Star Trek: Lower Decks And The Healing Power of Silly

I’ve been in a bit of a funk lately that I’m trying to break out of. This isn’t as bad as the actual depression hit I got back in April, but just, a low level blah and lack of motivation, and numbness.

So, I’m trying to get out of it, with my usual stuff, yoga, changing up my diet, abstaining from alcohol, tracking how much water I drink, rearranging my furniture (I bought a new couch! I’m very excited about it!) and, getting out of the rewatch loop.

I decided, since I purchased a year of access to CBS All Access, and there’s a new show that is just the part of Star Trek that’s my favorite, ie, the silly, dopey, jokey parts, I decided to give Lower Decks a whirl.

I was immediately enamored of the show’s sense of humor and of my adorable tiny space dorks. Let’s run down our main cast:

Ensign Brad Boimler: A try hard, rule follower who thinks that Star Fleet is the absolute greatest. He wants to be like the TNG bridge crew, but he’s not really up to that kind of thing.

Ensign Beckett Mariner: Mariner is actually a really talented Star Fleet officer. She’s also the daughter of two high ranking captains and thinks that the rules are bullshit. As a result, she’s been demoted and shifted around and is now stuck on her mother’s ship and it is not going well.

Ensign Sam Rutherford: He’s a big engineering dork who just became a cyborg and is working on that. He’s also super awkward.

Ensign D’Vana Tendi: A new medical recruit. She’s just very bright and shiny and happy to be here.

There’s also the standard Trek bridge crew, who are around, but they’re basically in the same position as these kids are in a standard show, popping in and out of stories as useful.

I’m mostly happy about this show because it is so delightfully silly. It’s not a smart show, it’s stupid in the best way and every one is just a goofy dork and I want them to succeed and be protected. Protect my tiny space dorks! It was exactly what I needed when I needed it and I’m therefore very happy to have it. It also reminded me that I’d watched the first season and a half of Star Trek: Voyager and I’ve now fallen down that hole and will be continuing it and finishing it and writing  up a Nerd Homework (remember those? Remember when I wrote about stuff that wasn’t Disney movies?)

Anyway, if you have CBS All Access, it’s worth checking out the show. Or waiting until it completes and doing a free month and binging the whole thing, which I would definitely recommend over forking over your money for this stupid disappointing platform. (I would like to remind everyone that when I signed up, I didn’t think we’d enter a terrifying pandemic and that I wouldn’t want to even think about, let alone reread and then watch an adaptation of The Stand.)

Fangirl Loves Star Wars: Disney Gallery: The Mandalorian

The thing about becoming a pop culture blogger, and excited fandom tracker and frequent Comic Con goer (I’m really missing cons this year. So much) is that you just accumilate junk knowledge, but it also can suck the magic out of stuff, because a part of this kind of work, which I love doing, is figuring out how to see the strings.

So I decided to let the magic of The Mandalorian linger for a bit and not watch the behind the scenes Disney Gallery specials about the show. But as I realized that I’d maybe watched The Imagineering Story too many times, I decided to check it out.

First of all, I loved the format of the show, which reminded me of Jon Favreau’s delightful Dinner For Five. (I’ve heard The Chef Show does something similar, I might watch that too) Favreau used to host a show where he held a dinner party for five people and rolled cameras. It’s an intensely fun way to have a talk show. On Disney Gallery he takes a similar approach, doing roundtable interviews with different people involved in The Mandalorian, talking about their experience with Star Wars in general, this show in particular, and laughing a lot.

Some really cool stories come out, and there’s interesting behind the scenes talk about the technical and writing processes, tons of info dumping from Dave Filoni, and Bryce Dallas Howard telling an incredible story about a childhood trip to Japan. (This is in the “how did you find Star Wars” section. She starts with, “so when I was six, my dad,” and everyone just groans. She laughs, “I know, OK! But I promise this is cool!”)

The stuff about Baby Yoda is cool, but I was really fascinated with the way Favreau talked through building new tech as he moved from Iron Man to Jungle Book to The Lion King and now in The Mandalorian. And not for nothing, it’s always a joy to watch someone talk about something passionately, and if there is anything I know from following his career for most of my life, Jon Favreau loves movies and loves artists and loves film history, so talking about how special effects have grown to be able to create something as special as The Mandalorian is a real treat.

I’m also completely in love with Gina Carrano. My God, that woman is beautiful and funny and charismatic as hell.

Fangirl Loves Star Wars: The Clone Wars Season 7 Episode 12: “Victory And Blood”

The Clone Wars is over. It’s end is bleak and terrible and sad, unbelievably poignant and conclusive. Of course having watched Rebels, we know how this ends for these characters and because of Star Wars we know how this ends generally.

But, I’ve never really bought into “The Prequel Problem,” a tale well told is worth it regardless of if you can guess the ending, and The Clone Wars is, if nothing else, a tale well told. And this final chapter, where Rex and Ahsoka save one another, after everything they’ve been through and more importantly those final images.

Despite the betrayal of Order 66, Ahsoka and Rex bury each of the clones that died on their ship, marking their graves with their helmets, and leaving her light sabers behind. When Vader finds the scene he picks up the saber and looks to the sky walking away.

It’s over, and as far as anyone knows, Ahsoka Tano is dead, the only Jedi who truly understood Anakin Skywalker, (Not a Jedi) and Anakin himself is about as gone as possible right now.

This show has come to mean so much to me over these past few years. It’s deepened my love for this world and these stories that have always been with me, that will always be with me.

And so much of that comes from Ahsoka. From this girl who learned her own code and morality, who will help people when they need it, no matter what. I’m so grateful for her, thank you to Dave Filoni and Ashley Eckstein for her. Seriously, watching her story unfold has been the greatest pleasure, and seeing this chapter close properly was wonderful.

Star Wars will always be my favorite fandom. It is home, even when it’s at it’s worst I love it so much. These past eleven weeks have been such a gift, and I’m tremendously happy to have had them.

Next week we talk about the Darth Vader comics. Which I very much enjoyed.

Fangirl Loves Star Wars: The Clone Wars Season 7: Episode 10: “Phantom Apprentice”

It’s kind of crazy how sometimes two things I’m working on can dovetail nicely, or maybe it’s just my liberal arts brain trying to make less reading for myself that connects things that way, but the fact that this episode aired the same week that I was reading Erik Larson’s truly brilliant history book In The Garden Of Beasts, about the American Ambassador to Berlin during the years leading up to World War II, William Dodd.

The book is mostly about how Dodd kept saying, “HEY HITLER IS DANGEROUS AND WE CAN’T TRUST THE NAZIS,” and everyone in the American state department and establishment kept saying, “ehh, Dodd’s overreacting, I’m sure it will be fine.” (Narrator: It was not fine)

How does this connect to “Phantom Apprentice,” you might ask?

This is all about how Darth Maul has been shouting that, “HEY I KNOW WHO DARTH SIDIOUS IS AND YOU’RE ALL JUST PAWNS!” and everyone reacts by saying, “Boy, that Darth Maul sure is crazy, huh? Anyway,” and moves on. It’s even more present in this episode, where he and Ahsoka have several beautifully animated confrontations and he tries to convince her to join him and stop Sidious, because he knows this is all about to fall down on their heads.

What’s really fascinating in this run of episodes is that they are running parallel to Revenge Of The Sith, and that’s all the more chilling. Everytime Ahsoka checks in with Obi-Wan and Anakin we know exactly what’s going on with them and how horrible the next steps are. I keep holding my breath waiting for the moment that the clones turn on her. We know Rex helped get her out, but Order 66 has broken my heart every single time I’ve watched the movie, all the way back to high school when I first watched it. I don’t think whenever this hits in the next two weeks will be different.

The real showcase of this episode were those fights between Maul and Ahsoka, and frankly, they were some of the most stunning visual moments the show has ever had. Ray Park, who played Maul originally did the motion capture for them, so the physicality is perfect, and while the fight is exceptional there are also a pair of excellent performances from Sam Witwer and Ashley Eckstein here. Ashley has done incredible work all season showing Ahsoka’s growth and Witwer is always a joy, but this particular “We’re not so different, you and I,” “I’m nothing like you!” back and forth was a true joy to hear. (Granted, I’m a sucker for the trope)

This was my favorite episode of the season so far and I can’t believe we’re only two out from the finale. I’m going to miss this show so much. (Although, let’s face it, I’ll probably just watch ROTS and then Rebels again as soon as it ends.)

Fangirl Loves Star Wars: The Clone Wars Season 7, Episode 9 “Old Friends Not Forgotten”

This is going to be a very difficult month when it comes to Clone Wars (and you know, other things too…)

But man, the reunion of Ahsoka, Rex, Anakin and Obi-Wan was wrenching. Not to mention Boe Kattan bringing Satine up every five seconds and pointing fingers at Obi-Wan about her death.

What is nice is that even after having seen how she’s grown and changed how quickly old rhythms established themselves. Anakin finding a middle path between his master and apprentice, the great politician, Obi-Wan trying to hew to ideals that are clearly dying, Ahsoka embracing a new ideal. The Clones establishing their own loyalty rallying beside their old commander.

And then there’s the moment where Anakin returns Ahsoka’s sabers to her. It killed me. Anyway, after Anakin and Obi-Wan find a loophole compromise (divide the 501st) that allows Ahsoka a command, Ahsoka and Bo head to Mandalore with Rex to catch Darth Maul. Obi-Wan warns them that capturing him is a better plan than trying to kill him because he’s hard to kill. (I’LL SAY!)

While laying siege to, Bo goes after the Prime Minister and Ahsoka and Rex hunt Maul. They find him, and he’s waiting, but not for Ahsoka, she’s the wrong Jedi. He wanted Obi-Wan (I mean, obviously.)

It was all building the this, the previous two arcs were meant to remind us who Rex and Ahsoka were, what they’re made of, why they fight, and show us how far they’ve come in the past few years.

It’s going to be quite a ride.

 

Fangirl Love Star Wars Trek?: Picard

Like every version of Star Trek I’ve pushed myself into, it took me a little while, though shorter than usual to like Star Trek: Picard, part of that is because the pilot, where Jean-Luc Picard decides it’s time to get back in the game and puts his new team together lasts three episodes. For a show that was only getting 10 episodes to begin with that is a lot of real estate for the set up.

Additionally, the first half of the show is really grim, full of portentious Romulan prophecies, a lot of death and violence and the confirmation that Admiral Picard has alzheimers. I like my Trek a little lighter, kind of silly and plenty of humanist optimism, which luckily kicks in not long after we meet the team. (Courtesy of a meet up with Seven of Nine, I’m now determined to push through DS9 which is not really my speed, at all so that I can get to voyager and get to know her better.)

And what a team it is. Allison Pill as Dr. Agnes Giardi, a brilliant scientist with an interest in synthetic life (which, despite Bruce Maddox and Picard lobbying is illegal due to a synth revolt on a martian colony), Evan Evagora as Elnor some kind of Romulan ninja who knew Picard when he was little, Michelle Herd as Raffi Musiker, a former Star Fleet officer drummed out for over indulging in conspiracy theories about Romulan infiltration (SHE WAS RIGHT!) and Santiago Cabrera as Chris Rios another former Star Fleet, who has a ship where the AI has taken on his appearance. Cabrera was my favorite part of the show that wasn’t directly from TNG. 

They’re looking for Soji, a synth girl developed from Data’s programming, who’s twin sister was killed by said infiltrating Romulans. She’s working as a scientist on a Borg Cube, helping to reclaim those who had been assimilated, lead by Hugh, who learned of humanity from Jordi. A super secret Romulan order is hunting her too, because they believe the rise of synthetic consciousness will bring about Armageddon.

WHOO.

Anyway, once all of that gets out of the way, the fun begins, jumping around to planets, Picard in an eye patch pretending to be a gambler, Troi and Riker living in the wood making pizza with their adorable daughter, a planet of synths ruled over by the son of Noonian Soong, who just so happens to be played Brent Spiner.

There’s a lot going on, but I really enjoyed the back half. The set up was just a little bit longer than I would have preferred. But once we got to the space adventures, lectures about the sanctity of life and what we owe the world with our lives.

It came together really well and without spoilers, there’s a lovely and emotional resolution the even provides Patrick Stewart the opportunity to recite some Shakespeare. (Have you been watching him read the sonnets during quarantine? I do recommend.)

I’m excited to see what season 2 of this show brings, I know Whoopi Goldberg is planning on coming back, and I’m interested in what Guinan has been doing during all of this. And you know, the ending proved interesting.

Fangirl Loves Star Wars: The Clone Wars Season 7: “Gone With A Trace”

It was a big day for Ahsoka on Friday so this is going to be a longish entry.

First we get the newsreel, reminding us of Ahsoka’s decision to leave the Jedi order (As if we could forget!) We then get a thrilling free fall, as the engine on her speeder bike, brings her to the lower levels of Corruscant. She quickly meets a new mechanic named Trace and they become fast friends because who wouldn’t want to be friends with Ahsoka?

Trace and her sister are trying to scrape by in the lower levels and the war makes that tough. Ahsoka is still knee jerk defending the Jedi and the war, but her protestations don’t have the heat they used to. Trace’s sister has made a dangerous deal to build some droids and the three girls do so, even though it goes wrong. Ahsoka feels uneasy about the whole situation but helps anyway. (OF COURSE SHE DOES.)

I’d missed Ahsoka, so I was happy to see her back, finally, and doing what she does best, participating in barely controlled mayhem while offering compassionate help to people that really need it. This set up reminded me a lot of the novel Ahsoka where she winds up in a similar entanglement. (I’m sure that’s where they got the idea for this storyline.)

In other Ahsoka news, our girl is coming to The Mandolorian! And she’s going to be played by Rosario Dawson. Now, y’all know how I feel about Rosario, I think she’s great! And I do feel like she’ll do an exceptional job as Ahsoka. (Man, I can’t wait for her to call Baby Yoda “Little One!”) I do know that my nerd rage is going to bubble when people meet her for the first time here and it’s not Ashley Eckstein doing the work. She’s been Ahsoka’s voice, heart and protector for the past decade. Also she’s a kind and lovely person who’s been very nice to me over the years and who makes stylish clothing I like quite a bit.

But part of fandom, especially long running, multi author fandom like Star Wars is seeing new interpretations of the things you love. If I stamp my foot and whine that Rosario Dawson isn’t “the real Ahsoka,” aren’t I just as bad as all those fanboys who go crazy every time we get a new Batman? I’m sure she’ll be wonderful and Jon Favreau and Dave Filoni will write her very well. This will be Ahsoka The White, remember, who has passed through time and space at Mallus and been hunting for Ezra for five years, after all. She’s different. She will be different.

Can’t wait to see what next week brings. Again, I hope you all are keeping safe. STAY HOME if you can. Drink drinks, eat food, video chat, watch Star Wars, the Force will be with us during this.

Fangirl Loves Star Wars: The Clone Wars: Season 7: Episode 4: “Unfinished Business”

Hi everyone! Sorry this is a day late, like everyone pretty much, I spent the weekend spiraling a little bit about COVID-19, so I completely forgot to write this post. I hope everyone is doing OK, practicing social distancing, and taking lots of deep breaths. If you want to talk about what you’re reading, watching and eating in these super weird times, please reach out to me on any social media. (I’m hanging out on Instagram a lot these days! @thefangirlsdilemma)

Moving on! “Unfinished Business,” is the end of The Bad Batch arc, which as I noted, I’m not crazy about, but I liked this episode a little bit more. There’s a really great Mace Windu moment that really seals the deal, but overall I enjoyed it.

Echo has to prove to the others that he can get back in the game, and that The Separatists aren’t in control of him. He does so, through a series of very cool action sequences. Also Anakin has a BIG Dark Side moment in his reactions to Spider-Monster Admiral Trench, Obi-Wan does some in command stuff and I mentioned Mace right?

The moment that made me fall in love with this episode is when he steps in front a batallion of battle droids and recites his stats, reminding them, and us all that HE IS A BADASS.

Next week apparently we’re going to be finally getting some Ahsoka stuff, which means I will probably have a lot more to write about. But here’s the thing, theses episodes have been very action heavy, which is GREAT for watching, and not so much for writing, which is why these recaps have been so short.

Anyway, I hope everyone is healthy and safe, I love you all as much as I love Star Wars, maybe even more! I’ll be doing a bunch of reading, watching of Disney movies and other stuff as I’m stuck home, I’m hoping to get back to a regular 5 post a week schedule. So something good can come out of all of this.

 

Fangirl Loves Star Wars: The Clone Wars: Season 7 Episode 3: “On The Wings Of Keeradaks”

First, a correction, I thought Echo died last week, he didn’t! He was liberated, A LA Jean-Luc Picard from the Borg! (We’ll get to ol’Jean-Luc soon! I’ve been selectively binging Picard.) Now, Anakin, Rex, The Bad Batch and Echo have to escape from the Techno Syndicate, with some help from the natives of the planet that they’re on.

The Tecno Syndicate are furious, obviously that their “experiment” has been stolen. That experiment is of course, Poor Echo, who is in really bad shape.

Not going to lie, I’m not overly enamored of this arc. It’s visually interesting but it isn’t doing much for me story wise and not really deepening any of the characters. We already know Rex would do anything for his brothers, that Anakin recklessly dives into danger heedless of the consequences and that the council is basically useless. There’s nothing new here. Except the bad batch, who really are pretty great, just not super compelling to write about.

It’s emotionally satisfying to do more with the clones. Clone episodes have always been among my favorites, but this arc, until I see how it plays out just has not delivered so far. It may also just be my impatience to get to the SIEGE OF MANDALORE FOR GOD’S SAKE.

I wish I was more engaged and had more to say here, but I really just don’t. The show is as ever visually stunning with compelling action and decent character work, this arc just seems a little repetitive from a story and development standpoint.

Anyway, another week without any Ahsoka. This is getting tiresome and I do not care for it at all.

Magical Movies Tour: The Adventures Of Ichabod And Mr. Toad

Another anthology of sorts, this time just two stories, both adapted from popular children’s books, The Wind In The Willows and Tales of Sleepy Hollow, and both shorts excellently executed.

The Pastoral English tale of Mr. Toad of Toad Hall, that foolish fop, captivated by adventure and his poor put upon friends trying to reign him in. Toad decides one day, at the urging of the troublesome horse, Cyril, that he absolutely MUST have a motorcar. Meanwhile, back at Toad Hall, Angus McBadger, Mr. Mole and Mr. Rat are trying to make sense of this newest mania for their friend, but before they can, Toad has traded the hall to some duplicitous Weasels for their car.

They then take him to court, claiming he stole it. He’s thrown in the tower and a wild escape attempt later, the weasels are discovered and all is well…or at least until Toad brings home an airplane! Oh will he ever learn?

The Ichabod Crane half, which as a kid I never finished due to terror, is my preffered. Yes, I know a few weeks ago I railed against the American Folklore stuff, but I like this one. (Maybe it’s the Old East Coaster in me. The western stuff doesn’t do it, but give me those New York Dutch ghosts any old day.) Narrated by Bing Crosby (I mean REALLY!) We learn the story of the lanky school master Ichabod Crane, who comes to Tarrytown and sweeps the women of town off their feet with his intellect and cultured ways. When he starts pursuing the beautiful and rich Katrina VanTassel, town bully Brahms decides it’s time to put him in this place.

At a party Brahms relates the story of The Headless Horseman, a spook who rides through the Hollow on Halloween Night, searching for his head. The song that does this is really great, but I’m also super partial to Bing Crosby, as he was my mom’s favorite crooner, I grew up with his voice.

Leaving the party Ichabod has an encounter with the Headless Horseman, and the next day is gone forever from Sleepy Hollow, did he survive and just leave town, scared by his rivals warning? Or was he taken by the spirit?

It’s such a fun ghost story, and one that I’ve always loved, even if I couldn’t watch this particular version without nightmares as a kid.

Both shorts are charming out the butt, with creative animation and character design and fun music. I rate this one a win.

Next week we start into a pretty classic stretch and I’m very excited about it. We’re doing Cinderella, and I am so so ready for my favorite princess.