The Internet is full of entertainment by independent artists and reviewers. Some are good, but some are terrible. Occasionally, a rare gem sparkles enough to be noticed. One gem is SF Debris, short for Sci-Fi Debris. Although it is yet another review show among many on the Internet, SF Debris is unique enough that it stands out from the pack.
The website is run and operated by Charles “Chuck” Sonnenberg, a teacher from Wisconsin who is a long-time member of various “Star Trek” and “Star Wars” fan communities. The man himself is not that well known as little information on him exists. Sonnenberg started out doing written reviews episodes of “Star Trek: Voyager,” eventually moving on to “Star Trek: Enterprise.” He is also well known for his two-trilogy, 250 chapter fanfiction “Unity,” which brings the people of “Star Trek” and “Star Wars” together in an epic story.
In 2008, Sonnenberg moved on to a video format for his reviews and started reviewing other “Star Trek” series. At first, Sonnenberg posted his video reviews on YouTube, but was forced to take them down in 2011 after CBS, who owns the rights to “Star Trek,” forced YouTube to take down videos pertaining to “Star Trek.” In addition to “Star Trek” reviews, Sonnenberg reviews other science fiction and fantasy TV shows and movies, such as “Avatar the Last Airbender,” “Red Dwarf,” “Babylon 5,” “The Matrix,” “Ghost in the Shell,” and “Doctor Who.”
Sonnenberg has a rating system for his “Star Trek” reviews. He rates them on a scale of 1-10 with 5 being the average, 10 being a shining example of the best of that series, and 1 being the absolute worst of that series. 0’s are reserved for episodes that shame the entire “Star Trek” franchise by mere association. As of this writing, Sonnenberg has given three 0’s, one for “Voyager,” one for “Enterprise,” and one for “Star Trek: The Next Generation.” A 0 rating is implied for one episode of “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.” Each episode is compared to others within the same “Star Trek” series and not to other episodes of another series. This way, episodes are properly compared within their own series and do not conform to some subjective ideal of good.
Sonnenberg’s reviews are in a semi-vitriolic style. He constantly makes fun of everyone and everything, leaving very few punches pulled. “I am not afraid to kick a man while he is down,” Sonnenberg once said in his review of “Non Sequitur” of “Voyager.” “But I do feel bad if he is constantly pushed back down to the ground.” Nothing is sacred to him, which has raised ire from die-hard fans of “Star Trek,” much to his amusement.
Sonnenberg has great comedic timing and his jokes are very spot on. He insists he is not someone to be taken seriously. “To remind you all I am not anyone special,” he said in his analysis of “Star Trek’s” Prime Directive, which forbids captains from interfering in civilizations not as advanced technologically as the Federation, “I shall use the term ‘magnetic balls.'” Though he can be irreverent and fun, Sonnenberg’s reviews are opinionated and he gets into serious discussions.
What prompted Sonnenberg to start his reviews was the “Voyager” episode “Unimatrix Zero,” a bizarre and contradictory two-part episode that made him realize that the people who wrote “Voyager” had no idea what they were doing, a situation that distressingly amplified with “Enterprise.”
Sonnenberg truly laments that “Voyager” and “Enterprise” had so much potential, but that it was squandered by many forces that squelched the writers and actors. He obviously loves the earlier series for their stronger writing and acting, but that does not mean that he will not go off on them for asserting infuriating positions or actions. For example, he has stated that nothing is sacred, so he often criticizes Gene Roddenberry, the late creator of “Star Trek,” like when he wrote lyrics for the theme to the original series of “Star Trek” with no intention of using them so he could pocket royalties meant for the original composer.
Sonnenberg also dispenses heavy criticisms on the characters when they are behaving naively, idiotically, or unintentionally evil. He is a huge critic of the aforementioned Prime Directive as, in later series, it was used as justification to not help a civilization destined for extinction from non-self-destructive reasons. He gets into a rather angry rant over Doctor Phlox from “Enterprise” declaring it is immoral to save one species from extinction because they may be holding back another’s evolution and even declares that the former species is evolving into extinction because their disease is genetic. He has a strong belief in preserving human, or sentient, life and rails against Starfleet officers, who should have the same attitudes, for not practicing such beliefs. Sonnenberg often takes positions opposite to the majority and the viewers’, and that’s exactly how he wants it. He believes that personal opinions are one of the last vestiges of individuality in our modern society and should be respected. That will not stop him from disagreeing and snarking about it.
SF Debris is a special review series. It is an often perfect mix of humor and thoughtful discussion. Sonnenberg is very impassioned for “Star Trek” other fantasy shows and movies and thoughtfully considers what their messages are whether those messages are conveyed intentionally or unintentionally. He accepts donations and takes requests with each donation within the fantasy genre. Some may not agree with Sonnenberg’s opinionated reviews, but he is perfectly okay with that. His discussions are well thought out and his jokes are spot-on. Watching his review series will leave any viewer amused and thoughtful, which is what he truly wants for his audience.