus a framing narrative that is itself a pretty big deal with several action setpieces. Yeah! This structure kinda rules.
As for the individual stories themselves? The first one is about the origins of the Corps and I genuinely enjoyed it and don’t have any huge complaints about it. Kilowag’s is pretty much Whiplash but with Green Lanterns instead of jazz drums. The absolutely upfront abuse apologism is just hard to stomach, and it’s frustrating because I really want to like Kilowag. Laira’s story was actually pretty great right up until its ending which is a totally unnecessary suicide. Mogo’s story rules and I have zero complaints about it. And Abin Sur’s story isn’t much to write home about but is fine.
Anyway, yeah. Even if the specific content of some of the stories infuriates me, I still really love the structure of this, and really enjoy it as a whole. Again, I think this is kind of the perfect way to make a Green Lantern movie, and wouldn’t mind seeing something similar in the future.
Batman: Year One (comic, 1987) & Batman: Year One (movie, 2011)
Another one where I saw the movie first, but it kind of didn’t really matter because the movie and comic were basically identical!
The nice thing is, the whole story is kind of Batman punching cops. And yeah, ok, it’s the “these are bad cops” bullshit (I remember there being some kind of throwaway line about Gotham’s PD just being extraordinarily corrupt)… but it’s still like almost 100% of the cops that are bad?
Even Jim Gordon’s “I’m gonna fix it from the inside!” kind of story was kind of good? Even though it’s been shown over and over again that that isn’t a thing and we need abolition… there was still plenty of stuff in this story line that I highly approved of. Like the commissioner dismissively telling him “you kept the media away from it, that’s all that matters” when Gordon references a past mistake, and when Gordon vows that he won’t have to worry about dishonesty from him, the commissioner says it’s “the last thing on [his] mind.” Which makes even more sense when we later see the commissioner dining with literal mob bosses.
Gordon’s primary antagonist is even the perfect representation of the worst kind of cop, a white guy who peaked in high school. Dude’s off-duty uniform was a letter jacket for the gods’ sake.
The only real Frank Miller bullshit on display here was his misogyny. Well, ok, and also his usual weird depictions of masculinity (like Gordon randomly using the barbell in Harvey’s office in the middle of a formal conversation where they’re both dressed in suits???), but those are surely related.
As far as misogyny, there’s especially a lot with how sex workers are portrayed here that’s just… ick. But probably the most frustrating thing is when Gordon’s hypercompetent coworker Detective Essen looks like she’s gonna be a great supportive friend for him but they end up having an affair because of course they do. It’s just so frustrating.
Also, on a very petty/whiney note: this needed more Catwoman!!!
But, yeah! Regardless of which version (again, they’re virtually identical), I think this is the least bad Frank Miller story I’ve ever encountered.
Another one where I saw the movie multiple times way before I read the comic.
I actually super prefer the movie version of this? I knew going in to reading the comic version that instead of Cyborg I would be getting Plastic Man and Aquaman. This one is resoundingly in the minus column for the comic. Plastic Man is a C-Lister and I got my fill of him watching Batman: The Brave and the Bold. Under most circumstances I would keenly feel Aquaman’s absence, but he did basically nothing in this arc.
But the biggest difference, and one I didn’t know about, was that Tower of Babel didn’t involve the Legion of Doom at all. Ra’s al Ghul is a drastically better villain than Vandal Savage, don’t get me wrong, but the story felt so much smaller with it just being a League of Shadows thing instead of the Justice League clashing with some of their worst adversaries in a sort of anti-Justice League.
The movie’s Legion of Doom is pretty awesome aside from Metallo and Mirror Master being kind of weird choices when Supes and Flash have much more iconic nemeses. The overall idea of Batman’s contingency plans being used against the Justice League and them feeling betrayed is pretty great! Not to mention all the awesome fights we get. Batman vs. Bane, Wonder Woman vs. Cheetah, Green Lantern vs. Star Sapphire. Oh, and while we’re here, wow I’m gay for Cheetah, help.
(Comic: B-Rank, Movie: A-Rank)
Action Comics #775 (comic, 2001) & Superman vs. The Elite (movie, 2012)
“I’m not an idiot. I know there are bad men in power.”
Then maybe you can stop having your whole thing be “truth, justice, and The American Way“?
Someone who literally brags about having a Union Jack tattooed on his chest is probably not the right guy to call out U.S. imperialism. I mean, he’s right, but come on.
Saw the movie before reading the comic, yada yada. I like that the movie just has them fight on the moon rather than on Io (one of Jupiter’s moons)? Picking a specific Not The Moon moon like the comic did feels weird when the moon is such a huge part of Superman’s iconography. Just a silly thing I noticed. Wild that the comic was referencing Western saber rattling against Libya all the way back in 2008. Was that a thing in 2008 and I just don’t remember it? (In the movie it was two fictional countries at war with each other.)
I kinda hate the character designs in the comic, especially Manchester Black’s. I like the movie’s design way better. Apart from that, I’m kinda surprised by how similar the movie is to the comic, but the movie really doesn’t spread too thin despite being a 76-minute movie adapting a single, 32-page issue.
As far as things that were added to the movie, “I killed a guy who has escaped from supermax prison twice in the first half of this movie and murdered multiple bystanders in the process both times” being treated as equally horrifying as “I murdered the governments of two sovereign nations” is… a choice. Oh and while we’re here, how’s that Definitely Not Imperialism going for you, Mr. Union Jack full chest tat.
Superman’s position is full of shit too, though. The embodiment of “the American Way” is the one lecturing about checking for innocent bystanders and not torturing? Please.
One of the things the movie did to add runtime to the movie was include way more Supes/Lois stuff, and I loved the dynamic between them. Keep him in line, girl.
As far as things that happened in both the comic and movie, Superman pretending he went off the deep end was pretty cool, tbh. And in a story where I didn’t find both sides’ positions completely infuriating it might’ve been pretty cathartic.
… ok, it was still kinda cathartic. Manchester Black is a little shit.
Anyway, I know I’m harshing on this a bit because Bad Politics in a Superhero Sotry Details at 11. Both the comic and movie were both alright. Extremely so-so. I know that’s kind of a hot take in the case of the comic, but it’s just how I feel.
Batman: The Dark Knight Returns (comic, 1986) & Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, Part 1 (movie, 2012) & Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, Part 2 (movie, 2013)
Finally one I read before I watched the movie!! Whoa!!
I remember thinking as I read The Dark Knight Returns that it would be pretty easy to adapt into a movie because a lot of its framing already had a very cinematic quality to it. I also hated it, and still do, but it’s Frank Miller writing a superhero who is frequently explicitly fashy even when Frank Miller isn’t writing him. There wasn’t much chance I was ever gonna like it.
Ronald Reagan wouldn’t hate Batman. He’s literally a billionaire who beats up poor people. They would play golf together. Superman might have a misguided belief that America is good but he would not be such a fucking lackey at the beck and call of the transparently slimey Reagan. The Soviet Union would not launch nuclear weapons because they lost a proxy war, they literally had a no-first strike policy for fuck’s sake!
When you split this into two parts it’s kind of unfair to Part 1? All you get in Part 1 is Batman vs. Two-Face and Batman vs. Some Gang That Didn’t Exist Before This Comic And Will Never Be Heard From Again. Part 2 gets Batman vs. Joker AND Batman vs. Superman.
Honestly I don’t mind revisiting this as a curiosity/change of pace. If you don’t take it too seriously it’s kind of silly to see all this broody & gritty nonsense every now and then. But it’s still just very anathematic to what I want out of superhero stories, and stories in general.
And for our last entry in this era of the DC Universe Original Movies, we reboard the Saw The Movie First train. And I did like the movie quite a bit! Lois kicked all kinds of ass, Clark learned a valuable lesson and stopped being a dumbass (for now at least), Kara worked through some trauma and kicked all kinds of ass, and Brainiac was an awesome villain.
Only the latter two were also a part of the comic this was based on, but that’s okay because they were definitely the A-plot. I really loved how Matrix/Alieny all the stuff on Brainiac’s ship was, and obviously I did not have a lot of complaints about the frequency with which Supes ended up bound by metal tentacles.
It’s funny, of the things the movie changed I actually preferred the movie’s choices for pretty much everything? But on the whole, I actually think I liked the comic better in its entirety?
The biggest change was Clark/Lois were the movie’s B-plot instead of Clark’s parents. But there’s also a new opening scene where Lois volunteers to be a hostage because she knows she’s safer than anyone else. But instead of her anticipated savior, Supergirl shows up! And she just shows off how completely OP she is, at one point using a literal finger flick to down a bad guy. It made me 10 kinds of gay.
I think the biggest thing working in the comic’s favor is that even though Kara’s part in the A-plot was virtually identical, for whatever reason she came across as much more of a badass in the comic? Like, the part where she stopped the missile from hitting the sun felt less like her being sidelined and more like her being a Big Fucking Deal, probably because the art and page layouts were able to be more intentional about expressing emphasis, whereas in the movie it just kind of cuts away to her flying to the sun and you’re like “oh, okay, she’s flying to the sun I guess?” I just don’t think the intention of these pages really came across in how they chose to adapt them.
But yeah, either way both versions of this story totally rule. Just an exceptionally good Superman story.
I usually insist on watching the show in production order because I’m all whatever like that, but it kind of really doesn’t make a difference for TOS so we just watched them in broadcast order since that’s the order literally every streaming service has them in and that way we don’t really have to think about it.
For what it’s worth, I actually think “The Man Trap” is a much better episode 1 than either of the pilots, so. There’s that in aired order’s favor at least!
Also sorry if I come across as overly harsh but TOS is really not my cup of Earl Grey anymore. For what it’s worth it was the first series I got into. I was pretty attached to the original Enterprise, and the characters–especially Spock–so it was “Star Trek” to me for the longest time.
1×01 “The Man Trap”
Absolutely classic Monster of the Week type stuff. A shapeshifting “salt vampire” just tears through the Enterprise’s complement one crewmember at a time. This is exactly the sort of stuff I come to TOS for.
1×02 “Charlie X”
(CW: Drug use, kink.)
The early days of TOS see two episodes about Captain Kirk and crew having to deal with humans that have gained godlike powers. The other one is “Where No Man Has Gone Before,” which aired right after this but was actually TOS’s second pilot. Since I’ll have more to talk about regarding this episode’s status as the show’s second pilot (a rarity in television), I’ll go ahead and talk about the episodes’ similar theming here.
We kind of held off on watching this episode until we could do so while slightly intoxicated (high in my and my fiancx’s case, drunk in my boyfirend’s case), and it really did help get through it. I… also might’ve ended up put in a bondage harness by my boyfriend just a few minutes into it, which also helped. Ahem.
What’s interesting about these two episodes is that they’re… kind of equally bad? But they’re also bad in completely different ways. “Where No Man Has Gone Before” is heavy and boring. “Charlie X” is… a lot of things, but “boring” is most certainly not one of them. Whereas “Where No Man Has Gone Before” is liable to put me to sleep, “Charlie X” is bad in a much louder, messier way and just super, super cringey.
(Quick but important sidenote: I don’t use that last word lightly, and I especially am not ever going to use it towards people to police their innocent enthusiasm for things I’m not into as has become increasingly in vogue. I kind of super hate that trend. Okay back to your regularly scheduled review.)
Whereas “Where No Man Has Gone Before” threatens to put me to sleep every time I watch it, “Charlie X” hits me in more of a “oh gods please make it stop” kind of place. A big culprit in this is one of the many rapey subplots involving Yeomen Janice Rand. The show sure did love putting her in that position, which is even more uncomfortable when you consider what she went through behind the scenes. (And was almost certainly not unrelated to that, so, uh, yeah. Yikes?) A lot of the episode’s conflict actually stems from this, with Captain Kirk doing an exceptionally bad job of trying to be a father figure to Charlie. There’s actually some pretty great acting by Shatner here, and he does come surprisingly close to telling Charlie he has to respect women and consent, but he doesn’t quite get there and also says some things that totally undermine any good he might have done. It’s also just thoroughly 60s and awkward.
I find myself wanting to say that I would rather revisit this one than “Where No Man Has Gone Before” because at least it isn’t boring, but I actually think we have found the exact level of this kind of messier, more interesting bad that turns me off just as much as something being boring.
1×03 “Where No Man Has Gone Before”
This was the second pilot for TOS, the one that replaced Christopher Pike with Jim Kirk. It was, regrettably, one of the few TOS episodes I owned on VHS, so I saw it plenty of times.
It’s just… it’s just not great, guys. Like, I found it interesting at the time because everyone’s uniforms are different and whatnot. It was cool to see how early in the show Scotty and Sulu showed up. And it’s pretty instructive that the very first scene of the second pilot featured an interaction between Kirk and Spock. Honestly, the expanded role for Spock is pretty much the only thing that improves on “The Cage” in any way. (Though, that green shirt looks awful on him. Glad they got him back in blue.)
Other than that, though, this is just so, so, so slow and overwrought. I’m glad the show ultimately developed into something sillier and more optimistic. This tone just really didn’t suit it.
1×04 “The Naked Time”
Everybody gets space drunk, TOS edition! It’s just super strange that both TOS and TNG decided to do this sort of plot so early on in the show when you barely know the characters, but at least in TOS’s case the characters are so broad and surface-level that I’m not sure it actually makes that big of a difference.
The TNG version of this is honestly a better all-around episode, but this one has the benefit of some of the most wonderfully campy scenes in all of Trek. The first is literally how the infection starts. Spock and a random redshirt (well, blueshirt technically) beam down to a planet wearing “isolation suits” that look basically like bubble mailers. To make matters even more hilarious, the random blueshirt TAKES HIS GLOVE OFF and sticks his hand UNDER HIS HOOD TO RUB HIS FACE. It is hilariously dumb on this character’s part, but also demonstrates how thoroughly useless the suits are.
Later, this same blueshirt loses his shit and threatens everyone with a fucking butter knife? But the other characters and show take this completely seriously? And my fiancx cracked up and said ve was picturing Jett Reno from Discovery in that same situation looking at the guy and just deadpanning, “Seriously? You’re threatening me with a butter knife?” Anyway, the character stabs himself, and eventually fucking dies??? And McCoy says it makes no sense because “his wounds were not that severe” and like… I know, my dude. It was a butter knife, how did he even have wounds???
There’s plenty more camp to be had throughout the episode, but the other one that really left a lasting impression for me was Kirk smacking Spock around. I guess we now canonically know that Spock is a sad drunk and Kirk is an angry drunk.
Oh, wait, one more! McCoy dramatically ripping Kirk’s sleeve to give him a hypospray was B-A-N-A-N-A-S.
1×05 “The Enemy Within”
This is one of the episodes I had on VHS so I’ve seen it so many times. It’s a strong concept with plenty of campy acting and camerawork/makeup.
The idea that some emotions are “good” and some are “bad” doesn’t hold a lot of water obviously, but the overall idea of being split into two by a transporter accident is pretty great. Just, the two halves instead of being “good” and “bad” are, I don’t know, aggression and cooperation, or dom and sub. Either way, the fact that Kirk (and by extension, everyone) needs both sides of himself is at least pretty terrific. I just think the framing around it could use some reworking.
Unfortunately this episode also has yet another rapey plot line with Yeoman Rand, and this time there is a much more graphic depiction of an attempted sexual assault. And then there’s that bizarre interaction between her and Spock at the end of the episode, and just, ICK.
Back on the positive side, that dorky little “alien” horned dog that’s clearly just a dog in a costume is fucking hilarious and adorable.
Also, this never really jumped out at me before, but late in the episode they talk about how they tried to beam some heaters down to the landing party who’s freezing on the surface, but the devices duplicated and won’t function. And before I was always just like “oh okay that makes sense,” but this time I cracked up and was like “… wait. Does that mean the heaters split into a GOOD HEATER and an EVIL HEATER???” We got a good laugh out of that idea.
1×06 “Mudd’s Women”
I enjoy Mudd as a character and the nail-on-chalkboard quality of the misogyny does need to be somewhat contextualized by this airing in 1966, but that only goes so far. There are parts of the episode that entertain, especially the more direct confrontations between Kirk and Mudd, but once they get to the mining planet things really take a nosedive and it never really pulls out of it.
1×07 “What Are Little Girls Made Of?”
Snoozefest aside from the parts that are unintentionally hilarious. These are my least favorite kinds of episodes, and TOS does them pretty frequently.
The parallel earth thing is so stupid and doesn’t contribute to this episode’s plot at all and I just don’t get why they did it? Like, there was literally no reason for this planet to look exactly like earth. You could have done this exact plot on literally any terrestrial planet. It does make it pretty hilarious that the Enterprise randomly orbits the planet along a vertical axis rather than a more conventional horizontal one, because an even passing familiarity with the earth’s magnetic field will tell you that this means they’re flying through the Van Allen Belts for no apparent reason??? And like, I’m sure it’s not a problem per se, I’m sure the Enterprise has plenty of radiation shielding, but like… why would you do this if you didn’t have to?
The children are annoying as hell (especially the ones played by like barely disguised 30 year olds), the little girl having a crush on Kirk is super uncomfy even though it isn’t reciprocated at all by Kirk, and since Jancie can’t end up in a rapey subplot she ends up “tied” to a chair. And while you might expect me to see that as at least a bit of consolation in this turkey of an episode, they can’t even do that right. It’s the laziest bondage ever, I think she might be literally holding the rope in place.
The plague was kinda cool I guess, and it was cool seeing Spock and McCoy do some science together even though there will be much better examples of this throughout the series.
1×09 “Dagger of the Mind”
The hypnochamber coulda used more bondage and hotter people operating it, but it was still pretty hot conceptually.
This episode is kind of a mess, though. And by kind of I mean extremely. Spock beaming down to save his boy was hella cute, though.
1×10 “The Corbomite Maneuver”
I don’t hate this episode or anything, and I kinda love the dorky-ass alien puppet, but everything … is … dragged … out … so … long … and the ending is just kind of an enormous slide whistle.
This was the first non-pilot episode filmed, though, so I should say I at least like the look and tone of this so much better than either pilot. Just a huge relief.
1×11 “The Menagerie, Part 1”
I’m sorry but sometimes clip shows are good, actually. This was a great way to get TOS’s first pilot included in the show’s canon, and on top of that they made a great framing narrative around it that shows Spock carries a similar loyalty to his first captain as he did his second.
This first episode of the two-parter is actually a bit light on the clipshow part, with a lot more time devoted to the set-up. It’s chock full of great character moments for easily my favorite TOS character, and consequently it’s one of my favorite episodes of TOS’s early run.
1×12 “The Menagerie, Part 2”
This is unquestionably a bit weaker than Part 1, with quite a bit more of its runtime devoted to simply replaying the events of “The Cage.” And at times the tribunal’s willingness to just keep passively watching the signal from Talos IV (once they realize that’s where it’s from) feels a bit weak. Like, you guys can just… go to another room? You don’t just have to stay there and watch a thing you’re canonically angry to be watching. But I still like the overall idea, and I especially loved the ending (with Commodore Mendez informing Captain Kirk that Starfleet has waived General Order 7).
1×13 “The Conscience of the King”
What if the real genocide was all the friends we made along the way?
1×14 “Balance of Terror”
The Romulans have kinda always been my favorite Star Trek bad guys, and this is universally recognized as one of the best episodes of TOS, so it’s pretty obvious where I stand on it.
The scene with Kirk and McCoy in Kirk’s quarters is like a drastically better version of the scene between Pike and his doctor in “The Cage.” McCoy’s little speech is hella Star Trekky, and genuinely moving to boot. “In this galaxy, there’s a mathematical probability of three million earth-type planets. And in all the universe, three million million galaxies like this one. And in all of that, and perhaps more, only one of each of us.” Legit chills. Probably my favorite McCoy moment ever.
I also love how like… TOS’s reputation is that it’s much more of a cowboy show and much less restrained than Golden Age Trek, and that reputation is admittedly deserved… but look how fucking seriously Kirk takes the possibility of opening hostilities with the Romulans. Even in the sillier, more action-oriented early years of Star Trek, there’s still room for healthy anti-war sentiment.
1×15 “Shore Leave”
You know kind of immediately if you’re going to like this episode or not. It’s incredibly silly, but I’m here for it.
Also, while the episode as a whole is pretty disposable in terms of Trek lore, there are two absolutely essential Kirk/Spock moments in here for shippers, so if that’s of interest to you at all I wouldn’t recommend missing this one.
1×16 “The Galileo Seven”
This is a Spock-heavy episode and I’m almost always game for Spock-heavy episodes. His commitment to peace and nonviolence is admirable, and for all the complaining everyone around him does, his logical approach really does give them the best chance of getting out of this extremely desperate situation. I might like more recent development of the character better than what we get here, but this is still one of the early TOS episodes that has aged the most gracefully. In spite of the foam spears and styrofoam rocks.
1×17 “The Squire of Gothos”
Kirk matches wits with a proto-Q who has been observing humanity from afar and doesn’t realize that because of the speed of light he’s actually observing humanity from hundreds of years ago. So he has the personality of some imperialist General (retired). And like, I get that this isn’t any worse than a lot of episodes I like, but for this kind of silly bullshit it just kind of either clicks for you or it doesn’t, and for whatever reason this one has never clicked for me.
Maybe I have this one rated too highly, I won’t fight anyone on that. But I look forward to it every time I rewatch the series. And it’s not just because the Gorn captain is hot af (but wow he’s hot af), but… yeah, okay, it is largely because the Gorn captain is hot af. That’s fair. But come on, this episode is so iconic.
1×19 “Tomorrow Is Yesterday”
The time travel is stupid and makes no sense, and it’s highly implied that it’s easy and they can casually use it again in the future (which does actually happen in a later episode). Honestly this episode isn’t the worst or anything, and parts of it are pretty genuinely entertaining, but it’s definitely not one of my favorites or one I ever look forward to.
It’s fine, though. It’s light and silly. The shot of the Enterprise in the earth’s atmosphere being perceived by 20th century people as a UFO is adorable. It’s fine.
1×20 “Court Martial”
Star Trek is pretty much always good at courtroom episodes. This one is no exception. The beats are very predictable, and there isn’t anything groundbreaking and thematically brilliant here like in “The Measure of a Man” or essential to the franchise’s mythology in ways that are still reverberating 50 years later like “The Menagerie,” but I still love a good courtroom episode.
1×21 “The Return of the Archons”
The first of many entries in the saga of Captain Kirk lawyering a computer to death! Plus, The Purge Lite.
This is your pretty typical TOS “well, it’s not bad by this show’s standards but it’s certainly not good” messes, and maybe you think I’m rating those too low, but the fact is I’d rather watch a bad episode of TNG or any post-TNG series than a middling episode of TOS.
1×22 “Space Seed”
Probably more famous for being the only TOS episode to get a direct movie sequel than for the episode itself, “Space Seed” is nevertheless a pretty great episode in its own right. I don’t think it would be considered such a landmark episode if it weren’t for The Wrath of Khan, and it certainly doesn’t have the operatic scope of its movie progeny.
You know what? I’ll go even further than that. As written, the episode is fine, and based on what can be seen on the script page, the character of Khan wouldn’t have been particularly memorable in and of himself. The only reason this episode, and this character, endured in the annals of Trek history and got their movie sequel is because Ricardo Montalbán is a fucking beast of an actor, holy shit.
Thing is, the episode is a sum of its parts and Montalbán being the most essential part sure does do wonders for it. Just seeing him, Kirk, and Spock verbally spar over dinner was sublime.
Oh, and his relationship with McGivers was just explicit power exchange, holy shit. (Also a point in its favor as far as this reviewer is concerned.)
1×23 “A Taste of Armageddon”
Kirk just straight-up shoots the computer this time instead of lawyering it to death. Probably because he used up all his patience for lawyering on the Eminians while figuring out what the heck was going on.
There’s a lot not to like about this episode, but unlike our last Evil Computer episode there’s also quite a bit to like? The entire idea of General Order 24 is extremely un-Starfleet, though the scene where Kirk ordered it by briefly overpowering his guards and yelling loudly enough for Scotty to hear him during his conversation with the Eminian leadership was pretty cool. I also think this is the first time we saw Scotty in command, and he did a pretty great job! I also liked the sequence where Kirk and his crew try to figure out what the heck is going on while the Eminians tell them they’re under attack by fusion bombs and literally nothing is happening.
This wasn’t a particularly good episode, and I oftentimes don’t like the “Kirk & friends show up to a planet, tell them their culture sucks and beat the shit out of them to make it better” episodes. Like, it makes the worst hand-wringing Prime Directive episodes of TNG seem somewhat reasonable by comparison. But at least this one wasn’t boring!
1×24 “This Side of Paradise”
Worthless. Easily one of the top 10 worst episodes in the history of the franchise.
1×25 “The Devil in the Dark”
I might be ranking this one too high, but I mean, come on. It’s Star Trek and it’s basically a silly monster movie. Of course I like it. The creature design is cool, eventually everyone sympathizes with the Horta. Basically my only real complaint is that Spock’s mind meld goes on a bit too long and gets a bit overly mournful considering the tone of the rest of the episode.
Oh, also, this has some choice of Kirk/Spock shipper moments. Like Jim wanting to leave Spock behind because it’s dangerous and he doesn’t want anything to happen to him. Or Spock yelling “Jim? Jim!” after a cave-in. Or him asking if he should cut his way to him with his phaser after said cave-in despite that being far dumber than anything he’d ever normally suggest. Or, after spending the whole episode advocating against violence towards the Horta, the second Kirk is in danger urging, “Kill it, Captain! Quickly!”
… yeah. Kinda gay.
1×26 “Errand of Mercy”
A landmark episode since it introduces the Klingons, though the circumstances are somewhat underwhelming. Still, Kor is an incredible antagonist and it would’ve been nice to see him recur! His chemistry with Kirk is sizzling even if you don’t decide to read anything into him asking if the Enterprise’s captain has a tongue upon first meeting him.
Though the Klingons were treated largely as an allegorical parallel to the Soviet Union, we aren’t given any kind of coherent political ideology at any point in TOS, and none of their later fleshing out in that regard will ever particularly resemble communism. Their early portrayals are also uncomfortably racist, with many white actors in brown/red-face and given fake facial hair of the kind generally used for “evil Asian” characters at the time.
Although the episode as a whole is somewhat underwhelming, Kor is such an effective antagonist that it still makes for a compelling watch even today.
1×27 “The Alternative Factor”
“What is the worst episode of any Star Trek series?” is not the kind of question you expect to have a definitive, obvious answer but if you think it isn’t “The Alternative Factor,” I’m going to assume it’s because you haven’t seen “The Alternative Factor.”
I always worry I’m overhyping how good the good episodes are and how bad the bad episodes are but I worry about that 0% with this one. This is the WORST one.
1×28 “The City on the Edge of Forever”
I know my ho-hum reaction to this episode is tantamount to sacrilege. It’s cited by many fans and critics as the best episode of TOS, and I kinda get why that is, but it just ain’t it for me.
Like, it’s a good episode. Captain Kirk nervously stumbling through an explanation of himself and Spock to a police officer was cute and hilarious. “I see you’ve noticed the ears…” I just think a lot of people’s more enthusiastic reactions rely on Kirk’s romance with Edith Keeler and the necessity of Kirk allowing her to die to avoid supposedly allowing the Nazis to win World War II.
I mean, for the record, the Nazis were not going to win World War II, and the United States did not belatedly enter the war to stop that from happening. By the time the U.S. entered the war it was clear that the Soviet Union was going to singlehandedly defeat the Nazis. The United States joined the war because they were terrified that communism would spread uncontrollably if they allowed the Soviet Union to liberate all of Europe. This parallels their decision to commit the first (and, thankfully, so far only) acts of nuclear war against the people of Japan to force a decisive surrender just before the USSR was going to enter the Pacific Theater.
The thing is, this isn’t even why the story falls flat for me. I can’t say I found their romance especially compelling anyway. Even when I was more credulous about the surrounding context, I never really found Edith to be Kirk’s most compelling whirlwind romance of the week.
I’m not saying this is a bad episode. There’s plenty about it that I enjoy. I just think it’s one of the top, say, 15 or 20 or so best TOS episodes rather than at or near the top of the list.
1×29 “Operation: Annihilate”
This is so silly and dumb, it’s one of those “either it clicks or it doesn’t” episodes, and for me it totally clicks. Giant flying brain cells attacking a colony? Hell yes. I’m here for it.
We even get some continuity/deep lore with Kirk’s brother having been mentioned in previous episodes and finally appearing, albeit as a corpse. And there’s plenty of Kirk/Spock shipping fodder to be had.
We gotta watch Terminator 2 for my childhood movies list so I figured that was a good excuse to watch all of these including the two most recent ones which I haven’t seen yet. And I remembered there being a RoboCop vs. Terminator video game, turns out it was based on a comic book, kinda sad we never got a movie about that! But yeah, figured we might as well do all the RoboCop movies too given that tenuous, barely-there connection. Look, it works for Alien and Predator, leave me alone.
So, T2 is way better, huh? I remembered it being better but I hadn’t seen the first one in so long (and I’ve only seen it once or twice), so I forgot that the first one just really isn’t on its level. Pretty much all it has going for it is Linda Hamilton and Arnold Schwarzenegger and Linda Hamilton and some decent action and Linda Hamilton. The second one has all that and more, so yeah. No contest, really. But the first one is still decent!! That last action sequence ruled. Just, you know. Onward and upward and all that.
RoboCop (movie, 1987)
Look, I know everyone wants to pat this movie on the back so hard, but you just can’t do a critique of capitalism where you read cops as just another group of workers facing the same problems as the rest of the working class and not as the traitorous bludgeon of our oppressors.
Cool-looking cyborg, though. Like, seriously, I think the only thing that makes me like these movies at all is that RoboCop himself is pretty awesome-looking, especially when they change his coloration to make him more blue. And yeah, I do enjoy all the pulpy action scenes, but the framing of them is so gross. And every time they have him fight a bigger, stop-motion robot, which is supposed to be the like money-shot of the first two movies, it’s just kinda awful-looking.
RoboCop (animated series, 1988)
This is an extremely late-80s cartoon. The stock sound effects, the hilariously bad dialogue–my favorite example of the latter being that RoboCop’s sergeant just kinda says… sports stuff? All the time? For no apparent reason?
My boyfriend said he’s choosing to read it as in-universe propaganda meant to make RoboCop seem less threatening, and honestly yeah that totally tracks. Coming on the heels of the imperfect but certainly graphic and confrontational first movie, seeing RoboCop being a good guy who’s nice to kids and OCP as a bumbling, well-meaning corporation is pretty hecking jarring.
The stories are also just so broad and… weird? In one episode RoboCop gets a cold, and his partner gives him some chicken noodle soup and like… how does that even work? He like, doesn’t have a throat or a stomach anymore? He also goes on a date with Lewis at one point??? There’s also extremely 90s attempts to address things like environmentalism and racism, and just… yeah, yikes. (The racism episode has some of those hilarious cartoon protest signs, like “Humans yes” and “Robots are stupid.”)
In Things That Matter to Me news, literally the first action scene in the first episode has an armed robbery on a blood bank (idk), and one of the robbers is unreasonably hot to me? The one with the sunglasses that look kinda like 3D glasses throws me hella enby vibes, and even if they’re not an enby they’re exactly my type. I’m kinda thinking I should start a side blog that’s just screenshots of random background characters I’m gay for.
RoboCop 2 (movie, 1990)
It’s… kind of just the first movie again but with even more viscerally uncomfortable stuff and a lot of just truly weird filmmaking choices. And even more awkward stop-motion, which is, you know… yeah. It sure is a choice!
On top of the continuation of the “cops on strike” nonsense, this one has an extremely straightforwardly Reaganistic War on Drugs message, and it marries that to an incredibly wrongheaded critique of “political correctness.” See, there would actually be a point to be had here if the critique were aimed at the harm that can be accomplished by putting a shiny coat of heroic and nonthreatening paint on your fascist murder-machine, but the movie is just rolling its eyes at the idea of him doing any non-murder things and explicitly shows it being a problem because it makes him not as good at doing murders.
Literally the only thing I enjoyed about the movie that wasn’t also in the first movie (aside from RoboCop’s more bluish tint) was the foul-mouthed little kid druglord. (Fun fact, that actor was a featured guest star in a Star Trek: The Next Generation episode!)
Terminator 2: Judgment Day (movie, 1991)
Wow I just had the biggest oblivious crush on John Connor as a kid, huh? Revisiting this, I’m noticing that he’s just an amazing protagonist for this movie. They try so hard to make him seem like a delinquent early on, but literally every time he confronts a difficult choice he chooses to do the right thing. And like, I highly approve of stealing money from banks, obviously.
I think a big part of the appeal as a kid was how freaking awesome the idea of being protected by an indestructible, time-traveling robot was. I think that’s a big part of why the ending hits so hard. This is the first time I can remember it not making me ugly cry.
Every time I rewatch this I’m somehow like… caught off guard by how good it is? It’s just so head and shoulders above anything else on this list, it really sticks out.
Miles Dyson hits in a very Dr. Serizawa from Godzilla 1954 place of like “wow imagine if the people building these doomsday weapons had a fucking ounce of moral conviction” wish fulfillment. T2’s vivid warning about nuclear annihilation is far too informed by misanthropy and riddled with other shortcomings (The thing that leads to the nuclear apocalypse is taking the button out of the ruling class’s hands? Really?), but it nevertheless had a profound effect on me that still resonates today.
It fucking sucks that “guy who engineered the apocalypse” is the only major role they could find for a black guy, that a heroic sacrifice was apparently the only way for him to atone in the filmmakers’ eyes, and that we got that unbelievably uncomfortable scene of a conventionally attractive white woman in combat gear holding his life in her hands, holy shit. (On a plus side this did give us one of the most blatant instances of John being an extremely good boy.)
RoboCop vs. The Terminator (comic book, 1992) by Frank Miller
Almost impressively unremarkable. Like, just completely what you would expect it to be–no more, no less. My biggest real complaint is that it gets a bit repetitive, though you get that a lot with Miller’s stuff.
It was also pretty disappointing to not see Arnold Schwarzenegger’s T-800 at all. I mean, when you hear “RoboCop vs. The Terminator,” you just kinda assume he’s the “The Terminator” being referred to, right?
RoboCop 3 (movie, 1993)
This is straight up propaganda, but it’s also the only time I unambiguously like Murphy, soooo.
So, this movie created a private security force called the “Urban Rehabilitators” (“Rehabs” for short) and has them going around evicting people from their homes and rounding them up and dragging them off the streets for the crime of being homeless. It then placed literally everyone who actually does or enables that shit in real life (cops, corporations, the media) in opposition to them. The idea of cops refusing to evict people is fucking rich.
(Oh, and the reason all this is happening is because Scary Japanese Investors bought the villain corporation and wow hi anti-Asian racism you sure are late to the cyberpunk party!!)
The Rehabs are also dressed in extremely unsubtle Nazi-adjacent khaki uniforms because this movie wants you to think that when the Nazis show up they’ll be really easy to spot and not, you know, literally the protagonists of this movie.
I loved the ragtag group of homeless rebels led by Bertha, but why is she the only person in this resistance who isn’t a crusty white guy? Have you seen any pictures or videos of the people in the streets resisting police oppression? They ain’t mostly white guys, folks! Oh and of fucking course she gets gunned down before the third act so literally every adult who’s left in the resistance is a fucking mayo on Wonder Bread white guy.
Oh, I also loved Remy, the kid with the ambiguous gender who hacked everything in sight. Remy and Bertha should have been the protagonists of this movie.
While the movie didn’t go in the direction I was terrified it would at the beginning of the movie (that these awesome rebels would be the bad guys), it did do the next worst thing by having the fucking cops ally themselves with the rebels and having the punk druggie criminals ally themselves with the Naz–I mean, Rehabs. Riiiiight.
It was pretty cathartic seeing all those cops rip off their badges, though, considering that my stance on cops has always been and will always be “have you tried not being a cop?” And that shit needs to be celebrated. Buuuuuut again the movie makes it hella explicit that these are the “good cops” and they still consider themselves cops even after they resign in anger, so what the fuck ever.
Like… I’m sorry, this is pretty easily the best of the three Robocop movies and it’s pretty telling that everyone is willing to swallow the first two but thinks this one is a bridge too far. It’s the only one with any redeeming qualities whatsoever. It’s still absolutely disgusting propaganda, but you know.
RoboCop vs. The Terminator (video game, 1993)
Full disclosure, since it’s the story I’m interested in I didn’t play these myself, I just watched longplays.
So, yeah, the Genesis version just tells the story through an opening crawl and postscript. The SNES version, by way of contrast, has a series of cutscenes many of which use dialog directly from the comic, and which are stylized to look vaguely like comic panels. They … also … have … a … very … deliberate … pace … such … that … the … Genesis … version’s … lack … of … cutscenes … is … probably … actually … preferable. (And I’m saying that as someone who almost always prefers more story.)
The Genesis version also has slightly more vibrant art, and I think I read somewhere that it’s meant to be more evocative of the movies whereas the SNES has more muted tones which again I think are meant to be more like the comic.
I didn’t really get a whole lot out of these, storywise. They’re both basically a stripped-down version of the comic’s story. But it is pretty cool that we got a video game out of this crossover, I just kinda wish we had gotten a movie.
RoboCop (television series, 1994)
Full disclosure: I did not watch the entire series. I watched the first six episodes, and then a few recommended/well-reviewed episodes or ones whose premise sounded interesting.
This was a pretty well-produced series, I gotta say. Some of the episodes did drag a bit, but for the most part they were at least entertaining. Like, the average one is a more interesting watch than the first two movies if I’m being completely honest.
As is traditional for this franchise, the propaganda in the live-action show is thick. The CEO of OCP is depicted as a bumbling but ultimately good-natured guy who, wouldn’t you know it, just keeps ending up with evil masterminds as VPs of various departments! And every time his company does something heinously evil it’s either because he didn’t know it was happening or because someone is trying to take over the company or both.
Don’t worry, though! The show is willing to take a stand against *checks notes* … radical feminists? Huh, that’s probably not right. I’m sure the … evil vice president of scriptwriting is responsible for that one, let’s look for a different example. Oh hey there’s one where the bad guy is … uhhh … poor people who take to the streets against the cops.
Huh. Hey but there’s also one where the evil welfare providers pass a law where you can’t work if you’re on welfare but people really, really want to work so they start fighting for their *flipping through notes loudly* … right … to … work … right to work. Why do those words sound so familiar all together in that order…
You know what? I know what happened. I just watched the bad ones! That’s what it is. I just watched the bad ones. I’m sure there are some I didn’t watch that we can tell from the summary alone did a much better job let’s just take a look at one of these. Let’s see. Here’s one. “The city is being rocked by anti-corporate violence as RoboCop and Officer Madigan are assigned to bring in a charming ex-terrorist, but a corrupt union leader and his sultry secretary have other plans.”
I mean, okay, this is exactly what I’ve come to expect from any RoboCop media, I just heard for years about its supposedly amazing political commentary so it’s always just kind of hilarious to me how consistently awful it actually is.
Anyway, the episodes I actually enjoyed were “RoboCop vs. Commander Cash” (just exactly the silly toyetic fun it sounds like) and “Sisters in Crime” (its politics are awful, but it has some strawfeminists forcefemming a CEO and forcing him to do housework for them, soooooo). Also, there were a few episodes I checked out because I heard they had some awesome bondage in them, and wow I was not disappointed with any of them. (And one of them even had an explicitly kinky lady villain.)
RoboCop: Alpha Commando (1998)
I watched the three-part pilot and then just sorta skimmed for episodes that sounded fun, and they mostly were. This was a lot more harmless fun and less overt copaganda than the other cartoon. It has basically nothing to do with the movies and other shows. So all you really have to contend with is the usual awful writing and loud dumbness of your average kids cartoon that doesn’t even slightly respect its audience. Oh, and some rather cartoonish racism against a nonexistent country in the pilot.
(But the pilot ALSO had an femdommy lady who captured RoboCop and said stuff like “once your defenses are broken down your delicious powers will be reprogrammed to serve ME” and “stop fighting your reprogramming” and “how dare you touch MY RoboCop” and planted a post-hypnotic suggestion in him, so who can say if it’s bad or good.)
I can’t really complain about this too much considering it gave us plots like “an evil arcade owner kidnaps and brainwashes kids” and “terrorists take over a moon colony and threaten the earth.” And the bondage situation was acceptable.
Superman vs. The Terminator: Death to the Future (1999-2000)
You look at the title and think “huh, how’s that supposed to work” and then you finish reading it and think “huh, how was that supposed to work.” You probably figure Cyborg is gonna be involved and Lex is gonna hear about Sky Net and think “hey that sounds dope, lemme get in on that” and yep exactly those things happen. (Though, the latter is just foreshadowed on the last page which again you could’ve probably guessed as soon as it wasn’t part of the main plot.)
These two worlds just kinda don’t go together at all and trying to pretend they do results in this really weird, sterile nothingness. And this period of time wasn’t exactly a nadir for either one of these franchises on their own, so seeing them combined into something so thoroughly unimpressive was kind of sad.
RoboCop: Prime Directives (miniseries, 2001)
This could have been okay if it weren’t 8 hours long. And even then I probably prefer it to the first two RoboCop movies but that isn’t saying much.
Whenever this has Something To Say, it’s bad (actual example: “cops not being able to shoot people would be Bad, Actually”). And it’s just so unnecessarily long and repetitive.
The bones of the story (the backstory, the creation of RoboCable, RoboCop vs. RoboCable, RoboCable’s redemption) would make a pretty great two or maybe even three-episode miniseries but stretching it to four just resulted in way too much filler and repeating every plot point two or three times until you get bored of keeping up with who’s on whose side.
RoboCable himself is pretty dang cool. Though I think it’s pretty funny that his black armor is a dead ringer for RoboCop’s in the 2014 reboot. It’s black so you know he’s eeeeevil! Also he has the only power that’s cooler than RoboCop’s power of Gun: Two Gun!
There’s a supercut in here that would make a pretty good movie or miniseries, maybe. But in its current form it’s just much too bloated for me to not get bored by it, and I’m the kind of idiot who likes 3 to 4-hour long movies as long as they are actually interesting.
Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines (movie, 2003)
If you’re going to bother watching this I would highly (heh) recommend doing it the way we did: getting drunk or high and having people to snark at it with.
Like… it’s not a complete chore to watch, but it’s just kind of… nothing? Like, if Skynet sent a Terminator back in time to stop this movie from being made it would change literally nothing. So being extra primed to enjoy the unintentionally hilarious moments really, really helps.
My favorite moment of this movie is when the bad Terminator crashes a helicopter in a tunnel to get to John and Kate, but before she can attack them the good Terminator crashes another helicopter into hers in a virtually identical shot. As it happened, time seemed to slow down as I realized I knew the perfect thing to say: “Because the only thing that can stop a bad guy with a helicopter is a good guy with a helicopter.”
Seriously, being lit enough to take this kind of joy in a movie’s badness is way, way better than just being bored or disappointed (if you haven’t seen it before) for an hour and forty-five minutes.
Painkiller Jane vs. Terminator: Time to Kill (comic book, 2007)
This is way better than Superman vs. The Terminator. I can only imagine how much I would’ve liked it if I actually knew anything about Painkiller Jane. But even without knowing anything about one of the two franchises in this crossover, I loved it. And it was even kinda gay!! Plus I was kinda gay for that Terminator and her punk rock look, especially when more and more of her metal skeleton started getting revealed, holy shit she was badass.
Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles (television series, 2008-2009)
Yeah this is pretty easily the best post-T2 Terminator content, and it’s super bingeable. (Source: I just watched the whole show in a matter of days.) I’m not saying it’s on T2’s level, there isn’t anything on this entire list that is, but it’s still the only really worthy successor. And it was kind of a pleasant shock to actually watch a good, engaging TV show after the procession of RoboCop shows earlier in this review that uniformly put me to sleep.
It really doesn’t hurt that it stars Lena Headey and Thomas Dekker. The latter name probably isn’t as familiar to most, but he played Claire’s best friend in the first season of Heroes and was blatantly supposed to be gay but they eventually chickened out at the last minute. I had a huge crush on him because this was around the same time I was coming to terms with my own sexual orientation, I think he was my LiveJournal avatar for a minute, and one of my first gay boy crushes, so yeah. Maybe that’s the common thread that determines whether I’m going to like Terminator media or not, whether or not there was an age-appropriate John Conner for me to crush on.
I kinda wish that at the time I had followed him by switching over to watching The Sarah Connor Chronicles to crush on him in an actually good show instead of watching the next two awful seasons of Heroes, but oh well.
It’s kinda wild that Lena Headey didn’t dye her hair or wear a wig or anything? And kinda ironic considering she ended up doing so for her most famous role a few years later. Still, I super buy her version of Sarah and Dekker’s version of John, and that’s probably one of the biggest reasons this series is the only truly great post-T2 Terminator content.
Oh one thing that does need to be said is there is one episode with a trans woman, and it’s not… I mean, it’s definitely transphobic by today’s standards, but it was probably about the best we got on mainstream TV around 2008? But it was… yeah, it was very, very 2008. So, just be aware of… that.
Terminator: Salvation (movie, 2009)
My memory of this from the only other time I saw it (in theaters in 2009) was that it was… fine? And pretty unmemorable. Revisiting it, I found it… fine? And immediately forgot almost everything about it.
Like. I think it’s pretty damn easy to make a movie set in the war-torn future suggested by The Terminator and T2. It’s not a bad idea on the face of it. But this is so a product of its time. Monochromatic. (Okay, fine: dichromatic. It’s got brown and gray!) Morose. Lots of yelling and indistinct dialogue. Everyone hates everyone and everything and themselves. Christian Bale is there for some reason.
This didn’t put me to sleep, but that’s about the best I can say for it? That, and there was just enough good shit in here that they were able to make a pretty great trailer out of it, but you can honestly skip the movie and just watch the trailer and get most of what’s worth seeing. Like that pretty awesome shot of the helicopter landing on a terminator skull and John stepping over it. That was genuinely pretty cool.
Oh, and I liked John’s radio broadcasts. And how he either started or ended all of them with “if you’re listening to this, you are the Resistance.” I don’t super love the way the Resistance is characterized for the bulk of the movie, but that part squares more with what I’m looking for.
Honestly, if they wanted to make Christopher Nolan’s version of Terminator I really feel like they should’ve just gone out and gotten Christopher Nolan. I still don’t think I would’ve loved it, but it might’ve at least been more memorable.
Terminator/RoboCop: Kill Human (comic book, 2011)
This isn’t amazing or anything, but it is definitely better than Frank Miller’s RoboCop vs. The Terminator. If nothing else it has the Ahnold T-800 squaring off against RoboCop, which has to be what everyone has in mind when they hear “RoboCop vs. Terminator.”
I’m not trying to argue this is a masterpiece or anything, it’s honestly pretty mediocre. The characterization of Sarah and John is fairly weak and having RoboCop win at one point thanks to a CEO Ex Machina is eyeroll worthy. I’m just saying it’s noticeably better than its more well-known predecessor.
RoboCop (movie, 2014)
Yeah this was exactly as mediocre as I remembered but even boringer. I checked out halfway through.
I have two (2) nice things to say about this. I think how sterile the rest of this movie was actually made the (much tamer) body horror more uncomfortable? Like, I kind of had to look away from the screen for all of it? I fully realize that the stuff in the original was much gnarlier, but this nevertheless got to me more, and that’s the only explanation I can come up for as to why.
The other thing is those Samuel L. Jackson segments were better and more well-intentioned satire than anything in the original movies. So, there’s that at least?
This is still boring as fuck, though. And not anti-cop enough.
Terminator: Genisys (movie, 2015)
I’ve been hearing since this came out that the first half of it was actually kind of great and the second half is a heaping trashfire, but I didn’t realize how literal y’all were being! It’s literally at the one hour mark of this two-hour movie that this nosedives from “hey this is actually pretty good so far?” to “this is SO stupid, what the fuck, what the FUCK how is this SO stupid???”
I mean, it’s probably better than Terminator 3 or Salvation because at least half of it is good and the half that isn’t is bad in a hilarious way that’s fun to yell at.
I mean, I didn’t even have to be high to enjoy this one.
Mortal Kombat 11 (video game, 2019)
Okay this isn’t a “review,” per se, since I just watched gameplay footage on YouTube, but yeah. The Terminator (the Arnold T-800 one) and RoboCop are both DLC characters for MK11, and they have some special dialog in their intro scenes when they fight each other. It’s honestly more satisfying to watch this than it is to read the comics.
Terminator: Dark Fate (movie, 2019)
So, follow me on this for a second. When it came out Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines was the best Terminator movie since T2 simply by virtue of being the only Terminator movie since T2. Then came Terminator Salvation which was the best Terminator movie since T2 thanks to not being Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines. You could probably have a pretty good argument about whether the uniform blandness of Terminator Salvation is better than Terminator Genisys being half pretty good and half a heaping trashfire, but I’m going to come down on the side that Genisys is better because at least half of it is genuinely good.
Terminator: Dark Fate is the first actually good start-to-finish Terminator movie since T2, easily the best post-T2 Terminator movie… and it continued the pattern! So if they keep making these things and they keep getting incrementally better, eventually they’ll be as good as T2, right?
In all seriousness, the best way forward for the series would be to pick up on what was established here and just keep going instead of reboot after reboot after reboot, but given that all signs point towards no sequels given Dark Fate’s disappointing box office performance, if there is a next Terminator movie it’ll probably just be yet another reboot.
Given that, I kind of hope they just don’t make another one. They had something here, they really did, but just… enough with the endless reboots already.
Transformers vs. The Terminator (comic book, 2020)
At least we get to end on a good note!
This is pretty easily the best of the various “Terminator vs. [X]” comics on this list. I admittedly don’t know a ton about Transformers aside from what was in the movies, and I’ve seen a handful of episodes of the various TV shows, but I thought these two worlds meshed together surprisingly well! Everyone seemed in character (and the biggest characters you’d expect to see from both franchises made appearances), and they actually told a new and interesting story. The idea that Skynet and humans would end up on the same side in the face of another threat is something that just never occurred to me.
I really think this is about as good as any of these silly crossovers possibly could be. It’s nice to see one of these finally actually deliver.
I said in my season 1 review that this show was too serialized to rate and review episode-by-episode, but while rewatching Discovery I found it’s actually not all that difficult to do, so surprise! You get a season 1 and season 2 review! Since I already wrote a review of season 1 as a whole I’ll try to keep the season 1 reviews short and mostly focus on season 2.
Picard’s interview might be part of the early episodes trying to show how he’s grown into a bitter old man, but the moment where the interviewer is dismissive of “Romulan lives” and he impassionately responds, “No, lives,” is a truly great moment for the character. I still hate the idea of Starfleet abdicating their principles and One Man having to Stand Up To Them, but at least it gets resolved by the end of the season.
1×02 “Maps and Legends”
Picard getting smacked in his face over and over early on in the season for being an arrogant bastard is a little cathartic in a way, but it starts to get a bit repetitive. You can at least buy the failings he’s confronted with. Also, the two main bad guy Romulans–Narissa and Narek–are hot as fuck.
1×03 “The End Is the Beginning”
I kind of hate the whole assembling a ragtag crew on a non-Starfleet ship thing? I’m sorry, it’s just super not what I come to Star Trek for, and it got harder to overcome that distaste as the show went on. I do at least like a lot of the characters involved.
1×04 “Absolute Candor”
I love Vashti and Qowat Milat. Also Elnor–the Romulan boy who was raised by a sect of exclusively women warrior-monks and became the only boy in their ranks–appeals to me for so very many reasons.
1×05 “Stardust City Rag”
I love Seven so much. I understand Picard’s objections to her killing Bjayzl in revenge, but I also really don’t blame Seven for doing it anyway. I know she later expresses regret for it, but I’m just not sure there was actually even another way in this specific situation. She was probably just going to keep torturing xBs to death with impunity otherwise.
1×06 “The Impossible Box”
Picard still struggling with his Borg trauma makes sense, and I loved his reunion with Hugh. Soji’s awakening is extremely relatable and hard not to empathize with.
I hate, hate, hate Hugh dying. I appreciate having some context for why Jurati did what she did. But let’s be real, I have to rate this one highly because Will Riker and Deanna Troi retired to a beautiful, secluded planet so Will could cook pizza in peace and raise a wonderful daughter. Also, Soji starting to heal and learn how to trust people and everyone being patient with her is brilliant.
1×08 “Broken Pieces”
Seven briefly becoming a Borg queen was chilling and impossibly badass at the same time. The title of this episode is interestingly appropriate, because it’s really just moving pieces around to set them up for the season finale.
1×09 “Et in Arcadia Ego, Part 1”
The synth homeworld is cool as fuck, especially those flower things they send up to fight intruders. The Borg cube showing up still in Seven’s command was simultaneously hilarious and awesome. Things really start coming to a head in general.
1×10 “Et in Arcadia Ego, Part 2”
Picard’s fakeout death made me ugly cry the first time, and Data’s final passing still does. It’s pretty incredible that they took the pieces left behind by Nemesis and made this out of it.
S-Rank: 0 A-Rank: 3 B-Rank: 3 C-Rank: 4 D-Rank: 0
Average: 2.9 (C-Rank)
2×01 “The Star Gazer”
For a minute it seemed like everything that bothered me about season 1 was put to right. Admiral Picard is the Chancellor of Starfleet Academy, a position that has always suited him and has been suggested for him dating all the way back to TNG season 1. Rios and Raffi are back in Starfleet, with Jurati tagging along as a Federation scientist. Elnor is the first full Romulan ever accepted into Starfleet Academy and is such a good boy!!! Picard goes to Guinan for advice.
There’s an anomaly that turns out to be a Borg ship. We get a whole damn fleet of new ships instead of the copy/pasted fleet of identical ships from the end of season 1. Picard entertains the idea of negotiating with the Borg in spite of his long history with them… and then it all goes to hell thanks to Q, which I would have been fine with… but Picard wakes up in a fascist hellscape future that will be further plumbed in the following episode.
The first episode rules, don’t get me wrong. And the second episode isn’t even bad. But I really, really hope the third season that they’ve announced with the shocking return of most of the cast of TNG is a whole lot more straightforward and Trekky.
Oh, TRILL BOY!!!! Ahem. Sorry. I… like trills. Um. There’s a trill boy bridge officer on the Stargazer. He’s extremely cute.
Picard wakes up in a fascist future version of the Federation where earth dominates everything and has even defeated the Borg. Importantly this is not the Mirror Universe we’ve seen on a number of occasions, it’s a completely different Bad End. Seven was never assimilated and is president of earth. Everyone else is doing whatever they’re doing. It’s pretty clearly a response to Trumpism and capitalism in general, but it isn’t quite explicit enough I don’t think? But it’s something, at least.
I wouldn’t have minded spending a little more time dealing with this alternate future, and I wouldn’t have minded it as an episode or two mini-arc. It’s something new and different, at the very least. Anyway, the crew ends up figuring out that they need to go back to the past and stop something from changing in 2024, which really excited me at first because that’s when the Bell Riots happen in DS9 but this ends up having no connection to that and that’s really unfortunate.
I really appreciate that Seven and Raffi being in a relationship continues to be a going concern! And quickly becomes integral to both of their characters in this season.
Oh and fitting in with my habit of calling out hot background characters, one of the fascist Starfleet guards is, regrettably, extremely hot. And throws serious enby vibes. You’ll know the one.
Hi I’m gay and I ship Agnes and the Borg Queen in a dom/sub relationship thank you. It started back in the previous episode and continues throughout the season, but this is when it really started getting pretty explicit that Queenie was using her domme powers on Agnes and I am so, so here for it.
I appreciated all the callbacks to The Voyage Home (which will continue with an even more blatant one in the following episode) despite the joyless articles I’m not even going to read about how it “breaks continuity.” I get it when it’s something that breaks something having to do with the main plot, but it’s a guy sitting on a bus listening to music a little too loud. Who gives a fuck, guys?
Elnor’s death is sad but they’re just gonna undo it when they fix the future so all it does is push Raffi to a place I really don’t like for her character? And considering all the Star Trek IV callbacks we’ve been doing I don’t get why you wouldn’t want him around with a dumb headband to hide his ears. I guess because we’re not allowed to have fun in this version of Star Trek?
2×04 “The Watcher”
I really appreciate that the bad guys in this are just ICE and not some kind of unnecessary allegorical parallel to ICE. They’re just straightforwardly ICE.
I continue to love the Borg Queen’s slow seduction of Jurati. Seven trying to drive during a police chase was kinda awesome and adorable. And it’s nice to see Picard and Guinan… re-reunited? I’m not really sure Guinan needed to be recast but I do like the actress they got for her! I am a bit annoyed by the inconsistency of Guinan not remembering who Picard is, though, as well as her inability to sense the shift in timelines as demonstrated in “Yesterday’s Enterprise.”
Honestly at this point the show has settled into its serialized storytelling and my overall dissatisfaction with what the season as a whole is about has more to do with my reaction than anything else.
2×05 “Fly Me to the Moon”
I gotta admit, even though I saw a really nerdy YouTuber predict it, I was a bit surprised that the Watcher ended up being a Gary Seven-type supervisor. That was not a bit of Star Trek lore I ever expected to see resurrected, and if you had told me it was going to be I would have expected it to be in Lower Decks because it’s just so dang weird. So, some credit there. Where’s her shapeshifting cat, though?
I kinda hate, hate, hate all the Soong stuff. Like it’s cool that we want to keep Brent Spiner involved but I just really don’t like this way of going about it. I don’t feel like it adds much at all.
I do appreciate that we have to basically do a heist movie at a ritzy gala, and the reveal at the end of the episode that the Borg queen is still alive and well inside Agnes’ brain was terrific, so there is that.
2×06 “Two of One”
Agnes/Queenie doing a jazz number was freaking adorable. Picard’s pep talk to Renée was a high point of the season and just an absolutely vintage Picard pep talk. Really the most like himself he’s seemed all season. I know I’m sounding like a broken record at this point but I still really hate the larger story of that season and that makes it hard to get too invested in any individual episode, but this is definitely way better than a lot of the rest of the season. It just also feels like it’s kind of the ceiling of what kind of story this can be. I wouldn’t mind this story as a two or even three-episode mini-arc, but stretching it to 10 episodes and making everything so damn dramatic is just not what I come to Star Trek for.
Welcome to Star Trek, Gaius Baltar.
The bits inside Picard’s brain were definitely the strongest part of the episode, but the rest was pretty lackluster and transitiony just like… literally the rest of the season so far.
Extremely nerdy note: Vulcans were canonically observing earth as early as the 20th century according to Enterprise so that’s all good, but mind melding was not a common Vulcan practice until sometime between the 22nd and 23rd centuries, so that’s a bit of an “oops” there.
I didn’t hate the episode or anything, and I appreciated seeing Picard characteristically talk his way out of a situation. I’m also glad we are approaching something resembling a plot by having the Queen start assimilating some drones. I’m just… I’m sorry, I hate being negative about a Star Trek show, but by this point I was just extremely ready for this season to be over. Sorry.
2×09 “Hide and Seek”
The development of a new kind of Borg in the partnership of Agnes and Queenie was certainly one of the highlights of the season, it would’ve been nice to have spent more time on it considering we had 10 fucking episodes of serial storytelling to slog through.
Unfortunately the vast majority of the episode was just Skyfall but with Picard instead of Bond. And I somehow got even more bored of Adam Soong as the bad guy of the season.
I really, really hate being negative about Star Trek, but this season of Star Trek: Picard really isn’t giving me a lot of choices. You stretched a story that could have probably made a pretty good three-parter into a ten-episode season, and despite all the breathing room that should’ve afforded you to devote an entire episode to the story’s ending you did… this. This is as bad of an ending as the last two episodes of season 1 of Discovery, if not worse. And this was the season you bragged about having figured out the ending ahead of time.
This is just a bunch of unrelated crap happening in a span of time we agreed to call an episode. There is no structure to it whatsoever. Some of the things that happen are great. The scene where Picard hugs a dying Q nearly made me cry. The scene at Guinan’s bar would’ve been fantastic if it weren’t so unearned.
Then there’s… literally everything else.
I felt literally nothing about the Europa Mission stuff, and Tallinn sacrificing herself. Adam Soong continues to be the most boring big bad ever despite Brent Spiner’s best efforts, and having him literally pull out a folder labeled “Project Khan” made me laugh out loud. This is just the MCU. They fucking turned Star Trek into the MCU. I fucking quit.
This thing really took a nosedive for me when Wesley (or The Traveler II or whatever) showed up. Like, at first I was actually happy to see him? But then he started talking and I just… I couldn’t help it, I was literally holding up two middle fingers at the screen for the duration of the scene. The idea that the Traveler(s) and the Supervisors are part of the same organization is just a pretty colossal joke. Like, Star Wars prequels treatment of the Jedi level of poorly thought out. It makes the galaxy feel like an incredibly small place, and it just doesn’t make a lick of sense.
I thought things were actually kind of looking up when Q and Picard had that great scene and Q sent everyone back to the future. Picard canceled the self-destruct and engaged Queenie/Agnes in negotiations. THE TRILL BOY I HAVE A CRUSH ON CAME BACK okay sorry it’s important to me damn it. Yeah, the episode as a whole was a hot mess, and the whole first act totally fell flat, but peace with the Borg? The most intractable enemy the Federation has ever had? Heck, it would even tie back into a lot of what was going on in season 1. That would cover a lot of sins.
So of fucking course that isn’t what the show has in mind. No, see, the reason Queenie/Agnes is here to make peace with the Federation is because there’s suddenly an anomaly that’s going to wipe out the entire fucking galaxy, because why not. I just. You can’t even make this up. This show is a parody of itself at this point. And these stakes are introduced and then solved within the space of literally a few minutes. I actually laughed. Like peace with the fucking Borg isn’t enough? Really? And if you have to add some additional stakes it can’t just be that the Borg will die without the Federation’s help or something? It really just always has to be The Fate Of The Entire Galaxy?
… shit, Picard really is just Star Trek: MCU.
I don’t know, guys, I’m just… I’m just really happy this season is over. I really, really hope season 3 is better, especially considering basically the entire cast of TNG is returning. Even knowing that, I just don’t have a lot of hope for this show anymore considering how it’s gone so far. I really hope they manage to surprise me, but I’m frankly pretty relieved the third season will be the last.
This episode does a lot, but putting Riker in the center seat, making it seem like that could be permanent, and really dealing with that might just be the most important. It’s really great to see what things would be like with Riker permanently in charge, and it lets us feel Captain Picard’s absence more keenly.
We also get another incredible Guinan scene out of it. She barges into the ready room, takes Picard’s chair (which Riker had been visibly hesitant to do), and does what she does best: tells him what he needs to hear. “You must let him go, Riker. It’s the only way to beat him. The only way to save him. And that is now your chair. Captain.”
And Riker finally sits, the music swells, and we’re given a moment to absorb the fact that he’s really the captain now. This, more than Hansen announcing his promotion, more than the fourth pip on his collar, more than everyone calling him “captain”… this really makes it feel real.
Anyway, after that it’s just a small matter of the chilling Wolf 359 graveyard scene, Riker’s daring plan to kidnap Locutus/Picard back from the Borg, and then figuring out how to leverage his knowledge into a strategy to defeat them. No big deal.
There’s a bunch of housekeeping here. I appreciate that Counselor Troi mentions in a conversation with Beverly that she’s going on vacation with the newly-demoted Commander Riker! Their relationship is really quite lovely, and I appreciate all the little crumbs that TNG throws at us every now and then that indicate that it’s still something of a going concern, even if their exact status is unclear. It’s also really adorable to see Worf’s parents fretting over him and him being all Worf about it. And getting some continuity with them being worried about his emotional state following his discommendation by the Klingon high council.
The majority of the episode is about Picard and his brother’s frosty relationship finally thawing a bit. It’s quite believable that they have so much tension given that they grew up in an abusive household together, and even though Robert comes off as a mega asshole I really do have quite a bit of empathy for him. I’m glad they work their issues out to an extent. And Picard’s nephew René is such a great character!! I really love their interactions.
All in all, a great episode, and a much-needed breath of fresh air for everyone, especially Picard as he works on recovering from his trauma.
A much better continuation to the Data/Lore storyline than its introduction in Datalore. And seeing Data just totally singlehandedly take over the Enterprise was chilling, I feel like they have quite a few security holes to plug there.
4×04 “Suddenly Human”
This is one of those episodes where Picard & co have to be frustratingly stupid in order for the episode to make its point. But in so doing the episode actually gives us one of the best explicit depictions of ethnocentrism I’ve ever seen on television, so I’m actually completely willing to allow it. Actually, this is often the case with episodes where Picard & co are dead wrong, it just gets really frustrating when it sometimes feels like they have to learn the same lessons over and over? But then again the audience probably has to learn those lessons over and over, so it’s probably best that the show functions this way.
Like, yeah, ideally the Federation woulda gotten rid of the last vestiges of this sort of chauvinism by the 2300s, and Starfleet crews in particular are meant to be exemplary models of the Federation’s values, but I’m willing to allow some dramatic license here because, like I said, it really is the best way to dramatize these sorts of ethical issues to an audience that just isn’t even close to there. And Captain Picard’s apology at the end of the episode rules. And the kid literally stabs him and his first reaction is “whoa wow what did I do wrong” and as soon as it’s explained to him he immediately takes steps to not only make it right but publicly apologizes in a way that explicitly accepts ownership for what he and his crew did wrong.
Despite the dramatic necessities that the episode has to uphold by having him fuck up, Picard remains an absolute paragon of good ethics. That doesn’t mean always being right, but it does mean handling being wrong with grace and humility, and it’s moments like this that really reinforce to me how much I want to work on being more like him.
4×05 “Remember Me”
Wow, this season starts out on some kind of roll.
Remember Me is one of those high-concept episodes that really sticks in your memory. It’s also a Crusher episode that actually lets her, you know, do stuff instead of just sort of… exist. (Or fuck a ghost after reading a particularly erotic chapter in her grandmother’s diary. Don’t worry, we’ll get there in a few seasons.)
It’s genuinely chilling watching everyone on the ship disappear around the doctor, but it’s pretty heartening that everyone on the crew, especially Captain Picard and Counselor Troi, is so supportive and determined to get to the bottom of what’s going on.
Apparently the rival faction in this is called the Alliance? So I can only imagine that the faction the Enterprise crew is working with is the Horde, so the lack of hot orcs is truly inexcusable.
So, the Enterprise receives an urgent distress call from a Federation freighter. By the time they arrive, the freighter has exploded, and the crew has had to bail out to a nearby planet. Which just so happens to be the late Tasha Yar’s homeworld. So, as previously alluded to, the Enterprise crew starts working with one of the two warring factions, and one of the members of the faction turns out to be Tasha’s sister, Ishara.
Ishara ends up working closely with the crew–especially Data, and the crew reluctantly grows to rely on her more and more. This ends up being a pretty Data-focused episode, and it’s interesting to see his relationship with Ishara grow closer, and tragic to see her betray him. He handles himself admirably throughout, and I appreciate that the episode pretty blatantly thinks it’s bullshit that Data “doesn’t have feelings.” And I really, really like the advice Commander Riker gives him at the end of the episode about trusting people and being willing to get hurt. It was a really great character moment for both of them.
This picks up the plot threads from “The Emissary” and “Sins of the Father.” Every episode in these arcs rules, and this one is no exception. It also introduces Gowran and Alexander who will continue to be two extremely important characters in this show and even continuing into DS9. And it’s the first appearance of the Vor’cha-class attack cruiser, one of my favorite ship classes.
My one real complaint is that I absolutely hate K’Ehleyr getting fridged, but aside from that this episode is phenomenal. And although I don’t like the big picture story choice of killing her off, I did really appreciate her being a badass investigator (the super dramatic music for this part was badass, also) and standing her ground when Duras came to confront her.
Worf’s fight with Duras was great, and cathartic. I understand why Picard had to yell at him afterwards, but I don’t know. I still feel like Worf was in the right even if he didn’t follow the letter of Starfleet regulations.
4×08 “Future Imperfect”
“You’re incapable of that level of incompetence.” “No you can’t don’t even try.” “I said shut up. As in close your mouth and stop talking.”
Honestly even if this episode were nothing but Riker teeing off on everyone, it would rule. Legendary.
Fortunately we also get a fake future Enterprise with Riker in command, but that ends up being a ruse within a ruse. Also lots of Romulan involvement which is always fun!
Honestly this is one of the most memorable episodes of the show. It’s not one of my like top, top favorites, but I always look forward to it when I’m rewatching the show.
4×09 “Final Mission”
Ensign Crusher is finally accepted to Starfleet Academy to cover for Wil Wheaton departing the show (and it’s honestly a sensible story development for the character). So Captain Picard has him accompany him on a mission that ends up stranding both of them on an inhospitable planet.
Meanwhile, the Enterprise must help avert a planetary disaster. Always nice to see Riker in command, but the real meat of the story is definitely on the A plot. In particular there are a couple really touching moments between Picard and Wesley, especially Picard telling Wesley he’s proud of him. Awww.
4×10 “The Loss”
There’s some terminology issues (Deanna calls abled people “normal people”), but the way Deanna’s loss of her empathic abilities is handled is honestly pretty fantastic. And she tees off on Captain Picard in a way that explicitly expresses several frustrations with the condescending treatment disabled people often face, and likely educated quite a few people in the audience at the time.
On top of that, this has yet another truly great Guinan conversation. I always wanna say she isn’t in enough episodes, but every time she’s in one she just knocks it out of the park, so maybe she’s in exactly the right amount.
4×11 “Data’s Day”
If we could not have one of our few women of color recurring characters introduced via her marriage to an established white guy recurring character, that would be great, thanks.
This is a fantastic episode regardless, I always like epistolary episodes of shows and Star Trek doesn’t use it as a device nearly often enough. And this is a really cute Data episode so I’m not gonna trash it too badly just to sacrifice it on the altar of Wow I Hate How They Write Keiko.
And that’s before we even get in to the whole Romulan subplot which is, as always, fantastic.
4×12 “The Wounded”
This is another one that I feel like I probably like a lot more than most people, mostly stemming from the fact that this introduces one of my favorite Federation starship classes of all time, the Nebula-class. It also introduces the Cardasdians, which will pay dividends down the line.
This is also the first instance of Miles O’Brien, Space Racist, and his interactions with Keiko in this one are just painful, soooo yeah. Not really a fan of that aspect. Still.
4×13 “Devil’s Due”
Yeah, I’m not super attracted to Ardra, but her language and behavior had me feeling super subby for pretty much the whole episode. And Captain Picard gets to do some quality space lawyering, so that’s always fun!
The Dixon Hill cold open was fantastic (I love Guinan so much, you guys), and even better as a lead-in to a fantastic mystery plot. And Data gets to do that whole detective summation thing where he explains everything that happened! And the fact that people find mystery plots inherently compelling is actually part of the solution to the mystery? There’s just so much to love about this.
4×15 “First Contact”
A phenomenal first contact episode that explores all the different moving parts to a first contact and shows what one going wrong can look like but not in a really boring “war, grr” kinda way. Captain Picard has to balance a lot of competing priorities here, and he does so with grace and the one time he fucks up he apologizes and refuses to pass the blame to the person who gave him bad advice because it was ultimately his decision.
I do have some issues with the way the conflict is resolved… kind of? But also kind of not? It kinda depends on whose perspective you look at. Like, from the planetary government’s perspective, I think “people aren’t ready for X” is pretty much always a bullshit take and situations where people make that claim need to be confronted with more courage. From the Enterprise’s side, though, I appreciate how Captain Picard accepts the decision and applies the Federation’s principle of noninterference.
Also, lady that was thirsty for Riker because he’s an alien: I SEE YOU. I wish your approach hadn’t strayed quite so far into dubcon territory, but I SEE YOU.
4×16 “Galaxy’s Child”
If it weren’t for the continuation of Geordi’s incel storyline this would be rated a lot higher. The B plot is about the Enterprise accidentally killing a space whale, and the horror and remorse Patrick Stewart manages to convey without even a whiff of melodrama are just kind of staggering. Luckily, there’s a happy(ish) ending when the crew manages to atone by delivering the space whale’s baby via a phaser-scalpel “C-section,” but things briefly go wrong when the baby imprints on the Enterprise which leads to Riker giving us an epic tier grin of amusement.
Buuuuut yeah. Plenty of secondhand embarrassment is found in Geordi’s story, and then the episode empathizes with him way too much and Dr. Brahms is actually kinda apologetic towards the end of the episode??? And just… yeah. Ick!
4×17 “Night Terrors”
I love episodes that are largely space mysteries to solve. Also the REM sleep deprivation is genuinely scary while simultaneously being kinda hilarious/adorable at times. And THANK YOU for doing the obvious thing and making Data acting captain while that was going on.
This episode rules.
4×18 “Identity Crisis”
Another Geordi damsel in distress episode. Nice to see him interacting with a woman in a way that doesn’t give me a serious case of the creeps. The scene in the holodeck where he’s piecing together the mystery is one of my favorite Geordi scenes.
I also really like the scene where Dr. Crusher points out that Data is worried about Geordi, and Data does his usual “I am an android, I am incapable of catching feels” speech, and Crusher is just having none of it. Honestly, the more we rewatch, the more I’m convinced the show knew “Data doesn’t have feelings” was a bullshit take.
4×19 “The Nth Degree”
Definitely a better Barclay episode than “Hollow Pursuits.” I don’t have a lot to say about it, it’s just kinda there, but it’s the kind of “just there” where the show is at middle-seasons form so it’s better than some of the best episodes of earlier seasons.
Freaking adorable. Captain Picard gets caught between both of his embarrassing exes. I love the Robin Hood nonsense, I love Vash being back and being a giant brat, I love all of it.
Also, Worf’s “Sir, I protest! I am not a merry man!” is justifiably one of the most well-loved lines of the series, but there’s a hella underrated exchange where Riker asks Picard what Q wanted, Picard says, “He wants to do something… nice for me” with visible discomfort, and Riker immediately responds, “I’ll alert the crew.”
4×21 “The Drumhead”
Picard space lawyering against a space Joe McCarthy-type is a pretty great concept for an episode, and it’s executed fantastically well here. So glad to see him putting himself on the line to protect his crew members, as always. 10/10, very good space dad lawyer.
4×22 “Half a Life”
Pretty easily the best Lwaxana episode, and I don’t even hate Lwaxana episodes as much as some people. The ending where she beams down with her boyfriend to attend the ritual she deeply disagrees with because “it is the custom for your loved ones to join you at this Resolution, is it not?” was deeply moving.
I also appreciate that Picard & friends are committed to the strict cultural relativism implied by the Prime Directive while simultaneously being willing to agree to give Timicin asylum immediately upon being asked. There’s a lot of great balancing of priorities and principles going on in this episode, and the kind of honest, constructive conflict between well-meaning people that has always been the show’s hallmark.
4×23 “The Host”
The ending just absolutely murders this episode for me. And it’s a shame, because Jonathan Frakes does such an incredible job playing Riker as Odan’s temporary host, and this is technically the introduction of one of my favorite species in all of Star Trek (through I vastly prefer the way they’re depicted in DS9 and beyond), but the ending is just so dang homophobic it’s such a hefty splash of cold water.
On a much happier note there’s a hella cute background character around this period of the show that throws serious enby vibes. They show up a lot in this one and the following episode.
4×24 “The Mind’s Eye”
A fantastic Geordi damsel in distress episode plus Data kicking ass as an investigator plus Deanna actually doing a good Psychology at the end of the episode. Yeah, it doesn’t hold a candle to Discovery in terms of actually dealing with the lasting effects of this kind of trauma, but it’s still more than we usually get.
Also yes a big part of why I like this episode so much is because I want the Romulans to strap me into that bondage chair, shut up.
4×25 “In Theory”
I hate, hate, hate the A plot in this one. Data experiments with dating a crewmember who seems super interested in him but not actually interested in him. The only part of this I genuinely like is when he’s asking the crew for advice, especially Commander Riker.
The B plot is fine, though it did have me saying “dark matter doesn’t do that” way too many times.
4×26 “Redemption, Part 1”
Part 2 is definitely the stronger part of this two-parter, but this is still pretty fantastic. As a huge Worf fan, I really love the Worf/Gowron/Duras plot arc. My only real complaint about this episode is the idea that women can’t serve on the Klingon High Council is a patently ridiculous notion imo, and doesn’t feel consistent with what else we know of Klingon culture. So, I guess there’s exactly one (1) thing I like about Discovery’s depiction of Klingons than TNG’s.
On a plus side we do get the introduction of the uber-femdommy Duras Sisters in this one. If they could beat me up and step on me while telling me how dumb they are I would really appreciate it thank you.
On the whole this episode is fantastic, and the Klingon Civil War brings a lot of lingering plot threads to a head. Taken as a whole, this two-parter is pretty easily one of my favorites of the franchise.
Worf’s sendoff is genuinely emotional even though you know he’ll be back if you know literally anything about the show. And revealing Sela as the mastermind of Geordi’s brainwashing a few episodes ago and the Duras Family’s ascension here is a hell of a note to close out part 1 on.
Seriously, I remembered season 2 being a whole lot better, but I didn’t remember how hard it hit the ground running on cleaning up the mess that season 1 left. Pike is such a breath of fresh air, and immediately enters the conversation as one of the best Star Trek captains. I love his extremely Picard-adjacent collaborative decision-making process.
This episode actually ends up superficially resembling the first episode of season 1 (there’s even a line of dialogue that draws attention to this, something like “the last time you investigated an unexplained anomaly it started a war”) complete with Burnam & co using those little pod thingies to penetrate the asteroid field to investigate for survivors of the Hiawatha. There’s also a pretty freaking awesome moment where Burnam has to rescue Pike, and the entire episode really seems to be about getting the Discovery crew to trust him and him to trust the Discovery crew and this just does such a good job of that.
Anyway, instead of a Federation-Klingon War the result of Discovery’s investigation is Tig Notaro as an explicitly lesbian Starfleet officer (this will be established in a later episode). So, yeah. Kind of blatantly better, there.
Going along with the aforementioned running theme of this episode being about establishing the crew’s relationship with Pike, there’s this cool little moment where Pike asks the bridge crew to introduce themselves and the camera pans around the bridge as they all do just that. And that actually foreshadows one of the running themes of this entire season, which is that the bridge crew gets way more opportunities to shine than they did in the first season.
I am excited to welcome Star Trek back to Star Trek: Discovery. It only took a whole season to find its way here.
2×02 “New Eden”
Despite tying into the larger plot, this is nevertheless a fantastic “monster of the week” episode (which we got a grand total of none of in season 1). At times this felt more like a TNG episode than an early Discovery episode. And Pike continues to be the fucking best.
Also, Tilly and Detmer get incredibly excited about doing a donut in space, and it’s the most adorable thing ever. Silvia Tilly, you are the fucking best.
2×03 “Point of Light”
This episode is like 50% nuTrek Klingon stuff, and 50% Burnam being Spock’s secret sister, so, yeah, no thank you. I actually love the interactions between Burnam and Amanda, but I still kind of hate the entire concept of Spock having another secret sibling and I can’t wait until we get past that.
Oh, I guess it isn’t quite 50/50 because we do get a continuation of the Tilly/May/mycelial network stuff. It’s pretty well-written, and I really do like where it eventually leads, but it was a little hard to enjoy because you just kind of feel bad for Tilly the whole time. I’m not saying it was bad, it was actually probably the best part of the episode. Just, yeah. A little hard to get through at times all the same.
Oh, and obviously I do love L’Rell mommy domming the entire freaking Empire, but I hate how we got here.
2×04 “An Obol for Charon”
Discovery’s encounter with the Sphere is one of the most Star Trekky things that has ever happened on this show, and Saru’s subplot is one of the most emotionally moving plots on the entire show. The first time I saw this I was legit sobbing at the scene where Michael is helping him go through Vahar’ai. Having that turn so quickly from the tragic death of one of the best characters on the show to a triumphant moment with staggering implications for the future was incredible, and even before that happened it was so moving seeing how far Saru and Michael’s relationship has come.
Oh, yeah, and just as a cherry on top we also get the continuation of the Tilly/May storyline and this includes some phenomenal interactions between Stamets and Reno.
Taken together, all of this is more than enough to make it the show’s first…
2×05 “Saints of Imperfection”
When Tilly gets shockingly sucked into the mycelial network at the end of the previous episode, Stamets and Burnam have to figure out a way to save their friend. Discovery half-jumping into the network fucking rules, and Tilly’s delivery of “… I think that’s for me” when like half the saucer section appears to her and May overhead is one of my favorite lines in the entire series. They so consistently give Tilly the best lines and it’s just such a fantastic choice.
Resurrecting Dr. Culber undoes a huge mistake made by the first season, and appropriately it takes quite a bit of struggle to make it happen. It wouldn’t have felt right if it was basically perfunctory. It’s still a bit frustrating that it was necessary in the first place, which is probably the biggest thing holding this episode back for me because it’s the closest this season has come to feeling like it’s doing the season 1 awkward shuffling stuff around thing, but it’s executed about as well as it could be. And we get blatant Tilly/May shippiness on top of it all! This show is so gay, I love it.
2×06 “The Sound of Thunder”
Saru returns to his homeworld and gets to be the big damn hero of this episode, liberating his people from their oppressors. Pike is initially resistant to this course of action and even goes so far as to have his first officer remove himself from the bridge due to his apparent emotionally compromised state, but literally every time Saru is in danger Pike risks life and limb to pull him out of the fire. And once Discovery is committed to the conflict, he does everything in his power to protect the Kelpians from the Ba’ul.
But, again, this is Saru’s episode. And he kicks all of the ass. Just, all of it.
2×07 “Light and Shadows”
Things start to get less Monster of the Week and more serialized as we hit the middle of the season, so it’s a good thing this season has a pretty damn good overarching story. It’s still not my favorite mode for a Star Trek series to be in, but I can live with it when it’s done this well.
2×08 “If Memory Serves”
A transition episode, and firmly establishes the stakes as “all sentient life in the galaxy” and can we please chill out with that. (Admittedly this is probably when those stakes are the most justified because they needed something dramatic enough to justify how the season ends, but it’s just a well nuTrek dips in to way too often.)
This does make up for being a transition episode by including quite a bit of fan service, and… yeah, okay, it totally works. The “Previously on Star Trek” opening makes me grin every time.
This feels like the right time to mention that I just kind of hate how Section 31 is integrated into Starfleet’s command structure. When they’re introduced in DS9, no one on the main cast has any idea who they are and when they learn of their existence they’re rightly outraged by this blatant betrayal of everything the Federation stands for.
Honestly I kind of hate the entire idea of Section 31 and it kind of doesn’t make a lot of sense, but I’m way more willing to shrug it off when they’re not just… around all the time doing this shit in plain view. At least in other portrayals, they could be assumed to have grown to be as twisted and fashy as they are because they’ve been operating in the shadows for literally hundreds of years.
For all my issues with Roddenberry the man I really largely agree with his original vision for what the Federation is and how it operates. I’m not saying the Federation shouldn’t have frailties and shortcomings, I’m just saying they should be frailties and shortcomings that make sense for them.
I’m glad Pike and others don’t trust Section 31, it’s just one of the many ways in which he continues to be one of the best captains in all of Trek. But frankly the way Section 31 is portrayed this season (and in this episode in particular) feels pretty continuity-breaking when subjected to the slightest scrutiny.
The only reason I’m not ranking this episode lower is all the Talos stuff really does rule, and the way Section 31 gets outmaneuvered kicks all the ass.
2×09 “Project Daedalus”
I still hate, hate, hate that Section 31 continues to just be a normalized part of Starfleet. Admiral Cornwall indicates in a throwaway line that Starfleet relies heavily on Control’s projections for their overall strategy, like this is just something everyone knows. And it just feels super weird and un-Star Trekky. Like we’re just still on a war footing. (And, again, the Federation-Klingon War really, really never felt the way war has ever been portrayed in Star Trek before.)
Pike confronting Cornwall on the bridge over the subversion of the Federation’s values was all kinds of awesome, even if it was a bit too easily defused.
I’m stalling because the real meat of this story, and what makes me reluctantly admit it’s one of the greatest episodes of Discovery so far, is the death of Lieutenant Commander Airiam. It’s so genuinely hard to watch, this is the first time it hasn’t made me sob inconsolably and that’s because I really kind of didn’t want to cry so I went to a lot of effort to try to feel detached from what was happening.
It just hits me right in a tender spot for so many reasons. There’s this incredible group of smart, dedicated people who are desperate to save her–not the least of whom is Michael Burnam who’s the one who’s physically there. And she just… she just can’t. She keeps fighting to save her to the last moment, and it seems like she would fight past the last moment and lose her own life (and the mission) in the process, and it’s only the intervention of Nhan that saves Michael and the mission.
Right in the godsdamned feels.
2×10 “The Red Angel”
Ariam’s funeral gutted me the first time I saw it. Even though I braced myself enough to not cry at her death, the funeral broke through my defenses a bit. It’s just fantastically written, performed, everything. Despite Airiam’s status as a secondary character, I think this is probably the third best Star Trek death behind Spock’s in Wrath of Khan and Data’s second death in season 1 of Picard.
It’s a minor detail when Leland is explaining the Red Angel suit, but the idea of the Klingons being involved in a “temporal arms race” is a joke. That’s just not their style at all. Please learn how to write the space orcs better if you’re going to insist on involving them in your fanfiction. Please.
I fucking love Mirror Georgiou being protective and possessive of Michael. She is so mad about her sub being put in harm’s way.
This is another transition episode, but at least it’s mostly a good one.
2×11 “Perpetual Infinity”
Another transition episode, but Georgiou and Gabriella’s “mother to mother” conversation about Michael is just a fantastic moment for Mirror Georgiou and Michael’s relationship without the latter even having to be onscreen. I love how much more explicitly possessive Georgiou is getting of her sub, which Control/Leland tries to use against her but she’s a badass and sees through it immediately.
Speaking of Control/Leland, Control explaining why Leland was the perfect host for it was extremely cathartic. My issues with Section 31 in general, and Leland in particular, have hopefully been made abundantly clear by now. So having the amoral AI bent on wiping out all life in the galaxy explain why he was the perfect host for him… yeah, that super tracked.
2×12 “Through the Valley of Shadows”
Pike choosing to continue the mission despite knowing what it’ll cost him is an extremely good boy move, and I didn’t hate the flash-forward visions of the accident, but I did hate the horror movie reveal of him in a wheelchair in a dramatically-lit hallway. It felt like they were trying so hard to do a Serious scene, and it just lacked any subtlety or gravitas whatsoever, it was just so hard to take seriously.
2×13 “Such Sweet Sorrow, Part 1”
Long stretches of this episode is just everyone figuring things out and problem solving with a sense of urgency, and I love that shit, it is so Star Trek. We also get the return of Tilly’s other girlfriend, Po, from the first Short Trek!
There are also several wonderful emotional moments. These are highlighted by Pike ordering “eyes up” for Burnham followed by her gushing eloquently about how much she loves them all, Tilly later telling her that their goodbyes needed to be “nonexistent” and dragging her by her hand to her entire Discovery family waiting to see her, and Pike’s emotional farewell to the crew. Although Burnham and Tyler have never been my favorite as a couple, their farewell kiss also made me tear up a little. I wonder sometimes if the reason I’m such a big Discovery stan is that the show got really good at making me cry.
I know all the actual action happens in Part 2, and I know I don’t usually love transition episodes, but this is a two-part ending and Part 1 does such a fantastic job of setting the table and is so empathetic to its characters, giving them all time to prepare for what’s coming. It might be one of the best examples I’ve ever seen of this kind of “calm before the storm.”
2×14 “Such Sweet Sorrow, Part 2”
Three acts of pitched battle and one act of dealing with the staggering consequences of that battle from the perspective of those left behind. I almost held back from awarding this an S-Rank because of how heavily it emphasizes the (I still believe conceptually ill-advised) relationship between Michael and Spock. But there is so much else going on, and the battle that takes up most of the episode is so thoroughly one of the best in the history of Trek, that it’s difficult for me to maintain my stubbornness.
And ending with everyone left behind, especially the crew of the U.S.S. Enterprise, is the icing on the cake. This whole season was sort of a backdoor pilot for Strange New Worlds, and leaving it so we knew Discovery was successful but didn’t actually get to see what became of the ship and crew until season 3 was honestly a great storytelling move.
I do hope we don’t get a whole lot of Spock brooding about Michael being gone in Strange New Worlds. I want it to be its own thing, the way Discovery blossomed to emphatically become its own thing in season 3. But, yeah. Season 2 of Discovery was even better than I remembered it being. I still have my rather obvious issues with some of the big picture choices that were baked into the show in its inception, but I’m beyond impressed with what it was able to do in spite of those over the course of its second season.
This is a Star Trek series. It took a minute to get there, but it’s so worth it now that it’s there.
My thirst for Morebius led to us marathoning all the animated episodes with him in them prior to seeing the movie, and I also picked up the two Morbius: Epic Collection graphic novels, which are super long and full of great content, so it took me until quite a while after seeing the movie to finish them.
The Amazing Spider-Man #101-102
I didn’t realize that the whole “Spidey has 6 arms” plot being connected with Morbius’s emergence was actually a thing in the comics! But yeah, this is pretty straightforward stuff. And Morbius’s origin story as told in the flashback in the second issue is a bit more expansive than it is in the cartoon, actually kind of a bare bones version of what we end up seeing in the movie! Lizard’s involvement also spices things up a bit. The three-way fight at the beginning of #102 and Spidey and Lizard teaming up against Morbius at the end of the same issue were both pretty enjoyable, and to no one’s great shock I enjoyed Morbius’s stock villain dialogue about his superiority and everyone else being beneath him etc etc quite a bit.
Marvel Team Up #3-4
This was also kind of true of the two previous comics, but: seeing Spider-Man using 70s slang was kind of adorably weird.
#3 was arguably a bit better since it had Morbius making another vampire to be friends with, which I really wish would happen more often!, but he’s a black guy in a 70s comic book with a speaking role so of course he isn’t long for this world. But also Spidey’s titular team-up in this one is Johnny from the Fantastic 4, so… eh. #4 starts out more Spidey vs. X-Men than Spidey teaming up with the X-Men, and then becomes X-Men vs. Morbius. The X-Men vs. Morbius parts were pretty good, Spidey stealing a kiss from Jean at the end for no particular reason was not.
Giant-Size Superheroes #1
This is probably my favorite story in the first collection! Morbius basically enslaves Man-Wolf and the pair of them just whale on Spidey, true I Want This Twink Destroyed style. This is pretty much exactly what I would want out of a movie with Morbius as the villain rather than an antihero.
Adventure Into Fear #20-26
In a lot of ways this is the real meat of this collection. These issues of the Adventure Into Fear ongoing series were effectively Morbius solo comics, with all of their titles being stylized “Adventure Into Fear with Morbius The Living Vampire.”
The adventures Morbius gets up to in these are weird as fuck, and while the writing wasn’t always top notch I remained thoroughly entertained throughout. #20 sees Morbius escaping from the X-Men and enslaved by a hypno dommy Satanic cultist guy. He isn’t hot, sorry. But the dialog kinda is, as usual.
Oh, it’s worth noting that there’s a… kind of awkward depiction of a rabbi here? It’s not your usual brand of antisemitism, just… kinda weird? Like, they have him say “Isiaha’s beard” the way you’d have a wizard say “Merlin’s beard”? And I just don’t know what that’s about. Also his dying thoughts are that Morbius’s first name (Michael) is a Hebrew name, which is definitely what I’d be thinking as a vampire finished sucking the life out of my veins.
#21 finds our antiheroic vampire given the hard sell by a group of technologically advanced aliens called the Caretakers who are, I believe, approximately the zillionth powerful, mysterious force revealed to have influenced humanity’s evolution by Marvel comics. Morbius is loath to take part in their very eugenics-sounding scheme to “save” humanity not because of the principled opposition to eugenics you might expect from a scientist who accidentally turned himself into a vampire while doing genetic research, but because of some Social Darwinist Lite philosophy that he proclaims in a single throwaway line every time the subject comes up here and in future issues. I super hate it?
Anyway, Morbius goes to try to fight the Satanist hypnodom guy only to find out that he’s dating his ex or something, and then the hypnodom summons a catboy to fight Morbius because sure, why not. #22 finds that catboy trying to kill Morbius by just keeping him pinned to the ground until the sun comes up (the art is very horny), which won’t work because Morbius is a science vampire or whatever. Anyway, the catboy ends up getting summoned back to his world of catboys and the king makes up some bullshit about wanting Morbius around to thin the herd due to overpopulation when clearly he should just admit that all the subby catboys are horny for vampires.
#23 finds Morbius on a planet populated by humans, androids, and mutant aliens and it gets super eugenics-y and I kind of just don’t even want to dwell on it because ugh. #24 pits Morbius against Blade, and its coverart is actually used for the first volume of the Epic Collection even though it’s a super short confrontation, like it’s one of the least consequential things that happens in the entire collection. Personally I would’ve gone with the Morbius and Man-Wolf vs. Spidey cover from Giant-Size Superheroes #1 (which they did actually use on the back cover), especially considering that cover art would set the tone for how unbelievably horny a lot of the comics in this collection are.
#25 and #26 finish off this arc by having everyone (except for the actually-interesting catboys) come back and fight each other and switch sides a bunch of times. Probably my least favorite part of the entire arc tbh, but it gets the job done.
So, yeah! These are oftentimes terribly written, but the concepts in them are just so silly that I’m entertained wondering what will happen next. But the main thing that keeps me coming back is they are just super horny, with the lurid details of Morbius sinking his teeth into so many necks being lovingly presented both with vivid art and lovingly lingering narration. “Razor-sharp fangs part the smooth fur on the catwoman’s neck and plunge deep into her soft, warm flesh!” “The irresistible drive to feel teeth sinking into soft flesh, to feel steaming liquid on his tongue…” This is just vampire porn. Y’all wrote vampire porn. I’m not judging, it rules.
Vampire Tales #1-8
The Epic Collection only includes the Morbius stories from these comics, which is a shame because a lot of the other stories sound rad as fuck ngl.
These were in black and white, which was usually fine (and even kinda fit the tone) but the last page of issue 7 had one really weird panel where they had black text on a dark background that was just kinda impossible to read and I don’t really get how that happened? (The best I can guess is the thing was originally done in full color and then printed in black and white, but like… why would you do it that way???) Issue 8’s first page is a literal reprint of that page with white text boxes around the offending narration, which seemed like the printing equivalent of an “oops, our bad.”
But, yeah. These stories vacillate between being wonderfully pulpy and being… kinda plodding and boring? I do enjoy the more indulgent elements when they come up, and honestly just when I was starting to lose patience with this series the aforementioned issue 7 has a scene where a demonic skeleton that is on fire who wears a cloak and rides a horse that is also a skeleton and on fire catches Morbius with a barbed-wire noose and drags him around for a minute, so like… consider me bought back in, obviously???
There’s also plenty of horny bloodsucking in these, which like, you know I’m totally onboard with.
Giant-Size Werewolf #4
The Epic Collection closes out with this pretty straightforward issue pitting the very originally-named werewolf *checks notes* Werewolf against Morbius. Both Morbius and Werewolf are portrayed pretty sympathetically, and their fights are pretty decent. This also picks back up the storyline of Morbius’s ex-fiancee Martine from his arc in Adventure Into Fear, I’d actually say that their interactions take up the vast majority of the pages of this issue.
Adventure Into Fear #27-31
This arc opens the second volume of the Morbius Epic Collection. I wanna say it mostly wasn’t quite as good as #20-26, though it ended well in the last two issues with the vampire manor bloodbath and Martine as a vampire. But the preceding stuff with Hellseye was just weird in a less fun way than the previous arc.
Oh, and this arc is also way less horny, though there were flashes of brilliance in the dialogue at times.
Vampire Tales #10-11, Marvel Preview #8
Well, aside from the last of the three, this was a huge improvement over the Vampire Tales comics from the first volume! It’s kind of like this and Adventure Into Fear swapped places in this volume in terms of quality. These had plenty of quality vampire carnage and moody pulpiness. Just a lot of fun all around.
Marvel Premiere #28
Ghost Rider! Man-Thing! Morbius! Werewolf by Night (the guy who was called just “Werewolf” in Giant-Size Werewolf #4)! Avengers whomst?
It looked for a minute like they were gonna just straight up do the plot of the movie Volcano 20 years before it came out, but starring all these weirdos. I had no idea how it was gonna work, but I was here for it. Sadly they just sort of encountered a dude who is thematically positioned as being just as perfect and innocent as they were monstrous and depraved. Shrug.
Honestly, this is some of the weakest stuff I’ve read either volume of this collection.
Marvel Two-in-One #15
This was so dumb and boring, and the Living Eraser is such a dumb and bad villain. Not even sure why they bothered including this.
Spectacular Spider-Man #6-8
So-so arc. #6 is literally three new pages of framing narrative around a reprint of Marvel Team Up #3, presumably to reacquaint readers with him before his reemergence for this brief arc. #7 picks up from where we saw him last in Marvel Two-in-One #15, and then he and Spidey slug it out while Pete’s coworker Glory Grant is repeatedly imperiled to raise the stakes. It’s pretty easily the standout issue of the three. But we see throughout that Morbius is being controlled by some weirdo called the Empathoid, and Peter ends up possessed by him in #8 and has to go to some creative lengths to rid himself of his cranial stowaway.
Oh, and there’s like a bit of an overlapping arc with Flash Thompson I guess where he’s just gotten back from fighting in the Vietnam War? So that was… pretty weird, tbh, but we only get a tiny bit of it here.
All in all, a pretty alright arc, if unremarkable.
Spectacular Spider-Man #38
I liked this one quite a bit! It’s set on Halloween, the Spidey vs. Morbius fight is pretty great, and we finally actually see the Living Vampire peel up that mask and sink his fangs into that Spider-twink’s juicy neck!
Oh the part at the beginning with the three teenagers was pretty hilarious, though. Like, them getting attacked by Morbius was a cool way to open the issue, and I especially enjoyed the explicit Halloween vibes, but the jock freezing up and the nerd with incel vibes being brave felt like a serious case of wish fulfillment for the writer lmao.
Savage She-Hulk #9-11
Seeing She-Hulk defend Morbius in court was pretty cool, but I’m not really sure this collection needed this. It was like 75% the unrelated stuff She-Hulk had going on. I guess it was cool to see Morbius get a sort of mini-redemption arc, but I don’t know, I just don’t really feel like this added a lot. Like, it was actually pretty good taken on its own merits, but I don’t really feel like it sated my thirst for Morebius as much as most of the other stories in these collections.
Spider-Man (Animated Series), 2×06-2×10
A few years ago I rewatched the entirety of Batman: The Animated Series and its successor The Adventures of Batman & Robin, and although I loved them growing up I was frankly astonished by how well they held up when revisiting them as an adult. I tried to do the same with the Marvel/Fox Kids X-Men and Spider-Man cartoons and found that that was not the case for them. Like, they were genuinely kinda hard to watch.
I remembered the arc involving Morbius (which was apparently called “Neogenic Nightmare”) pretty well. Their clashes in these episodes were actually fairly similar to the comics! With the obvious exception of the fact that due to extremely silly censorship issues, instead of drinking blood with his fangs, Morbius has weird suction holes in his hands. It’s… yeah, like I said, incredibly silly, in retrospect.
Oh, and also instead of dating Gwen Stacey, Peter is in that weird awkward period where he’s kinda sorta into both Mary Jane and Felicia Hardy. Also, Lizard doesn’t team up with Spidey to fight Morbius, not that… that would’ve been pulled off very well.
Hoookay, I guess it’s also noteworthy that Morbius is meant to be Peter’s rival in college in this one. Which… I just don’t buy him as a college student at all? And he’s dating Felicia Hardy, which is just… weird!!! Idk!!! It feels weird!!! Like, you can’t picture them having a “so how’d you meet!” conversation with their friends or parents or whatever, it seems like the kind of relationship that only happens in a superhero cartoon because the guy is the hero’s rival.
Probably my favorite thing about these episodes is Morbius’s dialogue. When describing his evil plan, he threatens “the whole world will be vampires!” and I said that I’d be really upset if that line wasn’t in the movie. It wasn’t, for the record!! Really mad!!!! Also pretty upset that he doesn’t get the awesome blue hair, but oh well.
The other contender for my favorite thing in these episodes is the fact that Morbius ends up accidentally turning himself into a DOUBLE VAMPIRE with his genetic recombinator ray, and the result is that he’s this frankly super hot bat furry. Like, seriously, this is easily the hottest version of Morbius.
I also said I wanted that to be in the movie, and, well, take a wild fucking guess.
No “the whole world will be vampires”!!! No blue hair!!! No accidentally turning himself into a DOUBLE VAMPIRE which ends up being a super hot bat furry!!!!!!!!!
I still genuinely love it, though.
Like, okay. I don’t love that this forces me to like a Jared Leto movie. I understand that he’s gross af. But, y’all. Since the first time we saw the teaser trailer for this, my boyfriend and I have been cackling gleefully about the fact that they were making a Morbius movie??? Like, it never stopped being kinda hilarious and kinda awesome like this extremely weird slice of childhood nostalgia that you really wouldn’t expect to get a full-blown, big-budget motion picture in fucking 2022 and just… there it was!!!
I have no fucking idea who they made this movie for if not us specifically? I have no idea why they thought this was a good idea but I am so fucking glad they thought it was a good idea??? They made a Morbius movie??? They made a Morbius movie??? And it was exactly the level of “kinda good” that it could possibly be. It’s trashy fun. It’s… I mean, fuck, guys, it’s a Morbius movie. This was the ceiling. What the fuck do you want me to say?
Here’s a hill I would absolutely not be expecting to die on in like 2012: Sony’s “Spider-Man but without, you know, Spider-Man” movies are like 10,000x more interesting than the MCU. I’m not even talking about Spider-Verse because that would make this a really boring argument. I mean, the MCU was obliging enough to give us their own, much boringer version of Spider-Verse just to demonstrate their inferiority.
This isn’t as good as Venom but it’s like right behind it, and fuck, man, “this isn’t as good as Venom” is a thing I can say about a movie I liked, what a time to be alive.
I have an appalling admission that is tantamount to a betrayal of my entire generation: prior to recently starting reading the whole series on a whim, I had never read a single main-line Goosebumps book.
I did read and love the first two of their Choose Your Own Adventure knockoffs, Give Yourself Goosebumps. So technically technically this isn’t my first venture into the series. And like every other kid from my generation the Scholastic Book Fair was easily one of my favorite days of the school year in grade school, but I tended to leave loaded up with nonfiction books and (shamefully) Garfield comics.
In spite of my relative inexperience I feel incredibly nostalgic for Goosebumps because it had such a powerful presence in the popular culture of my childhood and is so up my alley that it’s actually kind of weird I didn’t get around to reading them until now? If I had I’m pretty sure I would’ve gotten hooked. But it was honestly kind of enough just having it around, seeing those iconic Tim Jacobus covers everywhere. It’s so strongly associated with kids of my generation that it still feels like it’s mine, like it’s part of my childhood.
So, yeah, there’s… a surprising amount of emotional investment here for me finally making a point to read these. (And I’m planning on doing the same with Animorphs in the near future, because yeah.)
Goosebumps, #1: Welcome to Dead House by R.L. Stein
This was my first introduction to the writing style of the main-line Goosebumps books, and upon realizing that fully 90% of the chapter endings were ridiculous fakeout cliffhangers or jumpscares (jumpscares!!! in a book!!!), and it took me a while to warm to the fact that these were actually a part of the series’ charm.
One thing that I am relieved isn’t always a feature of these books is the self-gaslighting protagonist. Amanda is constantly convincing herself she didn’t see things she definitely saw, and so many instances of this pile up on each other that it starts to feel pretty ridiculous.
Aside from that I didn’t really mind the writing in this one, and like I said the silly fakeouts and jumpscares which I might criticize in another context are a feature rather than a bug. And this first entry in the series is actually super good at building a creepy atmosphere and eventually delivering genuine horror plus some shockingly badass stuff like zombies (or whatever they are) melting when exposed to light or their heads literally splatting against tombstones. Seriously, this goes hard!
But, yeah, the scariest thing about the book isn’t all the jumpscares, or the zombies (or whatever they are), it’s this completely inexplicable moment:
“Mr. Dawes opened the trunk of the small Honda, pulled off his dark blazer, and tossed it inside. Then he took out a wide-brimmed, black cowboy hat and put it on his head.”
I… what??? … what????????
Goosebumps 2×20 & 2×21: “Welcome to Dead House”
Yeeeeeah the book is wayyyyy better. The episode doesn’t really do a great job of building up a spooky vibe before revealing the truth, the subplot with the wreath that supposedly protected them from being attacked by the townsfolk was pretty silly, and the gore was toned way down because, y’know, kids show.
Literally the only positive thing I have to say about the episode that wasn’t something that was just imported over from the book is that the ending with Petey turning into a zombie (while the canine actor is clearly just super happy and thinks he’s doing a great job WHICH HE IS) is unintentionally hilarious.
Goosebumps, #2: Stay Out of the Basement by R.L. Stein
There’s a lot more tension thanks to the whole… parent being a monster thing, and the character writing in this is just way better than Welcome to Dead House in general. The one exception is the way the protagonists’ mom is written is just… awful. And the continuity writing towards the end goes a little off the rails and kind of makes it feel like Stein was having trouble hitting a page count?
I’m a big fan of plant monsters and finding people bound and gagged in a closet, though. So, y’know. (Though, if this really wanted to cater to me it would need way more vines and way more vorey plants, just saying.)
I think Welcome to Dead House went harder overall, but this was still a ton of fun.
Goosebumps 1×11 & 1×12: “Stay Out of the Basement”
This was overall a better adaptation than “Welcome to Dead House,” but still just doesn’t feel as compelling as the book. I think these first two stories were just pretty hard to translate into the confines of a low-budget kids show even if the letter of the stories was largely followed.
Goosebumps, #3: Monster Blood by R.L. Stein
This is pretty easily the worst-written one of these so far, but when the Monster Blood starts being an actual threat it is the fucking best, so I’m still pretty inclined to give it a passing grade.
Seriously, though, Evan is just the worst protagonist, R.L. Stein outs himself as an asshole ableist, and it takes infuriatingly long for the Monster Blood to be remotely interesting. Again, like I said, once it gets there it goes hog wild and I’m super here for it, but that doesn’t entirely make up for 75% of the book being like watching, uh, monster… paint… dry?
Aside from the last few chapters, the main saving grace of this book is Andy. She should have been the protagonist! Though, it’s probably easier to make a badass hero character be, y’know, not the narrator, so fair enough I guess.
Oh, actually, the other saving grace is the bullies just absolutely destroying Evan. Get that little prick!
Goosebumps 2×15: “Monster Blood”
I mean, the effects they use for the Monster Blood suck, but that’s kind of the best thing about this?
I kind of actually liked the creepy toy store from the book, so replacing that with having Evan’s aunt just kind of having the Monster Blood in a jar in the forbidden room was a pretty big letdown. And having Sarabeth be trapped in the jar with the Monster Blood is also a pretty unnecessary change that doesn’t make a lot of sense?
Also, no bullies!! That one actually makes sense because they weren’t really super vital to the plot or anything, and when you’re doing a one-episode adaptation it makes sense to cut extraneous elements, but given how cathartic them beating the snot out of Evan was in the book, it was sorely missed. (Granted, he’s drastically less annoying here.)
Unlike with the first two, I don’t think it would’ve been super hard for this adaptation to surpass the original, but that definitely isn’t what happened here. But don’t worry!!! Things are pretty immediately gonna start looking up.
Goosebumps 2×16: “More Monster Blood”
This episode fucking owns, omg.
“More Monster Blood” is a sequel to Monster Blood that isn’t based on any of the book sequels. So, the reason Evan was staying with his great aunt in the previous episode (and the book it was based on) is that his parents are going house-hunting pending a move to Atlanta. “More Monster Blood” finds Evan on a plane to Atlanta to join them there. But you know how the TSA used to ask all those dumb screening questions like did you pack your own bag? They forgot to ask him if he was sure his bag didn’t have any Monster Blood in it!!!
So, yeah, his bag has some Monster Blood in it and it basically immediately starts attacking people on the plane and it’s utter carnage and I love it so much you guys it is so much better than both the book and the more direct adaptation. The whole thing is just a total Monster Bloodbath, it’s exactly what I want out of this kind of story. Zero complaints.
Goosebumps, #4: Say Cheese and Die! by R.L. Stein
This is maybe the Goosebumpiest Goosebumps book so far. The concept is easily digestible, the cast is annoying and like twice as big as it needs to be… really the main thing holding this back from being the model example of a Goosebumps book is that quite a few of the chapters don’t end with ridiculous fakeout scares!
The overall idea of the camera that shows the future is one I’ve encountered in creepy scifi movies before, and it’s a decent concept and I actually think it’s executed super well here. The entire framing is very pulpy and Goosebumpsy, which makes it a lot more interesting to me than it would be otherwise.
Oh, one more thing. This family gets way too excited about their dad buying a Ford Taurus I think it was? Like, they’re acting like he got a sports car or something. It’s so weird, especially since R.L. Stein goes to the trouble of telling you exactly what kind of car it is like it’s a big deal. Just bizarre.
Goosebumps 1×15: “Say Cheese and Die”
What the fuck is that camera supposed to be? And wow, this makes some choices. Definitely the worst episode of the TV series I’ve seen so far.
Goosebumps, #5: The Curse of the Mummy’s Tomb by R.L. Stein
I’m actually tempted to say this is the most well-written book of the series so far, but on the other hand mummy stories are pretty much always inherently racist and this one in particular was clearly extremely poorly-researched and made me roll my eyes several times… but like, it’s still just fantastically well-written for a Goosebumps book? So, yeah. That’s kind of where I’m at with this one.
Gabe carrying around a “lucky mummy hand” is just goofy, though, and I don’t mean that as a compliment like I often do with this series. Truly bizarre.
This one didn’t get a TV adaptation, which I have to imagine will get a bit awkward when we get to Return of the Mummy which… weirdly did? But we’ll have to wait and see!
In the meantime, I’m really enjoying these so far even when they’re kind of terrible. As I suspected, it really does feel like I’m reclaiming a part of my childhood that I managed to miss out on at the time. I’m really looking forward to continuing this project, and doing the same for Animorphs!
The bulk of the episode is the crew figuring out that they’re in the mirror universe and taking steps to blend in until they can figure out a way to escape. This is also where we start figuring out what’s going on with Tyler (though it’s possible to make it through most of the next episode without realizing it, which is what I did when I first watched through the series), and the shocking, unceremonious death of Dr. Culber. Even though that particular mistake gets taken back next season, and even though this episode is the start of an arc that’s much better than the bulk of the season, I can’t get over the extremely straightforward employment of the Bury Your Gays trope, nor the fact the this is a pretty awkward transition episode. I kinda hate how often this season feels like it’s just very loudly moving pieces around instead of telling a story. Fortunately this is the last time this particular arc feels like that, but it really is a microcosm for the season as a whole.
1×11 “The Wolf Inside”
There are two wolves inside you. One of them is incredible character writing, one of them is really frustrating big picture plot issues and extremely un-Star Trekky texture. (This obligatory “there are two wolves inside you” joke is about the season as a whole, not this episode or this arc.)
This is when I started to come around on this show. The mirror universe shenanigans are extremely Star Trekky. As previously mentioned despite being given all the clues I did not see the twist with Tyler coming. (In my defense, I was pretty checked out by this point, especially on all the Klingon stuff.) And then there’s That Ending.
You know, that incredibly hot moment where Burnam’s nurturing mommy domme shows back up as a badass mean domme.
“Don’t you bow to your Emperor” indeed.
1×12 “Vaulting Ambition”
Although the show is drastically better at this point, this is a frustrating one.
The lion’s share of the episode is occupied by interactions between Georgiou and Burnam that advances one side of the plot, and Stamets and Culber that advances the other. And under other circumstances that would be exactly what I wanted. These are two of my favorite relationships in all of Star Trek.
Unfortunately at this moment in time, focusing on either relationship is an exercise in the show rubbing what it squandered in our faces.
Plus the whole mycelial network catastrophe thing is another example of the rather frustrating tendency in nuTrek where literally everything has to threaten “all sentient life in the universe.” Like, they can’t ever just have problems that are a big deal to them or to some vulnerable group of people, everything has to threaten literally everyone, everywhere. And it’s just… kinda exhausting.
The saving grace here is, of course, the Lorca plot twist. Another one that I somehow didn’t see coming. And delivered with another amazing montage that had me saying “oh my gosh oh my gosh oh my gosh” with escalating shock.
1×13 “What’s Past Is Prologue”
Wow they actually finished an arc. Like, it was all self-contained and stuff. They just… had a thing they wanted to do, they did it, and then they moved on. Look at them go!
Okay, I’m being super condescending here but this episode did seriously kick ass. It had action, character-work, and a genuinely awesome space battle. The only frustration is that it had to end on yet another in a series of twists, because season 1 is just twist after twist and it’s just so un-Star Trek. Like, you guys know you aren’t making Lost, right? You have an actual show with a story and characters that people are interested in. You don’t need to trick them into staying interested by having a cliffhanger every other week.
Seriously, though, I don’t want to undersell the fact that this episode kicks ass. Saru has a few brilliant moments of leadership that just make my heart swell. This is a high point of the season.
1×14 “The War Without, the War Within”
And then we just immediately come crashing back down to earth.
I just… hate all of the creative choices here. Like, yeah, I do derive a certain amount of less than innocent enjoyment from the idea of the space orcs just conquering everything and competing for dominance by seeing who can thrash their Federation playthings the hardest. That shit is hot, I’m not gonna pretend otherwise. But these last two episodes are a bad concept executed poorly.
Burnam’s breakup with Tyler sucked. I agree completely that she probably shouldn’t be with him. But the reason isn’t “Tyler needs to heal alone” because that’s bullshit, and people rarely heal as effectively alone as they do with support. The real problem is that Burnam is understandably traumatized, and just because she cares about him does not mean she owes him a romantic relationship. You can love someone deeply and still not belong with them.
Seriously, though, this entire reprise/conclusion of the Klingon war just sucks so hard.
1×15 “Will You Take My Hand?”
The Federation’s values are what makes Star Trek special. Everything Michael Burnam said in her angry speech at Admiral Cornwell is 100% true, but the situation that was contrived to put her in a position to say these words is just. So. Not. Star Trek.
You do not need to stretch the Federation to its fucking breaking point to dramatize these values. You’ve basically made it look like Discovery’s crew is the only bastion of the Federation’s values left while the upper echelons of its command are willing to throw it all away as soon as things get challenging.
Oh, and Discovery’s much better solution is to install a dictator who keeps her people in place with a doomsday device. So, you know. We should probably stop letting liberals write things maybe. (I’m kidding. We should definitely stop.)
There’s also just… a Star Wars prequels level of making the universe feel impossibly small. The Klingons, the Romulans, the Cardassians, etc etc et all have always felt like these massive entities that are just as big and complex as the Federation that had to be engaged with as equals. Even back in the 60s, TOS–for all its many flaws–gave us a conflict with the Klingons that was just… always kind of there, but never this all-or-nothing, and never with either side being all up in each other’s business, determining who runs the other side’s fucking government??? ENTERPRISE did a better job with this stuff! You guys have me complimenting ENTERPRISE!
… wait, hang on a second. SAREK endorsed attempted genocide??? Sarek can be a difficult man, but he’s deeply committed to peace!!
Okay. Deep breath. Uh. The one part of this episode I genuinely liked was the Orion brothel on Qo’noS. I’m sorry to just constantly be horny on main here, but if my dream job is Starfleet officer, my backup plan is “Orion slavegirl getting railed by Klingons over and over every day.” I mean, yeah, that’ll work???
Okay I also kind of love that Burnam basically closes out season 1 by giving a speech about why season 1 sucked. But, like… having Burnam consistently be the only character who gets the Federation’s values is just such a weird storytelling crutch and it’s just truly awful writing. Clearly the writers were listening and figured out what we didn’t like about the first season, but you can’t just have your main character yell about it instead of actually building a show that aligns with those values!! This show really needed to learn the difference between fan service and being Star Trek.
Oh and because there weren’t already enough of them, the season ends on yet another cliffhanger, and yeah this is the best of them by far and their version of the TOS era Enterprise is gorgeous even if the pedant in me would’ve preferred a more simple up-res of the original ship design, but seriously can we just stop with all the cliffhangers all the time.
(I mean, I know we can. I’ve seen later seasons. I’m just saying!)
Full season 1 ratings S-Rank: 0 A-Rank: 3 B-Rank: 4 C-Rank: 6 D-Rank: 2 Average: 2.53 (C-Rank)