Star Trek: Discovery’s ‘Point Of Light’ Returns To Fractal Stupidity

CONTENT WARNING – The bottom portion of this review contains disturbing images of mutilated infants. A second warning will be put up, but please proceed with caution.

And no, I can’t believe I have to write that warning on the review of a Star Trek episode, either.

Ohhhhh my God. Jesus. I was just, just, warming up to this show, and then BAM, it covers itself in stupid-sauce and jumps into a nest of stupid-wasps and then tries to numb the pain with a hefty dose of stupid-pills.

Did any of that make sense? No? Then I’ve set roughly the correct tone for a review of this toasty, grisly mess of a story.

This episode, ‘Point Of Light’, is what I’d call Fractally Stupid – it’s stupid on a basic, high level, but as you dig further into it, you realise that the stupidity extends to a greater and greater level of detail. It’s stupid all the way down – the closer you look, the more stupid you see.

It’s painful.

recruitment

My first complaint with this episode is that it’s nearly 50 minutes long and has roughly 90 billion storylines, none of which overlap. Given that fact, I’m going to make it easy for myself and break each one down, and carefully explain why each story is dumber than a bag of hammers.

Please note that there is so much stupid in this episode that I had to trim out a lot of it from this article. There’s also a lot of stylistic stuff, such as camera angles, dutch angles, terrible lighting, Klingons speaking English unintelligibly, the complete abandoning of several plotlines from last season, most notably the planet-destroying bomb that L’Rell controlls, L’Rell naming herself Khaleesi – the list goes on and on.

For now, I just want to focus on the chunkiest narrative aspects. Let’s dive in.


Michael Burnham: An Accessory To Spock

Alright, so we open with Burnham’s personal log, where she explains that she is yet to figure out the significance of the Seven Red Bursts-

sevensignals

Wait, shouldn’t that be Eight Red Bursts? Wasn’t the one in last episode a new one?

anothersignal

Did the writers just try to Shelby us again?

Anyway, Burnham can’t make any headway on the Red Bursts, not even with the help of Spock’s notes.

Where is Spock? Why, he’s in the psychiatric unit aboard Starbase 5. Which is precisely why Discovery went straight there after the end of last episode, where they established the absolute primacy of their mission, over and above Spock’s privacy or even Starfleet’s “General Order One”:

spocksprivacy

urgency

firstrule

Oh, wait, they didn’t go to Starbase 5. They were just flying around or something, I guess, because their mission probably isn’t that important.

Instead, Amanda, the 43-year-old mother of a 32-year-old Spock arrives after having just been to Starbase 5 and nicking Spock’s medical records, which leads to Pike getting in contact with Starbase 5 and learning that Spock allegedly murdered three people, escaped, and is now on the run.

Why wasn’t Discovery told about this? Because it was classified, or something. Which is why Starbase 5’s commander didn’t answer any of Pike’s calls. Except that he’s telling Pike now, because… Well, I can’t really figure out why he would tell him now, and not before.

He says:

signals

No, they do, asshole, they’re the whole reason Pike took command of Discovery, the reason he was able to violate the embargo on the Spore Drive as well as violate the Prime Directive. But now Starfleet has sort-of-but-not-really classified Spock’s case because:

files

Except that, the files only went missing because Amanda stole them. And Amanda only knew Spock was at Starbase 5 because… wait, hang on, nobody except Pike seemed to know he was at Starbase 5. Certainly neither Sarek nor Amanda knew, nor did Burnham. So how did Amanda know?

parentsnottold

spocksaidno

So:

  1. Did Pike radio in to Starfleet to ask about Spock, and they ignored him until…
  2. … Amanda found out, flew to Starbase 5 herself (faster than Discovery could instaneously spore-drive it’s way there from New Eden)…
  3. … and stole Spock’s records, causing Spock’s status to become classified?

Why would Starfleet obstruct the mission that they gave to Pike? If they have ulterior motives, then why assign him the advanced starship with the experimental drive that would facilitate his mission? If they don’t have ulterior motives, then why would they obstruct the mission?

But this is just a contradiction between a narrative that occurs over two episodes. Check out the contradiction in just these three lines of dialogue:

youknow

informed

anxious

  1. Burnham has to ask if Amanda knows about the signals, implying that they are not common knowledge.
  2. Amanda answers that Sarek told her specifically.
  3. Amanda then follows up by explaining that people are anxious to know what they are, implying that the signals ARE common knowledge.

This level of stupidity is so overwhelming that I genuinely find it quite taxing to get my mind around it. The writers of this show genuinely cannot maintain a single, coherent train of thought across three fucking lines of dialogue.

The rest of this story arc pretty much goes nowhere, beyond establishing that Spock had a vision of the Red Angel when he was a child, and that Burnham did something truly awful to him when he was younger as a means to protect him – which tracks true for Burnham’s mutinous “Chaotic Stupid” character alignment as established at the very start of the show.

The biggest takeaway from all of this is that the entire Burnham sub-plot was all about Spock, and not Burnham. We learn virtually nothing new about Burnham, beyond the fact that she was a colossal fuck-up as a youth as well as when she was a first officer. Also that she ran away one time. We sacrifice any opportunity to properly examine her own character, in lieu of exploring Spock, a character who is yet to appear in this show.

This narrative is dull, heavy on exposition, and does very little to advance the plot beyond sending Amanda on her merry way to find Spock herself. I’ll cover more of this narrative in my next character piece, which will be looking at Burnham specifically, but for now, we’re done with this little cul de sac of a story.

Onto the next.


Damn It, Tilly, I’m A Mycologist, Not A Spine Surgeon

Tilly is on the Command Training Program’s half-marathon exercise. One of many, because she apparently scores a PB:

personalbest

Oh, wait, she set a new course record, too:

courserecord

If she set a new course record, why is Burnham not mentioning that? Isn’t that the bigger achievement, as well as making the other two things obvious? Like, is it’s possible to set a course record and not beat your personal best on that course, and at the same time win? Whatever.

So, Tilly’s running with three other command trainees, and their coming is heralded by the computer announcing it like it’s fucking Red Alert or something, shutting off all the lights to boot:

marathonapproaching

This makes absolutely no fucking sense. I mean, it’s not as though they’re running on rough terrain, like an obstacle course or something, where the flashing lights might kind-of make sense, this just seems to be a fitness test on flat corridor floor panels. So the only reason for the lights to go out is to add dramatic, disorienting tension to Tilly’s confrontations with a ghost that’s haunting her.

Which is fine, if it’s something that happens solely within the context of Tilly struggling with the ghost. Except that the lights go out on Burnham, too, which means they’re actually getting switched off for some reason, which doesn’t make sense, which-

ARGH, WHATEVER

The point is, we later see Tilly wigging out on the bridge as this ghost, May, torments her, until Tilly shouts at her and then runs off in a nervous panic, which is understandable.

What isn’t understandable is the exchange that follows, where Tilly goes to her quarters, where Burnham is waiting, who explains that Saru has apparently been looking all over for Tilly despite the ship having internal sensors but WHATEVER, and then Tilly has a conversation with Burnham whilst being tormented by May the Ghost.

Tilly starts crying, and the ghost says that her eyes are dripping. Tilly then explains to Burnham that the ghost doesn’t know what tears are, to which Burnham responds:

whataretears

Exactly.

How can this ghost, which was able to extrapolate the image of an adult version of Tilly’s friend from high school that she knew for six months, and bring up a nickname (“Stilly”) that Tilly had forgotten, not know what crying is???

Especially given this line from when the ghost was introduced:

scary

How can it possibly know so much about Tilly’s life, and yet know know what crying is?

This leads Tilly to seek help from Stamets, who examines her and finds an interdimensional fungal infection attached to her nervous system:

mutlidimensionalfungalparasite

Look at that thing! All up and down her spine, her lungs, her… is… is it infecting her tits, too? Ah, whatever.

Stamets’ reaction to this?

Grab the nearest cask of dark matter, open the lid and just point it at Tilly, hoping it’ll suck the parasite out.

Y’know how it’s really difficult to safely remove parasites like ticks and leeches and even just athelete’s foot, because they root themselves into the outer layers of our bodies and need to be carefully removed just to avoid scarring?

This parasite is rooted in Tilly’s fucking brain stem and Stamet’s just yanks it out of her like an evangelist purging a demon. I mean look at this, he’s not even got the dark matter mounted to anything! He’s just holding it and waving it in her general direction, hoping for the best!

sucking

Bear in mind that it was exposure to dark matter that prompted the appearance of May in the first place, so what if this just fed the parasite instead of removing it?

What if as this parasite is removed, it rips a chunk of Tilly’s spinal column out with it? Or just fucks up her internal organs?

The point is, Stamets had no way to know, because there are literally, literally

37 SECONDS

between those two screenshots.

37 seconds between Stamets seeing a never-before-seen multidimensional fungal parasite, and him improvising a handheld solution to extracting it from Tilly’s central nervous system.

This thing is so wired into Tilly’s brain that it can conjure up images from the deepest parts of her long-term memory, and Stamets just casually tears it out of her without even speaking to a doctor first.

suck

This is, without a doubt, the STUPIDEST moment from all of Star Trek history. ALL of Star Trek history. I have never seen something this idiotic in my entire life.

So Stamets pulls a big snotty blob of goo out of Tilly’s spine and just throws it up into the air where Saru puts a forcefield up around it and…

… That’s it. That’s the last we see of the Discovery crew this episode, before we switch back to the Klingon Empire and the re-introduction of Section 31.


 

Klingon Power Struggles Klingons Struggling With Power

Do you like political intrigue? Drama? Difficult choices and forced compromises?

Then go watch some other show.

The Klingon plotline of ‘Point of Light’ tries so hard to be ‘Game of Thrones’ that damages itself in the process. It manages to be what ‘Game of Thrones’ would be, if everyone in Westeros was either Joffrey or a Pakled.

I’m going to try and cover this as succinctly as possible:

L’Rell is the High Chancellor. She is holding onto power through a few loyal family members and Ash/Voq, who acts as her de facto second-in-command.

The head of a rival Klingon House, Kol-Sha (whose son was Kol, the General of last season but whatever), seeks to challenge L’Rell and take the chancellorship away from her.

Kol-Sha shows up with red paint on his face, a sign of the old ways he represents:

oldway

L’Rell asks him to remove it, and he ignores her:

removehtepaint

So Ash tries to violently wipe the paint from Kol-Sha’s face:

removethepaintash

removepaint

Later, according to Kol-Sha:

begged

sensors

But… you didn’t beg her, Kol’Sha. She ordered you to remove it, and you refused.

Even if he’s just being metaphorical (a bit of a stretch) – was this his plan? To seize power? To turn up wearing paint filled with listening devices, so that L’Rell would ask him to remove it, he’d then refuse, and then her boyfriend would try to remove it himself?

What if L’Rell just didn’t give a shit about the paint?

What if she was like, “Huh, still wearing paint, I see. Anyway, here’s my economic recovery plan so that we don’t all starve to death after that immensely costly war.”

What was his next step?

Right, whatever, maybe he would just be to try something else, so, whatever. Whatever.

Whatever.

So then Kol-Sha uses these sensor thingies to learn two things:

  1. That Ash betrayed the Council to Burnham and the Federation.
  2. That Voq and L’Rell had a child.

With this knowledge, Kol-Sha decides to murder L’Rell and publicly release the recording of Ash betraying the Klingon Empire, taking L’Rell’s place on the grounds of treason committed by her second-in-command/lover/sworn protector.

Oh, no, wait, none of that happens.

Instead, Kol-Sha kidnaps L’Rell’s baby (a baby she cared so much about that she’s never met it) and then blackmails her into signing a form that would hand power over to him.

Klingons.

Kidnapping defenceless babies.

So they can blackmail their rivals.

Into signing a form.

Remind me again of how much ‘Discovery’ has done to explore Klingon culture and offer a new perspective.

sign

This then leads into a fight, in which L’Rell and Ash fight a bunch of Kol-Sha’s anonymous mooks for nearly ninety seconds of over-choreographed, poorly-lit swordplay, at the end of which more mooks arrive and they’re back where they started, making the whole thing completely fucking pointless anyway.

Seriously, these two images are before and after a massive, complex, poorly choreographed fight scene:

afterfight

beforefight

Except that they aren’t, I actually put them in the wrong order – the bottom one is the before shot. And if you couldn’t spot that, then that’s exactly my point.

Just to hammer the pointlessness of this fight home, Kol-Sha then just paralyses both L’Rell and Ash anyway:

stunning

He then proceeds to take the hand of the paralysed L’Rell and places it on “Transfer of Chancellorship Oversight Form P-627-B” and completes the process anyway:

signing

All of which means he could have just done that to begin with.

Why not just stun her before the fight?

When you go to steal the baby and leave L’Rell’s uncle hanging there, why not just lie in wait and ambush L’Rell, and then stun her?

Kol-Sha’s hologram was waiting for her to arrive, so he knew she was coming:

awaiting

So… Just stun her then?

To quote Mr. Plinkett:

Forcing someone to sign a [document] sort-of contradicts the purpose of a signature on a document. You might as well just forge it if you’re going to make her sign it.

I mean, Kol-Sha has the ability to hide sensors in paint and to paralyse two people who happen to be stood exactly either side of him, so I can assume he has the tech to just forge L’Rell’s thumb-signature. And even if he doesn’t, why both with kidnapping the baby if you’re just going to paralyse L’Rell anyway and then physically press her thumb onto the document anyway?

Which means the entire plot with the baby was utterly pointless. It didn’t need to be there, and could have easily been omitted in an episode that already had too many sub-plots.

Which leads me onto my next, distressing, point…


CONTENT NOTICE – This next section contains discussion and images of harm done to children, which may be distressing. Please do not proceed any further unless you are confident that you won’t be upset by it.


Dead Baby Jokes

I grew out of telling dead baby jokes about ten years ago. It happened when a friend pointed out that they’re actually pretty insensitive, and could be hurtful to people who have had to cope with the loss of a child. And even then, I didn’t stop immediately, it still took a while to phase that kind of joke out of my lexicon.

Now, I want to share with you a quote I included in an article I wrote waaaay back when:

nudity

So, nudity “just doesn’t feel right” for Trek. And let’s be clear, there are topless men all over the place. So what Aaron means is “female nudity.” Women’s nipples is apparently the thing that Trek isn’t ready for.

What Trek apparently IS ready for is images of decapitated babies.

We know this because such images appear in this episode, the penultimate scene of which involves High Chancellor L’Rell holding aloft the severed heads of both Ash and her infant child:

heads

head2

The one saving grace of this image is that it wasn’t *quite* as graphic as it could be.

The second is that technically, this is a genetically-perfect recreation of a baby’s head created by the sick fucks in Section 31, and not the baby itself.

The absolute condemnation of this scene is that is was completely unnecessary, and in no way required by the narrative.

Which is the definition of “gratuitous.”

L’Rell’s baby is brought into this story as an afterthought – a sub-sub-plot to the sub-plot of the Klingon power struggle. There’s nothing inherently wrong with introducing a child to the (already-problematic) relationship between L’Rell and Ash. But to introduce it, then use it for a gory and distressing visual, and then for the actual baby to just be put on a bus at the end as it’s transported down to some insular monastery, is just exploitative and really, really grim, and says a lot about what the creators of this show want to achieve with their story – which is, apparently, to shock and distress, rather than to provoke and inspire.


Section 31, Starfleet’s Most Famous Secret Undercover Intelligence Agency

stayanonymous
worldsgreatest
canthelp

There is so much I could talk about with Section 31 on an over-arching, meta level, but for the purposes containing the sheer volume of this already overly-long article, let’s just focus on what’s in this episode, and this episode alone.

So, Emperor Georgiou appears at the exact moment that Kol-Sha is about to execute Ash. She seems to phase through a wall, so it’s possible that she was there all along, watching the fight happen.

She reveals herself in order to kill Kol-Sha, L’Rell’s would-be usurper, and reinforce L’Rell’s position as a puppet tyrant installed by Starfleet using weapons of mass destruction.

staysintheseat

If Georgiou only just arrived, then it’s an awfully convenient coincidence that she turned up exactly at the split-second that Ash was about to get stabbed. That would be a rubbish bit of TV-writing.

If Georgiou had been there the whole time and was waiting for the right moment… Why didn’t she step in before Kol-Sha paralysed L’Rell and forced her signature out of her, thereby transferring her power to him?

In fact, why didn’t Georgiou step in during the massive fight when, L’Rell could have been easily stabbed in the face or decapitated or something?

If she didn’t want to risk getting hurt herself and needed the element of surprise, then why didn’t she step in just before the fight, when everyone was in the exact same position as they were before?

None of her motivations match her actions. Which makes this whole thing stupid.

But that’s not the only thing that’s stupid.

Section 31, a highly clandestine, super-secret, xenophobic intelligence agency within the Federation. They rely on absolute secrecy to achieve their objectives.

Absolute secrecy.

To maintain their veil of secrecy, they take the following actions:

  1. Hiring “misfits” and “freaks”, i.e. people with atypical behaviour which by definition makes them stand out.
  2. Hiring one of Starfleet’s most highly-decorated and presumably recognisable captains, Philippa Georgiou.
  3. Hiring Ash Tyler, someone guilty of treason against both the Federation and, now, the Klingon Empire.
  4. Wearing distinctive black badges marking them out as Section 31.

This… is just stupid. Just so, so stupid. The Archer comparison above is being generous.

misfits

The whole purpose of a secret agency is to remain secret. If you starting bringing along people who stand out from a crowd, and you have your own publicly-recognisable insignia… aren’t you defeating the point?

decorations

Section 31 should be made up of all of your most average-looking, run-of-the-mill, ruthless sociopaths. People who blend into a room, who are remarkable for being unremarkable.

freaks

They shouldn’t even have insignia badges, they should have either standard Starfleet badges, or none at all. They should just make themselves look like a civilian organisation. Or not even an organisation at all. They should be small cells, maybe just a few independent agents, compartmentalised and scattered across the galaxy.

blackbadges

But now, they have a distinctive-looking badass starship with big folding nacelles and its own crew. Hell, they’ve probably got a fleet of them. That’s just how secretive they are.

s31ship

I mean, why even bother with the intentionally ambiguous and nondescript name “Section 31”? You may as well just calls yourselves “Starfleet Black Ops” or “Swastika Squadron” at this point.


Stupid All The Way Down…

This episode may have broken me.

It was so dumb in so many ways, I could write another three articles at least this long just about Burnham’s and Tilly’s sub-plots.

More than anything, this episode was just kinda boring. It didn’t excite or thrill the way you might expect from a high-budget, dumb-but-fun blockbuster-style story. It just shocked and distressed.

I’m worried now that ‘New Eden’ was a fluke, that the glimmer of hope it offered was just a mirage, or worse, an intentional tease, of what this show will never be.

We’ll have to check in next week to see.

An Exclusive Interview With The Writers Of ‘Star Trek: Discovery’

I was really excited to be contacted by CBS the other day and be given the opportunity to interview some of the writers of ‘Star Trek: Discovery’. This is my first big bit of actual journalism, and it was also an amazing opportunity to find out some exclusive behind-the-scenes info about the show, as well as some hints at what’s to come.


Crude Reviews: Hi all, thank you so much for flying out to talk to us! It’s great to have you here with us to talk about this amazing show you’ve written.

Writing Unit #1: Thanks, and it’s so great to be here, thank you for having us. And on such a nice day! Look at that sunshine.

CR: Uh, that’s a painting, not a window. It’s actually horrible outside.

[awkward silence]

CR: So, anyway, let’s talk ‘Star Trek’. Writing for such a well-established franchise has to be a challenge, so what was your approach to keep things consistent for existing fans?

Writing Unit #2: What a great question. It’s so great to be here, thank you for having us. Our primary approach was to remember that the show is set in space, so we made sure that there was at least one space ship in each episode. Sometimes, there were two, occasionally three space ships, but one space ship was the minimum, really.

CR: Oh… kay. I… That’s interesting. Let’s move on, let’s talk about characters. Trek has always had a mix of different characters with different backgrounds. Can you talk about how you developed the characters for this new show, and what inspired you when writing dialogue for them?

WU1: What a great question. It’s so great to be here, and on such a nice day! We tried to draw inspiration from multiple sources for our characters. For instance, Saru, who is an alien because he’s from space, was intended to be a popular character. As such, we based him on the popular character Chandler, from the commercially profitable show ‘Friends’.

[Side-note: I know this is a joke article, but seriously, if you watch the ‘After Trek’ episode for Discovery’s ‘Choose Your Pain’, one of the writers genuinely states that Saru is partially based on Chandler from ‘Friends’. I’m not even kidding, that’s something that’s actually true. Go and watch ‘After Trek’. Just be careful, it’s nearly as bad as ‘Discovery’ itself.]

CR: So, you based one of the main characters for a Star Trek show on a sitcom character? That’s… that’s certainly a fresh approach. I guess. I’m almost scared to ask, but did you draw inspiration from any other sources?

WU2: What a great question. It’s so great to be here. Other sources of inspiration included:

  • Space. The show is set in space, so space was a big inspiration.
  • The most popular elements of other Sci Fi shows.
  • The most popular elements of movies.
  • The most popular elements of history and culture.
  • ‘The Expanse’. This was the most significant source of inspiration, because ‘The Expanse’ is set in space, and so is this show, so it was a natural fit. ‘The Expanse’ also features humans, words and moving images, which also made it a natural fit. To make the most out of this inspiration, we took the scripts from ‘The Expanse’, replaced the proper nouns with our own proper nouns as approved by CBS, and also added a few paragraphs about a tardigrade.

CR: Did you just speak in bullet points? How did you… how is that even possible? Y’know what, nevermind. Uhh, Burnham’s mutiny seems to be the main backbone of the show’s narrative. How did you approach it, and how did this affect the character’s motivations?

WU1: What a great question. Thank you for having us. Market research demonstrated that the term “mutiny” had an audience engagement score of 0.76, approximately equivalent to “betrayal”, “sacrifice” and “coming-of-age”, so it was important to ensure that the main character did indeed engage with, or become affected by, something which could be described as “mutiny”. To maximise audience engagement and retention, we structured the dialogue such that the term “mutiny”, or a derivative, was spoken at least three times during each episode’s run time.

CR: That’s a surprisingly cohesive answer. Moving on, it’s clear to most people that this is the darkest instalment of Star Trek to date. What prompted that shift in tone?

WU2: It’s so great to be here, and what a great question! We analysed the most successful Sci Fi and / or Fantasy show in the past ten years, ‘Game of Thrones’, and highlighted its primary components, which included: graphic violence, gratuitous nudity and sex scenes, political intrigue, swearing, and magic. We ran these through the North American Conservative Values Acceptability Index (NAConVAI), which eliminated everything except graphic violence and swearing for inclusion in a mainstream show. With those parameters established, we could ensure a minimum probability for success without alienating any viewers who may be offended by non-Christian elements such as nipples or diversity.

[Again, you may think I’m joking but one of the creators literally said that they thought nudity “doesn’t feel right” on Star Trek, yet apparently women of colour getting lacerated, burned and eaten is all fair game. Look, there’s a screenshot below, taken from this article at The AvClub:

Screenshot_20171017-225430

To clarify, I don’t give a shit about the swearing, pretty fucking obviously – just the horrific violence.]

CR: You brought up diversity, which raises the subject of some of the criticism that ‘Discovery’ has faced for its sadistic portrayal of violence against women. How do you respond to those who have accused the show of having a sinister approach towards representation?

WU1: It’s so great to be here answering these great questions, thank you for having us, it’s great. After we cast a black woman as the lead character on the show, we were worried that we would be alienating other minority groups, such as white men and white boys. As such, it was important that for every black woman in a lead role, at least two other non-white women would have to be killed in order to show we were balanced. Otherwise, if we don’t represent the views and insecurities of everyone watching, including white men and white boys, we could hardly call ourselves “diverse”, could we?

CR: You make a compelling argument, as always. But do you really think it was necessary to kill off those non-white women with such graphic and violent methods?

WU1: Such a great question. As established previously, we needed graphic violence to achieve ‘Game of Thrones’-levels of success, and there was a real concern that if any of that graphic violence were to occur to any white men in major roles, the white men watching the show might be put off watching the show, for fear that the violence was reflective of our feelings towards white men who, let’s be honest, have a pretty tough time already.

CR: … … … Let’s move on. It’s been confirmed that the Mirror Universe will be featuring later in the show. Can you take us through your plans for this classic part of the Trek canon?

WU2: We sure can, and can I just say, it’s great to be here! We decided, after a fair bit of research, that the Mirror Universe was suitably recognisable to casual Trek fans that including it would increase viewer attraction by 39.1%. Whilst we weren’t sure how to proceed with that kind of storyline, we soon realised how much narrative potential there was in the concept of a parallel universe accessible through portals in every bathroom and bedroom.

CR: Hang on a fucking second, you think that the Mirror Universe literally means a universe in mirrors? Like some kind of Stephen Donaldson bullshit?

WU2: What a great question! The Mirror Universe is a complex part of the show. I mean, we get to see what our characters would look like if they were left-handed! We get to see what Starfleet insignia look like on the other side of the uniform! This really gave us a lot to play with, particularly in terms of things being on opposite sides to where they would normally be. Imagine seeing the Discovery’s bridge, but from right-to-left instead of left-to-right! How crazy is that?

CR: Are… Are you kidding? Is this a wind up?

WU1: Thanks for having us, it’s great to be here! What great questions! Of course this isn’t a joke! We are only programmed to deliver humour in the form of a red-headed sidekick who demonstrates no agency. Would you like to ask another question?

CR: No. No, I think I’m done. I think I’m done for good.

WU2: Well, thanks for having us! It’s great to be here! And on such a lovely day!

A Review of ‘The Last Legion’ (2007)

During my last review, I experienced some degree of consternation over the fact that I was expecting to be ranting about a crap movie, and was instead forced to accept that it was actually largely entertaining and well made.

In a bid to avoid disappointment, this time I followed Amazon Prime’s recommendations based on the Jon-Snow-delivery-mechanism ‘Pompeii’, feeling that such a trail of breadcrumbs must surely lead to juicy awfulness, ripe for critique.

For once, I was right.

The-Last-Legion-Still-aishwarya-rai-230719_1920_1276
I honestly don’t know who I’d rather be in this scenario.

‘The Last Legion’ is magnificent in its mediocrity. It is so chaotic and sporadic and bizarre that I don’t know where to begin. I’ll start with the first thing I noticed: this film could have been a dry-run for ‘Game of Thrones’. Right off the bat, in the first scene alone, there are three actors from the HBO adaptation of ‘A Song of Ice and Fire’. Every scene thereafter, more and more appear. They must fuck each other in real life as much as they do on the show, because these bastards were multiplying faster than E. coli.

In no particular order, we meet:

  • Iain Glen (‘Jorah Mormont’)
  • James Cosmo (‘Lord Commander Jeor Mormont’)
  • Thomas Brodie-Sangster (‘Jojen Reed’)
  • Nonso Anozie (‘Xaro Xhoan Daxos’)
  • Owen Teale (‘Ser Alliser Thorne’)
  • Alexander Siddig (‘Doran Martell’)
  • Robert Pugh (‘Craster’)
  • Murray McArthur (some Wildling, apparently)

Then, I started noticing that a lot of ‘The Last Legion’ features scenes taking place in locations startlingly reminiscent of “King’s Landing”, “Pentos” and “Beyond The Wall”, and for most of the time I spent watching it, I genuinely assumed this film was made after a season of ‘Game of Thrones’ had wrapped, and they found themselves with leftover money and location permissions that were still valid, and just decided to make something of it.

Except that ‘The Last Legion’ was released two years before ‘Game of Thrones’ even started filming. So I dunno. It just weirded me out. But not as much as the rest of the film did.

It opens with the most unoriginal telling of a prophecy I’ve ever experienced. Ben Kingsley provides the voice-over with an inexplicable Welsh accent. Then we forget about the prophecy for the first third of the movie – I’m not even kidding. Our first scene is Colin Firth arriving with Alliser Thorne, Xoan Daxos and some guy who I think might have been called “Demetrius” but whom I’m positive Colin Firth later calls “Delicious”, and I much prefer the latter.

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“Delicious”

We get a good thirty minutes of solid Roman action. I really liked this portion of the film; it was uninspired, but impressive. There are huge crowds of cheering Roman citizens, great costumes, great sets, it all works. In the space of twenty minutes, we see Jorjen get made Emperor and get a crown, we get Goths sacking Rome, the crown gets trodden on (by another HBO vet, Kevin McKidd), Jorjen’s parents get killed brutally.

Jorjen gets kidnapped, gets taken to an island fortress as a prisoner, Colin stages a daring rescue with his little band of Thronites and Delicious, helped by Aishwarya Rai and an IKEA-ballista. And half-way through this sequence, it all just starts… to fall apart.

Sir Ben Welshley gets strung up from a crane, and whilst there notices a big metal sign that suddenly reminds him of the entire plot of the movie. He shouts instructions to Jorjen, which their captors either can’t hear or willfully ignore. Meanwhile, Aishwarya and Colin get some brief interaction in a baffling scene which starts as on-location filming, before switching to obvious green-screen between two lines.

I get that pick-ups happen, but did they really fuck up half of the scene enough to justify awkwardly jamming in another minute of dialogue that has no actual bearing on the story? The decision to do this makes no sense to me.

But it makes more sense than any of the hair in this movie. You might think that I’m having a turn, but I am serious. The wig- and beard-design in ‘The Last Legion’ is so overwhelmingly appalling that I wonder if it was done as a joke by the make-up department and nobody picked up on it until too late.

Kevin McKidd in particular suffers – the fake fringe is so distracting I honestly thought he wasn’t even playing a human when I first saw him. Like, I genuinely thought he was meant to be Klingon or something. It made more sense.

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Q’aplah!

In truth, it wouldn’t be fair to pick on just the hair design. Poor Aishwarya Rai sweated along with the rest of the cast during the location shoots during scenes on the island, so to replicate the glistening on her skin, and again, I’m being serious here, someone saw fit to just oil her up during reshoots. The pick-up shots were jarring enough, but let me tell you that there is something otherworldly about seeing a woman instantly transition from natural perspiration to lubed-up cleavage.

And these are just the technical details from the first portion of the film. I could talk about the music, which was very competently put together by someone watching a completely different movie. It’s not bad, it’s just inappropriate.

How about the rampant swings in tone? From violent revenge-seeking to adventurous treasure-hunting to light-hearted romantic-comedy. I spend the first thirty minutes thinking I was watching a gritty historical romp in the vein of ‘Pompeii’ or ‘Arn: Warrior Templar’ or ‘Black Death’. But apparently that was all a ruse and this is actually a fantasy story about FUCKING ARTHURIAN LEGEND.

Because after they get back from the island – which, why did the story need to take us there in the first place, by the way? They just rescue the kid and fuck off again. I mean, he finds the sword there, but he could’ve found that anywhere, it’s not like there’s actual historical records detailing the location of where a fucking magical sword made for the Caesars was hidden.

ANYWAY, they get back from the Island of Pointless Plot Threads after some really good fight scenes (which failed to advance the story in any way) to get insta-betrayed by their would-be allies as soon as they return. In one of the biggest crimes of the film so far, Alexander Siddig has managed a grand total of about three lines since he first appeared, and now suddenly betrays our heroes before getting stabbed up by Aishwarya, in one of the most egregious wastes of talent since… his role in ‘Game of Thrones’.

I mean, in his first scene he turns up to say about nine words to the King of the Goths, who tells him to fuck off almost immediately, so he just leaves. Why even put him in the scene? Why have him in this movie? Alexander, you’re great, you could do so much better! This is post-‘Kingdom of Heaven’, you could do anything you want! Why this? Why?

Aishwarya’s murder of Siddig comes with its own problems, though, since some twelve-year-old holding her hand is apparently enough to overturn her lifetime of training and oath-swearing and encourages her to indulge in outright treason against her compatriots. Maybe the film-makers needed more shots of her oily breasts.

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Seen here: the beginnings of treason.

They decide to travel to Britannia, for… reasons. By this point, I was becoming more and more hysterical as I watched. They arrive on British shores, then suddenly Welsh Kingsley brings up some masked bloke called “Vorticunt”. I think he meant “Vortigern” but it doesn’t matter, because we’ve never heard of him until fifty minutes in, even though Venticunti will now be the main antagonist for the remaining thirty-five minutes of film.

Despite the entire story being set in 475 AD, Vorticunt lives in the most Medieval castle I have ever seen. He wears a big golden mask for reasons that are never explained, and he… He was mean to Sir Welsh Welshley a long time ago, apparently. He also wants the magic sword, of which we just now get reminded and which is once again the centre of the story line. I thought we were all about the collapse of the Western Roman Empire?

I can’t decide what the main plot is, but that’s alright because neither can the film-makers. It’s something to do with destiny, the end of the Roman way of life, the last stand of the last legion, and a magic sword which could be magic, but so far hasn’t done anything magical.

I’m starting to get a headache.

We get a pointless training montage between Colin and Aishwarya, which would be cute if it wasn’t entirely unrelated to the plot. I swear the director must have been indulging in a lot of cocaine, because he flits around from one thing to the next like a bluebottle in a room full of shite. One moment we’re wasting time with a forced romance sub-plot, next we’re fannying around with undeveloped villains, now we’re… some bullshit to do with farmers who are legionaries who are farmers and then they don’t know he’s the Emperor but then they suddenly introduce this Blacksmith character from nowhere who gets one scene of acting but then never appears again even though it was his kids who got murdered, did I mention that there’s child-murder in this film?

Then we – hang on – castles. No, Romans, and walls… Empire… FIGHTING! And Vorticunt, Caesar, he’s – no, it’s the Goths who… I… Let me… I can’t… Fuck. Fucking – film. Film, MOVIE, fucking… swoooorrrd. I’m almost…

aishwarya
Swoon.

… Look, I’m going to cut to the last bit, because despite the fact that I only finished watching three hours ago, trying to make sense of the latter half of this film is causing my central nervous system to shut down. I have a feeling that it’s more straight-forward than I’m thinking, but if you want a synopsis, read the Wikipedia article. I’m sure that will clear everything up.

So, we get to the final battle, in a ruined castle on Hadrian’s wall. Then things start happening. Colin gives a noble speech which is either about the glory of Rome or the defense of Britannia, but they’re defending Britannia against her own native population. Look, it’s clear he doesn’t know why he’s there, but he is there and God damn it he’s going to make the best of a bad situation. He mentions that they had lost “two friends” but I’m pretty sure that with the sacking of Rome there were more people hurt than that, including all those Imperial guards killed when Jorjen first gets kidnapped, but I think Colin had turned to drinking by this point so I’m not going to put too much pressure on him.

Then we see Sir Welshy-Welsh Welshley launching the absolute worst CGI fireballs I have ever seen in a production that could be called “professional”. And I’m not even talking about films, the original ‘Baldur’s Gate’ had more convincing effects and that was an isometric roleplaying game from the ’90s.

So then Wartycunt’s best friend exclaims “They have a sorceror!” and Cuntycunt responds “That’s no sorceror” even though he JUST LITERALLY THREW FIREBALLS AT YOUR ARMY WHAT DID YOU THINK HE SUDDENLY INVENTED NAPALM YOU MASKED MORON JESUS WHAT THE FUCK IS WRONG WITH YOU OH MY GOD IS THIS FILM STILL GOING?

FIRE
This is an actual still from ‘The Last Legion’. From the actual final release. This film cost $67 million dollars to create. Also pictured: Not-Sorcery.

Jorjen climbs out of the castle and onto the battlefield, I think because he wanted to add extra peril to the scene, but whatever, there are some great combats all through this bit, this is a fantastic battle so far – except for the cartoon fireballs. It’s exciting, y’know?

And then things get extra weird. It’s actually difficult for me to describe, but the standard thing happens where the army that said it won’t fight turns up to fight and save the day, and suddenly the entire picture quality changes. I’m not even joking around with this, it’s as though they suddenly switched cameras. Seriously. Everything’s suddenly all grainy and it looks great but it also looks completely different to the entire rest of the fucking film.

Honestly I thought it was because they had used stock footage for all of the Roman soldiers, but Colin is in there, along with the rest of the cast, and they all look the same, so either they used stock footage and changed the rest to match the picture quality, but only for this scene, or they changed the cameras they were using, again just for this scene. I don’t understand. What’s going on? Is this what going mad feels like?

WARTCUNT
The perils of plastic surgery addiction.

Wellllllshy defeats Cuuuuunnnnnt in some not-terrible but not-great fight scene with lots of fire, the mask gets ripped off revealing some weird kind of wounded face thing underneath, no explanation, into the fire he goes and out of the story, just as quickly as he arrived. Welsh waves the mask around and says he killed Cunt, everyone goes home except for Kevin McKlingon who tries to kill Jorjen but Colin intervenes and gets not-killed? He almost gets killed but not quite.

At no point do we have explained to us what the magical sword of power and destiny actually does, except maybe cut through other swords if you’re really lucky, so Jorjen throws it away, it turns into a CGI cartoon because the animators were using Sega Megadrives as the main processors for all of their visual effects rendering, then it lands in a rock and we get a shitty epilogue and it’s all done.

As we fade to black, we get the one bit of the film that could have been rewarding – we zoom in on the Latin inscription on the blade, now obscured and given the “V’ger” treatment, to reveal the sword’s true significance. The individual letters light up, revealing:

E

S

CALIBUR

ESCALIBUR

E. FUCKING S. CALIBUR.

excalibur
ESCALIBUR

Hey y’all, do you remember all those fun stories about King Arthur, son of the last Roman Emperor, who fought with his legendary sword, ESCALIBUR? I used to love all of the tales about Arthur and his friend, Lantillot, with Gunnyvere and Morlon and the Lady of the Lace.

I mean, they had the ENTIRETY OF LATIN at the disposal from which to pick their bullshit motto to be engraved on the sword, and they decided to fuck it up. How? Why? What is WRONG with these people? Do they need help? Should they join a support group? HOW DO YOU MAKE DECISIONS LIKE THIS?

I mean, I could forgive the fact they thought the Sword in the Stone was Excalibur, plenty of people make that mistake, but HOW DO YOU GET THE FUCKING NAME WRONG? I mean, Jesus H. Fucking Belushi, it’s not like it’s even the actual name of the sword, in Latin it’d be called “Caliburnus” or something, so WHY EVEN BOTHER? Just, ARGH.

Ugh.

Fuck.

How do movies like this get made? Somewhere at the heart of ‘The Last Legion’ was a compelling fantasy epic about a Roman boy with a great destiny, and then they just fuck it all up. They travel from Rome to some Island to the fucking Alps (for a grand total of two lines of dialogue) then on to Britain and none of it works. Well, the first bit works. But the rest?

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If you look closely, you can see in the reflection of his eyes the huge piles of cocaine that went into making this movie.

You’ve got a great cast of actors, supporting and lead. You’ve got costumes galore, all gorgeously anachronistic. But there are so many baffling decisions made by the film-makers. Doug Lefler has never directed since, now stuck firmly working in the art departments of better productions. But how did names like Colin Firth and Ben Kingsley even get attached to this barmy punch-drunk escapade? Apparently they each thought the plot was “interesting”, and I’ll give them that.

Interesting in the same way that, when you get right down to it, dead bodies are also quite interesting.

There is so much more I could discuss about ‘The Last Legion’ but I can barely remain coherent as is. There’s the lack of a central protagonist, the absence of any sensible story structure, the use of filler with a running time barely past the ninety-minute mark. If my already fragile psyche could stand it, I’d watch this film through a few more times, really dissect every scene.

But I don’t think I’d live through it.

A Review of the movie ‘Pompeii’ (2014)

My review of the movie ‘Pompeii’ (2014).

2014 is the date of the film, not the date of the review. It’s 2015 as I write this review.

This film stars Jon Snow, of the Knights of Watch. How he ended up in Pompeii is beyond me. I think it’s because the Romans showed up at Winterfell and killed his parents, Mr and Mrs No-Lines.

Kiefer Sutherland is also in this movie, very-nearly doing the same thing as lots of of veteran actors in movies like this and over-acting joyfully. But his over-acting isn’t joyful, it just makes me feel like he’s not a very good actor.

Jared Harris is also in this film. Jared Harris is great but not in this film because he doesn’t do very much.

Carrie-Anne-Moss has her name in the credits. She has five lines. Apparently she had more scenes but they were cut. Possibly because they were just her saying “Don’t. Fuck. With. Aria.” over and over again.

Mr. Eko is in this film. He plays Black Man Near Retirement. Surprisingly, Mel Gibson is not in this film, which is surprising as a lot of non-Christians get killed in this film and I would have thought he’d be well up for that.

jonsnow
Corrrr. True story, Jon Snow’s abs got more development than most of the characters in this film.

This film is like a disaster movie mixed with a history movie. Specifically, it is like ‘Titanic’ mixed with ‘Gladiator’. What I mean by that is that, I believe the director took all of the odd-numbered pages of the ‘Titanic’ screenplay, all of the even-numbered pages of the ‘Gladiator’ script and stapled them together. I think after that he called it a day and went to the pub. He probably had a shandy. Or a Pimms.

Other things that this film “draws inspiration from” (in the same way that photocopiers “draw inspiration from” the original document) include, but are not limited to, ‘300’, ‘Game of Thrones’, and getting Chlamydia from a toilet seat.

The music is very nice. In fact, a song from this film appeared on my Spotify ‘Discover Weekly’ playlist, which is why I watched this film. I have since sent several letters of complaint to Spotify. I have not sent any letters to the makers of this film as I do not believe many of them can read.

In actual fact, this film is not terrible. I could very much enjoy watching this film whilst drinking with friends, doing something else or being in another room. This film is better than both ‘Immortals’ and ‘In Time’. It’s probably better than both of them put together.

The most consistent character in this film was the Volcano. It had the fewest random motivations and character decisions. Even the horses in this film did silly things. And they’re horses. All they have to do is be horsey. How do you fuck up being a horse?

This film found a way.