So when Bradbury passed in 2012, I read the various obituaries and remembrances and several mentioned an anecdote Bradbury had told about an encounter with a magician in the 1930s. It’s a fantastical little tale that, no surprise, would fit in a Ray Bradbury story.
This past Monday, I shared an article about the allure of the film Master and Commander: But Wait, There’s More Title, directed by Peter Weir. This Sunday during the main Oscar ceremony, I learned that said director, now 78, received a special lifetime achievement award last November. And it got to me thinking that, apart from one or two of his films I haven’t seen, all of his films are always in my sort.
Peter Weir isn’t a prolific director compared to some. I haven’t heard him mentioned in the same breath with “auteur” directors. He certainly isn’t mentioned as a “blockbuster director” though his films can have fantastic spectacle and action. And, thinking of favorite films, well, it’s not like his films dominate my favorite 50. But if there were a filmmaker most likely to make me stand up and say, “O Captain, my captain!” it would be Peter Weir.
If you haven’t watched any of his films, or seen them in a while, take a look at some of the subjects. They vary in theme and genre –so the subject matter might not always be a fit for you– but all are thoughtful, full of craft, and usually contain some fantastic acting.
Here’s the introduction by Jeff Bridges from the awards ceremony from last Fall (Bridges worked with Weir on the underrated Fearless):
And here’s Peter Weir’s acceptance speech, which gives you a lot of perspective on his perspective on filmmaking:
Sadly, I can’t find the montage they showed at the awards show, but I did find this one online which gives you a taste of his varied work:
It’s definitely due a rewatch… but actually, I’m here to point out a recent article by Gabriella Paiella for GQ about how my top pick, Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World, was made and is now an absolute classic in the eyes of some film lovers. The article explores the allure of the film, perhaps best summed up as: “If you kidnapped a hundred of Hollywood’s top minds and forced them to work around the clock, they could not engineer a more exquisite Dad Movie.”
Is that why it’s my new top pick? Am I transitioning early to be one of those dads who’s preparing to ace a military history trivia contest? (As per John Mulaney).
Y’know, you might want to step away from the Everything Bagel, read the article, and engage in some naval gazing. It might be the lesser of two weevils.
So going from the viewing guide for one of the least watched series in the franchise, Enterprise, let’s go to a Trek series that still ranks as the most watched… and based on feedback is clearly one of the most beloved.
Much like many of the Trek series, TNG takes a while to find its footing. A great documentary that details some of the specific reasons of how the show changed over time is Chaos on the Bridge. Directed by William Shatner (yes, Captain Kirk himself). I’m given to understand it’s not the first to delve into the dirt behind TNG’s growing pains, but it comes across as even-handed and, importantly, explains why the storytelling style shifted so noticeably in the third season.
That style, which focuses on character arcs amid the familiar Trek explorations of ideas is what made fans tune in week after week by the millions. We also waited one long summer between seasons three and four thanks to one of the best cliffhangers in TV history.
For those of you encountering the TNG crew for the first time or the first time in a long time, I am sure you’ll find episodes that stay with you long after the end credits. The best of Trek is engineered to age well, and, yes, some of the space clothes may seem a bit too 80s or 90s at times, but overall the stories are strong.
I should pause and point out this viewing guide is not for everyone. I am sure there are TNG fans who are completionists. They do not want to miss the tiniest character moment — and skipping episodes, including episodes they themselves find underwhelming, would prompt a Picard-style speech about duty. If that rings true, this guide is not for you. In fact, I daresay you will find it logical to live long and prosper elsewhere.
This viewing guide is for the fans who want an abbreviated binge watch. It cuts down on turkeys and subpar episodes that don’t contribute to big character moments or major payoff later. It’s also a guide for those fans who want to introduce new viewers to TNG the same way you might introduce a friend to a band you love: not with every song from every album from the beginning, but with a curated playlist. If these new viewers find they absolutely love the show, those “deep cuts” are there for a rewatch.
For younger viewers or people who haven’t watched older TV shows in while, remember that TNG does not match the newer series, and indeed most modern “prestige television,” in two key ways.
First, it adheres to a notion of the Status Quo common to countless shows prior to the 21st Century: no matter how big the plot developments are or how they might affect our characters, they’ve not going to change much. The very nature of the show visiting a new planet almost every episode means last week’s episode (and planet) and its problems are firmly in the past with no impact on this week’s planet.
Second, there’s going to be a lot of planets to visit. Each season has 26 episodes, an amount that would make modern line producers an aneurysm. In other words, you can leave many a subpar episode in the Briar Patch of Meh.
If we count all the double-sized episodes as two, we have 182 installments of TNG. This viewing guide cuts out 80, giving you a much leaner, more manageable 102 episodes to warp through.
#s1&2 – “Encounter at Farpoint”
Just the series premiere, you ask? Yes, really. In fact, I’d love to skip straight to season 3, but since this is a binge watch, there’s crucial payoff in the series finale that require that you Vulcan up and watch this not-best-of-Trek-series-premieres. Reflections on the now missing Tasha Yar are far more interesting in later episodes, so don’t worry about why she’s missing in season two. Plus consider the bright side: in a completionist rewatch, you have Klingon building toys, Romulan courtesy calls, and exploding heads to look forward to!
#3 – “Elementary, Dear Data”
#9 – “Measure of a Man”
#16 – “Q Who?”
I debated including “Elementary, Dear Data” but it does set up one of the best later episodes and, presumably, will connect to Star Trek: Picard. It also preps you for the myriad “holodeck hijinks” episodes. The other two episodes set up events not only for TNG, but for a lot of the Trek series in the future, so they’re in.
#2 – “The Ensigns of Command”
#3 – “The Survivors”
#4 – “Who Watches the Watchers”
#6 – “Booby Trap”
#7 – “The Enemy”
#8 – “The Price”
#9 – “The Vengeance Factor”
#10 – “The Defector”
#11 – “The Hunted”
#12 – “The High Ground”
#13 – “Deja Q”
#15 – “Yesterday’s Enterprise”
#16 – “The Offspring”
#17 – “Sins of the Father”
#18 – “Allegiance”
#19 – “Captain’s Holiday”
#20 – “Tin Man”
#22 – “The Most Toys”
#23 – “Sarek”
#24 – “Ménage à Troi”
#26 – “The Best of Both Worlds” (Part 1)
Now we’re getting to the good stuff. You can watch most of the season without a cringe — and, in fact, fans of Barclay or those into all things Holodeck will want to add episode #21, “Hollow Pursuits.” Other than that, you’re probably more than ready to check out the season four premiere — especially because you don’t have to wait all summer!
#1 – “The Best of Both Worlds” (Part 2)
#2 – “Family”
#3 – “Brothers”
#6 – “Legacy”
#7 – “Reunion”
#8 – “Future Imperfect”
#9 – “Final Mission”
#11 – “Data’s Day”
#12 – “The Wounded”
#13 – “Devil’s Due”
#14 – “Clues”
#15 – “First Contact”
#16 – “Galaxy’s Child”
#17 – “Night Terrors”
#18 – “Identity Crisis”
#19 – “The Nth Degree”
#20 – “Qpid”
#21 – “The Drumhead”
#22 – “Half a Life”
#24 – “The Mind’s Eye”
#25 – “In Theory”
#26 – “Redemption” (Part 1)
A few more episodes snipped from this season, but some absolutely great episodes. Dr. Crusher fans may want to add back #23 “The Host” which uses the sci-fi setting to have some great moments regarding relationships.
#1 – “Redemption (Part 2)
#2 – “Darmok”
#3 – “Ensign Ro”
#4 – “Silicon Avatar”
#5 – “Disaster”
#s7&8 – “Unification”
#9 – “A Matter of Time”
#12 – “Violations”
#13 – “The Masterpiece Society”
#14 – “Conundrum”
#15 – “Power Play”
#17 – “The Outcast”
#18 – “Cause and Effect”
#19 – “The First Duty”
#21 – “The Perfect Mate”
#23 – “I, Borg”
#24 – “The Next Phase”
#25 – “The Inner Light”
#26 – “Time’s Arrow” (Part 1)
20 all-around solid episodes.
#1 – “Time’s Arrow” (Part 2)
#4 – “Relics”
#6 – “True Q”
#7 – “Rascals”
#s10&11 – “Chain of Command”
#12 – “Ship in a Bottle”
#14 – “Face of the Enemy”
#15 – “Tapestry”
#s16&17 – “Birthright”
#18 – “Starship Mine”
#19 – “Lessons”
#21 – “Frame of Mind”
#23 – “Rightful Heir”
#24 – “Second Chances”
#25 – “Timescape”
#26 – “Descent” (Part 1)
Right around season five and six, you might decide to just watch ’em all, but I’m committed to cutting out the subspace bumps, so here you go.
#1 – “Descent” (Part 2)
#s4&5 – “Gambit”
#6 – “Phantasms”
#8 – “Attached”
#10 – “Inheritance”
#11 – “Parallels”
#12 – “The Pegasus”
#15 – “Lower Decks”
#16 – “Thine Own Self”
#19 – “Genesis”
#20 – “Journey’s End”
#21 – “Firstborn”
#24 – “Preemptive Strike”
#s25&26 – “All Good Things…”
You definitely want to skip a number of episodes here. Some fans find #23 “Emergence” to be a meta-commentary on the series itself, but the actual series finale “All Good Things…” brings it home as good as any Trek series has.
So there you have it: a way to dive in and boldly go on adventures with the inimitable TNG crew without spending over 100 hours of your time. Enjoy!
Last week, the third episode of Star Trek: Picard‘s final season gave him a glorious (formal) introduction that is already spawning memes across the Interwebs.
In fact, the whole season promises to give us a measure of closure with the TNG era on many fronts. There’s the main characters sure, but we were also promised some villains from Trek of yore including Daniel Davis’ Moriarty, holographically conjured to defeat Data — and Lore, Data’s android brother who probably has competing against his brother as part of his source code. Three episodes in, neither of these repeat villains have shown up, so we’re left to wonder if Vadic, the captain of the Shrike (with Ahab focus) is related to someone we’ve seen before (no worries if not, Amanda Plummer is chewing scenery and exuding cool menace that would make her dad, General Chang, proud).
But to allude to the machinations of Sauron and his predilection for seizing power through jewelry, all of the trailer audiences were deceived, for another villain was added this past episode. And if Worf’s intro gave me delight, this reveal gave me
Those of you who don’t want spoilers, don’t click or read further.
Besides feeling the DS9 love, the thought of a splinter group of Founders unhappy with all that peace and love Odo brought to the Great Link, separating and plotting lo these many years is wonderful. The Founders were shown to be patient, methodical, and ruthless in Deep Space Nine and however they factor into the series of pulled strings that will eventually give us Moriarty and Lore (and may explain some of Vadic’s intent), it’s a wonderful Big Bad to behold. I might even call them a solid villain, which would naturally incur their wrath.
It also reminds me I should work on those viewing guides for TNG and DS9.
I never wanted a Next Generation (TNG) season eight out of Star Trek: Picard as many fans did, but I did want more satisfying closure with the Next Generation characters than was offered by Nemesis. With that in mind, I’ve enjoyed this latest and reportedly last season of Picard, still underway.
As Dylan Roth explores for Polygon, perhaps no character deserves closure more than that of the quintessentially non-Merry man: Worf. As a huge Deep Space Nine (DS9) fan, I didn’t begrudge the increasingly flimsy reasons Worf re-appeared on the Enterprise in the TNG movies, but I did dislike the lack of acknowledgement of Worf’s character arc that occured. Indeed, I felt while Worf had standout moments throughout TNG, he really came into his own (and addressed his obsession with being the most honorably Klingon) in DS9.
In the third episode of this third and final season of Picard that just aired this week, we finally get that on-screen continuation. In fact, more than a few DS9 fans appreciated all the love given the series and how its events are still felt in the Star Trek universe in the 25th century.
So raise a glass of prune juice (or chamomile tea), enjoy the article (which includes some video compilations, and hopefully enjoy Worf’s character getting a satisfying bow at the end.
Eight years ago today, I relaunched a personal website not really seen since the previous millennium. I’ll leave it to readers to decide if it’s a little bit good or a little bit bad and in what proportion. But eight years does appear to be the Bronze Anniversary or, if you’re indecently British, the Salt Anniversary?!? I’m guessing that latter one dates back to the Danelaw.
As with previous versions of this blogiversary post, I’ll be looking at the posts that were popular over the past year and other stats worthy of preserving in salt (or bronzing).
It’s no surprise that my posts related to ranking every episode of every Star Trek series topped the list of total traffic to the site. I expect this to continue for some time as they appear to have appealed to some search algorithms. This year’s rankings are:
The Original Series (TOS) has maintained its lead, month-to-month, since last year. The Next Generation (TNG) has warped up to the number 2 spot in only the past few months, which I’m chalking up to season three of Star Trek: Picard. This much-hyped “final season” that just started streaming last month reunites much of the Next Generation cast and I’m sure more than a few TNG fan has done a nostalgia-inspired search that led them here.
You’ll see their rankings last year in parenthesis. I won’t be surprised if Voyager goes up in the ranks again once the documentary comes out.
I’m also guessing the newer Trek series will inch up as I actually catch up in ranking the newer seasons (and whole new series!). A lot has debuted since I created these lists in 2020.
Most Visited Posts (apart from Trek)
Apart from Star Trek, the eight most visited posts in the past year (whether they were from this year or no) were:
A lot of project management and process improvement this year. Not a bad thing –and something I should really write more about (I used to teach internal classes in schedule management and risk management and enjoy sharing what I’ve learned). And, naturally, I’m always up for more film posts.
Posts I’d Like to Get More Views
I can’t complain about my Trek posts getting plenty of views. I don’t mind the project/process management posts’ popularity either. But I see occasional spikes of popularity on some posts I’d like to see get yet more hits… and a few posts I just want to get more love. Here are eight more or less in order.
I’ve been thinking about actors and casting a lot in the past year, David Warner being a character actor whose performances I’ve gone back to for decades. Just about all of these posts are in the Top 100 from the past year (which, considering the site have over 700 posts, isn’t bad), but the Sherlock Holmes one has spiked a couple times, which always makes me smile (I do hope the author of said ranking now has her doctorate). And finally, I gotta give writing self-promo a shoutout: I mean, writing is the primary reason this blog is here. If all goes well, I’ll have another few bits of promotion this time next year… and probably more Trek.
Longtime visitors will note that I do post about Tolkien from time to time, even if I’m not the prime Tolkien fanatic in the family. I couldn’t even tell you who the first lord of Dol Amroth was, which I’m pretty sure is the level of detail one needs to be a Colbert-level Tokien fanatic.