One more year in review

It’s the 30th of November, and that means it’s Trekking with Dennis’s third anniversary! I published my first article at the end of November 2019, kick-starting the project that would eventually become this website, and I think it’s worth taking a moment to both mark the occasion and look back at the past twelve months. No, this isn’t my “end of year” article looking at some of my favourite films, games, and television shows (that’ll come around New Year), but rather this is a more personal reflection on the events of the past twelve months.

Back in April, Trekking with Dennis passed 100,000 hits, which is a pretty huge milestone! And – touch wood – we’re on track to make 2022 the most successful year so far in terms of visitors, which is also fantastic news. Although visitor numbers and traffic aren’t my main focus, and I’d still be writing about these subjects even if no one was tuning in, it’s still a rewarding feeling to know that so many people have been interested in my take on some of these topics.

Check back in January for a more detailed look at stats and numbers!

But the past twelve months have also been a bit of a rollercoaster ride. This time last year I was posting at least one article every other day, and that carried on until the spring. But as we headed into the summer I found it difficult to keep up that schedule – I began to lose motivation and suffer from a case of writer’s block. By the time the September rolled around I was only managing a few posts a month, and I ended up taking an eight-week break from late September through to early November.

That break is the longest I’ve taken since starting the website, and truth be told I probably needed it. I’d begun to feel that I was writing some articles (and especially some Star Trek episode reviews) less for enjoyment and more out of a sense of obligation, and I think that comes across in at least some of the pieces I published this past summer and autumn. I’m not sure that those articles and reviews represent my best work, and they’re nowhere near the bar that I aim to reach.

Some of the reviews I wrote this year aren’t as good as I’d want them to be.

So if that’s what happened, what should the takeaway be? What lesson should I be learning from that period of burnout and of writing to deadlines out of a sense of obligation? I guess “don’t do that” is a pretty basic one! Perhaps I’d become a little too interested in sticking to my “every other day” writing schedule, and perhaps I’d lost focus on what this website was supposed to be achieving for me.

When I created Trekking with Dennis, what I wanted was a space on the internet where I could discuss the topics that I was interested in at my own pace. I could choose what I wanted to comment on, which films or television programmes I wanted to review, and talk about them in an open-ended way without word limits. Earlier this year, perhaps fuelled in part by a couple of posts that picked up a lot of attention, I started to forget that, and trying to chase the next big “viral” article became a distraction.

I need to remember why I like writing here!

Speaking of distractions, regular readers may recall that I recently jumped out of the toxic mess that is Twitter. I have an article that goes into more detail about why I thought it was the right time to bring an end to my two-year experiment with the platform, and I’d encourage you to check it out if you haven’t already. But suffice to say that I don’t feel Twitter was a good fit for me, I wasn’t really getting out of it what I’d hoped in terms of traffic to the website, and the general atmosphere on Twitter is one of division, toxicity, and embarrassingly childish behaviour. Dumping the platform has been good for my mental health – even though I occasionally find myself composing a pithy Twitter post in my head and now have nowhere to put it!

Earlier this year I stepped outside of my comfort zone and built myself a PC for the first time ever! As I said at the time, it’s increasingly rare to find wholly new experiences these days, so it was definitely an interesting project. The PC that I built back in March is working great, and it’s my hope that it will continue to serve as my main device for years to come! Constructing it wasn’t a completely smooth experience, but if nothing else that just gave me even more of a sense of accomplishment; tracking down a particularly troublesome issue and figuring out a solution was the icing on the cake of an interesting and fun experience… even if it didn’t necessarily feel that way at the time!

Building my own PC for the first time was a new and interesting project.

In housekeeping news, the website’s old URL is finally going offline. By the end of the year, only the current URL (trekkingwithdennis.com) will be functional, so if any of you still haven’t updated your bookmarks, now is the time! One unexpected consequence of last year’s decision to change the website’s name is that many links within posts and articles didn’t update – and I couldn’t figure out a way to change that! As a result, I’ve had to go back into basically 90% of all the pieces I’ve ever published here – more than 600 of them – and manually edit or remove URLs that are about to become outdated. What a hassle!

Naturally, doing that took a long time! But it was actually interesting to step back and re-read some of the articles and columns from the earliest days of the website. I don’t regularly re-read things that I wrote two or three years ago, so it was fun in a way to take a nostalgic trip back in time! Doing so also gave me the opportunity to fix a few issues with some of those older posts. Some of the earliest pieces that I wrote here didn’t have images, or if they did the images were low-quality, misaligned, or cropped poorly. I took the opportunity to update some of them while fixing the URL issue, and I have a short list of a few other pieces that need improved header images or other corrections.

Manually changing hundreds of links was an annoyance in some ways, but provided an interesting look back in others.

As we take a moment to look back to that day in 2019 and reflect on how far the website has come, it’s genuinely interesting to me to catch a glimpse of that pre-covid world. The pandemic has turned so many things upside down, and looking back to 2019, it feels like there was a brief window of optimism that came in between a decade that had been dominated by austerity and Brexit and the pandemic that was about to bowl us over. That moment coincided with the creation of Trekking with Dennis; it now occupies a strange space as we look ahead to a “winter of discontent” that could see blackouts, food shortages, and even a general strike!

This past year has seen a lot of Star Trek! In fact, there hasn’t been much of a break from Star Trek at all, although my enjoyment of it has been hampered by Paramount’s poor scheduling – putting two episodes on the same day for several weeks running makes no sense. And that’s before we get to the awful decisions Paramount has made that have denied new Star Trek shows to millions of fans around the world.

A lot of Star Trek episodes have been broadcast over the past twelve months.

Star Trek being cut off from much of its international fanbase has damaged the brand immeasurably, and as Paramount Plus continues its painfully constipated rollout, that damage isn’t going away. Looking at the big picture and considering how these decisions have impacted the brand and the fan community are things we’ll have to consider in a future article I think, but on a purely personal level, I felt deeply disappointed in Paramount this year. The Discovery Season 4 catastrophe last November rumbled on for a while, and then came the lack of a broadcast for Strange New Worlds.

Paramount Plus finally arrived here in the UK earlier this year, but having already seen most of Strange New Worlds – and with the series running weeks behind on the UK edition of Paramount Plus – I didn’t bother to sign up. It’s something I will consider in the new year, depending on how things go, but it’s by no means a given. Money is tight and getting tighter – I had to cancel my plans to pre-order Starlink (Elon Musk’s satellite internet service) because it was unaffordable given inflation and other price hikes, and that’s just one example. I don’t have a lot of other expenses that I can see myself cutting back on, so Paramount Plus may not win a new subscriber any time soon.

Paramount Plus is now available in the UK.

The sad thing with the Paramount and Star Trek situation is just how good much of Star Trek has been this year. There were issues with Picard Season 2 and some of the sub-plots in Discovery’s fourth season, but by and large it’s been a good year for the franchise. Strange New Worlds was thoroughly excellent – who knew that making an episodic, exploration-oriented Star Trek series might be a good idea?

Star Trek has continued to be the main topic here on the website over the past twelve months, accounting for roughly two-thirds of the pieces that I’ve published. But there have been some other interesting films and television shows that I’ve checked out, some of which I encountered in the process of doing research for the website. As I said last year, Trekking with Dennis continues to broaden my experiences of media! Television shows like 1899 and Five Days At Memorial, films like The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent and Morbius, and games like Stray and Sniper Elite 5 all came onto my radar as a result of seeking out new and different things. While I haven’t found time to write a full review of all of them, I have included some on lists and as parts of other projects. In a general sense, I find myself thinking more about what kind of films, games, and television shows I want to check out, and sometimes trying out something quite different, all because I have Trekking with Dennis and I’m on the lookout for things to write about and discuss.

There have been some… interesting films this year!

I’ve added a few items to my Greatest Hits page, but fewer pieces made the cut over the past twelve months than in previous years. Partly that’s because of the burnout I talked about earlier; writing fewer pieces, and some of them being of noticeably lower quality, has meant that there haven’t been as many that I would consider to be among my best work.

However, I’m quite proud of my breakdown of Et in Arcadia Ego, my analysis of the Short Treks series and its potential, my review of The Matrix Resurrections, and my two-part look at being a Star Trek fan that I wrote back in February. I also added to the Greatest Hits page my “Kirk versus Picard” tongue-in-cheek debate, and stepping back to years past, I added one piece from 2020 about the survival prospects for brick-and-mortar video game shops as the medium goes increasingly digital. You can check out all of those by visiting the Greatest Hits page.

Whose side are you on?

So I suppose that’s it for now. The website’s third year in operation has been one of ups and downs in some respects. I didn’t plan on taking any time out, let alone being gone for almost two months, but that’s the way it goes sometimes! As I’ve said before, this is a project for fun, not something that I view as a serious job, so I try to pace myself and not overdo it. There are definitely things that I haven’t written about that I feel I should have – reviews of the second half of Lower Decks’ third season being first and foremost in my mind at the moment. However, my current attitude is one of “I’ll get around to it when I feel like it,” and it’s in that spirit that the website will operate in the immediate term!

If you’re a regular reader, thank you for sticking around. Some of the pieces I’ve written over the past twelve months have really taken off and done some impressive numbers (by my standards, at least) and I’m grateful to everyone for tuning in, clicking on my posts, and checking out this old Trekkie’s takes on Star Trek, gaming, and the broader world of geeky entertainment. I have no immediate plans to go back on hiatus, nor to change in any major way what I do here. You can expect more Star Trek reviews and theories, re-watches of older episodes, analysis of the video games industry, and discussion of television shows, films, and games. If you’re new around here, I hope you’ll stick around – or at least check back from time to time to see what’s new!

Here’s to another year. Cheers!

– Dennis
Wednesday, 30th November 2022

All properties mentioned above are the copyright of their respective broadcaster, studio, developer, distributor, company, etc. Some stock images may be courtesy of Pixabay. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.

Stats and analytics for 2021

Spoiler Warning: There are spoilers ahead for Star Trek: Discovery Seasons 3-4, Mass Effect: Legendary Edition, and Star Trek: Voyager.

Now that 2021 has come and gone, I thought it would be interesting to look back on the progress the website made over the course of the year. Thanks to my web host and other analytics I have a fair amount of data to measure the website’s performance.

A big caveat: this is just for fun! Running Trekking with Dennis is my hobby, not a serious job, and I don’t write here because I’m desperately chasing huge numbers of readers or “internet points!” I enjoy having a space of my own where I can share my thoughts and review some of the films and TV shows that I’m interested in – and I’d still be here even if no one showed up to read any of it!

It’s time to look at some stats and numbers for 2021.

If 2020 had been a year of slow and steady growth, 2021 was a wild rollercoaster! A couple of articles went “viral” – or at least as close to going viral as I’m ever likely to get – and those two posts accounted for significant spikes in views in June and again in December. Other articles generally did well, and I saw decent views for most of my Star Trek episode reviews, which was great, but those two pieces in particular seemed to get a lot of attention.

Overall, more than 61,000 people visited the website in 2021 – up from 14,000 in 2020. That’s a year-on-year increase of more than 300% – meaning the website more than quadrupled the number of hits this year. That’s astonishing, and the fact that so many people showed up to read articles that I’d written is actually quite a humbling feeling.

The number of visitors to Trekking with Dennis in 2021 could fill London’s O2 Arena more than three times over!

Visitors came from all corners of the globe, too. Trekking with Dennis picked up readers from the heart of Africa, every nation in South America, India, Russia, and even China! I guess I’m allowed through the Great Firewall (at least for now)! Every country in Europe was represented in the stats, including smaller countries like the Faroe Islands. Hi, Faroese readers!

Of course, the majority of views came from the Anglosphere, with the United States being the number one country. The UK, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and South Africa were all well-represented, too. Considering the website is in English and deals with a lot of American-made films, games, and television programmes, I’d expect to see most of the views coming from those regions.

Hello, Faroe Islands!

In early November, the website’s name changed – and so did the URL. This change was disruptive, but far less so than I had initially thought. Though the number of hits definitely dropped following the change in URL, things actually got back to normal pretty quickly, and in December I saw the second of those “viral” posts I mentioned – something I definitely wasn’t expecting!

Across 2021 I wrote 263 articles – slightly more than in 2020. And those articles contained a combined 649,000 words! To give you an idea of how much that is: it’s the equivalent of approximately eight “average-length” novels, 100,000 more words than Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables, or roughly the same number of words as Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged. That’s a lot of words!

So let’s take a look at the top ten most-read articles in 2021. These are the ten pieces that I wrote in 2021 that scored the most hits.

Article #10:
Preliminary Star Trek: Strange New Worlds predictions

This was the third part in an unofficial series that I ran in the early part of the year, looking ahead to several upcoming seasons of Star Trek. In this article I looked ahead to Strange New Worlds and made a few predictions – guesses, really – about elements the show might include. As luck would have it, later that same day came the announcements of five new members of the main cast! That was some strange timing, especially considering that this was the first piece I’d written about Strange New Worlds in more than six months at that point.

One of my predictions has already borne out: I said in this piece that I was sure there’d be a redesign of the uniforms, and the teases we saw at Star Trek Day proved me right! With the show still a few months away, though, we’ll have to wait to see if I was right about anything else!

Significant line: “I’m really looking forward to Strange New Worlds. It seems to be offering more of a “classic” take on Star Trek when compared to recent projects, and I’m 100% there for that!”

Article #9:
(When) Will Marvel reset the MCU?

I don’t talk about Marvel a lot here on the website. Comic books and their cinematic adaptations aren’t usually my first choice, and while I’ve enjoyed some Marvel films as popcorn entertainment, I just don’t have the nostalgia or connection to the world of comics that many folks have. Regardless, on this occasion in June I talked about the Marvel Cinematic Universe and its growing complexity – and asked whether a potential reboot or reset might be coming any time soon.

Keeping up with all of the goings-on in the MCU can feel like a full-time job sometimes! And because of Marvel’s love of crossovers, the shared fictional universe that its films and TV shows inhabit can feel intimidating or even offputting to the newbie or casual viewer. As the MCU has moved away from being “the real world plus superheroes” into a connected, shared setting with its own lore and almost fifteen years’ worth of history, it’s become dense and complex. Not every MCU title is inaccessible as a result – but some are getting to that point. Just like the worlds of comic books have been reset (such as in DC’s famous Crisis on Infinite Earths series), I feel it’s inevitable that Disney and Marvel will eventually do the same, rebooting the MCU for a new generation of audiences.

Significant line: “The legacy of characters like Iron Man, Captain America, and the Hulk could pass to new iterations of those characters with new actors taking on lead roles in stories inspired by earlier films, but remaining distinct from them. New backstories could be created, perhaps based on different versions of the superheroes from other editions of their comic books.”

Article #8:
YouTube channel spotlight: Cruising the Cut

Back in February I took some time off from sci-fi and fantasy to highlight one of my favourite YouTube channels from the past few years. Cruising the Cut is part-travelogue, part-documentary, part-lifestyle vlog, and follows the journey of a man who lives aboard a canal narrowboat here in the UK. When I first started watching, Cruising the Cut only had a few thousand followers, but the channel has recently passed the 200,000 mark – a milestone that is thoroughly deserved.

I’ve always had a fascination with the canal network – a series of artificial waterways made in the early years of the industrial revolution. Cruising the Cut often has fun and interesting canal facts, but it’s also the kind of slow, gentle viewing that I think we all need sometimes. High-octane action and tense drama is great – but sometimes taking a break from that and slowing down is just what the doctor ordered!

Significant line: “Canal narrowboats only have a maximum cruising speed of around four miles-per-hour, so don’t expect Cruising the Cut to be zipping all across the country in each video.”

Article #7:
Mass Effect: Legendary Edition – Death by a thousand cuts

“Death by a thousand cuts” was the somewhat dramatic title that I gave to my review of Mass Effect: Legendary Edition in June. I felt it encapsulated my feelings about the so-called “remaster”: that there wasn’t one single overwhelming fault, but a plethora of little ones that built up and contributed to a sense that it was far less than it could have been.

I adore the Mass Effect games, and I went into Legendary Edition hoping to get a good version of the original trilogy. But unfortunately, BioWare and EA took the path of least resistance, putting together a pretty crap “remaster” that I felt was not worth the asking price. There were bugs that had been present in the original versions of all three games that hadn’t been fixed – and I couldn’t excuse such extreme laziness and such a lack of care. I recently crowned Legendary Edition my worst game of 2021.

Significant line: “Legendary Edition represents a phenomenal missed opportunity to take these games and do more with them.”

Article #6:
Star Trek: Voyager – The torpedo and shuttle “problem”

I have to admit I was surprised by the response to this one! In the late ’90s, some fans argued very strongly that the USS Voyager had used “too many” torpedoes and shuttlecraft over the course of its journey through the Delta Quadrant, and the argument did the rounds in some parts of the Trekkie community for a while. Though I hadn’t really seen many people discussing it in recent years, the argument always bugged me – so I finally wrote out my response.

In short, I argued that a combination of resource gathering, trading, and building replacements was more than acceptable as a counter-argument, and in particular the fact that the crew were resourceful enough to build not one but two Delta Flyers was proof of this. Obviously “it’s just a story,” and the number of torpedoes fired or shuttlecraft used was at the whim of the writers. But from an in-universe point of view, I don’t see why it has to be considered a big deal. It seems at least some people are still interested in this argument after all!

Significant line: “It stands to reason that, contained within Voyager’s databanks, are the designs and schematics for both torpedoes and shuttles.”

Article #5:
Star Trek: Discovery – Was there a last-second change for Tilly?

All the way back in January, shortly after Discovery’s third season finale, I wrote this relatively short piece looking at Tilly. This focused on the short epilogue at the end of That Hope Is You, Part 2, specifically the scene in which Captain Burnham arrived on the bridge to assume command for the first time. Amongst the assembled officers and crew was Tilly, but for some reason her uniform colour had been digitally changed – and pretty badly, too!

Tilly was originally supposed to be wearing the red colour of the command division, but seemingly at the last moment her command red had been changed to science blue via some pretty awful digital effects. She was only on screen for a few seconds, but this was pretty noticeable on a re-watch. Now that we know Tilly’s destination in Season 4, I wonder if the original plan at the end of Season 3 had seen her character go in a different direction? Maybe the original intention was for Tilly to remain on the command track, or perhaps even to serve as Burnham’s XO? We may never know!

Significant line: “It’s possible that this literally was a last-second change; the low quality of the texture used for the blue stripe may mean it was something thrown together in a matter of days…”

Article #4:
Star Trek: Discovery – eight “gravitational anomaly” theories

I wrote this list-article shortly after Star Trek’s “First Contact Day” digital event. Sonequa Martin-Green had introduced the first trailer for Discovery’s fourth season, and it was in this trailer that we first got wind of the “gravitational anomaly” – unnamed at the time. I put together a handful of theories based on what we’d seen and heard in the trailer, and even as we’ve hit the halfway point of the season, at least a couple of those remain plausible!

This was the first opportunity I’d had to talk about Discovery Season 4 outside of pure speculation, and the trailer had dropped some hints as to the anomaly that we now know as the DMA. I had fun putting the list together, and going back to past iterations of Star Trek for inspiration – and it seems a lot of people found it interesting, too. This article did well throughout the year, but really saw an uptick in hits around the time Season 4 premiered, and has continued to perform well as the season has progressed.

Significant line: “Star Trek’s past didn’t provide the key to understanding the Burn last season. Will something we’ve seen before come into play in Season 4?”

Article #3:
Mass Effect theory: unlucky humans

Replaying the aforementioned Mass Effect trilogy got me thinking about a theory I’d kicked around when the games were new. In short, my theory was that humanity was particularly unlucky to emerge as a spacefaring race only around forty years before the Reapers attacked. Had the Reapers’ invasion come earlier, or had humanity’s progress toward faster-than-light travel been slower, it might’ve been possible to avoid the Reapers altogether and to emerge into a galaxy with no other sentient spacefaring races.

Had the extinct Citadel Council left behind plans and warnings, humanity could have had a 50,000-year head-start on preparing for the next Reaper War! This was just a fun one, an idea I’d had when the Mass Effect trilogy was new. Giving it the full write-up treatment was fun, but in all honesty I didn’t expect it to gain much traction. Being timely helped this article a lot, though, coming only a few days after the launch of Legendary Edition. I guess there’s a lesson there about getting my articles written on time!

Significant line: “If humanity hadn’t encountered the Mars archive when they did, or if the Ilos scientists hadn’t prevented Sovereign from contacting the Reapers in dark space when it originally intended to, it seems plausible to think that humanity might have been overlooked by the Reapers – at least in this cycle!”

Article #2:
Star Trek: Discovery Season 4 – Unknown Species 10-C: The Suspects

This is the first of the two “viral” articles that I mentioned. Published in mid-December, shortly after the episode The Examples confirmed that the DMA is artificial in nature, this piece really took off! I put quite a bit of work into this long list-article, considering twenty-six different possibilities from past iterations of Star Trek – from The Original Series to Picard – as possible culprits for creating the DMA.

In the aftermath of The Examples, my head was swimming with half-formed theories about Unknown Species 10-C. It took a while to write it all up, but what resulted was definitely one of the more fun and engaging writing projects of the past few months. Discovery’s fourth season – like the third before it – seems determined to go in an unpredictable direction, but even if that’s the case I can still say I had fun considering all of these different possible connections to past iterations of the franchise. And apparently, at least some Trekkies were just as interested in Unknown Species 10-C as me!

Significant line: “I keep thinking back to Season 3 and the Burn storyline, and how the ending to that story was something completely unpredictable and brand-new to the franchise. It wouldn’t surprise me to see Discovery go down that road again.”

Article #1:
Mass Effect: Legendary Edition – what’s the best ending?

So we come to the most-read piece of the year! Published in late May, a couple of weeks after the launch of Legendary Edition, in this article I considered what the “best” ending of the Mass Effect trilogy might be from an in-universe point of view. I tried to consider the pros and cons of the synthesis, destroy, and control endings to Mass Effect 3, giving my thoughts on each.

I suspect that the reason this article got so many hits is that players were looking for a guide to achieving a specific ending to the game – something the article doesn’t provide! So unfortunately, despite this being the best-performing article of the year, I suspect many readers came away disappointed having not found what they were looking for! However, I hope those that stuck around found an enjoyable and thoughtful piece, one in which I did my best to consider how the various endings to the trilogy might impact the Mass Effect galaxy, and the friends Commander Shepard made along their journey.

Significant line: “I have a hard time making this choice – it’s by far the most difficult in the entire trio of games, even though the short epilogue that follows is anticlimactic at best.”

But wait, there’s more!

Those were the top ten most-read articles that I wrote in 2021. But the year also saw several articles from 2020 pick up a number of views, and I thought it could be fun to briefly look at a few of those. We’ll just do the top five, since this article is already running long!

Article #5:
Introducing someone to Star Trek for the first time

This article, from back in June 2020, didn’t pick up much attention at the time it was written. By the standards of the website at the time it did okay, but even then I didn’t feel it was breaking the bank in terms of its view count. But for some reason it did much better in 2021, picking up dozens and then hundreds of views in a slow trickle throughout the year.

In this list-article I picked out fifteen episodes and films that I felt could make for a great “first contact” for a new viewer; someone unfamiliar with the Star Trek franchise. I tried to avoid the obvious ones, like The Wrath of Khan, and suggested a few different stories that showcase the varied nature of Star Trek, and how the franchise can dip its toes in some very different genres. I’m glad that it found an audience in the end – and if it helped even one person introduce a friend or loved one to Star Trek, then it’s more than done its job!

Significant line: “I tried to pick a few examples of stories that hopefully show off not only the franchise at its best, but that it can be different to the preconceived notions many people have.”

Article #4:
Star Trekkin’ – a number one hit!

This is an article that I had a ton of fun researching and writing in August 2020! If you’re a big Trekkie you’ve probably at least heard of The Firm’s 1987 song Star Trekkin’, which, as the title of my piece suggests, topped the charts here in the UK. The song is ridiculously silly, and the music video that accompanies it is even more so, but it’s a weird and wonderful piece of Star Trek’s history that I wanted to acknowledge. It’s also a curiously British thing, in some ways.

I had this song on cassette many years ago, and I can remember listening to it through headphones on the school bus with the volume turned down – just in case anyone could overhear! I also bought the mp3 of the song again when I transitioned to digital music, and I confess that I still put the song on occasionally for both a bit of fun and a blast of nostalgia. Star Trekkin’ is a weird song, but it was fun to write about – and I’m glad that Trekkies are checking out what I had to say about it!

Significant line: “It’s well worth a listen for any Trekkie who hasn’t heard it, and while I don’t promise you’ll enjoy it as a piece of music, you might just crack a smile.”

Article #3:
Can we PLEASE stop calling things we don’t like “objectively” bad?

From the silly to the serious! I wrote this piece after getting sick to death of hearing so-called critics using the expression “objectively bad” to refer to things that they personally didn’t like. I’m not trying to nitpick or get mad about a technicality, but when I hear the word “objectively” used in the context of basically anything in media, and narrative choices in particular, I feel there’s a conscious attempt to try to shut down any counter-arguments. Media criticism is practically always subjective, not objective – no matter what anyone may claim.

There is no such thing as a film, video game, or TV programme that is “objectively” bad – nor “objectively” anything else. There are certainly works of entertainment that don’t follow established rules or precedent, but in every case opinions will vary from person to person. There are myriad examples of works of fiction that I personally hate that I know other people adore. Neither opinion is “objective” – and that’s that.

Significant line: “It’s got to a point where it’s been proclaimed so often that any time I see or hear the phrase “objectively bad,” I stop reading or listening. Any critic making such a statement has lost my respect and lost the argument.”

Article #2:
Five things to watch at New Year (instead of fireworks)

This one is pretty straightforward! In 2020 – and sadly, again in 2021 – many New Year events that are usually televised were cancelled due to the pandemic. For several years in the second half of the 2010s I’d spent my New Years Eves with the London fireworks display on TV basically by default, but with the event cancelled due to covid in 2020 I got thinking about what I might watch instead – and this list was born!

Beginning on the 30th of December 2020 and running through to the early hours of New Year’s Day, this post saw a huge spike in views, and the same thing happened this past New Year. Due to the huge number of hits it had got in the wee hours of the 1st of January it was already quite high on the list, but the extra attention it got in December 2021 propelled it to becoming one of the best-performing pieces of the year!

Significant line: “Hopefully by the time we’re thinking about the next New Year’s Eve, things will be much closer to normal.”

Article #1:
It’s time for Deep Space Nine and Voyager to get the HD treatment

This article was the most-read of 2020, so I’m not shocked to see that it continued to perform well in 2021! In this article I called on ViacomCBS to remaster Deep Space Nine and Voyager, both of which remain in standard definition at time of writing. I argued that the move to streaming should be the reason why the shows get remastered, because the process will be less expensive this time around due to improvements in technology and far less of a need to produce and ship optical discs.

It doesn’t seem like ViacomCBS cares about Deep Space Nine and Voyager right now, sadly, and even though Paramount+ is playing host to both shows (in regions where it’s available), there’s still no sign of a remaster. I think it could be a good investment, because a lot of Trekkies who remember the shows fondly would be interested to see a remastered version; it would certainly drive some sign-ups to Paramount+. There are some decent fan-made remasters that you can find online, though… so that’s something!

Significant line: “A lot of folks seem to have given up on the idea of ever seeing those series in HD given the move toward online streaming and The Next Generation’s lacklustre performance on Blu-ray, but CBS All Access should be Deep Space Nine and Voyager’s ticket to a full-HD remaster.”

So that’s it!

Trekking with Dennis exceeded all of my hopes and expectations in 2021, with more than 61,000 people showing up to read the pieces that I wrote. I’m thrilled with how well the website has been performing, and I hope 2022 will be another good year.

To those of you who joined me in 2021, thank you. I hope I was entertaining, informative, or just a fun way to kill some time! You can look forward to more of the same in 2022, as I have no immediate plans to shake things up or make changes to the kind of things I do here.

2021 was a wild ride in so many ways, and it wasn’t a great year for many of us. Entertainment experiences – like films, video games, and TV shows – are some of the things that keep me going, and writing my thoughts or reviews of some of them is an extension of that. A chance to spend more time thinking and writing about Star Trek and some of my other favourites continues to be an enjoyable hobby, and a great escape, at times, from some of the less pleasant things going on out here in the real world.

Thank you for your support over the past twelve months – and here’s to 2022!

– Dennis
Wednesday, 5th January 2022

All titles mentioned above are the copyright of their respective studio, owner, corporation, distributor, broadcaster, etc. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.

Another year in review

This isn’t my end of year article summing up some of the highs and lows of 2021. It irks me no end to see people writing those pieces long before Christmas! If you’ve been a regular reader for a while, you might recall that the 30th of November is the website’s anniversary – it has been two years to the day since I published my first article at the end of November 2019. How time flies, eh?

Last year I commemorated the occasion by writing about the website’s first year in operation, and this time I wanted to do something similar. I’ve had two full years of talking about Star Trek and other entertainment subjects now, and it’s always helpful to step back and take a moment to reflect.

It’s been an interesting twelve months!

The biggest change for the website itself came just a few weeks ago. At the beginning of November I changed the name to Trekking with Dennis, ditching the old name and establishing a new identity for the website. This is something I’d been thinking about a lot for several months, and finally being able to pull the trigger and get it done has been incredibly cathartic.

The website’s name changed a few weeks ago.

There have been some immediate repercussions for the name change, though. Traffic to the website took a nose-dive in November, significantly down on where it had been for much of the rest of the year. I’m putting two and two together and assuming that the change in name, branding, and most importantly the website’s URL is responsible for the drop in readership. I’m optimistic that in the longer term, however, that decline will be reversed. Even if not, I don’t write here because it’s my job or because I’m chasing “internet points” and high numbers of clicks! This is my hobby, I do it for fun, and I’d still do it even if readership dropped to absolute zero!

Conversely, twice in the past year I’ve had articles go “viral” – or at least as close to viral as I’m ever likely to get!

The first article was one I’d written in early December, listing Five things to watch at New Year (instead of fireworks). The list is fairly self-explanatory; I put together a handful of New Year-themed films and shows that could’ve made for entertaining New Year’s Eve viewing in lieu of the usual fireworks shows and parties – many of which are usually televised but which were cancelled in 2020. This list was responsible for a massive spike in views which began on the 30th of December, then ran all the way through the 31st and into the early hours of the 1st of January.

This post got a lot of attention around New Year, which was neat to see.

The second article began getting huge numbers of clicks in late May, then in June absolutely rocketed up to become the most-read post I’ve ever written. More people read that one article than read everything I wrote in all of 2020 combined. And I think it’s possible that many of them came away disappointed!

The article in question was titled Mass Effect: Legendary Edition – What’s the best ending? and it was an examination of the three-and-a-half endings to Mass Effect 3, looking at the pros and cons of each. However, I think that the title may have been unintentionally misleading, judging by the search engine traffic! I think folks may have come upon the article while looking for a guide to achieving the “best” outcome to Mass Effect: Legendary Edition – namely the version of the “destroy” ending in which Shepard is implied to have survived. I talk about this in the article, but it isn’t what the focus of the piece was.

This article has become the most-read ever!

I didn’t expect that article to get so many hits when I wrote it. My Mass Effect commentary in general did quite well, though, and I think that’s because I managed to get out several pieces about the series around the time of Legendary Edition’s launch – which is when there was significant interest in the games. Being timely brings rewards, it seems!

This year I’ve made significant improvements to the images used across the website. Some of the images used even as recently as March or April now feel incredibly amateurish and low-quality in comparison. I’ve been doing more with paint.net – a freeware image editor that has become my go-to for any and all image work – and I’ve learned how to do things like add a shadow or outline to text. That has allowed me to make huge improvements to the header images/banners at the top of articles, giving them a more modern, professional look.

The website’s main banner – a core part of the site’s identity – has also been massively improved. Firstly, now that I have significantly more web storage I’ve felt more comfortable using higher-resolution images. Beginning earlier in the year the expanded storage allowed me to use larger, more detailed images for article and page headers, something I feel makes the website as a whole look a lot more modern and professional than it did even at the beginning of the year. The new banner was added earlier this month as part of the aforementioned change of name, but earlier in the year I tried out a variety of different banners with different sci-fi and fantasy-themed backgrounds.

The website’s main banner.

I’ve also added quite a few different “spoiler warning” images – most of which are based on the Star Trek franchise! Again, the quality of these has improved a lot as I’ve become more comfortable with my image editing software, and I think some of the recent spoiler warnings look pretty great! I like to err on the side of caution when it comes to spoilers, so I use spoiler warnings a lot at the beginning of articles and reviews.

Filling time over the past twelve months has led me to research and learn about shows, films, and games I’d never have heard of otherwise. I reviewed titles like Space Jam: A New Legacy, Zack Snyder’s Justice League, and even The Falcon and the Winter Soldier after learning about them in the course of researching topics for the website. Trekking with Dennis has, to a certain extent anyway, broadened my experiences of media this year.

I’ve seen (and reviewed) several different films and television shows over the past twelve months.

I’ve also finally got around to playing a couple of games that had been on my ever-growing list: Control and Red Dead Redemption II. I’ve written up my first impressions of Red Dead Redemption II already, and in the days ahead I’ll hopefully be writing up my final thoughts as I’m close to finishing my playthrough of the game.

Speaking of playthroughs, I didn’t get around to doing another complete “Let’s Play” series of articles. Though I’ve had a number of ideas for games I could choose, I just haven’t committed to one nor kicked off a playthrough in the way I did with Jedi: Fallen Order last year. It’s still an idea that I’d like to revisit in future, so… watch this space, I guess.

I’ve been playing Red Dead Redemption II – but I didn’t write up the whole experience.

During the website’s first year in operation, I’d post articles and columns somewhat haphazardly. Sometimes I’d post daily for a couple of weeks, and at other points I’d take almost an entire week off while writing nothing. Over the last twelve months, however, that has changed. Going back to November 2020 I’ve been posting at least every other day – so there hasn’t been a long gap in between posts in more than a year. Occasionally that schedule has felt challenging, but I’ve been proud of the fact that I haven’t had any significant posting gaps for an entire twelve-month period.

April saw my most intensive posting schedule to date, as I wrote a post every single day for an entire calendar month for the first time. It wasn’t exactly planned, but once I got about halfway into April and I noticed I hadn’t skipped a day, I made it my mission to complete the month! I can keep up that kind of schedule for a while, but not indefinitely. I need occasional breaks, and being able to write articles in advance and schedule them has meant I have actually been able to take breaks across the year without interrupting my posting streak.

In April I published an article every single day.

In December 2020 I joined Twitter. I did so at first because I was having a hard time keeping track of the various franchises and their social media pages, and as I’ve never had a personal Twitter account I couldn’t follow them that way. In February I made a very tentative first post, and across the year I’d sent out a handful of Tweets to promote newly-published reviews and other articles. But as I said last year, social media isn’t really my major focus.

This should absolutely be the subject of a longer essay sometime, but Twitter in particular is a very difficult platform for me to navigate. I’m sure you’ve noticed, but I have a particularly long-winded writing style! Condensing an argument, article, or even just a fan theory into 280 characters or fewer is difficult for me. I also find that, partly as a consequence of the abbreviated posts, the conversation on Twitter can lack nuance. It’s very hard to articulate a complex thought or position on the platform because such short posts don’t easily allow for shades of grey – you can either be on one side of a debate or the other. For someone who occasionally likes to straddle the fence and acknowledge the merits and demerits of both sides of a discussion, or just to explore different interpretations and points of view, Twitter isn’t the best place for me sometimes!

No, not that kind of Shades of Gray

That being said, I’ve recently stepped up my Twitter use. It’s been an interesting world to step into for the first time, and I’ve found it quite fun and occasionally exciting to be able to engage directly with brands and companies – or at least their social media teams. Toward the end of my time working with a large video games company, social media was just beginning to take off as a marketing tool. I had some involvement with social media campaigns in the late 2000s and early 2010s at companies I worked for or was freelancing for, so it’s been interesting in a way to be on the other side of the screen for the first time!

If you don’t follow me on Twitter I don’t just post links to articles and columns that I write here on the website. I do post other occasional Tweets, mostly about Star Trek and the other subjects I cover. I don’t get political, so don’t expect any of that, but if you want to follow me on Twitter you’re more than welcome to do so.

Feel free to follow me on Twitter: @TrekkingwDennis is my Twitter handle.

But Twitter wasn’t the only social media platform that I found myself involved with over the past twelve months. Beginning in July I planned to record audio versions of some of the articles here on the website, using YouTube and Spotify to host these audio files. I later expanded my audio offerings to include what might generously be called a “podcast.” However, I wasn’t very happy with the quality of both the audio recordings themselves, as I lack the technical know-how to make decent-sounding audio, and also, to be blunt, my own vocal performance. Upon re-listening to several audio versions of articles I sounded very wooden and stilted; the kind of performances I’d give 1/10 to if I were to rate them.

So after a sum total of four podcast episodes and about ten audio articles I scrapped the project – at least for the time being. It’s a fun idea, and a concept I’d certainly like to revisit one day, but between the audio quality, my own poor performance, and the rebranding of the website making all of the audio clips and YouTube videos out of date, I think it’s for the best that I shelve the project for now.

Audio recording isn’t my strong suit.

That being said, I did enjoy the podcasting format. Having the opportunity to talk about smaller news stories and topics that wouldn’t necessarily make for a good standalone article was fun, and it certainly broadened the range of things I discuss here on the website. Revisiting the podcast concept is something I might consider in 2022.

It was in June this year – Pride Month – that I first discussed my sexuality and gender identity. Those twin posts were among the most difficult I’ve written over the past twelve months, not because they were technically challenging but because of how personal they were. When I created the website two years ago I intended to remain wholly anonymous, with details of my personal life kept to a bare minimum. By this time last year I’d changed my mind and I’d decided I wanted to openly discuss my asexuality and my struggles with my gender identity – but it took months before I’d be able to finish writing those pieces and feel brave enough to publish them.

In June I finally felt able to discuss my sexuality and gender identity for the first time.

I now proudly display the asexual and non-binary pride flags in the upper-right corner of the website. These symbols are present no matter what page or post someone clicks on, even if the piece has nothing at all to do with asexuality or being non-binary.

Writing these pieces, though incredibly difficult at times, was deeply satisfying and cathartic. Only a few people in my offline life knew these things about me, so having a space where I could openly discuss things that I’d struggled with for decades was a truly incredible experience. It gave me the confidence to be more open in my offline life too. I don’t have a lot of friends or surviving close relatives, but I’ve been able to direct a couple of people to the website where they were able to read my words to gain more of an insight into my personal life. I’ve said before that I’m better at writing than I am at speaking – having these pieces to direct folks to is so much easier than having to explain out loud what it means to be asexual or non-binary.

It’s been a difficult process, but I finally feel comfortable referring to myself as non-binary.

I haven’t added as many articles to the Greatest Hits page this year as I did in the previous twelve months. I think that’s partly because I had some article/essay ideas in mind when I started the website and I slowly worked my way through them over the course of that first year. While I’ve had plenty to write about this year, I guess I’ve just written fewer of those long-form essays.

That being said, my essay on Star Trek: Discovery’s Season 3 Burn storyline is one of the best things I’ve written all year, and I’m happy to show off that one! I’m also proud of my character study of The Next Generation’s Dr Pulaski, and my examination of Luke Skywalker’s characterisation in The Last Jedi that I wrote back in December. I’m sure I’m forgetting or overlooking a few others as well, but those are three of the essays that come to mind when I think back over the past twelve months.

This is one of the best essays I’ve written in the last twelve months. Give it a read if you haven’t already!

So I think that’s enough self-congratulation for this year! As I look ahead to the next twelve months, I can’t really say that I have any major plans or changes in mind for the website or the kind of pieces I write here. I’d like to do another playthrough series at some point, and I’m certainly open to more creative projects in addition to my reviews, theories, discussion topics, list articles, and the rest. But watch this space, I suppose!

The website is very different now compared to twelve months ago. I like to think that, for the most part, these changes have been improvements – and certainly from a purely visual point of view I think the website has never looked better! As we move into the holiday season and 2022 I’m looking forward to keeping up with my regular posting schedule and writing about the subjects I’m most interested in: Star Trek, gaming, and the wide world of geeky entertainment.

Thank you for your support over the past twelve months.

-Dennis
Tuesday, 30th November 2021

All properties mentioned above are the copyright of their respective broadcaster, studio, developer, distributor, company, etc. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.

Introducing… Trekking with Dennis!

Starting today, this website has a new name! There’s also a new URL to match, so be sure to update your bookmarks! From now on, you’ll be able to find me here: https://www.trekkingwithdennis.com/

Why the change of name and branding? That’s a great question, and I’d like to take a moment to address this.

When I began working on the project that would ultimately become this website in the autumn of 2019, the name was one of the last things I settled on. And almost from the beginning I wasn’t thrilled with the name that I chose. The original light-hearted intention was that the website’s content would be akin to reading something that your proverbial “Crazy Uncle” might’ve said; sharing rambling opinions on geeky entertainment topics.

Making the website’s name a bit of a joke was, in retrospect, a mistake. It wasn’t the worst name I could’ve chosen, but I’ve had regrets about it almost from the moment the website went live.

Then there are the two constituent parts of the old name. “Crazy” is a term that many people have used to describe me in the past. I have mental health issues, and I’ve been up front about that on a number of occasions. In a way, I kind of felt as though I was reclaiming the word from critics by using it here, but on reflection I’m not sure that’s the way it comes across. The word “crazy” has been used for a long time to malign and marginalise people with mental health issues, and I don’t want to contribute to that in any way.

While I had good intentions with the use of the word, I now consider its usage here over the past couple of years to have been a mistake. Rather than compounding that mistake by doubling down, I’m choosing to drop the word “crazy” from the website’s name entirely.

Then we have the word “uncle.” As I’ve been exploring my own gender identity over the past few years, I’ve accepted myself for who I am: I’m non-binary. Masculine words and terms have no place here, because I’m not male. As I’ve explored more of what it means to be non-binary and to not be male, I’ve become more confident with my own gender identity and my gender expression. Dropping a masculine-sounding noun just makes sense for me now. As we approach 2022, I want my website to better reflect the person I am and the person I’ve become over the last few years; keeping such a masculine title has felt wrong for some time and I’ve been increasingly uncomfortable with it.

So from now on, your favourite(!) website will be known as Trekking with Dennis.

Obviously I chose the first part of this new name based on my love of the Star Trek franchise, not because I’ve suddenly become a long-distance hiker! Star Trek has been a huge part of the website and will continue to be a major focus as we move forward, but I will of course continue to talk about other topics as well. I’m not just a one-trick pony, after all! And if past precedent is anything to go by, some of the most popular articles and columns that I’ve written have been about subjects other than Star Trek!

The old URL – https://www.crazyuncledennis.com/ – will continue to work in the short term, simply redirecting you here, but by the end of 2022 at the very latest it will most likely be permanently shut down. So there’s time for everyone to update their bookmarks and for Google’s web-bots to find the new address and start their trawling!

Thank you for your support over the past couple of years. The website has grown to become so much bigger than I ever expected, and I’m having a great time writing about some of the franchises and subjects that I love and that I find the most interesting. I hope you’ll enjoy Trekking with Dennis as much as you enjoyed Crazy Uncle Dennis.

Here’s to moving forward!

Dennis

5th November 2021