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Star Trek: the first ten movies (1979-2002)


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#1 Peter T Chattaway

Peter T Chattaway

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Posted 15 October 2003 - 03:41 PM

Links to our threads on the original TV series (1966-1969), J.J. Abrams' Star Trek (2009) and its upcoming sequel (2012).

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Artistically and financially, Star Trek V: The Final Frontier (hereafter known as ST5:TFF) has long been widely regarded as the least successful film in the Star Trek franchise, at least until Star Trek: Nemesis came out last year. So of course, I approached the "collector's edition" two-disc DVD set -- which came out yesterday, 14 years and a few months after the film came out in theatres -- curious to see whether the film's low reputation would be acknowledged in the extras. And it is, sorta.

In one featurette, sci-fi author David Brin calls the film an under-rated entry in the series. In another, executive producer Ralph Winter says he and the rest of the production team may have tackled the film with too much exuberance and confidence, without stopping to think about the film the way they should have, following the success of ST4:TVH (which remains, to this day and despite the rise in ticket prices since 1986, the only Star Trek film to break the $100 million barrier at the box office). In another, both Winter and one of the other creative types grumble that the special effects really failed to serve the film (I believe this may be the only Star Trek movie, apart from the very first one, that turned to some company other than George Lucas's Industrial Light & Magic for its effects, and yeah, the effects here ARE tacky). And William Shatner himself, in the making-of featurette, concludes by saying that he has a tremendous capacity for "denial", so as far as he's concerned, he had a great experience directing the film, and that's what matters to him.

Seen in this light, the archival footage of producer Harve Bennett making his pitch to the film's promotors -- giving them the Vulcan salute and saying it is impossible to lie while making this salute and saying the upcoming ST5:TFF will, no lie, be a "blockbuster" and possibly even bigger than ST4:TVH -- is a bit awkward and embarrassing. But hey, you gotta admire the guts of whoever made the DVD for putting that on there, too.

I have always thought ST5:TFF was something of a wasted opportunity. It is the ONLY film in the entire series that feels like it could have been an episode of the original show. The other films all put new major characters on the bridge (Decker and Ilia in ST:TMP, Saavik in ST2:TWOK), or they take major characters OFF the bridge (Chekov is first officer on the Reliant in ST2:TWOK, Sulu is captain of the Excelsior in ST6:TUC, and of course Spock is virtually absent from ST3:TSFS altogether), or they don't take place on a proper bridge in the first place (the Enterprise is a trainee ship filled with youngsters in ST2:TWOK, Kirk shanghais an automated Enterprise in ST3:TSFS, then uses a stolen Klingon Bird of Prey in ST4:TVH) -- and that's before we deal with the major life-and-death issues that pre-occupied the other films (major threats to the Earth in ST:TMP and ST4:TVH, Spock's death and resurrection in ST2:TWOK and ST3:TSFS, ending the Cold War with the Klingons in ST6:TUC). ST5:TFF is the only film in which Kirk is captain of the Enterprise from beginning to end, with the same crew under him that he had in the series, and in which the story ends as it began, thus leaving the way for future episodes.

And they blew it.

The film was basically written and directed by Shatner for contractual reasons -- going back to the days of the series, he and Leonard Nimoy had a deal where they would take turns negotiating their contracts, and whatever one person got, the other person got too. So after Nimoy had directed ST3:TSFS and ST4:TVH to great success (and then gone on to have non-Trek success with 1987's Three Men and a Baby), Shatner figured it was his turn to direct a Trek movie, and everybody let him do it.

For whatever reason, Shatner wanted to make a story about a man who looks for God, finds the Devil, "and by extension, God exists." Right away, there should have been obvious problems with this premise. First, this is the kind of story you can tell very well with supernatural thrillers like The Exorcist, but how can you deal with this in a space-adventure franchise like Star Trek? The "God" creature that Kirk meets and defeats at the end of the film is, as far as I can tell, just another in a long line of super-powered aliens that the various Enterprise crews have had to deal with -- how does finding (and defeating!) this alien prove that the Devil exists, let alone that God exists? Second, there is nobody in the Star Trek franchise who would be likely to go on this quest ... so Shatner had to come up with a storyline in which someone (who turns out to be Spock's half-brother Sybok) hijacks the Enterprise and Kirk is basically just along for the ride, thus turning our normally dynamic hero into a rather passive bystander. (Who was it who said the main problem with the film could be summed up by the scene in which an exasperated Kirk says to Sybok, "Let me do SOMETHING!"?) Third -- and bringing the two other objections together -- there is the fact that the film's message is pretty much tacked onto the rest of the story and does not grow out of it. The quest to find God in outer space is Sybok's quest, not Kirk's; yet, after Sybok's death, it is Kirk who gives us the moral of the story ("Maybe God isn't out there, Bones; maybe he's right here, in the human heart").

It's amazing to hear on the featurettes that many people -- including producer Bennett, who had revitalized the franchise with ST2:TWOK and had been involved in all the films since -- had qualms with Shatner's story and didn't want to work on the film. But they did. And the studio, despite its nervousness, green-lit the project and then began to force Shatner to drop various things along the way. So it's not just a badly written movie, but a half-heartedly executed badly-written movie.

Shatner and his daughter Liz, who wrote the making-of book back when this movie came out, provide an audio commentary on the DVD, and one of the things they address is the fact that Shatner wanted Kirk's team-mates to turn against him and side with Sybok, but Nimoy and DeForest Kelley both nixed this idea, at least insofar as it related to their characters. (I have read Shatner's Star Trek novels, and I must say, yes, Shatner DOES love to pit Kirk against his friends whenever he can -- I guess he finds it extra dramatic or something.) This behind-the-scenes disagreement becomes especially interesting during my favorite scene in the film, in which Sybok tries to "heal" the pain of Spock and McCoy. First we learn that McCoy pulled the plug on his father or, more likely, actively euthanized him when his father was suffering from an incurable disease (it's not entirely clear, because he does it with some futuristic gizmo), only to find out shortly afterwards that a cure had been found. Shatner says Kelley really, really resisted playing this scene and had to be argued into it because of his "convictions"; Shatner then mentions that his OWN conviction is that, when dignity is gone, people SHOULD pull the plug, and this prompts a "Hmmmm" from his daughter. (As one who opposes euthanasia myself, I have to say I have no problem with the scene in its present form -- McCoy's "pain" stems from the fact that if he had waited just a little bit longer, his father might still be alive today, which would support the idea that McCoy should NOT have killed him -- and besides, I think there is a world of moral difference between "pulling the plug" and letting nature take its course on the one hand, and doing something that actively kills someone who might have lived longer.)

Then comes the bit where Sybok tries to "heal" Spock, but this part of the scene never worked for me, because it harps on the fact that Spock is half-human and had let his father down, and this theme had been harped on to death on the original series; what's more, Spock had actually RESOLVED many of these issues in the previous films. This scene tells us absolutely nothing "new" about Spock, the way the other scene told us something "new" about McCoy, so there is no suspense, really, over how Spock will react to Sybok's attempt to "heal" him. Interestingly enough, though, one of the deleted scenes on the bonus DVD reveals that there was, at one point, a second element to this scene, in which Sybok and Spock re-create the moment when they last saw one another, back when Spock was just a boy; Nimoy even delivers his lines like an anxious child. THAT might have told us something "new" about the character, but the scene doesn't quite work as well as it should have -- it doesn't have the theatricality, the visual creativity, of the McCoy scene.

Curiously, we never get even a hint of what Kirk's "secret pain" might be -- Sybok is interrupted before he can force himself on Kirk. But I do like the way Kirk says "I NEED my pain." I would never accuse Shatner of trying to preach a Christian message, but I think this film was one of the first things that got me to think about the positive value of pain, the way that suffering helps to shape us as people, and so on.

Just a few more comments. In the commentary, Shatner says that the scene where Sybok realizes the "God" he has been following is actually a more devil-ish creature was inspired by the disillusionment that many Communists felt when it was revealed that, well gosh, Stalin really WAS a murdering tyrant, despite all those years they defended him. Shatner and his daughter make an ill-advised attempt to give the film new, modern relevance when she suggests there is something "weirdly prophetic" about the fact that this film begins with a religious zealot who gathers followers in a desert landscape, and Shatner replies that the film might have done better at the box office if it had been released now. Shatner says the opening and closing scenes in Yosemite are meant to show that God can be found in nature, rather than something outside of ourselves (which reminds me, it always did seem a little odd that the "God planet", which one character calls "Eden" and which looks from space like a big blue ball of gas, would be pretty much a barren desert on the surface).

And the featurette on religion is, well, disappointing of course -- especially considering how short it is and how many people they seem to have interviewed for it. Executive producer Ralph Winter, who is well-known in Christian circles (and who I met when he spoke at Regent College's faith-and-film conference last year), makes one very quick reference to his "relationship with God" and then they cut away to someone else. I would have liked to hear him talk a little more about that. The rest of the featurette features things like Gene Roddenberry's son saying Star Trek isn't anti-religion, it just "believes in humanity as much as religion", or some SETI guy saying that our religions will be "improved" if we ever come into contact with aliens, etc. David Brin also makes some perceptive comments (e.g., Star Trek stories don't mind the transcendent, so long as it "leaves us alone"), though a few of his comments (especially about the contrast between ST2:TWOK and ST3:TSFS re: "playing God") do seem to be recycled from comments he made on the ST3:TSFS DVD last year.

Oh, two final observations. First, the DVD only barely acknowledges the fact that ST5:TFF was the first Trek film to be produced after the premiere of Star Trek: The Next Generation in the fall of 1987; at the time, producer Harve Bennett blamed the existence of the TV show for the poor box-office performance of the film (of COURSE everyone shows up for the feast when there's two years of famine between feasts, but when you give people turkey sandwiches every week... or so his argument went). ST5:TFF came out after ST:TNG finished its second season, but I believe common wisdom has it that ST:TNG didn't really get good until its third season, so I wonder what the fans were making of the franchise at the time. (I didn't start watching ST:TNG for another couple years, myself.)

Second -- and this will show how truly geeky I can be -- I cannot believe that the DVD makes NO reference to the fact that the actor who plays Captain Klaa, the token Klingon of this film, was an extra on ST2:TWOK, as one of the engineering trainees; he's the one standing next to Scotty's nephew when Kirk and Peter Preston have their little exchange. (He might even be the one who clears his throat when Preston has his little outburst, but it could also be Scotty, who is off-screen at that point.) The way the actor describes his audition before Shatner, you would think it was the first time the two of them had been in the same room.

Edited by Peter T Chattaway, 13 April 2011 - 01:05 PM.


#2 Peter T Chattaway

Peter T Chattaway

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Posted 30 January 2004 - 08:18 PM

Wow, these discs just keep getting cheaper and cheaper. Two years, two months and a few weeks ago, I picked up the then-new two-disc Star Trek: The Motion Picture set for about CDN$32, after tax. Since then, Paramount has been re-issuing the subsequent Star Trek films as two-disc sets packed with extras, at a pace of one every several months, and today, I picked up the two-disc Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country set for about CDN$16.

First, I must gripe about the packaging. All the other films were released in black plastic cases, and indeed, if you get the new six-movie original-cast boxed set, all the discs come in black plastic cases. But if you buy ST6:TUC on its own, it comes in a white plastic case. Huh? Second, there is no booklet, at least not in my copy. Third, they are less than forthright about the fact that this film has been tweaked since the last time it was released.

Let me back up a bit here. The two-disc sets for ST:TMP and ST2:TWOK were both called "director's editions" because they made slight changes to the films in question. The first film, released in 1979, was expanded for TV a year or two later, and the DVD released in 2001 was a completely new cut that used most (but not all) of the theatrical footage and some (but not all) of the TV footage, and which nicely re-vamped some of the special-effects shots; for completists like me, the original effects shots and the bits that were cut out altogether, from both the original film and the expanded TV version, were shuffled off to the bonus disc. (I would have preferred to go the seamless-branching route and be given my choice of which version of the film to watch, but hey, them's the breaks.) The second film, released in 1982, was also tweaked for TV, with a couple of essential deleted scenes restored to the film and a couple of shots replaced (e.g., a wide shot of Kirk and Saavik talking in an elevator was replaced with a series of close-ups), and the DVD released in 2002 was essentially identical to the TV version, except they went back to the wide shot of Kirk and Saavik in the elevator; this time, NONE of the deleted or replace footage was included on the bonus disc.

Now, all of the discs released SINCE then, including ST6:TUC, have been referred to not as "director's editions" but as "special collector's editions", presumably because, AFAIK, there have never been more than one version each of ST3:TSFS, ST4:TVH or ST5:TFF. But ST6:TUC is different. After it was released in 1991, the studio or the director added a couple of scenes for the video release, and if the version of the film on the new DVD had been THAT version, I don't think they would have had to draw our attention to this fact. But the DVD actually adds and/or changes a few shots, and at least one of these changes doesn't work for me -- when Spock forces a mind-meld on Valeris to learn the identities of the chief conspirators, the film now throws in a quick shot of each person as his name is mentioned, and there's a loud clanging noise on the soundtrack. I'm not sure this is necessarily a bad idea, but as executed here, it feels clumsy to me. In any case, I think further changes to the film such as this should have warranted a "director's edition" label.

Ah well, on to other things. This is almost certainly the most Canadian of the Star Trek films. Not only are regular cast members William Shatner and James Doohan back for yet another adventure, but the chief villain is played by Christopher Plummer and the wild-card character, Valeris, is played by Kim Cattrall, seen here at the mid-point in her career between Porky's and Sex in the City. There is even a fun little featurette where Shatner and Plummer look back fondly on their work together in Montreal and at Stratford, long before they were famous; at Stratford, Shatner understudied Plummer in Henry V. For these two actors, ST6:TUC was apparently a happy reunion.

The film itself has always been a bit disappointing to me. Granted, it was better than ST5:TFF, but then, that really isn't saying much. After the Shatner-directed debacle that was the fifth film, Leonard Nimoy -- who had directed the third and fourth films -- kind of took the reins back with the sixth film, but as executive producer rather than director. It was Nimoy's idea to make a movie mirroring the end of the Cold War, and in a way, I do see the appeal of this -- not only was it a chance for Star Trek to provide "relevant" commentary on current events, it was also a chance to bridge the gap between the original series and ST:TNG, which takes place 70-odd years later at a time when a Klingon like Worf can serve on a Federation starship and nobody bats an eye. But at the same time, I don't think anyone involved in the making of this film really had a clue how to make a decent film with this idea. Nimoy's bright idea was to hire Nicholas Meyer, who directed ST2:TWOK (the best of all Trek films) and co-wrote ST4:TVH (the most popular of all Trek films), to write and direct the new film; but Meyer's previous films worked because they were very character-driven, whereas ST6:TUC, by its very nature, was going to be less about the characters and more about inter-galactic politics. The characters are dwarfed by, and secondary to, the film's larger ambitions, and I think this hurts the film.

And it sure doesn't help that Meyer's script takes some incredibly dumb shortcuts here and there to get these characters out of situations that should be far too big and complex for them to resolve. I think here of the patch that Spock sticks on Kirk's jacket so that they can trace him across the galaxy -- if it's sending out a signal THAT strong, why don't the Klingons ever notice it? For that matter, why don't the Klingons ever strip Kirk's jacket off, when they arrest him, try him in court, and sentence him to a life imprisonment on a penal colony on an isolated planet? (As the Okudas note in their text commentary, Kirk and company actually had tracers planted under their skin in an episode of the original series -- that would make more sense, though even THERE, I would expect the Klingons to expect that sort of thing, and to sniff it out.) I think also of the fact that Valeris actually KNOWS the names of the chief conspirators, so all it takes is a simple mind-meld to get that information out there and to resolve the story. This film came out in theatres at almost the exact same time as Oliver Stone's JFK, and the conspiracy theories in Stone's film just made Meyer's story look even MORE simplistic and stupid. I mean, a relatively low-level flunky like Valeris actually KNOW who's all pulling her strings? Get real.

Something else I have never liked much about this film is the way it de-futurizes the Star Trek world, introducing cramped military bunk beds, modern fire extinguishers, bulky hardcover books and a full-fledged kitchen to the Trek universe (food has always been synthesized by replicators on this show, though the Okudas do note that a very early episode of the original series referred to a "ship's chef"). There is even a scene of a colonel using a paper flip-chart, which Meyer says was inspired by the briefings Norman Schwarzkopf gave during the then-recent Gulf War, though it's hard to imagine a high-level officer in the 23rd century would cart around something as crudely physical and unencrypted as that.

The constant quotations in Meyer's script are another nuisance, whether he's making references to Shakespeare, Sherlock Holmes and Aldous Huxley or stealing famous lines from politicians like Hitler, Neville Chamberlain and Adlai Stevenson. A few of these, I can handle; but the film goes so overboard with this stuff, it's like watching a Tarantino flick or some other post-modern movie in which recognizing the constant allusions is more important than following the actual story. Heck, even the references to Romulan ale, Tiberian bats and the Kobayashi Maru feel like pomo allusions to ST2:TWOK -- ST6:TUC just can't help reminding us, and often, of the earlier, better film that this director made.

(Remember how ST2:TWOK made two very important references to Charles Dickens' A Tale of Two Cities? It appears Meyer wanted to make even MORE literary allusions, but thankfully, the studio didn't let him. As every Trekkie knows, Meyer actually wanted to call THAT film "The Undiscovered Country", and in the featurettes and his commentary, he still tut-tuts the studio for giving it what he regards as an inferior title, "The Wrath of Khan". The thing is, I actually LIKE the studio's title better than his -- it's less pretentious, it clearly tells you what the film's about, it doesn't raise the bar too high, etc. The Peter Pan line at the end of ST6:TUC also happens to be how Vonda McIntyre ended her novelization of ST2:TWOK, which leads me to think that Meyer may have tried to shoehorn that into the earlier film, too.)

Another thing about this film that has never quite worked for me is the way it revolves around the theme of Kirk and company confronting their anti-Klingon prejudices. Now, I am NOT going to pull a Gene Roddenberry here and claim that the future will be free of prejudice etc. -- as Nimoy himself points out when an interviewer asks him for the Vulcan view on prejudice, given that it is "illogical" etc., Spock himself was the victim of prejudice at the hands of his fellow Vulcans because he was a half-breed; that is why he moved to Starfleet in the first place! So even in Roddenberry's original TV show, there are clear signs of prejudice in the future. No, the problem for me is that I don't believe THESE particular characters would espouse a "Let them die!" attitude. Nicholas Meyer claims that Kirk lost his feelings of tolerance after his son was killed by a Klingon in ST3:TSFS, but he forgets that Kirk himself offered to save the Klingon captain who gave the order to kill his son! Not only that, but ST5:TFF ended on an optimistic note as Kirk invited some Klingons aboard the Enterprise to celebrate their defeat of the 'God' creature. So unless something ELSE happened between these movies -- which is possible, given that the earlier Star Trek films took place sometime around the year 2282, whereas this one takes place in 2293 -- the film's very premise doesn't make all that much sense.

There's some interesting data on the Klingons here. Even though this film gives Michael Dorn a cameo as the ancestor of Worf, you cannot help but wonder to what degree the original-series cast and crew still felt that the Klingons still "belonged to them", in some sense; this film introduces details about the Klingons that, as far as I know, all other incarnations of the show have simply ignored (the colour of Klingon blood, the idea that Klingons have no tear ducts). The line about reading Shakespeare "in the original Klingon" was apparently inspired by something the Germans said about the Bard shortly before the war, but the filmmakers had difficulty translating "To be or not to be" into Klingonese. Mark Okrand, who invented most of the Klingon language and by this point had had a few movies and at least three years of ST:TNG in which to fine-tune it, had apparently decided beforehand that there was no verb "to be" in the Klingon tongue, so he had to come up with an equivalent -- "to continue" was the one he settled on, IIRC. Composer Cliff Eidelman then got a choir to chant this Klingon version of "To be or not to be" in the scenes where Kirk and McCoy are taken to the prison planet. Chancellor Gorkon was inspired both by Gorbachev (note the first syllable) and by Abraham Lincoln (note the beard) -- the latter of whom Meyer keeps lumping in with Gandhi and Sadat and Rabin and other "peacemakers" even though he was very much a war-time president; interestingly, Meyer notes that although Gorbachev is the only one of these characters who lived, there WAS an attempted coup in the Soviet Union during the making of ST6:TUC, so for a while there, they wondered if maybe the film would be even closer to current events than it was. It is also interesting that Gorkon's daughter Azetbur takes his place as head of the Klingon empire, when apparently, in ST:TNG, women are not allowed to do that. (Did ST:TNG establish that before or after this film came out, I wonder?)

Just a few other details I noted. It is kind of sad to note that, whereas the Star Trek films had once been at the cutting edge of CGI technology (Pixar's Genesis Planet demo! yippee!), by now it was lagging a few months or years behind (the morphing effect was invented for Willow in 1988 and popularized by Terminator 2 several months before this film came out; the CGI zero-gravity blood was also prefigured by the water tentacle in 1989's The Abyss). The Okudas' text commentary speculates that there might be a FOURTH conspirator aboard the Enterprise somewhere, since Valeris is on the bridge when the assassins beam aboard the Klingon ship (or was the transporter programmed to beam them back and forth automatically?). Meyer says Iman's line about "assuming a pleasing shape" is a "biblical" reference, but actually it is yet another Shakespeare line ("The devil hath power to assume a pleasing shape").

And lastly, it is interesting to go through the bonus features in the order that they are listed on the DVD. There is a warm tribute to DeForest Kelley, who died in 1999 and is the only original-series cast member to have passed on so far, and the next feature listed in the menu is an interview that William Shatner did on the set in 1991 -- in which he talks about becoming aware of the fact that he's at that age where his friends are beginning to die. (I had heard Shatner make remarks like this in his audio commentaries for ST4:TVH and ST5:TFF, but it is interesting to see that he was thinking in those terms already even then.) (There is also an interview with James Doohan where he, alone of all the actors, refuses to accept that ST6:TUC is the last film for the original cast -- no, he says, the fans will want "another one, and another one after that, too." Well, I guess he DID make a brief appearance in ST:G...) Back to the Kelley tribute. I rather doubt what one friend of Kelley's says, to the effect that Roddenberry offered Kelley his choice of roles, and Kelley picked McCoy rather than Kirk or Spock because it would be the role with the most humour; it's a lovely anecdote, but isn't it mitigated by the fact that McCoy is in NEITHER of the original series' pilots? At any rate, the glimpses we see of him in all those westerns and film noirs do have me itching now to see him in those other roles, especially one of the villainous ones.

#3 Rich Kennedy

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Posted 31 January 2004 - 06:33 PM

QUOTE
At any rate, the glimpses we see of him in all those westerns and film noirs do have me itching now to see him in those other roles, especially one of the villainous ones.

What do you mean here? Villainous ST roles? Warlock (named after a town, not a character) is getting almost constant play now on Westerns Channel (starring Henry Fonda, Anthony Quinn, Richard Widmark, and Dorothy Malone) has Kelly in a character role as one of the bad guy's more evil hired hands. He's weak (performance, not written character). I come across him now and then on archival movie channels and reruns like Twilight Zone. I don't know, I sense that he was lucky to hitch on to Star Trek. Oh, Warlock is pretty cool. I'd say third rung '50's western (famous classics, Boetticher, then other Randolf Scott and various flicks like this one).

#4 Peter T Chattaway

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Posted 01 February 2004 - 11:25 AM

Rich Kennedy wrote:
: What do you mean here? Villainous ST roles?

No, villainous western roles, or villainous cop-show roles, or whatever.

: He's weak (performance, not written character).

That wouldn't surprise me. Still, I'd like to see it for myself.

#5 Rich Kennedy

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Posted 01 February 2004 - 05:06 PM

QUOTE
That wouldn't surprise me.  Still, I'd like to see it for myself.

You may want to see it for Kelly, but the movie itself is well worth the effort.

#6 Peter T Chattaway

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Posted 20 February 2004 - 04:23 PM

This is a message I posted elsewhere a couple days ago.

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I am such a geek. A few days ago I decided I was tired of listening to the Howard Shore Lord of the Rings albums over and over and over -- they're good, and at nearly four hours' combined length you can't actually repeat them all THAT often, but after two months, you begin to want a little more variety -- so I decided to make mp3s of all my Star Trek movie soundtracks, and I have all of 'em from ST:TMP (including both the original 1979 album and the expanded 1999 version) to ST:I (1998). (Curiously, I was so uninterested in ST:N, the film, when it came out in 2002 that I never got that album, and in fact, I have no idea who even wrote the music for it -- one day I'll have to fill that gap.)

Anyway, unlike the Tolkien trilogy, which has a consistent style and tone from start to finish, the Star Trek albums are a real mixed bag -- which, of course, accurately reflects the fact that each film was treated like a one-shot deal and not like part of a bigger franchise, let alone part of a larger storyline. Heck, even the so-called "Spock trilogy" (i.e., the second to fourth films, in which Spock is killed, then resurrected, then brought back into Starfleet) makes a radical departure in tone about half-an-hour into the third part of that trilogy, when the Enterprise crew goes back in time and suddenly all the death stuff that dominated the first two parts gives way to fish-out-of-water comedy -- and so, fittingly, the third film in that so-called "trilogy" was given an utterly, radically different composer than the first two films had.

Which brings me back to the music. A few minutes ago, listening to the soundtracks in chronological order, I got to the 'Stealing the Enterprise' theme from James Horner's score for ST3:TSFS (1984), and whoa, I got the shivers once again -- those shivers that hit you when you feel you're tapping into something Big and Real and Important. I hadn't listened to this soundtrack in ages, but I remember responding to this particular track in this particular way many times while listening to it in the past, especially after the 6-minute-13-second mark, which is the point in the film where Captain Stiles tells Kirk if he goes through with this he'll never sit in the captain's chair again ... and Kirk steadfastly tells Scotty and the others to keep doing what they gotta do in order to steal the starship and rescue their friends. It's that whole Moment Of Decision thing, that almost transcendent awareness that someone is making A Big Sacrificial Choice, that gets me every time I hear this track, and Horner captures the awesomeness of it very fell -- combined with the graceful beauty of the Enterprise sailing into space after Scotty hacks the spacedock doors, combined with the comedy of Stiles realizing his own ship has been sabotaged and he therefore cannot give pursuit like he thought he could ... Horner captures all of these narrative elements perfectly.

So, there, I felt the need to gush. And heck, I'm actually gushing about a sequence from one of the ODD-numbered Star Trek films, which, according to conventional wisdom, are supposed to be the lamer entries in the series. Whatever. It matters not. Call me what you will, I feel no shame. This stuff is Awesome. This stuff is Why I Go To The Movies.

#7 Peter T Chattaway

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Posted 25 April 2004 - 12:24 PM

New 'Star Trek' Movie in the Works
Star Trek producer Rick Berman has confirmed that work has begun on developing a new theatrical Star Trek feature, which he has described, without elaboration, as a "prequel." "I am involved in the very early stages of what could be the next Star Trek movie," Berman told the British magazine Dreamwatch. "It's something I will be producing with two other producers."

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Eh? A "prequel" to what? To the 24th-century shows? To the original 23rd-century show? To the current 22nd-century show (which is, itself, a "prequel" to all the other shows)?

#8 Darrel Manson

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Posted 25 April 2004 - 02:22 PM

Perhaps about the Space Shuttle Enterprise that flew off the back of a 747 before the others were launched -- that would really be prequel.

Edited by Darrel Manson, 25 April 2004 - 02:22 PM.


#9 Peter T Chattaway

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Posted 26 April 2004 - 01:20 AM

Heh. You know, on one of the sets in ST:TMP, there is a panel display showing a series of ships named Enterprise, going back to the nautical age and continuing right up into the 23rd century, and I believe it includes the Space Shuttle of that name. I don't believe the ship after which that current TV show is named is one of the ships in that display, though!

#10 Peter T Chattaway

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Posted 30 September 2004 - 04:48 PM

I said something above about ST5:TFF being a wasted opportunity. Star Trek: Generations (hereafter known as ST:G) was an even bigger opportunity, and thus, as it turned out, may have been an even bigger waste. It has been ten years -- an entire decade -- since Captain James T. Kirk bit the dust, and until I watched the "collector's edition" DVD today, I don't believe I had seen the film at all since the three times I caught it in the theatre back then; indeed, you could say I STILL haven't seen it again, since I watched it with both the audio and text commentaries turned on, and thus wasn't really paying attention to the dialogue, etc. But even with those bonus-feature distractions -- and indeed, partly because of them, since the voices on the commentary express many gripes with the finished product! -- it is still evident to me that ST:G was a clumsily made film, and a rather pathetic note on which to really, really, really end the original series.

ST6:TUC may have marked the last appearance of the full original-series cast, but ST:G is the film in which Kirk becomes the first member of the original Enterprise crew who dies and stays dead (unless you consider William Shatner's Star Trek novels canonical!); it is also the last of the films to take place, even partially, in the 23rd century, and it brings back Scotty and Chekov, as well as introducing us to Sulu's daughter. And as a fan of the original series, I have always rather liked the prologue, in which Kirk sits on a ship's bridge for the last time in his life -- but on the sidelines, NOT in the captain's chair; indeed, the second or third time I saw this film, I was rather moved by Kirk's refusal to sit in the Enterprise-B's captain's chair, knowing that his commitment to principle over personal satisfaction would soon spell his end. Moments like those ring very true to the character, and I'm grateful that the film gave us those last glimpses of Kirk in action.

But AFTER that scene -- oy vey! How lame that Kirk should "die" by being sucked into space during some random lame-o impromptu rescue mission gone wrong. Can it really be that THAT is how Kirk's end was recorded in the history books, and that all those characters in the 24th century -- including the much, much older McCoy and Sarek -- have always believed Kirk had met his end this way? And how lame that Kirk should die a SECOND time, and this time for real, by running around like some ill-fated red-shirt on an Enterprise-D mission. I know, I know, it would have been impossible to bring back the entire original-series cast and have a true meeting of the two shows ... but still! Kirk was never all THAT interesting when he ran around punching people; his defining moments were always moments of decision and leadership, and that is sorely lacking in this film's final act. This DVD also includes the original ending to the film, in which Soran (the Malcolm McDowell character) shoots Kirk in the back, and then Picard gets his revenge by shooting Soran more or less in cold blood (though I guess we could call it excessive force in the service of self-defense) -- how could so many people have thought that an ending like THAT would have worked? Lame. Pathetic. And certainly NEITHER of these endings gives Kirk a death anywhere near as meaningful as Spock's in ST2:TWOK.

(Speaking of deleted scenes, the DVD includes another one that was going to start the film, in which Scotty and Chekov stand on the ground waiting for Kirk to finish a bout of orbital skydiving; it has that Starfleet-crew-on-vacation vibe that the opening scenes in ST5:TFF had, but if it was implausible THEN that, e.g., Sulu and Chekov should go on leave together, and not with their families, then it is even MORE implausible that Kirk should be hanging out with Scotty and Chekov, and not with, say, Spock and McCoy. Of course, the original script did call for Spock and McCoy to come back, but neither Leonard Nimoy nor DeForest Kelley was interested in reviving their roles, having said good-bye to them in the previous film. One thing that makes this deleted scene extra-strange is that it appears they were planning on intercutting between the Kirk-Scotty-Chekov scene and that special-effect sequence in which the champagne bottle is sent hurtling towards the Enterprise-B -- I would have found the opening credits utterly incomprehensible if they had gone that route. Fortunately, they got the BEGINNING of the film just about right, in the end, I think.)

Curiously, this is the only DVD so far in the Trek movie series in which NONE of the audio commentary is provided by the director; instead, it is provided by the two screenwriters. To judge from his IMDB page, director David Carson appears to be alive, still, so I can only speculate as to why he did not participate in this project; however, I note also that Carson has only directed one other feature film in his life -- some obscure Wesley Snipes action movie -- and that ALL of his other credits, which go back a few decades, are in TV. Unfortunately, ST:G does feel like a TV episode made by people who had a lot of money on their hands, rather than like a feature film (a fact exemplified, perhaps, by Dennis McCarthy's score, which is easily one of the worst soundtracks in the Star Trek catalogue).

The film also feels terribly disjointed, partly because -- as the writers themselves admit -- they were trying to juggle too many formula elements and to please too many people at once. First you've got a sequence on the Enterprise-B. Then you've got an incredibly ginormous holodeck sequence. Then you've got a shoot-out on a space lab. Then you've got a rather convoluted hostage exchange ("If you give us back our crewmate, we'll let you beam our captain down to the planet to talk to that other guy"). Then you've got a fantastic, extended Enterprise-D crash sequence. Then you've got this Victorian Christmas sequence in the Nexus. Then you've got Kirk scrambling eggs and riding horses. Then you've got a big mano a mano fight sequence on a rocky hill. Then, the end. It's all rather disjointed; in fact, the awkward structure of it all kind of reminds me of The Last Temptation of Christ, which packs the life of Christ (a subject that ordinarily takes up an entire movie on its own) into its first two acts (if we can even think of Last Temptation in conventional three-act terms) and then spins off into some sort of alternate reality, before coming back in time and putting history back the way it was meant to be. (The parallels are actually rather eerie, the more I think about them -- I'm surprised this had never occurred to me before.)

The writers are remarkably candid about how many things in the movie just don't work the way they'd wanted them to: the sight of Picard wiggling through a hole in the rocks, the scene where Kirk and Picard scramble some eggs together (it was intended to be "charming and offbeat", but now they find it "just painful" to watch), the "treacly" nature of the scene where Picard's "children" thank him for their Christmas presents, the fact that Kirk's line about "making a difference" doesn't really "stick" with the other themes in the film (facing mortality, the effect that time has on us), etc. They also express qualms with aspects of the film that might not have been due to their script, e.g., they cannot recall whether it was in the script that Picard cries when he hears about his relatives' deaths, or whether it was something Patrick Stewart decided to do; but either way, they don't like the fact that Picard is seen CRYING in his first big movie. (Personally, I don't mind the scene at all; I like the fact that Picard is human enough to show his vulnerability like that.) And they make some other interesting observations as well, e.g., they figure nothing will date ST:TNG more than the fact that a "therapist" like Counselor Troi was put not just on the ship, but on the BRIDGE of the ship; they say it feels "very '80s". They also express some ambivalence about the fact that there were children on the Enterprise-D -- a few good story ideas did come out of that situation, they admit, but, well, given how often the Enterprise-D was destroyed in parallel timelines (before finally being blown up in this film), it does seem odd.

The writers remark that this film, of all the ST:TNG films, is the most "true" to the show, and I think that's true, but I think that may also have been one of the things that hindered it; certainly, the fact that ST5:TFF felt more like a regular episode of the original series than any of the other early films did not help THAT film in any way. It is also interesting to consider that this was the first of the films that depicted events which coincided with events on the other TV shows; ST:DS9 was just starting its third season when this film came out, and of course the future films will all have to find tricky ways to bring Worf back on the Enterprise despite the fact that he has been re-assigned to Deep Space 9. And yet the prologue, on the Enterprise-B, feels like it could have flowed naturally straight out of the previous six films. I get weird thoughts whenever I think of that prologue, actually, because it really does exist in some middle space between "an extension and continuation of the previous films, which all take place in the 23rd century" and "a trivial historical footnote, from the point of view of the 24th century".

As you can see, I have difficulty leaving the original series behind. But hey, what can I say, it's hard to forget the earlier films when ST:G recycles footage from the older movies. Now, there is a fair bit of recycling in the earlier films, too -- the shots of the Enterprise leaving spacedock in ST:TMP were re-used in ST2:TWOK, and the 'Genesis Planet' footage in that film was re-used in ST3:TSFS and ST4:TVH, but I don't object to this because none of these recycled shots was really "the point" of the story; those shots were all essentially in the background somewhere. But in ST:G, when the Enterprise-D blows up the Klingon sisters' Bird of Prey, the film uses the EXACT SAME SHOT of General Chang's Bird of Prey exploding from ST6:TUC -- and I'm sorry, but you just can't use one film's climactic moment to depict another film's climactic moment.

Let's see, what else. Oh, yeah, when the scene of Data saying "Oh, s---" comes up, one of the writers remarks that this is the "first profanity" ever spoken on Star Trek -- but that is not true. In ST4:TVH, Kirk had to assure Gillian, the whale expert, that there was "no dipshit" in what he was trying to tell her; one might also want to argue that expressions like "double dumb-ass on you" fall into the realm of profanity, depending on what kind of "ass" is under discussion there. What I would like to know is whether these expressions, which had apparently fallen out of fashion by the 23rd century, were somehow revived in the 24th -- or is Data's use of such an outdated expression an indication that he still hasn't figured out how to use his emotion chip properly?

Speaking of Data, I did get a kick out of the writers' claim that Brent Spiner hates cats, and thus hated having to do all those scenes with Spot -- and they claim you can actually SEE just how much the cat can sense that Spiner hates it. And I also got a kick out of the fact that, not only did William Shatner know that the writers had thrown horses into the film in order to persuade him to appear in it, but Shatner also RENTED his horses to the production company, to make just a little more money!

Thankfully, the Star Trek franchise did have at least one more good movie left in it -- but that was it. And while I've never been a big ST:TNG fan, I do think it's kind of sad that only one of the four films produced by that generation turned out okay. Ah well.

#11 Peter T Chattaway

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Posted 18 January 2005 - 02:03 PM

This seemed like a more appropriate place for this than either of the Enterprise threads.

Does anybody really watch or care about Enterprise? Come to that, does anybody really want another Star Trek movie, considering that the last two films flopped (and the last one flopped even more than Shatner's infamous ST5:TFF did -- and that's BEFORE we take inflation into account, which would make ST:N's flopness even MORE pronounced)? The series itself has such a bad reputation already for screwing up established Trek continuity etc. that I'm having a hard time imagining how a show set BEFORE that series, with NO established actors or characters (not even a cameo from James Cromwell's Zefram Cochrane?), would appeal to anybody.

- - -

Berman Denies Trek Rumours
Rick Berman, executive producer of all Star Trek films and series since the death of Trek creator Gene Roddenberry, denied to SCI FI Wire the validity of the rampant Internet rumors that suggest Paramount Pictures disliked his concept for a new movie, was sending him back to the drawing board and thus had put a proposed Star Trek XI on the back burner. . . . Reports have circulated that Paramount was unhappy with a proposed new Trek film, which Berman has previously described as a prequel film set in the era before UPN's Star Trek: Enterprise, with a new set of characters not previously seen in any Trek incarnations.
SciFiWire.com, January 18

#12 CrimsonLine

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Posted 18 January 2005 - 02:33 PM

I am watching Enterprise. I stopped watching the first season after a few awful episodes, and I started again at the end of last season, which was mildly exciting. This newest season is okay. Not horrible, but not up to Trek standards (which IMO were at their peak in late TNG and mid-late DS9).

I have been a Trek fanatic since I was seven (so, for 25 years). I have a ton of Trek books, I love the Trek movies. I am even learning how to do 3D computer modelling by modelling ST ships. But I haven't even SEEN ST:Nemesis. Not once. ST:Insurrection was a poop-fest, and I just haven't ever gotten around to seeing Nemesis.

#13 Peter T Chattaway

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Posted 05 May 2005 - 07:51 PM

I blog Star Trek: First Contact (1996).

#14 Peter T Chattaway

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Posted 17 June 2005 - 01:41 AM

I blog Star Trek: Insurrection (1998).

#15 Peter T Chattaway

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Posted 05 October 2005 - 08:14 PM

I picked up the new two-disc Star Trek: Nemesis DVD yesterday, and am wondering if anyone here is familiar enough with the original disc to answer a question or two.

ST:I may have been the first Trek film produced after the invention of DVD, but the disc for it was basically a bare-bones effort; I believe it had only one featurette. ST:N, which came out four years later, was thus the only film to receive an initial DVD release with any significant bonus features. What I am wondering is to what extent the new two-disc set replicates those features.

A bit of background, first.

The first nine films were released on DVD in reverse order, starting with the NextGen films and working backwards to ST2:TWOK. Each of these films was released as a bare-bones disc, with just the movie and a trailer (though ST:I did have the one featurette, and ST4:TVH did have a bonus feature that had been produced for a special VHS edition in the late '80s, I believe).

But when it came time to release the first film ST:TMP in late 2001, Paramount changed gears and released it as a two-disc set, packed with extras and re-edited by the director himself. Paramount then worked its way back up the series, putting out two-disc "director's editions" and "collector's editions" for all the other films -- and with yesterday's release of ST:N, the series of two-disc sets is finally at an end.

Much to my chagrin, the two-disc versions of ST2:TWOK and ST6:TUC were slightly re-edited, and a part of me still thinks about getting the out-of-print single-disc versions just so I'd have every bit of footage released to DVD. Also, the two-disc set for ST4:TVH did not include the 1980s featurette that had been included on the single-disc set, which is a bit of an annoyance. (I do not know whether the two-disc ST:I included the featurette from the single-disc ST:I.)

So I am curious as to whether there is anything on the single-disc ST:N that is not on the two-disc ST:N. Going by Amazon.com, it seems all four featurettes have carried over -- or at least their NAMES have carried over, and it also seems that the new set has all the deleted scenes the earlier set had, and then some. I'm going to assume the director's commentary is the same. The photo gallery and the Deep Space Nine DVD preview don't matter much to me. Anything else I should know about?

#16 Clint M

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Posted 05 October 2005 - 09:03 PM

QUOTE(Peter T Chattaway @ Oct 5 2005, 09:14 PM)
So I am curious as to whether there is anything on the single-disc ST:N that is not on the two-disc ST:N.  Going by Amazon.com, it seems all four featurettes have carried over -- or at least their NAMES have carried over, and it also seems that the new set has all the deleted scenes the earlier set had, and then some.  I'm going to assume the director's commentary is the same.  The photo gallery and the Deep Space Nine DVD preview don't matter much to me.  Anything else I should know about?

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According to this review (scroll down the page past the Batman Begins review):
QUOTE
The most important thing you need to know about the extras on this set, is that EVERYTHING that was available on the previous DVD release has made the transition to the new one.


#17 Overstreet

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Posted 04 December 2005 - 01:37 PM

I am not a Trekkie, not even by the most inclusive standard.

So why did my heart jump when I read this?

I hope the right people are reading this, people who might be able to do something about it. I'd love to see what Singer would do.

#18 CrimsonLine

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Posted 04 December 2005 - 01:46 PM

Yessirree, Bob. THAT would get me wanting to see a Trek movie again. As big a Trekker as I am, I still have not seen Nemesis. But I'd buy my ticket right now to see a Brian Singer Trek movie.

#19 Peter T Chattaway

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Posted 25 April 2006 - 10:23 PM

Is a PREQUEL in the works!?

#20 Peter T Chattaway

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Posted 27 April 2006 - 01:53 PM

Oh yeah, I know, but it posts in a separate thread -- and a temporary one at that, right?