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MORE Star Trek

My sister has pointed out that almost every chat room in the history of the Internet devolves into a sexual discussion, with one exception – Star Trek chat rooms. I don’t know what that means. And I’m not sure if chat rooms exist anymore, actually. But expect bno salacious content in the post below.

My Esteemed Colleague from yesterday’s post commented on a very old blog post of mine, wherein I ranked the Star Trek movies from best to worst. You can find that post here, but if you want the Cliffs Notes version, I ranked the movies from best to worst as follows: II, VI, VIII (First Contact), IV (The One with the Whales), III, I, VII (Generations, or the One where Kirk Falls Off a Bridge), IX, X, and V (The One that Totally Sucked.)

Here again, in cool, Vulcan-Blood green, are My Esteemed Colleague’s comments, with my comments on his comments interspersed in traditional black.

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I agree with many things you have to say here.

Thank you, sir.

In no particular order : Kirk WAS a smarmy date in the pizzeria, and V was just awful.

Those are the most compelling points in my post.

I would place Insurrection far above where you did, however. What was noteworthy about it for me was its square take on the Prime Directive, the first ever in a movie, and defending a small group of people. This impressed me because it was so clearly based on the assault on indigenous peoples that has happened worldwide, and Picard alludes to this in his argument with Admiral Dougherty. Also, there is a refreshing twist on a usual Star Trek theme. Usually Star Trek asserts that paradise is impossible, and no one should even try. Countless OS episodes have the crew interfering with various attempts. Here Picard really sticks to the Prime Directive, and we get to see a small utopian community and how it has created its own space. Given how many religious minorities did the same in America, and in a sense built it, I think that’s a worthwhile theme for Star Trek to have explored. Also, it was great to see Riker in command and I liked his new beardless look.

You’re probably right. To be honest, I don’t remember Insurrection that well. I only saw it once – in the theatre, on opening night, alongside many family members. I walked out generally pleased, although the discussion focused on how the thing was essentially just an extended episode, and I’ve forgotten most of it. I remember reading a Roger Ebert piece that said that Picard and Co. were actually on the wrong side of the issue – the people on the planet were not indigenous, and the Fountain of Youth aspects of the planet could have benefited a number of other folks, so why not use it? I’m not sure if I cared about the argument enough to agree with one side or the other, but I don’t recall the movie being the suckfest that Nemesis was.

I still think that VI is a good movie, but I place it lower than you. I think VI all got elevated in our minds because it was like salvation after the hell of V, and it is still a strong film, but at times the social parallels (which are good, that’s Star Trek) became way too obvious, kind of like the Omega Glory with the Kohms and the Yangs. I mean, Klingons with Russian accents? Come on. And to me, the mind-meld scene with Valeris was EXTREMELY disturbing and felt like rape, and it was acted like it was rape, and I thought it completely destroyed Spock’s character and made him break with all Vulcan ethics of peace. I didn’t like it one bit.

I guess the Valeris thing is the keenest area where we disagree. The bond between those two characters really highlighted Spock’s ability to balance his Vulcan and human side in a process that began back in the fourth film and which Shatner ignored and/or abandoned in the fifth. It was something like rape, and, yes, very disturbing, but I think it made Spock a far more interesting character. He knew exactly what he was doing; he felt it necessary, and he hated himself for it. “Logic is the beginning of wisdom, not the end of it,” he tells her at the beginning of the film, and by the end, he has to put those words into practice in a way that was extremely distasteful for him. I don’t think it destroyed his character – it made it much more complex.

It would have been even more interesting if Valeris had been Kirstie Alley’s Saavik, as was the original intent.

I don’t remember the Russian Klingons, David Warner and Christopher Plummer were the two best ones, and they both sounded English. And the parallels were very clumsy to what was topical in the early 90s, but the story is strong enough that it still works when divorced from its time.

And I could be elevating this unduly because I had read the script beforehand, saw the thing before it premiered at the Paramount lot, and felt heavily invested in it.

One thing you might revisit with The Motion Picture is its music. This film has some of the best music, and although it’s true most of the film is a small Enterprise travelling through some (pretty amazing for 1979) effects, the music especially in these scenes is particularly transcendent. Consider as well that the Next Generation got its theme from the music of this film. The first scenes with the Klingons are, I think, riveting, as is the scene with the Kohlinar. Spock regaining his emotional side and connection with Jim is really very moving, and I would think that form a Mormon perspective, the “spiritual marriage” scene between Ilia and Decker would be very interesting.

Agreed on the music, absolutely. Jerry Goldsmith’s score here is the best in any of the films, although James Horner’s stuff for II and III comes close. It’s sad that they brought Goldsmith back for V, though, because his grandiose music was used to accompany crap.

I have rewatched TMP many times, most recently when the “Director’s Cut” came out, and much as I’d like to love it, I can’t get there from here. The opening scene with the Klingons seems disjointed to me, and the Kolinahr thing is purposefully strange without providing much context. The personal moments are great, yes, but they’re buried in a mound of self-indulgent “sci fi”ishness that would have been better suited to a movie without these characters. I wanted Kirk, Spock, and McCoy, not long, luxurious shots of a disco cloud.

I didn’t see any Mormon overtones in the Decker/Ilia relationship. What I did see was that that bald chick couldn’t act her way out of a paper bag.

What’s interesting about V is that its basic idea had existed in Trek for a long time. Shatner stole Roddenberry’s idea and did extremely poor execution on it. Roddenberry had been discussing for years the idea of the crew finding God and it turned out to be the Devil (which, while offensive in some ways, is not so much “anti-religious” as it is very Gnostic, and Roddenberry at times shows a decidedly Gnostic streak). This was such common knowledge amongst the cast that you can see a 1978 interview with the cast where DeForrest Kelly openly discusses the idea — to the horror of the host who is aware of the religious sensibilities of his audience!! (I’m neither agreeing nor disagreeing with this theme here, merely trying to give some of the history of it. I hated V!)

No, you’re right on the money. Roddenberry kept trying to peddle a script called “The God Thing,” which ended up becoming the basis of TMP. It’s ironic that Shatner inadvertantly went back to that well, when he and Roddenberry hated each other so much.

The Sybok character was potentially very interesting, but in actuality quite flat. I agree that Shatner ventures into anti-religiosity here, because here we have a prophetic kind of figure who is made out to be just mistaken.

Talk about a way to destroy a character! Spock, a character whose backstory has been developed over the course of two decades, suddenly has a long-lost brother he never bothered to mention? Who’s a HAPPY Vulcan? This is one step removed from all the Evil Twin plots from Knight Rider or The Six Million Dollar Man. What rubbish.

And it’s not as anti-religious as Shatner would have wanted. He attempted, I think, to say that ALL prophetic figures are mistaken, but he was so milquetoast in executing the idea that he ends up making no point in particular and it all falls flat.

DS9, which apparently you’ve neglected, is one of the most pro-religious shows of all the Trek series, because it deals with the Bajorans, who are an extremely religious people, who draw upon their “prophets”, who are like gods to them. These are science fictionalized to the Federation as “wormhole aliens”, but as they are beings who exist beyond space and time, they are more like the Organians in some way, except more advanced, so perhaps something between the Organians and the Q.

I’ve been told many times that I’d like DS9. I tried the first season and gave up. I hear it got much better as the show progressed.

Some great points about III and its fleshing out of the other characters. Sulu really was likable in this film. But I’m going to argue for greater importance for this film. First of all, I completely and totally disagree with you about the villain. I thought Christopher Lloyd was not only awesome and formidable, but hilarious as well, and that is a really fun combination in a villain. For me, it was both believable and enjoyable. Moreover, III has religious overtones, perhaps the first Star Trek to openly do so. In fact, it is very much like the Mystery Religions of old, where a dying figure is resurrected. In its own oblique way, it is almost allusive to Christianity (although I am in no way equating Spock and Christ!). But as an allegory it is suggestive.

No, Spock is very much a Christ figure here, which is just fine with me. Great literature often references the Christ story via allegory, and I think that’s a positive.

Disagree strongly about Lloyd – he struck me as simply silly, particularly in comparison to Khan from the previous film. He’s just mean – no reason, no history, no logic to it at all. Khan was Iago; Kruge was a schoolyard bully. And I can’t think of a moment where he’s actually funny, which is too bad, since Christopher Lloyd is so delightfully funny in almost everything else he’s done.

The character stuff in III is magnificent, perhaps the best in all the films. The problem with III, which I don’t know how you could have avoided, is you had to get from point A to point B with everyone knowing exactly where point B was. You knew they were going to find Spock; you knew he was going to be brought back to life and fully functioning; you knew, essentially, how the film was going to end. When Bones, for instance, is told there’s significant danger to the procedure he has to undergo to restore Spock’s katra to his body, you don’t believe for even an instant that he’s going to be in peril, or even inconvenienced. And the fight over Genesis is yanked in to raise the stakes, but its a pale shadow of the plot from the previous film. It’s perfunctory.

The only exception to this was the murder of David, which was quite a curveball and gave Shatner one of his best acting moments in the entire series. Although it came and went so quickly that it almost seemed wasted in retrospect.

We’re agreed that II is just amazing.

Kaaaaaaaaaaahn!

IV was not so impressive to me. It was a fun romp, to be sure, but here are my major problems : First of all, Roger Cormel died before the shooting of the movie, which completely changed the plot. Most people didn’t know this, but I did, because they had told us that IV was going to have Harry Mudd in it. That would have just been so awesome, and it would have had all the comedy IV had. So that was an unfortunately unavoidable disappointment.

Surprisingly, I had never heard this. Would have loved to have seen Harry Mudd back in action. I HAD heard all the Eddie Murphy rumors, though – he would have played the marine biologist, not whatserface who was pretty lousy. That would have been a confusing melange of Trek and an eddie Murphy vehicle, which would probably have been worse than what we got.

Secondly, the music for this film sounds like the soundtrack for the Ghost and Mrs. Muir, and doesn’t have the seriousness and depth we expect in a Trek score.

ABSOLUTELY agree. Why did they scrap Horner? This was the last part of a trilogy of films – II and III being the first installments – and suddenly we have this drastic shift in the music, and not for the better. IV’s music was wretched.

Then there is the matter of over-flippancy with changing the timeline. Scotty’s simple question of “How do we know he didn’t invent the damn thing?” is just ridiculous, and “Hello, Computer” just begins the slapstickization of Scotty that results in “I know this ship like the back of my hand *BANG*” (V) or “I think this new ship was built by monkeys” (V). Did WWIII really wipe out so much information that a trained Engineer would know absolutely nothing about the history of computers?

Ehhh… this doesn’t really bug me that much. Time travel requires a HUGE suspension of disbelief, even when it’s done well. The timeline stuff all falls apart if you examine it closely, but that’s true in any time travel film. I recommend you read “Pastwatch” by Orson Scott Card. It points out that any time travel to the past completely negates the present and creates an entirely new reality, and it makes a pretty strong case for that. (Apparently, the new Trek movie addresses this issue head on as well.)

As for Scotty’s “slapstickization,” I didn’t mind it in IV, as it felt like it was coming from a place of genuine affection, whereas in V it felt like contempt.

However, in its favor, it has the best integration of aliens into Trek in any film. I was very impressed by the multicultural/alien demographics of Starfleet in this film. Nimoy did a great job with that. And it was fun watching them run around San Francisco.

I don’t recall much alien interaction, except right at the beginning and at the end. And much of the fish out of water stuff was a lot of fun.

I know it may have been far too clumsy to include references, but they act like they’ve never been to 20th century Earth before when in fact they’ve been there several times before.

Agreed.

I’m curious, then. If you move Insurrection and Search for Spock up the scale and move IV and VI down, how would you order the films from best to worst?

Star Trek
Wolverine

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