Thursday, July 2, 2020

STAR TREK: SHORT TREKS (2018-2019) (DVD Review)


Label: CBS Home Entertainment

Region Code: 1
Rating: Unrated
Duration: 119 Minutes
Audio: English Dolby Digital 5.1 with Optional English Subtitles 
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen (1.78:1) 
Directors:  Maja Vrvilo, Olatunde Osunsanmi, Rainn Wilson, Michael Giacchino, Douglas, Mark Pellington Aarniokoski, Daniel Gray Longino, Sanji Senaka, 

These nine Star Trek shorts were created as an expansion of sorts for the Star Trek: Discovery series on CBS All Access streaming platform, and since I've not seen a single episode I was a bit worried that I might be a bit lost coming into it, but having seen myself a lot of Star Trek series through the years I am happy to report that these shorts stand quite well all on their own. Well enough that not for one minute did I feel lost or missing watching them, which is a testament to the solid writing and execution of the shorts. 

First up is "Runaway" (15 min) Ensign Tilly (Mary Wiseman, Longmire)who encounters an alien runaway on her ship, it has some fun horror elements in the initial set-up, but then goes a bit beyond what the initial premise would have you believe. As I said, I have not seen the series but the Ensign Tilly character seemed to be someone who was in need of mentoring, and it seems she gets to be a mentor in he own right here, offering tutelage to a lost soul. 

In "Calypso" (18 min) a character named Craft (Aldis Hodge, The Invisible Man) finds himself adrift in space in an escape pod with failing life support. On the verge of death he is rescued by a ship without a crew, with only the onboard A.I. named "Zora"for companionship. He and the A.I. a more than suitable companions, the pair developing a romantic relationship of sorts, it's a cool A.I. story arc, and  Annabelle Wallis 

(Annabelle: Creation) gives a fine voice performance that completely sells it.

"The Brightest Star" (15 min) is an origin story of sort for Starfleet character Saru (Doug Jones, Pan's Labyrinth) who comes from the planet Kaminar, where his race, the Kelpin, are an agrarian society with no technology, serving at the mercy of an advanced species who are considered Gods to them. Saru is different though, he questions things, he had a knack for technology and a curious eye, which enables him to reach out the stars via modified alien technology, which catches the attention of Starfleet Captain Philippa Georgiou (Michelle Yeoh, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon). It's always great to see Doug Jones bringing a rubber suit like nobody else in the business can, and this is a great short, it says so much in such a short time, it really made me want to watch the series and explore this character more. 

Rainn Wilson (House of a 100 Corpses) stars in "The Escape 
Artists" (16 min) as Harry Mudd, a con-man who at the start of the short is attempting to fast-talk his way out of being sold to the authorities by a bounty hunter. Wilson is a charming and comic personality, this is a great character for him, he so easily inhabits the duplicitous character that you get the gist of what he's about in just a few minutes, and the twist is deliciously funny.  

In "Q&A" (14 min) we get to see the legendary Vulcan as just beginning his career at Starfleet. During Ensign Spock’s (Ethan Peck, The Sorcerer's Apprentice) first day aboard the U.S.S. Enterprisehe becomes trapped with Number One (Rebecca Romijn, X-Men) on a turbo-lift. He begins asking a million questions of his superior officer, at her request, before she decides to share a peculiar hidden talent with him. It's got humor and something I wasn't expecting, a fun musical number! 

The furry-farce "The Trouble with Edward" (15 min) re-visits the fan-favorite "The Trouble with Tribbles" episode from the classic Trek run, adding a fun spin to it with an inept scientist who thinks that maybe splicing human DNA (his own 'natch) into the furry fritters would make a dandy food supply. The nine-minute "Ask Not" features Cadet Thira Sidhu’s (Amrit Kaur) who is put upon to guard a high-profile and mutinous prisoner, her Starfleet training being put to the test without warning, and it's another solid short, also starring Anson Mount (Urban legends: Final Cut) as Captain Christopher Pike. 

A highlight for me was "The Girl Who Made the Stars" (8 min), an animated short focused on a young Michael Burnham, who during a powerful storm is told a mythical tale to calm her nerves by her father. I loved the animation and the powerful and empowering fantasy tale that it spin. Another animated treat is "Ephraim and Dot" (9 min), which goes back to the vintage days of the U.S.S. Enterprise with the original cast of characters. In it a cosmic tardigrade sneaks aboard the Enterprise looking for a place to lay it's eggs, but a repair drone named Dot is determined not to let that happen. Aspects of this has a real Wall*E vibe about it, very playful with eye-catching animation. I think this might the only time we've seen the original Trek animated since the 70's animated series, which was cool, they should launch a new animated series. 

The single-disc release comes in a clear keepcase with a slipcover featuring the same artwork. There are over fifty-minutes fo extras, including a pair of audio commentaries and some great featurettes that get into the creation of the shorts. 

Special Features:
- Coming of Age (8 min)– In this behind-the-scenes interview, Kurtzman, Director Maja Vrvilo and star Mary Wiseman talk about the use of the short to give the audience further insight into Tilly’s character.
- Audio Commentary with Executive Producers Alex Kurtzman, Jenny Lumet for "Runaway" (15 min)
- Shall We Dance? (9 min) – Writer Michael Chabon and Director Olatunde Osunsanmi discuss the challenges of creating a compelling story with only one on-screen character in the familiar setting of the U.S.S Discovery for the “Calypso” short.
- First Contact: Kaminar (5 min) – A deep dive into “The Brightest Star” short and creating Saru’s backstory with the Star Trek actors and writers.
- Covered In Mudd (5 min)– Tied to “The Escape Artist” short, an interview with star Rainn Wilson about directing the Harry Mudd short and his experience on both sides of the camera.
- Ensign Spock's First Day (10 min)– Writer Michael Chabon talks about writing for Ensign Spock and ļ¬nding hidden talents in relation to the “Q&A” short.
- Here Comes Tribble (4 min)– Fans will dive into “The Trouble with Edward” short as prop master Mario Moreira discusses bringing back the beloved Tribble for the shorts.
- Score! (9 min)– A behind-the-curtain discussion with Oscar and Grammy Award-winning composer Michael Giacchino about taking the reins on “Ephraim and Dot”, and directing and composing for Star Trek: Short Treks.
- Audio Commmentray with star Anson Mount on “Ephraim and Dot"
- Bedtime Stories (8 min)– Writer Brandon Schultz, director Olatunde Osunsanmi and actor Kenric Green (“Mike Burnham”) discuss the development of “The Girl Who Made the Stars,” the animated Short Trek about a bedtime story.
- The Making of Short Treks (4 min) – An in-depth discussion with executive producer Alex Kurtzman and more about how and why the new concept Short Treks were made.
Hats off to the creators of these shorts, I was caught up in them without having had the benefit of watching the series, which I am now determined to binge watch, both seasons, this fourth of July weekend. The shorts looks fantastic, the live-action stuff utilizes the sets of the series and they definitely don't skimp on the visual effects FX budget, I was actually quite wowed by it. If you're a Trekkie these bit size bits of space-age catnip are highly recommended, O loved 'em and I have not seen Star Trek: Discovery yet, and imagine they're even cooler if you're familiar with the show. This release is also available on Blu-ray, and I am already thinking of upgrading, it's a very attractive looking set of shorts.