Critic’s Log, Earth Date 06.06.21:
(Is this thing on? Oh, yeah. It is. Never mind.)
Computer, begin review.
On June 2, 2020, Paramount Home Media Distribution released the 2018-2019 episodes of Star Trek: Short Treks, an anthology series created by Star Trek producer Alex Kurtzman for CBS All-Access, the streaming service that ViacomCBS renamed as Paramount+.
According to Memory Alpha, the wiki for all things canon in Star Trek, Star Trek: Short Treks is “an anthology series of shorts set in the Star Trek universe, acting as a companion to Star Trek: Discovery and Star Trek: Picard. It is the second Star Trek companion series, the eighth series set in the Star Trek universe, and the first series to feature both live-action and animated episodes.”
Currently, Star Treks: Short Treks (or ST, in the traditional style of abbreviations in the Star Trek franchise) consists of 10 episodes, most of which are companion pieces to Star Trek: Discovery but at least one (The Children of Mars) is related to Star Trek: Picard.
Since CBS Television Studios included The Children of Mars in last year’s Star Trek: Picard – Season One Blu-ray set, it is not included in this one-disc collection from Star Trek: Short Trek’s first two seasons.
From the Blu-ray Package:
A Lot Can Happen on a Short Trek
Star Trek: Short Treks brings fans of the Star Trek universe together on a thrilling exploration of the themes and characters we’ve already come to love. Witness the Star Trek: Discovery story line expand with episodes featuring fan-favorites Rainn Wilson (Harry Mudd), Ethan Peck (Spock), Anson Mount (Captain Christopher Pike), Rebecca Romijn (Number One) and more. Experience nine thrilling shorts which deliver nearly two hours of live-action and animated adventures never-before-seen in Star Trek’s history. Special features include a making-of featurette, in-depth cast interviews and exclusive series commentaries. This must-own addition to the Star Trek franchise is guaranteed to take you further into the galaxy than ever before.
The nine episodes in Star Trek: Short Treks are:
- The Brightest Star
- The Escape Artist
- Q & A
- The Trouble with Edward
- Ask Not
- Ephraim & Dot (Animated)
- The Girl Who Made the Stars (Animated)
Currently, these are the only ST episodes in existence, although, (per Memory Alpha), “in August 2020 producer Alex Kurtzman said that he hoped more would be made.”
ST’s episodes have running times that vary in length, from as short as 15 minutes to as long as 20. (In contrast, the average run time for a Star Trek: The Original Series episode is 50 minutes sans commercial breaks. Some feature regular cast members from Star Trek: Discovery, such as Mary Wiseman (Ensign Tilly) and Doug Jones (Saru), featured guest stars from Seasons 1 and 2 Rainn Wilson (Harry Mudd), Anson Mount (Capt. Christopher Pike), Ethan Peck (Spock), and Rebecca Romjin (Una).
Other episodes feature one-off characters, such as the 23rd Century’s equivalent of Odysseus – a man named Craft (Aldis Hodge) – in Calypso and Edward Larkin (H. Jon Benjamin) in the dark comedy The Trouble with Edward, one of the four Star Trek franchise episodes that center on tribbles.
Finally, the two animated episodes were made by a different animation studio – Pixomondo for Ephrain & Dot (which was directed by composer Michael Giacchino) and The Girl Who Made the Stars (directed by Olatunde Osunsanmi) – from the one that makes Star Trek: Lower Decks.
Since I own the first two seasons of Star Trek: Discovery, I watched the few Star Trek: Short Treks episodes that Paramount and CBS Television Studios added as extra features in those Blu-ray sets before I ordered Star Trek: Short Treks, a one Blu-ray disc (BD) set that contains nine episodes that connect to Seasons One and Two of Discovery.
Nevertheless, once I start a home media collection of a franchise, I tend to be a completist. If I bit the bullet and bought the Star Trek: The Animated Series DVD set over a decade ago though I rarely watch it, I had to get this set of Star Trek: Short Treks.
(Partly because, you know, the whole completist thing, but mostly because Star Trek: Short Treks gives us a little more character development to series regulars or recurring guest characters, plus the tardigrade episode – Ephraim and Dot – was such a loving tribute to the Original Series and featured two Star Trek veterans [Kirk “Punk on Bus” Thatcher and Jenette Goldstein from Star Trek: Generations] as voice actors. )
I can’t say that Paramount gave Trekkers a perfect Blu-ray; per the review by Blu-ray.com’s Martin Liebman, the one-BD set gets top marks (four out of five stars) in video and audio quality, but viewers who seek a 100% perfect presentation will have to settle for 95% instead:
The image is not always tack-sharp and noise can grow fairly dense in more challenging darkness. Noise seems frozen and moves in clumps, at times, alongside characters, such as towards the end of “Ask Not.” Banding appears towards the beginning and right at the end of “The Brightest Star” and on the animated Enterprise hull in ‘Ephraim and Dot.’ These issues are unmissable but they’re not content destroyers. The picture looks fine in total, never reaching reference quality but offering an honest digitally sourced image.
In addition, director Giacchino is aware that the refit Enterprise in the above-mentioned animated episode displays the wrong pennant number (NCC-1701-A) when it appears in scenes that refer to Star Trek II and III. Giacchino said it was a mistake caused by the speed of the production process. So consider yourselves warned – there are a few visual continuity errors in that animated episode.
I think that the creative concept behind ST is interesting, there are so many stories that one can tell in the Star Trek universe, and Kurtzman gives new and unknown filmmakers a chance to show what they can do within the time constraints of a short film.
(As someone who dabbles with short film in my quest to be a screenwriter, I can tell you this much: coming up with a story that has to be told in less than 20 minutes is difficult, but if all the elements come together, it can be, well, magical.)
Will this set please every fan? Considering that every fandom – whether it’s Star Trek, Star Wars, The Lord of the Rings, or Indiana Jones – has its dueling factions, probably not. Some fans of the 1980s-1990s Treks (and even some of the The Original Series fans) dislike much of the new live-action shows (“NuTrek”), so if you think Star Trek: Discovery is not your cup of tea, Earl Grey, hot, then you’re probably not going to like ST.
Other fans who don’t get angry about Kurtzman & Co.’s supposed “wokeness” and have grown to like Star Trek: Discovery will probably enjoy this collection of episodes, though their mileage might vary depending on which characters they like most.
So, there you go. My honest, no-bullshit review of Star Trek: Short Treks. If you like Star Trek history, you’ll probably like Ephraim & Dot despite some of the visual inconsistencies with the Enterprise I thought the friendship between the cute tardigrade and Dot, the maintenance robot, represents everything that is good about the 55-year-old franchise.
I also think thatThe Trouble with Edward is darkly hilarious, especially when his captain sums him up succinctly as “He’s an idiot.”
Computer, end review.