I think I see your problem. You have this list. It’s a list of people you need/want to buy a Christmas gift for. The trouble is that they’re into home theatre, and you don’t know Star Trek from Star Wars. You couldn’t tell a Wolf Man from a Wolverine. And you always thought that Paranormal Activity was something too kinky to talk about. Fortunately, Upcomingdiscs has come to the rescue every Christmas with our Gift Guide Spotlights. Keep checking back to see more recommendations for your holiday shopping. These gift guides ARE NOT paid advertisements. We take no money to publish them. With conditions as they are, shopping won’t be easy this season. The nice thing about discs is that they’re so easy to get from places like Amazon that you can give a great gift and stay perfectly safe while you do it. Now we present a couple of goodies from CBS Home Entertainment.
Star Trek: Discovery Seasons 1-3 on DVD
“Some say that in life, there are no second chances. Experience tells me that this is true. But we can only look forward. We have to be torchbearers, casting the light so we may see our path to lasting peace. We will continue exploring, discovering new worlds, new civilizations. Yes – that is the United Federation of Planets. Yes, that is Starfleet. Yes, that is who we are. And who we will always be.”
I should confess from the beginning that I am a very dedicated Star Trek fan. I’m not a Trekkie or a Trekker; I’m a fan. I have often allowed my fan status to cause me to embrace the franchise even when it wasn’t necessarily so good. As a young 15-year-old kid I attended the first 10:00 AM showing of Star Trek: The Motion Picture with a handful of friends on the opening day. We stayed through six showings and left sometime after midnight the following day, occupying the front row center and subsisting off of the day’s more limited concession offerings. Basically candy, popcorn and soda. Little has changed except for the lack of responsibilities that would allow me to spend 14 hours watching a single film over and over again. I’m still reluctant to dismiss anything Star Trek, but that’s nearly what happened as I sat through the first five or six episodes of Star Trek: Discovery.
The series happens approximately a decade before James T. Kirk becomes captain of the Enterprise. That means the show exists in a world that should be somewhat familiar to me. It wasn’t. It’s hard to imagine that in just 10 years technology would take a significant step backward, and uniforms and ship designs would undergo such a drastic change. Oh, and that Starfleet Command would move from Paris to San Fran. But all of this is the work of Alex Kurtzman. And we all know that he has a superpower. He has the ability to take a beloved franchise and run it straight into the ground at warp speed. But why is he always messing with things that I love? His Dark Universe over at Universal destroyed the hopes of seeing so many of my favorite Universal classic monsters once again reunited on the big screen. Fortunately, he was fired from that task after the abysmal Tom Cruise The Mummy failed in every way a film could fail. Thanks for that, Alex. Now you won’t be happy until you kill Star Trek.
Discovery begins with a bit of a prologue where you have not yet boarded the titular starship. We’re introduced to a dynamic science officer named Michael Burnham, played by Sonequa Martin-Green. She is the adopted daughter of Sarek, which means she was a part of Spock’s family. One he neglected to mention throughout our journeys with him. Yes, in Star Trek V we were also introduced to an unmentioned sibling of Spock’s. We all know that worked out just fine, yeah? OK. Let’s forget her upbringing. She has been taken under the wing of Captain Georgiou, played with commanding presence by Michelle Yeoh. They have had a strong relationship for seven years while Burnham learned to embrace being human after growing up taught to be a Vulcan. But when their ship encounters a large rogue Klingon ship, that doesn’t stop her from being Starfleet’s first mutineer and pretty much starting a devastating war between the Klingons and the Federation. She’s convicted of mutiny and sentenced to life in prison. That might have been the end of her story. It’s not.
While being transferred to her prison, her ship suffers some problems, and it is rescued by Discovery. The ship’s enigmatic Captain Lorca (Isaacs) agrees to keep the prisoners until their shuttle can be repaired. But he decides that Burnham is valuable to the war effort and offers her a place on Discovery as a “specialist”. It turns out that Lorca has some big plans, and he expects Burnham to be a part of them. Some of those big plans involve a special drive that makes Discovery the most important ship in the fleet. They’ve discovered a kind of spore that when it reacts to a compatible sentient being can allow the ship to vanish and reappear anywhere in known space in an instant. Of course, the Klingons really want that weapon.
The second season starts with the anticipated reveal of Discovery’s encounter with the USS Enterprise. Kirk isn’t there yet. It’s still Captain Christopher Pike’s ship, and he’s played by Anson Mount. His ship has undergone severe damage and will need considerable time in dry-dock before he can assume command there. He ends up taking over the captain-less Discovery when a new emergency confronts Starfleet Command. There have been seven mysterious signals discovered spread out across the galaxy. They need to be explored. The Klingon War is now over, with the houses united under L’Rell (Chieffo). The Klingon-made-human Ash Tyler/Voog (Latif) has brought her a son, but their existence is a threat to the empire she is building. During the turmoil the Enterprise was deliberately kept far away from the conflict so that her “big guns” and “big brains” could help pick up the pieces if the war went horribly wrong. Now Captain Pike will command Discovery. Because of her Spoor drive, she’s the only ship with a chance of reaching the source of these red signals. With each arrival we find they have coincidentally been brought to a milestone moment with the lives of entire civilizations on the line. At the crucial moments people see a bright red “angel” that appears to be guiding these moments in time.
That’s when we meet Spock (Peck). Burnham (Martin-Green) is the adopted child of Spock’s family, and they have been estranged for many years. Of course, we’ll eventually find out what caused the rift, and their relationship will be key to the signals and angels. It appears they appeared to Spock when he was very young, and many drawings of that encounter survive from his childhood. Spock has been changed and hurt by it all, and now he teams up with Discovery to solve the mystery. You won’t see answers until great battles are fought and we get more background on our players.
Flashbacks give us more of the story between Burnham and Spock, but it’s all so contrived that I believe it takes away from the drama. We go behind the scenes with Starfleet’s Section 31, where Ash has now found a home, and you never quite know if these are good guys or bad guys. They have been corrupted by an AI who wants to take over all life in the galaxy. Time travel has players from both sides of that future conflict fight it out in the here and now. Turns out a Terminator machine was sent back in time to kill Sarah Conner so the savior of mankind will never be born. OK, I made that last part up, but damned if the stories don’t collide quite a bit this season.
Some of the best stuff involved Doug Jones’ character Saru, who gets a good bit of background this season. We visit his home world following one of the signals. There are two sentient species on his world. Saru’s people are the subspecies who live in fear because the dominant warp-capable species hunt and cultivate them. When Discovery encounters a dying entity with millions of years of exploration data, we learn that the circle of life on Saru’s world isn’t what they were all led to believe. We meet his sister and learn a ton about the culture. It’s a highlight of the season.
Spock and Burnham are connected to these events, and it isn’t until the very end that we find out why, and it leads to a sacrifice by the Discovery crew that gives the series the reset it so desperately needs. The result is tighter writing and a much better story arc. The show is improving, and I am hopeful that upward trend will continue.
Anson Mount already had a Trek connection. He played the lead on Hell on Wheels, where his adversary was played by Colm Meany, who played Chief Miles O’Brian in Next Generation and Deep Space Nine. He is absolutely perfect for Pike. I hardly recognized the look, but he might well be one of the best captains to ever appear on the show. It’s disappointing that he will go his own way and we are not going to follow his adventures. I would be so much more compelled by that story than the one we’re on. I hope we see Pike again.
The Third season includes a ton of classic Trek callbacks. There is footage of Nimoy from The Next Generation two-parter Unification. His dream has now become a reality, and Vulcans and Romulans live as one on a planet call N’Vari. Two new ships are called The Nog, named after the Deep Space Nine character played by Aron Eisenberg who died at only 50 of kidney failure 1n 2019. Another ship is the 11th starship to carry the name Voyager, and a few species from their Delta Quadrant antics are to be found here as well. There is mention of the Temporal Wars from Enterprise, and they might be a problem with Discovery’s travel through time which violates the Temporal Accords that ended that conflict. There’s also a ship named The Yeltchin, named for the young actor who played Chekov in the Kelvin films. He was killed when his own car rolled down a hill on top of him.
This was a great move for the series. It takes them out of current Trek and gives them a place and story of their own. I find it far more interesting that we’re now exploring the Federation of the 30th century. This could actually be a lot of fun. The crew has grown. Saru (Jones) is captain throughout the season but looks to be leaving with Burnham in charge starting next year. Doug Jones does get to play three episodes with his normal face without the makeup. Tilly (Wiseman) gets to try her hand at command with mixed results. She’s back in her old role and maybe a little wiser for the experience.
You have to look at this season as a transition that works out all of the bugs of the retool, but it is absolutely worth it. Let’s see where it takes us now. There are 13 episodes on five discs with about three hours worth of bonus material. I have no doubt that Kurtzman wants to do right by Trek. “Wanting isn’t the same as doing.”.
Clarice Season 1
You might not have even been born in 1991 when Silence Of The Lambs was released. But you recognize the greeting, I’m sure. And even if the Hannibal Lecter character stole the show with Anthony Hopkins’ iconic performance, we still know who Clarice Starling is. Jodi Foster, known mostly at the time as a child actor from the 70’s, came into her own with an equally iconic performance in that film. The energy between these characters was electric. It’s true that Hannibal has become somewhat the face of the franchise and has had his own films and a very well received television series, Clarice could be considered the heart of the franchise. We’ve been waiting decades for the chance to see that character once again. Now she comes to our television screens in the first season of Clarice, out on DVD from CBS Home Entertainment.
Again it’s Alex Kurtzman on the job as an executive producer and series creator. If you want to write a book about the beloved franchises that Kurtzman has taken over and completely destroyed, you might need several volumes to tell those stories. If you want to write a book about beloved franchises he didn’t muck up and might have actually done some justice for, that would be a book you can write in less time than it will take to read this gift guide. Fortunately, Clarice appears to be one he’s actually done good work with.
The series takes place in the early 90’s, about a year or so from the events of Silence Of The Lambs. That means few cell phones, and the few you do see are huge. It’s the time of beepers and fax machines. Clarice, played by Rebecca Breeds, is in therapy trying to get over her experience with Buffalo Bill. A session is interrupted by folks from the Justice Department who whisk her away to Washington, where she’s been summoned by the nation’s new Attorney General Ruth Martin (Atkinson). You might remember she was a Senator in the film, and it was her daughter Catherine, now played by Marnee Carpenter, whom Clarice rescued from Buffalo Bill. Woman’s bodies have turned up in a nearby river. It’s feared there is a new serial killer on the loose, and Martin wants Clarice to be on the task force to bring him down. Unfortunately, the man in charge of the task force is a bit insulted by her presence and doesn’t really give her much of a chance. But she forges ahead against orders when she believes it’s not a serial killer, but rather someone trying to cover up hidden problems in a drug testing trial. Someone wants to cover up birth defects and is hiding the murders as the work of a serial killer.
Michael Cudlitz plays Paul Kendler, who always felt Clarice showed him up in the Buffalo Bill case. That’s why he doesn’t really want her around. But as the season progresses, he comes around and starts trusting her instincts. Thomas Esquivel (De Oliveira) is an ex-special-forces sniper who provides the weapons skills. Shaan Tripathi (Penn) is the research guy. He has humanities degrees that make him the expert on a wide range of stuff. Murray Clarke (Sandow) is the profiler of the group. He’s the grizzled, politically incorrect member of the team with a haunted past.
There is usually a case of the week that often gives insight into the big case but not always. Each week we get a few more pieces of the puzzle and a few red herrings as the big bad of the season. I won’t reveal that character here. You guys want to try to figure that out on your own. Eventually we find out all the facts, and Clarice almost gets killed a handful of times.
Also going on in the film is Ruth Martin’s attempt to use Clarice to try to help her daughter, who has not recovered from the events of the film. There’s a lot of flashback there that I find distracting. I love the idea that these characters were traumatized by what they experienced but not so in love with how much it bogs the story down. There are some very interesting character dynamics here, and Breeds does a pretty good job of nailing the character and particularly the accent. Of course, it’s really hard to look beyond Jodi Foster’s performance, but it works most of the time.
Now if you are hoping to find a little Hannibal here, you will not. Yes, the character is often alluded to but cannot be named because of rights issues. It’s the same reason Clarice could not be named in the Hannibal series. It’s a matter of rights, you see. This show is based on the novel Silence Of The Lambs, and Hannibal was based on Red Dragon. The rights are split, and there’s not much of a chance of us seeing these characters together anytime soon. It’s a pretty atmospheric and smart crime show, and you get 13 episodes on four discs with deleted scenes, a gag reel, and a couple of brief behind-the-scenes features. A pretty nice package to put under someone’s tree. “And that’s what I’m all about.”