Archive for the ‘Star Trek: Nemesis (2002)’ Category

The Starlost: Space Precinct (1973)   2 comments

Above:  “A sun, a real star”

A Screen Capture

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EPISODE 16

Aired January 5, 1974

0:49:24

The episode is available here.

STARRING

Keir Dullea as Devon

Gay Rowan as Rachel

Robin Ward as Garth

GUEST STARRING

Ivor Barry as Rathe Mathers, Chief of the Intra-Ark Police

Nuala Fitzgerald as Reena, Chief of Planetary Police, Federation of United Planets

Richard Alden as Mike, the Pilot of I.A.P. Module Number One

Diane Dewey as “Tech,” Police Technician, Class A, Intra-Ark Police

William Osler as Computer Host and Voice

BEHIND THE CAMERAS

Series created by Cordwainer Bird (Harlan Ellison)

Episode written by Martin Lager

Story Consultant = Norman Klenman

Director = Joseph L. Scanlan

Producer = William Davidson

Executive Producers = Douglas Trumbull and Jerry Zeitman

Above:  Garth, “Tech,” and Rathe

A Screen Capture

THE INTRA-ARK POLICE (I.A.P.)

Where have the Intra-Ark Police (I.A.P.) been for the previous fifteen episodes?  They would have been helpful as early as the second episode, Lazarus from the Mist.

Diane Dewey’s character has no name.  The end credits list the character as “Technician.”  The character herself and all other characters who encounter her call her “Tech.”

Why do the Intra-Ark Police, who have long known about the impending doom of the Ark, tried to do nothing to save it?

Above:  I.A.P. Module Number One

A Screen Capture

The I.A.P. modules allow for mobility on the Ark, a large vessel.

Most members of the I.A.P. are “textbook-trained graduates of the Ark Academy,” as Chief Rathe Masters refers to them dismissively.

Where is the Ark Academy?

Who controls the Ark Academy?

Does Rathe answer to the Director of Security, mentioned in Farthing’s Comet?

The I.A.P. violate the already-broken concept of The Starlost.

Members of the I.A.P., except for mini-skirted women, wear uniforms identical to those of the Astro-Medics.  “Tech” dresses identically to Lethe, from And Only Man is Vile.

The I.A.P. knows much about the residents of the Ark.

The I.A.P. has been tracking Devon, Rachel, and Garth for seven months, since Voyage of Discovery.  This timeframe contradicts The Alien Oro.

Chief Rathe Masters’s base of operations is I.A.P. Module Number One.

The I.A.P. has at least twelve divisions.  We hear about yet never see Division 12.

Rathe has grand plans for the I.A.P.-F.U.P. police force.  The result will be a force that “will be able to handle everything from a burglary to a space shootout.”

The Solar System of the Federation of United Planets

A Screen Capture

THE FEDERATION OF UNITED PLANETS (F.U.P.)

The name “Federation of United Planets” is terribly derivative of the United Federation of Planets, from Star Trek (1966-1969) and its successors.

The F.U.P., contained in one solar system of ten planets, consists of nine inhabited worlds.  The habitable zone in that solar system is extremely unlikely, to understate the case.  But recall, O reader, that The Starlost is the series that mentions a “solar star,” “radiation virus,” and “space senility.”  Are you expecting science?

The worlds of the F.U.P. orbit what Rathe describes as “a sun, a real star.”  I hope they do not orbit a “solar star”!

The F.U.P. is about to go to war over the mining rights on the uninhabited world of Apor.  The two main planets, leaders of competing alliances, are Arak and Accombra.  Arak passed on the opportunity to mine on Apor until Accombra staked its claim.  Now Arak threatens to wage war and Accombra threatens to secede.  The hijacking of Accombran ore freighters is increasing tensions.

Above:  Federation Headquarters

A Screen Capture

The headquarters of the F.U.P. is an orbiting space station.

The F.U.P. and the I.A.P. have been in contact for five years.  Now that the Ark is close to the solar system, a launch window is about to open.  The next launch window will open in about a year.

Above:  Reena

A Screen Capture

Reena, the Chief of Planetary Police, F.U.P., seeks Rathe’s help in preventing an interplanetary war.  She says she needs his advanced police techniques in the F.U.P.

Reena’s uniform reminds me of clothes in Gallery of Fear and The Beehive.

Above:  Chief Rathe Masters, I.A.P.

A Screen Capture

SUMMARY OF THE EPISODE

As Space Precinct opens, Rachel is consulting a sphere projector while Devon and Garth look on.  The members of the trio are wearing their usual clothing from Cypress Corners, also known as M124.  Rachel is gathering information about biosphere M71, a scientific, experimental, agrarian station.  The last reported contact with M71 was in 2386, in the year after the Ark‘s accident.  M71 was high-tech in 2386.  The regular access routes are sealed, but access may be possible via service channels.  The sphere projector provides directions.

Devon and Rachel are enthusiastic about going to M71, but Garth is not.  He says goodbye and heads back toward Cypress Corners.  Garth does not get far before Rathe Masters, Chief of the Intra-Ark Police (I.A.P.), detains him for questioning and takes him to I.A.P. Module Number One, docked in its assigned place.

Meanwhile, Rachel and Devon don spacesuits before entering a freight elevator with little air in it.  They are en route to M71.  The elevator gets stuck, and the supply of air in the space suits is limited.

At Module One, Rathe learns more about Garth than Garth may have known about himself.  Rathe offers Garth a job as a detective in the I.A.P.  Garth accepts the offer.  Rathe is convinced that Garth can help him prevent a war in the Federation of United Planets (F.U.P.).

Rathe calls Reena, the Chief of Planetary Police in the F.U.P.  He tells her that Module One will leave in a few minutes, when the launch window will open.  Yet Module One can never leave because someone is jamming the system.  “Tech,” Rathe’s trusted aide, tells him that the jamming signal comes from the F.U.P.  He believes her.  Yet she is lying; she keeps jamming the system.  “Tech” spends most of the episode casting blame onto innocent people, mainly Reena and Garth.

Garth suspects that Reena may have a traitor on her staff.  This turns out to be correct; he is Ragar, whom we never see.  Ragar and “Tech” are working together.  Ragar, responsible for protecting the ore ships, is orchestrating the hijacking of them and getting rich.  He, planning to win the F.U.P. war and have Reena killed, has offered “Tech” Reena’s job in one year.

Poor Garth!  Mike suspects him of being a traitor.  Rathe suspects.  Even Reena suspects him.  Then she reveals that “Tech” is a traitor.

Back in the freight elevator, Devon removes his helmet then the helmet of the unconscious Rachel.  The air in the elevator is all the air they have left.  Reena calls in Division 12 to rescue Devon and Rachel.  Then, when alone, she calls off Division 12.  Next, she tells Garth that Devon and Rachel have died.

Soon, however, Garth overhears “Tech” speaking with Ragar.  He knows that she is a liar and a traitor.  She tries to kill him by stunning him and leaving him in an airless elevator.  But one of his boots prevents the elevator door from closing completely.  “Tech” tells Rathe that Garth is dead.  He is alive, though.

Rathe sends Division 12 to rescue Devon and Rachel.  Division 12 rescues them, off-screen, of course.

Until nearly the end of the episode, Reena suspects Garth of being a traitor.  Then she tells Rathe that “Tech” is a traitor.  “Tech” goes to the Ark jail.  The plot ended, tensions in the F.U.P. begin to cool.

Reena says,

Garth, we’ll make a detective out of you yet.

Garth replies,

Well, I’ll let you know.

Le fin.

Above:  Mike, Pilot of Intra-Ark Police Module Number One

A Screen Capture

OTHER UNANSWERED QUESTIONS

Where is the laundry in the tubes and corridors of the Earth Ship Ark?

Where are the bathrooms and showers in tubes and corridors of the Earth Ship Ark?

How does Garth maintain that early 1970s haircut while on the run in the tubes and corridors of the Earth Ship Ark?

Given that Devon, Rachel, and Garth have been to the Bridge, why do they need to find the backup Bridge?

Why are so many people on the Ark fatalistic?

Why does Devon not invoke his authority as the Ark commander?  (The Return of Oro)

Why does Devon’s level of interest in saving the Ark vary from episode to episode, and sometimes within an episode?

How many zoological laboratories are on the Earth Ship Ark?

What is M71 like in 2790?

Will Devon and Rachel go to M71 after all?

Will Garth rejoin Devon and Rachel?

Is the Ark doomed to collide with the “Class-G solar star”?

Above:  “Tech”

A Screen Capture

OTHER COMMENTS

For the record, Garth, Identification Number 774833-BXL-871, was born to Rebecca and Old Garth on May 22, 2767.

Space Precinct was the final episode of The Starlost filmed.  However, there were scripts for episodes #17 and 18:  God That Died and People in the Dark.

The full season run would have been twenty-four episodes.  However, NBC chose not to order the final eight episodes.  Good riddance to bad rubbish!

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

SEPTEMBER 17, 2021 COMMON ERA

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All images in this post are screen captures from a series that is freely available at archive.org and YouTube.

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The Starlost: The Alien Oro (1973)   6 comments

Above:  Oro

A Screen Capture

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EPISODE 7

Aired November 3, 1973

0:49:21

The episode is available here.

STARRING

Keir Dullea as Devon

Gay Rowan as Rachel

Robin Ward as Garth

GUEST STARRING

Walter Koenig as Oro

Alexandra Bastedo as Idona (Y-419-B2)

William Osler as Computer Voice and Host

BEHIND THE CAMERAS

Series created by Cordwainer Bird (Harlan Ellison)

Episode written by Mort Forer and Marian Waldman

Story Consultant = Norman Klenman

Director = Joseph L. Scanlan

Science Consultant = Ben Bova

Producer = William Davidson

Executive Producers = Douglas Trumbull and Jerry Zeitman

Above:  Oro’s Ship, Explorer Ship 531

A Screen Capture

BACKGROUND

Harlan Ellison wrote many introductions.  He told the following story in the introduction to Edward Bryant’s novelization of Phoenix Without Ashes (1975):  As ratings for The Starlost fell from week to week, the people in charge of producing the series called Gener Roddenberry.  The offered him fifty percent of the show if he would rescue the series.  The Great Bird of the Galaxy refused.  Then those Canadians asked Roddenberry to recommend someone.  He offered one name:  Harlan Ellison.  As Ellison told the story, Roddenberry said:

If you hadn’t screwed him so badly, he could have done a good job for you.

Then Roddenberry hung up.

Roddenberry had other irons in the fire.  He was working on a proposed series, for which he made two pilots for two networks.  Those pilots were Genesis II (1973) and Planet Earth (1974).  Somewhere in there, he also worked on another project, The Questor Tapes (1974).  That did not lead to a series either.  The Questor Tapes did influence Lieutenant Commander Data in Star Trek:  The Next Generation (1987-1994) and related movies (1994, 1996, 1998, and 2002), though.  Furthermore, the name “Dylan Hunt” and some plot elements from Genesis II and Planet Earth influenced Andromeda (2000-2005).

The casting of Walter Koenig as Oro (dressed in a gold-colored uniform, appropriately) was an effort to breathe new life into the series by bringing in an actor from Star Trek (1966-1969).  Unfortunately, the script was bad.  Yet Koenig returned for episode #13, The Return of Oro.  Oro was the only recurring antagonist in The Starlost.

One of the practices in television in the 1980s was to create television movies out of short-lived series by combining two episodes.  Once upon a time, this was the only way to see some episodes and series.  In 1980, ten of the sixteen episodes of The Starlost became five television movies, entitled:

  1. The Starlost:  The Beginning (Voyage of Discovery and The Goddess Calabra),
  2. The Starlost:  Deception (Mr. Smith of Manchester and Gallery of Fear),
  3. The Starlost:  The Alien Oro (The Alien Oro and The Return of Oro),
  4. The Starlost:  The Return (Astro-Medics and The Implant People), and
  5. The Starlost:  The Invasion (The Pisces and Farthing’s Comet).

The cover of each VHS tape proclaimed:

BEYOND 1984.  BEYOND 2001:  A SPACE ODYSSEY.

BEYOND STAR TREK.

THE STARLOST.

AN ADVENTURE FROM THE

RUNAWAY HIT TELEVISION SERIES.

Given that The Starlost ended prematurely, after only sixteen episodes, and that the ratings were low, I must laugh at “runaway hit.”

Above:  The Hull Breach

A Screen Capture

MATTERS CHRONOLOGICAL

The technology of the planet Exar, in the Xenophon Nebula, enabled detection of the accident aboard the Earth Ship Ark in 2385.  However, The Ark came within visual range of long-range sensors only in 2790.

This episode and Space Precinct (#16) contradict each other regarding chronology.  The Alien Oro provides a date for Oro’s arrival aboard the Ark:  April 3, 2790.  Dialogue establishes this event as having occurred not quite one year prior to the rest of the episode.  Yet Space Precinct establishes that the time elapsed from the first episode to the sixteenth episode is only about seven months.

Recall that Children of Methuseleh (#5) starts on May 2, 2790.

Above:  Idona

A Screen Capture

SUMMARY OF THE EPISODE

This episode has too little material for the run time.  The summary, therefore, is mercifully short.

Oro, from the planet Exar, pilots Explorer Craft 531 toward the Earth Ship Ark.  His mission is to identify the Ark then to return to orbital station K7.  (How is that for an Easter egg?)  However, Oro loses control of his ship and crashes into the Ark, breaching its hull.

Not quite a year later, Oro is nearly done repairing and rebuilding Explorer Craft 531, with the help of Idona, whom he rescued.  Idona, having escaped from her biosphere, had been wandering in tubes and corridors.  She is proficient with technology, fortunately for Oro.  Oro’s space window back to Exar is about to reopen, and he wants to leave on time.

Devon, Garth, and Rachel, whom the annoying computer has summoned to the location of the hull breach, don space suits and explore the germane area of the ship, apparently close to the main Bridge.  (That fact raises some questions about Voyage of Discovery and Lazarus from the Mist.)  Devon, Garth, and Rachel meet Idona and Oro.  Garth, who has never met a woman proficient in “men’s work,” becomes infatuated with her.  Devon tries to persuade Oro to help save the Ark, but Oro insists that is a hopeless cause, and besides, he has no time to do try.  Rachel enter’s Oro’s ship and becomes stuck in there for a little while, until Devon insists that Oro release her.  But Rachel is never in any danger.

Oro knows that Idona will die in a few days or weeks unless he takes her to Exar with him.  Garth understands.  He will miss Idona, but he wants her to live.  Oro and Idona depart.

Le fin.

I skipped a few details, but so be it.

Above:  Idona and Garth in Oro’s Ship

A Screen Capture

UNANSWERED QUESTIONS

Where is the laundry in the tubes and corridors of the Earth Ship Ark?

Where are the bathrooms and showers in tubes and corridors of the Earth Ship Ark?

How does Garth maintain that early 1970s haircut while on the run in the tubes and corridors of the Earth Ship Ark?

Given that Devon, Rachel, and Garth have been to the Bridge, why do they need to find the backup Bridge?

How many people have been exiting bisopheres and exploring the tubes and corridors of the Earth Ship Ark?

Where were the Ark police when they should have been tending to the Oro situation?

Could not the Astro-Medics (#11) have treated Idona?

How convoluted can the interior chronology of the Earth Ship Ark become?

Above:  Exar

A Screen Capture

OTHER COMMENTS

As anyone who paid attention in French class should know, “ee-grek” is the pronunciation of “Y.”  Idona refers to her home biosphere accordingly.  (I paid attention in French class.)

Biosphere Y seems to be good place to be from, as an old saying goes.  Idona (Y-419-B2) thinks so, anyway.

Screenwriters Mort Forer and Marian Waldman were husband and wife.

The onscreen credit lists Marian Waldman as “Marion Waldman.”

The Ark’s computer disapproves of yelling at it.  To quote Saturday Night Live, “Do not taunt Happy Fun Ball.”

Next Episode:  Gallery of Fear

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

SEPTEMBER 7, 2021 COMMON ERA

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All images in this post are screen captures from a series that is freely available at archive.org and YouTube.

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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 Return of Jean-Luc Picard   Leave a comment

Above:  Captain Jean-Luc Picard and Q in True Q (1992)

A Screen Capture

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Mustering excitement about recent developments in Star Trek has been difficult for me.  Stories of an upcoming movie with Quentin Tarentino directing have not inspired me to want to watch that film.  The parallel universe of Star Trek (2009), Star Trek Into Darkness (2013), and Star Trek Beyond (2016) has proven less interesting than the Prime Universe.  And Star Trek:  Discovery (STD, for short, appropriately) has proven to be a shameful mess devoid of continuity in every respect, an unforgivable sin in what is officially a prequel yet really not one.

One piece of news does excite me, though.  Patrick Stewart is on track to return to the role of Jean-Luc Picard in a new series, a continuation of Star Trek:  The Next Generation (1987-1994).  We will apparently see Picard about 20 years after the events of Star Trek:  Nemesis (2002).  If I can believe the early news, the new series will actually respect canon–a miracle, considering the fiasco of STD.

For years I have thought that Star Trek on screen should move forward in time from Star Trek:  The Next Generation, Star Trek:  Deep Space Nine (1993-1999), and even the woeful Star Trek:  Voyager (1995-2001), where continuity and character development went to die by neglect.  Star Trek:  Enterprise (2001-2005), a prequel series, was, like STD, a major error replete with discontinuity.  It was the series that proved to be a bridge too far for me; after suffering through the first two seasons, I stopped watching early in the third season.  This recent announcement from Patrick Stewart has restored a degree of my enthusiasm for some of new Star Trek.  I have decided to reserve judgment for later, when the series will be available for viewing, though.  CBS/Paramount has disappointed me too many times.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 7, 2018 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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Ranking Star Trek Movies I-X   2 comments

Above:  A Scene from Star Trek VI:  The Undiscovered Country (1991)

A screen capture

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Preliminary Statements

  1. This post flows from my brief reviews of movies I-VI and VII-X.  I refer you, O reader, to those posts, in which I have ranked I-VI in context of each other and VII-X in context of each other.
  2. As I have written in those posts, 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.

Rankings

  1. Star Trek II:  The Wrath of Khan (1982)
  2. Star Trek VI:  The Undiscovered Country (1991)
  3. Star Trek IV:  The Voyage Home (1986)
  4. Star Trek III:  The Search for Spock (1984)
  5. Star Trek:  Insurrection (1998)
  6. Star Trek:  First Contact (1996)
  7. Star Trek:  Generations (1994)
  8. Star Trek:  The Motion Picture (1979)
  9. Star Trek V:  The Final Frontier (1989)
  10. Star Trek:  Nemesis (2002)

Analysis

  1. My five favorite Star Trek movies are those I want to watch without skipping any scenes.
  2. The top three films are those with which Nicholas Meyer was involved.
  3. My least favorite Star Trek movies are those that were nearly franchise killers.
  4. Original series movies are generally better than Next Generation movies.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 20, 2017 COMMON ERA

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)

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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)

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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)

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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

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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

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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)

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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)

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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)

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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)

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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)

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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

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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)

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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

CBS/Paramount Versus Quality   1 comment

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Above:  The Ares Class Starship from Prelude to Axanar

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The golden age of Star Trek fan films and series, available on YouTube, has ended; CBS/Paramount has exercised its rights under copyright law to neuter the Axanar project, intended to be a feature film.  Axanar will instead be two fifteen-minute-long episodes, consistent with the draconian rules the corporation has established for fan productions.  Prelude to Axanar has become a foretaste of a production that will never come into existence.  With substandard products such as Star Trek:  Voyager (1995-2001), Star Trek:  Enterprise (2001-2005), Star Trek:  Nemesis (2002), and Star Trek Into Darkness (2013), many fan films, despite certain limitations regarding acting,  sets, uniforms, and special effects, are superior, given their better stories.  Star Trek:  New Voyages/Phase II  and Star Trek Continues have proven to be generally enjoyable and watchable series.  I have also enjoyed Starship Farragut and Starship Exeter, among others.  The overlapping Star Trek:  Hidden Frontier, Odyssey, The Helena Chronicles,  and Federation One series, which rely more heavily on green screens than on sets, have also proven fascinating.  I have also become a fan of Star Trek:  Intrepid. Furthermore, I would rather watch Star Trek:  Of Gods and Men than Star Trek (2009).

To the extent that fan productions constitute competition with official productions, that is the case because so many fan productions are superior and more interesting than the corporate productions, which frequently have less creativity than the fan films.  CBS/Paramount ought to learn from fans who make their own films, not impose draconian rules upon them and even sue them.  CBS/Paramount should even hire some of these fans and give them a large budget and creative control.

That will not happen, of course.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

FEBRUARY 24, 2017 COMMON ERA

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