Wednesday, December 20, 2006

To Serve All My Days

So, on Saturday night, Kirstin, Carolyn, and I watched To Serve All My Days, the new fan-produced Star Trek classic episode from New Voyages.

The previous episode done by this group -- In Harm's Way, with guest star William Windom -- was brilliant, with an amazingly clever and interesting script. And this new episode had guest star Walter Koenig (the original Chekov) and a script by D.C. Fontana (who wrote Journey to Babel and other classic Trek episodes).

Unfortunately, this new episode isn't nearly as good as the last one. For starters, it's not edited tightly. And the script ... well, it does have a very clever central premise (spoilers follow):

In the original Trek episode The Deadly Years, Chekov is the one member of a landing party immune to an aging disease that makes Kirk, Spock, McCoy, and Scott all into old men. Well, it turns out he wasn't immune, but rather that the onset was simply delayed, neatly allowing the now sixty-something Walter Koenig to play Chekov in a classic-era story.

But the episode left me unsatisfied for a couple of reasons. First, I was astonished to see a Mary Sue in it. (Mary Sues are characters in fan fiction that are obviously avatars of the female author of the piece; in this case, it's a dignified female human Federation amabassador who has lots of scenes, but doesn't really advance the plot.) And, mind-bogglingly, given its auctorial pedigree, the episode hugely violates canon, having Pavel Chekov die during the original five-year mission (and having him pre-decease Kirk). Uh-uh. Chekov goes on to be in seven Star Trek movies, and he outlives Kirk's demise in Star Trek: Generations. Yeah, his death here is kinda poignant, but it left me more in a scratching-my-head rather than drying-my-eyes frame of mind.

(It also takes Kirk an awfully long time to recognize that a ship that looks Klingon might be Romulan -- he should have thought of that at once, since he'd previously seen Romulans using ships of Klingon design. But then, bafflingly, the ship turns out to belong to some race of aliens we've never heard of.)

There are some good thing in this, and the notion of a Trek episode exploring economic issues is an interesting one, but although I've watched In Harm's Way four or five times now, I doubt I'll go back for a second viewing of To Serve All My Days.


At December 21, 2006 10:00 AM , Anonymous Marcel Gagne said...

Hey there, Rob.

Now that you've watched the episode, it's good to read your comments. The things that bothered you were, in many instances, different than those that I kept stumbling over. For starters, yes, the editing is a tad rough so that's a definite issue on this one. The whole "devaluation of the credit" discussion had me cringing.

Mostly, I found the story boring. It's "Journey to Babel" reloaded and peppered with references to a dozen or more old episodes. Checkov spends all his time in his quarters talking to himself about his glory days. I just kept thinking that they could have taken advantage of Koenig's presense to do something really, really cool -- not sure what exactly, but surely not just sitting in his quarters waiting to die.

As for Checkov's death (WARNING! FUTURE SPOILERS APPROACHING! STOP READING IF THIS WORRIES YOU!), I guess I was only so fazed because I saw the preview for the third installment which sends Sulu thirty years into the future where he becomes (apparently) a warlord on some backward planet . . . and also fathers a daughter that Kirk will (maybe) have sex with. This is only a spoiler if you don't watch the preview for Episode 3. In other words, the New Voyages crew have chosen to go forward as though there wasn't going to be a "Next Generation".

-- Marcel

At December 21, 2006 10:45 AM , Blogger RobertJSawyer said...

Dude! Thanks for stopping by! And, yes, I agree: what a bizarre choice to have Chekov spend most of the episode in isolation. Very, very strange.

At December 21, 2006 2:25 PM , Blogger Lou_Sytsma said...

Indeed, you called it Robert. Especially disappointing since DC Fontana scripting really raised my expectations.

Koenig and the actor who played his younger self did great jobs but the story structure was bizarre. That and the continuity gaffe with Chekov dying makes no sense. He easily could have had the same revelations and still be cured.

At December 21, 2006 3:37 PM , Blogger RobertJSawyer said...

It was my friend Kirstin Morrell who pointed out, immediately, that Chekov had to live to have a Ceti Eel go into his ear in Wrath of Khan, among other things ...

At December 21, 2006 3:54 PM , Blogger Drakkenfyre said...

Yeah. I mean, I wonder if this is their attempt at "re-imagining" TOS. If so, it would have been nice to have a warning.

However, one of the things we loved about Star Trek was the characters. I mean, maybe Chekov was disposable. But not Sulu. And if they try messing with Uhura, that's it, I'm out of there. ;)

I guess I would just like to know what the heck they're doing.

At December 27, 2006 8:30 PM , Blogger Dwight Williams, Storyteller said...

From what I read in Wired when this episode was first announced as being in the works, the plan all along was to ignore established continuity. Postings on since then have suggested that this was also, from Mr. Koenig's POV, his attempt at writing finis to his relationship to the character on his own terms.

Doesn't seem to have worked out as planned, does it?

At January 04, 2007 7:06 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mary Sue?
The ambassador was Rayna Morgan by name. The actress was Mary-Linda Rapelye who acted in the TOS episode "Way To Eden," in the 1960s ...

Old Trek fan ...

At January 04, 2007 8:53 PM , Blogger RobertJSawyer said...

Wow! I had no idea that that was the woman who had played Irina Galliulin in THE WAY TO EDEN. Fascinating!

Still, I can't say the character made much sense. (Now, if she was playing Irinia somehow -- Chekov's old love interest -- that would have been cool and appropriate, but it would have required a tricky bit of plotting to make that make sense.)

At November 06, 2007 11:46 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

I too found it perplexing that they weren't able to save Checkov's life. Obviously Koenig didn't want to continue in the role that limited his acting career so much.

However, if they really are going to divert from the star trek reality so much then maybe they shouldn't be billing it as the 4th and 5th seasons!

Obviously Checkov needs to survive and thrive for his torture on Seti Alpha by Kahn.

Maybe DC Fontana hasn't actually watched the movies... but it's just perplexing...

At least Sulu's situation makes sense. All is undone in the end.

It's also perplexing to me for an actor to want to have a finis to their role to then act again in that role!

The actor isn't the character! The character can be played by any actor, but the character is needed so why would the actor want to kill off the character? Strange. Very strange.

Oh well, I hope they'll learn to keep continuity better if they want to attract the wider audience of trek fans just as they are learning how to make an episode with quality production values.


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