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IR TV Review: STAR TREK – SHORT TREKS (“The Girl Who Made The Stars” & “Ephraim & Dot”) [CBS All Access]

The aspect of animation has started to become an interesting progression in terms of mythology creation. While a certain other space franchise has been expanding its structure for years in this regard, “Star Trek” has not ventured into that realm since 1973 in the still infinitely watchable and relatable “Original Animated Series”. While a new fully animated series “Below Decks” is happening, there is the texture of where balance in tone will be. “Star Trek” has always been about relating life lessons. The two upcoming animated shorts “The Girl Who Made The Stars” & “Ephraim & Dot” couldn’t be more different.

“The Girl Who Made The Stars” is a metaphorical story that follows Michael Burnham before she came to be with her Vulcan family. She is still full of emotion and on the edge of star, afraid of the dark. Her father offers her calm while relaying what is more of a parable that is a mix say of “The Lion King” and “First Contact” where a young curious girl in Africa doesn’t take superstitions at face value but still wants to understand the world. She is pursued by a large snake which is more a perspective of fear in her mind than reality. When an alien craft crash lands on the planet (which might or might not be Earth), it changes her fear to strength. The animation gives a good corrolation to the scenario but we don’t sense the darkness of space versus the light that family brings. While it has a good core, it doesn’t bring the intensity or heart it could have.

“Ephraim & Dot” is a slightly different animal, specifically a tardigrade. This short has the frenetic energy of a Road Runner cartoon but using different gifts. It takes place over the life span of the first Enterprise 1701. Using only audio from the original series and a robot that never existed, it finds the said “heart” but in a blur of mania. While extremely musical in context which seems apt
since the short was directed by composer extraordinaire Michael Giacchino, the sense of it even with the tradigrade moving through the micro network that fuels the original spore drive is weak at best. That doesn’t really abate any of the great nostagic elements including a different perspective from original series episodes “Space Seed,” Naked Time,”  and “Doomsday Machine” as well as “Star Trek II & III”. Granted it doesn’t get into real detail, but just enough to give a sense, and the fluidity of the progression is never in doubt. Ultimately though, there is a sense of “Wall E” in that the universe rights itself just enough to show that everything is fine.

Stars: C

Ephraim: B+

By Tim Wassberg

Sirk TV On-The-Scene Interview: JUSTICE LEAGUE – THE FLASHPOINT PARADOX (Warner Home Video) [Comic Con 2013]

Produced & Interviewed By Tim Wassberg


Ugly Americans: Season 1 Volume 1 [Comedy Central] – DVD Review

Creating an animated creature show that has both disdain, sense and humor to its progression while still remaining visually askew is a tall order.

“The Ugly Americans” as an experience is probably more akin to experimentation. Highlighting the programming possibilities of Comedy Central makes this possible because one senses a level of fandom inherent in some of the shows greenlit (including this one).

Each one of the episodes here attacks a different perception of the monster genre while turning it on its head. The lead character (apparently the only normal human) around works for a social services sector of the city which has apparently been taken over by demons and essentially transmogrified into a literal hell-on-earth (through side trips to hell still happen).

The sectors of the monster genre though seemingly surround a more Seinfeld-based trapping which is what makes the show completely relatable in an odd way. The resident human has a roommate who is a newly turned zombie having done so to impress a girl who ultimately likes vampires better while his girlfriend is the spawn of Satan.

The social services aspect of the series structure is what motivates most of the episode narratives. “Kong Of Queens” explores the mammoth ape wanting to do his best to keep the city clean as he obsesses over the “dirt” while “Blob Gets Job” explores the conflicting career possibilities for a creature with no bones. “Demon Baby” meanwhile speaks to the end of the days since the boss of the company can bring about the end of the world if he mates with the spawn of Satan producing effectively what would be the Antichrist.

The special features provide a balanced perception of what the series is. The “5 On” spots structure nicely into the social media perception of this world which is further explored with the inclusion of Facebook photos take by the characters. The art shows a commitment to each individual monster with the notion of continuing seasons displayed with wanton efficiency.

“Ugly Americans” Season 1 Vol. 1 is an anomaly of sorts with an interesting premise, extremeness of art and ultimately unbalanced characters that allow for an otherworldy vision of what life might be like if monsters walked among us. Out of 5, I give the DVD a 2 1/2.

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