Saturday, November 30, 2013

Review: Star Trek: The Next Generation (1987-1994) [26-32]

Season 2! Surely, things get better from here... right?

"The Child" (4/10)
Out the gate with some "Woman's Right to Choose" -ness. Don't explore space, you may get space-raped and then space-pregnant. And then HUH? Oh right, Whoopie Goldberg is supposed to be in this show...
Like "Haven," the plot is some annoying-ass Betazoid boring bullshit, this time about an inexplicable Coppola's Jack Jesus child and Troi's reaction to it. Also some specimen transportation and Wesley struggling with... something or other. Grugh. I can't believe I miss Beverly Crusher, but seriously, this new doctor can go fuck herself.

"Where Silence Has Lease" (5/10)
Ah, the Mr Bigface episode. Worfsploitation continues.
Not that I don't appreciate procedural exploration but something about the way they break up the A Plot (the Worf stuff or the new FUCKING doctor's useless dialogue) makes it all a bit tedious. It picks up a bit towards the end, and like an olde school episode, nothing is really solved save they escape with (most) of their lives. More exile -- I'm guessing they post a sign outside the anomaly that says something like "dont go into here lol."

"Elementary, Dear Data" (5/10)
Wait... Data is Holmes in this scenario, so the title refers to- ohhhh, I get it, he's having fun wrong. Good thing that drunken whore of a new doctor explained it to me.
This is the second time a Holodeck program has gotten out of control and almost fucked up the ship. Someone going to talk to the design team and download a security patch? One that, you know, doesn't allow programs to extend their power beyond the confines of the Holodeck... just a suggestion. Picard knows that Moriarty is a murderous fiend, right?

"The Outrageous Okona" (5/10)
The Enterprise meets Captain Malcolm Reynolds and mild forms of wackiness ensue. Uh oh, Riker, looks like there's a new rapist in town.
I mean, this is the sorta thing I'm talkin about. Starfleet can just answer distress calls all over the fucking place, even if it means protecting a sex criminal with a sweet pony-tail and starting some intergalactic incident involving two civilizations? I imagine the Vulcan way of handling this is so much fucking better, where his brand of outrageousness is not tolerated and they isolate his ass until they can dump him on a planet where he can fend for himself. Then again, turns out he's a nice man in the end and totally not a rapekiller. I'm just sayin.

"The Schizoid Man" (5/10)
FUCKING NEW DOCTOR. Ooo, near-warp transport, that sounds familiar... and I love this Vulcan hottie, why the hell isn't she a major character?
A lot of focus on Data this season already. Hmm, I'm not onboard with it. It's like they decided they needed the Enterprise crew to acknowledge how weird he is, so that the audience is sure they aren't insane. Never mind that the crew would be used to him by now. It doesn't help that the episode itself is very bland and forgettable. In fact, what happened again?

"Loud as a Whisper" (5/10)
A guy with 80's hair experiences that frightening moment when everyone on your away team starts turning into skeletons.
I run into another typical complaint of mine, which is that the silent mediator should have been more alien in appearance. Some kinda reptile? I get that the producers probably want aesthetic distance for the audience to relate to the drama of the story, but is Star Trek really about that? Look at the ending: we aren't really shown a successful peace negotiation, but that having the confidence to attempt it is the actual victory. Pretty classy, and it deserved better execution.

"Unnatural Selection" (5/10)
Sweet, we're finally taking this cunt of an MD to task. And Jesus, does Wesley have to drive the ship all the fucking time? He didn't even graduate.
I have a bit of a soft spot for Germisodes because it requires the crew to scientifically evaluate the situation and think carefully before proceeding with containment, instead of reacting all emotionally to it. You have no idea how hard I was pulling for some Prometheus-ass shit to occur once the genetically engineered human was awakened. Sadly, Pulaski wasn't strangled to death, just infected. And she survived. OH WELL. (I'm surprised the transporter and/or Data aren't used to solve every problem.)

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Review: Star Trek: The Next Generation (1987-1994) [18-25]

"Coming of Age" (6/10)
Wesley works hard to achieve adulthood and justify his presence on a starship, while Picard deals with sudden continuity. A guy breathes out of a misty mouthpiece.
-- Next Gen decides that they need to establish a running narrative. Good on em! The best part is that Picard is taken to task for decisions made in previous episodes, so I know I'm not the only one who's being all 'Hey, wait a second,' although that means I sympathize with the spineless auditor we're all supposed to hate. Ah well, at least they didn't kill him off at the climax.

"Heart of Glory" (5/10)
Neutral zone adventures, Geordi's underwhelming eyesight, and Klingon racial stuff.
-- Manages a somewhat compelling situation while succumbing to cliches. The whole plot, even, is this well-mined conflict about a character making a choice between two opposing forces in his soul. And whatever. Just go watch Mamet's Homicide instead.

"The Arsenal of Freedom" (5/10)
Man, just as we were about to distance ourselves from the Original Series, this one catapults us right back into it.
-- A lot of miniarcs to deal with here. Picard and Dr. Crusher get closer, Geordi comes into his own as he takes command of a risky situation, Troi advises, the away team runs around on an obvious jungle set, and there's some arms dealer satire. Get pretty exciting at the end, though, so this one could have been worse. It also could have been better, without all that talkin 'bout theys feelings.

"Skin of Evil" (5/10)
And now, Drunken Blob satire. I hope Jonathan Frakes got a lot of money that day.
-- A very long hostage situation solved by some sleight of hand and exile (which always works). Seems like another unmade Original Series script, one that I would gladly take over "The Apple" and a lot of others... something about it all is very unsatisfying. That's it for Lt. Yar, huh? And we never got to find out what the rapegangs were, nor did Data get to avenge her. Hmmph.

"Symbiosis" (5/10)
Stupid Dummy satire now? Nope! Space drug dealers! Oh, and Tasha Yar is still alive, and very involved in the plot. Serves me right for reviewing by the production order.
-- In addition to the super cool concept concerning a virus where only its symptoms show up, I really enjoyed the fancy footwork around the Prime Directive, though which part of it allows starships to answer distress calls by civilizations they otherwise cannot interfere with? Ah well. Except for the super preachy scene where Yar explains to Wesley what drug addiction is, I mostly didn't want to kill myself! Higher five it goes.

"We'll Always Have Paris" (5/10)
Another weird, unfocused episode, I don't even fucking know anymore.
-- Such strange handling of what information the audience gets to have first, I actually thought the show was telling me that Picard had a homosexual fling in Paris. House of Cards style. But no, another jilty chick. The time manipulation in this, used sparingly because we have to be bored with a lazily tied-in subplot, was pretty fucking awesome. More of that?

"Conspiracy" (6/10)
John Carpenter directs an episode. AND LOOKS LIKE I SPOKE TOO SOON.
-- The return of some sentient worm things. If I remember correctly, the curative method is to let it eat its way through your brain until you scream in agony and it exits in a river of blood out your ear. This is totally survivable. Here, we close out the arc mentioned briefly in "Coming of Age" and solve that whole infiltration to the top levels of Starfleet problem. Easy, because it's like three guys. A fine episode if we'd had a longer time building towards it. As such, it's barely a six. Sheesh, I think I've calibrated these 5s already.

"The Neutral Zone" (5/10)
Not really what the title indicates. Are you CERTAIN you don't want to introduce the Borg instead?
-- An episode so incredibly close to the Original Series that it even mimicks its stupid wacky joke score. Now as I've stated before, I am all for the man-out-of-time-bespeckled-with-joy but not when he is insufferable and getting in the way of my Romulan negotiating! For nothing really happening except the promise of more things happening, it's... okay. Are these Dick van Winkles ever mentioned again? They're... silly.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Review: Star Trek: The Next Generation (1987-1994) [10-17]

"Hide and Q" (5/10)
Q, appearing like a natural disaster in SimCity, prevents progress for awhile to indulge in a game of "The Squire of Gothos." I mean "Spectre of the Gun." I mean Risk. How do you write female characters again?
-- It's a long, circuitous, poorly-paced route to get to two elements crowding the frame in the climax: Riker struggling with newfound powers and humanity's desire for happiness. The former takes center stage for much of the episode, while the latter is far more compelling. Q then chides the Enterprise for not seizing an opportunity to use such powers for Good but what does he do with his own power other than play pranks on everybody? Fucking asswipe.

"Too Short a Season" (5/10)
A young guy in old man makeup? Uh oh, some Fountain of Youth plot is on the horizon. Fused with Die Hard.
-- Well, on the horizon behind us, really. This is more about dealing with the aftermath of a foolish Admiral reversing his age to... properly leverage a hostage situation I guess. Because it's something he dealt with 45 years in the past and being young again would make dealing with it much easier? Yeah, it's a mess by the end of it all, a vestigial symptom of being a sequel to "A Private Little War." At the very least it's an apology for it, and it showcases Picard's preferred method for conflict resolution: synthesizing pity!

"The Big Goodbye" (5/10)
Holodeckisode. They miss an opportunity to go into black & white. Lawrence Tierney!
-- And again that problem with burying the lead, showing us the Enterprise crew reacting to the problem before Picard and others know there's an issue, and we wait as they catch up. How new is the Holodeck, by the way? Perhaps what we saw in "Encounter at Farpoint" is the Holodeck in limitation, ie it can only generate lush settings and not other characters or interactive storylines. I'm guessing Picard's reaction to it is more for our benefit than an accurate reflection of its use. There's a lot of that going on. Wait- Picard walks back onto the ship with lipstick smeared on his face. Does that mean he could leave with lung cancer too? And did he accidentally leave the program running? Perhaps he shouldn't have started with something so advanced if this narrative shit is new. The bad guys sure survive for a long time in the hallway, with no holo-emitters. SHOULD I IGNORE THIS FUCKING SHIT ARGH

"Datalore" (5/10)
An extinct civilization teaches the Enterprise how to properly bury stuff. Like the goddamned Lead. Some Dead Ringers shit ensues. A glimpse of what the hell Data is, finally.
-- Why teach the sketchy, overconfident copy of Data to pilot the starship? You know that's going to go south at some point. Face mutilation! Quickly! Before the serial killer takes your identity! Oh shit, he thought of that first. Good thing for the Enterprise that Lore chooses to become incompetent and slow down his horrifying plan at just the right moment. And we're still not listening to Wesley even though he's allowed on the bridge? I wish I liked this one more, but man that stuff in the second half really annoyed me.

"Angel One" (5/10)
Oof, bad composite work and bad eighties hair. Women in charge of things... pfft, please. What is this? Malaysia? Picard sure gets taken down a lot, already. 
-- They almost hit the mark with this one in spite of the heavy-handed sexual subjugation talk and another violation of the Prime Directive as they prevent a civilization from carrying out its own laws. The virus aboard the Enterprise subplot justifies itself by confining the away team to Angel One and leaving them to deal with the situation using time-tested speeches about equality and blahblahblah. I'd take this one in place of a couple of previous episodes where they failed using this exact formula. Still the show is getting in its own way with its nonsense.

"11001001" (6/10)
Ooo, GOOD composite work and some Holodeck questions mercifully answered. Did the ship's computer just take a BREATH?! That half-sentence tradeoff shit seems wildly inefficient.
-- Riker The Rapist Asshole returns and helps demonstrate the Holodeck's ability to discern highly subjective phrases and colloquialisms and generate some bad acting. And then there's a neat little plot about a planet in peril and in need of the ship's memory banks. It's not bad, very reminiscent of 80's science fiction somehow, and for all the hullabaloo it works as a fun diversionary episode. Get past the awkward direction in the beginning and it's clear sailing ahead.

"Home Soil" (6/10)
The Enterprise uses a terraforming station as their own personal tourist trap and annoy people trying to do their job. Suddenly MURDER and then FORGIVENESS FOR THE MURDER JESUS A MAN HAS DIED, DID WE FORGET THAT?
-- Really more of an excuse for the supernerd who wrote this to show off his knowledge of terraforming, and how much thought he put into the Federation's method for contracting it out, as well as how first contact with a new flavor of life is handled when warfare seems inevitable. A well-directed and suspenseful trip to the same ol' conclusion in the same ol' "The Devil in the Dark" territory. Ah well.

"When the Bough Breaks" (5/10)
Ahh that age-old dilemma of 'do I sell my children for vital scientific information?' Who hasn't been in that pickle. Holy shit it's Deep Throat from the X-Files!
-- It is initially impressive that this episode does in ten minutes what the Original Series would have taken twenty-seven to do, leaving plenty of room for everyone to worry over solving this issue. It doesn't quite keep up the pace and it's pretty easy to see where they're going with it after awhile. Aint no tragedy beyond that, and Picard's Captaining methodology is finally well-suited to the situation when Enterprise children are kidnapped. Thaaaaaat's when you say 'fuck off to yer ways.'

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Review: Star Trek: The Next Generation (1987-1994) [01-09]

Season 1! Show me whatcha got, late 80's television!
"Encounter at Farpoint" (6/10)
A new crew pilots a flashy new ship in a new century and already they are answering for humanity's crimes.
-- It is striking how well they captured the feel of the Original Series while upping the ante in terms of style, and even trying to retroactively tighten the continuity by having fauntleroy Q cover a score of previous all-powerful beings. In addition to properly conveying the function of newly introduced technology, races and characters, we get two plots for the price of one, both preachy as fuck! Good start.

"The Naked Now" (6/10)
Crew members act strangely after encountering an eerily familiar sickness GEE I WONDER WHAT'S HAPPENING and solve it with some barely effective quarantine procedures. Mmm, bottomboob... Rapegangs?
-- Like the Pilot episode, it captures the feel of the original series very well, only hotter (ha!). There's even a close up in the cold (ha!ha!) open that is very heavily reminiscent of the old show. Somewhere in the second half I decided that I liked it, though it's a bit early for a diversionary episode, innit? And could this be where the vaguely pornish feeling of Trek began?

"Code of Honor" (5/10)
Time for us to receive a heavy-handed lesson in cultural and sexual tolerance. It's the white guilt episode!
-- It has one of those sloppy, offscreen setups meant to give the illusion of high stakes, like in "The Galileo Seven," and justify Picard's inability to resolve the situation quickly. Throughout it, I was trying to imagine the characters as a barbaric lizard race, to see if that made it more interesting. More, it made me think that a leader of a warp civilization wouldn't pull the 'our ways' card on an outsider. But for the sake of an awkwardly-filmed death match. That's Trek for ya.

"Haven" (5/10)
A plague ship approaches a planet and the Enterprise has to figure out a way to stop it before it reaches transporter range. But that's only the B Plot, the A Plot is a bunch of irritating shit about an arranged marriage.
-- Definitely with "Code of Honor" on the bottom spectrum of 5's so far. We don't know enough about Riker and Troi to care that they aren't able to be together and the family behavior is too over-the-top and specific to the show to be relatable. That and the camera lense is smeared with vaseline and makes me sleepy.

"Where No One Has Gone Before" (6/10)
An arrogant fucker's con turns real and Wesley Crusher's importance is exaggerated, eventually turning him into a horrible narcissist. Ohhhh... RAPEgangs... I get it.
-- Did Rob Bowman film this episode inside of a volcano? Not that I'm complaining, I'm just shocked that it was allowed. A nice, slow build around a mysterious set of circumstances (that aren't fully explained by the end, right?) and what would have been a much better setup to Star Trek: Voyager than that stupid fucking Caretaker or whatever. Weirdly, I got a Monster Squad vibe when Picard rescued that Red Shirt from his Mulder-ish fear of fire. No thumbs-up?! Aw.

"The Last Outpost" (5/10)
The Enterprise and a Thiefy Vessel are conned by a wizard on a nearby planet, showing us that we really aren't that far from the Original Series in terms of a premise gone silly.
-- I can see a smarter script inside this episode somewhere, one that doesn't boil the elements down into something so utterly simplistic, one that doesn't make Picard seem highly irrational but somehow correct in the long run, and one that doesn't totally shortchange the Ferengi in what I imagine is a leftover element from an "Arena" remake. Bah.

"Lonely Among Us" (6/10)
Two delegates from opposing races attempt a peace treaty while the Enterprise complicates matter. Maybe don't pass through the strange energy cloud while on so important an assignment?
-- They should have buried the lead, and let us believe that the traitor was from one of the two delegate parties. Data starts acting like Sherlock Holmes, f'fuck's sake, hows about involving us in the mystery? Ah well, there's enough suspense to fuel the episode to completion. Transporter fixes everything!

"Justice" (5/10)
Things go sideways on Planet Orgasm, where they filmed Biodome, when Australian Law clashes with Aboriginal Law and an all-powerful mediator forces the Enterprise to think the situation through a little bit. Riker... ISN'T a sex addict... right?
-- Leave it to Wesley Crusher to break the simple Keep Off the Grass rule. This sort of thing is exactly what Picard was such an asshole about a few episodes back. Anyhow, it's better than "Code of Honor." I like that we tackle some heavy legal issues: criminal ignorance, capital punishment and h'whatnot, but the conclusion is a real bummer and does not cast Picard in a particularly flattering light. A powerful ship is forcing them to reconsider rescuing Wesley outright, but since no magical medical cure is at stake Picard ultimately gives the middle finger and beams off the planet, citing 'special circumstances' as a part of life. Great. I'm sure Tasha Yar really appreciates that fight to the death she had to do. And people know about this planet yet somehow word doesn't get out about their strict-ass laws and weird religion? Okayyyy.

"The Battle" (5/10)
The Enterpise takes part in an obvious Ferengi deception and the inevitable ensues. They apparently rescued Rob Bowman from that volcano.
-- Hmm, I see that our Captain has been taken over yet again by a brainfucky. Is this going to be The Next Generation's version of the cellular double? If that's the case, a keyphrase or constant mutilation is no good. Gotta be some solution, though... a router helmet? Some sort of empath more useful than Troi? I'll work on it. This show already has a real problem at constructing a mystery. It's more concerned with showing us Starfleet procedure than involving us in a compelling story. Telling it entirely from Picard's perspective would have been awesome! Alas.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Review: Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home (1986)

What starts off on a stronger push towards a well-defined universe, with grit and a portrayal of Starfleet run by competent people again, ends more in less in a diversionary area where the Crew (and us?) gets to have some fun for a bit. That is Good or Horrible, depending who you ask... You're asking me? Oh. Uh.

We are still firmly in "The Adventures of..." territory, but at the very least I find myself admiring how strong the continuity is between these films. Months after the previous adventure, Spock is still acting a little weird from his sabbatacle from life and trying to re-educate his brain, the crew is in exhile on Vulcan and still piloting that Klingon vessel from the last film, and the Klingons are still pretty pissed off at all that shit that happened regarding Genesis and appealing to Starfleet to get them all incarcerated. Which isn't really all that unreasonable a request.

As the crew heads back to Earth to take part in their punishment, a strange vessel heads towards the planet, a lot faster than last time, knocking out electronic equipment, ionizing the atmosphere and generally causing a ruckus. Kirk springs into action, working with the available information on the alien probe and makes an incredibly wild leap for the solution: they must travel back in time via a slingshot around the sun and retrieve a whale from the 80s.

Yep. The Voyage Home is "That one with the whales," for the uninitiated. For a long time, I thought that this was "That horrible one," and while it certainly didn't make a lot of money and it isn't talked about too often, that unflattering reputation belongs to the next one. Well, so I hear. Joy.

So... whales. It gets weirder, in the sense that this is the "Assigment: Earth/City on the Edge of Forever" episode, so... 'but good' is what I mean. That bespeckled joy I spoke about in the Original Series reviews is abundant in this film. Our gang of intrepids adjust to modern San Francisco life and jokes fly at their expense and at the expense of those unlucky enough to cross their path. And, of couse, they have to convince one person that they are who they say they are and get back home. No one considers warning everyone about the Eugenics Wars in the next decade.

Bottom line: is it good? Well, it isn't bad. The movie has no real villain (unless you count the Whaling Industry), only a problem that needs to be solved, and there isn't even much of a ticking clock element either. The obstacles only amount to people standing in their way, and one extended stretch where Chekov, the useless bastard, needs to be rescued. I'm okay with all that because it is well-written enough to keep me from getting angry, with people asking logical questions and reacting to the weird stuff like actual human fuckin beings. Good and good.

The weak side of it is just how goddamned strange it is, that it was made and that it took this route to smooth things over with the Klingons and return Kirk to Captain status in an identical Enterprise. It ties up loose ends even more than The Search for Spock tried to, and it weirds me out the more I think about it. I can't say that I'm not pissed about being reminded AGAIN that time travel is so easy, and the script certainly isn't interested in exploring the mechanics or the ramnifications of doing it, explaining everything away with a predestination paradox. And I can't say I'm not annoyed at all how they exaggerate the importance of the whales by reverting to pure propoganda. But... it's okay. I'm okay. It's fine, mostly. Yep. How are you?


Saturday, April 13, 2013

Review: Star Trek III: The Search for Spock (1984)

LAST TIME ON STAR TREK: The Crew did some courageous ass shit and Spock died. Some things blew up, a planet was created,  and now the Enterprise heads home, in need of repairs. Yes, it's been like twenty minutes since the last one. Just like Back to the Future II or Quantum of Solace or The Two Towers! ... Uh oh...

Yes, the film you are about to watch is not going to be as good as The Wrath of Khan, the ultimate reason being: even though I have been screaming about "Balance of Terror" and when? this and when? that and whinewhinewhine, and then I was given that thing I so desired and expressed my joy at such a thing, the correct way to think is that they should never listen to me (the audience) and just tell me what to fuckin like. The Search for Spock gives the audience everything it ever asks for... and oh god... OH GOD NO MAKE IT STOP.

Okay so okay, outlying warriors from the Klingon Empire, led by Christopher Lloyd as the dopiest Klingon ever, gather some classified material on the Genesis planet. After killing the only other people who know about it, they make a beeline for the planet where Kirk's son and THEY RECAST SAAVIK?! THE FUCK? are busy encountering mysterious thingies. Meanwhile, the Enterprise crew, each member getting a quick needless close up and a pause for cheers, dock at an orbiting hub to butt heads with petty Starfleet personnel and young cadets who are young and brash and don't know nothin from nothin.

After a large amount of time-wasting exposition, a quick scene ripping off Star Wars, and more cutaways to the peripheral characters, we freewheel our way back onto the Enterprise (which can apparently be run by like 4 people without a problem) for a by-the-numbers showdown with the bad guy and the inevitable return of Leonard Nimoy who has now decided that he wants to be involved in the series, thanks, dick. Forget all that shit in the last film about the joy of youth -- it's great to be old! Forget the nonsense about the needs of the many -- Spock is more important and that makes it okay to break protocol!

After the heights it reached in The Wrath of Khan, it's an incredible letdown to be back in television show territory. It's got a similar spirit to The Motion Picture, but way more bland and time-wasty (yes, that's possible). Go ahead and imagine the first reel of the film burned to about twenty minutes in, and imagine the film entirely from the perspective of Saavik and Kirk's son, exploring the Genesis planet and coming across a newly formed Spock, maybe even battling some fringe Klingons who found out about the planet somehow. Now that's good television! But because it's a movie, you resign yourself to certain compromises. The Enterprise Crew has to be involved with the main line of action, however awkwardly, and we have to either utilize the things we establish or end them in this film.

It is here where you can say that at least The Search for Spock takes risks. We deal directly with the Genesis project instead of pretending it never happened a la "City on the Edge of Forever," but only to close the books on it because now it's unstable technology I guess. Kirk's son gets to have a good ol' time in a second movie, but gets fucking iced. The Enterprise gets blown up for real in a Corbomite bluff... er no, the opposite, it's like an Anti-Corbomite Gambit. Anyhow, all these risks seem pointless in the long run. A lot of attrition loss for something that could have been done a whole lot easier. Don't the transporters have a save state for Spock's body? Put Bones into the damn transporter, convince him somehow, I don't care. And what about the Giant Spock on that one planet? Did we forget about that?

And did we even need Spock's return in the first place? I know, I know, he's awesome and stuff, but he died. He's fucking dead. Deal with it. We had that shot of Spock's space coffin on the Genesis planet and that gave us hope and enough closure to move on. We did not need to bring him back in this nonsensical manner. And there was no explanation as to why Spock's new body wasn't unstable like the planet, right? Or why there wasn't some insane version of Khan running around the planet, fused with the fragments of the Reliant? Okay, that would have been awesome. Is it too late to call somebody?

I mean, look, I will say that the setups regarding a rapidly aging Spock, from child to man, are interesting, especially when viewed from the perspective of Saavik. "He was my superior last I knew him and now I'm going to have to fuck him, aren't I?" There are also some fun moments here and there, we get a larger window into Vulcan biology and we nail down Klingon culture. I don't hate the film... just everything that it stands for!


Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Review: Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982)

They took notes. Boy did they ever.

In some miracle flashbang of neuron fire, the powers that be behind Star Trek decide to try a different approach: instead of bringing the Enterprise crew back for yet more adventures, let's address the fact that their adventuring days are behind them and that their past mistakes might come back to haunt them. Not "let's do the show, but bigger," but "where would our characters be now?" What if Star Trek aged? And let's utilize that 'Space Seed' episode for the dangling participle of a villain we never killed, which is probably a better choice than using 'The Gamesters of Triskellion.' The result?

We are given -- nay, gifted -- a film that is one part treatise on old age, one part awesome fuckin space battle between two captains who have nothing left to offer one another but hardcore murder. It's a great feeling, finally getting what you ask for.

While investigating terraforming possibilities on what turns out to be the wrong damn planet, Terrell and Chekov run afoul of a very pissed off Khan (Chekov wasn't even in 'Space Seed', this is a bullshit thing) who uses mind control bugs to fool a bunch of people into giving him way too many resources for his insanity and thus begins the dangerous precedent of a film entirely about getting revenge on the Enterprise's captain, but fuckit! Suspenseful ass shit occurs in space and in a nebula and... well, that's it. But still!

During their conflict, the screenplay elegantly expands and contracts before us like a wave, keeping our minds busy between the action sequences. Khan is the macrotheme of a past mistake, forgotten and never checked up on, mirrored in the microtheme of Kirk's son. During the battle, many more bodies are added to the trail behind Kirk's forward march, including a relative of Scotty's (micro) and a MAJOR CHARACTER OKAY IT'S SPOCK (macro). We see that Kirk is less of a brilliant tactician but more of a miracle worker, able to utilize sheer velocity and cussedness to escape from an impossible scenario, or by outright cheating as their microtheme the Kobayashi Maru reflects. Mercy is dangerous in the wrong hands, a Starfleet Ship is too, and a device which promises the creation of a planet filled with life and resources. It addresses the price of things! How novel! And in a risky move that ultimately pays off, the screenwriters kill off a beloved character at the climax of their fun space adventure film and still manage a hopeful and uplifting ending.

It's full of miracles like this, really. The powers that be hired a guy who desperately wanted to make a submarine action film and then they stepped back and let him do his job. I'm convinced that Nicholas Meyer is some sort of unsung genius in this regard. He is what Metropolis was all about, the bridge between the head and the hands, bringing tactics to a brutal fistfight (or he could be Star Trek's Martin Campbell... he did do Time After Time). The camera is wonderfully involved in everything, and strikes that crucial balance between staying out of the way of the material and getting us right inside of it. The film moves when it needs to, but isn't afraid to take its time. They even took my suggestions for the last film and sped up a shuttle docking sequence into a much shorter, more powerful moment as the Enterprise lights come on one-by-one with a triumphant score FUCK YES

The Wrath of Khan deserves its status as an oft-mentioned Great Star Trek film, even if saying it's great is equivalent to saying Stairway to Heaven is great -- who's going to argue? NOBODY WORTH THEIR VAMPIRE SALT. I have nothing but good things to say about it... well, okay, maybe "How the hell did Chekov survive, exactly?" And this assertion that Kirk needs to command a ship falls flat in the face of the presence of "You are getting too old to succeed." And I guess the film does advocate tyranny of the majority... but hey, it also advocates execution! So... win/lose?

"There is no correct resolution. It's a test of character." See? Is that so hard to fuckin write, you hack bastards?


Sunday, March 17, 2013

Review: Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979)

Three years after Captain Kirk last commanded the Enterprise (was it the time he changed into a woman or when everybody aged in reverse?), a Giant Thing heads towards Earth and, because he’s the best at destroying inexplicable clouds, Kirk is charged with getting the band back together for ONE LAST SCORE. Or several last scores -- are there more movies after this? Are there? Anyhow, we are treated to our beloved characters returning to a mostly white set amid flashy special effects and incredibly long fucking scenes, and yet… I find myself being surprisingly okay with most of the movie. Certainly not at the fact that Yeoman Rand did not age well, but the other stuff.

Now LET ME FINISH I know that this film has a bit of a reputation of being a dull, deliberately paced snore-fest that serves only to showcase its special effects and cash in a bit on 2001’s procedural style. I suppose that assessment is fair. In true hard sci-fi fashion, certain scenes exist only to convey a theme, synthesize a mood, or build a believable world.

In this way, great moments almost emerge. An example: Kirk has a two-minute long admiration of the Enterprise in the repair dock, and it would be magnificent if it were properly built up from brief flashes of its hull through thick repair scaffolds to the clear image of Kirk staring proudly at the bow as Goldsmith's overbearing space adventure score goes BUM BUM BUUUUUUUUUM! Instead, we see every second clearly, and they keep it going, showing us the entire docking procedure. An emotional reaction is less important than knowing the cold, hard facts, and we are robbed of a potentially greater experience.

And yes, scenes like this, scenes that exist for their own sake and dangle outside of the main story, keep happening. We see the dangers of transporter travel and warp speed travel; we see mission briefs conveying information to the crew that we, the audience, don't require in such a labored manner; we see scenes of rehabilitation between the young dude and his hot, bald exgirlfriend walking around the Enterprise. The other operating motive is that these scenes exist as a platform for state-of-the-art special effects, any chance they can muster; a macro example is Spock’s endless, tension-bereft spacewalk into V-Ger, a micro is Bones and Kirk talking in front of the galaxy’s most distracting window.

The plot is one suited for an episode of the television show -- in fact, incredibly close to "Where No Man Has Gone Before" or "The Lights of Zetar," merged with "The Changeling." Kirk’s rough and tumble Captaining is frowned upon but tolerated, two peripheral characters are in love and one of them is some kinda headmakeydo, everybody has to work together to solve a problem, Chekov says some shit… basically, we’ve seen it all before and without the added steps of reintroducing the crew. It is a compact story in a container that is too large, lacking the content to justify how slow it is, wheeling towards the one guy stepping onboard the weird spaceship to have himself an adventure he couldn’t find on the Enterprise for some reason… basically like Close Encounters of the Third Kind but with a bald hotty. Okay, so maybe I get it.

However, using the 2001 argument in a dismissive manner is a mistake, and treating it like the end-all-be-all flaw that kills the film is something I take issue with. That sensibility is truly what the old show could have used in greater degree, to break apart all of the scenes with the giant cats and the Earth parallels. We, after all, had plenty of the bottom-up emotional stuff, more than our fill, and very rarely were we engaged in a top-down futuristic world that didn't fall apart under slight scrutiny. In that situation, a kite was flying across the sky and well out of our reach. Here, someone has grasped the string and has pulled it down to our height. We definitely need to let it soar higher, but for now, at least we have control of the kite.

I submit with the above that The Motion Picture is in fact what you would want out of a movie based on the television show… not "exactly," but "ehhh close I guess." Without the stylistic choice, the movie does retain the spirit of exploration, as well as the less flattering aspects of this universe under Federation perspective. People die left and right like it ain’t no fuckin thing, a bunch under the murderous expanse of a sinister cloud, what is finally determined to be the DIRECT FAULT of Earth, and nothing within the film appears to come of it. Accountability and consequence are feh... just like the show!

Perhaps I'd have a hard time recommending this to someone who doesn't already like Star Trek, or to... y'know... girls. I was certainly shocked by how into it I got. Like an alien creature bent on your destruction, it is an ordeal and yet… fascinating to study. V-Ger help me, I like it a little, but it’s no "Balance of Terror" HAHA GOT IT IN THERE.