Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Star Trek by the Minute 117: My Honor, Commander

"Bones!" says Kirk, slapping his Chief Medical Officer: "Buckle up!"  McCoy rolls his eyes.  Kirk sits in the Captain's chair and calls engineering, "Scotty, How we doin?"  Does ANY ship actually require verbally checking with personnel in engineering in to determine operational status?  Would the Flight Director at NASA actually need to contact a launchpad engineer to make certain the rocket was fueled, or would fuel status be automatically visible in Mission Control?

"Dilithium chambers at maximum, Captain," replies the Chief Engineer, who then turns to Deep Roy and yells "Get down!"  The obvious question regarding Scott's report is: how does a "chamber" vary from maximum to minimum?  I suppose if one knows very little of "Treknology", one might think dilithium is a fuel, like diesel or gasoline, in which case this report would make sense, like saying (of a car) "The tank is full."  Although treknology is not my forte, as I understand it, dilithium crystals regulate the matter/anti-matter annihilation in the reaction chambers, but considering the colossal errors typical of the film, this complete cluelessness about basics of FTL propulsion in Star Trek actually seems quite benign and quaint by comparison.

Back on the Bridge, Kirk orders "Mr. Sulu, prepare to engage thrusters."  Oh boy, this dialog is ridiculous - Sulu already reported that thrusters are not only "prepared", they are "at your command", you can't get any more ready, prepared, etc. than that, can you?  Like the rest of the film, we will probably have to cut to a complete change of subject to keep the obviousness of this incoherent babbling from Kirk being revealed...

In a complete surprise, we cut to Spock standing on the Bridge, which without warning attempts to keep Kirk's incoherent babbling from becoming obvious by distraction with Spock's ludicrous line: "Permission to come aboard, Captain?"  He is not merely aboard, but he's in the Command and Control heart of the vessel, its nerve center, or "brain"...just a little bit of a fait accompli, isn't it?

"Permission granted," smarms Kirk.

"As you have yet to select a First Officer, respectfully I would like to submit my candidacy.  Should you desire I can provide character references."  This line actually fits the kind of understated humor for which the original Spock was famous and loved.  This is one of his best lines, although certainly not in a class with the brilliant repartee at the Vulcan Science Academy.   

"It would be my honor, Commander," replies Kirk.  For a well-developed character, this would be a moving line that portrays mutual respect, but since Kirk has been consistently shown as an undisciplined, unprincipled criminal, this compliment comes off as a self-serving ploy to prop himself up, using Spock to assist in preventing others from discovering how unqualified he is.  Everyone in the audience with experience and responsibility for assigning or delegating authority is tearing their hair out as Spock exits stage left and Kirk issues the meaningless order: "Maneuvering thrusters, Mr. Sulu."

Sulu responds to Kirk's nonsensical phrase by actually reporting: "Thrusters on stand-by."  First, they were "At your command," meaning they were ready for use, then Kirk ordered them "prepared" which would be completed before an "at command" status, and now he orders them to STANDBY?  A standby status is typically used to describe something like a sleep mode, where a component or function is not active or in use, but can be brought to a ready status quickly.

"Take us out," orders Kirk.

"Aye-aye, Captain."

As we cut to an external shot, old Spock reads "Space, the final frontier.  These are the voyages of the starship Enterprise, her ongoing mission, to explore strange new worlds, (Do we ignore the new worlds that aren't strange enough?), to seek out new life forms, (Is this a clarification to prevent us from seeking life without form?), and new civilizations, to boldly go where no one has gone before."

Credits roll, without a woman speaking in this segment.

To all the readers and commentators, thanks for reading, enjoying, and your suggestions!  To all: I welcome your thoughts.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Star Trek by the Minute 116: Sitreps to the Absent Captain

"I am relieved," smiles Pike.  

"Thank you, Sir" says Kirk.  

"Congratulations, your father would be proud of you..."  and for some unknown reason, the entire crowd goes wild with applause at this point.  Is it because they think the ceremony is about to be over?  Is it because they can get out of their cadet uniforms? By the way, why is the new Captain and everyone but the Admiralty wearing cadet uniforms?  What the MC should have said prior to the applause was something like: "We would like express our gratitude for saving our lives with a round of applause."

The camera pulls up and back from the ceremony to show Spock Prime observing the whistles, clapping, and fist-pumping from an upper balcony, before he inexplicably says "Thrusters on full."  One can only surmise this was an attempt to imitate, but not directly rip off "The word is given: warp speed" from TWOK.

We next cut to the Enterprise Bridge with a whip pan, where Helm (Sulu) reports "Maneuvering thrusters and impulse engines at your command, Sir."  To which "Sir" is he reporting?  Perhaps we will see when Nav reports...

Hm, look at this - there's no one in the Captain's chair...  nevertheless, status reports around the board are being delivered in yet another display of how deliberately ignorant the writers were of ship and/or cockpit operations and the challenge/response format for checklists.  The situational reports are being given without any direction or challenge. Why?  Chekov, violating protocol by omitting "Sir" or "Captain" reports: "Weapons systems and shields on standby."  The other obvious question regarding this line is: Why is Chekov reporting combat system status when there's a perfectly good tactical officer right behind Sulu, as we saw in the previous screencap?   Perhaps only those with a real prejudice and looking for racism could think his skin color played any role...

Next, Uhura turns to face Chekov with a strategically placed arm (to keep the entire Bridge from becoming her gynecologist) before announcing "Dock control reports ready."  Then she turns to the Bridge double doors, and as Kirk walks in, she adds "...Captain."  I can only think that it was considered more dramatic to have Kirk heroically stride onto the Bridge with all the sycophantic peasants lined up in advance and ready to serve him, yet as one of my favorite miniseries, "From the Earth to the Moon" proved, detailed accuracy and doing one's homework can support, rather than detract from the dramatic impact of a scene, or a production.

Of the six speaking roles in this segment, one female has one line.

Spock volunteers for duty as first officer in our next Star Trek by the Minute episode 117: My Honor, Commander

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Star Trek by the Minute 115: Commendation Ceremony

"Since my customary farewell would seem oddly self-serving, I shall simply say: Good Luck."  Yet another stupid line, but it does provide another opportunity to trash the secular, Stoic ethics Vulcans were meant to represent and replace them with mystical, destiny-like religious concepts.  While I might agree that "luck" is less rational, less measurable, and more superstitious that "life" and "prosperity", the question remains: In what possible way could this be interpreted as less self-serving, especially when coming from one's own, subjective framework rather than a more generally accepted framework such as science?  We might defend the position that Spock Prime is trying to radically change nuSpock's approach to life, but since nuSpock has only rarely (and it seems, accidentally) exhibited the ability to produce logically connected statements, in this best case scenario, Old Spock's efforts seem to be redundant.  The more likely explanation is simply that this line was put in to separate this Vulcan from those old incarnations who at least made passing attempts at the Stoic ideals.

We cut to the Starfleet auditorium full of red suited cadets, where the Admirals previously assembled in the middle of the Laurentian conflict, in order to talk to Kirk about a claim of cheating on a simulation.  

"This assembly calls Captain James Tiberius Kirk.  Your inspirational valor, [seducing Gaila to cheat?] and supreme dedication to your comrades [provoking & attacking them on the Bridge?] is in keeping with the highest traditions of service, [among Ferengi pirates] and reflects utmost credit to yourself, your crew, and the Federation.  It is my honor to award you with this commendation.  (He pins Kirk with a medal.)  By Starfleet Order 28455 you are hereby directed to report to Admiral Pike, USS Enterprise for duty as his relief."

Kirk walks over to Pike, who is sitting in a wheelchair, and announces: "I relieve you, Sir."

No women speak or appear in this segment, other than in the background crowd of cadets.

The bridge crew delivers status updates to an AWOL skipper in our next episode of Star Trek by the Minute 116: Sitreps to the Absent Captain.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Star Trek by the Minute Episode 114: Put Aside Logic

"Because you need each other." Spock Prime responds.  There are two problems with this quasi-answer which anyone with a minimal knowledge of logic and philosophy would recognize instantly: First, "need" is meaningless without some goal or object driving the need, like a requirement.  In the great film "Out of Africa" Denys Finch Hatten replied to Karen Blixen's claim of "I need you!" with the sensible but because of their obviousness and insensitivity not stupendously brilliant questions: "Why?  If I die will you die?"  The second problem is one that keeps cropping up with these characters over and over, in fact the entire plot seems to advance on revisiting differing sides of an inconsistent setting: whether the prime and alternate timelines are separate universes, parallel analogs, or something else.  If conditions are substantially different in this universe with, for example, major players like the Vulcans nearly extinct and a major Federation planet missing, it would suggest that predicting microscopic personality traits, opinions and experiences with any accuracy would be borderline delusional.

Abrams, with some kind of stellar chutzpah, uses Spock Prime as the voice of God to "I could not deprive you of the revelation of all that you could accomplish together;  of a friendship that will define you both in ways you cannot yet realize."  While it is possible the elder may have studied younger Spock's history as well as Kirk's, predicting the compatibility of these two, and the value that their interactions will provide in a significantly altered reality is plainly foolish - and we don't require top honors from the Vulcan Science Academy to comprehend that.

"How did you persuade him to keep your secret?" asks nuSpock.

"He inferred that universe ending paradoxes would ensue should he break his promise." What?!?  How could this script ever get approved?  Spock prime is actually lying here.  Absolutely nothing, of any way, shape, or means, anywhere, near anything, like that was ever, EVER discussed on Delta Vega.  Quite to the contrary - Spock Prime's "justification" to Kirk consisted entirely of ipse-dixitism by stating to Kirk that he "must" keep the secret and he "cannot" tell nuSpock.  In this case Spock Prime appears yet again to be speaking for Abrams, continuing to support of the idea that people who are ignorant, but willing to act on faith with conviction and determination are heroes, if they are the people chosen by Destiny (wink).  Of course, such heroes require equally energetic, (i.e.: violent), equally ignorant (faithful), and loyal (arrogant) opponents to provide an evil enemy to defend against.

nuSpock sums up that explanation with "You lied," which applies more to this explanation than anything that was misleading Kirk, but older Spock cops to deliberately deceiving both alternate Spock and Kirk with "Oh.... I implied."  If anything like that did occur back on Delta Vega, the audience never saw it.  Instead, this scene clearly portrays a sympathetic view of self-serving mis-characterization, of intentionally hiding the truth through misdirection and deceit, rationalized by good intentions.  The sub-text message is that ignorance is really a benefit, and that Spock Prime cares more about engineering a friendship roughly like the one he holds in high regard from his own past.

"A gamble..." What gamble?  Did Spock Prime risk something of material value while ostensibly "lying" to Kirk?  I can't help but recall the series of non-sequiturs from the dinner scene in Star Trek VI which were, according to one script, attributed to the Romulan Ale and lots of strange editing of the conversation.  Here, describing Spock Prime's deception as "a gamble" appears nonsensical.

"An act of faith..." says Spock Prime, "...one that I hope you will repeat in the future with Starfleet."  Here is where Abrams tries to deliberately drive a stake through the heart of Roddenberry's hopes for Trek: portraying a secular, optimistic and peaceful future that conveys the magnificence of space, the excitement and thrill of discovery, and joy that comes from reaching peace when violence and war appear to be the only answer.  Abrams repeatedly tells us in this film to bury logic as our primary guide to truth and that unthinking faith and leaping without looking is best.

"In the face of extinction it is only logical I resign my Starfleet commission and help rebuild our race."  Finally, he starts making some sense, especially if anyone on Vulcan ordered "Women and children first!" when the evacuations started.  There's probably a few more of these photos out on the Federation's subspace network of lonely refugees interested in "rebuilding the race" with available, pointy-eared hunks...

"And yet, you can be in two places at once..."  Another ridiculous non-sequitur - nuSpock cannot be in two places at once, and this comment is a sophomoric jibe perhaps designed to amuse 8-11 year olds in the audience, but seems so unworthy of what we might hope from Star Trek.  Old Spock in the Abramsverse might even have his eye on forming a harem somewhere.  However, if this were really his intent, he first would have to cook up some excuse to keep the younger, better-looking competition busy, while he contacts Harry Mudd, locates some suitable, out of the way "colony", and sets up sex-slave traffic - pretty easy when you have transwarp beaming! 

But, perhaps I'm uncharitable and Spock will actually team up with his younger self and work on their top priority: rescuing the purity of the Vulcan race from mixing with degenerate species and races.  Which is it?  Spock Prime answers with "...I urge you to remain in Starfleet.  I have already located a suitable planet on which to establish a Vulcan colony." Ha! I knew it...

"Spock" he continues "in this case, do yourself a favor: put aside logic."  Borrowing from TimeCop, Spock quotes the main bad guy giving his younger self advice, but in urging Spock to "put aside logic", he is actually advocating that we put aside one of the few tools we have to recognize when language is deceiving us.  It's like faith: only really necessary for lies or mistakes - since truth and good decisions can very well stand on their own.  If we pursue truth and good decisions, faith is not necessary - but before the invention of logic and cognitive science, religions and myths that had been passed down over time were the best guidance available to us.

Spock Prime turns and walks away.  At this point in the film, I couldn't stop from shedding a tear and had to walk out... 

No women speak or appear in this segment.

Mass murderer and negligent idiot "Captain" Kirk is awarded a medal in our next episode, Star Trek by the Minute 115: Commendation Ceremony.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Star Trek by the Minute 113: I Am Not Our Father


Spock nods approvingly to Kirk and there are smiles all around the Bridge from Kirk, Sulu, Chekov, and Kirk again but no women.  We cut to Earth, and a happy Starfleet Academy.

NuSpock, strolling toward a shuttle, sees an old Vulcan and calls out "Father..."

Spock Prime slowly turns and replies: "I am not our father...  There are so few Vulcans left.  We cannot afford to ignore each other."  Spock Prime's statement indicates he considers them different people, recognizing the alternate universe interpretation that nuSpock explained back on the Enterprise Bridge.

NuSpock asks "Then why did you send Kirk aboard when you alone could have explained the truth?"  This appears to be an excellent question, one which instantly came forward during the ridiculous Delta Vega outpost discussion.  As if Abrams' advocacy of faith and hatred of intelligent logic were not sufficiently apparent from completely destroying Vulcan and repeated divine interventions on behalf of our heroes, he feels the need to have the greatest popularizer of logic since Plato denigrate one of the greatest intellectual achievements of our species, resulting in what may be the worst travesty of the film.  Let's find out in our next episode of Star Trek by the Minute Episode 114: Put Aside Logic.

No women speak or appear in this segment.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Star Trek by the Minute 112: Project Orion

Is this scene, Scotty may look like he's trying to turn off that light with his mental powers, or firing a ball of plasma from his eyes, but actually he's warning his crew to "Clear the area!" for some reason, since he's magically become Chief Engineer.  Apparently, accidentally getting trapped in the pipes of the Enterprise and nearly dying is sufficient to warrant promotion to Commander of a staff you've never met, on a ship you've never seen, with equipment you've never looked at, on a critical mission, in the middle of a war, after months of isolation on a remote planet.  Rules of rationality disappear, Scotty is the Chief, (hand wave) and well...it's a miracle!

Here we see a bunch of pods being ejected into space, with the exterior nacelles and the singularity visible in the background 4 seconds after Scotty ordered his crew to leave the area.  These ejection ports are open to space, i.e.: a vacuum.  According to what we've been shown before, as well as explosive decompression in general, Scotty, his crew, and the brewery steam swirling in the background should all be blown out with the warp cores.  Laws of physics disappear, everyone is fine, (hand wave) ...it's a miracle!

Sulu and the rest of the Bridge staff continue to simply stare, apparently doing nothing until a gigantic fireball erupts from the singularity from the core explosions.  Who was overseeing the pod detonations?  Scotty didn't set any timers on them or anything.  The bridge crew did nothing, despite this being "the plan".  What's going on?  I suppose we can just forget about that plan, forget that no one did anything to follow it, forget that this singularity is arguably thousands of times larger and more powerful than anything needed to collapse a supernova and yet a starship, microscopic by comparison, is able to magically produce a blast far stronger than the most powerful known explosions in the universe, and survive?  It's a miracle!

Actually, this kind of propulsion was proposed as a peaceful use of nuclear technology with Project Orion, but to make it work, the melon-sized explosives had to be well timed to produce a steady thrust, and even then, variations in pressure from shockwaves needed to be smoothed with huge shock absorbers we see here.

The remainder of this segment features Sulu, Kirk, Spock, and Chekov looking at the screen and getting jostled in their seats.  The Enterprise must be pretty amazing, if everyone aboard only feels a little bump when being smashed by an explosion far more powerful than one that "threatened the galaxy" and actually did, we were shown, vaporize Romulus and every Romulan, every ship, outpost, and station.  In other words, the Romulan's of from 100 years in the future don't have anything capable to withstand a shock wave that this battered old Enterprise can surf like the Big Kahuna.  It's a miracle!

Our "heroes" are shown courageously streaking from the blast radius as this segment ends.

No women speak in this segment, but Uhura does a hair toss after the heroic music begins.

nuSpock meets his prime timeline self in our next episode of Star Trek by the Minute 113: I Am Not Our Father.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Star Trek by the Minute 111: Gravity Well

Under the negligent, incompetent, and genocidal command of its acting captain, the Enterprise has exhausted its phaser power and wasted all torpedoes in its inventory on a senseless attack against the doomed Narada and as we see above, the ship now holds station next to the accreting singularity – apparently to enjoy the final annihilation of the enemy crew.  The colossal black hole nuSpock created a few seconds warp from Earth, which is certain to destroy everything in the area apparently is of no concern to “Acting Captain” James T. Kirk.  He, his entire bridge crew, and even his science officer make no mention that they are going to die if they don’t leave immediately.  Since this was reported with great urgency when the threat came from a much smaller singularity, and since this danger is apparently much closer, one would expect someone to turn off the damn nitrous oxide to the Bridge ventilation and get them the hell out of there…  Nope.  Precious seconds just tick by, in the middle of a crisis, with everyone at battle stations and on red alert without a single word suggesting that they prevent themselves from being crushed hideously. 
  
I honestly must say, I couldn’t have imagined this scene...it actually takes the COMPUTER to start flashing an emergency warning in bright red, all capital letters on the main viewer to get the attention of these morons.  Clearly, Orci & Kurtzman have much greater creativity when it comes to writing fictional characters, since I would have tried for created merely “believable” people to inhabit my story, and tried to write so that reacting to their situations in a manner more or less which would suggest...oh, perhaps...something like “competence”?  Finally, at this warning, Kirk orders: “Sulu, let’s go home.”  “Yes sir!” the helm answers.

Here we are shown the ship is so close to the singularity that escape would be all but impossible, but this appears less obvious because this black hole is shown as two dimensional.  “Why aren’t we at warp?” asks Kirk.

“We are, sir” answers Chekov, proving yet again that he has no business on the Bridge.  His response is not only completely unhelpful, but also flat out wrong.  However, it does indicate the kind of mistake one might make if their only exposure to Star Trek was watching the most popular film, Wrath of Khan prior to making this film.  “Warp power” mentioned several times in that film, is the ship's greatest energy source, providing power to the entire ship from the matter-antimatter reactors.  This energy enables the ship to maintain a subspace bubble to envelop the ship for faster than light travel.  Anything above “Warp 1” is considered faster than light speed, which Kirk is asking about: he clearly wants to know why they are not moving away from the singularity at a warp speed.  Chekov’s reply is that of someone who conceives of warp speed as similar to spinning a car’s tires, where the speedometer tells you how fast you should be going if the tires are not spinning in place, which this scene is apparently meant to mirror.  His answer also clearly fails to address Kirk's concern that he, Chekov, and everyone else are about to die.  St. Joe (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Waterworld_Joe_Hazelwood.jpg) would be a better navigator.

What about Kirk? Would you really want this guy in command of your ship?  Not me.  “Kirk to Engineering – Get us out of here Scotty.” 

“You bet your ass, Captain!” Scotty shouts from the brewery.  “Captain, we’re caught in the gravity well.  It’s got us.”  “Go to maximum warp, push it!” orders Kirk. 

“I’m giving it all she’s got, Captain.” Scotty yells, as cracks begin to open on the Bridge ceiling.

“All she’s got isn’t good enough, what else have you got?”

“Um…OK…ah, if we eject the core and detonate the blast should be enough to push us away.  I can’t promise anything though.”

“Do it! Do it! Do it!” Kirk yells.

No women speak or appear in this segment, except for split-second images of two cowering in fear.

Another impossible escape is made possible by contradicting prior story elements and suspension of physical laws in our next episode of Star Trek by the Minute 112: Project Orion

Monday, June 7, 2010

Star Trek by the Minute 110: No Mercy

Spock turns and asks: “Captain, what are you doing?”

Kirk responds, “Showing compassion, it may be the only way to earn peace with Romulus; It’s logic Spock.”  I would agree it is logic of a sort, but not one with which I would agree because of its unstated premises, in other words: somewhat fallacious logic.

Although virtues like “compassion” have been recognized as intrinsic goods for thousands of years, this film can’t even meet good ethical standards of virtue from thousands of years ago.  Instead, Kirk, (and one may assume Abrams & Co.), actually feel the need to JUSTIFY a virtuous action by explaining that an act of compassion and mercy cost nothing and actually could be profitable in the future.  Under Roddenberry, what was once a defining vice of the Next Generation’s capitalist foil: the Ferengi and their profit motive, a type of stunted utilitarianism has now become the moral pinnacle of the hero of nuTrek.  This actually would seem to provide almost a gauge we might use to rate the relative strength of different Treks found across the franchise.  Aspirations of using Trek for raising consciousness and promoting human flourishing have been replaced by pandering to the most base utilitarianism philosophy where “Of what use is it?” can only have the most myopic, self-serving answer.  Jeremy Bentham, born in 1748 (http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/utilitarianism-history/#JerBen) was, if you’ll forgive the phrase: light-years ahead of Kirk on this one.

Kirk continues: “I thought you’d like that.”  Spock responds with a near-grin: “No, not really…not this time.”  This reminds me of the conversation I had with a relative who claimed to be in favor of government executions of the mentally disabled if they were found guilty of murder, even if incapable of understanding the concept of “harm to others,” much less that their actions would result in killing, and what death or suffering to others means.  Anti-Semite bigot extraordinaire Mel Gibson depicted a greater level of moral rectitude in Thunderdome when upon discovering Blaster’s condition, refused to kill him.

In this confrontation however, we have an insane criminal, (admittedly badly written), who has been informed that his enemies recognize no restrictions on their treatment of the Narada crew.  Nero may very easily conclude the Enterprise crew might re-enact the horrors of the U.S.-back Pinochet regime in Chile for example, where doctors like this incarnation of McCoy supervised the torture of government critics to ensure victims survived until the “final solution” was elected by the administrator.  Villa Grimaldi (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Villa_Grimaldi) here in Chile was one place where such things occurred. 

The other murderous option is simply mass slaughter without even a pretext of mercy, such as Spock happily endorses when he replies with “No, not really…not this time.”  
 
“I would rather suffer the death of Romulus a thousand times, I would rather die in agony than accept assistance from you.”  Given what he’s been through and the behavior of these monsters, one can understand and empathize with his hatred. 

“You got it,” Kirk sneers in a toughboy wannabe voice.  In Abrams’ world, murdering the defenseless and/or insane is strong and heroic.  Actually, it would be more correct to say that for his worldview and those of   many others, a hero committing murder is a logical impossibility – it simply cannot exist.  In the United States for example, the concept of “US terrorism” is unthinkable.  I once mentioned that a National Science Foundation study of international terrorism featured all the major militaries in the world except the largest one, that of the U.S., and I was unable to get any explanation from anyone I could find associated with the Memorial Institute for the Prevention of Terrorism database.  Nothing the U.S. does can be considered terrorism, by definition.  Similarly, for this guy, (http://www.thejewishweek.com/blogs/route_17/just_torpedo_next_flotilla) the murder of 9 peace activists is “being polite,” which he ridicules as “weakness”.  Instead, Jonathan Mark advocates making the (non-Jew) world “furious”, that everyone should “fear Israel”, that Israel should “take out Iran”, and sink every "fake humanitarian" flotilla, with torpedoes.  He claims that inducing fear, perhaps even more fear than the Nazi’s were able to generate with their created war, is the way for Israel to “win it” with theirs.  This is a view echoed in this film as Kirk orders: “Arm phasers, fire everything we’ve got.”
  
The remainder of this segment shows the inexcusable, stupid, criminal, and murderous attack against a helpless enemy by the Enterprise.

No women speak in this segment.

This crime almost has a negative consequence in our next episode of Star Trek by the Minute 111: Gravity Well

Friday, June 4, 2010

Star Trek by the Minute 109: This is Captain James T. Kirk

McCoy runs in yelling "Jim!" with Uhura and some medical personnel following.  The medical people swarm around Pike and take him away as Scotty says "That was pretty good," gesturing back to the transporter pad.  More like inexplicably miraculous, I'd say...

Cutting to the bridge, Chekov announces as Kirk and Spock enter: "Captain, the enemy ship is losing power.  Their shields are down, sir."  SHIELDS?!?  Does he refer to the Narada shields that have consistently failed, in every opportunity to do anything at all to stop weapons, energy bolts, particle beams, collisions, or even the Enterprise transporters delivering hostile enemies and then safely retrieving them?   This brings up a good point: if the Enterprise can beam anyone on or off the Narada, why not simply beam Pike, Nero, his crew, and anyone else around into a cargo bay, take over the Narada, and zip off to Risa for a round of Samarian Sunsets and perhaps seeking jamaharon? Nope...that would be too easy and too compassionate for Abrams&Co.

"Hail them now," says Kirk as if we what...had tried to hail them before?

"Aye," replies Chekov as we see the worst computer graphics of the film: the silly coagulation of red matter forming a singularity which takes seemingly forever, especially since this process is so different than what we were previously shown when Spock Prime used the red matter on the material ejected by the supernova, as well as when Vulcan was destroyed.  In that case, the effects of the shockwave were so powerful that movement of the planet's crust in response was visible from extremely high altitude, perhaps even from orbit.  In both cases the gravitational effects were all but instant.  

 Here, we have the Narada simply sitting on top of a singularity in one piece, no doubt this is to provide the opportunity for more inane posturing and dialogue that portrays depravity as heroism - but still, we could hope for something better!  Let's see..

"This is Captain James T. Kirk of the U.S.S. Enterprise.  Your ship is compromised..." I suppose that being inside a singularity many times more powerful than is needed for absorbing a supernova could be considered a "compromised" situation, but that's a bit like calling the British Petroleum geyser of death, which is spewing zillions of tons of toxic poison into the ocean everyday, it's a bit like someone calling that a "leak" or a "spill", i.e.: pretty ridiculous, but normal corporate-speak propaganda.

Kirk "...too close to the singularity to survive without assistance, which we are willing to provide."

No women speak in this segment, but Uhura is shown for a fraction of a second fawning over and clinging to Spock.

Kirk earns his stripes as a cold blooded, mass murdering killer in our next episode of Star Trek by the Minute 110: No Mercy.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Star Trek by the Minute 108: Pike’s Rescue

Yes, here is Captain Pike lounging comfortably on the interrogation table.  Why is he still alive and taking up ship resources, requiring crew to guard him, etc.?  Nero’s crew is supposed to be on an extermination mission.  The scene we see here is like showing a pest control company devoting their time and money toward making nice nests for cockroaches, even at the expense of their own lives.  Despite the obvious ridiculousness of it, we are shown this kind of thing over and over on screen.  These Romulans just keep saving their sworn enemies and taking actions without getting any closer to their stated goals for the action.  This “narrative” tells us the characters have motivation X, and yet their actions commonly contradict these claims regarding major plot elements. 

Like his miraculous survival against and then killing of Ayel, Kirk, having randomly found exactly who he was looking for in 2 seconds, murders another Romulan crewman with another perfect shot to the chest, using an alien weapon from the future he’s never seen before.  Kirk’s latest victim goes down without a whimper.  Kirk approached Pike, who struggles to lift his head and ask “What are you doing here?”  

“Just following orders,” Kirk says as he holsters the disruptor and removes Pike’s restraints.  At this point a Romulan rounds a corner with his rifle at the ready and points it at the two intruders.  Pike now gains his own magical abilities as he performs the following actions before the Romulan can pull the trigger on his rifle:  Pike raises up from the table again, reaches down to Kirk’s holster with a reverse grip shown above, draws the alien weapon from a century in the future which he has never seen or used before, aims at the Romulan and fires the weapon before the bad guy can do anything.  Naturally, the nameless Romulan crew member is killed and Pike falls back to the table.

We cut back to the Jellyfish where yet again, Spock’s position has been moved back to provide more time to be rescued, he continues his diving plunge into the Narada, a ship that is supposed to be simultaneously some great threat to the Federation, but also inexplicably becomes completely helpless.  These Romulan terrors of the galaxy, we are shown, simply gape at the screen which shows the Jellyfish ramming them.  No evasive maneuvers, no tractor beams, no weapons brought to bear, not a single order is given as the entire crew is frozen, from an operational standpoint as everyone either suddenly panics by running around and screaming like hysterical little girls, or they go paralyzed and gape, open mouthed, at the impending disaster.  Just to make this point (repeatedly) of how awesome Spock's little scout ship is, we are shown:

This guy (twice) who gapes and does nothing.
Her? Gapes in terror, does nothing.
  Him? Nothing.
Captain Nero? He does nothing.  Meanwhile, Kirk continues getting Pike out of his restraints, holds him on his feet with both hands, and without touching (or perhaps even having) a communicator or other type of transmitter, he yells “Enterprise, now!”  Setting aside that no one can hear him, what kind of stupid order is “now?”  Even if we assume Sulu is still at the helm, and we assume he can hear Kirk, his very clearly presented, primary order was to “fire on the ship” if a tactical advantage was perceived.  Since Kirk’s order “now” is definitely not the preplanned “we’re ready to beam back” communication, this message is properly considered a fire command.
  
The Jellyfish explodes against the Narada, as opposed to crashing through without a scratch, as it had done previously, and Pike, Kirk, and Spock materialize in the Enterprise’s transporter pad. 

“Nice timing, Scotty.”

“I’ve never beamed 3 people from 2 targets onto 1 pad before!”

No women speak in this segment, although one is shown for half a second cringing in fear before panicking and running from her post - what else would we expect?

A slow motion singularity begins to consume the Narada in our next episode of Star Trek by the Minute 109: This is Capt. James T. Kirk

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Star Trek by the Minute 107: Alphabet of Torpedoes

After a few seconds at warp, Spock drops the Jellyfish to sublight speed, turns her about, and heads toward the approaching Narada in an apparent collision course. 
 
Nero, upon seeing the ship trying to ram him stares at the screen and asks (I’m not making this up) “What is he doing?”  Well gee whiz skipper, I dunno.  Maybe he’s trying to destroy you, just like EVERY ONE of the last hundred ships you’ve encountered?  Abram’s arch-villain is truly a mental midget with a chloroformed brain – and yet there were a vocal group who described Star Trek’s failure to win Oscars for “Best Picture” and “Best Writing” as an “insult” and a “snub”.

Assuming the audience is as ignorant and clueless as Nero, the film provides narration in the form of the Jellyfish computer, which interrupts cockpit operations during this combat emergency with “Ambassador Spock, you are on a collision course.”  First of all, in an emergency where a collision is imminent, do we really want to invest our brief remaining moments of life in having a computer address us individually - and include our professional title?  Wouldn’t a simple initial warning, followed by avoidance commands (used in real cockpits) be better, more intelligent, and give the film a more realistic texture?  Personally, I'd rather the pilot use that time to save the ship and any lives about to be lost, but like the George Kirk suicide bombing, these film makers have differing priorities from mine, and many real world professionals for whom incompetence incurs costs.  Also, in a one person craft, there’s no reason to preface comments with that lone person’s name – obviously the computer would be talking to the only person there. 

Without any reason at all, nuSpock has concluded the Narada has suddenly lost the capacity to capture the Jellyfish despite having done so previously.  He also seems to believe that the Narada cannot simply move away to prevent being rammed, nor can they destroy him with their weapons.  The film provides no justification for this apparently insane, nonsensical decision.

Nero shouts “FIRE EVERYTHING!” and the Jellyfish computer calmly announces “Incoming missiles.  If the ship is hit, the red matter will be ignited.”  Um, how does the computer know that?  Did it instantly scan the weapons, analyze their warheads, determine their destructive capacity, compare that to the shield strength of the its own ship and conclude that there was no possibility that the red matter could remain inert under any circumstances?  Any touch by these missiles, whether they explode or not, whether they destroy the warp core or merely scratch the paint, ANY hit is inevitably catastrophic?  Silly.  Also, where were the computer warnings when Spock was crashing through solid walls that comprised the space doors of the Narada?  Inconsistent and stupid.  “Understood,” says Spock.
  
Here we see 26 torpedoes creeping slowly toward the Jellyfish.  Yet again, the film’s visuals contradict what was previously presented: Spock was already shown above much closer, and closing at a much more rapid pace.  Nevertheless now, there is no reason for Nero to just sit in the path of destruction if Spock were able to miraculously survive the barrage of torpedoes, but rather than act, Nero does nothing.  Although he is supposed to be a miner, we saw with the Kelvin collision that this ship and her captain don’t seem too adept at avoiding anything coming toward them, or at least not when it has a Federation sticker on it somewhere.  The external shot above also makes a mockery of the computer’s collision warning which was given long before this super maneuverable scout ship could be expected to collide with anything, especially given the loopy trajectories we typically see it taking.  
  
One of Nero’s officers announces “Captain, I’ve picked up another ship,” and the Enterprise jumps out of warp with rapid bursts of fire, targeting the Narada torpedoes.  Nero does nothing to either attack the Enterprise or evade the Jellyfish, even though he knows what it’s carrying and has seen the red matter’s destruction. 
  
Here, we see the Jellyfish within possibly 2 seconds (tops) streaking into the core of the Narada.  Nero does nothing.  nuSpock’s ingenious plan assumes the Narada will not and cannot capture his ship, will not destroy his ship, will not move to evade the collision, will not hold him harmlessly at a distance with tractor beams or anything else we might normally expect from ANY half-competent captain with just any normal ship, despite repeatedly being shown and told how incredibly dangerous Nero is.  Whenever we see him though, he hardly seems competent to keep from stabbing himself with a pencil.
  
In a final insult, this segment shows us that Kirk, lost and alone in what is essentially a dark, gigantic, alien city-sized cave floating in space finds Pike.  How does he miraculously locate Pike?  See the screenshot above, he literally gapes stupidly into the distance, and the camera pans around to reveal Pike laying there.  As cinematic storytelling, this is ridiculous, pathetic, and boring.  To longtime fans of Trek who loved it for being one property that at least aspired to something better than the average shlock, this film is degrading, heartbreaking even.  Abrams’ message? Don’t think.  Just pay, watch, and applaud…(and enlist - while I cash these checks!)

No women speak or appear in this segment although by now, dear reader, we all realize that they don’t really matter.

More movie magic saves Captain Pike in our next episode of Star Trek by the Minute 108: Pike’s Rescue.

Aspen Music Festival: Music with a View Concert

Distinguished theory and performance teacher provides expert knowledge during " Music with a View "at the Aspen Art Museum