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Christopher Butler
Creative Director, illustrator, sometimes storyteller. Star Trek fanatic, and lover of things that boop, beep, and have blinky lights.
Creative Director, illustrator, sometimes storyteller. Star Trek fanatic, and lover of things that boop, beep, and have blinky lights.

Christopher's posts

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We've all seen the trailer for the new Trek series. Opinions run a full spectrum. But it's spurred me to rewatch various incarnations. Today, it's Star Trek Beyond.

I know this is an unpopular opinion, but rewatching again with fresh eyes, I'm convinced that Beyond is among the best films in the entire franchise.

The "reboots" have a lot of haters, and some of that is the first two movies. A lot of that ill will kept people out of theaters for Beyond. This is quite a shame, because unlike the first two reboot films, Beyond has Trek's original genetic code informing every part of the production from the story to the characters to the visuals. It's not just a good movie, it's a damn good Star Trek movie, easily outstripping every movie since First Contact.

(Note: while I enjoyed a few things about the Next Gen movies, make no mistake...they are objectively terrible films. Yes, including First Contact. This isn't up for real debate as far as I'm concerned.)

What's Good:
The entire crew gets it done. Each of the main cast is given something important to do, which is more than can be said for almost literally every other Trek movie. The villain is a big surprise. What seems like a fairly mundane alien bad guy at first turns out to be much, much more. It was really very brilliant done. The locations were amazing. The new alien ally, Jaylah, could have been a forgettable alien-of-the-week but was a revelation and I want to see more of her. She sells it hard...her fights are brutal, her motivation is always legitimate. The look of the movie...the ships, the uniforms, the alien crew members, the beautiful Yorktown station...are probably the best, most truly inventive Trek designs since Wrath of Khan. The music is flat out beautiful, and if you listen carefully you'll hear callbacks to previous, early Trek cinema. The love for the Enterprise series is great (I loved _Enterprise. It's a much better series than you remember.) and it's everywhere in this film. Can I just mention the redesign of the uniforms one more time? It's a brilliant, simple update that strongly blends the original Trek uniforms with TNG's formal/utilitarian design.

What's Bad: Not a lot. The Spock/Uhura thing still seems weird and forced, but much less so in this film. I wish the movie could have revealed a bit more of the Franklin's history. The design of the Yorktown Station is stunning and beautiful...but I'm not sure it actually makes much sense.

The Bottom Line: Star Trek Beyond is a great Trek film. I realize that a lot of Trek fandom is going to hate it on sheer principle, but this is also the part of Trek fandom that isn't going to be happy with anything that's not a stagnant copy of old ideas. And even the stagnant old the form of an upcoming prequel series....isn't likely to placate them. Trek in film and Trek on TV are two very different animals, though.

Beyond is exactly what Trek needed in terms of film. 

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Plus may have dried up like swimming pool in the Sahara, but I still get a few of these now and then.


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I'm not around here much these days, but I have to unload some truth so buckle in.

The new Mystery Science Theater 3000 sucks. But the larger issue is that everybody is pretending it doesn't.

So I've made it through three full episodes of the new MST3K. No less than the original Joel is producing the updated series thanks to an epic Kickstarter campaign. Fans of the original were given pause when it was announced that a new cast would not only be used for the captive audience-of-one and the Mads, but for the voices of the bots too. Jonah Ray, (who?) would be the new Mike/Joel. Felicia Day...who, along with Wil Wheaton, is brought in whenever some "geek" project needs a stamp of geek-culture-authenticity...would play Dr. Forrester's daughter. Geek-genre skeleton key superstar Patton Oswalt would be "TV's Son if TV's Frank" (ok, clever). Two guys I've never heard of would be the bots. (Which is fine.)

Friday was the big day. I ordered in a pizza and sat down to watch the long-awaited revival show that has been a core element in my brain's personal mythology since the days we would all ritually pile into my dorm room and watch for hours, final exams be damned. I still have hours of bootleg episodes on postage-stamp-o-vision MP4s.

The first new episode starts. I haven't touched my pizza yet.

I see Wil Wheaton.

Oh. Oh. Not a good sign.

Over the next several minutes, the first episode plays out a long scene that tries very, very hard to look like the "made in a garage" special effects of the original MST3K. Then there's a musical number. With a band dressed in stylized skeleton costumes and an "updated", vaguely hipstery version of the original theme song.

The bots sound...weird. I don't mean "things are different and I don't like things that are different" weird. Tom Servo in particular just sounds like a guy. No attempt at the sort of boisterous personality Tom has always had. These bots are not just puppets for a stand up comedian to speak his bit thru....they're characters. But these new bots aren't characters.

Ok, well. Just let the riffing be funny.


10 minutes in and I realize with deep, deep sadness: its not funny at all.

What they've made is a show that's trying very hard to be a "cooler" version of the original show. The stars have zero chemistry with each other. Nobody has anything approaching a personality. Felicia Day just sounds like Felicia Day trying to be campy. Patton Oswalt has nothing to do, and probably took the job because who the hell wouldn't take a job bringing back one of the greatest shows in TV history?

The new guy, Jonah, is definitely the millennial Everyman, because he's just astonishingly void of anything like presence or wit. This show serves as a sharp, slap-in-the-face reminder than this is a generation that's grown up on postmodern irony and an aggressively mediocre definition of what defines entertainment. In 2017, having a personality is uncool. Honestly, and I can't believe I'm typing this, even Wil Wheaton would have been preferable. Wheaton has a personality. Granted, frequently he needs the personality smacked off his face, but still.

One of the things that made the original MST3K so beloved was that the corniness and low tech approach wasn't faked, the chemistry between the characters was real, and each episode felt intimate in the way goofing off with your friends late at night feels intimate and personal.

In the new show the riffs are beyond rapid fire. There's barely time to let one non-sequitur joke land before another voice (during the riffs, all three characters sound exactly alike) spits off the next one. And while maybe once every five minutes someone says something marginally clever, in three episodes there wasn't a single laugh-out-loud moment for me. Instead, nearly everything out of their mouths is formulaic, obvious, and often just stupid. I kept thinking "who is finding this so funny?" as I read tweet after tweet exclaiming that "MST3K is back with a vengeance!"

Please understand...because I know as surely as the giant cyclopian eye on Gypsy's face that I will be blasted for being too hung up and sour about the reboot...I walked into this really expecting to enjoy it. Joel was involved! How bad could it possibly be? I like Patton Oswalt a lot. I have nothing at all against Felicia Day (though I think she and Wil Wheaton are seriously oversold by Big Geek Industry by the hacks at geeksploitation businesses like +Nerdist ).

I was primed to laugh, but it's just not that fucking funny, guys.

The new MST3K feels like it was made with the sort of above-it-all hipstery eye-rolling know-it-all-itude that has left genre entertainment in ruins of the past decade. This feels like a Nerdist, Inc-approved knock off of something they...including, sadly, show creator Joel...barely seem to understand. This is deeply saddening. There are interludes with a band dressed in skeleton costumes. They're not funny. They're not ironic. They're just there because someone said "we have all this money, wouldn't it be cool if there was a band?"

And there are a lot of those "hey we have a little money, why not?" choices on screen.

Any given 10 minutes of the utterly brilliant Rifftrax provides a viewer with a 10x more real belly laughs than all three new MST3K episodes I saw. The Rifftrax guys have chemistry and the jokes make sense. The new MST3K crew often just say random, staccato "genetically funny" words.

As I said at the beginning of this screed, the larger issue is how everybody... +The Verge +io9 applauding the new MST3K as a success. How anyone can watch the new show and favorably compare it with even the most lackluster episode of the original is baffling. Either they've all decided to just soldier on despite the disappointment or the people who write for these sites have the sense of humor of a six year old. But this seems to be the story we're all going with. "The New MST3K is a triumph!" (quiet sobbing...)

I'm sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but in the immortal words of Jay Sherman: It stinks!


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I snorted.

Via +Jason McDonald 

Goddamn...I can believe how much Plus sucks now. Attempted to simply post an image into the comment section of a post. Plus was not having it. Can't access photo albums on my phone in Plus app. Can't access my google photo albums in the comment section since Google decided to render Photos in Plus completely impotent.

There was literally no way to access the photo I wanted to post.

This is why I'm reduced to weekly cameos here.

Google, you've broke my social media heart with how badly you've screwed this up. 

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Just the latest in a years-long marathon of bad decisions by Plus. 
What's with the terrible new form for G+ notifications?

At least it's new to me. 

Logan is the best Marvel movie ever made. Nothing else even comes close.


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My head just exploded into candy.

Via +Daniel Buhler 

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