Star Trek: Deep Space Nine premiered in 1993 during the final season of Star Trek: The Next Generation. It was a stark tone-shift for the Star Trek franchise, focussing on character development and story arcs that spanned its entire 7 seasons, while also primarily taking place on a diverse space station with little space exploration. The fanbase has always been polarized as to how that went. I loved it.
The series initially focussed on whatever random situation the crew of Deep Space 9 encountered, and eventually spent much of the first 4 seasons brokering peace between the Cardassians and the Bajorans. For its last 3 seasons, the space station became the front line of the epic Dominion War between the Federation Alliance and Breen-Dominion Alliance. These last seasons had some of the most emotional and character-focused war stories I have ever seen on television, not to mention some of the best ship battle sequences on Star Trek television.
Following Patrick Stewart as Jean-Luc Picard was no easy task, but Brooks as Sisko pulled it off from day one. He brought a gravity and humanity to the role that is difficult to describe. Sisko felt always in charge, yet often vulnerable. There was no occasion he didn’t rise to, no matter how unsure of himself he was at the time. He did his job, and carried the weight of that job, because it was his job. There are many great characters with their own great actors throughout the series, but Brooks as Sisko is uniquely captivating. And, since Brooks himself is so incredibly cool too, here’s a clip of both:
When folks speak of unjustly canceled shows, they often speak of Firefly, but I’ll always speak of Terra Nova. Premiering in 2011, the show takes place in the year 2149, when the Earth is so ravaged by pollution that mankind has no choice but to roll the dice on time paradoxes and begin evacuations to the Cretaceous period. That’s right, future humans and dinosaurs! What’s not to love?
The series is packed full of folks you may recognize from their later work. The Terra Nova colony is lead by benevolent military dictator Commander Nathaniel Taylor, played by Stephen Lang. While Lang may not be a household name, he’s practically a household face. Lang is a great actor, and by this point in his career, you’ve seen him in something. Our lead protagonist is Jim Shannon, a police detective who stows away with his family to Terra Nova. It would seem that the colony would have no need for a detective, but circumstances quickly launch him into a leadership role. Shannon is played by Jason O’Mara, whose voice you may recognize as the voice of Batman from DC’s latest animated films. You may also recognize Shannon’s son (played by Landon Liboiron) as Peter from Hemlock Grove, and Shannon’s daughter (played by Naomi Scott) as Jasmine from the Aladdin remake.
The series follows our characters as they learn to survive in a past rich with new adventures and dangers, ranging from dinosaurs to a corrupt future corporation that wants to “control the past to control the future” and their agents in the past (lead by Mira, who’s played by Christine Adams, whom you may recognize as Dr. Lynn Pierce from Black Lightning). This is basically Jurassic Park, but humans are the ones in the wildlife preserve, and they’re from the future. With Steven Spielberg serving as executive producer, and bringing over some unused sets from the Jurassic Park franchise, the show will feel incredibly familiar to any fan. The cinematography is gorgeous, the overall story is great, and the actors and characters are outstanding. My only complaint is that some of the side-plots can be a bit cliché, but what do you expect from the first season of a network show? Oh yeah, and there was only one season.
Terra Nova didn’t end on a standard cliffhanger, it ended on the worst cliffhanger of all, the world-building cliffhanger. Not only was the new enemy still out there, the world and situation were far grander than we ever knew. And we won’t know any more than that, because the series was too expensive for pre-Disney Fox to continue. It’s a shame, really, the show had a lot going for it. While I have seen many canceled shows in my life that I’ll never recommend because of that, this is one of the few that I do recommend regardless of the cancelation.
Despite the cancelation, Terra Nova was a great show and it deserves to be seen. Maybe one day we could even crowdfund a continuation of some kind, or at least share our own ideas of how it would have continued. Terra Nova is not available on any streaming platform, but you can purchase the entire series from Apple TV or from Amazon for just $9.99.
Besides the impressive visuals that you get with any entry in the Tron franchise, the overall story is very well thought-out with only one cliché episode (protagonist amnesia, my least favorite cliché), but that episode gives the original Tron a chance to shine, so I didn’t complain (much). The series also has some impressive animation, particularly the fight choreography. And, the music is outstanding, composed by Tron: Legacy soundtrack composer Joseph Trapanese (available on Apple Music and Spotify).
It’s hard to pick a stand-out star here, everyone in both the main and recurring casts is brilliant. Disney did a great job here. With that said, this is the first time I’ve heard Paul Reubens as anything other than Pee-wee Herman, as a villain nonetheless, and I was constantly impressed. He has some serious range as Pavel, and it’s practically a case study in why you should avoid typecasting.
I’m conflicted on the ending. It’s not a gentle cliffhanger, like Stargate Universe, it’s quite harsh. Furthermore, despite being developed to bridge the gap between Tron and Tron: Legacy, the ending left me bewildered as to how that could even happen. How does Tron become evil before Tron: Legacy? Where’s Beck and his resistance movement in Tron: Legacy? These seem like important questions that this series is responsible for answering. There’s a pivotal moment in the final episode, events could only go one of two ways. If they went one way, it would have more than answered those questions and the series would have flowed effortlessly into the film, but they didn’t, which is very confusing. Maybe it’s just better to think of that moment as one which spawned an alternate universe. Despite the cliffhanger ending though, the series is well worth watching.
Kyōryū Sentai Zyuranger translates as “Dinosaur Squadron Beast Ranger” and follows our heroes as they awaken from a 170-million year hibernation to defeat the recently awoken witch Bandora, played by Machiko Soga.
In comparison to Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, everything is better. The story flows far better, because we aren’t dealing with just disconnected action footage. The music is by far better, because we aren’t dealing with an electric guitar that seems incapable of stopping. The fights are better, because they seamlessly move from fights with the main actors to fights with the transformed suit actors. The cast is excellent too, but if I had to pick one standout, it would be Shiro Izumi as Burai. His story is intense and dramatic. Is this a great show? No. Is it entertaining? Absolutely!
Whereas Gaoranger felt like a live action anime, Zyuranger feels much more like classic martial arts films. There’s a warmth to it that’s not as bright as Gaoranger, but the story is just as intense. There are some very goofy moments, it doesn’t strike as good of a balance between humor and drama as Gaoranger did, but this is a show for children, and it’s nowhere near as goofy as Mighty Morphin Power Rangers. Oh yes, and Bandora likes to sing about herself … a lot. It’s odd, but I’ll allow it.
I recommend starting at the beginning, but if you want a smaller set of episodes to try out, I recommend Burai’s arc, which starts on episode 17. It’s a particularly goofy episode, but gets quite intense in the last few minutes, and you should be hooked for the remaining arc.
Wild Force was the last Power Rangers series I watched, and I couldn’t even make it through. Either it was just that bad, or I was growing out of it. So, I thought I’d start my Super Sentai experience off with Gaorangers, the series that Wild Force used for roughly half of its footage, and I was not disappointed. Hyakujuu Sentai Gaoranger is loosely translated as “Hundred-beasts Squadron Gaoranger,” though if you go by the subtitles during the title song, it could also be “Hundred-beasts Squadron Growl Ranger.”
The ensemble cast is amazing, their chemistry from the start is perfect, and you really get a sense that they all care of each other a great deal (even Yabaiba and TsueTsue). There are two stand-outs not in the main cast that I’d like to mention. Futaro, played by Daiki Arioka, is basically the child form of the team’s god. This kid can really act, he’s great. And finally, Rouki, voiced by Eiji Takemoto with suit actor Shoma Kai. Rouki is one of the “monsters” of the series, but he actually has a back story, character development, and an entire arc. As someone coming to this direct from years of Power Rangers, that is absolutely unheard of. Also, his design is impressive and it allows him to be one of most physical opponents in the series, often battling the Gaorangers directly on the ground.
So, you’ve seen these clips now, and you’re thinking, “That doesn’t look much better than Power Rangers,” and yeah you’re kind of right. Sadly, there just aren’t many clips of this pre-digital era Japanese series with English subtitles, but I assure you this series far exceeds its Power Rangers counterpart. The music is far better (like the music in that last clip), there is actual narrative cohesion when you don’t have to edit out every single minute that looks Japanese, and this series is incredibly dramatic. To give just one example, plenty of people actually die in this series. Early on, most of the Gaorangers are killed in battle (they come back later via a mystical side-quest), but this isn’t some sort of CGI-filled off-screen death. They are brutally killed on-screen. And because that’s not enough, the villains even kill a child on screen. Have you seen any of that on Power Rangers? Nope.
There’s a certain quality to this series too that I can’t quite describe. It’s like a live-action anime. And I know you’re thinking, “Yeah, it’s made in Japan,” but I’ve seen plenty of live action Japanese shows, I even checked out a few other Super Sentai shows too, and they just aren’t like this. Anime tropes shine through constantly, and the show manages a perfect balance of goofy episodes and incredibly serious episodes (sometimes both in the same episode, like that last clip again), kind of like Dragon Ball Z and other anime from that era. But it’s not over-stylized, like live action anime adaptions should be, it’s just anime tropes in a real-world setting, and it’s great.
If you don’t want to dive into all 51 episodes, I recommend at least checking out the Rouki arc, which runs for 10 episodes starting on Episode 15 through 24. If you’d rather watch just one episode to see if you like it, check out Episode 29. I’m pretty sure that either will hook you for the rest of the series. 😉