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Daniel Lebovic
Fri, Mar 27, 2020, 7:39pm (UTC -5) | 🔗
Re: PIC S1: Et in Arcadia Ego, Part 2

I like the comment to the effect that “screaming This is Not Star Trek sounds like a child not being given his cereal.”

I believe there was no substantive response.

I think there is also an issue as to what constitutes “science fiction.” Once we accept (as people implicitly have) the existence of warp drive, inertial dampeners, and other “fiction” in science fiction, where can the line be drawn, beyond which one must conclude, “This is too silly!”

The whole premise of Star Trek requires dollops of suspension of disbelief. To nitpick a scene for not being scientifically accurate when the entire premise is, is one some level a futile task.

As far as the issue of What Is Star Trek, the Potter Stewart “I know what isn’t Star Trel when I see it” crowd will never give an answer. That would prevent them from changing the goalposts whenever it suited them. Funny how many complaints about the show’s “dubious” cohesiveness themselves are incohesive or bereft of reasoning.

Part of reaction depends upon the predisposition of the viewer. To paraphrase Guinan, someone who hated episodes 1-9 will probably go in to episode 10 with a jaundiced view and come out of it with confirmation bias. I don’t know when it became Scripture to automatically “know” all post-2005 (2001? 2009?) Trek is terrible, so I don’t go in with that bias.

I try to watch episodes, seasons, etc., without preconceived beliefs to the effect they will be good or bad. And I try to look for what a Star Trek episode gives me in terms of entertainment value, because Trek is first and foremost entertainment. The last episode of Season 1 of Picard had problems galore but on balance It was entertaining given the constraints I mentioned above. Trek at its best is MORE than entertainment. But, to savage someone simply because that person got some entertainment from the show, or the show brightened that person’s day a little bit...
It is unfortunate that some are so certain in their opinions that they resort to doing this.

One person observed that if Michael Chabon can’t make Trek work, no one can. It takes a a small inferential leap to realize that some people will never be satisfied with anything - or will never admit to it , lest they be thought to be part of the lumpen masses - those vulgar, inferior Philistines! - that get enjoyment from entertainment.
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Daniel Lebovic
Wed, Jun 5, 2013, 1:47am (UTC -5) | 🔗
Re: Star Trek Into Darkness

Hi Nic - I'm not sure Matt is "taking things personally." I am not a mind-reader. Moreover, a lot of the posters have made denuciatory and declamatory one-liners that reflect hatred of and venom toward this movie (hate is never palatable, but it is always at its least palatable when it is unsupported by facts or reasoning) contrasted with Matt's specific, thoughtful and sober analysis. I eagerly await some of those to whom Matt responded in detail to reply back to him. I think it is always easier to criticize than to defend, because human beings are hard-wired that way (as a friend once told me, when I was childishly looking for a compliment, "People don't generally compliment you on routine things well-done. You will likely be criticized for a routine mistake.")

I spoke to the following point in 2009, and I too was in effect told to calm down: for those conversant in Star Trek history, no doubt you remember: Gene Roddenberry did not conceive of TOS as a drama shorn of interpersonal conflict where characters struggled to reach a utopian ideal. The characters in the original series routinely argued with each other. That reflects reality, in any century, as far as human beings are concerned. Twenty years down the line or so, when TNG came out Roddenberry attempted to reinvent what Star Trek "meant: lack of interpersonal conflict, Starfleet as not a military organization/organization heavily involved in "police actions" (TOS' Enterprise was involved in a number of such actions, and was in general used for militaristic purposes - even if defensive - more than the TNG Enterprise was, I think); Starfleet as an organization where traitors are hard to find. Roddenberry was shown Star Trek VI shortly before his death, and complained that the movie was too "militaristic."

If the CREATOR of Star Trek can change his mind about what Star Trek is or should be about, I find it impossible to understand how fans can attempt to impose a definition of what Star Trek "is." Part of the fun of discussing "Trek" and watching it over the years, for me, anyway, has been discussing what has made Star Trek so successful - and when I talk to different people about this, different people have different opinions. These people support their opinions with facts, and are not denigrated by those who claim that their actualization of "Trek" is and should be the only one.

Another point: While STID will probably not outgross its predecessor, it will, it appears, have a higher rate of return on its investment than most of the other Trek films have had. A major reason why the STID and its immediate predecessor fared so well is because non-fans saw these movies - a fair number of non-fans. STID received a Cinema Score rating of "A," which means a lot of non-fans also LIKED the movie. Evidently they were able to follow it. Fandom in days gone by often would hold the future of Trek in its hands: if the fan base did not show up to see Star Trek VI after V failed critically and commercially, perhaps there would have been no more movies.... No two CONSECUTIVE movies between Star Trek 1 and 10 were bombs, box-office wise, and the fans can be thanked for that. Surely, fans probably now realize that their input, and catering to their tastes, is less important to Paramount than it used to be, since the Star Trek movies, quite arguably, can exist as a going concern without having to rely ONLY on the fans.

Some people no doubt abhor this - i.e. they now believe "the only reason the movies can now survive is because they have been dumbed down for a mass audience. That is not an "accomplishment." (Perhaps people abhorring this explains some of the bile directed at this movie). IMHO, not one of the first ten Star Trek movies appealed primarily to the intellect. (Anyone who thinks otherwise, please share your thoughts). Some people no doubt abhor how this movie contains more special effects, more action, more cuts, more editing generally, than its predecessors. These items are value-neutral, though. They do not make a film better or worse.

One poster quoted Roger Ebert's review of "North" (1994), which contained a line to the effect of "I hated hated hated hated.. this movie." The late Ebert was also fond of saying something else: A movie is not what it is about, but how it is about it. If someone wants to condemn STID for being nothing more than an action picture, that person is condemning what the movie is about (and is also attempting to short-circuit legitimate debate - after all, to paraphrase something else Ebert once said, "Once you have called a movie an action movie, what else is there left to say about it?" The actual line Ebert used is, "Once you have called someone a Feminazi, what else is there to say about such a person?) rather than how it is about it. STID, while it is far from being a perfect movie, is, I think, an action/adventure movie that earns its thrills/laughs and some of the tears it attempts to make drop, because it goes about its story in an entertaining way, with excellent production values and a great cast that puts its own spin on things, and a script that, if criticized solely on the basis of what is on the page, moves us along from a series of exciting events to another, while even allowing for a little moral commentary that Roddenberry trying to reinvent Roddenberry Prime would have approved of (the militarism here was expressly singled out as leading Starfleet in a dangerous direction). Oh, and the screenplay does not spell things out for us (some people call that shoddy writing; reasonable people can disagree). That offends some, no doubt. One person complained that Admiral Marcus' motivation was not explained. Actually, it was (the destruction of Vulcan was, he claimed, an event that underscored the need for Starfleet to be more "proactive" against threats).

What I disagree with is not so much the reviews on this post that announce how bad this movie is, but rather the fact that a number of these reviews seem to be using, as evaluative measures, narrow, rigged criteria (i.e. "is this movie a Star Trek movie?") that when used will automatically result in this movie not "measuring up."
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Daniel Lebovic
Wed, Jun 10, 2009, 11:24am (UTC -5) | 🔗
Re: Star Trek (2009)

"Vulgarity is not as destructive to an artist as snobbery is." - Pauline Kael

Someone who "understands what science fiction is" would never call it "sci-fi," as a recent poster did. Of course, this assertion is just that - an assertion - an opinion. Again, no one has a definitional monopoly on what "Star Trek" is, or what "Star Trek is," or, as Kael's quote indicates, what a "good movie" is.
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Daniel Lebovic
Tue, Jun 2, 2009, 1:15pm (UTC -5) | 🔗
Re: Star Trek (2009)

I probably should further note that I wouldn't under most circumstance TELL someone to lighten up - as if I were trying to command them, because I would properly be seen as someone who believed he and he alone had the power to determine what emotional responses to something are proper.

Then again, more than a few comments on this board are made by people with apparently the same mindset - "THIS is what Star Trek should be/is, and the resultant reaction must be X."

Star Trek fans pride themselves on tolerance, but I begin to wonder if that is true when it comes to the issue of respecting others' opinions on Star Trek itself. I may disagree with someone, but I'll give you my reason - my opinion - not my "fact" - as part of my argument.
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Daniel Lebovic
Tue, Jun 2, 2009, 12:58pm (UTC -5) | 🔗
Re: Star Trek (2009)

Roland K,

I'm not "coming down hard" on anyone. I am merely wondering why the crtieria for judging a Star Trek movie differ among fans, and for any given fan with respect to the 11 movies.

Scientific plausibility counts, when some fans want it to. It doesn't, when some fans don't.

It's important for Star Trek to have "weighty Star Trek issues" when the issue on screen is one the fan likes; not so much when the fan dislikes it.

I am coming down on the mindset that says, "This (heavy-handed philosophizing, dull speeches, what have you) is what Star Trek is, I'm right, you're wrong," and on the mindset some fans have that says "Either the movie has to cater to my (indiscernable and capricious) whims or it is not a good movie." I am coming down on the mindset that says, "X is what makes for a great Star Trek film, and if X is not there, it's bad." I'm coming down on the mindset that says that if a filmmaker does not follow X, he has not just made a bad Star Trek movie, but a bad MOVIE.

In practically none of these comments have I read criticism (or praise, for that matter) of this film AS A PIECE OF CINEMA. You know, things like, "the camerawork was terrible; the scene was poorly paced; the humor was out of touch; the movie went on too long." Guess one has no time for this when there's too much mental masturbatory typewriting to be had about whether this movie is "a good Star Trek movie."

What I'm saying is, I am humble enough to say that I don't know what a good "Star Trek" movie is, so I can't say if this movie was a great Star Trek movie. Art ultimately must be judged, in some sense, on its own four corners, and it's a pity that the commentators seem to be treating continuity, adherence to canon, or what have you, as virtues (or vices, as most people here seem to be), instead of mere attributes, which they are not. (As an aside, I find that people's stating, AS FACT, what Star Trek "is" about, and then judging the movie on this basis alone, is presumptuous. Daniel Patrick Moynihan once famously said, "Everyone is entitled to his own opinions, but not to his own facts." I should add that when your facts are not facts but rather opinions, you are (one is) under the false guise of objectivity, criticizing in a manner no more or less valid than anyone else (i.e. someone who realizes his opinions are not facts) does.

I guess I am biased myself... I was a movie critic back in college and law school days where I saw my stuff published... No one ever "told me" the following rule, but when I wrote a review, even of a film that was made "for the fans only" (a fact, by the way, that is also neither vice nor virtue), I asked myself three mental questions before I wrote it, and then asked myself the same three questions afterwards to make sure I had answered them. 1) What is the movie about? 2)Would you recommend it? 3) Why, or why not? In answering each question, I tried to use ordinary terms that a person with no knowledge of the movie could relate to, so that they could (hopefully) after reading the review be in a better position to judge whether the movie was worth their $10.00. The reviews were written in such a way as to be understood, and (hopefully) be helpful to everyone.

I understand these are not the criteria used at a site like this, but I've also found that focusing on a review with these questions in mind allows me to avoid going off on tangents, and to minimize the introduction of personal prejudice into a review, for surely the reader didn't/shouldn't/couldn't care about these things.
They shouldn't care about what I think the movie officially "SHOULD" have been about, or about my criticism over things that were not in the movie (you cannot criticize what's not there; I've always found it best to criticize what's actually on the screen. This is easy to do, if one permits oneself to do it).

Now, on this forum, every comment is personal-prejudice laden, a result of all of us having an idea as to what "Star Trek" is, was, or should be. I submit that singly focusing on this question and having the answer dictate whether this movie was a GOOD MOVIE (since there is no correct answer, or even "correct opinion" as to what a good "Star Trek" movie) does a disservice to movies in general.


Jammer gave the movie three stars out of four. Three out of four. Don't you think you're being excessive? You're taking it way out of proportion. I think you're coming down on Jammer a lot harder than he supposedly came down on this movie."
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Daniel Lebovic
Sun, May 31, 2009, 3:48am (UTC -5) | 🔗
Re: Star Trek (2009)

Thank you Simon B!

The Onion's piece on how Trekkers ripped this movie apart as "fun and watchable" seems all the funnier (or sadder) after reading some of the comments here. This movie has scored an average of 83/100 on, a 95% fresh on, has clearly been seen by non-Trek fans, given how much money it has made (which can only lead to the inescapable conclusion that some people out there, if not the posters here, appreciate the value of entertainment), and from reading these reviews, one gets the impression it was as bad as Star Trek The Motion Picture (which, of course, Jammer, you gave 3 stars to as well).

Really, people, you fans, like me who know Star Trek so well, were the BEST - the VERY BEST episodes really about exploring heavy dramatic and moral themes? If you go back, cataloguing through the different series, analyzing the quality of the "message" shows, the surprising (not so surprising, actually, but again, fanboys exist to criticize what they claim to love, not to appreciate how well a movie was made on its own terms - and the terms of this movie were that of an action-adventure film, like #8, and on those terms, like # 8, it worked quite well) thing is that a lot of them were quite heavy-handed, even embarrassing. "A Private Little War," "Arena" (to you, Jammer, anyway), "Let That Be Your Last Battlefield," TNG's "Symbiosis," "The Outcast," DS9's "A Man Alone," Voyager's "Stigma," and so forth - not sure how many of you would consider these episodes great television, but apparently they're great "Trek" (a term that I must note no one has a definitional or any other kind of monopoly on) because they reflect the myth GR created about his own show.

In fact, he pitched the show (and on that basis, the network bought it) as a "Wagon Train to the Stars," not a "let's couch every pressing issue of the day in futuristic metaphor and have a world where everyone gets along with each other - with respect to the latter remark, do any of you really believe that is what the original "Trek" was about, given it was the only one where characters argued with each other?

Jammer, you began this review by saying you didn't know what Star Trek was about, but then the criticism of the movie definitely suggested that it "used to" be about something (i.e. philosophy). Why does it have to be about one thing, and what does it matter what it is about, as long as the story it tells is one that is told well?

Star Trek has, obviously,in fact, been many things (which begs the question of why someone would beg the question: "What is it about?") - action, dorm-room philosophizing, character, theme, issue-exploring, and so forth.

This movie chose to focus on some of those elements and not others, and should not be criticized for something it did not do, especially when past movies were assuredly not criticized by some of the people here in that manner.

Oh, and by the way, for those of you who didn't make up your mind to pigeonhole the movie before it came out, if only to smugly state "Q.E.D." when it was over, the movie was very much (the point is certainly debatable) about character (apparently, because it did not show the characters interacting with each other in a certain manner that we were used to, it's "Bad" character, or "out of character," though), and as far as the philosophizing goes, did you really want to hear another five-minute speech from Picard that would have stopped the movie dead in its tracks? The HUMANITY of Star Trek - one thing that I do believe has made it so appealing to people whether that is because what they think it is about, or whether that it is because they SHOULD think it was about because someone told them that's what GR said it was about, was most certainly on display: I will give a mere three-word example: Old Spock's final line "thrusters on full." Notice carefully how Nimoy delivers the line. With a tinge of optimism, a tinge of sadness, a little sense of awe, and a little sense of reverence. The young Kirk in this movie saves the day not because he is William Shatner because he has faith in and respects that and those which have come before (albeit from the future) him. The movie also subtly - without bopping us on the head - is getting at something quite special: that at the end of the day, after all of the time travel and black holes and red matter and planet destructions have played themselves out, the best hope for mankind is still.... manking. Oh, and it also (merely by depicting it - remember, good drama need not make its point by shouting out that it is making a point - Flaubert once complained of Uncle Tom's Cabin, "Why is the author constantly railing against slavery? Just depict it, that's enough) depicts that torture will still not work, 300 years from now. And the movie had so many neat little things going on around the edges of the frame - every penny of the biggest budget given to a Star Trek movie is up there, we even see some of the male characters wearing wedding rings, Abrams' direction (apparently noted by no one here, but cheered and applauded by the sold-out crowd I saw the movie with on the first night) of the opening ten minutes combined emotional resonance with suspense and action to produce as compelling a ten-minute sequence as any in a Star Trek film - that apparently hardcore fans have a reason to be upset. After all, they think they "own" Star Trek and whatever they think on any given day they wake up it happens to be about.

Therefore, I guess, Lord save us from a movie that tries to simply entertain people - fans and non-fans, and does a great job of doing it. Go on, keep blasting the movie for being fun and watchable, and for, dare I say it, almost cool.

After all, that last adjective is no doubt almost the most blasphemous of all. It's what caused this movie to be such a great success, and it's what will ensure that a sequel will be made, for which no doubt so many of you are already are sharpening your knives already!

You guys can all enjoy being walking examples of the inverse of the (sensible) theory that good ideas are better than non-ideas, while I can go and be entertained again. In grand fashion.

That way, to hell with no-win scenarios, we all win!
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Daniel Lebovic
Thu, May 21, 2009, 5:18pm (UTC -5) | 🔗
Re: ENT S2: Regeneration

I must dissent from what these posters have to say.

In First Contact, the Borg Sphere arrives (as it travels backwards in time) on Earth BEFORE the Enterprise does. What (as the story itself tells us) is the pivotal event that the Borg seek to change, and is therefore, the event, if they are thwarted in their attempt to change it, that will allow the "proper" timeline to resume? The making of first contact. They are thwarted in this effort (they are unable to destroy the Phoenix, or kill Zefram Cochrane). But, the damage they DID inflict on Earth (i.e. the firing that led Lily to cry, "It's the ECON" DID really "happen" - that event was not a "it never really happened because the Borg were ultimately thwarted" event. It happened beacuse the Enterprise could and did, necessarily, restore history, once (and only once) it actually entered the 21st Century. (Contrast this with Star Trek XI, where the timeline was altered FROM THE FIRST FRAME OF THE FILM). Jammer's final paragraph (the one before "Smile, wink, nod") is completely accurate (just as is Spock's like in Star Trek XI, "The reason you aren't familiar with transwarp beaming, Mr. Scott, is that you've yet to come up with the equation for it." At the end of First Contact the ship is restored to the post-TNG episode era. "Q-Who" however, was DURING that era, so how could the characters in that episode have knowlege that history had been restored (i.e. that a force known as the Borg tried to invade Earth but failed) when, as of the stardate of that episode, the invasion (which began after Q-Who) had not yet occurred?
I mean, not to be disrespectful to anyone, but I think there's a clear answer (given how Star Trek treats time-travel stories and the implications of time travel - and it treats the implications consistently across episodes, shows and movies) as to whether any continuity was violated. I happen to think that the answer is "yes," and am not sure why others think "no." Also, remember the final shot of "Time's Arrow, Part II?" If I remember correctly, it was of Data's severed head.
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Daniel Lebovic
Thu, May 14, 2009, 5:23pm (UTC -5) | 🔗
Re: Star Trek: Insurrection

The "pissed-off" poster's comments are well-taken.

While we don't know what would have happened had the Ba'ku been ASKED by the Federation to voluntarily relocate (the Federation could simply have told the Son'a, "Even though you have the technology, the planet is a Federation protectorate, so we don't have to entertain your ideas of forced relocation), the events depicted at the end of the film suggest an answer:

The last portion of the film reveals that the Ba'ku, whom we have been told are peaceful people who do not believe in using state-of-the-art technology, nonetheless used that technology in the service of exiling those with whom they had a disagreement. The Ba'ku state that the Son'a tried to "take over the colony." Even if this was done by force, two wrongs do not make a right.
The Ba'ku behavior, thus, gives one reasonable grounds to think (albeit after the fact) that had they been simply beeen asked to do soemthing for the Federation and perhaps the rest of the quadrant (with an admitted sacrifice),they would have refused. This did not justify the attempt to remove the Ba'ku by force, but I would have enjoyed a dialogue scene where, even after it was noted the Ba'ku were asked, we actually would get to the nitty-gritty of the reasons behind the Ba'ku refusal. Would leaving really destroy their culture? Would it really destroy them, as Picard speechified?

If we view the film through this alternative lens - through skepticism rather than Picard's presumed moral perfection- it becomes clear that it was not Admiral Dougherty who brought the Federation (not willingly, anyway) into a blood feud; the Federation was brought in because the Ba'ku welcomed their aid while hiding their true reason for wanting the aid (to again fend off a sub-section of their race). And of course, the Ba'ku hardly minded when Starfleet's advanced technology was used to intervene on their behalf.

If I didn't know better, I'd think that the filmmakers, one day, sat down and came up with a premise, "Hey! Let's have Picard risk everything in fighting the good fight to protect the rights of a minority," but once they had to plot that theme out-after they introduced the element of the Ba'ku planet possessing life-altering properties that the Ba'ku were happy to keep all to themselves (just....because), the self-righteousness began to seem absurd, but, having deadlines to meet, the filmmmakers continued to pursue the theme of persecution to the point where we were left with a perverse moral: every party (the Son'a, the Ba'ku and the Federaton) in this film acted from selfish purposes, but only the Ba'ku - the disingeuous hoarders - came off looking like the good guy. Self-righteousness is its own virtue and reward, the film tells us, without regard to what occurs outside of the microcosm of the boxed-in plot and the Ba'ku mindset.
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Daniel Lebovic
Mon, May 11, 2009, 4:43pm (UTC -5) | 🔗
Re: Star Trek: Generations

As my father and I saw Star Trek XI for the second time (night of Sat. May 9, 2009) we actually found, to our shock, that in our one-showing-every-half-hour (plus a separate IMAX theater with one showing every three hours) that the two half-hour showings that began shortly before we arrived (same for the IMAX showing, which also began shortly before we arrived) were sold out. We saw the film again, but rather late that night, and for the first time in history, I wasn't mad that I missed a showing because it had sold out. We saw Nemesis only once in a theater -the night of its premiere, no less - and there were seats to spare well into the reeling of the trailers. If you asked me right after I viewed Star Trek 10 that there would be another Star Trek film, that it would be a good - no, GREAT one, and on top of all of that, the film would be playing to sold-out audiences, I would have simultaneously laughed and cried in your face. But the prideful fan in me would never have stated that there was NO possibility of any of the above happening..

As Spcok said, both in Star Trek VI and XI, it's all about "faith."
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Daniel Lebovic
Fri, May 1, 2009, 2:00pm (UTC -5) | 🔗
Re: TNG S4: The Wounded

Re: your comment about "The Wounded": "I also think the twist at the end implying the Cardassians are actually guilty of Maxwell's charges is somewhat counterproductive to the point of the episode." I think this comment begs the question as to what the point of the episode actually WAS. I don't think that the writers stated a clear point as much as they simply depicted the plight of a once-proud Captain driven to the point of obsession thanks to the Cardassians' killing of his wife and children.

Also, the episode did not, before is ending, uequivocally oondemn Maxwell (it raised the possibility that he was certainly correct that the Cardassian ship was carrying weapons), and even if, for argument's sake, the episode unequivocally condemned him, then the condemnation, I think, was a story flaw (I can't help but think of "Silicon Avatar" - must every life form that wreaks intentional terror be "misunderstood," and must every Starfleet admiral and captain other than Picard be, by definition, unhinged?)

As I read the episode, the point (or a point) seems to have been that although two powers had concluded a war, mistrust and suspicion (and in Maxwell's case, worse) still remained - as it does in such matters.

The climax of the episode, where Picard tells Macet that the Cardassians were indeed lying, and that they cannot be trusted (as recent foes canno be), made me think, insofar as Maxwell's reaction and how we were to think of it was concerned, "Just because you're paranoid doesn't mean they're not out to get you." This is a sentiment perfectly keeping in line with a story whose point, if any, is that peace does not put an end to paranoia and mistrust - only credible actions and words of your opponent - of both sides - do. Oh, and that, war is messy, hand has shades of gray. Small wonder, then, that the episode ended on a note with such a shade. Even if the final act was "counterproudctive," I'd still be less harsh on this episode than you were because the scene between Macet and Picard was written and acted to perfection.
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Daniel Lebovic
Tue, Mar 31, 2009, 10:08pm (UTC -5) | 🔗
Re: BSG S4: Daybreak, Part 2 (April Fools Version)


Your comments about not catering to the viewer were quite well-stated. A writer/director/creator's job is to develop art, not to have the question of what art is decided by committee or popularity contest. Whatever flaws there were with RDM's storytelling, when a talented writer does things, with talent, in the Frank Sinatra way, I am never happier. The armchair critic will never go out of business as long as furniture stores exist, and, well, perhaps you are aware of the phrase "Opinions are like ______. Everyone's got one." Once in a blue moon, someone dissatisfied by a popular entertainment, instead of merely complaining, becomes inspired to be a writer to add something to the artistic process. Others, knowing (or perhaps not knowing enough to know) that they can never write for episodic television (myself included), can either sit back and criticize, or try to criticize something on its own terms, not on how close that something came to fulfilling one's own capricious (pun intended?) expectations. Dooing the latter is much harder, but much more rewarding.
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Daniel Lebovic
Tue, Mar 31, 2009, 9:58pm (UTC -5) | 🔗
Re: BSG S4: Daybreak, Part 2 (April Fools Version)

Often a critic, trying to be kind to a movie or show he doesn't like, uses the phrase "The movie/show earns an A for effort, but ultimately comes up short." (Remember when all of those critics who savaged Kubrick's "Eyes Wide Shut" made EXTRA sure, while trashing the movie, to say, "I defer to no one in my appreciation of Kubrick's brilliance, it's just that this effort didn't quite work."

I'm not going to employ this line of argumentation, firstly because 1) so many others, especially those on this site, have used the "A for effort" argument (many of the rest who were critical of the finale simply said what all would-be writers said, "The writing sucked." What was it that Shaw said about doing and teaching?), and 2) the argument is nonsense.

"Daybreak" - the whole three hours of it-was a terrific achievment (especially for a final episode of a series: quick - name five great shows that are indisputably considered to have had a great last episode? Ummm... M*A*S*H*, Newhart, maybe St. Elsewhere, maybe The Sopranos, maybe "Sex and the City"... you see my point): the episode, which had the dramatic and visual sweep of a movie, so I will refer to it as one, served the purpose of wrapping up revelations, resolutions, and of being a valedictory - an entertaining one at that.

The flashback sequences, which have been savaged by some folks here, were almost uniformly terrific. The attacks don't even rise to the levle of argument, really ("Why did they save the flashbacks to the end?" is like asking why Adama grew a mustache in "Lay Down Your Burdens Part II," but since we're on the point, the flashbacks, I think, were provided in a manner and timing aimed at making us think about all the characters had lost over four - or in some cases, many more - years; about what some characters (Lee and Kara) never truly had; and about providing resolutions to loose ends (now we finally know whom Baltar thought he was helping, and why he was helping that person, when he let her access the defense grid. The series' signature theme, "All of this has happened before...," was also given another iteration, this time a poignant one, as we see in the flashbacks that Ellen and Sol will never truly be happy, which makes the final scene with them all the more sad. The scenes involving Adama's interrogation remind us not only that he believes in his own moral code, but that he sticks to it, and simply asks of others: either follow me on board, or don't. No compromises.")

So, the movie wrapped up the giving of relevations - we now know the full dimensions of the walking tragedy that was Laura Roslin; that a single moment, frozen in time, doomed a Lee-Kara relationship, etc. Did we really learn how Kara Thrace would come to be the destruction of the human race? No, I suppose, but I find it odd that people who criticized that prophecy as silly storytelling now complain we did not receive a conventional payoff - i.e. Kara's role in a destruction of the human race wasn't diagrammed for us. She DID lead the Fleet to Earth, and before that, humans did not breed with Cylons (sans Helo and Athena); after she led the fleet to Earth, such breeding - and therefore destruction in a manner of speaking - occurred, as the relevation of "Mitochondrial Eve" implied (although I do have a question: how, over the course of 150,000 years, did humans not somehow leave behind traces of their Cylon genetic properties that later anthropologists could detect?)

As far as the entertainment/dramatic/aesthetic/kinesthetic properties of the movie, the episode was probably the best filmed along these lines; the dogfights were as entertaining and well-choreographed as any I've seen on this show; Bear McCreary's music, which could have gone all TOS on us at points (not that this is necessarily a bad thing) was eloquently restrained, and Michael Rymer's direction-his handling of mise en scene- especially in the sequences where the characters on Earth, as we say goodbye to them, project an almost ethereal presence, is quite impressive.

The plot itself? By this point in time, either you "bought into" (meaning either cared for and/or understoood the BSG mythology) or you did not; for those who bought into it, plot developments and dialogue made sense and were intriguing; for those who did not buy into it... Well, it must have been tough. Mythology matters aside, the episode was well-paced (if you like multple, LOTR:ROTK endings, you may very well have liked the last half-hour here, if not, well, it must have been tough) and moved.
About the last half hour: I am still haunted about it. Not because the final events depicted what could be seen as one more cruel twist of fate, but merely because the events were.... final. (Take the 3 LOTR episodes, for example. I've never been so sad to see a movie end, as I was with ROTK, for the simple fact that it....ended). The characters reached Earth, only to become part of its history, all in a matter of fifteen minutes (some, like Lee, presumably died alone, as did his father, whose final scenes with Laura were so beautifully played). The best compliment one can pay a visual entertainment is to say that its characters have become real people to the viewer. I actually thought, when the show was over, about how each character might have lived, and then died, after they all went their separate ways. The way they were all left to scatter - something that provided them with immense freedom - was something that may have provided some with immense loneliness at the same time. I can't shake the image of not knowing what the final images of these characters would end up being.

I suppose the one major relevation (certainly the one that's come in for the biggest criticism) is that Kara Thrace was.... well, I'm not sure what she was. The show has always been a little protean - it's never limited itself to being about JUST science fiction, JUST religion, JUST about faith versus science... Faith led the characters to a visualization of Earth, then to its nuclear-scarred remains.. In the context of the overarching plot lines and character arcs of the show, the notion of Kara as an angel made sense in that the notion did not violate the series' own internal logic, and made flesh what had often been thematically abstract previously.

Truly a great ending. It was hard enough for me even when the mediocre "Star Trek Voyager" and "Enterprise" met with their demise. "SyFy" has decided that yet another iteration of Stargate is a better way to engage our viewing needs than another year of one of the best series ever. It was great-truly great-while it lasted, and there will never be anything like it again.
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Daniel Lebovic
Fri, Mar 20, 2009, 12:01am (UTC -5) | 🔗
Re: BSG S4: Daybreak, Part 1

I had, from what you described, just about precisely the same response to Roslin's crossing the line as you did - and the scene was telegraphed well enough in advance. I'm going to miss this show.
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Daniel Lebovic
Sun, Mar 15, 2009, 1:06am (UTC -5) | 🔗
Re: DS9 S6: Profit and Lace

I think that as far as "worst episodes of Trek ever," TOS' "The Alternative Factor" is unfairly overlooked. That episode was so horrible it gave me a headache. My head was in too much pain for me to want to vomit. Yes, "Profit and Lace" was abysymal (probably the worst DSN ever), but TOS' "The Alternative Factor" AND "And the Children Shall Lead" (as well as "The Way to Eden") stand proudly beside it.

Another underachieving stinkbomb, a la "The Alternative Factor," is TNG's "Masks." "Spock's Brain" (and, yes, Voyager's "Threshold") were not quite the worst episodes made, because they were so ridiculous that they provided an Ed Wood "Plan 9 From Outer Space" kind of entertainment value. At least you got a laugh out of how bad these two were. "Masks," like "The Alternative Factor," (Voyager's "Twisted" falls into this category, too) was not only sub-abominable, it was terminally boring. These episodes were so boring that they denied me the satisfaction of filling myself with hatred over their sheer stupidity - which is why they are worse than "Threshold" and "Spock's Brain."

The three worst Enterprise episodes? I don't know if there is a general consensus here, but I offer "A Night in Sickbay," "Bound" and "Precious Cargo") (with "Sickbay" being the worst) for consideration.
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Daniel Lebovic
Mon, Mar 9, 2009, 12:32am (UTC -5) | 🔗
Re: DS9 S3: Improbable Cause

I still do not understand precisely WHY Garak wanted to pique Odo's curiosity such that Odo would eventually want to enter the Gamma Quadrant with him. What exactly did he think Odo would be interested in (Garak having not known in advance for sure that he would meet and ally himself with Enabram Tain?) Why EXACTLY did Garak want Odo to launch an investigation with Garak as the target? The only purpose (one would think) of getting Odo to investigate is to somehow have Odo around to provide useful information at some point. But it was anything but inevitable that Odo would end up being in that position (which he was, in part II, when Tain sought for him to be interrogated). Other explanations seem rather... feeble. Garak wanted Odo simply to meet his father? To go on a pleasure trip? To share some interesting information?

Garak never had a plan until the end of episode 1, but before that, he wanted Odo to get involved in his.... plan that he didn't have. I don't get it...
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Daniel Lebovic
Sat, Mar 7, 2009, 5:49am (UTC -5) | 🔗
Re: BSG S4: Someone to Watch Over Me

The episode reminded me almost of "The Sixth Sense" in that, when you play back all of the events in your mind (or simply view it for the second time), it becomes clear that the writers have done their job.

Roger Ebert, in a recent book he wrote containing 4-star reviews he had awarded for films made between 1967-2007, wrote something in the introduction - something about what it means to be a successful writer.

As Roger was getting his career as a film critic started, he recounts, he was given some advice by a newspaperman: "Don't write the first sentence unless you know how the last sentence will read."

This episode is a haunting embodiement of that advice in action - the episode gives itself the space, the time and the breathing room to tell a multi-layered story where events build upon each other instead of randomly piling upon each other, such that when we get to the end, we can see how and why we arrived there. Just beautiful.
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Daniel Lebovic
Fri, Dec 5, 2008, 2:00pm (UTC -5) | 🔗
Re: BSG S4: The Ties That Bind

Great to see a new review... It's been a while since the last one, but the show's taking its sweet time to re-appear, so the new reviews will help as a refresher for when BSG FINALLY comes back.
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