3 Lists of 3 Star Trek: The Original Series

Jim handed me two Star Trek 3 Lists of 3 last month and somehow your uncle Geekly only posted one of them. My bad. I don’t have a whip on hand, so I may have to flagellate myself with my back scratcher.

Thanks for the Trek article, Standard Issue Star Trek Geek Jim.

In my last Star Trek article, I listed The Next Generation and Deep Space Nine ahead of The Original Series. Lest some of our readers take that as a knock on The Original Series, I want now to give credit where it’s due and explore some of what makes TOS special.

Things to Love about Star Trek: The Original Series

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Optimism

Each Star Trek series reflects its time in a certain way. Now, with everything happening in our twenty-four-hour-news world, it seems the product of that is post-apocalyptic and dystopian fiction. In the 1960s, we faces race riots, the Vietnam War, and the threat of mutually assured destruction with the USSR. Somehow, Star Trek managed to imagine a future that had taken all of that and persevered onto better things. I know, in Trek canon, there is an apocalyptic war, but we survive it and we prosper.

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Diversity

In a time when Americans feared a communist takeover of the world, we see Chekov, a Russian, on the bridge of the Enterprise. Twenty years after the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, we see a show put a person of Japanese ancestry, Sulu, on the bridge with Chekov. An African American woman, Uhura, is a bridge officer herself. This is the world we’re still striving for today.

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Philosophy

Star Trek has always had episodes that posed philosophical questions, but it all began with The Original Series. Yes, there were plenty of episodes that focused on seducing green women, but TOS questioned its viewers with what we might do in a situation where we found ourselves the inferior life form, and how we might respond should a superior life form treat us as indifferently as we, at times, treat our own planet’s less evolved animals.

Best Characters

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Captain Kirk

You knew he’d have to be here, so let’s skip the how and get into why he’s a special character without having to compare him to other Trek captains. James Kirk is the prototypical romantic idea of a starship captain. He’s young to hold such a high rank, he’s handsome and charismatic, but he’s also evolved in a way that fits with the idea of our future the show sets out. Yes, we can get into his sexual proclivity and criticize the character for that, but episodes like Balance of Terror and The Enemy Within do a great job of complicating Kirk as a character and showing an appreciation for his gentler nature, his respect for life, and the effects of the strain of command.

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Spock

Another one you knew would have to make the cut, but let’s talk about why. Spock introduces us to Vulcans on the show, but he’s only half Vulcan. In that way, he’s a surrogate for the audience in understanding the differences between the races, but in another, very progressive way, he represents the joining of worlds the show hopes for, and what is mirrored in the civil rights movement of that time.

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Bones

Doctor McCoy is gruff, old fashioned and at times, even a little backward in his thinking by comparison to the other characters aboard Enterprise. Somehow, however, there’s still a place for him. He’s still a part of that world, still thrives in it, and the crew is better for having him there. Maybe this is Roddenberry’s way of acknowledging there will always be holdouts where progress is concerned, and maybe that’s okay.

Things We Can Forgive

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It’s Pollyanna

I love the optimism in Star Trek. It’s probably my favorite things about the franchise, but there are some things that get a little too sugar-coated. One thing that comes to mind is Gene Roddenberry’s insistence that currency does not exist in the Federation, despite references to “credits” in the show. Who would volunteer to scrub plasma conduits, or wear a red shirt in a landing party if they weren’t being paid? What does the Federation do if not enough people aspire to mine dilithium on colony worlds? Do they force them? That’s suddenly a much darker world, isn’t it? Even so, I’ll take a little wishful thinking over mindless pessimism. The issue of currency rarely comes up in the show anyway.

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Retcons

For those who don’t know the term, “retcon” means retroactive continuity. In essence, it’s what happens when a story contradicts itself and needs to be explained away. The Klingons’ appearance, and the changing color scheme of crew members’ jerseys are examples of this in the show. Gene Roddenberry described himself as a notorious revisionist, and told fans whatever the most recent instance laid out should be taken as canon. Given that Star Trek boasts improvement and evolution as some of its major themes, can’t we accept a little revising now and then?

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It didn’t do more

Simon Pegg, in promoting Star Trek: Beyond, expressed disappointment in the fact that some fans bristled at Sulu’s portrayal as homosexual in the movie. This was meant as an homage to George Takei, who originally portrayed the character, and is homosexual himself, but I think this portrayal may have undercut Roddenberry. We may feel discouraged by the intolerance we see in our daily lives today, but there’s no denying that whatever bigotry exists in our world, it isn’t the same as the institutionalized intolerance of the past. Some have said Gene Roddenberry would have loved to portray a gay character, but we have to remember he was facing bans in the south for having an interracial kiss on screen (Kirk and Uhura). Roddenberry may have wished he could push the envelope further. Today, an interracial kiss on screen isn’t even noteworthy, so before addressing the social issues Star Trek didn’t tackle, it’s only fair to acknowledge that we today aren’t up against the same things Roddenberry was in the 1960s.

Hopefully giving a little love to The Original Series assuages some of the perceived shade my last Trek article may have thrown in that direction. If you’re a die-hard fan of TOS, and you still feel I’ve wronged the classics, just remember that all I’ve really said is Star Trek is a franchise that has improved on itself. Would Gene Roddenberry have wanted it any other way?

Star Trek Series 3 Lists of 3

Jim walked into the Geekly office, and it looks like he has a new 3 Lists of 3. You have the floor, man.

Who thinks it’s time for a 3 Lists of 3 on Star Trek? No one? Well, we’re doing one anyway. Firs thing I should admit is that Star Trek Discovery isn’t even up for consideration here, because I haven’t watched it. I don’t want to support that business model of endless streaming services, and also I’m cheap. Without further stalling for word count, here are the three best episodes of the three best series in all of Trek-dom.

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Star Trek: The Next Generation

I said it, so fight me. I’m a TNG guy. You think you’re mad now? Keep reading. The Original Series isn’t even #2 on my list. Here are the three best episodes of The Next Generation.

The Best of Both Worlds

Okay. This is a cheat, since it’s a two-parter, but I’m going to count it. This/these episode(s) saw Captain Picard assimilated by The Borg and turned against the Federation .The experience changes Picard, and also feeds into a couple other crucial plot points in Star Trek lore.

Chain of Command

Now I’m doubling down on two-parters. Hey, the series did this quite a bit, and more often than not, when they did it, they did it for a good reason. This story is another great bit of character development for Picard as he’s tortured in the captivity of the Cardassians. You may have seen the gif of a traumatized Patrick Stewart shouting, “There are four lights!” This is from this episode. It addresses the psychology, efficacy, and morality of torture, and also puts Deanna Troi in a proper Starfleet uniform, so there’s that.

The Measure of a Man

Starfleet decides to study Data and orders him to submit  trial is held to determine if Data is a living being, and has the right to refuse. It’s Star Trek at its best, an examination of philosophy and ethics applied to characters we love.

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Star Trek: Deep Space Nine

Did you think I was bluffing about the TOS not being #2? Well, I wasn’t. Truth be told, ask me to do this list again tomorrow and I might put DS9 ahead of TNG. DS9 shows the Federation at war, challenging so much of the doctrine Gene Roddenberry laid out for this franchise, but doing it thoughtfully. It’s not just great Trek, it’s great storytelling.

In the Pale Moonlight

Remember what I said about DS9 complicating the morality of the franchise? No episode in all of Star Trek does this better. It also features Garak, one of the most complex and interesting supporting characters the franchise has ever seen. Here, Captain Sisko manipulates the Romulans to get them to enter the war on the side of the Federation. We’ve seen Starfleet officers compromise their ethics before, but these are depicted as traitors to the uniform, or at best, men who’ve lost their way. This episode makes no such judgment, and it’s truly refreshing.

The Siege of AR-558

This episode shows us a side of Starfleet we haven’t seen often. Sure, we’ve seen ships explode, and even some shootouts on the ground, but this episode depicts a long, ugly battle in the trenches. Here we see the cost of the Dominion War in action, and it’s made personal when Nog is wounded in combat. This is also an important episode for adding depth to the Ferengi, who have too often been given the one dimensional alien monoculture treatment.

Duet

Kira was a great second in command in this series. She’s smart, capable, and continues this series’ legacy of complicating moral questions. In this episode, we get glimpses into Kira’s past as a member of the Bajoran resistance, as well as her experiences under Cardassian occupation. Here we see her come face to face with a man she remembers as the commandant of an infamous forced labor camp. Her relationship with Sisko is challenged, as is her willingness to operate under Federation protocol.

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Star Trek: The Original Series

Okay, so The Original Series does make the list. It has to, really. Without the original, nothing that came after would have been possible, and that’s a debt always owed to what came first. This show had plenty of misfires, but also some truly classic moments.

Balance of Terror

Star Trek was, like all art, a product of its time. In this case, the cold war left its mark in an exceptionally clear manner. We have the neutral zone enforcing a delicate peace, and two groups who can’t even see one another prepared to destroy one another. It parallels the story of the film, The Enemy Below, and gave us the famous Trek quote, “…I might have called you friend.”

Space Seed

This episode explores the history of The Eugenics War, a critical point in the fictionalized version of Earth’s past within the Star Trek universe. It addresses the consequences of genetic engineering and, most importantly, it introduces us to Khan. Without this episode, Wrath of Khan, the best of the Star Trek films, would not exist.

The City on the Edge of Forever

What I like about Star Trek is that it takes an optimistic look at humanity’s future. Yes, things get bad. They’ll get even worse still, but someday we will get things right. That feels rare in science fiction. This episode has Kirk and Spock chasing a delirious Dr. McCoy into the past to preserve their future. There, amid rampant crime and poverty, Kirk meets a woman who is an almost insufferable optimist. She predicts eventual harmony and prosperity for mankind. In short, this episode functions as a sort of metafictional look at itself, at the sort of hopeful person who creates a better future by believing in it.

There you have it. There’s Jim’s take on the three best episodes of the three best series in Star Trek history. Do you disagree? Throw on a red shirt and we’ll fight about it.

 

 

3 Lists of 3 Movie Marathons

It’s Friday night, and you have no plans—or your plan options are limited. Why not try a movie marathon? But which movie marathon should you choose? Old uncle Geekly doesn’t know for sure, I don’t know what type of movies you like, but the following three lists of three could help narrow the search.

Short and Sweet Marathons Most People Could Finish

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Three Flavours Cornetto Trilogy (5 Hours and 29 Minutes)

The shortest of the movie marathons on this list is the one named after the various flavors of Cornetto ice cream treats featured in each film: Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz, and The World’s End. Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg make a dynamic duo in these three comedies. The different themes and characters also make the Cornetto Trilogy feel like it isn’t a trilogy and perhaps, the easiest one to watch.

I may not be The World’s End’s biggest fan, but it’s still a good movie and the trilogy doesn’t come close to overstaying its welcome.

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The Dark Knight Trilogy (7 Hours and 37 Minutes)

Jim might slap the back of my wrist with a classroom ruler for including Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight Trilogy: it’s overrated. To be fair, I agree with him, but it’s still a quick watch, and the films have their moments—Heath Ledger’s Joker alone is worth the price of admission. While Kevin Conroy will always be my Batman, Christian Bale does a good job, despite hyperventilating through half the movies, and many of the villains are satisfyingly menaces.

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Back to the Future (5 Hours and 42 Minutes)

I had to go with the film series that has pervaded pop culture so much that there was a Back to Future Day on October 21, 2015. Universal Pictures created a trailer for Jaws 19, Mattel manufactured a hoverboard as seen in the film, Pepsi produced a limited run of “Pepsi Perfect,” Nintendo released the Wild Gunman game Marty played in the Café ‘80s scene, and many more including Nike recreating the Nike Mag shoes Michael J. Fox wore. The Back to the Future franchise begets Rick and Morty. ‘Nuff said.

Ridiculously Long Marathons I Might Be Crazy Enough to Try One Day

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James Bond (2 Days, 4 Hours, and 56 Minutes)

He’s the world’s best/worst secret agent—he’s given his real name to how many people?—and along with Sherlock Holmes, one of the most successful and recognizable fictional characters of all time. James Bond also has 26 movies (before the one that’s due in 2019) with six actors portraying the titular character. Sure, the early films are dated. Daniel Craig’s turn is a modern retelling of Connery’s and if one is looking for a more relatable Bond, one should turn there. I also wouldn’t blame you for not wanting to blow an entire long weekend. We’re talking days. Days!

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The Marvel Cinematic Universe (1 Day, 18 Hours, and 44 Minutes—and counting)

While DC continues to flounder (I hope that changes soon), Marvel consistently produces strong movie-going experiences. The trick was to start with solid individual movies before expanding and crossing the various franchises. The only problem is that there are too many Marvel movies. This marathon only includes the films, not the Netflix originals and other TV shows. I’m crazy; I’m not that crazy.

You may not be able to finish every film over a standard weekend. You may have to call in sick from work. If I’m being honest, I’d have to be a little sick to attempt this movie marathon that gets longer every other month. So, I wouldn’t be lying. I am sick. Cough. Cough.

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Miyazaki Marathon (1 Day and 10 Minutes)

Miyazaki’s marathon is the shortest of the full day ones, and it happens to be the most likely one I’ll try to make happen. Season squeed after hearing that. I’ll have to track down his shorts (that make up about an hour of this runtime) and make sure we have all the animated features he’s ever written and directed. We’ve got to do this right.

To date Miyazaki is the only anime director to have ever won an Academy award. It’s shocking that he’s only won one. He’s a director who I’m always on the lookout for his next release.

Classic Geekly Movie Marathons

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The Middle-Earth Anthology (20 Hours, 13 Minutes)

You could be forgiven if you wanted to cut the showtime in half and watch only The Lord of the Rings trilogy, Uncle Geekly won’t judge, but even at 10 hours or so, The Lord of the Rings will occupy a large portion of your day. No regrets. Miss Geekly has me beat as she’s seen it at least five or six times with all the bonus features.

Any way you slice it, the Middle-Earth Anthology is cinematic magic and worth your time. Peter Jackson and company do a phenomenal job of bringing to life the series that birthed epic fantasy.

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Star Wars (22 Hours, 27 Minutes)

This runtime includes the anthology films (Solo and Rogue One) and that may turn off several fans. It also doesn’t include the upcoming ninth main film, but I had to include Star Wars somewhere on this list. It’s too good. It transformed people’s lives. Some other fill-in-the-blank hyperbolic statement that somehow doesn’t seem like enough.

There are so many ways to watch the films: in order of release, chronological order, and many, many others. I won’t go into the virtues of how to watch these films, you do you, but with a runtime of just under a day one could watch a Star Wars marathon on a day like May the Fourth.

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Star Trek (1 Day, 1 Hour, and 17 Minutes)

Okay. This one may be the other more than a day marathon I’ll have to try at some point and that’s why it’s on the lists of classics. Star Trek may not get the same recognition as the other two titles on this list of three, but it’s every bit as iconic. I’m also required to say something like “iconic” because Jim would put me in a sleeper hold if I didn’t. Zzzz.

Where was I? Yes. Some of Sci-Fi films’ greatest moments have come from Star Trek movies, and it deserves to be on our classic Geekly movie marathons.

That’s my list. I’m sure you guys have more marathons you’d like to add. Tell me how wrong I am in the comments.

Geekly’s Free Video Game Summer: July 18, 2016

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Sorry I’m late with this week’s post. My head was in the clouds and as a result, we’re headed to the stars with this week’s Geekly Free Video Game Summer. Let’s get to some games that are out of this world.

Star Wars Galaxy of Heroes

Star Wars: Galaxy of Heroes

I have to admit that I spent more time with Star Wars: Galaxy of Heroes than I did with the other games on this week’s list—I’m a bit of a Star Wars geek. There’s also a lot going on in this game.

Players accrue two forms of energy and countless forms of in-game currency. If you’ve read our “6 Things to be careful of in free-to-play games” (here’s a link in case you missed it), you’ll know that more than three currency types in a free-to-play game denotes a cash grab. Star Wars: Galaxy of Heroes is a cash grab, but it’s enjoyable none-the-less.

Intellectual properties owned by Disney have a history of fun, free-to-play, cash cow video games—I’m looking at you Marvel: Contest of Champions—and that’s not a bad thing, so long as you know what the game is tempting you to do. Star Wars: Galaxy of Heroes’ main campaigns—yes, there’s more than one—are scaled, with regard to difficulty, in a satisfying way. I could see some players getting frustrated and buying boosts to shave time off of developing their characters for the main quest lines, but the Galaxy of Heroes’ main source of frustration rests with the Galaxy War and Battle Arena game modes.

Both the Galaxy War and Battle Arena are player versus player game modes. It makes sense that PvP game modes would be more difficult than most of the other game modes, but the Battle Arena is where Galaxy of Heroes separates the players who pay for boosts from the ones who don’t. I’m sure you could earn enough experience to do well in the Battle Arena and it’s not vital that you place in the top 50 players, but it helps if you place high in these game modes and it’s obvious that you won’t unless you spend real world dollars. Don’t worry. There are other ways to develop your characters and get stronger. If you resign yourself to the fact that you won’t be a world beater in the Battle Arena, you’ll find that finishing in the top 1000 isn’t bad for power ups.

Did I mention that this game has a mountain of game modes? Well, it does. I’m almost level 50 and I still haven’t unlocked all this game has to offer. There might be too much going on for my liking but Galaxy of Heroes eases players into new game modes, so learning any new game modes is easy enough, and the inclusion of extra game modes serves to bridge the divide of paying and non-paying customers to some extent.

The last game mode I’ll mention is guilds. Guilds are popular in free-to-play games and I should probably write an article on what makes a good guild or guild mode at some point, but let’s stick with Galaxy of Heroes for the moment. Star Wars: Galaxy of Heroes doesn’t have the worst guild set-up, but I wouldn’t mind a little more feedback for guild activities and there’s something cheap with the guild gold introduced when you join a guild.

For the most part participation in your guild doesn’t feel any different from playing on your own. There are raids that you can assist with—if one of your guild leaders starts a raid—but the chief way to contribute to your guild is to perform menial tasks like using energy fighting in Cantina Fights. Well, if you log in during the day, you’re going to use energy fighting in Cantina Fights whether you’re in a guild or not. Sure, a daily task for your guild might dictate which game mode you’ll play more of that day, but I prefer guild modes in other games that make guilds use the same currency players use for their own progression. It makes for fewer forms of in-game currency and guild members talk more about how they’ll contribute credits toward group goals; they have to balance personal and group success.

Despite a few flaws, Star Wars: Galaxy of Heroes is fun and I recommend it. Just be mindful of how the game is trying to coax players into spending real world money. It’s okay if you want to spend real money on a free-to-play game, just be careful. You could spend a heap of money on in-game purchases.

Star Trek Timelines

Star Trek: Timelines

Star Trek: Timelines is disappointing. It could easily be the one game that’s head and shoulders above the rest on this list, but crashes and load times make it difficult to navigate.

Perhaps you’ll have better luck than me—I’m playing Star Trek: Timelines on iOS—but I have to wait at least thirty seconds any time I want to load a new area, the game logs me out at pivotal moments, and often the game doesn’t save my progress and I have to retrace my steps. Technical difficulties aside, Star Trek: Timelines is a deep and engaging game that most Star Trek fans will enjoy.

All of the Star Trek iterations jumble to form a timeline mess, and you are in charge of various Star Trek crew members who have the skills to correct the timeline. Unlike several free-to-play games I’ve played this summer, Star Trek: Timelines has a story and that story’s pretty engaging. From what I was able to play, it felt as if my choices mattered. One of the first battles you’ll encounter is with the Klingon Federation. At one point you can help Worf’s son Alexander, but there are multiple ways you can choose to help. I’ve not seen this in too many free-to-play games, and it irks me that Timelines kept crashing. Timelines also employs John de Lancie to reprise his role as Q from The Next Generation and that’s exciting. Oh, man. I wish I could’ve played more of this game.

Star Trek characters excel at various tasks, and missions in Star Trek: Timelines require crew members who have medical expertise, scientific knowledge, engineering know-how, combat experience, leadership qualities, and/or negotiation skills. Usually, there’s more than one way to solve a problem, and that’s wonderful.

What’s not-so-wonderful is dilithium crystals. There had to be one currency or form of energy that goads players into using real-world dollars, and dilithium crystals’ iconic make them a good choice, but Timelines could’ve made dilithium crystals attainable through weekly log-ins. You don’t need dilithium crystals, you can use other, easier to obtain currencies (or the passage of time because dilithium crystals are used to rush production and missions) to get most of the items you can purchase with dilithium crystals, but there’s a difference between not having enough dilithium crystals to something and not having any because you refuse to pay.

I hope Star Trek: Timelines gets an update that will stabilize the game on iOS. It’s a great free-to-play game that’s marred by technical difficulties.

Pixel Starships

Pixel Starships

Pixel Starships takes the concept of Star Trek and applies cute, pixelated characters and starships. It’s a neat game with a large community—you’ll find a guild or two or fifteen you join and pal around with—but like Star Trek: Timelines and even Star Wars: Galaxy of Heroes above it on this list, Pixel Starships suffers from technical difficulties, and it proves difficult to succeed without spending real world money.

You’ll have to spend time—lots and lots of time—to upgrade rooms on your ship so you’ll have the means with which to raid other starships, or you could spend cash to speed up the process. Pixel Starships starts off well enough but the wait times mount fast. Not only do you wait for upgrades, you have to wait to battle CPU opponents. You could also launch a player versus player match, but you end up with the same issue as Star Wars: Galaxy of Heroes: players who pay win more often than players who don’t. Unlike Galaxy of Heroes, there aren’t too many ways to bridge this gap.

If that wasn’t bad enough, I had issues upgrading my starship. I’d click a room to upgrade in my ship, the computer would take my resources, and then the game wouldn’t apply the upgrades. Pixel Starship experiences rolling game crashes. They don’t happen all the time but they do happen in bunches.

Pixel Starships doesn’t stack up to the other games on this list as well as I would like. The divide between paying and non-paying gamers is too great, and technical difficulties slow down an otherwise good concept. The crew and ship are customizable and the game has character. I can see how gamers could enjoy this game. If exploring the galaxy in a cute pixelated starship appeals to you, Pixel Starships has depth of play. For me, Pixel Starships gets a half-hearted endorsement.

That’s another week of free-to-play games. I hope you enjoyed it, and until next we meet, thanks for reading.