Pique the Geek: a Day Late and a Topic Short 20091228

(6 pm. – promoted by ek hornbeck)

Hello, all!  Sorry not to post at the regular time last night, but I was enjoying my final hours with the family this trip and did not intend to disturb them by blogging.  Please forgive me, but they are extremely important to me.  I am sure that you will understand.

Part of our activities last evening was to watch the new Star Trek motion picture.  It recently came out on DVD, and the former Mrs. Translator and the two boys remaining at home rented it for us to watch.  It was nice to be able to pause it and hit the good Christmas leftovers from time to time as well.

For you reading this on Kos, I apologize that I posted two essays on Dharma that I always meant to crosspost, but always got involved with family activities at the critical time.  The first one is important, not only for the holidays, but for all of the time, and the second one was just a silly take on the classic poem.  You are welcome to include any praise, damnation, or suggestions in the comments here.  I plan to refine both for future posts.

With that said, we watched the new Star Trek movie last night.  I should tell you that I did not often watch the original series (henceforth referred to as TOS) because my little town did not have cable, and the only stations that we could pick up were KFSA (now KFSM), a primarily CBS affiliate out of Fort Smith, Arkansas, and KTUL, the ABC affiliate from Tulsa, Oklahoma.  Thus, NBC programming was not available unless weather conditions were right and the antenna rotater was working.  However, the syndication soon began and I now own the DVD editions of all of the TOS shows, and have seen each of them at least a couple of dozen times each over the years, as well as researched TOS, so I think that I know of what I speak.

Second, I did now read any reviews about the new motion picture, and the only trailers that I saw were the ones on the TeeVee.  This was intentional, because I did not want to have my impressions of it influenced by others.  When a post came up about it, I did not read for this reason until I saw it myself, so these views are strictly my own.  Furthermore, I did not even look up any articles on it for this essay, so I do not know most of the names of the actors (I do not keep up with many current motion pictures).

Thus, these observations and comments are entirely my own.  My initial impression was that it is a very pretty movie, insofar as photography and CGI go.  But those components only contribute to a great movie, and never make a mediocre one great.  You probably see where I am going here.

I guess that my biggest beef with the picture is that it is very non-canonical.  I can look past the fact that Kirk (J. T.) was not borne in Iowa, but grew up in Iowa.  That is not so bad.  I can even go with the very young Spock having fist fights with his fellows to some extent, and this is in keeping with TOS canon, but when Sarek tells him that he is comfortable with his career choice, I could not agree.  That is completely against canon, and Spock and Sarek were not reconciled even a bit until Journey to Babel in TOS, and not completely so then.  Actually, they never completely reconciled but rather grudgingly tolerated each other with a very uncomfortable bit of respect.  This bothered me very much.

Then there was the romantic association betwixt Spock and Uhura.  Whilst, according to D.C. Fontana, Vulcans can and do mate whenever they choose, and not only mate during pom farr it is somewhat illogical to assume that Spock, a highly respected instructor at Star Fleet Academy, would risk his honor and his career by becoming involved with a student.  With a human, OK, but not with a student.  Any logical thought devoted to that subject would convince even a human that such relationships must lead only to ruin.  I do not buy it.  The actress who played Uhura was given an impossible role, and she played it as well as she could with horrible material from which to work.

I also have a problem with Kirk’s fling, the green-skinned girl who was obviously an Orion “slave girl” (not slaves at all, as shown in Enterprise).  At that time, the Orions were not part of the Federation, and I think that having her as Uhura’s roommate was just a poor writing technique to get a green girl in the movie.  Severe thumbs down there.

Now, I will say that Quinto (the only actor other than Winona Ryder that I recognized) did a very good job as Spock in his appearance, his vocal inflections, and even the eyebrow lift.  This was good casting, even if the writing and directing did not serve the picture well.  This is not a bash Spock essay, just a bash the director essay.

I understand that the folks casting the young Kirk were up against an impossible task.  There is only one Shatner, and it might have been a better idea to spend more money on CGI to recreate him than to use a real actor.  That is not in defense of Shatner and his, well, interesting, take on the craft of acting, but no one can duplicate it, and when they attempt to do so, it comes off as a caricature.  Hell, his own acting is a caricature, but it is difficult to make an accusation of making a caricature of oneself stick.  The actor who played him did as well as could be expected, so I give him a thumbs up as well.

Now, McCoy was done pretty well.  Being divorced stays well within the TOS canon, and the phrase that goes essentially, “she got everything but my bones” works well.  The actor played him well, and the comedic moments where he kept pumping Kirk with hyposprays were excellent.  As in TOS, McCoy was essential for a good show.  I have nothing but good remarks for his character and the way that the writers, the very capable actor, and directors chose to portray it.  Well done.

Sulu’s character was similarly well done.  When I commented during the family viewing that the actor playing Sulu looked like Takei, Middle Son quipped that I was repeating the old saw that “they all look alike”.  I explained to him that the actor actually got the mannerisms right, and that the voice was pretty authentic as well.  One bone of contention that I have with the movie is that Sulu, even if not completely familiar with a particular craft, would have read the manual before going to warp.  Give me a break, no one is so green that they would not release the craft from moorings before engaging engines.  That was a cheap attempt at humor by the director that just did not work, and at the expense of the Sulu character.  Shame on them!

As much as I like Walter Koening, the Checkov character simply should not have been there.  This is completley against canon, as Checkov did not appear until the second season of TOS because NBC wanted “a Beatle looking” character to attract prepubescent girls that were swooning oven the Beatles.  (Remember, the first season was filmed (yes filmed, not taped) in 1966, before the Beatles revealed their true nature).  I agree that Pavel is a very attractive character, and even though they made him 17 in the movie, it fails the canonical smell test.

Then there is Scott.  Actually, with a better story (hey, writers, I am talking about you!) and direction, this actor would be a very good successor to Jimmie Doohan, now in orbit.  He has the right instincts, and the accent is not quite the same, but good.  However, because of the writing and direction, the character seems to be more like a combination of Tom Baker and David Tennent playing The Doctor from Dr. Who than Montgomery Scott.  There is a lot of potential there, but again the creative team let the picture down a lot.  By the way, this actor would make an EXCELLENT Doctor, and I hope to see him in the role.  I love Dr. Who as well.

Now, what about Captain Pike?  I think that the casting choice was well done.  I believe that it was Sam Neill, and he did a good job.  Certainly he did not look like Jeffrey Hunter, but he played the roll well and did OK.  Of course, his part was not very big.  I will have more to say about the wheelchair later, as this is very non-canonical.

What about the missing folks?  They put in Checkov, but left out Rand and Reilly.  They just barely mentioned Nurse Chapel (for those of you who do not know, she was played by Majel Barrett, Gene Roddenberry’s widow, who also did the computer voice for all of the Star Trek franchises except for Enterprise, unless I am very much mistaken.  She died very shortly after taping the computer voice for this film.  I mourn her.)  There are a few more minor figures, but what happened to those folks?

Now to the special effects.  Roddenberry got the transporter effect right just after the first pilot, and the producers have been trying to improve on it ever since, and even Roddenberry tried.  Why attempt to gild a lily?  Beauty needs no improvement.  In the original pilot, they had a violin effect just during dematerializaion or reintegration, but they eliminated it afterwards.  The sound effect was perfect, and the visual has never been bettered, or even equaled, in my opinion, since then.

The sounds are easy, just a recording, but the visual effect was complicated and expensive, especially with modern CGI.  In TOS, they matted a film of the object to be transported over a film of the empty space, then overlaid a very bright light which filmed the result of a grip sifting aluminum powder in the same set.  Then they did manual cut and paste, reversing the matting to make them either materialize or dematerialize.  This is why they could not move until they were fully corporalized.  Later, with CGI, there was not this restriction.  I liked it better the old way.  At least they got the sound right at first, even if they used that horrible bee swarm looking sparkle.  Mr. Director, can you not to CGI reproduce the old sparkle effect?  I guess that you like to try to gild the lily as well.

As just a minor addition to this complaint, why different transporter effects for transporting at warp (also non-canonical, the first “near warp” transport being done on The Next Generation), and at sublight?  Perhaps there might be a difference in the lock, but once the matter stream is in the transporter buffer, the materialization is the same.  Every cadet knows that.  Poor work from the director, again.

Another thing that I did not like, but, with which must agree with as a scientist, is the “rifle” warp effect.  Of course, if a vessel were to attain speeds in excess of “c”, it would blink out in the winking of an eye (a special prize to anyone who can identify that reference), so that is actually better than the TOS speeding sound effect, and the later warm up and have a boom with a bright light.  This one is probably closer to reality, so I am getting to like it better, but it is just unfamiliar.  However, there would be no sound because of the vacuum of space.  Roddenberry argued with NBC about the “swoosh” sound in the opening credits of TOS, and NBC won because they argued that Wagon Train had sounds in its credits, and that no one would watch Star Trek if its credits were silent.

I will close by saying that I think that the story was trite and very poor.  You do not mess with the timeline unless you can write a better one, and the writers and director succeeded in screwing up the timeline, the whole story, and the future of the franchise.  Thanks, folks!  I could have written the same story and not have destroyed Vulcan, Romulus, or even threaten Earth, and had a more interesting story.  By the way, NCC-1701 had been in deep space a long time before the folks on Talos IV were found, and in this excuse for a movie, it was the maiden voyage.  I CAN DO BETTER, IF THE FRANCHISE NEEDS SOMEONE TO GET IT RIGHT!!!!!!

That was my self serving message to get hired, but I truly know that I can do better than this multimillion dollar, close to fail, with so much potential.

Warmest regards,  and hit me with you hardest shots, my

friends both with and without the Star Trek canon.

Oh, and Happy New Year to you all!

Doc

Crossposted at Dailykos

11 comments

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  1. family until the long drive today?

    Warmest regards,

    Doc

    • TMC on December 29, 2009 at 2:51 am

    Good that you were with your family for them.

    You realize that the new Star Trek movie was written from a different perspective because the whole time line had been disrupted by Spock and Nemo coming through the worm hole, the death of Kirk’s father and the destruction of Vulcan. So, many of the incongruities from the original series are pretty much explained by that event.  

  2. good for you.

    I saw this film several weeks ago…. I agree the casting was pretty good, young Spock especially. The story? Forgettable. 😛

    • pico on December 29, 2009 at 4:41 am

    was its utterly forgettable villain, who’s given two or three minutes to snarl around incomprehensibly but nothing but other characters’ expository speeches to explain what the heck it’s all about.  It doesn’t help that Eric Bana is one of the least charismatic actors working today, and the extra layers of makeup only made him that much less charismatic.  Eh, well.  And J.J.Abrams is terrible at action sequences, sloppily filmed, sloppily edited, and you can’t tell what’s happening.

    I enjoyed it well enough as popcorn-fare.  By the way, the actor playing Scottie is one of the most well-loved comic actors working today.  Huge cred among sci-fi geeks for a British series (Spaced), a zombie homage (Shaun of the Dead) and an action-film spoof (Hot Fuzz).  

    I’ve run into Zachary Quinto a few times in real life, incidentally.  He’s tall.

  3. Unique to the Star Trek Universe for the most part, though you do have "Doc" Smith

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