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DVD Review: STAR TREK: SHORT TREKS

May 31 Posted by in DVD/Blu-ray, Reviews | Comments

Star Trek: Short Treks are a series of standalone Star Trek-themed shorts that were originally created as a way to tide viewers over during the long wait between seasons of Star Trek on CBS All Access. Many of these are inspired by specific episodes of Star Trek: Discovery, and used as a way to explore character backstories or B-stories, or to just experiment and have some fun. So far there have been two seasons of Short Treks, nearly all of which are collected in this DVD release. The first set of four shorts were released between between the first and second seasons of Star Trek: Discovery, while the second set of six shorts were released between the second season of Star Trek: Discovery and the first season of Star Trek: Picard. This DVD collection includes the shorts related to the U.S.S. Discovery/U.S.S. Enterprise, but leaves out the most recent Star Trek: Picard-related short, “Children of Mars”.

Here’s a breakdown of the 9 shorts that are included:

  • “Runaway” (15:21, Aired October 4, 2018)
    Ensign Silvia Tilly (Mary Wiseman) is struggling to study for her Command Training Program after having an argument with her disapproving mother (Mimi Kuzyk). She is more used to taking orders and not giving them, that is until she discovers a wounded Xahean stowaway on the ship. As the women talk and learn more about one another’s situations, Po (Yadira Guevara-Prip) and Tilly discover they have a lot in common, and give one another the advice and help they need to overcome the emotional crossroads each of them is facing.
  • “Calypso” (18:07, Aired November 8, 2018)
    Soldier Craft (Aldis Hodge) has been floating around wounded in an escape pod for a month when he is found by the U.S.S Discovery. The ship has been abandoned for the past 1000 years, but A.I. Zora (Annabelle Wallis) nurses Craft back to health. Craft has a wife and child that he hasn’t seen for the past 10 years and is eager to get back home to Alcor IV, but he and Zora start to develop feelings of love for one another.
  • “The Brightest Star” (14:47, Aired December 6, 2018)
    Saru (Doug Jones) narrates this tale of how he ultimately ended up in Starfleet. Most Kelpiens have long accepted their fate and believe that the regular Harvest of their people by the Ba’ul is a necessary sacrifice in order to obtain spiritual balance. However, Saru looks up to the skies and wonders why his people can’t be up there as well, and not as sacrificial food for their predators. So he manipulates some technology that has fallen from a Ba’ul ship in order to make contact with Lieutenant Georgiou (Michelle Yeoh).
  • “The Escape Artist” (15:36, Aired January 3, 2019)
    Harry Mudd (Rainn Wilson) is captured by bounty hunter Tevrin Krit, who is taking him back to Starfleet to collect his reward (and also get some personal justice). During the trip, Mudd constantly tries to use his charms and stories to convince Krit to set him free. This leads to some humorous flashbacks to other times Mudd was in similar peril. The story ultimately leads to a fun twist.
  • “Q&A” (14:08, Aired October 5, 2019)
    Ensign Spock (Ethan Peck) beams onto the U.S.S. Enterprise for the first time, where he meets Number One (Rebecca Romijn). She is surprised by his lack of questions and encourages him to ask her anything. Though she eventually regrets this when the the turbolift breaks down and they are stuck inside together. However, the two eventually warm up to one another and discover a hidden talent.
  • “The Trouble with Edward” (14:39, Aired October 10, 2019)
    Science Officer Lynne Lucero (Rosa Salazar) has been promoted to Captain of the research vessel Cabot. She meets her new crew, including dim-witted new subordinate, Edward Larkin (H. Jon Benjamin), who doesn’t like his new boss. Larkin is obsessed with turning Tribbles into a food source, and his experiment to manipulate their DNA to speed up their breeding process goes horribly wrong.
  • “Ask Not” (9:19, Aired November 14, 2019)
    Starbase 28 is under attack, and Cadet Thira Sidhu (Amrit Kaur) is put in a tough position when she is told to watch the mutinous prisoner, who happens to be Captain Christopher Pike (Anson Mount). Pike constantly tries to pressure Sidhu, to convince her to set him free.
  • “Ephraim & Dot” (8:45, Aired December 12, 2019)
    This animated short starts off like an old black and white newsreel about the docile Tardigrade, who travels the galaxy to lay its eggs. But then quickly turns into a full color, widescreen Tom & Jerry like tale as Ephraim the Tardigrade, tries to lay its eggs on the U.S.S. Enterprise but is constantly being pursued by cleaning/maintenance robot Dot. The short features a mix of 2D & 3D animation, and a full orchestral score. Classic TOS moments play out in the background throughout the chaos of the chase.
  • “The Girl Who Made the Stars” (7:46, Aired December 12, 2019)
    In this 3D-animated short, a young Michael Burnham (Kyrie Mcalpin) wakes up after having a nightmare and tells her father (Kenric Green) that she is afraid of the dark. So her father tells her the tale of a girl about her own age who changed the universe forever. One thousand centuries ago in Africa, this girl was one of the First People, who celebrated the sun because there were no stars in the night sky. When the darkness came, so did the Night Beast. These farmers desperately needed to find new land as there’s was nearly depleted, but they would not be able to make the trek before the sun went down. So the girl is forced to face her fears in order to help her people.
    • I had only seen the pilot for Star Trek: Discovery, so I was a little nervous going into these that I would be a bit lost. However, these are very much standalone stories that can still be fully enjoyed even without having seen that series. While watching, I didn’t know if some of these characters were part of the main show, or just created for the shorts, but it didn’t really matter. The shorts do a nice job of providing any necessary context to enjoy the story. I often didn’t discover that some of these stories had a connection to a particular Star Trek: Discovery episode until I watched the bonus material for the short. While fans of the series may get even more enjoyment out of these shorts knowing the characters and context, I didn’t feel as though I was missing out on anything.

      My two favorites were easily the hilarious “The Escape Artist” and “The Trouble with Edward”. Rainn Wilson is comedy gold as Harry Mudd—he’s a despicable Han Solo-type guy who you find yourself rooting for. You really want to see if he can talk his way out of his situation. The editing in of the flashbacks is really well done, adding another layer to the comedy to the situation. The short also finishes with a really fun, unexpected twist. “The Trouble with Edward” was also a delight as it marks the return of The Tribbles (or maybe the birth of how we know them). I love how these ridiculous furry creatures keep getting revisited in various Star Trek properties, and I’m a big fan of H. Jon Benjamin, who is perfectly cast as the disgruntled worked who, it turns out, gave these furry handfuls their Gremlin-meets-water like replication ability. While I did enjoy the nods to scenes from classic TOS episodes, I didn’t care for the odd animation style of “Ephraim & Dot”. The short didn’t quite work for me, but I can still see why others may really enjoy it. I did also quite enjoy the various live-action shorts involving the U.S.S. Enterprise crew—these made me even more excited about the recently-announced spin-off series.

      Overall, this collection of shorts were really well done, telling interesting self-contained stories in a small amount of time. The production value, cast, and performances are all top notch. I binged through the whole collection (and bonus material) in a single sitting, and could have easily watched more. After viewing this collection, I have a renewed interest in checking out the Star Trek: Discovery series. (I don’t subscribe to CBS All Access, so I have only seen the pilot, since it aired on CBS.)

      I typically only watch things in HD or 4K these days, but I was sent the DVD version of this release for review. The picture actually looks quite decent, especially given that there is nearly 3 hours of content on the single disc. That said, I would still suggest going for the Blu-ray when picking this up. The audio on the DVD sounds fantastic—the stereo and surround channels are well utilized to fill the room and provide a fully-immersive viewing experience. This is especially noticeable in “Calypso” as the lightning crackles all around Craft’s escape pod, or with all the explosions happening in “Ask Not”, or with the delightful and intense score of “Ephraim & Dot”.

      The disc includes bonus material for all nine shorts—there is an audio commentary and/or a behind-the-scenes featurette for each short, as well as an overall making of featurette. These provide some nice insight into each of the shorts, and help to explain any connections to the Star Trek: Discovery series. While “Runaway” and “The Brightest Star” were previously included on the Star Trek: Discovery Season 2 Blu-ray/DVD, the other shorts are new to disc with this release. Missing from this release is the most recent short, the Star Trek: Picard-related “Children of Mars”. I hope that that will be included on the disc release of the first season of that series.



      What’s Included:

      Shorts: (1:58:20)

      • 480i / Anamorphic Widescreen 1.78:1
      • Audio: English Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround
      • Subtitles: English SDH

      Extras:

      • “Runaway”
        • Audio Commentary (15:21)
          Executive Producers Alex Kurtzman and Jenny Lumet talk about why the Short Treks series came about, the theme of this first installment, casting the two actresses, and how the alien evolved—both aging the character up after casting Yadira Guevara-Prip, and changing the look, removing the elaborate face prosthetic shortly before shooting the short.
        • Coming of Age (7:31)
          The filmmakers and cast talk about the challenges of telling emotional stories in such a short time, keeping the story fun and suspenseful instead of going a horror route, how the short could have been a Tilly B-story in another episode, and trying to end the stories with an O. Henry style twist. Includes interviews with director Maja Vrvilo, executive producers Jenny Lumet & Alex Kurtzman, and star Mary Wiseman (“Sylvia Tilly”).
      • “Calypso”
        • Shall We Dance (8:52)
          The filmmakers talk about this Twilight Zone like tale inspired by Homer’s Odyssey, casting Aldis Hodge, and the dance sequence. Includes interviews with executive producer Alex Kurtzman, director Olatunde Osunsanmi and writer Michael Chabon.
      • “The Brightest Star”
        • First Contact: Kaminar (5:11)
          The cast and writers talk about how this story serves as a prequel to episode 206, giving Saru an origin story, seeing his home world, exploring his relationship with his father, and exploring the more ritualistic side of the predator/prey relationship between the Kelpiens and the Ba’ul. Includes interviews with writers Bo Yeon Kim & Erika Lippoldt, and actors Doug Jones (“Saru”) & Michelle yeoh (“Phillipa Georgiou”).
      • “The Escape Artist”
        • Covered in Mudd (4:53)
          Star Rainn Wilson talks about how he got involved with the project, the challenges of directing the short, and the process of putting together the episode from both sides of the camera. Includes behind-the-scenes footage.
      • “Q&A”
        • Ensign Spock’s First Day (10:17)
          Writer Michael Chabon talks about wanting to write for Ensign Spock, and his personal connection to the story. He also discusses finding hidden talents of the actors to work into the shows—and how, given the choice between badminton and Gilbert and Sullivan for Rebecca Romijn, he went with the latter.
      • “The Trouble with Edward”
        • Here Comes Tribble (3:44)
          Prop master Mario Moreira talks about bringing back the iconic Tribbles for another story, this time explaining the reason why they replicate so quickly. He also discusses how the Tribbles were given some diversity this time around.
      • “Ask Not”
        • Audio Commentary (9:19)
          Star Anson Mount (“Captain Christopher Pike”) talks about the 4 different stages of Pike’s test, the sound mixing of the episode, the special effects, and having to come back to re-shoot the short due to excessive smoke in the original version.
      • “Ephraim & Dot”
        • Score! (6:11)
          Writers Anthony Maranville & Chris Silvestri, and director/composer Michael Giacchino talk about bringing back Ephraim, the Tardigade that was freed in episode 105 of Discovery, to tell this new story that ties the Discovery and the Enterprise together in a new way, while also providing a Greatest Hits look at TOS. They also discuss the musical styles used, and trying to make the short look and feel like it could have been created during the TOS era.
      • “The Girl Who Made the Stars”
        • Bedtime Stories (7:46)
          Writer Brandon Schultz and director Olatunde Osunsanmi talk about how this story as inspired by the opening line of the second season of Star Trek: Discovery, how it is an empowering tale for young girls of color, and casting the voices. Actor Kenric Green (“Mike Burnham”) talks about being in the unique role of playing the father of his real-life wife’s character, the insight she shared about his character, and deciding on what accents to use.
      • The Making of Short Treks (4:26)
        The filmmakers discuss the idea of expanding the idea of what Star Trek is, telling stand-alone stories that would connect to Discovery, and how this series was born out of necessity but turned into a way to experiment, using animation to bring impossible things to life, and serving as a playground for different styles, directors and tones. Includes interviews with executive producers Heather Kadin, Alex Kurtzman & Trevor Roth, writer Bo Yeon Kim, and director/star Rainn Wilson.



    Final Thoughts:

    My Rating
    Shorts:
    Video:
    Audio:
    Extras:
    Recommended

    Overall I quite enjoyed this Short Treks collection, even as someone who has not watched Star Trek: Discovery. The shorts are pretty much stand-alone stories that run the gamut of tones, from action, to comedy, to romance, drama and inspirational tales. They feature some great cast and performances, and really evoke a Star Trek feeling, even without transporters or red-shirted crew members on away missions. The release features solid picture and sound, and the disc contains lots of great bonus material. I would recommend this release to any Star Trek or sci-fi fan.