Rob Watches Star Trek: A New Day, A New Generation

***What happens when I, a 30-something-year-old fanboy, decide to look at the Star Trek franchise for the first time with an open heart? You get “Rob Watches Star Trek.”***

SERIES: Star Trek: The Next Generation
TITLE: S1:E1 & E2. “Encounter at Farpoint”
STARRING: Patrick Stewart, Jonathan Frakes, LeVar Burton, Denise Crosby, Michael Dorn
GUEST-STARRING: John de Lancie
WRITERS: Gene Roddenberry, D.C. Fontana
DIRECTOR:
Corey Allen
ORIGINAL AIR DATE:
September 28, 1987
SYNOPSIS:
Captain Picard and members of his crew argue the merits of humanity at Farpoint Station with a mysterious alien entity called Q.

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

New Around here? Check out the “Rob Watches Star Trek” archive!

In years past, I’d tried to watch “Encounter at Farpoint” at least twice, maybe three or four times. But it just didn’t grab me. In fact, on at least one of those occasions I fell asleep. That’s a problem I didn’t expect to have, as so many people told me Star Trek: The Next Generation was the ideal gateway into Star Trek fandom.

Thankfully, I fared better this time.

So we start off with a slightly tweaked version of the “Space…the Final Frontier” intro from our new captain, Jean-Luc Picard, played by the great Patrick Stewart. The conception of Picard is interesting to me, as Kirk is such a tough act to follow. Reportedly, Gene Roddenberry wanted someone who was “masculine, virile, and had a lot of hair.” (So right out of the gate, I consider Picard to be a champion for bald-headed heroes everywhere…) In contrast to Kirk being more of an all-American hero type, Picard is portrayed as more of quiet, brooding Frenchman, who for some reason doesn’t speak with a French accent. Though apparently Stewart did try the accent at one point.

The episode doesn’t waste much time before getting into the action. We meet this strange person/entity called Q, we see what this new Enterprise can do as the saucer separates from the rest of the ship, and Picard and the crew soon find themselves arguing on humanity’s behalf in a kangaroo court in space. Not much of a mind for exposition, which is a little frustrating. But I confess this approach is for the best. Better to get on with the business of the plot than get bogged down with a bunch of information we’ll get eventually, anyway.

Picard refers to the simulated timeframe of the trial as “Mid  21st century. The post-atomic horror.” This would seem to imply we’re about to destroy ourselves with nuclear weapons. That’s kind of a downer…

Tasha Yar, the Enterprise’s security chief, says the court should get on its knees before what Starfleet is, and what it represents. But what is that, exactly? I assume it’s something along the lines of dedication to peace, justice, diversity, discovery, etc. Also, this woman seems shockingly impulsive for a security chief, or for that matter, a security guard. I confess, I took a bit of pleasure when Q froze her solid.

How can you tell this show was made in the ’90s? There’s an indoor shopping mall. Think there’s a Sears in there?

It looks like one of the elements we’ll be exploring is Picard’s solidarity. Note his interactions with Dr. Crusher and Wesley, and his flat out asking Riker to help him around children. There’s a parallel between he and Kirk there. Star Trek V looked a little more in-depth at Kirk not having a family of his own, believing he’d die alone, etc. Of course, the interesting factor there is that this episode predates Star Trek V by about two years. So the movie could very well have drawn inspiration from the show.

There’s also an interesting parallel between Picard and Data. The latter is, of course, a robot who longs to be human. But Picard is, deep down, someone who wants to be more human. He secretly wants more out of his life. Naturally, I suspect we’ll be exploring that as our series progresses.

While Star Trek starts in 2266, Star Trek: TNG begins in 2364. So we’re about a century ahead of where we started. Nevertheless, we get a cameo from a 137-year-old Bones. Apparently, he made it to the rank of admiral, which is odd considering he was talking about retirement in Star Trek VI. Chronologically, this is the character’s final appearance. And so I raise my glass to my favorite character from the original series, and the actor who played him for a quarter century.

While “Encounter at Farpoint” does its job in terms of setting up the show at large, I can’t say it did much for me personally. To be fair, it’s technically two episodes that were originally aired together as a movie. But bluntly put, it’s just not that good as a movie. For newcomers like me, I would suggest “Encounter at Farpoint” be kept divided. I understand TNG had much to establish early on. But there’s such a thing as throwing too much at the audience too soon.

Email Rob at primaryignition@yahoo.com, or check us out on Twitter.

Rob Watches Star Trek: It’s Never Goodbye…

***What happens when I, a 30-something-year-old fanboy, decide to look at the Star Trek franchise for the first time with an open heart? You get “Rob Watches Star Trek.”***

TITLE: Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country
STARRING: William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, DeForest Kelley, Kim Cattrall, Christopher Plummer
DIRECTOR: Nicholas Meyer
WRITERS: Leonard Nimoy, Lawrence Konner, Mark Rosenthal, Nicholas Meyer, Denny Martin Flinn
STUDIOS: Paramount Pictures
RATED: PG
RUN-TIME: 110 min
RELEASED: December 6, 1991

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

New Around here? Check out the “Rob Watches Star Trek” archive!

As we reach the final movie to feature the original Star Trek cast in its entirety, I have to take my hat off to everything the franchise had achieved circa 1991. By this point, it had been more than 20 years since the original show ended. Yet these characters and this universe were still able to sustain themselves through six films, not to mention a short-lived animated show, and a hit spin-off in Star Trek: The Next Generation. In the modern era, where Marvel has made expansive cinematic tie-in universes the “it” thing, can there be any doubt that Star Trek was ahead of its time? I think not. (On a side note, I never realized this movie did the whole autographs-on-the-credits thing so many years before Avengers: Endgame.)

I only wish these characters could have gone out on a higher note. Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country isn’t a bad movie. But it doesn’t have the same epic feel as The Wrath of Khan, the light-hearted throwback appeal of The Voyage Home, or even the infamous reputation of The Final Frontier. It exists on an awkward level somewhere above mediocre, but below good.

After the destruction of a moon throws their empire into chaos, the notorious Klingon race seeks to make peace with the United Federation of Planets. Much to his dismay, Captain James T. Kirk is chosen to escort Klingon ambassadors to Earth so that peace talks may commence. But when the Enterprise inexplicably fires on the Klingons from out of nowhere, Kirk is framed and imprisoned on a frigid planet with Bones in tow. Now they must survive their new, hostile environment as Spock and the rest of the crew search for the truth.

I can’t even tell you how happy I was to see The Undiscovered Country do something its predecessors all failed to do: Give the proper emotional weight to the death of Kirk’s son David. After some of the things we saw on the show, Kirk has every reason not to trust the Klingons. But remember, David was killed by a Klingon in Star Trek III. As such, Kirk has just cause to flat out hate the Klingons. You’re not likely to find better fuel for drama than that. It’s not explored very much, but at least the film remembered that David existed. Is it a coincidence that it happened in a film that was directed and co-written by Nicholas Meyer, who directed David’s first appearance in The Wrath of Khan? Probably not.

Star Trek VI is full of Shakespearean quotes and Cold War allegories. That’s all well and good. I actually like the them being about how people chose to deal with change. I just don’t know that it made the most of its premise.

For my money, the most interesting part of the movie is Kirk being framed for the murder of the Klingon ambassadors. If I’ve got the keys to Star Trek VI, I make that the core of the movie. We’d be with Kirk at the prison colony has he wrestles with Bones over whether the Klingons deserved to die for all they’d done. Meanwhile, Spock and the others work to solve the mystery of who did attack the ambassadors. They ultimately springing Kirk and Bones from the prison during Kirk’s fight with the big alien brute (Whose genitals are mysteriously on his knees…?). The Enterprise then brings the culprit to the peace talks between the Klingons and the Federation, clearing Kirk’s name. Thus, we have a more exciting and character-driven movie that’s a little more sleek in terms of its story structure.

Incidentally, is that Worf from Star Trek: The Next Generation that we see representing Kirk and Bones at their trial? *Googles it* Ohhhhhh, okay. So it’s Worf’s ancestor…who is also named Worf? Go figure.

So how does Star Trek VI fare as a swan song for Kirk, Spock, and the crew? Meh. Kirk’s quoting of Peter Pan was a nice little moment. But the Earth didn’t exactly move for me. But after more than 20 years, and all that had been done with these characters, how does one even begin to tell a farewell story that does justice to them all? What’s more, a story that definitively and convincingly says farewell? It’s a tall task by anyone’s standards.

Plus, one can argue it’s all for naught anyway. While this was indeed the last time the crew was all together, Kirk and a few others were in 1994’s Star Trek Generations. And of course, we’d see Spock many years later in the J.J. Abrams movies. 

That’s the thing about beloved and iconic characters like these. It’s never goodbye. Not really. There’s always another story to tell, and another adventure to go on…

Email Rob at primaryignition@yahoo.com, or check us out on Twitter.

Rob Watches Star Trek: Fumbling the Ball

***What happens when I, a 30-something-year-old fanboy, decide to look at the Star Trek franchise for the first time with an open heart? You get “Rob Watches Star Trek.”***

TITLE: Star Trek V: The Final Frontier
STARRING: William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, DeForest Kelley, Laurence Luckinbill, James Doohan
DIRECTOR: William Shatner
WRITER: William Shatner (Story), Harve Bennett (Story), David Loughery (Screenplay)
STUDIOS: Paramount Pictures
RATED: PG
RUN-TIME: 106 min
RELEASED: June 9, 1989

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

New Around here? Check out the “Rob Watches Star Trek” archive!

Star Trek V is considered by many to be the worst of the franchise. Certainly it’s the red-headed stepchild among the films featuring the original cast. Case in point, Rotten Tomatoes gives it a 21%. Most of the other OG Star Trek films scored in the 70th or 80th percentile. The one with the closest score is the first film, which has 41%.

I can’t necessarily disagree, or say that Star Trek V is a good movie. What I can say is that, like most bad movies, there’s a good movie in there somewhere. You just have to squint to see it. And frankly, I didn’t have to squint very hard at Star Trek V.

The movie certainly takes a hell of a leap from the last one. We go from searching for whales in Star Trek IV, to searching for God in Star Trek V. Indeed, a renegade vulcan named Sybok claims to have a path to the planet where creation originated. He also has a mysterious ability to “take away” the pain of any person he wills. Against their will, Kirk, Spock, Bones, and the others soon find themselves at the mercy of Sybok, and even on the receiving end of his powers. But the most pressing question remains: Can Sybok back up his claims? Can he truly take them to where life began?

One of the major issues with Star Trek V is that its tongue is planted so firmly in its cheek. In Star Trek IV, we learned we didn’t always have to be so big, epic, and serious about everything. That lighter tone is what makes The Voyage Home my favorite among the Star Trek films so far. Remember, this is supposed to be fun…

But Star Trek V takes the humor too far. What should ultimately be a story about Kirk, Spock, and Bones being a little surrogate family becomes something that’s almost a parody of the Star Trek franchise at large. We’ve gone from one extreme to the other. Star Trek III tried to be too serious. Star Trek V isn’t serious enough. Star Trek IV was the happy medium between the two.

Simply put, there are too many jokes. And often they come at awkward times. We get Kirk falling off a friggin’ mountain, a bizarre campfire sing-along, Kirk lamenting for his old captain’s chair, would-be comedic attempts at escape, just to name a few. These moments aren’t necessarily offensive on their own. It’s the accumulation that becomes an issue.

Star Trek V states its thesis early on, and it’s a damn good one. Kirk, Spock, and Bones are sitting around said campfire, and Kirk says he knows he’ll die alone. Bones wonders what draws the three of them together, adding that other people have families to go home to.

“Not us, Bones,” Kirk says. “Not us.”

And there it is right there. Family. These three men, through all their adventures, trials, and tribulations together, have become like family. Despite all Kirk has been through, he’s not really alone. Kirk doesn’t have a family by blood. But he has the family he’s chosen. This idea takes a twist later on, when we discover that our villain Sybok is actually Spock’s half-brother.

Mixed in with that family theme is one of pain. What we do with pain, how it defines us, and who we become if it’s taken away. There’s a really intriguing sequence toward the middle of the movie where Sybok ventures inside the hearts and minds of Bones and Spock, and see where their greatest pain lays. With Bones, it’s that he took his dying father off life support. For Spock, it’s in his attempts to earn the approval of his father. Kirk cuts Sybok off before he can explore his pain, saying his pain makes him who he is. “I don’t want my pain taken away,” he says. “I need my pain.”

And of course, how do we deal with pain? By leaning on the ones we love. On our family. That’s beautiful, and great territory for a Star Trek movie. I only wish the film had taken more time to explore it, instead of getting caught up searching for, of all things, God.

One one hand, I can see going that route. The movie is called The Final Frontier, and is man’s search for meaning and answers not the ultimate frontier? The ultimate journey?

But on the other hand, Why even go there? To put it in pro wrestling terms: What’s the finish? God is a weird thing to have to deliver. How do you portray Him without offending part of your audience? And what do your characters do once they meet God? What about afterward? I imagine God is a pretty tough act to follow…

Conspicuous by his presence in the director’s chair is William Shatner, who was also involved in the writing of the film. Apparently he was inspired by televangelists, and people supposedly “speaking” to God. That’s an interesting idea, and again, fertile territory for Star Trek. But did we have to actually search for God Himself?

How about this: Sybok (shown above) emerges as the leader of his own cult/church. His followers, which perhaps include a mix of Klingons, Romulans, and other evil aliens from Star Trek lore, storm Federation occupied space in the name of “God.” Kirk and the Enterprise go up against them, in the process learning Sybok is Spock’s half-brother. In the end, they expose him as a fraud.

I do, however, like the conclusion the movie comes to: The God is inside all of us. That feels like something they’d have done on the show.

Part of me wishes Sybok had only looked into Kirk’s mind, as opposed to Bones and Spock. There’s so much fertile ground to cover there. As I’ve been so fond of pointing out, HIS FRIGGIN’ SON WAS KILLED. It would then be up to Spock and Bones to convince him not to have that pain taken away, despite the great temptation. Yet another chance to explore David’s death that’s completely passed up. Heck, knowing these movies even if they had gone that route they’d have ignored David and explored something else entirely…

Question: Is this movie trying to tell us that Scotty and Uhura are together? Or at least romantically interested in one another? If so, why? After all these years, why those two? (Although I suppose a valid could be, why not those two?)

And while we’re talking about her, yes, having Uhura do that naked dance thing was weird. It felt beneath her character. Even though they used her for sexual purposes in “Plato’s Stepchildren” as well, this felt like a needless and frankly bad attempt at comedy.

Star Trek V fumbled the ball in terms of both story and tone. After 30 years, it’s pretty tough to deny it. But I don’t think it was bad at the idea stage. Conceptually, this could have been the best of the Star Trek series. What a shame it ended up among the worst.

Email Rob at primaryignition@yahoo.com, or check us out on Twitter.

Rob Watches Star Trek: Back to Basics

***What happens when I, a 30-something-year-old fanboy, decide to look at the Star Trek franchise for the first time with an open heart? You get “Rob Watches Star Trek.”***

TITLE: Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home
STARRING: William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, DeForest Kelley, James Doohan, George Takei
DIRECTOR: Leonard Nimoy
WRITERS: Harve Bennett (Story), Leonard Nimoy (Story), Steve Meerson, Peter Krikes, Nicholas Meyer
STUDIOS: Paramount Pictures
RATED: PG
RUN-TIME: 122 min
RELEASED: November 26, 1986

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

New Around here? Check out the “Rob Watches Star Trek” archive!

There’s a moment in Star Trek IV where Uhura looks to Kirk and says, “Admiral, I am receiving whale song!” Now that’s just wild and random enough to come from a classic Star Trek episode. And for yours truly, that’s where much of the appeal of Star Trek IV: The Voyage  Home is.

Months after the events of Star Trek III, an alien probe causes catastrophic effects on Earth. The global power grid fails, storms rage, and cloud formation threatens to block out the sun. But what is the probe’s purpose? A clue leads Kirk and the crew back to the year 1986 in pursuit of, believe it or not, humpback whales.

The Voyage Home made me feel like I was watching the original series again. In true original series fashion, they even found a silly way to disguise Spock’s ears. One can certainly argue it’s too derivative, as they did time-travel episodes numerous times on the old show. And of course, Kirk finds a love interest.

Star Trek IV is funnier than its three predecessors, which is frankly refreshing. Shatner is particularly strong when it comes to comedy. The other movies had their funny moments. But by and large they took themselves so seriously. Of course, Star Trek had that epic action and adventure feel when it needed to. But it also wasn’t afraid to have fun. Cast in point, The Trouble With Tribbles. It’s a perennial favorite, while being played almost entirely for laughs.

One major caveat: As someone just seeing these movies for the first time, I continue to be frustrated at the glossing over of the death of David, Kirk’s son. With the benefit of hindsight, it’s obvious they should have either kept him out of the third film, or scrapped the idea of giving Kirk a son altogether. My point from Star Trek III stands here in Star Trek IV: Kirk should be grief-stricken over the loss of David. Perhaps even a little resentful that Spock got to come back to life, but David won’t. Instead, the movie has the Saavik character pop in to mention him out of obligation if nothing else. Not developing or playing with the David character is the biggest missed opportunity I’ve seen in Star Trek thus far.

On the subject of casting, I love that they got Mark Lenard to come back as Spock’s father in both this film and the last one. The exchange he has with Spock toward the end is very satisfying, and feels like a pay-off from the show. As a bonus, we also get Jane Wyatt back this time as Spock’s mother.

In what wound up being an odd twist of fate, Kirk’s love interest Gilian is played by Catherine Hicks, who on 7th Heaven would play opposite Stephen Collins, who played Decker in the first film. Her scenes with William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy have a certain quaint charm to them. The fact that Hicks is 20 years younger than Shatner is a bit odd, but not unforgivable.

Not surprisingly, the one crew member who gets in trouble and slows them down is Chekov. I wish I could say I’ve come to like him. On the upside, Kirk, Gilian, and Bones have to rescue him from a hospital. That gives us a chance to see the Enterprise‘s resident doctor in a 20th century medical facility, which is kinda cool.

One thing I enjoyed about Star Trek IV is that almost every member of our crew has something to do, a role to play in the story. Everyone that is, except for Sulu. For whatever reason, after they go back in time, Sulu has a little exchange with a helicopter pilot, and then we don’t see him again until much later in the movie. What gives? Why couldn’t they have left friggin’ Chekov behind?

The story revolving around the acquisition of two Humpback in a time-travel science fiction film is unusual. But it’s that eccentricity that makes it work so well. After seeing the three previous films, you’d never be able to predict the third one being about, of all things, whales. It’s just weird enough to be a perfect fit for a Star Trek story.

Another cool pay-off the movie gives us from the show is that we actually get to see the “light-speed breakaway factor” alluded to in “Assignment: Earth.” That bit of expository dialogue definitely came back to beniefit them. The light-speed breakaway factor more or less becomes the Star Trek equivalent of the DeLorean from Back to the Future.

In my book, that’s this film’s biggest accomplishment. It took us four tries, but we finally got a movie that feels faithful to the Star Trek TV show. And after watching hours of doom, gloom, and lengthy shots of space vortexes in the previous movies, it’s damn good to have Trek back.

Email Rob at primaryignition@yahoo.com, or check us out on Twitter.

Rob Watches Star Trek: So Much to Do, So Little Time

TITLE: Star Trek III: The Search For Spock
STARRING: William Shatner, Christopher Lloyd, DeForest Kelley, James Doohan, George Takei
DIRECTOR: Leonard Nimoy
WRITER: Harve Bennett
STUDIOS: Paramount Pictures
RATED: PG
RUN-TIME: 105 min
RELEASED: June 1, 1984

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

I’m in awe that Leonard Nimoy directed not only this movie, but the next one as well. Can you imagine that kind of thing happening today? Say they put Mark Hamill in the director’s chair for a Star Wars movie. Or Tobey Maguire in charge of a Spider-Man flick. They’d be hounded by toxic fans to the point of never wanting to touch the franchise ever again.

Fresh off the events of Star Trek II, Star Trek III brings us the revelation that Spock’s “living spirit” is in limbo, and has found a home in the mind of Bones. Thus, Kirk and the crew set out for Genesis to reunite Spock’s spirit with his body. But they do so against the will of the Federation, and must steal the now decommissioned Enterprise. All the while, the Genesis project has caught the attention of the Klingons, who want its power as their own.

A lot happens in Star Trek III. Like, a lot. Even when you set aside the fact that they’re trying to friggin’ resurrect the dead. Kirk’s son dies. The Enterprise blows up. We have all these big emotional moments between characters as they risk their lives and careers to save Spock. On paper, this movie is just as epic and impactful as The Wrath of Khan. If not more so.

So why is it strictly okay? Why doesn’t it hold up as a successor to The Wrath of Khan?

For my money, it’s the old “10 pounds of stuff in a five pound bag” metaphor. There’s so much going on that these big moments don’t necessarily have the impact they need and deserve. Chief among them is what happens to Kirk’s son David, who we met in The Wrath of Khan. The villain kills him off during the second half of the movie. Naturally, Kirk is grief-stricken. The Search For Spock does it’s best to give it proper weight. But in trying to wrap up all the film’s plot threads, there isn’t enough time. Yes, Kirk is distraught about his son. But this is the death of his child. He should be absolutely destroyed to the point that he needs the entire movie to bring himself to suit back up.

Furthermore, Star Trek III robs the premise of Kirk having a long-lost son of any story potential it may have had. How do father and son adjust to this new connection? What role do they play in each other’s lives? Does David become a liability for Kirk in the field? Granted, David wasn’t the most compelling character in the world. But Star Trek III removes the opportunity to make him compelling.

David’s death might have been more impactful had it come at the hands of a more interesting villain. Kruge, the lead Klingon, comes off as a hollow mustache-twirler. Yes, Christopher Lloyd is fun. But he’s also campy. That’s not what you want to follow The Wrath of Khan with.

Still, the movie isn’t without its fun elements. I love that Spock’s living spirit ended up with Bones. If anything, that should have been explored more. Actually, in hindsight, that should have been an episode of the series. It’s a fantastic way to not only contrast Spock and Bones, but give them insight into one another.

Star Trek III also continues something started in Star Trek II that I find very important: It emphasizes that these people are friends. Not just Kirk, Spock, and Bones, but the entire crew. That’s why they’re willing to risk their careers to steal the Enterprise and go after Spock.

I wish they could have had more fun with the stealing of the Enterprise. Sort of like a mini heist movie within the movie. Have Kirk, Spock, and Chekov do the grunt work while Scotty and Uhura work remotely. A Star Trek heist movie could have been fun, and a good way to make this story a very different animal from The Wrath of Khan.

But alas, Star Trek III feels like a younger sibling trying to live up to an older sibling’s achievements. It pales in comparison, of course. In hindsight, I wish Nimoy had been given a better script for his directorial debut. Thankfully he’d get another chance with Star Trek IV

Email Rob at primaryignition@yahoo.com, or check us out on Twitter.

Rob Watches Star Trek: Kirk the Jerk?

***What happens when I, a 30-something-year-old fanboy, decide to look at the Star Trek franchise for the first time with an open heart? You get “Rob Watches Star Trek.”***

TITLE: Star Trek: The Motion Picture
STARRING: William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, DeForest Kelley, Stephen Collins, Persis Khambatta
DIRECTOR: Robert Wise
WRITERS: Alan Dean Foster (Story), Harold Livingston (Screenplay)
STUDIOS: Paramount Pictures, Century Associates
RATED: G
RUN-TIME: 132 min
RELEASED: December 7, 1979

By Rob Siebert
Trekkie-in-Training

I came into Star Trek: The Motion Picture ready to be bored. This is, after all, the film infamously called the “Slow Motion Picture.”

But boring isn’t what I got out of it. There are slow portions, obviously. But I wasn’t bored at any point. To yours truly, the story of Star Trek: The Motion Picture is one of a charmingly odd sci-fi flick that missed out on some of its potential.

Eighteen months after the end of the five-year mission, Kirk has been promoted to admiral. But when a mysterious and destructive energy cloud is discovered to be on a collision course with Earth, Kirk takes it upon himself to investigate the mysterious entity aboard a refitted Enterprise. But while there are many familiar faces aboard, this is not the Enterprise Kirk remembers, and he hasn’t been a starship captain in quite some time. Meanwhile, Spock feels a telepathic connection with the entity that will serve to guide the Enterprise on its mission.

Watching the film for the first time in 2020 means there’s a giant elephant in the room whenever Stephen Collins is on screen as Decker. Not because of 7th Heaven, but because of what we’d later learn about him. Years ago, I made the mistake of listening to the recording that came out of him talking about what he’d done. I now desperately wish I hadn’t.

Star Trek: The Motion Picture reportedly had a very rushed production schedule. So much so that director Robert Wise once said he felt the final film was only a rough cut of the one he wanted to make. I can only assumed this rush to the finish line is the reason much of the movie seems to be not very well thought out.

For instance, the main thing I took away from the movie was just how wrong Kirk is. When he decides to investigate what we later learn is the V’Ger entity, he uses his authority as an admiral to forcefully replace Decker as captain of the Enterprise. The two then proceed to clash over how to advance the mission, with Decker ultimately being vindicated. We see that, despite his noble intentions, Kirk is out of practice when it comes to captaining a starship.

This tension between Kirk and Decker is there by design, and is the most interesting part of the movie. The problem I have with it is that it only gets a half-hearted resolution about midway through the film. We don’t really get to savor the meat of the issue. It eventually becomes a moot point. But beforehand, why not throw in some kind of sequence where Kirk admits to Decker that he was wrong and restores his rank, only to have Decker turn him down? That way, we get a satisfactory conclusion to the arc, and Kirk doesn’t look like such a jerk…

If you’d asked me to guess before hand who would get the film’s best entrance, my guess wouldn’t have been Bones. But low and behold, there he is. Beamed in with his space disco suit and medallion, griping about how he’s been drafted back into service. Moments later, he’s part of get of the best character moments in the film when Kirk, in a moment of vulnerability, tells Bones he needs him. In that moment Bones’ demeanor changes, and albeit still somewhat begrudgingly, he once again becomes the Enterprise‘s resident doctor.

The character who undergoes the biggest, and yet surprisingly understated, transformation is Spock. At the start of the movie, he’s on Vulcan taking part in a ceremony signifying the purging of all emotion. When he returns to the Enterprise, he’s as cold and stoic as ever. But after journeying into space and mind-melding with the V’Ger entity, he’s a changed man. In an exchange with Kirk in sick bay, Spock says…

“…with all its pure logic, V’Ger is barren. Cold. No mystery. No Beauty. Should’ve known. … [Spock takes Kirk’s hand.] This simple feeling is beyond V’Ger’s comprehension. No meaning. No hope. Jim, no answers. It’s asking questions. ‘Is this all that I am? Is there nothing more?'”

In asking those questions, the V’Ger entity thereby prompts Spock to ask himself those very same questions. Thus, to an extent, his character arc is complete. He realizes the value of emotion and feeling as opposed to pure logic. I like this. I just wish it had been given a little more emphasis outside of that one scene. After all, Spock’s relationship with his own feelings is one of the tentpole subjects the original series revolved around.

Star Trek: The Motion Picture was developed from what was to have been an episode of a new series, Star Trek: Phase II. Complete with new characters Decker and Ilia. If you look at the plot without the elements needed to put Kirk, Spock, and the gang back together, it does indeed look like something they’d have done on the original series. The Enterprise comes into contact with a mysterious entity in space, it possesses Ilia, hijinks ensue and things are back to business as usual at the end.

But while the movie does feel reminiscent of the show in that sense, something on this scale that’s meant for both Star Trek fans and general audiences would likely have benefited from a conventional villain. Obviously, The Wrath of Khan would go on to justify that sentiment. That’s not to say Kirk needed a bad guy to punch. But a big sentient energy cloud isn’t necessarily who I’d have picked to match up against the Enterprise crew in their cinematic debut.

What’s more, the interior of the Enterprise doesn’t look or feel as fun as it did on the TV show. All the bright colors, campy as they were, are missed. The “refitted” Enterprise looks more like a refurbished dentist’s office.

Imagine my surprise at hearing what I thought was the Star Trek: The Next Generation theme. Star Trek: The Motion Picture marked the first time that classic score by Jerry Goldsmith was heard. Apparently, Goldsmith was Gene Roddenberry’s first choice as composer for the original Star Trek pilot. How fitting that he came back to create what to this day is the franchise’s most recognizable theme.

There’s a famous klunker of a line in this movie that I’d hoped wasn’t as bad as legend tells. Sadly, it’s everything I’d heard it was. During Ilia’s introduction, out of the clear blue sky, she says, “My oath of celibacy is on record, captain.” The movie seems to try and justify this line by having Sulu and Chekov gawk at her when she walks on to the bridge. But it clearly wasn’t enough. Over 40 years later, it still comes off creepy and weird.

But for my money, an even bigger klunker comes from Kirk about midway through the film. His line is, “Stop competing with me, Decker.” But for whatever reason it comes out, “Stop…….com…petingwithmeDecker.”

In some circles, Star Trek: The Motion Picture is considered the worst of the six films based on the original series. Perhaps the worst in the franchise overall. Certainly the film is deeply flawed, and perhaps even ill-conceived. But even as someone fairly new to Star Trek, I still found it enjoyable. It’s not worthy of being the franchise’s big-screen debut. But it has its merits. Mostly in the smaller, quieter moments between the characters we know and love from the show.

For more “Rob Watches Star Trek,” check out the archives.

Email Rob at primaryignition@yahoo.com, or check us out on Twitter.

Rob Watches Star Trek: Captain Spock

***What happens when I, a 30-something-year-old fanboy, decide to look at the Star Trek franchise for the first time with an open heart? You get “Rob Watches Star Trek.”***

SERIES: Star Trek
EPISODE: S1.E16. “The Galileo Seven”
STARRING: William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, DeForest Kelley, James Doohan
GUEST-STARRING: Don Marshall, John Crawford
WRITERS: Oliver Crawford (Story & Teleplay), S. Bar-David (Teleplay)
DIRECTOR: Robert Gist
ORIGINAL AIR DATE: January 5, 1967
SYNOPSIS: Spock, Bones, and Scotty are among seven crew members who crash land on a planet populated by giants. Spock must decide if they all are able to make a return trip.

By Rob Siebert
Trekkie-in-Training

I get the sense I’d have enjoyed “The Galileo Seven” more if I hadn’t backtracked and seen it after the season three episode, “The Tholian Web.” The latter is, to me, the definite episode about the dynamic between Spock and Bones. But if “The Tholian Web” didn’t exist, that distinction would likely belong to this episode.

This is, however, a pretty good character episode for Spock. It essentially shows us what he would be like as a captain, and he does a fine job at it. Is he more abrasive than Kirk? Absolutely. But by no means is he a bad leader.

The most important thing we learn about Spock in this episode is that living a life spearheaded by logic doesn’t mean living without compassion.

“The Galileo Seven” sees our heroes hopelessly marooned on a planet populated by giants. It’s nearly impossible for them to be found unless they can get their ship back in the air. What’s more, they’re working against the clock, as the Enterprise is scheduled to deliver crucial supplies to a space colony. Spock quickly surmises that having three men stay behind would lighten the load on the ship, thus increasing its chances of taking off. He, as the leader, would choose the individuals to stay behind. Naturally, this course of action is met with much resistance.

A short time later, one of the crewmen is killed by the natives. When Lieutenant Boma, a clearly emotional man and an obvious rival of Spock’s, wants to have a funeral for his lost comrade, Spock refuses to participate, nothing the time limit they’re under.

So Spock is pragmatic. Not a bad quality in a leader, per se. He’s willing to make hard choices, including ones that are vehemently unpopular. This initially makes it seem like his logical M.O. has left him numb to any potential cost of life. But when two of the remaining crewman are adamant that they strike back with deadly force, Spock responds with…

“I’m frequently appalled by the low regard you Earth men have for life. … To take life indiscriminately. … I’m not interested in the opinion of the majority, Mr. Gaetano. Components must be weighed – Our dangers to ourselves, as well as our duties to other life forms, friendly or not.”

So Spock does care about life. He doesn’t lack empathy. He lacks attachments that might cloud his logical judgment or create a conflict of interest. As we’ve indicated previously, Spock isn’t a robot. He’s a man devoted to his principles, which happen to fly in the face of how most humans life their lives.

While “The Galileo Seven” is clearly a Spock-focused episode, oddly enough, it was Kirk who stole the episode for me. As Spock and the others are lost, Kirk is under pressure from a Federation official to leave the system soon as possible. Kirk, however, insists on continuing to search for the others, saying they are “my friends and my shipmates.”

I love that. Kirk doesn’t simply categorize these people as crew members on his ship. Bones, Scotty, and even the ever-stoic Spock, are his friends. Seeing how invested Kirk is in them allows me to be invested as well.

And there you have it. Two very compassionate men. But that compassion is expressed in two very different ways.

For more “Rob Watches Star Trek,” check out the archive.

Email Rob at primaryignition@yahoo.com, or check us out on Twitter.

Rob Watches Star Trek: Intergalactic Species Osmosis

***What happens when I, a 30-something-year-old fanboy, decide to look at the Star Trek franchise for the first time with an open heart? You get “Rob Watches Star Trek.”***

SERIES: Star Trek
EPISODE: S3.E23. “All Our Yesterdays”
STARRING: William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, DeForest Kelley
GUEST-STARRING: Mariette Hartley, Ian Wolfe
WRITER: Jean Lisette Aroeste
DIRECTOR: Marvin Chomsky
ORIGINAL AIR DATE: March 14, 1969
SYNOPSIS: Kirk, Spock, and Bones are trapped in the past on an alien world. Spock finds an unlikely romance.

I’m calling BS on “All Our Yesterdays.” This episode has been cited by some as one of the best for the Spock character. Don’t be fooled. It’s not.

The episode brings Kirk, Spock, and Bones to the planet Sarpeidon. There they find a strange library containing time portals to different points in Sarpeidon’s history. Shenanigans ensue and Kirk more or less winds up in 17th century England. Meanwhile, Spock and Bones are stuck in an arctic wilderness 5,000 years in the past.

It’s there they are rescued by Zarabeth, a woman marooned alone in this time period. A woman Spock suddenly and inexplicably becomes attracted to. We later learn that because they’ve traveled back to a time before the Vulcan race purged themselves of emotion, Spock is reverting to match the Vulcans of this era.

Nope. Sorry. Doesn’t work for me.

Giving Spock a love interest, even for just one episode, isn’t a bad idea. But his stoic demeanor is integrally woven into the fabric of the series. So if you’re going to do that story, you’d better make it good. They didn’t do that here. In addition, the mechanics of it are, as Spock would deem them, most illogical.

So the idea is that Spock is suddenly emotional and amorous because that’s how the other Vulcans in this time period are. But what kinda sense does that make? If I travel to Mars, then hop in a time machine and go 2.5 million years into the past, do I gradually become a caveman by intergalactic species osmosis? Probably not. Hell, the notion wouldn’t have even occurred to Spock if Bones, of all people, hadn’t brought it up.

Question: Why not give Bones the love interest? My understanding is the show had done a similar “Spock in love” plot like this before. Whereas the last time we saw Bones have romantic inclinations was way back in “The Man Trap.”

Obviously, they wanted Spock and Bones together in this episode so their conflicting personalities could rub up against each other, even as Spock becomes prone to the human emotion he so often frowns upon in people like Bones. But wouldn’t it work better the other way around? It would certainly seem more natural for Spock to be the cold (no pun intended), emotionless one thinking of ways to get back home, while Bones pines for they’re rescuer. Then in the end, Bones is forced to adhere to Spock’s logical methodology in order to survive.

The episode tries to give the two a poignant moment at the end, where Bones checks on Spock after they’ve returned and left Zarabeth in the past. It doesn’t necessarily work, as Spock has returned to his normal, emotionless self. But if the roles are reversed, Bones would be able to tell Spock he’s not okay. Spock, in a rare moment of human compassion, could then tell Bones he’s sorry for his loss. Thus, creating a special moment between the two.

Sadly, “All Our Yesterdays” is an episode ripe with missed opportunities. Even sadder is the fact that it’s the penultimate episode of the show. I couldn’t help but wonder if by this point, the Star Trek showrunners knew the show was likely to be cancelled and had themselves a case of Senioritis.

In actuality, the last day of filming on season three of Star Trek was January 9, 1969. The show was officially canceled the following month. It had hung on for three seasons. But despite the devotion of its fans, who’d launched numerous letter-writing campaigns in support of the series, Star Trek was finally gone…

Or so they thought.

For more “Rob Watches Star Trek,” check out the archives.

Email Rob at primaryignition@yahoo.com, or check us out on Twitter.

Rob Watches Star Trek: Kirk as a Horse?

***What happens when I, a 30-something-year-old fanboy, decide to look at the Star Trek franchise for the first time with an open heart? You get “Rob Watches Star Trek.”***

SERIES: Star Trek
EPISODE: S3:E10. “Plato’s Stepchildren”
STARRING: William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, DeForest Kelley, Nichelle Nichols
GUEST-STARRING: Michael Dunn, Liam Sullivan
WRITER: Meyer Dolinsky
DIRECTOR: David Alexander
ORIGINAL AIR DATE: November 1, 1968
SYNOPSIS: Kirk, Spock, and Bones are taken captive by a group with telekinetic abilities, who take inspiration from the Greek philosopher Plato.

By Rob Siebert
Trekkie-in-Training

This episode is, of course, famous for containing television’s first interracial kiss. That moment between William Shatner and Nichelle Nichols is rightfully iconic.

That being said, not only has the kiss been discussed to death, but I’m hardly qualified to talk in depth about it. Plus, while I give it all the respect it deserves, it’s not what I came away from “Plato’s Stepchildren” thinking about.

The episode is about Kirk, Spock, and Bones becoming trapped on a planet that houses a group of very powerful telekinetics. So powerful they can manipulate people’s bodies against their will. When they want Bones to stay on world and be their resident doctor, he refuses. Thus their leader Parmen proceeds to use Kirk and Spock as his personal playthings until Bones acquiesces.

Naturally, this episode calls for Kirk and Spock to perform a bunch of demeaning tasks at the behest of Parmen. Initially, it comes off as the typical brand of camp you’d see from a classic Star Trek episode. Kirk hits himself in the face several times. Parmen forces Spock to laugh and sob uncontrollably. Later, Uhura and Nurse Chapel are brought in and forced to passionately kiss Kirk and Spock respectively. That’s obviously where we get our famous interracial kiss. It’s all territory you’d expect to venture through in a story like this.

But there’s also a moment that I’ll call “the horse sequence.” In the more than 25 episodes of Star Trek I’ve now seen, the horse sequence is the only point I’ve actually been made to feel uncomfortable. And I’m not even sure I should be uncomfortable.

Among the titular “stepchildren” is a little person named Alexander, who lacks the powers his taller brethren have. The horse sequence in question happens when Alexander climbs on Kirk’s back, and as Kirk is on all fours, proceeds to ride him like a horse. Quite literally, as Kirk actually whinnies (shown below).

It’s not that the act in itself is hugely offensive, though I’m sure little people aren’t overjoyed at it. But when I saw it, I went from laughing and enjoying a performance to feeling sorry for the performers.

And yet, that’s what the sequence is designed to do, isn’t it? We’re supposed to be aghast and hate the villain as we feel remorse for our hero. So what is it about this moment that breaks the illusion of the show? It’s tough to put your finger on…

My best guess? They got too silly. This might have looked right on paper. But on screen? Pass.

Here’s my question: Why not have Parmen force Kirk and Spock to fight like a child playing with toys? Yes, we’ve seen them fight before. But there’s a helplessness here that’s obviously very different.

I’ve got to hand it to William Shatner, though. They told him to be a horse, and he went for it. He turned into a by God horse. Maybe that’s why it was so uncomfortable. He believed. So I believed.

Email Rob at primaryignition@yahoo.com, or check us out on Twitter.

Rob Watches Star Trek: A Broken Triad

***What happens when I, a 30-something-year-old fanboy, decide to look at the Star Trek franchise for the first time with an open heart? You get “Rob Watches Star Trek.”***

SERIES: Star Trek
EPISODE: S3:E9. “The Tholian Web”
STARRING: William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, DeForest Kelley, James Doohan, Nichelle Nichols
WRITERS: Judy Burns, Chet Richards
DIRECTOR: Herb Wallerstein
ORIGINAL AIR DATE: November 15, 1968
SYNOPSIS:
Kirk is presumed dead as an alien race builds a destructive web around the Enterprise.

By Rob Siebert
Trekkie-in-Training

“It’s the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man.”

Those are the exact words that came out of my mouth when I saw Kirk, Spock, and the others wearing those space suits in “The Tholian Web” (shown above). And in my head, they came out in Dan Aykroyd’s voice.

I couldn’t help it. It just popped in there.

I jest, but “The Tholian Web” is actually a really good episode. It tells a story that, in hindsight, it’s surprising we didn’t get much sooner. Kirk is presumed dead after slipping through a dimensional rift. Thus, the Enterprise crew must now accept that their captain is gone, while at the same time adjusting to Spock being in command. All the while, the random crew members, including Chekov, are going insane thanks to a condition spread to them from a doomed starship. As if that weren’t enough, the ship is facing hostility from the Tholians, an alien race that lays claim to this region of the galaxy. They are constructing a destructive energy web around the Enterprise. Oh, and by the way, Kirk might just be alive. The stakes are high and the pressure is on. This is good storytelling.

The core of Star Trek lays in the dynamic between Kirk, Spock, and Bones. Kirk is the centerpiece, with the other two essentially acting as conflicting voices in his ear. Spock offers cold, hard logic and facts. While Bones, in many ways, embodies the human emotion that Spock claims to reject. He’s the everyman (despite his impossible ability to reattach a human brain). With Kirk gone, those two voices are left to argue unchecked, and must learn to coexist peacefully.

The episode manages to serve all three characters well. None more so than Kirk, who is absent for most of the episode. Look no further than the scene where Spock and Bones view the recording Kirk left for them in the event of his death. He knows the two will be butt heads in his absence. But he urges them to lean on each other, listen to one another, and seek guidance from one another. 

While “Balance of Terror” showed us the the burden Jim Kirk bears as a starship captain, “The Tholian Web” illustrates the importance of Jim Kirk the human being. Why he is the best person to command the Enterprise.

One character this episode does not serve well? Chekov. Granted, it doesn’t help that I viewed this episode after “Day of the Dove,” another episode where he loses his mind temporarily. But every time I see him on screen, his face seems to get more and more smackable.

Chekov falls into that dreaded category of characters that were added so a show could appeal to a younger audience. Usually kids. Though in this case, teenagers. Legend has it Walter Koenig, who played Chekov, was cast because he looked like Davy Jones of the Monkees. (The resemblance is quite uncanny.) At one point, Gene Roddenberry apparently wrote in a memo that Kirk, Spock, and the others seemed “middle aged” compared to Chekov.

The reason that’s hilarious? Koenig is only about five years younger than William Shatner. As of this writing, Shatner is 89. Koenig is 84, and would have been in his early 30s when this show aired in 1968. Davy Jones, meanwhile, was about 10 years younger than Koenig.

Hey, wait…I’m in my 30s. Does that mean I can still appeal to teen audiences?!?

Email Rob at primaryignition@yahoo.com, or check us out on Twitter.