Archive for the ‘Star Trek’ Category

Star Trek: its 50 year mission…to boldly keep on going

September 8, 2016

Star Trek: its 50 year mission…to boldly keep on going

September 8, 1966: the first episode of Star Trek debuted.

It’s now fifty years later…and the Trek universe is still a major part of pop culture, with a movie this year and a new series in the works.

I thought I’d share my own perspective…I go back a long ways on this. 🙂

I actually remember watching part of one episode when it was first aired. I was on my parents’ bed, and the TV was sort of stuck in a closet, where you opened the doors to be able to watch it. I don’t remember which episode it was, but I must have been being allowed to stay up late to watch it.

The series was almost canceled, but Bjo Trimble and her husband launched a fan campaign to keep it on the air. They used the tech available…encouraging a letter mailing campaign, not just to the studio and the network, but importantly, to the sponsors.

Star Trek got that third season.

Now, fans (or “fen”, if you want to use the fannish plural) generally consider the third season to be the worst…”third season” has even been a dismissive assessment of something. “How was that movie?” “It was so third season.”

Without that third season, though, there wouldn’t have been enough episodes for the show to be syndicated…and that could have been the end of the story.

This was all pre-home video…

While most syndicated shows had more episodes, it didn’t hurt that maybe we were seeing them a tad more often. The show would run five days a week…and if possible, we’d watch every one. Once we would get into the third season, I remember calculating how long it would be before it would start over. That’s not to say that the third season is entirely without its charms, but the early shows were better for me.

It was during this time that I, and many of my age, became deeply immersed in Gene Roddenberry’s vision. It was when, as a bumper sticker of the day had it, that I learned to “grok Spock”. Spock would become one of my fictional heroes (along with Doc Savage and Kwai Chang Caine). All three of these had things in common: other people saw them as “super”, but they all personally thought they were failures. They all valued emotional control. They all wanted to help others, but were always perceived as outsiders.

Spock, especially, exemplified this internal inferiority/external extraordinariness concept. Spock was, objectively, better than his crewmates in many ways. He was physically stronger, intellectually advanced…but felt himself to be weak, flawed, and unable to meet his father’s expectations.

Spock, though wasn’t as good as Spock plus Kirk…and McCoy was essential as the third point in the triangle.

We embraced all the characters (even “bad guys”, like Harry Mudd), and the tech, and the settings. We had Star Trek “tracer guns”, which fired small plastic discs. We read the Mad Magazine “Star Blecch” parody in 1967 (which was reprinted).

In 1970, Spock Must Die! by James Blish was published…and started a phenomenon of original Star Trek novels (not adaptations of episodes) which is still happening today.

By 1972, the first Star Trek convention was held. There had been fan conventions for decades, but this one was dedicated to this one series.

The success of syndication brought us the first follow on series: Star Trek: The Animated Series, starting in 1973.

It was great to hear almost all of the bridge crew back voicing their roles (only Walter Koenig didn’t make it as Chekov…although he would write a script for the series).

Quite a few of the elements of the original series returned…includes tribbles and yes, Harry Mudd.

It didn’t have the same feel for me, though. I particularly remember the music being intrusive.

Fan culture was big…there were fanzines, in particular, and fan clubs.

1977’s Star Wars suddenly made science fiction mainstream in a whole new way. Naturally, Star Trek, which already had a thriving fandom, made sense for a big screen adaptation.

Once again, the original bridge crew was reassambled…but the movie was, for many of us, disappointing. Some of it was so slow! In my area, rumor had it that Paramount allowed a local film student to re-cut it…for one thing, reducing the amount of time that we just were supposed to stare in awe as the Enterprise was onscreen. It retrospect, that almost certainly wasn’t true, but it was a widespread belief.

Fortunately, in 1982, Nicholas Meyer saved us (and the future of the series), with Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. Sure, it was almost operatic…but Ricardo Montalban was so good reprising a one-time role from the series! It had great moments, and many of us still reference the Kobayashi Maru. Okay, so Saavik never really became a fan favorite, but it was still a great movie.

Star Trek III simply wasn’t as good. Star Trek IV, though, the one with the whales, was fun! This created the mythology that every other Star Trek movie was going to be good. 🙂

1987 brought a new phase, with first live action follow on TV series, and it didn’t focus on the original characters…Star Trek: The Next Generation.

I wasn’t a big fan of the first season. I remember thinking that the way they solved things was by researching what the original crew did.

It grew on me. Picard and Data are iconic, and Q and the Borg were excellent additions to the universe.

From there on, we got more series and more movies. I’d say a standout for me was Kate Mulgrew’s Captain Janeway (I was already familiar with Mulgrew), although Voyager wasn’t my favorite series.

When Star Trek was rebooted…I was pleased. I think Zachary Quinto is a charismatic and intelligent actor, and Chris Pine is always fun. It seems to me to be much more about action than thought, though, which takes it away from the core strength of The Original Series.

In particular, there seems to no moral ambiguity. The Federation was certainly imperfect, and so were the main characters. Kirk and Spock in TOS could be in the wrong…and could realize it.’

The 2016 Spock seems way too confident…he would not have become my hero in the way that the 1966 Spock did.

That doesn’t diminish my relationship to the Star Trek universe. For decades, it has been important to me and to the geekiverse…and society as a whole.

Thank you to Gene Roddenberry and to every single person involved in making Star Trek what it has been and what it will be.

Live long and prosper.

For links to many Star Trek resources, including searching for streaming options and public libraries, see the entry at The Measured Circle’s Geek Time Trip for September 8, 1966.

Join thousands of readers and try the free The Measured Circle magazine at Flipboard !

All aboard our new The Measured Circle’s Geek Time Trip at The History Project! Join the TMCGTT Timeblazers!

When you shop at AmazonSmile, half a percent of your purchase price on eligible items goes to a non-profit you choose. It will feel just like shopping at Amazon: you’ll be using your same account. The one thing for you that is different is that you pick a non-profit the first time you go (which you can change whenever you want)…and the good feeling you’ll get. :) Shop ’til you help! :) By the way, it’s been interesting lately to see Amazon remind me to “start at AmazonSmile” if I check a link on the original Amazon site. I do buy from AmazonSmile, but I have a lot of stored links I use to check for things.

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the The Measured Circle blog. To support this or other blogs/organizations, buy Amazon Gift Cards from a link on the site, then use those to buy your items. There will be no cost to you, and a benefit to them.

My take on…Star Trek Beyond (and the three-screen Barco Escape system)

July 25, 2016

My take on…Star Trek Beyond (and the three-screen Barco Escape system)

This is the fiftieth anniversary year of Star Trek. It has been a big part of my life: Spock is one of my fictional heroes (along with Doc Savage and Kwai Chang Caine). There are several Star Trek related events in The Measured Circle’s Geek Time Trip at The History Project.

So, naturally, my Significant Other and I watched Star Trek Beyond this weekend. 🙂

Before I talk about the movie, I want to talk about the way we saw it.

We saw it in “Barco Escape”.

What’s that?

It was one of the choices at our local movie theatre. We could have seen it in 3D, or in another digital format…but we chose to pay $3 extra per ticket to try out a new option.

In the theatre, there was the regular screen (a bit smaller than the largest screen, I think…and two more screens, angled at something like 30 to 45 degrees. You had the screen in front of you, and then two “wings”…sort of like giant goggles.

You can see it here:

Ready2Escape.com

The idea reminded me a great deal of the old Cinema 150 concept. I saw a movie in a Cinema 150 once (The Rocky Horror Picture Show): they took a 70 mm print and magnified it to make it cover the 150 degree curved screen…and it was a tad fuzzy at the edges.

Why 150 degrees?

I remember that it was supposed to cover all of your peripheral vision.

For the Cinema 150, it was effective, even though I still ended up turning my head from side to side some times, and seeing the edges. It was pretty immersive, though…sort of like primitive and “practical effect” VR (Virtual Reality). 😉

Barco Escape?

Not as good.

The first issue is that the screens had very distinct edges where they met…there was no seam, like standing three decks of cards in their cases up on their long edges next to each other. That meant you were constantly aware of it…and that it interfered with the suspension of disbelief.

This may be a temporary installation, but it wouldn’t have been hard to have cloth cover those seams, so you didn’t see the shadows.

The other thing was that the additional screens were used intermittently, not all the time. It might be in a scene where a lot was happening…imagine a meteor storm. The two screens would have additional meteors…and then they would go dark again.

That was very distracting…and the people next to us felt the same way (we talked about it a bit afterwards). My SO, when I asked, also used the word “distracting”…and pointed out that there was no added value. You didn’t see something creep along the extra screen…you kind of can’t do that, since most people who watch the movie don’t have those screens…you can’t have that different an experience.

Bottom line: we wouldn’t pay extra for Escape again.

Now, the movie itself:

While I’m not going to spoil specific plot turns, I am going to say some things which you might prefer to wait to read until after you’ve seen the movie, so

MILD SPOILER ALERT

Simon Pegg (who plays Scotty in the new continuity) co-wrote this movie (along with Doug Jung). Pegg has done brilliant work in the past (I’m especially fond of Shaun of the Dead and Spaced), and clearly knows Star Trek inside out (it’s worth noting, Pegg also appeared in last year’s Star Wars: The Force Awakens movie…and was given special thanks).

That had given me hope for a strong entry, and I had been hearing it was like the original series (still my favorite).

While there aren’t false notes, it didn’t feel much like TOS at all.

The key thing is that this is pretty much non-stop action…we are in crisis mode virtually the entire movie.

That means that there is really very little strategic thinking, or philosophizing…yes, there are tactical decisions, but what might have been ten minutes of a TOS episode was basically the entire movie.

Also, people are clearly good or bad. No one seems at all unsure about their motivations…there is some mulling about future actions, but no consideration about what current actions might mean.

I miss that.

I also miss them having conversations…or  there being a real mystery.

That’s why we thought of TOS as being like literary science fiction…it wasn’t just visual with snappy repartee, it got you thinking.

There was one bizarre scene…I’m still not sure what they were trying to do. Early in the movie, there is a scene between McCoy and Kirk. It clearly appeared to me that this was after the death of Chekov. I appreciated that…a way to pay respects to the current actor who played Chekov, Anton Yelchin, who recently died tragically.

Dr. McCoy has a bottle of alcohol, which he says he “found” in Chekov’s locker. If a crewmember had died, naturally, the locker  would be cleaned out…and items would be found. Otherwise, why would McCoy be in Chekov’s locker…and take something?

When they drink they pour into an “absent friend’s” glass…another way to pay respect to a colleague who has died.

However, Chekov is in the rest of the movie.

Ambassador Spock (not Mr. Spock), played by Leonard Nimoy in this continuity, has died (reflecting the heart-rending loss of Leonard Nimoy recently)…but that doesn’t appear to be known to them at this point in the story, from what I recall.

Why the absent friends toast? Why steal from Chekov? I don’t know.

In terms of the acting and the characterizations generally…Karl Urban nails McCoy again, and that’s not an easy character. I like Zachary Quinto, I like his performance as Spock…but I’m not crazy about this version of Spock, who is a lot more emotional and isn’t struggling with two halves. It makes him as confident as the rest of the world (with the possible exception of some of the Bridge crew) thought the TOS Spock was…but we knew better.

Chris Pine, who I also like, is having a lot of fun as Kirk…Shatner would, I think, have loved playing an early scene. That does work, even if it isn’t quite like what we saw on TOS most of the time (it’s like every episode was A Piece of the Action). That’s fine, though…it is an alternative timeline.

I like Uhura in TOS a lot better…in this series, she seems to be largely defined by her relationship with Spock, where in the original series she was a powerful, independent person.

Sofia Boutella, as new character Jaylah, is charismatic. However, the character will seem quite a bit like Rey in The Force Awakens to many…she’s been on her own, scavenging from a crashed ship, and is a powerful warrior. Obviously, that’s not enough to say it is a derivative character, and I could certainly believe that it was conceived before the release of The Force Awakens…but some people will see similarities.

Idris Elba is already at the top of our

2016 The Measured Circle’s Box Office MVPs

list (with roles in Zootopia, The Jungle Book, and Finding Dory, to mention three), and this will only cement that position.

I wouldn’t say that there was much that especially stood out about Elba’s big bad role of Krall, though. It was also quite jarring to hear him refer to Kirk as “my old friend”…when it appears they have just met. I’m guessing that’s an homage to Khan in the Wrath of Khan, who says the same thing, but it made sense there: they had a history.

END SPOILER ALERT

Overall?

I enjoyed seeing the movie, but it was really one long CGI fest, where combat scenes vastly dominate over character scenes. For that reason, it didn’t feel much like a 1960s Star Trek episode, but it wasn’t an affront to that legacy, either.

Generally, I think most people will enjoy it…I just suspect we haven’t seen the best of this new crew yet, and I hope people also watch TOS (although, you know, don’t start with the third season…that’s another whole story). 😉

Join thousands of readers and try the free ILMK magazine at Flipboard!

All aboard our new The Measured Circle’s Geek Time Trip at The History Project! Join the TMCGTT Timeblazers!

When you shop at AmazonSmile, half a percent of your purchase price on eligible items goes to a non-profit you choose. It will feel just like shopping at Amazon: you’ll be using your same account. The one thing for you that is different is that you pick a non-profit the first time you go (which you can change whenever you want)…and the good feeling you’ll get. :) Shop ’til you help! :) By the way, it’s been interesting lately to see Amazon remind me to “start at AmazonSmile” if I check a link on the original Amazon site. I do buy from AmazonSmile, but I have a lot of stored links I use to check for things.

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog. To support this or other blogs/organizations, buy Amazon Gift Cards from a link on the site, then use those to buy your items. There will be no cost to you, and a benefit to them.

Bruce Hyde has reportedly died

October 22, 2015

Bruce Hyde has reportedly died

Bruce Hyde appeared in just two episodes of the original Star Trek, but made a considerable impression on fans as Lt. Kevin Riley. In licensed works following the series, Riley has appeared in many of the novels…which wouldn’t have happened without Bruce Hyde’s memorable performance.

Actually, “performances” is more appropriate. The two episodes are quite different.

In The Naked Time, Riley is comic relief…singing, “I’ll Take You Home Again, Kathleen”, and declaring himself Captain of the Enterprise. While it’s  funny, the situation is serious…Hyde is not out of character with what we’ll see of Riley later, just as a swashbuckling Sulu is appropriate in that episode.

In The Conscience of the King, Riley is the orphan survivor of a massive execution program who may have encountered the perpetrator.

After a short screen career, Bruce Hyde became an academic, writing on ontology.

Join thousands of readers and try the free The Measured Circle magazine at Flipboard 

* I am linking to the same thing at the regular Amazon site, and at AmazonSmile. When you shop at AmazonSmile, half a percent of your purchase price on eligible items goes to a non-profit you choose. It will feel just like shopping at Amazon: you’ll be using your same account. The one thing for you that is different is that you pick a non-profit the first time you go (which you can change whenever you want)…and the good feeling you’ll get. :) Shop ’til you help! :) 

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the  The Measured Circle blog. To support this or other blogs/organizations, buy  Amazon Gift Cards from a link on the site, then use those to buy your items. There will be no cost to you, and a benefit to them.

Grace Lee Whitney has reportedly died

May 4, 2015

Grace Lee Whitney has reportedly died

Grace Lee Whitney was an integral part of Star Trek.

While Yeoman Rand disappeared from the series, Whitney never disappeared from the fandom.

It was a complicated set of circumstances.

Rand was intended to be an unrequited love interest of Captain Kirk’s, and writers for the series included her in episodes they wrote before her exit (and where her parts had to be reassigned).

Was it because the show wanted Kirk to be unfettered?

Regardless, Whitney had a complicated life, and she overcame hurdles to later return for the Star Trek movies.

It’s important to note that she had almost two decades of screen credits before first appearing in Star Trek…and she had been a successful singer before that (reportedly working with Billie Holiday, Buddy Rich, and Spike Jones).

I actually first think of Yeoman Rand’s interactions not with Kirk, but with Charlie X. Her handling of the unwanted attentions of a super-powered adolescent had a ring of truth…it made me wonder (in later years) about parallels with her real life experiences. That’s not to suggest it wasn’t a strong acting performance: I thought it was, and the way that she has remained in fans’ thoughts show that others did, too.

Geek-friendly credits include:

  • The Unexpected (TV series)
  • House of Wax (in 3D with Vincent Price…as an uncredited Can Can dancer)
  • The original The Outer Limits (Controlled Experiment…starring Carroll O’Connor and Barry Morse as Martians)
  • Bewitched
  • Batman (the Adam West series, in a King Tut two-parter)
  • Walt Disney’s Wonderful World of Color (with Butch Patrick of The Munsters)
  • The Next Step Beyond (TV series)

Good-bye, Grace Lee Whitney: you showed us that being a beautiful fantasy can be a harsh reality…but one that can be conquered with inner strength.

Join thousands of readers and try the free The Measured Circle magazine at Flipboard 

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the  The Measured Circle blog. To support this or other blogs/organizations, buy  Amazon Gift Cards from a link on the site, then use those to buy your items. There will be no cost to you, and a benefit to them.

My take on…Star Trek into Darkness

May 19, 2013

My take on…Star Trek into Darkness

This one is easy…it’s the best movie I’ve seen so far this year, and my Significant Other a bit more than tolerated it, so that’s a win. 😉

It was exciting, fun, and moving. Special effects brought us a real sense of “Cool! I want to do that!” There were sly allusions to the original Star Trek series and movies (which probably gave me a better experience than my SO), but these actors and characters are also establishing their own territory.

My SO particularly noted Zachary Quinto’s strength as Spock, although it is quite a different Spock from Leonard Nimoy’s. I like Chris Pine’s Captain Kirk. Interestingly, my SO thought Karl Urban looked too much like DeForest Kelly…I didn’t have a problem with that.

The movie is a thrill ride, but one with a significant amount of effective humor. Simon Pegg’s Scotty is really there for comic relief at this point, but that works reasonably well.

Does it all work?

For me, the meta stuff can be a bit much. I understand how the alternate timeline from the first J.J. Abrams movie allows for some parallel, but skewed events. Although it wasn’t a big problem, it did seem a bit…contrived.

The other thing I’d say is that the great plot twists weren’t that hard to anticipate. That might be a strength, though, making this plot more linear than the first movie.

I’m careful about avoiding spoilers, so at this point, I won’t say much about the plot of the movie. If you do want that sort of  detail, here is the

Memory Alpha article

Bottom line…go see it, it’s fun. 🙂

By the way, if you haven’t seen this

Audi commercial

with Quinto and Nimoy, it’s worth a look…

To track the movie box office for the rest of the year see 2013 Movie Box Office: 40, 80, 1, 2 , 3.

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the The Measured Circle.

The fundamental difference between Star Trek and Star Wars

May 16, 2013

The fundamental difference between Star Trek and Star Wars

Star Trek Into Darkness is opening tomorrow in the USA, which will mean midnight shows tonight.

There has been quite a bit of talk about Star Trek versus Star Wars recently, especially now that J.J. Abrams is guiding both franchises.

Certainly, there are some similarities; however, there is one key difference that we hope the director keeps in mind.

The world is good (Star Trek).

The world is bad (Star Wars).

That’s what sets them apart philosophically. A fan can certainly like both…we might feel like we are struggling against evil on one day (or imagining it could happen) and fighting for good on another. The original series of Star Trek and the original trilogy of Star Wars make this a stark difference.

Who are the good guys in Star Trek?

The Federation. They are the establishment, the superpower…they have the dominant technology and the lion’s share of the resources.

Who are the bad guys in Star Wars?

The Empire. They are the establishment, the superpower…they have the dominant technology and the lion’s share of the resources.

Certainly, Star Trek’s Captain Kirk doesn’t always agree with the methodology of the Federation. Kirk doesn’t like the  bureaucracy which can slow things down. However, Captain Kirk does agree with the goals of the Federation…just not always on how to best achieve them.

On the other hand, Star Wars’ Luke Skywalker absolutely disagrees with the Empire, and wants to see them defeated and out of power.

As a fan, when you empathize with the two, that’s the dichotomy. In Star Trek, society is good and has lofty goals. The Enterprise crew fights for good. In Star Wars, society at the top is evil and has reprehensible schemes…the rebels fight against evil.

For good.

Against evil.

It’s pretty simple.

We can see this in a lot of ways. One of the obvious ones is the iconic weaponry. Star Trek has a phaser which can (and often is, especially in unknown situations) set on stun. It is designed to be used for non-lethal tactics.

The closest you can get to being non-lethal with a light saber from Star Wars is to just dismember someone.

If you think humans (and other intelligent beings) are likely to be good, you want your default setting to be stun. If you think they are likely to be bad, a light saber is more geared towards removing the threat.

What does Star Wars’ Empire do it when it discovers people who think differently and might oppose it? Build a Death Star and blow up the planet.

What does Star Trek’s Federation do when it discovers people who think differently and might oppose it? They leave them alone. The Prime Directive requires that societies be able to develop on their own (if they don’t know about a certain technology, Federation personnel can’t give it to them or tell them about it, even if it makes their lives better…that would change them and eliminate what might have happened). By definition, the Federation does not say that it is better than every other society…and it sees that more good is likely to happen than evil if people are able to choose their own paths.

There is the guiding principle, Mr. Abrams: fight against versus fight for.

Keep that in mind and we can love both of your visions for the two beloved universes.

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the The Measured Circle blog.


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