Star Trek Online’s Agents of Yesterday recently released and has been a callback to Star Trek’s origins on the year of Star Trek’s 50th Anniversary.
One of the big reasons I’ve been playing Star Trek Online for years has been for it’s excellent stories. The main reason that I still really enjoy playing video games *at all* is the stories. Fun game mechanics are nice, yes, and the exploration, puzzles, progression, and graphics are also a plus, but for me the story is where it’s at. If a game doesn’t have a decent or even passable story attached to it, you most likely won’t find me playing it. I’ll even forsake a lot of the other qualities just for a better story.
I’ve also been a fan of Star Trek since my father and I use to watch Next Generation together in the early 90’s. The way the episodes would flow, where in the course of 45 minutes the exploration of the deep grey area between good and evil, between right and wrong, was so thorough that it created such a lasting impression on me that I will forever be a ‘Trekkie’. Not all episodes were winners, but when Star Trek got it right, they really got it right.
With Star Trek Online’s latest release of ‘Agents of Yesterday’, the game’s storyline takes many cues and paths from the episodes, and many cues from the original series. Here is a list of the top Star Trek episodes to watch to get the most out of STO’s latest expansion, presented in the best order as they refer in-game.
Obviously, Spoilers Ahead, but I’ll try to keep them to a minimum.
The Galileo Seven – TOS, Season 1
A new character, created in the new 23rd century Federation faction, will find themselves soon after on the surface of Taurus II. This rocky, inhospitable planet was crash-landed on by Spock, McCoy, Scotty, and four other unlucky individuals. Soon after arrival a yellow-clad crewman (they weren’t always wearing red) takes a spear to the back thrown by a giant caveman-like creature.
Arena – TOS, Season 1
Arena is one of the most famous of all the original series episodes, so having an original series themed expansion and not including a reference to the episode would’ve been sacrilege. The lizard-like Gorn first appeared during this episode which had a beat-up Kirk hunting the surface of a mineral-rich planet for ways to defeat the rubber-suited menace. In Star Trek Online, the Federation returns once more to study the planet’s bounty.
Cold Front – Enterprise, Season 1
We take a step backwards in time, but forward in the line of show production to Enterprise. Captain Archer is really excited to get to do what Starfleet wanted the Enterprise to do: Explore. A bolt of energy hits the ship, but disaster is stopped by a lucky junction having been disconnected. As it turns out, luck has nothing to do with it. The character known as Daniels is introduced, a time traveling agent from the far-distant future, who informs Archer of the most convoluted storyline in all of Trek, the Temporal Cold War.
Operation: Annihilate! – TOS, Season 1
There are only two episodes in all of Trek that feature an exclamation point in the title, and ‘Operation: Annihilate!’ is one of them. The Deneva Colony has seemed to be taken over by a bout of mass insanity. When they reach the planet, they find saucer-like single-celled organisms have attacked. In Star Trek Online, the player’s ship is called to investigate Deep Space K-13, where a bout of mass insanity has also taken hold.
Journey to Babel – TOS, Season 2
Th Enterprise is tasked with transporting a group of Federation diplomats to the Babel Conference, a meeting to determine whether to admit the Coridan system into the Federation. In the first episode of ‘Agents of Yesterday’ which features real time travel shenanigans, the player is taken onto the Enterprise itself.
The Tholian Web – TOS, Season 3
In ‘The Tholian Web’ the crew of the Enterprise are sent to search for their sister-ship, the USS Defiant. They find the ship adrift, with all hands on board deceased. Once more, it appears a bout of madness has caused all aboard to turn on each other, but this time it isn’t due to single-celled frisbees. The episode introduces the xenophobic and crystal spider-like Tholians. In Star Trek Online, the crew of the player’s ship finds the Defiant with all crew still alive as they once more encounter the Tholians.
Captain’s Holiday – Next Generation, Season 3
The entire Star Trek Online story arc ‘Future Proof’ hinges on this one episode. In Next Generation, Captain Jean-Luc Picard finds himself so stressed out that not even a cup of hot Earl Grey can help. Picard takes a vacation to the pleasure planet Risa for some much needed R&R. There he encounters a Ferengi, two time traveling aliens, a treasure hunter, and their target: the Tox Uthat, a weapon capable of destroying stars.
Future Tense – Enterprise, Season 2
Captain Archer’s Enterprise comes across a ship very similar to the Doctor’s TARDIS, a ship from the far future that is bigger on the inside. Inside they find a long deceased body, one who’s genetic makeup contains many elements of many different races. None of those races are Time Lord, however. Right when things start getting strange, both the Suliban, a shape-changing race, and the Tholians show up to attempt to recover the ship for themselves.
The Changing Face of Evil – Deep Space Nine, Season 7
In one of the final episodes of Deep Space Nine, at the height of the Dominion War, the Breen, a cold-loving warlike race that has aligned themselves with the Dominion, succeed where many others have failed. They successfully launch an attack on Earth and damage Starfleet Headquarters in San Francisco and, just for kicks, wreck the Golden Gate Bridge. It must’ve been for kicks because one would assume bridges have become antiques when flying shuttles and teleportation become the norm for transportation.
Azati Prime – Enterprise, Season 3
Finally, in the midst of the Temporal Cold War arc of Enterprise, the crew of Archer’s ship finds themselves investigating the multi-species Xindi’s construction of a weapon capable of doing serious damage to Earth. Captain Archer decides to pilot a suicide mission to destroy the weapon, but is suddenly transported 400 years to the future by Temporal Agent Daniels to the final battle of the war against the Sphere Builders in the Temporal Cold War. They arrive on board the Enterprise-J, a much flatter ship than most of the Enterprises that have come before.
But That’s Not All
These ten episodes are far from the only ones referenced in the Agents of Yesterday expansion. More include TOS’s ‘Doomsday Machine’ and ‘Mirror, Mirror’, Next Generation’s ‘The Enemy’, Deep Space Nine’s ‘Once More Unto the Breach’, and Voyager’s ‘Year of Hell’. Also, the entire Temporal Cold War arc certainly wouldn’t hurt: Enterprise’s ‘Broken Bow’, ‘Cold Front’, ‘Detained’, ‘Two Days and Two Nights’, ‘Shockwave Pt 1 and 2’, ‘Future Tense’, ‘The Expanse’, ‘Carpenter Street’, ‘Azati Prime’, ‘Zero Hour’, ‘Storm Front Pt 1 and 2’, and ‘Harbinger’.
Live Long and Prosper.
It is not often that I am stricken with an overwhelming feeling of nostalgia. I love new things, new content, and new ideas; so while nostalgia does not elude me completely, it is hardly ever the feeling I am aiming for when digesting media. When something like Stranger Things comes out, it not only reminds me that the reminiscing on the past is great, but it is also a gateway into why we love the things we love.
Stranger Things is the orgy love child of old movies like ET, Goonies, and Monster Squad, with genetic hints of great directors like Spielberg and John Carpenter. While Stranger Things dances on the line of homage and Netflix original, it does so with extreme grace. And though it is going to be difficult to navigate around spoilers, as the premise of the show revolves around one giant mystery, I will not spoil this increasingly interesting series. The less you know about Stranger Things going in, the better for this fresh take on the thriller genre. If you were an 80s kid, strap on your denim jacket, your mop top, and your Duran Duran T-Shirt and prepare to get weird because as the title suggests, Stranger Things is a delightfully bizarre experience.
The show is elevated by an amazing cast of both familiar faces and new young performances. Winona Ryder and David Harbour carry the torch for the adult arcs while newcomers Finn Wolfhard (as Mike Wheeler), Millie Bobby Brown (as Eleven), Gaten Matarazzo (Dustin Henderson), and Caleb McLaughlin (Lucas Sinclair) all carry the very intriguing kid’s arc. Though the adult and child arcs are different in terms of characters on screen, everyone is working towards the same solution – finding the answers to the overarching mystery.
While the adults do great with their conflict, the real heart of the show comes from the child actors who feel handpicked by Spielberg himself. Finn Wolfhand really takes the role as the star of the show and plays well off of Millie, who is sure to have oodles of work here in the future. This dynamic duo has a bright career ahead of them as working actors.
Though shorter than most series at only eight episodes long, the viewer gets a satisfying ending – despite the elements of cliffhangers and eventual continuations. The creators of this show, the Duffer Brothers, have the elements of being the next Russo Brothers (Captain America: Winter Soldier, Civil War), and I have a feeling we will be hearing plenty more from this team.
I can’t help but have a rant about how this show tugs on the strings of nostalgia throughout its entire run time. The first episode opens up with the kids playing a session of Dungeons & Dragons and manages to recapture what it was for me to be a kid at that time. Drinking soda, riffing each other, and calling each other names while trying to figure out exactly what the Dungeon Master wants us to do. That opening scene has a flood of childhood memories flow into me that have a very homey feeling, just like movies like Super 8 did that tackle a similar story/era.
The music is fully synthed and harkens back to classic 80s horror and slasher flicks, and the way the sounds hits the ears is pleasing in every sense of the word. Hats completely off to “Survive,” a band from Austin Texas, who did the opening theme for this show, which is perfect in setting up the tone. The style of music chosen coupled with the aesthetic of the sets brings to life a lived in 1980’s style world that feels as real now as it did back then. The billboards, the store fronts, the wall posters, the clothing, and the lingo all work in tandem together to bring this era back to us in ways that will have our childhood racing to the forefront of our frontal lobes.
Background aspects can only add more realness to the story, and this is where Stranger Things really shines. In terms of plot, the mystery is solid, and has you guessing from start to finish. By the show’s finale, the viewer ends up in completely new spaces where the laws of our universe no longer apply to the ones previously created in this show. The journey is as amazing as the destination itself.
Stranger Things is a hard recommend for the consumers who love weird and outlandish mysteries. This Netflix Original is the embodiment of the 80s, and a reminder that this generation was the thriller genre’s golden era. Netflix has been on a roll over the last two years and Stranger Things continues that trend. We don’t get shows this special as often as I would like, so it’s an obligation to check them out whenever they manifest themselves into our dimension of consumerism.
Finally, my favorite water based game has been turned into a Netflix original series! Kidding aside, Marco Polo seems like one of those shows that you either hate or love. While I understand that this show may not be for everyone, I implore anybody who has a fascination with history, the Silk Road, or the khans, to check this show out because it offers so much more than other shows on TV at this time.
Marco Polo takes a page out of the History Channel’s show, Vikings. It takes real historical figures, real moments in history, and real locations, and mushes them all together in a period piece show that takes many liberties in the name of creating a more entertaining and interesting story. Marco Polo also studies at the school of Game of Thrones as it ties its story and pacing directly towards the political intrigue of the world they are building. Multiple scenes this season of Marco Polo had me thinking of Vikings and Game of Thrones, and while this show is not on the same level as those, I feel it is playing in a similar ball park in terms of production, wardrobe, sets, and props.
The show itself is called Marco Polo, but with limited clarification that the real Marco Polo ever even spent time in China looming over the credibility of the show, you have to go into it knowing that this series is not striving to be 100% historically accurate.
In the first season, the actor who plays Marco Polo, Lorenzo Richelmy, comes across as wooden, uninterested, and overall not a pleasure to watch play the character. Thankfully, though the show takes his name as its title, he has limited screen time despite being the starring man. Like many, I am of the camp that think the show should be renamed to “The Silk Road,” because the show is more about the Mongol and China war as well as Kublai Khan and his family. However, while watching Season 2 there was something so obvious in the changes Lorenzo Richelmy made to his performance. His line delivery was not as pain educing, and he showcased much more charisma that we all think of when pondering about the type of person the real Marco Polo probably was. Lorenzo did seem like he was in the shoes of the character more, and was having more fun walking in said shoes. By no means was this a memorable or amazing performance, but it was serviceable and that was enough for me to really get behind his scenes this season.
The real star of the show and ultimate scene stealer is Benedict Wong, who plays Kublai Khan. This guy has one of the most kinetic performances on TV right now. Every moment he is on screen he is oozing the great Khan of Khans which offers many memorable moments of a wide range of emotions on display. I could watch this guy act ALL day, and I think it would be a crime if he weren’t recognized by some sort of award, be it verbal or physical.
There is always one character that I do not get enough of, and heck could even use a spin off show on and that is Hundred eyes, played by Tom Wu. Tom Wu is relatively unknown in terms of leading man roles, however he did have short spots in movies like Batman Begins, 007: Skyfall, and Kick Ass 2. This surprisingly talented actor really shines as Hundred Eyes, the blind monk who “serves” for Kublai. Some of the most emotionally rich scenes this season are from him and the always lovely Michelle Yeoh (Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon) who continues her resurgence as the mighty protector, Lotus. There are so many great martial arts scenes with these two together as well as apart. The choreography really shines when either of these two are on screen.
Marco Polo is a show that looks good in terms of cinematography, set design, and wardrobe. Even though this show does not live up to the plateau that Game of Thrones and Vikings shows have created, it still stands on its own as a very intriguing and interesting “historical” show. The acting may not be perfect across the board, and some of the arcs may not bare fruit until late game but, the pacing always worked for me as a person who is deeply interested in the political and cultural nature of those times. While the show offers a somewhat high barrier to entry which relies on the viewer’s personal interest in this culture, the times, and political ongoings, I strongly suggest any and all who are interested in the Silk Road to check out this show. Start from Season 1, check out the Hundred Eyes episode in between season one and two and then finish off with 2, which ends on a major cliffhanger which has me hoping we will get plenty more of this show. It seems the viewers enjoy it more than actual critics, so it is just one of those polarizing shows that require your own eyes to see where your views align. Mine align strictly on the side of fandom and I could not be more hyped for more to come.
If you enjoyed it and want to chat, or need some convincing and want to ask questions, leave a comment for me below and I will be more than happy to interact!
Imagine, if you will, a small peaceful town in Vermont, land of the Bed & Breakfast. Now mash it up with werewolves and a neon-clad savior intent on stopping them. Now envision that whole strange and twisted scenario in the hands of Adult Swim. That is Neon Joe, Werewolf Hunter, and it’s coming soon to a television near you.
This past week at New York Comic Con I got the chance to talk to some of the folks that are a part of this project to see more on what this show is all about. The show stars Jon Glaser (you know him from Parks and Recreation, Girls, and Delocated) as the titular Neon Joe, who makes it his life’s work to battle lycanthropy in this tiny B&B-laden Vermont town. Also featured are Scott Adsit(30 Rock, Big Hero 6) as a colorful local who wants to be Joe’s BFF and Stephanie March (Law & Order: SVU) who plays, in her words, the “randy lesbian mayor” of the town.
The show was recorded as “the craziest miniseries of all time,” being chunked into five 30 minute episodes with a continuous storyline, which is a bit of a departure from the deliciously random 15 minute episodes on Adult Swim that we’re used to enjoying. “It’s just like Roots,” Adsit joked about the miniseries format. “With werewolves, definitely no vampires, we can be very specific about that” March added.
But the real fun is how the show even came to be in the first place.
“I was on Jimmy Fallon’s show I think it was 3 years ago maybe to promote the finale of Delocated, another show I made for Adult Swim,” said star and creator Jon Glaser. “And I wanted to do something just dumb to amuse myself for the segment and not have a straight interview, so I took the two articles of clothing that I own and that I use for live comedy shows in New York, one of which was a neon yellow hoodie and a knit cap from American Apparel and another of which was a pair of Coors Light sweatpants. And I just paired them arbitrarily and went on the show and I just said ‘I’m really sad Delocated is over but I’m really excited about my new project it’s called Neon Joe,Werewolf Hunter and I’m dressed as the character right now. And that’s really all we have right now but we’re excited to kind of figure out the rest.’ And that was 100% made up, it was a fake idea. It was not a real idea for a TV show I had, and I kinda thought at the time I could see Adult Swim knowing it’s a joke and saying it still sounds funny, could that be a show? And I said sure, and that’s what happened. So we had a meeting and they said why don’t you write a pilot and see if it’s something.”
Yes kids. This show was born from an arbitrary joke Jon Glaser made to Jimmy Fallon. That joke became a meeting, that meeting led to a character, and now we’ll be able to see the final product on Adult Swim.
“It’s really treated like a super dramatic show – it’s a stupid comedy” he said about Neon Joe.
That one joke and idea with a crazy set of characters was enough to draw a great cast of actors for the project, all of whom were trying pretty hard to tell us things without really telling us too much of the plot. Within a twenty minute timeframe, the show was described as being an epic miniseries with tones of Don Quixote and a little bit of Batman. “I would say it’s about our hero’s epic journey to himself. To return to himself as we follow his plights and his struggles” was what Stephanie March could tell us about the character of Neon Joe. As for the plot, “By the end you will know definitively whether there’s werewolves in this universe or not” from Scott Adsit.
“It’s Glaser sensibilities,” Adsit said about the show’s humor, “and Glaser is a brilliant original voice in comedy as far as I can see. Everything filters through him and he’s so incredibly funny in this role he’s created for himself. It’s really really a pleasure just to be on the set and watch him work through this script that’s really funny, and he’s really good at it.”
I also got to speak with Steve Cirbus (Delocated, Gotham) and Steve Little (The Heart She Holler, Adventure Time, Eastbound and Down), who play the town’s sheriff and janitor. The sheriff has almost a buddy cop relation with Neon Joe, with Cirbus agreeing with me (one sec while I praise my own ballerdom) that their relationship is akin to Commissioner Gordon and Batman. Steve Little had his own fun story on why he joined the cast:
“I had a good time on The Heart, She Holler, then I got an email about this and then I forwarded it to my manager because sometimes like you get something called Neon Joe, Werewolf Hunter and you don’t know how to even process that. And then my manager was like ‘Oh! I love this!’ – you know, a testament to her.” He’d never worked with Glaser before so he wanted a second opinion, watched Delocated and jumped in.
Do yourselves a favor and watch this amazing trailer from Adult Swim:
Neon Joe, Werewolf Hunter starts on December 7 and will play one episode per night through the 11th at midnight. Seeing a cast that has this much fun together with a plot as wonderfully twisted as this is, I can’t wait to start watching.