Archive for the ‘Star Trek (1966-1969)’ Category

The Chronicle: News from the Edge–Episode 20–The King is Undead (2002)   1 comment

Above:  Confirmed Sightings of Elvis Presley, 1977-2001

All images in this post are screen captures.

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The King is Undead

Canadian Television Rating = PG

Hyperlink to Episode

Aired March 8, 2002

Production Number = 5009-01-119

Starring

Chad Willett as Tucker Burns

Jon Polito as Donald Stern

Reno Wilson as Wes Freewald

Rena Sofer as Grace Hall

Curtis Armstrong as Sal the Pig-Boy

Sharon Sachs as Vera

Main Guest Actor

Joey Sagal as Jesse Garon/Elvis Presley

Behind the Camera

Writer = Javier Grillo-Marxuach

Director = Krishna Rao

Above:  Jesse Garon

Brief Summary

Donald Stern is ecstatic.  In 2002, after a quarter of a century of sporadic reported sightings, the ultimate quarry of tabloids seems within his grasp.  There is an elusive, reclusive figure with worshipers and imitators who hold rallies and rituals.  The reclusive figure always appears at the concluding rituals of these gatherings, and always between 11:00 p.m. and 1:00 a.m.  Finding him would be, in Stern’s words, “Tet, D-Day, and the invasion of Grenada rolled up into one.”  The elusive quarry is Elvis Presley, who faked his death in 1977.  Tucker Burns and Wes Freewald, undercover as Elvis impersonators, get the assignment of a lifetime.

Meanwhile, Grace Hall is unhappily stuck with a story about another skid row vampire.  He turns out to be an Elvis impersonator, so the A-plot and the B-plot merge.

For once, Wes Freewald is the skeptic among the main characters.  He spends almost all of the episode not believing that Elvis is alive despite many clues to the contrary.  “Jesse Garon” is staying in room 1835 (for January 8, 1935, the birthday of Elvis Presley.)  “Jesse Garon” (the name of Presley’s deceased twin brother) has checked in as “Tennessee C. Beale.”  He is also the right age to be Elvis Presley.  “Jesse Garon” consistently denies being Elvis while fitting the description.  Tucker and Wes unwittingly interfere his plan to spray the nearly 100 vampires in the ballroom with holy water via the sprinkler system, thereby destroying the soulless undead.

On the final night of the Elvisopolis 3000 Elvis Impersonator Competition, the master of ceremonies is King Master Lobo, a vampire.  These are dangerous events that have been occurring for about two decades; there has been at least one vampire-related killing per Elvisopolis, and the undead victim has walked out of the morgue every time.  Before Grace may enter the ballroom, she must dress like Elvis, so she does.  Once there, she realizes that she is surrounded by vampires.

“Jesse Garon” takes great offense to vampires disguised as Elvis impersonators.  He has been hunting and killing them for a quarter of a century, after finding a secret hive of vampires in Las Vegas then deciding to fight back after some of the undead stalked him.  The list of Jesse’s allies grows from Wes, Tucker, and Grace to include Donald Stern and Vera, who come equipped to spray vampires with garlic.  However, the only people the guards will allow into the ballroom are those dressed like Elvis.  Vera and Donald have to wait.  Jesse and our main trio kill all but one of the vampires in the ballroom.  Tucker even shines the ultraviolet flash light onto Wes’s sparkly attire, causing UV light to kill many of the undead.  Tucker and Jesse kill Lobo.

When the police arrive, Donald Q. Stern, Ph.D. in molecular biology, provides a cover story to an officer:  there was a mass hallucination.

“Jesse Garon,” wearing blue suede shoes and still denying being Elvis Presley departs.  Wes Freewald has not taken a photograph of him.

Above:  Elvis Impersonators

Character Beats

Of all the World Chronicle staff members, Grace Hall has the most firsthand experience with vampires.

Tucker Burns has been a fan of Elvis Presley since childhood.  He spent many Saturday afternoons watching Elvis movies the local UHF television station aired.

Wes Freewald’s parents are fans of Elvis Presley.  Wes is not.  In late May 1977, during the week Star Wars Episode IV:  A New Hope debuted, the Freewald family drove four hours one way to attend an Elvis concert.  The parents dressed Wes like Elvis, who gave him a blue scarf.  Nevertheless, Wes cared more about Star Wars.

Vera really needs a boyfriend, husband, whatever.

Donald Q. Stern may hold a Ph.D. in molecular biology.

Above:  Vampire-Elvis Impersonator

Great Lines

Grace Hall, to Donald Stern:  “How many times do I have to tell you I didn’t know he was a vampire until our second-to-last date?”

Tucker Burns, to Wes Freewald:  “Hey, man, not everybody in our generation is a raving scifi geek, all right?  I mean, in a straight fight, I would pick the King of Rock and Roll over Han Solo or Captain Kirk any day.”  Wes Freewald:  “Okay, now this discussion is over.  We’ve got to draw the line somewhere, Tucker.’

Wes Freewald:  “Even though the King never did make a scifi flick, we’ve got to help him.”

Grace Hall, to Wes Freewald:  “Why are you dressed like Little Richard?”

Jesse Garon:  “Teenage girls and scifi geeks say, ‘slayer.’ I’m a vampire hunter.”

Jesse Garon:  “Those sons of bitches have soiled the name of the King of Rock and Roll for the last time.”

Donald Stern:  “You know me–always on the look for a mass vampire movement.”

Above:  Lobo

In-Universe

This episode plays out within a few hours, from late one night to early the next morning.

There is an army of vampires bent of global domination.  See He’s Dead, She’s Dead, the seventh episode produced and the fifth one broadcast.

Above:  Vera with Donald Stern, Spraying Garlic

Comments

The King is Undead is the twentieth episode produced and broadcast.

The King is Undead contains many references to Elvis Presley’s wardrobe, lyrics, and movies in dialogue, as well as visually.  Vince, an alcoholic homeless man, points to a canine and tells Grace, “It’s just a hound dog.”  Grace, speaking on her cellular telephone, says she was “all shook up.”  Sal the Pig-Boy pleads, “Don’t be cruel.”  He also dresses like late Elvis.  Donald Stern tells Tucker and Wes, “It’s now or never.”  A group called the Blue Hawaiians wins the award for best Elvis-inspired barbershop quartet.  The list goes on and on.

An Elvis-inspired barbershop quartet?

This episode is enjoyable.  The concept is properly wacky, and the execution of it excellent.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 8, 2020 COMMON ERA

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The Chronicle: News from the Edge–Episode 12: Pig Boy’s Big Adventure (2001)   2 comments

Above:  Monica, Sarcastic Savage Simian

All images in this post are screen captures.

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Pig Boy’s Big Adventure

Canadian Television Rating = PG

Hyperlink to Episode

Aired January 11, 2002

Production Number = 5009-01-116

Starring

Chad Willett as Tucker Burns

Jon Polito as Donald Stern

Reno Wilson as Wes Freewald

Rena Sofer as Grace Hall

Curtis Armstrong as Sal the Pig-Boy

Sharon Sachs as Vera

Octavia L. Spencer as Ruby Rydell

Main Guest Cast

Lizette Carrion as Monica, the “Savage Simian”

Jim Chovick as Dr. Harcourt Fenton

Christopher Hoffman as Dr. Elias Fenton

Behind the Camera

Writer = Javier Grillo-Marxuach

Director = Michael Grossman

Above:  Fiendish Fentons, Dastardly Doctors

Brief Summary

For at least five weeks’ worth of issues, the World Chronicle has been publishing front-page stories about the “Savage Simian.”  Headlines have included, “Savage Simian Spotted in Schenectady,” “Savage Simian Stuns Scientists,” “Savage Simian’s Sinister Spree,” “Savage Simian Startles Schoolyard,” and Simian Sauvage Sieges Sous-Chef.”  Publisher Donald Stern enjoys speaking in alliteration.  He says, “This savage simian is a sensation.”  He informs the staff of his new money-making venture, 1-900-GOT-CHIMP, which collects tips about the Savage Simian while charging callers $4.95 a minute.  He tells the reporters, “I want the Chronicle to be one-stop shopping for Savage Simian scoop, speculation, and scandal.”  His goal is publish a story with the headline, “Savage Simian Speaks.”

Pretenders to the title of that precocious primate populate the area around the reception desk.  Vera the receptionist rebuffs one would-be Savage Simian, who, dejected, departs.

Grace Hall departs for two weeks of vacation in the Mediterranean.  She arrives at the beginning of a revolution.  She calls Donald Stern for help.  He calls in favors, for he has influence at the U.S. Department of State.

Wes and Tucker, investigating the story of the Savage Simian, keep seeing a sinister man, supposedly from Animal Control.

Sal and other hybrids prefer the term “manimal,” a term in use prior to the infamous, short-lived series from 1983Manimal (1983) was “unabsolvably inaccurate,” according to Sal.

Wes and Tucker encounter the Savage Simian and the sinister, sneaky fake Animal Control man at an empty theater.  The intrepid investigative reporters retrieve the Savage Simian’s dog tag and a device the faux-Animal Control agent used to inject the Savage Simian with a tracking microchip.  Wes and Tucker give the dog tag to Donald, who immediately swears them to secrecy.  He has a similar, secret dog tag for Sal.  Now the publisher begins to understand the importance of that object.

Wes and Tucker rescue the Savage Simian from the sinister, sneaky faux-Animal Control man at a park.  They take the sarcastic simian to the archives of the World Chronicle.  Donald Stern is stunned to see the snarky simian, who snaps about the negative press the World Chronicle has created about her.  The Savage Simian’s moniker is Monica, and she bemoans people trying to feed her bananas.

Twenty years prior, one Dr. Harcourt Fenton went to prison for fifteen years.  He had transplanted animal organs into the children of impoverished, desperate parents.  Sal learns that his mother was not a sow, but that he spent time in Dr. Fenton’s laboratory.  Monica, a militant anti-human activist, encourages Sal to leave the World Chronicle.  The two manimals wear fedoras and move about in Manhattan until agents of Dr. Ellis Fenton, Harcourt’s son, capture them and take them to a laboratory at the Elias Center for Advanced Animal Medicine.  Wes and Tucker are already there.

Dr. Harcount Fenton, a sinister surgeon, transplanted a porcine kidney into the young Sal, still dressed in diapers.  This operation caused Sal’s transformation into a manimal.  Furthermore, the fiendish Fenton deceived Sal’s destitute parents by telling them that their son had died.  Sal eventually went to live on a farm, where Donald Stern found and hired him.

Wes and Tucker rescue Sal, in mortal danger from the two fiendish Fentons, and liberate the other manimals from their menageries.  Sal is the sole manimal who does not want to kill the dastardly doctors.  The dastardly doctors die off-screen.  The other manimals manage to flee then to scatter around the world.  Sal returns to the safety of the World Chronicle.  Donald Stern publishes one last alliterative headline about Monica:  “Savage Simian Storms Science Sanctuary.”  Sal wants to find his parents.  Donald Stern states his support.

Marines escort Grace Hall into the offices of the World Chronicle.  She expresses how much she enjoyed their company on the aircraft carrier.  Donald Stern thanks them for returning her safely.  The Marines express their gratitude for what the publisher did for the Marine Corps in Grenada in 1983.  They salute Donald Stern, who returns the salute.

Wes, Grace, Tucker, Donald, and Sal eat out at a Chinese restaurant.  Each of the humans wears a pig snout.  Donald orders vegetarian food, pleasing Sal.

Above:  Simulated Savage Simians Sitting

Character Beats

Sal the Pig-Boy does not eat out (until the end of this episode.)  The mask takes an hour to put on and is uncomfortable to wear.

Wes frequently quotes Star Wars movies.  He quotes Episodes IV and V in this episode.

Dr. Harcourt Fenton’s name is mud.  He seeks to learn from his “mistakes,” who have pulses.

Above:  Manimals Moving About Openly in Manhattan

Great Lines

On a front page of the World Chronicle:  “Woman Gives Birth to Porcelain Geisha Doll.”

On a front page of the World Chronicle:  “Al Sharpton Wins ‘Dartboard of the Decade” Award.”

Vera, to a faux-Savage Simian:  “Get your filthy paws off me, you damn dirty ape.”  (Obviously, this is a reference to Planet of the Apes, 1968.)

Tucker Burns, to Grace Hall:  “I can’t believe it.  We have to go play Marlin Perkins and Jim Fowler with ape monsters, and you get to go on a Mediterranean vacation?”

Later in the episode–Sal, to Wes Freewald and Tucker Burns”  “Didn’t you guys ever watch Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom?”

Wes Freewald, after the fake Animal Control man disappeared the first time:  “Who was that masked man?” (Obviously, this is a reference to the Lone Ranger.)

Monica:  “What good is it being a half-woman, half-animal if you can’t make a joke?”

Tucker Burns, to Wes Freewald:  “You know, one of these days, you’re going to be stuck in a situation without a Star Wars quote.”  Wes Freewald, in reply:  “I find your lack of faith disturbing.”

Above:  Simian Sauvage Sieges Sous-Chef

In-Universe

Due to the video quality of the episode posted at archive.org, few dates on front pages of the World Chronicle are clear.  However, the date on the issue with the headline, “Simian Sauvage Sieges Sous-Chef,” is clearly February 6, 2001.  This episode, therefore, occurs after that date.

Donald Stern has a photograph of himself standing beside Pope John Paul II in his office.

What did Donald Stern do at Grenada in 1983 that won him the admiration of the U.S. Marine Corps?

Above:  Sympathetic Sapiens in Snouts

Comments

The passage of time within this episode is problematic.  At the end, Grace proclaims that she spent two weeks on an aircraft carrier.  If we take her word for it, this episode plays out in between two and three weeks.  That is possible, but improbable.

I am gob-smacked.  This great episode is full of geeky goodness.

“Dr. Harcourt Fenton” is, of course, a reference to confidence man Harcourt “Harry” Fenton Mudd, whom Roger C. Carmel played with roguish delight in Mudd’s Women (1966), I, Mudd (1967), and Mudd’s Passion (1973), in the live-action (1966-1969) then the animated (1973-1975) Star Trek series.  I prefer to ignore that bastardization, Star Trek:  Discovery, as much as possible.

Yes, I enjoyed writing this post.  The main alternative was watching the world go to hell in a hand basket.  Escapism has its place, I concluded years ago.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 1, 2020 COMMON ERA

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The Chronicle: News from the Edge–Episode 7: Only the Young Die Good (2001)   1 comment

Above:  Dr. Suzanne Gorham

All images in this post are screen captures.

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Only the Young Die Good

Canadian Television Rating = PG

Hyperlink to Episode

Aired August 18, 2001

Production Number = 5009-01-109

Starring

Chad Willett as Tucker Burns

Jon Polito as Donald Stern

Reno Wilson as Wes Freewald

Rena Sofer as Grace Hall

Curtis Armstrong as Sal the Pig-Boy

Sharon Sachs as Vera

Octavia L. Spencer as Ruby Rydell

Main Guest Cast

Eric Balfour as Mark Griffin

Jack Banning as Dr. Ronald Copeland

Nora Dunn as Dr. Suzanne Gorham

Eugene Roche as Arnie Campbell

Behind the Camera

Consulting Producer = Naren Shankar

Writer = Peter Hume

Director = Adam Davidson

Brief Summary

Unethical and immoral policies reign supreme at the Gorham Longevity Institute, Nyack, New York.  As the episode begins, an elderly man, whom orderlies identify as Mr. Copeland, attacks an orderly and flees to a nearby convenience store.  The old man speaks to the store clerk, a young man, and identifies himself as Mark Griffin, who worked in that store last summer.  (Mark Griffin is 21 years old.)  The elderly man begs for help as three orderlies drag him away; they will kill him, he insists.  The clerk, an avid reader of the World Chronicle, shares the surveillance video with the tabloid.

Donald Stern pulls Tucker Burns and Grace Hall off their assigned story about a murderous meter maid.  The publisher wants a cover story, and within a few days.  While Tucker goes undercover as Tucker Jones, Patient Care Technician (orderly), Grace goes to the archives and conducts initial research with Sal.  Patient Care Technicians, paid $35 an hour, must live on the grounds for the first few weeks.  Few last longer than a few days or two weeks, though.  Mark Griffin, 21 years old, has a long criminal record.  Sal’s computer hacking reveals that Griffin worked as a Patient Care Technician from April 1 to April 14, but has recently been working at a coffee shop.  Furthermore, Sal informs Grace of the dubious professional record of Dr. Suzanne Gorham, founder and head of the Gorham Longevity Institute.  Her background is in research related to the brain and dementia, but, Sal learns, “undisclosed moral concerns” led to the corporate termination of that research years ago.

“Tucker Jones” gets the job and his assignment:  Arnie Campbell.  Arnie is an obnoxious, sexist, racist, and homophobic dirty old man.  He openly objectifies women and says he can identify “fruits” by the way they walk.  He is also able to pay the $5 million to get into the Gorham Longevity Institute.

Orderlies, on orders from Dr. Gorham, kill “Dr. Copeland.”  Millionaire clients pay Dr. Gorham pay Dr. Gorham to grant them new life.  A client wakes up inside the body of a former Patient Care Technician and the former orderly wakes up inside the body of an elderly person.  Then the staff murders the elderly person and the client leaves the institute.   Arnie wakes up inside Tucker’s body.  Tucker is horrified to wake up inside Arnie’s body.

Meanwhile, Grace has been speaking to Dr. Ronald Copeland, living inside the body of Mark Griffin.  The new Mark Griffin is charming.  He refers to his grandfather, by which he means Copeland.  The new Mark Griffin plays lawn bowling with his “old friends,” all elderly men.  His grandfather taught him the game, he says.

Dr. Ronald Copeland was a brilliant cardiologist whose career and research stalled after his hands began to shake.  Dr. Gorham had no qualms about accepting his payment and about killing Mark Griffin.

Wes picks up “Tucker” from the Gorham Longevity Institute.  Wes immediately realizes that something is wrong.  Arnie, inside Tucker’s body, does not recognize Tucker’s taste in music.  Also, Tucker propositions random women and charms Vera.  The receptionist enjoys the attention initially.  Then she flees “Tucker.”  Then Tucker, inside Arnie’s body, enters the offices of the World Chronicle and confronts Arnie, inside Tucker’s body.  Arnie threatens to kill Tucker’s body.  Then Arnie, inside Tucker’s body, flees.

Dr. Copeland, inside Mark Griffin’s body, finally admits his actual identity.  He helps Grace subdue Arnie, inside Tucker’s body.  Arnie is offending even the “old friends.”  Then Grace and Wes force Dr.  Gorham to reverse the transfer of consciousness.

Arnie’s plan had been, as Tucker Burns, to resign from the World Chronicle within a week.  He intended to move to Chicago and accept a position as a junior executive of Campbell Pharmaceutical, with a goal of running the company in less than a year.

Dr. Gorham and her main orderlies have to contend with homicide charges.

Dr. Copeland admits his moral culpability.  Grace encourages him, as Mark Griffin, to attend medical school (his plan), become a cardiologist, and save as many lives as possible.

Arnie plays lawn bowling with Tucker.  Arnie apologizes to Tucker.  Then Arnie hands the reporter a bottle of pills to take in case Tucker feels a burning sensation.  (Was that supposed to be funny?)

The B-plot is about Wes and Vera trying to uncover Donald Stern’s birthday and place of birth, two of his many secrets.  Wes, up for his two-year review, wants a raise, and Vera tells him that knowing those two secrets about the publisher are essential for that purpose.  Wes and Vera convince themselves that Stern is an ageless extraterrestrial alien softening up the human population for an alien invasion.  Besides, the employees have proof that Stern looks the same in late 2001 as he did in 1981, right before he disappeared for six years.  The publisher tells them that he merely hates birthdays, birthday cakes, and the “Happy Birthday Song.”   Wes and Vera seem to believe him.  Maybe they do.

Wes keeps his job but does not receive a raise.

Above:  Arnie Campbell

Character Beats

Vera really needs a romantic partner.

Donald Stern is fluent in German.

Grace Hall describes the World Chronicle as an “irreverent journal of popular culture.”

Above:  Vera

Great Lines

Vera, on the telephone:  “Black eyes with green skin or yellow eyes with gray skin”  (pause)  “Oh, that was a gray, then.  Lucky you!  I hear they’re insatiable.”

Donald Stern:  “Excellent!  Where there’s stink, there’s ink!”

Grace Hall:  “Oh, my God!  Tucker’s turned into Dean Martin!”

Above:  The Recapture of Mark Griffin, Inside the Body of Dr. Ronald Copeland

In-Universe

Given what is proven to be true in the continuity of this series, Donald Stern being an extraterrestrial alien bent on world domination is plausible.

Why has Donald Stern not aged visibly in two decades?

Tucker recently wrote a story, the headline of which was, “WOMAN GROWS HORNS AFTER CATCHING MAD COW DISEASE.”

Did Dr. Gorham have to reverse any other transfers of consciousness?  This is an unanswered question.

Above:  The New Dr. Ronald Copeland

Comments

Transfer of consciousness from one human body to another is a trope in science fiction.  Off the top of my head, I recall this trope being present in Do Not Forsake Me, Oh My Darling (The Prisoner, 1968) and Turnabout Intruder (Star Trek, 1969).  The transfer of human consciousness into an android body is a related trope, for which I can think of a longer list with little effort.

I wish there had been an episode about the woman who grew horns after catching Mad Cow Disease.

I give this episode a mixed review.  I like the Wes-Vera-Donald half of the episode.

On the other hand, Eugene Roche was a character actor I enjoyed seeing play about any role.

Arnie and Dr. Copeland are monstrous people, but the episode downplays that aspect of the story.  True, Dr. Copeland admits his moral monstrousness to Grace at the end, but the episode makes an unconvincing case for sympathizing with him nevertheless.  And Arnie is always unsympathetic.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 24, 2020 COMMON ERA

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Meh.   Leave a comment

I despise all new Star Trek programming since the first episode of Star Trek:  Discovery.  The story-telling is awful, designers have no idea how vessels, sets, and uniforms should work, and show runners have no idea what the level of technology should be.  Star Trek:  Picard is another disappointment that, visually, continues from Discovery and not from The Next Generation.  Recent news of the third series, Star Trek:  Strange New Worlds, leaves me unimpressed.  I know how the uniforms and the interiors and exterior of the Enterprise should look, for I have watched The Cage (1964).    I have that pilot on blu-ray.  These recent series occur in a universe parallel to that of the original series (1966-1969), the animated series (1973-1975), The Next Generation (1987-1994), Deep Space Nine (1993-1999), and Voyager (1995-2001).  These recent series also occur in a universe parallel to Star Trek:  Enterprise (2001-2005), itself parallel to the original series-Voyager.  (How many of the writers of Star Trek:  Enterprise watched Star Trek:  The Motion Picture?)

Enterprises

Above:  The Previous Enterprises in Star Trek:  The Motion Picture (1979)

A Cropped Screen Capture

I do not see the NX-01.

I have actual, proper Star Trek on physical media.  I choose to watch that and refrain from watching this new content, a big ball of no.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 15, 2020 COMMON ERA

Bigotry, Social Media, and Psychological Self-Defense Mechanisms   2 comments

Above:  The DVD Cover for Series Eleven of Doctor Who

Scan by Kenneth Randolph Taylor

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Never underestimate the human capability to ignore one’s faults yet recognize them in others.  All of us need to be vigilant in efforts to be honest with ourselves about ourselves.

Recently I spent much of a Saturday participating in Dismantling Racism Training at church.  The Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta offered the training, required for those who lead in their congregations.  The training was valuable and has remained thought-provoking.

My society influences me, of course.  It influences me for better and for worse.  One cannot grow up without learning preferences and biases.  In my case, the better angels of my nature affirm that any human being who has both a pulse and brain waves also has unalienable rights.  Nevertheless, I admit that I learned certain sinful biases from my culture.  I thank my parents for raising me not to be a racist and acknowledge gratefully that their lessons dominate my thinking.  However, I am not immune to other influences, which I resist in my mind.  I, as a heterosexual Caucasian male, have a different set of experiences than many other people do.  I, as a decent human being, can learn from the experiences of others and question many of my seemingly innocent assumptions, rooted in ignorance.  I do so and seek to continue to do so.

Social media have done much to unleash the ids of many people, unfortunately.  Entertainment franchises have become targets for many online expressions of bigotry.  For example, before Jodie Whittaker filmed her first scene as the Doctor, many people on social media complained about her because she was a she.  Later, many of these individuals complained about socially progressive messages in the new episodes.  How many of these people watched serials (Yes, I understand the difference between serials and episodes.  A serial consists of episodes.  Inferno, from 1970, is a serial consisting of seven episodes.  Please do not refer to Inferno as an episode.) from the classic series (1963-1989)?  (I covered some of that ground in a recent post.)

Sometimes I listen to people discuss a series I have watched then wonder if they have watched the same series I did.  Consider Star Trek (1966-1969), for example.  I hear people contrast it with the contemporary substandard shows, such as Discovery and Picard.  Some points of criticism of Discovery and Picard are legitimate.  I even agree with many of them.  Dropping F-bombs in Star Trek makes me want not to watch a Star Trek series guilty of that.  Nevertheless, the condemnations of socially and politically progressive messages, as if they are unusually preachy for Star Trek, contradict objective reality.  As I consult my copy of The Star Trek Compendium (1986), part of my library since 1988, I notice many “bonk, bonk, over the head” episodes.  I know that Gene Roddenberry designed the series to consist of morality plays.  Cold War allegories pervade the series, as in Errand of Mercy (1967).  The name “Vietnam” is absent from A Private Little War (1968), but the allegory is obvious, and dialogue hints at Vietnam.  Let That Be Your Last Battlefield (1969), with the black-and-white inhabitants of Cheron fighting each other until all are dead, is hardly subtle.  The Mark of Gideon (1969) addresses overpopulation, one of the major concerns of the time.  The Cloudminders (1969) has to do with social stratification.  Patterns of Force (1968) is a story about a recreation of the Third Reich, down to the uniforms, on another planet.  I could continue, but why belabor the point?  Who can legitimately claim that the original Star Trek series was not preachy?

The space Nazis in Star Trek:  The Next Generation and Star Trek:  Deep Space Nine are the Cardassians.

My theory, not original to me, is that many of these vocal critics of socially progressive messages in media feel threatened.  Why else would they be so vocal?  A basic grasp of human psychology points toward this conclusion.  I also factor in an unfortunate social reality that is either worse that it used to be or seems to be worse that it used to be; offending people across the spectrum of opinions is easier to do these days.  Too much is needlessly partisan.  Objective reality is objective reality.  The preponderance of scientific evidence points to certain conclusions.  Not liking objective reality does not negate it.  Finding scientific evidence offensive does not change it.

Other “offending” series full of socially progressive messages include The Twilight Zone (1959-1964) and The Outer Limits (1963-1965), two of my favorite classic series.  They are full of “bonk, bonk, over the head” moments.

We should be less defensive and more self-critical, individually and collectively.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 13, 2020 COMMON ERA

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Continuity and Canon   Leave a comment

Don’t pee on my leg and tell me it’s raining.

–Judge Judy

The overlords of Star Trek have been marketing urine as rain since 2009.  Paramount Pictures has been doing it since 2009, when, in Star Trek (2009), the sold the first moment or so of that action movie has occurring in the same universe as and about three decades prior to Star Trek (1966-1969).  Visual evidence belied that claim.  Paramount said the superficial differences were due to a “visual reboot.”  Suits at CBS have been selling the same line of dung regarding Star Trek:  Discovery (properly abbreviated as STD) since 2017.  They have also hired people who have rewritten and contradicted continuity and committed character assassination in an alleged prequel series.

Visual reboots are at least as offensive as the bad story-telling and disregard for continuity in STD.  I make a distinction between an alleged visual reboot and a remaster.  I own a blu-ray set of the original series, so I have the option of watching any episode in its original form or with the shiny new special effects.  The remastered episodes are only superficially different from the originals, for better and for worse, though.  The remastered version of Spock’s Brain looks much nicer, but it has the same script as the unaltered episode, unfortunately.  Furthermore, those who remastered the original series obviously knew it well and held it in awe.

Likewise, the remastering and alteration of Starhunter (2000-2001) and Starhunter 2300 (2003-2004) into Starhunter Redux is a labor of love and respect, with some of the original guiding hands still behind the scenes.  Starhunter Redux is a television equivalent of a director’s cut of a movie.  That is fine.  Nobody is producing a terrible and alleged prequel series to Starhunter and disrespecting continuity.

Some creators (who will remain unnamed here) of YouTube series have said that the only people who have any legitimate right to define canon are the licensed creators/owners–in this case, CBS.  Balderdash!  Or, as General McAuliffe replied to a German demand for surrender during World War II,

NUTS!

Unlike the people responsible for writing STD, I understand and respect nearly all of the previous series.  (I heap scorn upon Star Trek:  Voyager and Star Trek:  Enterprise, however.  Enterprise broke me of my habit of watching and recording every new episode.)

At least I have I my copies of actual Star Trek movies and actual Star Trek series to enjoy.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 7, 2019 COMMON ERA

Flagrant Disregard for Continuity   2 comments

I am an old-school Trekkie.  I remember a time when available Star Trek consisted of the 1966-1969 episodes in reruns on local stations, a handful of movies in VHS format, and, when the gods smiles, reruns of the 1973-1975 animated series on cable television.  I recall possessing a large library of VHS cassettes full of episodes I recorded.  My earliest memory of Star Trek is the classic episode Metamorphosis, which originally aired in 1967.  I can recite Star Trek II:  The Wrath of Khan (1982) word-for-word and, when I listen to the soundtrack, know exactly what is happening.  I know that Prime timeline stories ended with the lamentable Star Trek:  Nemesis (2002), and that, regardless of what anyone says, the events of the equally lamentable Star Trek:  Enterprise (2001-2005) exist in a parallel universe created in Star Trek:  First Contact (1996) and do not precede the original series in universe.

I also know that Star Trek‘s Prime Timeline is a sequence of period pieces.  Each incarnation of the Enterprise is a given size and looks a certain way.  The level of technology is what it is.  The uniforms are what they are.  The bridge design is what it is.  Continuity matters.  Maintaining it is a matter of respect for the franchise.

I have no use for the open contempt for human dignity that many critics of Star Trek:  Discovery and other series (notably Series 11 of Doctor Who) spew.  The misogyny, sexism, and homophobia of these individuals is wrong.  These critics also seem not to grasp that socially progressive politics have been part of Doctor Who since 1963 and Star Trek since 1964.  Do these critics forget A Private Little War, classic Star Trek‘s critique of the Vietnam War?  The Daleks, who debuted in one the earliest First Doctor serials, are an unveiled allegory of fascism in general and of Nazism in particular.  I also remember Patterns of Force, a classic Star Trek episode that used reproductions of Nazi uniforms.  In a related matter, I remember that, when news of the recasting of Starbuck (renamed Kara Thrace) in the reimagined Battlestar Galactica broke in 2003, many people complained about political correctness.  I also recall that Katee Sackhoff played that role brilliantly.

My main critique of Star Trek:  Discovery is that it openly shows disregard for continuity in both visual style and story content.  If one is going to film a prequel series to the original series, one should reproduce the look of the technology and uniforms, and mind the chronology meticulously.

My comment to all those is responsible for this abomination of a series is,

I hope your series fails miserably and ends as soon as possible.  Stop insulting those of us who care about our franchises. Don’t let the door hit you where the dog should have bit you.  If you want to take such liberties with details, create your own fictional universe in which to set your stories.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 12, 2019 COMMON ERA

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The Multiverse of Star Trek   1 comment

Above:  The Parallel Terok Nor in Through the Looking Glass (1995), an Episode of Star Trek:  Deep Space Nine

A Screen Capture

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With Kvetching about Star Trek:  Discovery

The multiverse internal to Star Trek has been an established fact since the original series (1966-1969).  Aside from the Prime Timeline, in which the series and movies (except perhaps Star Trek V:  The Final Frontier, 1989) existed through Star Trek:  Voyager (1995-2001) and Star Trek:  Nemesis (2002), visual Star Trek has offered parallel universes also.  In the original series viewers saw an antimatter universe in The Alternative Factor (1967) and an evil universe in Mirror, Mirror (1967).  Star Trek:  Deep Space Nine (1993-1999) included occasional sequels to Mirror, Mirror.  The multiverse was essential to the plot of Parallels (1993), an episode of Star Trek:  The Next Generation (1987-1994).  Star Trek:  Enterprise (2001-2005) must have played out in a parallel universe, given the problems of reckless discontinuity with all the Star Trek series produced prior to it.  And all the Star Trek movies since 2009 have occurred in a parallel universe, probably the same one that includes Star Trek:  Enterprise.  Beyond that, there is no way the opening minute or so of Star Trek (2009) played out in the Prime Timeline.

Star Trek:  Discovery (2017-) allegedly occurs in the Prime Timeline–to be precise, between The Cage (1964) and Where No Man Has Gone Before (1965), the two pilot episodes of the original series.  That official claim is malarkey.  The starships in Star Trek:  Discovery (STD is an appropriate abbreviation.) are too large.  The technology is inconsistent with the original series.  The uniforms are wrong.  The U.S.S. Enterprise in STD is much too big, as well as visually inconsistent with the original series.

As Doug Drexler argues, Star Trek is a period piece.  One can respect the look of the original series, as Star Trek:  The Next Generation, Star Trek:  Deep Space Nine, and Star Trek:  Enterprise did.  One need not reinvent the wheel, as STD does.

There is a simple way to avoid pretending that discontinuity between STD and the rest of Star Trek does not exist:  acknowledge the obvious, which is that STD occurs in a parallel universe, perhaps its own.

I despise STD for its own demerits.  I would despise STD for its own demerits, even if pretending to be in the Prime Timeline were not one of them.  The sturn und drang behind the scenes creates an identity crisis for the series.  The political progressiveness is fine; I am a liberal, and toleration is an inherent element of Star Trek.  Nevertheless, is STD about exploration or war?  I ponder the trailer for the second season and wonder if STD is trying to ape The Orville while becoming about exploration and continuing to make a mockery of the Prime Timeline.  STD reminds me of SeaQuest, a series NBC aired under two titles for three seasons in the 1990s.  I remember the identity crisis of that series, each season of which might as well as have been a separate series.

At least The Orville respects Star Trek.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 26, 2018 COMMON ERA

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Brief Reviews: Star Trek Movies VII-X   2 comments

Above:  The U.S.S. Enterprise, NCC-1701-E, from Star Trek:  First Contact (1996)

A Screen Capture

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Preliminary Statements

A few preliminary statements will prove helpful before I get into the meat of this post:

  1. I have been a fan of Star Trek for a long time.  I used to watch the original series in reruns–sometimes on weekends and, when possible, weekdays–and record episodes.  I remember stumbling upon an occasional episode of the animated series (1973-1975) on cable television in the early 1990s.  I recall when I could count the number of movies on one hand and have fingers left over.  I remember watching The Next Generation (1987-1994) in first run.  I have watched every Star Trek movie and most episodes.  I watched every episode all the way through Voyager (1995-2001).  I abandoned Star Trek:  Enterprise (2001-2005) early in the third season, for I was tired of subjecting myself to that series after two years.
  2. Certain Star Trek fans are fanatical to the point of leaving vicious comments online.  I have no use for such behavior.  This is entertainment, not a matter of life and death.  William Shatner’s “Get a life” sketch from Saturday Night Live (1986) rings true for many people.
  3. One can find many podcasts and videos regarding Star Trek episodes and movies.  Unfortunately, many of the creators of these media (A) swear enough to embarrass even the most profane sailors, (B) are hyper-critical, to the point of pettiness, and/or (C) speak out of their ignorance.  All of this irritates me.  I respond by ceasing to watch such videos and listen to such podcasts.
  4. On the other hand, many reviewers, working in written, audio, and audio-visual media, do speak and write out of their knowledge.  I am especially fond of the reviews at tor.com, for example.
  5. My intention in this post is neither to write all that I know regarding four Star Trek:  The Next Generation movies nor to replicate the work of others.  (I know far more about these movies than I have written here.)  No, I plan to be concise and to contextualize these films according to each other.  My most basic standard regarding any of the Star Trek movies is whether I want to place the disc in my Blu-ray player, press the “play” button on the remote control, and watch the movie from beginning to end without skipping any scenes.
  6. No work of human beings is perfect, of course, but it can be enjoyable and well-crafted.  I seek to find the good and praise it, imperfect as it might be.

Star Trek:  Generations (1994)

A screen capture

I recall reading Federation (1994), a novel by Judith and Garfield Reeves-Stevens, in which two Enterprises–those of Kirk and Picard–encounter each other.  I acknowledge that this was years ago, so my memories of the plot are sketchy, but I assert without a shadow of a doubt that a movie closer to that novel would have been superior to Star Trek:  Generations.

Next Generation writers Ronald D. Moore and Brannon Braga wrote the screenplay for Generations over a period of a year and a half.  Toward the end of that time they also wrote All Good Things… (1994), the series finale of The Next Generation, in a handful of weeks.  The latter work, they have admitted on their commentary track for Generations, was superior to the former.  Moore and Braga had a difficult assignment, one which came with a studio-issued list of plot elements to include.  Paramount Pictures contributed to the lackluster nature of this movie.  The Nexus, for example, never worked well.  Neither did the death of Captain Kirk.  Furthermore, Kirk and Picard scrambling eggs was an anticlimax.

My main complaint, however, pertains to the destruction of the U.S.S. Enterprise, NCC-1701-D, a capital ship.  The Enterprise-D being vulnerable to an antiquated Klingon Bird of Prey is beyond ridiculous.  But at least we have the scene in which Data, with his emotion chip installed, swears once as the saucer section falls toward Veridian III.  That is entertaining, but the previous scene in which he sings a ditty about scanning for lifeforms is better.

In Dr. Soran we have a villain whose plans do not make sense.  What is to stop him from flying a ship into the Nexus?  Instead he destroys stars and, by extension, solar systems, to alter the course of the Nexus.  I do not emphasize the irrationality of Dr. Soran too much, for I know from history and current events that people are frequently irrational.  I know what has happened, but cannot make logical sense of those events because they are illogical.

All things considered, I have no desire to watch this movie from beginning to end, without skipping scenes.

Star Trek:  First Contact (1996)

A screen capture

Star Trek:  First Contact, the best of the Next Generation movies, according to conventional wisdom, is a film I have difficulty watching.  The movie is too intense for my comfort, due to the Borg, in their silver screen budget incarnation.  They creep me out.  I tend to skip scenes in First Contact, therefore.

First Contact does have its great merits, however.  The black-and-gray uniforms are superior to the immediately preceding uniforms.  Also, the Sovereign Class Enterprise-E is gorgeous.  The characters are in fine form, with Picard having his Captain Ahab phase and Worf being a full Klingon, as when he tells Picard,

If you were any other man, I would kill you where you stand.

I do, however, have a quibble regarding the Borg Queen.  She exists because of a directive from someone at Paramount Pictures.  The Borg are better without a queen, for putting a face on the Collective raises certain difficult questions in universe.  Does she follow the will of the Collective or does she direct it?  And how is it possible that she was on the Borg cube that blew up in The Best of Both Worlds, Part II?

Star Trek:  Insurrection (1998)

A screen capture

I have listened to podcasts and watched video reviews about Star Trek:  Insurrection.  The creators of some of these media have erupted in frustration and frequent profanity.  These have been overreactions.  I have never objected to the fact that some people do not like the film, but I have always insisted that one should express oneself in the style of an adult whose vocabulary is considerably larger than a collection of curse words.

This is my favorite Next Generation movie.  Yes, it feels like a two-parter from the Next Generation series, but it feels like a good two-parter, specifically what Journey’s End (1994), in which Picard presides over the forced relocation of Native Americans, should have been.  In Insurrection Picard occupies what screen writer Michael Piller called “the moral center of the universe.”  Besides, why is the Federation in league with the Son’a, allies of the Dominion (which is trying to conquer the Federation) in the Dominion War?  The answer comes from an earlier draft of the script:  Admiral Dougherty is affiliated with Section 31.

Of all the Next Generation movies, this is the only one I choose to watch from beginning to end, without skipping scenes.

Star Trek:  Nemesis (2002)

A screen capture

Star Trek:  Nemesis, to quote Marina Sirtis, “sucks.”  The best Star Trek stories are character-focused.  In this movie, however, the best character moments are absent from the theatrical cut and are available in the deleted scenes section of the second disc of the set.  Those facts contribute to the poor critical reception of the movie at the time and the disappointing box office results.  This is the movie that, along with Star Trek:  Enterprise, killed the prime universe of Star Trek on screen.

Above:  The Enterprise-E and the Scimitar, after the Enterprise-E rammed the Scimitar

A screen capture

This was, according to the trailer, the final voyage of the Next Generation crew.  Data died, Riker and Troi married and transferred to the U.S.S. Titan, and Crusher left to lead Starfleet Medical.  However, the downloaded memories of Data began to surface in the primitive android B-4 by the end of the movie.  According to Countdown, the comic book prequel to Star Trek (2009), B-4 became Data (Mark II) and the Captain of the Enterprise-E in time.  There might have been subsequent prime universe movies with characters from various series (The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, and Voyager), but the failure of Nemesis prevented that.

The plot of the movie depends too much on coincidence.  What is the probability that Romulan agents would plot to clone Picard?  What are the odds that the Enterprise-E would detect the disassembled B-4?  And what is the likelihood that Starfleet would send the Enterprise-E to Romulus?

The script of Nemesis, like that of Generations, tackles ponderous themes ambitiously and fails.  The fault does not reside in the purview of the main Next Generation cast.  Patrick Stewart, for example, is so great an actor that he elevates subpar material.  The fault falls upon the writer, John Logan, whose script does not give the characters a proper send off.  Maybe he should take lessons from Nicholas Meyer, co-author of The Undiscovered Country (1991).

I choose not to dwell too much on the illogical plans of Shinzon, the clone of Picard.  Shinzon, for a man who is dying, wastes plenty of time.  Furthermore, why would the destruction of Earth cripple the Federation?  For an explanation of why I am not making more of the irrationality of Shinzon, consult my remarks about Dr. Soran in Generations.

Above:  The Enterprise-E, Undergoing Repairs

A screen capture

Nemesis gives me no satisfaction; I watch only parts of the movie.

Rankings

Ranking these four movies is relatively easy for me:

  1. Star Trek:  Insurrection
  2. Star Trek:  First Contact
  3. Star Trek:  Generations
  4. Star Trek:  Nemesis

The original series movies, taken together, are superior to the Next Generation movies, taken together.

My overall rankings of movies I-X are here.

Special Note:  Abramsverse Movies and Contemporary Star Trek 

Nevertheless, the Next Generation movies, taken together, are superior to the Abramsverse reboot movies #1-3, taken together.  (Movie #4 is in development as I write this.)  Of the three Abramsverse films so far, Star Trek Beyond (2016) is the best and Star Trek Into Darkness (2013) is the worst.

Furthermore, the U.S.S. Enterprise, NCC-1701-A, from the end of Star Trek Beyond, is ugly.  I like the Constitution Class refit from the first six Star Trek movies.

I agree with Simon Pegg that prime Spock and Nero entered the past of another parallel universe, not that of the prime universe.  This is obvious to me due to the technology and uniforms.  Besides, the existence of a multiverse in Star Trek has been part of canon since Mirror, Mirror, in the original series.  One might even argue convincingly that Star Trek:  Enterprise occurs in a parallel universe.

Regardless of what CBS/Paramount says, the trailer for Star Trek:  Discovery (2017-) makes the setting of that series look like the Abramsverse.  As Doug Drexler, who knows more about Star Trek than most people, says, Star Trek is a period drama.  A particular era of Star Trek has a certain look.  Why not, therefore, just state plainly that this is an Abramsverse series?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 20, 2017 COMMON ERA

Brief Reviews: Star Trek Movies I-VI   3 comments

Above:  The Starship Enterprise, NCC-1701, from Star Trek:  The Motion Picture (1979)

A Screen Capture

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Preliminary Statements

A few preliminary statements will prove helpful before I get into the meat of this post:

  1. I have been a fan of Star Trek for a long time.  I used to watch the original series in reruns–sometimes on weekends and, when possible, weekdays–and record episodes.  I remember stumbling upon an occasional episode of the animated series (1973-1975) on cable television in the early 1990s.  I recall when I could count the number of movies on one hand and have fingers left over.  I remember watching The Next Generation (1987-1994) in first run.  I have watched every Star Trek movie and most episodes.  I watched every episode all the way through Voyager (1995-2001).  I abandoned Star Trek:  Enterprise (2001-2005) early in the third season, for I was tired of subjecting myself to that series after two years.
  2. Certain Star Trek fans are fanatical to the point of leaving vicious comments online.  I have no use for such behavior.  This is entertainment, not a matter of life and death.  William Shatner’s “Get a life” sketch from Saturday Night Live (1986) rings true for many people.
  3. One can find many podcasts and videos regarding Star Trek episodes and movies.  Unfortunately, many of the creators of these media (A) swear enough to embarrass even the most profane sailors, (B) are hyper-critical, to the point of pettiness, and/or (C) speak out of their ignorance.  All of this irritates me.  I respond by ceasing to watch such videos and listen to such podcasts.
  4. On the other hand, many reviewers, working in written, audio, and audio-visual media, do speak and write out of their knowledge.  I am especially fond of the reviews at tor.com, for example.
  5. My intention in this post is neither to write all that I know regarding the first six Star Trek movies nor to replicate the work of others.  (I know far more about these movies than I have written here.)  No, I plan to be concise and to contextualize these films according to each other.  My most basic standard regarding any of the Star Trek movies is whether I want to place the disc in my Blu-ray player, press the “play” button on the remote control, and watch the movie from beginning to end without skipping any scenes.
  6. No work of human beings is perfect, of course, but it can be enjoyable and well-crafted.  I seek to find the good and praise it, imperfect as it might be.

Star Trek:  The Motion Picture (1979)

A Screen Capture

Star Trek:  The Motion Picture exists in various versions, all of which suffer from the same problems, with their origins in the story itself.  The story, such as it is, is an adaptation of a pilot for a television series Paramount never made.  The movie also overextends the plot and focuses more on special effects than on characters.  The best Star Trek stories have to do with characters.  In this movie, however, characters in pastel pajama-like uniforms gaze at special effects for long periods of time.  Speaking of the story, I like the concise version of it–The Changeling, an episode of the original series.

Nevertheless, The Motion Picture does have its virtues.  The overture, Ilia’s Theme, is gorgeous, the soundtrack by Jerry Goldsmith is majestic, and the Enterprise receives all the respect due such an august vessel.  I enjoy looking at the Enterprise, so I like the sequence in which Kirk, Scotty, and, by extension, the audience members, look at the refit ship’s exterior for six minutes.  This is a movie for people with long attention spans, not individuals with the attention spans of fleas with ADHD.

I rank The Motion Picture near the bottom of the first six Star Trek movies, for, after the ship leaves the orbit of Earth, I start skipping scenes.  To paraphrase George Lucas from a Star Wars documentary from the 1980s, a special effect without a story is boring.

Star Trek II:  The Wrath of Khan (1982)

A Screen Capture

I thrill to play this movie from beginning to end, without interruption.

The Wrath of Khan also exists in various editions.  I prefer the director’s cut, for that version includes nice character moments and background information absent from the theatrical edition.

The Wrath of Khan, the first installment in the accidental trilogy, is a movie I have memorized.  I can anticipate every line of dialogue while watching it.  Also, whenever I listen to the soundtrack, I can visualize the germane scene.  This is my favorite Star Trek film.  It is the favorite Star Trek movie of many people.  It is so popular and influential, in fact, that Paramount Pictures has released remakes and bastardizations of it, namely Star Trek:  Nemesis (2002) and Star Trek Into Darkness (2013), both of which I consider barely watchable.

The stars align in The Wrath of Khan.  Ricardo Montalban is excellent as the poetic and insane Khan, the “majestic maroon” uniforms are wonderful, the theme of aging resonates well, the death of Spock is gut-wrenching, and Admiral Kirk realizes the truth of his statement that

How we deal with death is at least as important as how we deal with life.

I cannot heap enough praise on this film, for its flaws are minor.

Star Trek III:  The Search for Spock (1984)

A screen capture

Leonard Nimoy’s debut as a cinematic director is a wonderful story of self-sacrifice for a friend.  Admiral Kirk and the other heroes from the original series risk their careers and destroy the decommisioned Enterprise to reunite Spock’s body (regenerating on the Genesis Planet) with his katra (resident in Dr. McCoy).

Here is another movie I enjoy watching from beginning to end, without skipping any scenes.  Yes, Star Trek III is not as good as Star Trek II.  Yes, the leisure wear is horrid.  Yes, the chairs on the bridge of the U.S.S. Grissom are pink.  Nevertheless, the Excelsior and Oberth Classes of starships debut in this film.  They, in combination with the Miranda Class (from Star Trek II) add up to three new classes of starships, thereby expanding the Starfleet on-screen.  Furthermore, the enclosed Spacedock makes its first appearance in Star Trek III.

My favorite aspect of Star Trek III is the character work.  Out of friendship Kirk and company make themselves criminals to rescue Spock, who had sacrificed himself to ensure that the Enterprise could escape from the Genesis Wave in Star Trek II.  Star Trek III has plenty of heart.

Star Trek IV:  The Voyage Home (1986)

A screen capture

The Voyage Home, for all of its plot holes and a few pointless scenes, is fun.  I have no difficulty watching it from beginning to end, without skipping scenes.

Much of the appeal of Star Trek IV is the fish-out-of-water plot for our heroes.  Watching Admiral Kirk and company in San Francisco in 1986 is hilarious.  Spock discovers profanity and curses badly, inserting “the hell” awkwardly into sentences.  (“They like you very much, but they are not the hell your whales.”)  Kirk does not know the difference between LSD and LDS.   (“He did too much LDS in the Sixties.”)  Scotty speaks to a computer.  Chekov and Uhura seek “nuclear wessels” during the Cold War.  All of this is fun.

“Home” has a double meaning.  “Home” refers to Earth, which the crew saves from an alien probe with a warped sense of logic.  The probe, having lost contact with humpback whales, proceeds to begin to vaporize oceans.  Huh? (Whales are aquatic lifeforms.) “Home” also refers to the Enterprise-A, presumably the Yorktown (the ship whose chief engineer rigged a solar sail at the beginning of the movie), Kirk’s new command after demotion to the rank of captain.

Kirk’s demotion to Captain makes sense.  In The Motion Picture he seizes command of the newly refit Enterprise awa from Willard Decker, who goes off to merge with V’Ger.  In The Wrath of Khan both Spock and McCoy tell Kirk that he ought to be a starship captain.  Kirk is bored when he is not commanding a starship. His demotion from Admiral to Captain is not a punishment, but a reward.

The Voyage Home‘s financial success is the reason Paramount Pictures greenlit The Next Generation (1987-1994), thereby launching a period of 18 years during which at least one Star Trek series was in production at any given time.  That is a fine legacy.

Star Trek V:  The Final Frontier (1989)

A Screen Capture

I know that The Final Frontier makes plain that the Enterprise-A is a new, poorly constructed ship, but I refuse to consider this movie to be part of Star Trek canon.  The film tramples continuity, makes a mockery of the Enterprise-A (until it ceases to do so, without explanation), and portrays most of our beloved characters in inconsistent and unflattering ways.  How is it that characters who were prepared, in universe, less than a year prior to this movie, to throw away their careers to rescue Spock, betray Kirk so casually in Star Trek V?

This is cinematic excrement with an occasional nice character moment.  But who are these characters?  They are certainly not the Kirk, Spock, McCoy, Uhura, Sulu, Scotty, and Chekov I have come to know via episodes and movies.

“All I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by.”–John Masefield

A screen capture

At least the Enterprise-A, being a refit Constitution Class vessel, has graceful lines.  (The refit Constitution Class is my favorite starship design.)  However, the vessel, according to deck plans, has 21 decks, with the Bridge being on Deck A, at the top of the saucer.  In the movie the ship has at least 84 decks.  That is quite an error in the The Final Frontier.

Furthermore, Kirk and crew have been to the center of galaxy.  In The Majicks of Megus-Tu, an episode of the animated series, the Enterprise journeyed to the center of the galaxy, where Kirk and crew met Satan, who seems to have been a horribly misunderstood character, according to the story.  In this movie they just met a disgruntled and imprisoned spirit vulnerable to Klingon weapons.  Both stories were garbage.

Star Trek VI:  The Undiscovered Country (1991)

A screen capture

Star Trek VI gives our heroes a proper send-off, complete with a warmongering Klingon general who quotes Shakespeare, sometimes in, as Chancellor Gorkon puts it, “in the original Klingon.”  Kirk and crew save the day and the life of the President of the United Federation of Planets, but not before events force them to confront their own prejudices first.  Even the best of us harbor nasty prejudices, after all.  The difference between the best of us and the worst of us is that the best of us acknowledge and resist those prejudices.

Change is frequently difficult, even when the change in question is necessary and proper.  In this case the change is the end the Federation-Klingon Cold War, in parallel to the Cold War of the twentieth century.  When we define ourselves according to who our enemies are, the question of how we will define ourselves when our enemies cease to be our enemies becomes a psychologically difficult one.  Some individuals become so frightened of change in Star Trek VI that they conspire to assassinate.

Above:  The Enterprise-A and the Excelsior

Sulu is wonderful as Captain of the Excelsior, a ship he would have commanded since Star Trek III, except for William Shatner’s behind-the-scenes machinations in the 1980s.  I wonder how different certain preceding movies would have been with Sulu aboard the Excelsior.  I am convinced that the supporting characters, such as Sulu, always deserved more to do in the original series and in the first six Star Trek movies.

I have no difficulty watching Star Trek VI from beginning to end, without skipping scenes.

Rankings

As I have pondered these movies again during the last few days, I have changed my mind several times regarding the relative rankings.  I have arrived at the following rankings, from best to worst:

  1. Star Trek II:  The Wrath of Khan
  2. Star Trek VI:  The Undiscovered Country
  3. Star Trek IV:  The Voyage Home
  4. Star Trek III:  The Search for Spock
  5. Star Trek:  The Motion Picture
  6. Star Trek V:  The Final Frontier

Nicholas Meyer directed my two favorite Star Trek movies and partially wrote the top three.  He was a great asset to this series of films, after all, so this ranking has not proven to be accidental.

My overall rankings of movies I-X are here.

Looking Ahead

Next I plan to ponder and rank the four Next Generation movies.

I choose make one point of comparison plain here:  The original series movies were, taken together, superior to the Next Generation films, taken together.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 19, 2018 COMMON ERA