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Darren
Sat, Oct 21, 2017, 10:11pm (UTC -5)
Re: DSC S1: Choose Your Pain

Speaking of such things, here's something else I don't recall anyone mentioning (my apologies if someone has): Why did Landry figure she had to chop off one of Ripper's claws? For one, doesn't their technology allow for identifying material simply by scanning? But if not, wouldn't a small slice of a claw have been sufficient, akin to a nail trimming from a person or animal, and therefore not the least bit harmful to Ripper?

And for that matter, once Ripper's navigational role was uncovered, why was the weaponization of her/his claws and hide and such just dropped? Given Lorca's focus in particular on doing anything possible to gain an advantage in the war, that seems very much to be a thread that was simply dropped for no sound reason.
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Darren
Sat, Oct 21, 2017, 4:04am (UTC -5)
Re: DSC S1: Choose Your Pain

@ Eric:

"I'm confused about Stamets; I thought he was in a relationship with the guy that died on the sister ship? How did he get over him so quickly and start dating another guy, even living with him?"

I kind of thought at the time too that he was involved with Strahl (?), the guy on the Glenn. However, as they both used the term "friend" at some point (as did Lorca, I believe), presumably, they were only friends.

But might they have been romantically involved at some point in the past? There did seem to be something in their interaction that suggested romantic affection; but, perhaps like Ed and Kelly on The Orville, they remained friends even once that was all over.

(Or, since we all knew Stamets was gay from the beginning, we're just seeing something that isn't / wasn't there between him and Strahl ...)
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Darren
Mon, Oct 16, 2017, 3:29am (UTC -5)
Re: DSC S1: Choose Your Pain

@ Brian:

"Gay scene--sorry, this is not a judgement, just a preference--I don't think gay belongs in Star Trek. It's just annoying. I know there are people out there who live that way and that's fine. But to force it into my living room because I'm a Star Trek fan is beyond annoying."

But how is it forced? As you say, there *are* gay people, and in general, it's nice for shows and movies to be reflective of all those who watch them. While I'm personally not fond of retcons in order to reveal characters as being gay (because then it *does* start to feel forced), with brand new characters, why not?

Not to mention how Star Trek sort of pioneered showing diversity. Frankly, considering how much public opinion in the US, for instance, has shifted in favor of marriage equality and such, it's a little late for a Star Trek show to be including gay characters as it is.

"Consider the fact that the risky, challenging part of portraying a real relationship, the evolution of it within the context of a particular set of characters and society, was completely side-stepped. We have a gay couple just copy-pasted into the show, as if some executive said "just put a gay couple in there." It is the absolute laziest, cheapest way to do it possible."

It *is* interesting to see how a relationship comes together and evolves, but so too I would say, can it be to see how one is sustained and nurtured, most especially during such trying times as the Discovery crew is facing. And presumably, of course, in Discovery's time, a gay couple is no more attention-getting than a black comm officer, so the fact that it's apparently being played so low-key is quite correct.

---------

But for those of you who watch The Orville, here's a good question. While Discovery has a gay couple and therefore a same-sex couple, Orville only has a same-sex couple (Bortus and Klyden are from a species of virtually all males, so a gay / straight distinction there doesn't really make sense).

Which show did better in terms of having a same-sex couple on the show? In Discovery's favor is that it's an actual gay couple--human at that--while in Orville's favor it's that it's instead a same-sex couple that's more allegorical for a gay human couple. Some would say Discovery, because they went ahead, in a low-key manner, and scripted an actual gay couple. But then considering how being gay can't be discerned on sight (unlike ethnicity, for instance), and how there *is* still resistance to gay people on TV, some would say Orville, because by playing it allegorically, they managed to get a same-sex couple onscreen in a way that might avoid raising anyone's ire.

I guess you might summarize it as: Orville: Clever or cop-out? And Discovery: Better or miscalculated?
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Darren
Sat, Oct 14, 2017, 7:29am (UTC -5)
Re: ORV S1: Krill

@ Jammer (and others):

"Why would the lights on the ship even be designed to get bright enough to be lethal to the people living there?"

Certainly the lights wouldn't be designed such that everyday settings existed for extreme brightness, and nor would there be a lack of safeguards, I presume, against some electrical problem causing them to brighten, or else someone accidentally setting them to high brightness.

But we don't know the technology behind the Krill's lighting systems. For instance, traditional incandescent bulbs burn brighter with more current. While home electrical grids impose limits on the amount of current, were it possible to funnel a lot more into the grid, only the breaking of filaments from this excessive current, presumably, would prevent people present from being blinded or otherwise hurt. (Offhand, for comparison, I'm not sure how LED and CFL bulbs and such work.)

So, if the Krill's bulbs are engineered such that more current makes them brighter, and if their nature is such that high current won't break them (at least in the near short-term), it's not implausible that Ed and Gordon could manipulate them to produce such brightness.

It also occurs to me that considering how sunburned Gordon even got, those lights were indeed quite bright for a moment. Might the lighting system function doubly then as a sterilization system? As long as no one was aboard, remote activation of a high brightness setting could theoretically be used to sterilize the ship, I'd imagine. (Perhaps something like the baryon sweeps from TNG and VOY, which likewise were only to be used when no one was around.)

If so, and if the Krill employ their lighting systems in this manner, then the lights *would* be capable of such brightness; the grid *would* be able to handle the current / power; and there *would* be a standard setting for it, albeit one not readily accessible, perhaps.
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Darren
Wed, Oct 11, 2017, 3:56am (UTC -5)
Re: DSC S1: The Butcher's Knife Cares Not for the Lamb's Cry

@ Peter G:

How Michael surmised Ripper's true nature--and how this then made it possible to use Ripper and the spore drive to save the miners--was the true highlight of this episode. It did the best so far to make Discovery feel like Star Trek, and was really, really uplifting.

On the other hand, the clear implication that Ripper is harmed by the spore drive was rather upsetting, though dramatically-purposeful. Perhaps Discovery, no matter how hopeful or uplifting it ever gets, will always balance that with depressing darkness.

Anyway, I hear your concerns about how no one spoke up for Ripper. But I think there might be a reason for it that doesn't involve the crew simply not caring, or perhaps worse, not even putting any thought or attention to it. Keep in mind that until Burnham and Stamets surmised / deduced Ripper's role in using the spore drive, no one had even the slightest inkling about it.

Furthermore, since Ripper can "communicate" with the spores and can evidently use them to travel about autonomously (or at least I gathered this from the episode), there isn't necessarily a reason to suspect that, as the navigator, the device would hurt Ripper in any way. (Like how riding a horse from place to place doesn't harm it, at least in moderation and with proper hydration and such.)

And finally, while Ripper *did* appear to be in discomfort at least during the jumps, to me, it was really near the end of the episode--when Michael brought Ripper some spores and he / she seemed averse to eating--that it became apparent how much the drive may have affected her / him.

In conclusion then, I don't think that no one on the crew cared or was paying attention to ethical concerns with using Ripper in the drive. Rather, I see it that there was no reason beforehand to anticipate the harm to Ripper, and, that it was really only Michael, after the crisis and the jumps, who saw firm evidence that the drive had indeed harmed Ripper. (Not to mention that given the crisis situation, there was no time for testing or thoughtful speculation. Frankly, the crew were lucky themselves that nothing went seriously wrong.)

So, I tend to feel that so long as the next episode indeed addresses it--ideally with several people on the crew weighing in--there really isn't a problem. But how will it be portrayed? We can only wait and see. (This might be a test of sorts for how Star Trek-y Discovery actually is. Of course, while on past shows protagonists have occasionally committed morally-questionable acts, they've only done so after a lot of somber thought and consideration and guilt. If Discovery lets people get wanton with such acts, well, that won't be good at all, so far as Discovery's status as a Star Trek series is concerned.)
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Darren
Sun, Oct 8, 2017, 5:41am (UTC -5)
Re: ORV S1: Pria

This seemed like the first episode to focus on the "wrong" parts ... to me at least. (I know some people felt that "About a Girl" was a bit unfocused.) Imagine if the Orville had been taken to the 29th century early on. Then, the crew would've had the chance to experience what the 29th century was really like; the argument that having originally died, they should stay could've been given more attention; and their decisions to flee and return to their own time would've been that much more dramatic. Plus (and these are probably the reasons I felt something was off to begin with):

1) We wouldn't just *hear* about the wonders of the 29th century; we'd actually get to *see* them (it was a disappointment to go there, only to see nothing but a ship--even if a cool one);

and

2) The whole "can we trust her?" plot was pretty weak. I mean, that she wasn't a total villain was certainly nice and perhaps even unexpected, but then again, going to the 29th century early on would've made this aspect much stronger.

Still though, as always, this was enjoyable to watch. The leg bit was kind of shocking, and while the whole "main character dies" thing was done way too many times on Voyager (but look--no shuttles lost yet, right?!) I still felt concern when Issac died. (Though how, exactly, did he end up in the main computer, with so little time and preparation in accessing the device? It was like his katra was placed there ....)

Also, it was realistic that they relied on a wormhole to time travel--this has been proposed and seriously discussed by physicists and such as a way to travel back-and-forth, presuming that time travel is possible at all. Though I'm not clear either on exactly what went on at the end. It seems as though anyone or anything from the 29th century vanished upon the destruction of the wormhole, but that actions taken by said individuals or devices remained as they were. (It definitely left me perplexed upon my first viewing, which in turn undermined the drama somewhat, with Ed making Pria go away and all.)
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Darren
Tue, Oct 3, 2017, 1:33am (UTC -5)
Re: DSC S1: Context Is for Kings

I said: "I don't doubt that entertainment and such--which has remained popular for decades by now--would suddenly go obscure and forgotten sometime in the future."

But of course I meant I *do* doubt that it would suddenly go obscure.
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Darren
Tue, Oct 3, 2017, 1:17am (UTC -5)
Re: DSC S1: Context Is for Kings

While far from sold on this show yet, I actually found this episode to be entertaining, and intriguing. (In comparison, I'm inclined to say the first two episodes--the "prologue"--were atrocious.)

Michael and Saru's interactions were really, really nice. Particularly their walk and conversation down the corridor. It was so sad to see Michael trying to express her remorse ... but then too to see how Saru stilled cared about her, yet now feared her enough to want to stay out of her way. And it was all so believable; "You were always a good officer ... until you weren't." Of course, after doing what she did, people would have good reason to not trust her. As a Kelpien, Saru would naturally go beyond mistrust to actual fear ... and that he and Michael had served together for so long--had been friends even--just made this all very poignant. (I only cited--perhaps just paraphrased, for the exact wording may be wrong--one line from this scene, but there are others. [Actually, now that I think about it, I think that line actually came from a later scene anyway.] This part was just very, very good.)

The characters and their introductions generally went well. Cadet Tilly brings some welcomed kindness to the whole affair; it was nice to even see her apologize to Michael, after telling her that the seats were assigned. (And for anyone wondering, although I'd have to search for the source, I seem to recall it being mentioned that an autistic character would be on the show. Given that she mentioned her special needs, I figure Cadet Tilly is that character.)

Lt. Stamets, while undeniably very arrogant and therefore not entirely likeable, still came off as authentic, and with an interesting disagreement with Capt. Lorca in particular and perhaps all of Starfleet in general.

And as for Capt. Lorca, I have to say I liked him from his very first scene. Maybe it's because he seemed right away to be giving Michael a chance, unlike so many others on the ship. And he does seem to have a kindly demeanor about him, at least some of the time. But he's also very mysterious, and even ominous. I actually found myself thinking of Dumbledoor or Voldemort from the Harry Potter series by the end of the episode, because I got the sense that Lorca is largely very much in control; knows quite a bit about what all's going on, on-ship and off-ship; keeps many things to himself; and is probably more emotionally distant than he might otherwise appear ... willing to use people to achieve grand ends. As for whether he'll end up being a hero or villain, the obvious setup is that Michael will ultimately be the hero and Lorca the villain, though I'd like to think it'll be more nuanced than that. (And as I've seen mentioned elsewhere, Michael and Gabriel are both angelic names; and it's occurred to me that, though often not depicted or thought of as such, angels, while benevolent, are nonetheless not lacking in power and fierceness in all accounts.)

Lastly, I have to say Lt. Cmdr. (?) Landry seemed less like a Star Trek character, and much more like someone from a crime show or police drama. Her attitude toward the prisoners even was just very un-Starfleet as we've known it ... and I can't say for now at least that there was much redeeming about her. (Though I did note that she apparently beamed the creature to Lorca's "collection" without involving anyone else, and she apparently was in on letting the mess hall fight commence--perhaps even having set the whole situation up--all, presumably, on Lorca's orders. In other words, it seems she has a standing and working relationship with Lorca that goes far beyond her formal rank and position.)

(Of course, far from Landry as a singular character, it's still very debatable that much of Discovery feels like Star Trek ... that it truly takes place in the Star Trek universe.)

Finally, although very speculative at this point, it seems that the Discovery is a joint venture between Starfleet proper and Section 31 (the black badged-officers, versus the others). Between that, and Discovery's scientific capabilities, it's clear that Discovery isn't the typical Starfleet vessel, which opens up a lot of interesting storytelling possibilities.

For that matter, so too does their experimental organic propulsion system, considering where all it could take them. Though I don't think at this point that it's at all scientifically plausible. And ... might it be capable of taking the crew to other universes? The creators seem so adamant that Discovery takes place in continuity with everything else, that I wonder if with the introduction of this experimental propulsion system, we're simultaneously seeing the introduction of the "continuity preserver", if you will ... something that will enable a great shake-up or development that will somehow bring everything into congruence ... or simply specify Discovery's reality with that of the franchise as a whole. To me, well, this wouldn't be my idea of Discovery taking place in the prime continuity, but perhaps to the creators, it is.

(Oh, and the references to the Beatles and "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland" were nice ... even a bit Orville-esque. I don't doubt that entertainment and such--which has remained popular for decades by now--would suddenly go obscure and forgotten sometime in the future. And given Michael's internal conflict between her Vulcan upbringing and her human nature, having her go back to something her foster mother once read to her as a child seemed reasonable enough.)
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Darren
Sat, Sep 30, 2017, 8:19am (UTC -5)
Re: ORV S1: If the Stars Should Appear

Although I'm not sold on all the humor The Orville has featured so far, I've at least been okay with most of it. (And I actually find a lot of times that it's less about humor, and more about making the characters seem real ... putting a fresh spin on the whole affair.) This episode though marks the first time I was actually grinning in advance a couple times, such as when Capt. Mercer can't get the hatch open to the bio-ship (I just knew he was going to turn to Lt. Kitan for help ...)

Even better, as someone who often doesn't laugh out loud no matter how comical I find something, this episode also marks the first time that I did so for this series. Isaac's "It is a compliment!" line was good, as were several other lines or moments. But to me, it was his "Perhaps she fears you are not sexually adequate" line that was just really hilarious. (And again in terms of being realistic, it's interesting that Isaac, of a people who claim to be so intellectually superior, would completely misinterpret a situation like that. I hope--and would look forward to--more exploration and insight into Isaac and the Kaylon down the road. In more ways than one, there is a lot of potential there.)

I also thought of "For the World is Hollow and I Have Touched the Sky" as I watched this (but only vaguely of "Return of the Archons"). But perhaps as @Scot did, I nonetheless found the episode to be fresh. There certainly was some good character work--better, I seem to recall, than "FTWIHAIHTTS" had--and as @ Karl Zimmerman pointed out, while the setting was indeed very similar, from there, the specifics weren't. Now, there certainly was a TOS vibe--from the human-looking aliens and the architecture, and even to Capt. Mercer's method of getting into the interrogation building (whatever it was exactly). Actually, I might even suggest that it had a "Star Trek Continues" vibe about it; but with as much as I've enjoyed that series, and knowing that it will all be over in barely a month from now, I would hardly complain about that.

But for me, the real high point was the ending. It was quite moving, and, for yet another first for this series, I found myself tearing up. And I wasn't quite sure why; though upon reflection, I have some ideas. Part of it, I think, was Capt. Dural and his log entry / message. He presumably lost hope once they couldn't fix the engines, yet while it took hundreds of years (and generations upon which their society went astray) for his one small and last glimmer of hope to actualize, of course, with the crew of the Orville, it finally did.

More so though, I was later thinking about, say, people who get caught up and spend years of their lives living in abusive situations; or people who develop detrimental habits they'd like to break but haven't; or perhaps even people falsely imprisoned, only, if ever, being exonerated and gaining back their lives years later. And of numerous situations like that, really, where, "Thank you; We just gave you back what was already yours; Yes ... our future" might apply. (Not that I don't think that too often, we get so set on how our lives should go that when inevitably it doesn't work as imagined, we struggle to still see and appreciate the values of our lives. But there's no question that people get caught up in bad and unfair situations that, essentially, rob them of productivity and happiness that they never should have lost ... and the ending, I think, brought all this up to me.)

Of course, the music really helped sell it (how great has the music been so far in this show?). And incidentally, I really appreciated how Hamelac (?) was, amazingly enough, presented as a three-dimensional character. (You got the sense no matter his means, he did care about and fear for his world. And then, when even he has that briefest flicker of a smile at the end, when the stars are all appearing ... you even get the sense that he's as glad as anyone that the old reality is ending ... that it's all over.)

Overall, to me at least, this episode was the best yet. (In terms of its affect, I'd say it's on par with Star Trek episodes like "Blink of an Eye" (VOY); "Transfigurations" (TNG); or "In the Cards" (DS9).) *This* is (one way at least on) how to be aspirational with your sci-fi story ... in a way that really gives a lot of hope.
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Darren
Thu, Sep 28, 2017, 7:03am (UTC -5)
Re: DSC S1: The Vulcan Hello / Battle at the Binary Stars

@Navamske:

"Every Star Trek production (except for TAS, probably) after TOS has featured in its premiere episode a cameo by a character from a previous incarnation of Star Trek: McCoy in TNG, Picard in DS9, Quark in Voyager, and Cochrane in Enterprise. I was disappointed that the new show did not follow this tradition. (Sarek doesn't count, as his role was more than a cameo and apparently he's a regular or recurring character.) Why not have an elderly T'Pol do a walk-on?"

You know, I wondered for months whether the first episode would include an Enterprise character. And T'Pol for one was an excellent choice, because we already saw a much older version of her in Enterprise. (Shran seemed a potentially good choice too.) But I held out so little hope of the tradition being honored that when it wasn't, I didn't even immediately notice.

I suppose for Discovery, it was too much to ask.
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Darren
Wed, Sep 27, 2017, 6:38am (UTC -5)
Re: DSC S1: The Vulcan Hello / Battle at the Binary Stars

@Canjobear:

"There’s been a lot of talk that this series is devoid of intellectual content and that it’s just JJ Abrams lens flares and pew pew shooting action. I think that’s totally wrong and short-sighted. Just because this doesn’t look like Trek from before, and just because its intellectual content has a different flavor, doesn’t mean it’s dumb and has no content. What is the content?"

I appreciate your thoughts on this, and there's no doubt that the creators intend it to have intellectual content. I'd say you're right about the whole "Vulcan Hello" bit:

"Look no farther than the title “The Vulcan Hello”: when I read about the title I thought it was a silly reference to the hand gesture or something. The hand gesture is old Trek. It turns out the Vulcan Hello itself is something we would not have expected given previous Vulcan stuff: the Vulcan hello is violence. It’s a pre-emptive and unprovoked attack against the Klingons. On one hand, we haven’t seen Vulcans attacking pre-emptively, but the truth is that Sarek’s point is totally logical. If you think being logical implies being nonviolent then all I can say is you haven’t thought this through very carefully. If you’re facing people who only respect violence, you have to speak the language of violence. Being logical doesn’t mean you won’t be violent and it doesn’t mean you’ll always follow the Federation ethics code. Being violent in this case is definitely logical and deeply in keeping with Vulcan behavior, but superficially different since we haven’t seen a lot of Vulcan violence before. It adds intellectual sophistication and depth to the Vulcans, and above all, what I like the most, is it’s a fresh take, and one that deeply respects the underlying ideas. “Violence brought respect, respect brought peace.”"

I too originally thought that the title might turn out to be kind of silly; but in fact, it referenced an argument the episode implicitly makes, that some level of violence might indeed be necessary, particularly in the face of a culture than prizes courage and honor through aggression above much else. Even better, Sarek noted that what worked for the Vulcans might not work for other member worlds of the Federation, which was a very true and nuanced touch.

However, whatever the Klingons were so adamant about--and however it's meant to be allegorical for our times--to me seems quite muddled at best, and rather dreadful at worst.

"T’Kuvma is putting forward a straightforward anti-Federation ideology, something I was hoping for from Star Trek Beyond but didn’t get. The Federation is multicultural and T’Kuvma is anti-multicultural, which is a very very relevant distinction for today’s world. T’Kuvma’s whole idea is that under the guide of multiculturalism, or “we come in peace”, the Federation will actually destroy Klingon culture. That the Federation’s supposed diversity and equality are actually death for everything he loves. It seems like the big political question today is globalism vs. nationalism, and this show appears to be addressing that question right on the nose, and not in an explicitly moralistic way either. You can see T’Kuvma’s point. When Admiral Whatsisname shows up on T’Kuvma’s ship in the holoemitter or whatever and says “When we’re fighting, we’re not talking”—then you understand T’Kuvma’s beef with the Federation, and in my mind when I saw him saying that condescending garbage, I was ready to sign up with T’Kuvma and ram that ship to smithereens.

I certainly see what you're saying; but, it just doesn't seem to me that the episode pulled it off well at all. Most notably, the episode establishes that the Klingons haven't been seen in a 100 years. (Never mind, like @Skeevo pointed out, they attacked the Vulcan Learning Center in the recent past .... Perhaps just the Vulcans, not the Federation as a whole?) That means then, no diplomatic relations; no cultural exchange; no immigration either way; and very likely no economic interdependence either. (After all, the Federation and the Empire both hold large territories. With no reason to presume that either section of space would hold many resources the other doesn't, the mutual benefits of trade wouldn't even be that great.)

Further, we know from other series than the Federation isn't a conquering force. Sure, they seek out new civilizations and hope to engage with them; but, for that matter, admission to the Federation requires that a world meet certain conditions, and that they want to join in the first place. So yes, the Federation would like to open a dialogue with the Empire; but the Empire need merely say "no", and that's that. Engaging with the Federation would likely begin cultural changes; but no one's forcing such engagement to begin with.

So unless T'Kuvma and the other House leaders fear an ever-strengthening Federation--that it might eventually try to conquer them, which they should know full well the Federation simply wouldn't do--hasn't done--their motivations just aren't clear at all. (I mean, like the Romulans once did, they could fear for their own empire's future ability to expand to new territory, to conquer even; but T'Kuvma said nothing about that--only that the Federation's cultural influence would hurt their own.)

And so ... what allegorical connection does this have to our world? A world where the process of globalization is arguably already quite far along? Where music and movies and such from certain countries are well-known and shared; where that influence has changed the entertainment that others produce? A world where economic and financial ties between nations run deep; where exchange students, migrant workers, and citizens living abroad are plentiful; and where immigration is one of the most central and debated issues? Where the most widely-spoken of languages are even studied or learned by so many people?

Versus a federation and an empire than could easily just continue in isolation of one another, who currently have none of these things? Not much of an allegorical connection, I'd say, if any.

Now you *did* imply that all this needs to be fleshed out, and that you think it will be:

"I think T’Kuvma’s idea isn’t fully fleshed out yet. How does the Federation pose a threat to Klingons under the guise of “we come in peace”—exactly how? I can think of some arguments how, and I’m sure we’ll see them fleshed out."

But to me, it seems like fleshing out won't be enough--something more like retconning will be needed, for it seems that the whole setup (prologue?) was really botched. (But, if I may ask, what ideas and arguments have you thought of? Maybe I'm just really missing something; something already shown, or something feasible going forward.)

Just briefly, I might mention something else that seems quite bizarre .... Since Michael's mutiny didn't succeed, it seems to me she played no role there whatsoever in starting the war. (The Shenzhou called for reinforcements once they engaged the Klingons, and once those reinforcements came, the Klingons opened fire; with her failed attempt, she literally had no role in what happened.) Of course, she *did* accidentally kill the Torchbearer; and later, by killing rather than stunning and capturing T'Kuvma, she blew the chance to stop the war before it truly began. Yet the episode, the preview, and even the marketing materials all suggest that she made a deliberate choice that started the war. Mutinying and successfully opening fire would most certainly have been that--but this isn't how it transpired. Weird.

"When Admiral Whatsisname shows up on T’Kuvma’s ship in the holoemitter or whatever and says “When we’re fighting, we’re not talking”—then you understand T’Kuvma’s beef with the Federation, and in my mind when I saw him saying that condescending garbage, I was ready to sign up with T’Kuvma and ram that ship to smithereens."

You know, that admiral, I think, managed to be the most unlikable Starfleet higher-up ever ... I too was pleased to see him bamboozled.
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Darren
Mon, Sep 25, 2017, 4:45am (UTC -5)
Re: DSC S1: The Vulcan Hello / Battle at the Binary Stars

Did anyone notice just how much like the Abrams' films this (and the next) episode are? The visuals themselves are much alike, but, it seems to me that it goes beyond that.

[Note: Spoilers for both "The Vulcan Hello" and "Battle at the Binary Stars" below.]










- For instance, starting off with Starfleet officers out to save a planet / civilization? (Questionable as to whether the Prime Directive would allow it?)

- The whole Vulcan learning center? (Whatever especially those pits in the floor are called?)

- A young child, raised Vulcan, getting emotional from a distressing incident in said center? (For Spock, kids teasing him for and disrespecting his human mother; for Michael, the examination asking about the attack that killed her parents?) With Sarek there / near to converse with?

- A young child attacked by other kids? (Emotionally in Spock's case; physically in T'Kuvma's?)

- Phasers that shoot bolts, not in streams?

- Officers beaming to the enemy ship to retrieve someone, shooting along the way? (Pike; T'Kuvma?)

- A ship soon destroyed, with little emotional investment from the audience? (The Enterprise; the Shenzhou?)

- A ship that hardly seems practical, inspired more from space opera and fantasy than science fiction? (Nero's mining vessel; the Klingons' sarcophagus ship?)

- An officer being beamed back, just after witnessing the death of someone they really cared about? (Spock after his mother; Burnham after Georgiou?)

Did I miss any? These specific similarities / rips aside, if someone told me these episodes took place in the Abrams' universe, I wouldn't doubt it. Despite CBS' claim that Discovery takes place in the prime universe, with actual episodes now out, I think, at best, the argument of where it takes place hasn't yet been settled.
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Darren
Sun, Sep 24, 2017, 6:52am (UTC -5)
Re: DSC S1: General Discussion

Well, I just signed up for CBS All Access .... I fear that no matter what potential this show might have, it's not going to live up to it, and that no matter how much I might hope to like it ... it's just not going to work. But it's allegedly Star Trek, so I have to give it a try. Between the first week free (with two episodes coming out today) and then just $5.99 for a month's worth (four more), I'll get six episodes to start with. Perhaps after those, I'll know whether I'll be continuing or not.

I wish I could know in advance, so maybe I would've just not signed up at all; but the consolation is, if I do end up liking it and turn out to be wrong in all my suspicions, I won't miss out. And should I find that it indeed isn't truly Star Trek, then I suppose it'll send a clearer message to CBS once I cancel.

It's been a conflicting and disappointing ride--but now, it's nearly time. Engage ...
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Darren
Fri, Sep 22, 2017, 8:03am (UTC -5)
Re: ORV S1: About a Girl

As an allegorical story, I have to say this episode was pretty solid. You usually don't want such episodes to be preachy, and nor, even if just for the sake of entertainment, do you want them to present any one side as weak. Here, legitimacy was brought not only to at least three "sides", but to the characters' interactions as well.

Of course from our real-world human point of view--and the majority of the Orville crew--the procedure was quite wrong and out of the question. Yet on a world where it literally takes on average 75 years for just one girl to be born, the Moclans' arguments in favor were--for them and their world--surprising reasonable. But then when you look away from Moclan society versus Human, or Xelayan--to the individual apart from societal connections--you then get the arguable "third" side: this particular person could nonetheless go on to do great things, and be very happy. Rather than attempt to "fit in", this individual could find her own unique and rewarding path. And just in case that argument might've felt too idealistic as opposed to the obvious pragmatic considerations, once the lone Moclan woman turned up and was revealed to be the most revered author in all of Moclan society, well, legitimacy there too was sealed. ("There's more than one way to contribute to society." .... That's a thought well worth holding on to, whether in how we perceive others' lives or even our own perceived failures; how our lives seldom take the shape we wished, tried, or even feel they needed.)

As for the judgement, it actually caught me slightly off guard. Only slightly ... yet off guard nonetheless. After hour upon hour of Star Trek and more, that was pretty good. And nor, for that matter, did it feel as though it were done just to shock, or to be a twist, or whatnot. Rather, it very much came off as an organic part of the story ... and maybe even necessary.

And how Bortus mentioned to both Klyden personally and to crew members that he loved Klyden irregardless of everything going on ... I just love how on this show, the characters really seem to care and have respect and decency for one another. (Yes, Gordon can be a jerk, though even with him, I wouldn't doubt his loyalty.) And in a world where we can practically hate one another just for having different views and ideas about admittedly serious issues and happenings, such respect and decency is really nice to see again.
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Darren
Wed, Sep 20, 2017, 2:46am (UTC -5)
Re: ORV S1: Command Performance

In Jammer's review, I think I hear echoes of his Voyager criticisms. :) And while I'm still fond of Voyager (when I was younger and first getting into Star Trek, it was my favorite series), I do wish now that it might have better distinguished itself from prior shows, and that it might have taken itself a bit more seriously. As for The Orville then, I too would like to see it stick to a serious sci-fi foundation first (and then just happen to be funny sometimes, second). And while resembling TNG and other Star Trek doesn't bother me too much (all along, I was really hoping for it to be like Star Trek), I've been getting accustomed lately to the fact that it *isn't* Star Trek ... and, I think I can already see how it's on its way to distinction.

It was very conspicuous to me, for instance, that in "Old Wounds" even, no one beamed anywhere--everyone took shuttles to get around. And while this episode showed that the Calivon have something akin to transporter technology (as a highly technologically advanced civilization), still, that the Union doesn't immediately makes it hard to imagine this is all part of the Star Trek universe, no matter what else may have been inspiring. Add to that things like how the quadrant doesn't appear to be anything like we would expect it to be 40+ years after the Dominion War (hypothetically, The Orville takes place approximately 40 years after Voyager returned home), or like how Dr. Finn clearly isn't just Ms. Yates with a different name, and, to try pretending that it's all taking place in the Star Trek universe begins to feel impossible.

More than that though, I think there's already some evidence that The Orville, in much more substantial ways, is already on its way to distinguishing itself from Star Trek. For instance, the Calivon do not strike me as like any specific people seen in Star Trek. Yes, the Talosians held people captive; but as I recall, they were searching for a species to be bred and used for slave labor on their planet's surface (it's been awhile since I last saw "The Cage" ...). The Caretaker only pulled ships to the Delta Quadrant in trying to find a replacement for himself, and of course, the Borg were just an individual-less collective on a cold mission to bring more and more "technological and biological distinctiveness" to themselves, to try and achieve "perfection".

But a species that considers itself so superior to less technologically advanced ones that it captures people to display in zoos? While there's nothing non-Star Trek-like about the idea, nonetheless, such a people do not seem to correspond to any yet seen in Star Trek. And if MacFarlane or the other Orville writers would care to bring the Calivon back in future episodes, they could become distinguishing antagonists in The Orville. (In fact, if you think about it, they basically represent an existential threat to the Union. That is, they have the technology to literally eliminate the Union and all its people, and they lack the conscience to hesitate to do so, should they ever come to see the Union as bothersome pests. It's no wonder that Admiral Tucker was so emphatic about no one in the Union engaging in any way with the Calivon; they represent a grave threat.)

And then, secondly, there's Isaac and the Kaylon. Was there ever a person serving aboard a Starfleet ship who was there, essentially--*sent* there, no less--for reasons unknown? Someone from a civilization that the Federation knew next-to-nothing about, yet were an advanced power? I can't think of anyone, and really, while I seem to recall that there *have* been civilizations in Star Trek that were far more advanced than the Federation, they weren't "neighbors" to the Federation; plainly known about and there, yet keeping to themselves. And, given how the Calivon "zookeeper" reacted to Isaac in this episode, we seemingly have proof as well that the Kaylon are indeed a highly technologically advanced civilization themselves. (For that matter, that the Calivon maintain a zoo for similarly-advanced societies clearly implies that there are probably others besides themselves and the Kaylon to boot. Given that the Federation and Klingons and such never had such "higher" civilizations operating in their midst, yet within a sphere of power and influence unto themselves, there's a potential dynamic here in The Orville that, should the writers choose to build upon it, could become quite unlike any seen in Star Trek.)

So, it seems that The Orville already has clear potential to become something distinct from Star Trek. And, even though it's episodic, that obviously doesn't preclude world-building and not necessarily story arcs even ... which, amazingly enough, it might already have. Take Alara's situation in this episode, for instance. Were she a "typical" Union officer, the fact that she was so unprepared for command would not reflect well on the Union, and so, in turn, The Orville itself as a serious sci-fi show. Yet going back to "Old Wounds", Capt. Mercer himself questioned how she could be so young and yet Chief of Security on a ship. And she responded by acknowledging her inexperience, after explaining that because her people so seldom join the military, whenever someone like her does, the Union fast-tracks them. Basically then, taking this episode in isolation, we might not know quite what to make of Alara's predicament; perhaps the show was just being silly. Yet when considering it along with the pilot, it turns out it makes a lot more sense. (And, if this is indeed an arc and the writers would like to continue it, there are all kinds of questions they could tackle, like:

"Why do so few Xelayans join the military?"
"What does fast-tracking their path to officer standing involve?"
"Why is the Union so keen on getting whatever Xelayans it can?"
"Did other Union worlds once discriminate against Xelayans?"
"What do other Union worlds and members think of this policy?"

... and so on.)

And, as just a quick observation on a second potential arc ... while we didn't see the Krill in this episode, they were mentioned twice. First, they were claimed to have attacked and raided a ship, which did nothing to further them from their "cartoony" or "comic book" standing from the pilot. Second though, once Ed and Kelly were in the zoo, a Calivon child and mother argued about going to go see the Krill, with the mother saying they might, if they had time after seeing the Moclans. Here, very subtly, Humans, Krill, and Moclans at least were all put on an equal footing ... which *could* be a bit of development for the Krill going forward.

Ultimately then, it seems The Orville has already been setting itself up for distinction. How it might proceed though (and whether it will "succeed"), just depends on what MacFarlane and the other writers and producers have in mind. For myself personally, I just hope that no matter how distinct from Star Trek it may become, it develops good allegorical and moral play-style storytelling along the way, and that it never loses this, nor the aspirational outlook or scientific plausibility or whatnot. And, while I appreciate its comedic side (which in many cases seems less about comedy than making it feel fresh and real, without going "dark" and throwing out what makes Star Trek shows Star Trek), I'm hoping as well that it will be nonetheless be able to stand up to scrutiny and detailed analysis of its world and mythos ... that there won't be too many things that just have to be chalked up to, "Well, because it was funny". (Or, I suppose, non-funny things that simply don't make much sense.)
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Darren
Mon, Sep 18, 2017, 8:22am (UTC -5)
Re: ORV S1: Command Performance

This episode felt a bit less enjoyable to me than the pilot, but was still, I think, a decent, if perhaps average affair. The plot was again a bit standard, and if the story was meant to be allegorical to any degree, I'm not sure it succeeded in that regard. (Although, it did get me thinking about some things, which is a good sign. I'm not sure then that it failed in being allegorical either.)

[Please note that there will be some SPOILERS from here on out.]

Incidentally, I really appreciated that the episode did *not* take various story avenues that it easily might have, particularly considering that The Orville is, after all, partly a comedy series. For instance:

- Bortus' egg brooding was not played for laughs, as in, say, if he had been forced to somehow brood his egg while also somehow being put back as an active officer. Nor, save for two scenes, did he have to endure any disruptions to his brooding, where again, such disruptions could have been done repeatedly for laughs.

- Ed and Kelly were *not* placed in their imitation apartment for any reason related to them having been married and divorced, and nor, again, was their predicament played up for laughs. (Particularly as in a "The divorced couple are forced to be together in their old home!" sort of way ... like a sitcom might have done.)

- And presumably, while they recalled a bit of old affection for one another in one scene, they did *not* have sex, which, considering they were in a zoo and possibly being watched at any given time, again, could have been played up as comical.

With these in mind, it still seems clear that despite its lighter side, The Orville intends to be a series that's earnest and sincere, which to me at least, is a lot of the reason why I'm watching.

But back to the plot and possible allegory, well, of course Alara was ultimately going to try and save Ed and Kelly; that was a foregone conclusion early on. That said though, the interactions between Alara and Dr. Finn were a nice touch, and possibly indicative of a friendship / mentorship going forward. And while Alara seemed to make her final decision less from conviction and lessons learned and more from personal desire / guilt, it's not as realistic that with just one incident, a person would become tremendously more experienced and show it. So, I think her arc, as it were, played out reasonably well, if simply a bit routine.

As for allegory ... well, there were actually a few moments that caught my attention:

- Gordon's remark about whether *he* would be given time off to brood an egg, made me think about paternity leave versus maternity leave, like how (so far as I know), some workplaces don't offer paternity leave. (And of course, whether the two are equivalent, or both needed and such.)

- With the alien zookeeper's line to the effect of, "You want me to talk to *her*?", it was impossible not to think of cultures here on Earth in the present day, where men indeed think so little of women as to not regard them as worthy of carrying on conversations with. Not to mention, all the times in history where one group has thought of and treated another as inferior, and hence again, not worthy of common decency and humanity.

- But potentially the big one, of course, was Kelly's line about animals having been used for entertainment "centuries ago". Was this episode meant to argue in any way that keeping animals captive--on display in zoos; to act in circuses and other shows; to be used in non-lethal sport--is wrong? It seems like too little was said ... and most people would not equate animals being kept captive to humans being so anyway (save perhaps for other primates, dolphins, elephants, and so on).

And yet, as I thought about it, I found myself thinking about a lot. For instance, most people do not consider it wrong to keep a pet snake, so long, as with any living thing, proper food and water and such is offered. Yet most snakes, if not given places to hide in their tanks / enclosures, will end up dying from stress. Point being, food and water is only the basics of keeping a thriving pet--their environment *has* to be fulfilling to them as well.

But did the aliens, say, use their extremely advanced technology to simulate all of the Orville and surrounding space, so that Ed and Kelly might have had "freedom" and autonomy, not even realizing anything was different? No! All they provided them--other than food and water--was a mere apartment; nothing to help them thrive or be content.

And why, likely? Well, why does the horse that loses too many races often get sent to slaughter? Or why do most egg-laying hens still live in little cages? Because of prestige, and money. And so presumably, the aliens were too concerned with their huge collection of species as a draw for visitors to be bothered with the welfare of any particular one, while it would take too much money / resources to do otherwise.

So, whether intended or not, perhaps this episode was more successful as an allegory than it might at first appear. And lastly then:

- The reality shows as a trade was *great*. It made sense that the aliens would love them; and here in the real world, it was a nice jab at what really are displays of human behavior at its most ... something. (Although I'm not sure Duck Dynasty, for one, was warranted to be part of the trade.) Another very clever solution to an episode's central problem, and definitely another point in its favor.
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Darren
Mon, Sep 11, 2017, 7:58am (UTC -5)
Re: ORV S1: Old Wounds

@OmicronThetaDeltaPhi:

Fox has the complete episode available on their website. However, if it has some sort of region lock on it, then unfortunately that won't work for you. Here's the link, just in case:

https://www.fox.com/the-orville/
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Darren
Mon, Sep 11, 2017, 7:53am (UTC -5)
Re: ORV S1: Old Wounds

Considering this was a pilot episode, I thoroughly enjoyed it, and am looking forward to the next outing. The first half was naturally a bit slower than the second, yet the character introductions in the former actually went pretty well. In particular, Capt. Mercer's meetings with the senior staff revealed what will hopefully become endearing characters--for instance, the truly caring Dr. Finn, and young yet earnest and sincere security officer Lt. Kitan. And throughout, while Lt. Malloy came off as immature and a bit of a jerk, you still get the sense that he's an okay guy, when it really comes down to it. (Lt. Lamar seems quite decent; Lt. Cmdr. Bortus warm beneath a tough exterior; while too little was revealed about Isaac to know much for now.) And while I had feared the whole "bitter exes" dynamic between Capt. Mercer and Cmdr. Grayson, really, it, so far, was handled with a sincerity that elevates it beyond some mere ongoing gag. (For now, I'm invested in their professional relationship given the overtones of the past, and of course their personal one as well.)

Past the relatively-painless setup, the second half really picked up, and while the plot wasn't terribly original, it was certainly passable. More importantly, it gave a few of the characters moments to shine. Lt. Malloy's skills and professional worth were validated in a particularly sincere scene between him, Lamar, and Bortus, while Kitan got to show off her unique skill set more than once. And as the crew learned the nature of their mission and confronted the crisis, I couldn't help but feel than these were indeed professionals, ready and willing to render aid and dutifully complete their work.

Tone-wise, the comedy and drama meshed a lot better than I had begun to fear. Some of the jokes were admittedly a bit juvenile, yet some of them felt less like comedy to me than ... authenticity. These characters really felt like real people, and some of the "comedy" was largely responsible for that. And while the stakes were sufficiently high during the crisis, the whole affair was quite ... fun. This was a pilot I'll have no problem re-watching.

Perhaps I'll post more spoiler-ish thoughts later on--or maybe not, I'll see--comparing this to Star Trek, and remarking on some moments evocative of other shows and movies. Either way, this was an enjoyable hour, and now, I'll just be keeping my fingers crossed for the next few outings (particularly as The Orville presumably tackles some "morality play"-style and allegorical storytelling.)
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Darren
Thu, Aug 18, 2016, 4:27am (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S2: Second Sight

Far from a good episode and one of the weakest of the season.

Re the acting in my humble opinion most of the DS9 cast are poor earlier on, SIsko improved as the series went on as did Kira. Contrast them from season 1 to 7 and there is a huge difference. I thought Bashir was dire in the first season but by the end he's a fave character.

But then I had the same comments about all the trek series.
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@DARRENFRANICH
Mon, Jul 11, 2016, 3:02am (UTC -5)
Re: Star Trek: The Motion Picture

Star Trek: The Motion Picture is the most beautiful Trek film, and the least human
A partial defense of the weird first film

Star Trek turns 50 this year. It is the most important of the great pop culture franchises, maybe, the first realized vision of a cross-platform fictionalized universe. There are long-running narrative ideas that predate Trek’s 1966 TV debut, sure: James Bond, Middle-Earth, Godzilla, Spider-Man, Superman, Sherlock Holmes. But the Star Trek half-century is the half-century of fandom, canon, mythology, spin-offs, young faces growing old across sequels and reboots. It is the age that fandom took over the movie industry – or the age of the movie industry co-opting fandom. Consider: The other franchises had to come to Hollywood. Trek started here – to the south, in Culver City, at Desilu Productions, rescued from development oblivion because Lucille Ball had serious sway.

If you want to understand everything fascinating about our movie moment – the push and pull between fans and creators, between beloved actors and the characters who define them, between the executives with all the money and the creators with all the ideas, between the demand for more of what has already worked and the constant need to set off in bold new directions, between the infinite creative possibilities of special effects and the infinite destructive possibilities of special effects – you need to understand Star Trek. It is the miracle of modern entertainment.

Star Trek turns 50 this year. It is the most inessential of the great pop culture franchises, maybe, forever chasing the stylistic advances of younger upstart entertainments, forever entrapped in narrative tropes and hackneyed philosophy, a vision of the future long past. Once progressive in vision, the franchise turned conservative in its desperate curation. In Trek, you see the beginning of the Faustian bargain between fan and executive – between the person who wants more of the same, and the person unwilling to try anything new – that would transform genre storytelling from the fascinating fringe into the vanilla mainstream. In Trek, you see the end of science fiction as a venue for ideas; the never-ending birth of remake culture; you can pinpoint the moment when every movie needed to be an action movie.

If you want to understand everything depressing about our movie moment – how every movie is an advertisement for another movie, how the most expensive films in history have less emotional impact than a middling episode of Better Call Saul, how directors became crossing guards, how actors became spokespeople, why a Pulitzer Prize-winning author is working on the Hasbro Cinematic Universe – you have to understand Star Trek. It is the downward spiral, the totalitarian Mirror Universe. It is modern entertainment’s original sin.

There is no simple way to understand Star Trek. There are high highs and low lows. There is canon and fanon, a general sense that continuity doesn’t matter running alongside a fierce protection of holy canon. There are arguments: Kirk vs Picard, Deep Space Nine vs everything, Voyager was secretly brilliant the whole time, J.J. saved Trek, J.J. ruined Trek.

Best to focus in, I think. On July 22, the 13th Star Trek movie will arrive in theaters. If Star Trek Beyond is awful, it still might not be the worst Star Trek movie. If Beyond is fantastic, it still might not be the best Star Trek movie. Trek cinema is all over the map: Thrilling, boring, experimental, primitive, expensive, shoestring. Maybe Star Trek should only be a TV show. (A new one arrives 2017.) Maybe Star Trek should only be about an Enterprise. Maybe it should just end. Maybe we’re just beginning. Every week from now until Beyond, we’ll look closely at one of the movies, in chronological order from Kirk to Picard to Kirk again. Hopefully, we’ll understand more at the end.

––––––––


There are some moments in Star Trek: The Motion Picture that are so beautiful – serene, cosmic, passionately alive with the possibility of The Infinite. You want to cry, you don’t know why. There are planetscapes and solaric abstractions and effervescent fugue-core incoherence rippling across electric oceans. The villain in The Motion Picture is one such abstraction: A demi-god vapor-planet of unknown origin and unknowable purpose. It is the first thing we see in the movie, and we never really see it at all.


In the first scene of The Motion Picture, three Klingon ships approach the cloud. In 1979, a Star Trek fan would have recognized the design of the Klingon ships. But things would have also looked different, to that diehard Trek fan. The camera follows the ships move across the stars – the kind of special effect that was practically impossible when Star Trek was on TV.

The Klingons are different, too: more alien, with makeup and forehead prosthetics. The subtext could be understood by a child: Star Trek is now $tar Trek!. And things sound better, too. The Motion Picture opens with the new Star Trek theme by Jerry Goldsmith, one of the greatest and most instantly recognizable musical cues in the last four decades. And the first scene is set to Goldsmith’s Klingon Battle Theme. That track might actually be better than Goldsmith’s theme tune, the way John Williams’ “The Imperial March” is deeper, richer, funnier, more dramatic than the Star Wars main theme.

The Motion Picture needs you to know that it’s a movie, by god. It’s right there in the title: “The Motion Picture,” a phrase connoting something bigger, better, more official, maybe even more pure than all that had come before. (You can feel an implication: Wouldn’t Star Trek be even better on the big screen?)

Today, “The Motion Picture” is a meaningless title. It runs along another outdated idea: That movies are fundamentally better than television. Almost four decades on, TV is more like movies, and movies are more like TV. And – roll with me, please – “motion pictures” stopped being A Thing You Watch and started being Your Life And How You Express Yourself. Your ten-year-old nephew makes motion pictures. Your ten-year-old nephew films from better angles than Robert Wise.

Wise directed The Motion Picture. He is one of perhaps twenty people who you could say saved Star Trek, and he is one of perhaps thirty who you could say almost destroyed Star Trek. (The lists overlap. Gene Roddenberry’s on both, at the top.) But if you allow for some wide wiggle room in your definition of “authorship,” all the best motion pictures in The Motion Picture comes from Douglas Trumbull.

Trumbull was a special-effects guy, worked on some of the most famous sequences in 2001: A Space Odyssey, was just finishing Close Encounters of the Third Kind, would soon craft the neon gritworlds of Blade Runner. An impressive run, and one that maybe Trumbull himself only appreciates as a complimentary prize from fate. In the early ’70s, Trumbull directed Silent Running, a Big Idea space thinker that earned the kind of negative money cult sensations always earn.

Trumbull only agreed to do The Motion Picture out of spite. Paramount was in a jam; he was on contract to them; they needed him; he wanted nothing to do with Paramount ever again. So he agreed to finish the movies’ special effects on a tight turnaround, on the condition that he would never have to work with Paramount again. He worked his team hard – in his own telling, Trumbull wound up in the hospital for two weeks, exhausted. Working alongside onetime protégé John Dykstra (who created some of the most memorable effects in Star Wars) and much of the Close Encounters team, Trumbull the weirdest and gorgeous and often wildly incongruous visions ever seen in a science fiction movie.

Much of it looks unreal, like this early shot of Planet Vulcan, rendered across matte paintings and smoke effects and the tease of rockform gargantuans. Who knows how this played in 1979, so soon after Star Wars imagined alien planets as real on-location set-ups in Tunisia and Guatemala.

In the best and maybe most despised sequence from The Motion Picture, the Starship Enterprise enters the godcloud, and, for 10 minutes, we see an interior that seems to hold the cosmos. It’s the closest thing to a tesseract ever caught on film: The deeper we go, the more there is.

There’s a shot in this sequence that may be the single most stunning image ever captured in a Star Trek project. Maybe that doesn’t matter as much as we think; maybe the franchise only gets worse when the people involved think “stunning images” are what define Star Trek. But, toward the end of this journey inwards, the camera pulls back to what a cinematographer might call a “Cosmically Extreme Long Shot,” and we see the great starship Enterprise, a tiny speck on this monster’s horizon.

Later, Spock puts on a spacesuit and goes on his own private journey through what you can only safely describe as a cosmic vaginal endoscape. The cutting strategy is familiar to anyone who saw 2001: Spock’s face, something crazy, Spock’s face, something crazy. At the end of Spock’s journey, there is a woman – Ilia, but it doesn’t matter, names don’t matter in The Motion Picture, nothing any person does really matters. We know that’s not the real woman; she’s back on the Enterprise, or some version of her is.

But Spock is tantalized. To the extent that any character has a “journey” in The Motion Picture, Spock has been seeking something the whole movie. A higher state of consciousness, maybe? He seems to find it here, in this glowing representation of WOMAN. An unearthly glow encompasses him, erasing his face from our sight. He reaches out his hands – to mindmeld, to know.

The mindmeld blasts Spock backwards. The effect is, no other way of saying this, orgasmic. Spock describes the strange thoughts he experienced, inside the creature’s brain. “Is this all I am?” he says. “Is there nothing more?”

The Motion Picture’s monster is in the midst of an existential crisis, it turns out. It was a computer, created by man – Voyager 7 6, or “V’GER,” a satellite sent out to the stars. In the stars, it found more computers, which gave it inconceivable power. It has seen everything now – and, in achieving total cosmic awareness, it has also achieved sentience. It lives: So what?

In The Motion Picture, the “what now” is… well, sex. Or togetherness. Or the awareness of other life. Or the knowledge that we live only so that we can create other things that live. It’s all a bit abstract – but don’t Zen Buddhists seem pretty happy? The movie ends with Ilia and Decker – another nothing character, they might as well be named Eve and Adam, Woman and Man, Thing One and Thing Two – bonding with the cloud-thing. The climactic image of them – receiving enlightenment? ascending to a higher state? dying? being reborn? – is one of the silliest and most transcendent special effects shots ever.

“I think we gave it the ability to create its own sense of purpose,” concludes SpockKirk. You might point out, rightly, that “creating a sense of purpose” is not the most dramatic concept for a movie. You might also point out, just as rightly, that “creating a sense of purpose” is the central experience of humanity. How do you put such a vague but universal experience onscreen? How do you conjure up the fear that there is no purpose? Maybe you need a new language, something beyond words. Cinema, or whatever cinema used to be.

Decades later, Wise worked on a special cut of The Motion Picture. It was released with added digital effects – not the first time a major moment in Trek history happened because of Star Wars, not the last time a terrible moment in Trek history happened because of Star Wars. That special cut adds in a few shots that seem to clearly identify what V’Ger looks like. This is helpful only if you think that incoherence was The Motion Picture’s problem, and not its saving grace. The first Star Trek film has almost no real story, and the characters are only “characters” because we know their names and faces from a long-dead TV show. But you could spend a long time pondering the image of the Enterprise, dwarfed and surrounded by V’Ger.

You wonder what it must have been like, to see that on a big screen. You wonder what it must have felt like, to only see motion pictures on the big screen. You wonder, above all, what it was like to feel so small in the universe.

The Motion Picture depends on you loving space – and I mean “space” both ways, as in “everything outside of Earth” and as in “height and depth and width and distance.” In 2016, nobody pays much attention to outer space, except as one more piece of nostalgiabait trending curiosity. (Is Pluto still not a planet?) And maybe we don’t pay as much attention to the other definition of space: What does distance mean, to digital natives?

So The Motion Picture is beloved by film theorists and special effects nerds and people who treat marijuana as a sacrament. But in 2016, special effects are too common – and marijuana too legal – to feel sacred.

–––––––––––––––––––

Kirk looks at the Enterprise for the first time around minute 16 of The Motion Picture, and doesn’t stop until minute 23. Kirk and Scotty are riding a little shuttle to their ship, and that ride takes seven minutes of screen time. It is slow, and nothing “happens,” unless you love Douglas Trumbull’s special effects and Jerry Goldsmith’s music, unless you can groove onto the idea that “Looking” is an active state. (Wrath of Khan is to The Motion Picture as The Motion Picture is to Solaris.)

Kirk’s returning to the old ship after years behind a desk. He ascended from the captain’s chair to become, ahem “Chief of Starfleet Operations.” One of the many accidental gags in The Motion Picture’s nonsense script is that Kirk must have been truly terrible at operating Starfleet. There is a giant killer gas cloud coming towards Earth – and “the only starship in interception range is the Enterprise.” The only starship? Isn’t Earth, like, the center of Starfleet Operations? Wouldn’t this be, like, the Joint Chiefs saying, “We’ve only got one fighter jet defending Washington!”)

Kirk is out of practice. “You haven’t logged a single star hour in two years!” declares Commander Decker, the man who would have been in charge of the Enterprise if Kirk hadn’t unretired himself. Decker is played by Stephen Collins, with retroactively creepy blandness. There is a ghost of a good idea here, the whole DNA of Wrath of Khan: What if Kirk is too old for this? But part of the strangeness of The Motion Picture is that the special effects sequences are vivid, mad with pulsating power – and the scenes with human beings are void, stilted, static. Wise shoots with wide angles and deep focus, so you can appreciate how full this Enterprise is of humans standing immobile, unresponsive.




Wise had a huge budget, and so he built huge sets, each less compelling than the last. The Enterprise’s Rec Room looks as playful as a prison cell, and the observation lounge allows crew members to sit on asylum sofas and contemplate the eternal void.



You could say that the whole problem of Star Trek – or a problem that many brilliant creators and actors have grappled with – is how stilted the core ethos of the franchise is, on narrative and visual levels. Star Trek must have a cast of characters who obey authority and work together. Everyone’s an officer in some codified organized military or other. Everyone wears a uniform. Because most of the action happens with the main characters on “The Bridge,” most of the climactic sequences in Star Trek history happen with all our heroes sitting down.

Wise does not try to bring life to this structure. He doesn’t send the crew into a fistfight, doesn’t blow up the ship, doesn’t ram spaceships into each other. He does send a couple characters out into space – but they don’t fire lasers at anyone. Late in the long first act, Dr. McCoy arrives on the Enterprise, and Kirk asks him for help. Look at how Shatner insistently extends his hand; that is the closest Kirk comes to an action scene in The Motion Picture.


Maybe the problem was Roddenberry. The creator of Star Trek spent the decade after Star Trek trying to bring back Star Trek. He would not let it die. You think of George Miller, returning to create the perfect Mad Max 30 years later. Or maybe you think of George Lucas, who returned to the saga he created with no clear sense of what made the saga work so well. Or maybe you think of other people – Chris Carter? Roger Kumble? Anyone on Fuller House who isn’t John Stamos? – returning to the most popular item on a long-dormant IMDb page.

Roddenberry was devoted to Star Trek, but he carried the blame for all the perceived faults of The Motion Picture. This is the only Trek film Roddenberry really worked on. History repeats: Years later, Roddenberry was booted from The Next Generation. Mythology holds that Roddenberry’s utopian vision was the antithesis of drama. So in The Motion Picture, Decker is only ever mildly upset with Kirk, and Kirk is only ever mildly concerned about Spock.

The film can’t even commit to a lack of emotion. One of Ilia’s first terrible lines is, “My oath of celibacy is on the record, Captain.” Soon, celibate Ilia is transformed into an emotionless robot – two different layers of Spocklike indifference! But Ilia can’t keep her eyes off love interest Decker, and Decker can’t stop smiling at her. Here again, another ghost of a good idea – what if Kirk Junior had to romance Lady Spock for the good of the cosmos! – but the outcome is never in doubt, the drama never dangerous.

Roddenberry was a utopianist. He believed in the best ideas about humanity getting along. This is the beautiful thing about Star Trek, and it is why people who love Star Trek get nervous whenever some new Star Trek thing tries to be dark, or less-than-hopeful. It strikes me that the vision of Starfleet in The Motion Picture is as close as Roddenberry ever got to a pure utopia. Everyone is so… serene. Everyone is so… peaceful. Everyone is so… bland. George Takei, Nichelle Nichols, and Walter Koenig are only in the movie to smile at Kirk.

Kubrick’s big joke in 2001 was that the computer was more human than the humans. That’s another accidental joke in The Motion Picture. Shatner, dangerously toned-down, seems more Vulcan than the Vulcan. The Enterprise crew listens patiently to Kirk giving commands, follows orders. Spock pursues great knowledge, with no ambition or thirst. He seeks cosmic transcendence with all the exhausted energy of a TSA officer opening her 31st carry-on of the day, knowing there’s probably nothing inside but a toenail clipper and a forgotten half-empty water bottle.

The Motion Picture has a simple problem: It’s too goddamn slow. Every other Star Trek film is, in some way, a reaction against that complaint. But the slowness creates the great parts of The Motion Picture – those long moments of sound and image, unencumbered by plot or character or even dialogue. You could argue that The Motion Picture is 2001 for Dummies, or the misbegotten mash-up of 2001 and Star Wars with placeholders where characters should be.

But The Motion Picture is reaching for something no other Trek film has even tried to reach for. It is Head-Trip science fiction, Big Question science fiction. No one involved can think of a compelling way to dramatize those questions. Surely there was a way, though! You think of “Balance of Terror,” one of the greatest of all Star Trek stories. “Balance of Terror” is a bottle episode about people in one set trying to outthink people on another set. Like a lot of great original series episodes, it might as well have a declarative title: “THIS IS ABOUT THE COLD WAR.” The characters have no psychology: They exist as mouthpieces for thought-notions, “Let’s shoot first,” “Let’s give them the benefit of the doubt,” “We can’t trust anyone,” “We need to trust someone.” The narrative is Socratic, but there’s nothing wrong with that. Not every fight needs to be choreographed.

Could The Motion Picture have worked like that, as a thoughtful exploration? It still almost does, even if everyone besides DeForest Kelley looks bored. There’s no other film like it – besides maybe Final Frontier (more on that in four weeks). So The Motion Picture is a fascinating curio. There are better Treks, but they’re smaller, too, and maybe less ambitious. This could be the last Star Trek ever. Will anyone ever even try to write the last Star Trek?

FASHION NOTES:

Further sign of the cognitive dissonance that powers The Motion Picture: The special effects are colorful, neon-dark against the infinite, and the clothes are beige, gray, light brown, and off-white. The clothes look like furniture, the furniture looks like clothes. These are the shortest-lived of the Trek uniforms, and the extras all look like they’re wearing pajamas. I am not sure we will ever be in a moment like this again: One of the most expensive movies of the year takes for granted that you want to see middle-aged men wear V-necks.


But, devil’s advocate: The Motion Picture uniforms are the only Star Trek costumes that look made for comfort. They are loose, turtlenecks and sweatshirts, onesies, shirts that don’t ever get tucked in. Witness the Holy Trinity in slanket-chic.


The grand exception is Ilia, played by Persis Khambatta. An Indian model with silent-cinema eyes, Khambatta was cast as Ilia when The Motion Picture was going to be a new TV show, and her character only just barely transitioned to the feature film, with the barest whisp of a backstory and a kinda-nude scene. Captured and reprogrammed by V’Ger, Ilia returns to the Enterprise in a barely-there bathrobe with a cowl and high heels – a clear sign that V’Ger is much kinkier than the movie allows.


WORTH NOTING FOR FUTURE FRANCHISE REFERENCE:

The first lens flare in any Star Trek film occurs about 35 minutes into the original theatrical cut. You can see it floating next to Sulu’s head. This was almost certainly a mistake brought on by Wise’s abject love for unnecessary camera trickery. But penicillin was a mistake, too.
Set Bookmark
Darren
Sat, Apr 30, 2016, 8:38pm (UTC -5)
Re: VOY S6: Blink of an Eye

"Wink of an Eye" is much different. It's where those fly buzzy type sounds are all over the ship. The aliens are moving too fast to be seen.

Eventually, Kirk gets a virus where he speeds up, too, and sees the aliens, but everyone else on the crew is near frozen.

Both "Wink" and "Blink" are on Netflix. While TOS is the better series, "Blink" is a more provocative and thought-out episode. My favorite of the whole "Voyager" run.
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Darren
Wed, Mar 30, 2016, 9:02pm (UTC -5)
Re: VOY S6: Sixth Season Recap

Just read parts of the interview, man is he obsessed with Sevens costume ... Really, is that such a big issue? Must be because americans are so prude. Sure, she looks nice, but calling her "essentially naked" or her costume her primary character trait? I never viewed it as such, and always thought that it fitted her borg theme rather well. After all, what is more utilitarian than a tight fitting full body suit? I always thought Sevens outstanding character trait was that she does not understand emotions very well, not her "sexy outfit", and I first watched Voyager in the middle of puberty when I found everything to be in some way sexual.

I know that that is only a small part of the interview, but it struck me as really odd. I just don't get it I guess.
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Darren Carver-Balsiger
Sat, Jul 5, 2014, 5:15pm (UTC -5)
Re: Star Trek: The Motion Picture

TMP. It's slow. So slow. Yet one of the best films by far.
Okay, so let's go straight to the plot. It's different and the first time Star Trek had really involved Earth in the 23rd century. It worked well and despite the slow start, the Klingon investigation was well thought out and relatively pacey before Kirk joined the show. Oh dear. The whole "I've got the Enterprise, fuck off Decker" part of the plot was played down far too much. I found that despite his continual insistence that he's not after the Enterprise utter bullshit. As McCoy explained. He's been a total dick. Okay, so Decker was boring and the baldie was interesting but never expanded but this film is about characters which was the films weakest point. The next hour of film was the lowpoint. The entire section of exploring V'Ger was pointless. It never went anyway and was totally boring. The warp drive malfunction was filth. It wasn't needed and added hardly anything to an already boring film. The idea of the weapons being connected to the warp drive was crap.
The characters worked well. Kirk was crap and I hated his new personality. Spock was his usual logical self but he became more of an arse in this film. McCoy did nothing except a few good lines. Uhura, Chekov and Sulu did nothing except look good. Scotty had a few nice lines and scenes but a fattening James Doohan did not stand out. Decker appeared interesting but I couldn't stand the way he reacted to Kirk or how he acted. He was abysmal. V'ger was exemplary and had some great scenes and I liked the metal lifeforms. My only criticism is that we didn't say the lifeforms and I find it hard to believe such a being could exist.
The special effects was great for the time but there was too many and it never made sense as to why there was that many. The uniforms were crap and it didn't distinguish ranks very well.
This film failed on a character level and lacked the necessary direction and looks to secure it as the best. But it'll always be remembered as the slow motion picture. Although I would prefer it to be called "the slow motion picture until the last 40 minutes". If you can get through the slowness you will find it one of the best films and the closest to Roddenberry's vision despite the fact that its always been overshadowed by great films like "First Contact" & TWOK (both of which I aren't too keen on). So, from a 14 years old perspective - 5/10 but from my Trekkie perspective - 8 / 10
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Darren
Sun, Aug 14, 2011, 8:13pm (UTC -5)
Re: ENT S2: Regeneration

Recycled, sure, but I thought it worked overall. The Borg had become over-used by Voyager; as they became de-mystified, they lost thet air of invincibility that made them such terrifying villains. Here, I felt that sense of dread again, much as I'd felt it in TNG and First Contact.

We can debate inconsistencies and possible breaches of cannon with any time travel episode. I was generally captivated by the pace of the action, pleased with Archer's decisiveness, thought Billingsley had some of his most affecting moments as he grapples with his mortality and sense of duty. Based on comments, I'm not holding out hope that this series reaches the heights of TNG or DS9. Still, two solid episodes in a row.
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Darren
Sun, Jul 31, 2011, 10:53pm (UTC -5)
Re: ENT S2: Precious Cargo

I'm quite surprised anyone is defending this episode. Lakshmi's acting was execrable, but Trineer doesn't exactly light it up, either. The rest is just all-around bad.

One thing this episode does illuminate are several themes that will become fatal hallmarks of this series:

1) Numerous episodes in which the crew must put on some kind of poorly acted and elaborate ruse to get something out of the antagonist (T'Pol's silly performance as an inquisitor here, the Ferengi episode, "Canamar", but to cite a few).

2) The consistently adolescent way in which sexuality is depicted or otherwise alluded to on this show. Like the writers are a bunch of Mt. Dew-addled 13-year-olds. I can see the pitch: "Hey, I've got an idea! Let's make them spread K-Y Jelly on each other half-naked every time they return to the ship!" It's insipid.

3) Abductions, kidnappings, and hostage situations provide the basis for the plot in seemingly every episode.

It's clear Star Trek is a money-generating franchise with all the creative strictures and stunted story-telling that that label implies. It's content to run over the same well-trod ground, but with half the brains and a quarter of the heart. And I was naive enough to think Berman and Braga would stretch their wings on their last go-round.

I did get a laugh reading about and remembering "Threshold". I remember seeing it first-run and thinking, "What the hell just happened?"
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