Archive for the ‘Star Trek: The Next Generation (1987-1994)’ Category

The Chronicle: News from the Edge–Episode 3: Here There Be Dragons (2001)   4 comments

Above:  George Takei as Mr. Shen

All images in this post are screen captures.

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Here There Be Dragons

Canadian Television Rating = PG

Hyperlink to Episode

Aired July 21, 2001

Production Number = 5009-01-107

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

George Takei as Mr. Shen

Yuki Kudo as Mina Shen

James Hong as David Lo Pan

Brian Tee as Neo

Dax Griffin as Sam

Behind the Camera

Writer and Consulting Producer = Naren Shankar

Director = Sanford Bookstaver

Above:  Grace Hall and Mina Shen

Brief Summary

Donald Stern assigns Tucker Burns to investigate rumors of a fire-breathing dragon in the sewers of Chinatown.  Something is down there, emitting flames; drug dealer Neo has a scarred face to prove that much.  Tucker, having adjusted to having his mind blown after working at the World Chronicle for two months, accepts that a fire-breathing dragon may be loose in Chinatown, but he insists on proof.  Many residents of Chinatown accept the existence of the dragon, but Don Corleone-like restauranteur (and boss of Neo, not at the restaurant) David Lo Pan remains skeptical.  Lo Pan threatens Tucker and Wes with violence and a lawsuit as easily as he gives them egg rolls.

Tucker comes to believe then doubt then believe again that the story is really about destructive cultural taboos, not a fire-breathing dragon.  He is correct.  Mina Shen, daughter of widower Mr. Shen, is pregnant and unmarried.  Mr. Shen believes that she has dishonored the family.  He asks Lo Pan to arrange an honor killing of the dragon, the alleged father of the new grandson, who has a skin disease.  Lo Pan insists that Mr. Shen do it himself, and sends Neo with him into the sewer to commit the deed.

Wes, Tucker, and Grace, having learned the truth, stage the “slaying” of the dragon (actually mechanical) and the death of Mina.  Mr. Shen, thinking his daughter is dead, weeps.  The father is Sam, a homeless Caucasian man with a skin disease living in the sewer.  He is as kind as Neo, who has designs on Mina also, is not.  Our three heroes send Mina, Sam, and the newborn son upstate, to Mina’s aunt, who has not spoken to Mr. Shen in years.  (Why not?  Mr. Shen, having met his grandson, insists that he has no grandson.)  The two reporters and the photographer permit Donald to think that there was actually a dragon in Chinatown, and to print that story.  The new family gets a fresh start, after all.  And it will be safe from Mr. Shen, who uses morality to justify his immorality.

Character Beats

Donald Stern keeps his promises.

Mina uses the story of the dragon to protect Sam’s identity.

Great Lines

Grace, to Tucker:  “Well, if a sewer is your idea of a romantic getaway, that might explain your success with women.”

Wes, to Tucker:  “I’m sorry about that, man.  After all those Jet Li movies, I should have seen that coming.”

Above:  The Mechanical Dragon

In-Universe

This episode is a sequel to Big Trouble in Little China (1986), in which James Hong originated the character of David Lo Pan.  Lo Pan, no longer a ghost, has moved from Chinatown in San Francisco to Chinatown in New York City.

About two months have passed since the end of the previous episode.  During that time, Tucker has encountered “a Whitman sampler of demons.”

The medical insurance policy for employees of the World Chronicle does not cover “immolation by reptiles.”

Donald Stern is objectively wrong about the causes of many of the incidents about which the World Chronicle reports.

The internal chronology of this series in inconsistent yet mostly consistent.  The date on the issue of the World Chronicle at the end of the episode (the eighth one produced and third one aired) is August 20, 2001.  Yet, Baby Got Back, the third episode produced and fourth one aired, is set in August 2000.  When did Tucker start working for the World Chronicle?  And when had he been working for there for two months?  The March 2001 dates referenced in Bring Me the Head of Tucker Burns (the twelfth episode produced and the eighth one aired) and Let Sleeping Dogs Fry (the second episode produced and the ninth one aired) point toward Tucker going to work for the World Chronicle in the summer of 2000.

Comments

This episode, with a heart, is easily rewatchable.

Naren Shankar is a veteran of Star Trek:  The Next Generation, Star Trek:  Deep Space Nine, and Star Trek:  Voyager.  One of his better episodes is The First Duty (1992), in which Captain Jean-Luc Picard tells Cadet Wesley Crusher that the first duty is to the truth.  Tucker Burns begins Here There Be Dragons with that attitude then decides that the first duty is act compassionately.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 18, 2020 COMMON ERA

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

The Chronicle: News From the Edge–Episode 1: Pilot (2001)   5 comments

Above:  Angry Siamese Triplets

All images in this post are screen captures.

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

The Chronicle:  News from the Edge

Series Creator = Silvio Horta

Executive Producers = Robert Greenblatt, David Janollari, Gina Matthews, and Silvio Horta

Composers = Tom Harriman and Donny Markowitz

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

Above:  Wes Freewald Photographs the Brooklyn Bloodsucker

This Episode

Canadian Television Rating = PG

Hyperlink to Episode

Aired July 14, 2001

Production Number = 5009-01-179

Main Guest Actress

Lori Rom as Shawna Fuchs

Behind the Camera

Writer = Silvio Horta

Director = Marc Buckland

Above:  Chad Willett as Tucker Burns

Brief Summary

A creature known as the Brooklyn Bloodsucker comes out only after dark.  It claims a victim, Chuck, a reporter for the World Chronicle, a tabloid, before the opening credits.

Tucker Burns, who graduated from the Columbia University School of Journalism five months prior, applies for and gets the job to replace the departed Chuck almost immediately.  This is the only job he can get in his field.  He as received 47 rejection notices.  There is a good reason for this.  The previous year, Tucker temporarily became a hero and won a Student Pulitzer Prize for a story about a professor who allegedly harassed female students sexually.  The university, bowing to protests, fired the professor.  The allegations, however, were false; the students making the allegations wanted to ruin the professor.  Tucker lost the Student Pulitzer Prize and sabotaged his career.

Tucker’s girlfriend, Shawna Fuchs, expresses concern that he is making a terrible mistake.  His new job ends their relationship.

Tucker learns quickly that the stories in the World Chronicle are true.  He also learns that, in the archives in the basement, Sal the Pig-Boy conducts research and uses the “Rosetta Stone,” an alien computer, to translate extraterrestrial languages.  Furthermore, Tucker works with photographer Wes Freewald on the story of the Brooklyn Bloodsucker, who kills a cat and a boy off-screen, but is actually a galactic spiritual leader.  The creature’s “people,” thinking humans have kidnapped him, nearly destroy Manhattan, Tucker, Wes, and reporter Grace Hall take the alien to Central Park in time for the galactic spiritual leader to catch a ride home instead.

As the episode ends, Wes and Tucker head out to an Arby’s, to report on an angry ghost.  This scene sets up the beginning of the next episode, What Gobbles Beneath.

Above:  Rena Sofer as Grace Hall

Character Beats

Grace Hall, a reporter for the World Chronicle, objects when anyone questions her accounts of at least six alien abductions.

Sal the Pig-Boy justifies his inappropriate behavior with, “What do you expect?  I’m a pig!”

Donald Stern, publisher and editor of the World Chronicle, hires only reporters with bad reputations.  This is the only way he prevents the loss of journalists to other publications.  He also considers his work a high calling.

Donald Stern is a kind, patient, and understanding employer.

Sal the Pig-Boy, who is short, resents the “height-centered establishment.”

Great Lines

Vera:  “I’m sorry.  The alien autopsy contest has ended.”

Vera:  “Reincarnation of Mother Teresa, Line One.”

Above:  Curtis Armstrong as Sal the Pig-Boy

In-Universe

Somewhere in New Jersey, a girlie poster of Madonna Ciccone in a boy’s bedroom has been bleeding since Britney Spears entered the top-ten charts.

The Polka Massacre of 1978 happened.

Space aliens invented the internet.

Donald Stern prefers that Ruby the psychic predict only events that will happen after the next issue goes to newsstands.  Sal, Tucker, Wes, and Grace prevent Ruby’s prediction of alien devastation of Manhattan from coming true, so Ruby’s powers of prediction are not infallible.

The elevator moves both horizontally and vertically.

Above:  Jon Polito as Donald Stern

Comments

The cast is excellent.  For example, the way Jon Polito, portraying Donald Stern, refers nonchalantly to Britney Spears as a sign of the end times is hilarious.

The Chronicle:  News from the Edge plays like a mish-mash of Kolchak:  The Night Stalker, The X Files, and Northern Exposure.  The series’s mixed tone plays better in some episodes than in others.  I know, for I watched all 22 episodes before writing one note.  I write this post about the pilot episode with all episodes in mind.  In this episode, I notice the abrupt tonal shift with regard to the Brooklyn Bloodsucker, who, despite being a stranded galactic spiritual leader, has still killed at least two humans and one cat.  I do not accept the episode’s explanation that the Bloodsucker is mainly misunderstood.

The cover stories at the beginning of the episode are funny.  “THERE’S A DEMON IN MY TOILET AND HE WON’T LET ME FLUSH!” is hilarious.

Perhaps I am overthinking the reference to 47 rejection letters, but I cannot help but think about the many instances of that number in Star Trek:  The Next Generation (1987-1994).

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 16, 2020 COMMON ERA

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

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

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

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

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

The Return of Jean-Luc Picard   Leave a comment

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

A Screen Capture

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

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

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

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

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

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

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Star Trek: Discovery Does Not Occur in the Prime Timeline.   2 comments

As the great Doug Drexler has argued, Star Trek, in all its manifestations, is a period piece; each era has its look.  Technology is at a certain level.  The uniforms are what they are, for better and worse.  For all the inconsistencies in Star Trek series and movies since the 1960s, visual continuity within a particular period in a certain universe is essential.

Star Trek:  Discovery (2017-), supposedly set in the prime timeline, contemporary with The Cage (1964), the first Star Trek pilot, is so visually different from the Star Trek of the 1960s as to play out in what is obviously one of many parallel universes, which have been recognized parts of the Star Trek franchise since The Alternative Factor (1967).  That is fine with me; truth in advertising is not too much to ask.  Star Trek:  Discovery no more takes place in the prime timeline than does the first minute (before Nero breaks through into the past) of Star Trek (2009)–for the same reason.  The appearance of Captain Christopher Pike’s Enterprise  in the season finale of Discovery confirms my theory.  That incarnation of the NCC-1701 is, in some ways, more advanced than the refitted NCC-1701 in Star Trek:  The Motion Picture (1979), Star Trek II:  The Wrath of Khan (1982), and Star Trek III:  The Search for Spock (1984), as well as the outwardly identical NCC-1701-A we saw for the first time at the end of Star Trek IV:  The Voyage Home (1986).

Perhaps my age, which shapes my experiences, defines my perspective.  I recall life before Star Trek:  The Next Generation (1987-1994) and subsequent series and TNG movies.  I remember watching the original series in reruns on local television stations before and after the debut of The Next Generation, which debuted when I was in high school and ended when I was an undergraduate.  Older-style (relative to 2017 and 2018) visual styles do not bother me, not that I object to watching digitally remastered versions of episodes on blu-ray.  Yet, in those remastered episodes, technology and uniforms remain unchanged.  After all, each period has its own aesthetic.  Honoring that is vital within the franchise.

Creators of new canonical Star Trek material should thusly honor the franchise.  Talk of visual reboots is ridiculous.  Creators of new material should reserve visual reboots for parallel universes–and say so.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 17, 2018 COMMON ERA

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Ranking Star Trek Movies I-X   2 comments

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

A screen capture

+++++++++++++++++++++++

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

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

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

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

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