Talking Star Trek V with the Trek Geeks!

TrekGeeksLogoBecause sure, two interviews posted in as many days isn’t annoying. At all.

To be fair, this really isn’t an interview so much as it is three fans sitting around, yakking about Star Trek. In this instance, it’s me joining Trek Geeks hosts Bill Smith and Dan Davidson to talk about – and even to defend to a certain degree – Star Trek V: The Final Frontier.

“Wait….what?” I can hear some overeager Star Trek fan starting to utter. I can hear the frothing and even the drawing of lines in the sand as they stand ready to die on the hill that is proclaiming this film as the worst Star Trek movie EVER. To those folks, I say, “Yo, simmer down a minute.”

StarTrekVposterTo be fair, Star Trek V holds a not undeserved reputation as being very flawed, and there are those do most definitely do consider it the worst of the Trek feature films. I tend to dismiss such easy, kneejerk criticisms the same way I give sideeye whenever somebody bellows, “‘Spock’s Brain‘ is the worst episode of Star Trek!” It’s low-hanging fruit. It’s the one non-fans and casual passersby can point to because it has that rep and let’s them get in on the action. Meanwhile, those of us over here in the fan circle know things like “And the Children Shall Lead” and “Code of Honor” exist and they suck the sort of donkey balls “Spock’s Brain” couldn’t find with two hands, a flashlight, and Siri guiding them in from the interstate.

TrekV-cupWith all of that said, I’m actually not here to tell the Star Trek V haters they’re wrong. First, I really don’t care that much, and second……there is no second. I simply don’t care. Like what you like, don’t like what you don’t like, we all shake hands (or bump elbows in the world of COVID-19…or offer matching Vulcan salutes) and move on with our lives. In the case of Star Trek V, I acknowledge its flaws but at the same time I’m not one to dwell on discussions about things I hate. With that in mind, what I came to do with Bill and Dan is talk about what there is to like about this flick.

Why? Because you’re not hard core unless you live hard core, which is why I still have that Star Trek V tumbler pictured above. Go big or go home, amirite?

Turns out, there’s plenty to like about this movie while still agreeing it’s got its share of problems. Yes, the special effects are a marked step down from previous installments. Bill, Dan, and I came down on similar spots with respect to how the story treats the characters of Scotty, Sulu, Uhura, and Chekov. While they were “merely” supporting characters portrayed by contract day players during the time of the original Star Trek series, with the feature films they were elevated in stature at least to a degree and deserved more time in front of the camera.

To be fair, each of the films struggles with this problem but it’s very obvious here, coming as it does after the events in Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home where everyone gets their moment to shine a bit. Here, the focus is more on “the Big 3” of Kirk, Spock, and McCoy and while there are certain scenes that might make a fan wince, I will say without hesitation this film contains some of my very favorite moments between these three characters.

On the visual side of things, Industrial Light & Magic’s absence is keenly felt throughout the film and the ending is hampered by budget issues and perhaps director William Shatner’s being a bit too ambitious and failing to account for all the difficulties surrounding realizing his big climax the way it was originally envisioned. That said, I’m never gonna fault a guy for swinging for the fences.

Another aspect of the film I will absolutely defend is Jerry Goldsmith’s score. The music he wrote for Star Trek V revisits some motifs which had become familar by the time this movie was released. The main theme from Star Trek: The Motion Picture – later modified for use as the title theme for Star Trek: The Next Generation – gets a few new bells and whistles, and cements what will become a staple of Goldsmith’s future Star Trek film scores: wrapping this signature theme around music unique to each movie for its respective end titles sequence. He would do this three more times – Star Trek: First Contact, Star Trek: Insurrection, and Star Trek: Nemesis – but the end title theme for Star Trek V is my favorite variation on this particular theme. Another fan-favorite cue is the “Klingon theme,” which Goldsmith also created for The Motion Picture and gets its own new take here, as well. The new material he wrote for this outing is some of my favorite Star Trek music, across the board.

We get into all of this and so much more during a chat that runs something like 98 minutes in length, but it goes pretty fast as the three of us found ourselves getting caught up in the spirit of things. No, our “fresh assessment” isn’t going to make Star Trek V: The Final Frontier a better film and maybe it won’t change anyone’s rankings when they list their favorite (and not so favorite) Star Trek films, but if we can convince even one person to appraise the movie and find something to like they may have dismissed the first (or tenth) time around, then it was worth the effort. Even if we don’t get that kind of response, I still had fun. Check out the results of our nerdfest right here:

Trek Geeks Episode #225 – The Final Frontier

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Many thanks to Bill and Dan for having me back on the show. As always, I had a blast hanging with them and I’m sure I’ll find a reason to wander back over to their sandbox somewhere down the road.

 

 

 

Happy 45th Anniversary, Jaws!

Y’all know me. Know how I earn a livin’. I’ll catch this bird for you, but it ain’t gonna be easy. Bad fish. Not like going down the pond chasin’ bluegills and tommycods. This shark, swallow you whole. Little shakin’, little tenderizin’, an’ down you go. And we gotta do it quick, that’ll bring back your tourists, put all your businesses on a payin’ basis. But it’s not gonna be pleasant. I value my neck a lot more than three thousand bucks, Chief. I’ll find him for three, but I’ll catch him, and kill him, for ten. But you’ve gotta make up your minds. If you want to stay alive, then ante up. If you want to play it cheap, be on welfare the whole winter. I don’t want no volunteers, I don’t want no mates, there’s just too many captains on this island. Ten thousand for me by myself. For that you get the head, the tail, the whole damn thing.”

June, 20th, 1975: The day everybody started reconsidering their summer beach vacation plans.

Based on Peter Benchley’s 1974 novel of the same name, Jaws essentially paved the way for what we now know as the “summer blockbuster event” movie. 45 years to the day after its initial release, the film really does hold up very, very well (yes, even considering what is obviously a fake shark.). What makes up for the sometimes scary/sometimes goofy-looking shark itself is the screenplay, keen directorial choices made by then-journeyman filmmaker Steven Spielberg, a landmark, haunting, and timeless musical score as delivered by veteran composer John Williams, and the razor-sharp performances of lead actors Roy Scheider (police chief Martin Brody), Robert Shaw (the salty sea fisherman Quint), and Richard Dreyfuss (oceanographer Matt Hooper).

As for the shark, Spielberg, owing to persistent malfunctions with the model and perhaps planning for the worst while hoping for the best, elected to keep the shark “behind the curtain” for most of the film. He waits until the one-hour or so mark to provide the first teasing glimpse, when it attacks a boater near the Amity beach. Even then we only get a fleeting look at the creature’s head before the camera cuts away, and we’re left to consider just how frikkin’ big this thing really is. It’s not until the pivotal moment twenty minutes later, when Brody is tossing chum into the water behind Quint’s boat, the Orca, that the shark reveals itself to the boat’s crew, and us, and provides what is arguably the most memorable line of the entire movie: “You’re gonna need a bigger boat.”

Jaws-BiggerBoat

There are a few things which obviously date the film, such as fashion, automobiles, and the like. Speaking of clothes, actor Murray Hamilton as Amity mayor Larry Vaughn gets my vote as worst-dressed dude in a movie not featuring Austin Powers. Holy Shit on a Ritz Cracker…that multi-colored pinstripe number? Is he trying to cosplay a Time Lord? I still have nightmares about going to prom wearing something like that. Still, such things are easy to dismiss when we’re talking about a film that’s able to transcend the era in which it’s made. For such movies, I simply consider them period pieces, and enjoy.

Yeah, these days we know that much of the shark’s behavior is wholly at odds with the way sharks really act, but we don’t care. It’s still a riveting story of man facing off against one of nature’s perfect creations; the consummate eating machine which goes about its singular purpose with simple, brutal efficiency. As for the lead characters, Scheider brings what would become his patented “every man” approach to the role of Brody, a regular joe caught up in a ridiculously extraordinary situation. Richard Dreyfuss is our translator as Hooper, explaining the shark’s actions and drive to do what it does, and providing much of the comic relief in the film’s latter half. Robert Shaw offers up an assload of quiet menace to his performance as Quint, and his recounting of the U.S.S. Indianapolis sinking and its aftermath is quite simply one of the most bone-chilling monologues in cinema, period.

Jaws did phenomenal business during the summer of 1975, and continues to be listed among the best films ever made by whoever bothers to make such lists. As for what came after? A sequel was inevitable, especially considering one of the producers involved with the film, Richard D. Zanuck, was the head of 20th Century Fox Studios when the original Planet of the Apes was made and greenlit the first of the sequels to that film (Hey, the man knew how to capitalize on an idea). What about the Jaws follow-ups? Jaws 2 is a serviceable if largely unremarkable sequel, the only saving grace of which is the always watchable Roy Scheider reprising the role of Brody. The less said of the subsequent two films, Jaws 3-D and Jaws: The Revenge, the better.

No. We’re not talking about those films here. Ever.

There have been a good number of shark movies since Jaws hit screens – The Shallows, 47 Meters Down, and The Meg being recent and prominent examples – and there have also been rumors circulating for years that a remake of the original film is in the works (in 3-D, even). Whether this might be a straight-up retelling of the film itself, or a new take on Benchley’s original novel never seems to crop up during such mindless blathering. So far as I’ve been able to tell, cooler heads at Universal have prevailed in this regard, at least so far. Perhaps they’re worried about Steven Spielberg’s continued association with the studio (via Dreamworks), and the belief that he might aggressively fight any attempts at a remake, along with making miserable the lives of as many Universal execs as he’s able. In a world that’s given us Mega Shark Versus Giant Octopus and Sharknado, I’m content for studio folk to leave this one well enough alone.

Yep, even after all these years, the original Jaws remains an eminently rewatchable film.

Happy 50th Anniversary, Beneath the Planet of the Apes!

When the original Planet of the Apes film arrived in theaters in the spring of 1968, public reaction to the movie was so strong that executives at 20th Century Fox wasted little time putting wheels into motion to develop a sequel.

Did it matter that the film’s star really had no interest in reprising his role? Nah.

Did it matter that one of the actors who so convincingly portrayed an intelligent ape the audience loved wouldn’t be available due to other commitments? Nuh-uh.

What about the original movie’s director, who also was working on another project? No worries.

Did we mention the sequel was getting a budget less than half that allocated for the first film? What’s the big deal? Quit screwing around and let’s get on with it!

Beneath-PlanetOfTheApes-Poster

Continue reading “Happy 50th Anniversary, Beneath the Planet of the Apes!”

Star Trek IV movie watch party…with me!

“Dayton, we want to ask you some questions about your writing and other stuff, before we all sit down to watch a movie together, and then we want you to keep talking all during the movie.”

I’ve trained my whole life for this moment.

Okay, so here’s the deal: Friend David Weiner is – among other things – a writer and documentary filmmaker. His In Search of Darkness: A Journey Into Iconic 80s Horror made quite the splash when it was released last year. I highly recommend checking it out, but bring a lunch as it’s over 4 hours long and you’re not going to care. As I write this he’s in the midst of assembling a similar project, In Search of Tomorrow: The Definitive 80s Sci-Fi Documentary which is at this moment in the final days of its Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign and promises to be as epic as its predecessor.

FamousMonsters286-CoverI “met” David several years ago thanks to the wonder that is the internet. At that time he was working as the editor for Famous Monsters of Filmland, and in that capacity he contacted me and my best bud Kevin about writing a couple of articles for the magazine as part of its celebration of Star Trek‘s looming 50th anniversary. Write for one of the magazines that fueled my interest in movies and TV in that oh-so innocent pre-internet era? Yeah, you know that had to happen.

Thanks to social media we’ve managed to keep in touch even after David left Famous Monsters. A lot of his writing time is focused on his own site, It Came From Blog, an ongoing celebration of all things nostalgic from a childhood and early adulthood that in many ways very eerily resembles my own experiences from the 70s and 80s.

Star Trek IV, Dayton,” I can hear someone saying. “I saw Star Trek IV in the title and that’s why I’m here. Get on with it.”

Okay. Cool.

A few weeks back, David invited me to do a virtual sit-down/Q&A as a bit of pregame prior to a virtual watch party for Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, just one of the many awesome 1980s science fiction films which will be highlighted in the aforementioned In Search of Tomorrow (ISOT). The plan was for me to do the interview online before everybody cues up/streams their copy of the movie. I’d then get out of everybody’s way so the group of people who’ve been assembling for the other films in this series of get-togethers could enjoy the movie in peace.

But wait! There’s more!

They actually invited me to stay with them while everybody’s watching the movie, and continue our dialogue in some manner. Whether that’s me pointing out things about the film or offering up trivia or other Trek nerdity, or me participating in a dialogue with David and others as things move merrily along, I’m honestly still a bit fuzzy on. However, I’m told all will be good and fine and it’s about the communal experience….less movie theater and more living room as we all enjoy each other’s company and a shared love of the flick itself.

I admit I was hesitant at first. As I told them, I didn’t want to come off like that jackass who can’t shut up while people are trying to watch the movie, but I’m assured that won’t be a problem and is indeed part of the draw. All righty, then. Also, I wasn’t even sure I could hang around for the whole thing, but with our current and common situation and  stay-at-home advisories being what they are, I realized there was nothing keeping me from sticking around and seeing how things went once the movie starts.

So, here’s how (I think) it’s going to go: The fun is scheduled for this coming Sunday, May 10th, beginning at 3:30pm Eastern Time/12:30pm Pacific Time. The Q&A/Watch Party is being hosted via the Discord app. The ISOT group has a community within the service, and those interested in joining the festivities are encouraged to visit this link I’ve highlighted with these words and things right here. They’ll put me through the wringer for a half-hour or so, and then we all push “PLAY” and get on with the movie. Sounds easy, right?

Yeah. I’ll find some way to dork it up.

If you’ve got time to chill-ax and watch one of the better Trek movies with a bunch of virtual friends old and new, come on out (virtually speaking). Maybe I’ll “see” you there!

STIV-WatchParty

Today is National Film Score Day!

As oddball days of observance go, this one isn’t too shabby at all. Besides, these days anything that can serve to brighten someone’s day is to be applauded, so let’s have at it, shall we?

What are we talking about? According to the National Day Calendar website, National Film Score Day “recognizes the musical masterpieces called “Film Scores” and, more specifically, the very talented composers who create them.”

Out. Standing.

I’ve been known to write about this subject from time to time, and those of you who spend any time here likely know that I’m a huge fan of film and TV music and love listening to it apart from the production for which it was created. It’s also my habit to listen to such music when I’m writing, as it always helps to set the “right mood” for the project-in-progress.

StarWars-OriginalLPA well-crafted film score is a thing of beauty. The first album I ever bought with my own money was the vinyl 2-record LP score for the original Star Wars in 1977. In the decades following that admittedly weird experience in a Montgomery Ward store while on a shopping spree with my grandmother, my music library has grown in fits and starts until the last decade or so, when it kicked into high gear with no regard for the safety of others or the universe as a whole. I don’t care what other people think…play that funky movie music, white boy!

Though it started with music from newer film television and productions as they were released, It’s only been in the last decade or so that I’ve really dug in, finding “expanded” or “complete” editions of scores from days gone by which were only made available in truncated form due to the limitations of the medium (LP records, cassette tapes, 8-track tapes, and even CDs once they took over). Thanks to companies like La-La Land Records and Intrada I’ve been able to enjoy updated, expanded, and remastered versions of scores of older films, and in some cases it’s like hearing the music for the first time EVEN THOUGH I know every note by heart.

STTMP-SoundtrackCoverWhat are some of my favorites? Well, some obvious suspects are the various Star Trek films, in particular Jerry Goldsmith’s The Motion Picture, The Final Frontier, and First Contact, James Horner’s The Wrath of Khan and The Search for Spock, and Michael Giacchino’s music for all three of the reboot films. Everything John Williams has ever done for the Star Wars saga goes on the list, too, but I also must give props to Michael Giacchino for Rogue One and John Powell for Solo. 

Superman-Score

Jerry Goldsmith is well represented in my library, including personal favorites Planet of the Apes (1968), Rambo: First Blood, Part II (yes, really), Alien, Total Recall, L.A. Confidential, Outland, and 1999’s The Mummy. James Horner also had a lot going on beyond his Star Trek work, and I especially dig Aliens, Apollo 13, Sneakers, Glory, The RocketeerCommando, and Titanic (that’s right; I said it). And you can’t have a film score collection without stuff by John Williams, including stuff by John Williams that’s not Star Wars, which is good because I absolutely love the music he created for Jaws, the Indiana Jones films, Saving Private Ryan, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, and…of course…Superman.

MissionImpossible-RogueNation-ScoreMy taste in film music runs the gamut from Pirates of the Caribbean to The American President, Die Hard, or The Incredibles, or from The Shawshank Redemption to Gladiator, The Martian, or Black Hawk Down. More recent scores include those from several of the Marvel Cinematic Universe films, particularly those for the Captain America and Avengers films. The music from the Mission: Impossible movies are also a lot of fun, and I’ve especially enjoyed the scores from the two most recent installments, Rogue Nation and Fallout. Bill Conti’s The Right Stuff is wondrous. Old-school offerings like The Great Escape, The Magnificent Seven or The Day the Earth Stood Still are in there, too. The truth is that I’m all over the map with this kind of thing. I hear it while watching the film and know I just have to have it without everybody yakking over it or everything blowing up around it.

TV’s the same way. Yes, Star Trek gets a lot of play around here (occupational hazard, you know), but what about Lost In Space or Mission: Impossible or Alien Nation? Battlestar Galactica? Hell, even seaQuest is in there. I’ve also enjoyed the music for Star Trek: Discovery and just this morning purchased the score for the first season of Star Trek: Picard.

I could do this all day, people.

So, Happy “National Film Score Day.” I think it’s time to stick a little of that action in my ears while I continue to write.

Happy 40th Anniversary, Star Trek: The Motion Picture!

“Mister Scott, an alien object of unbelievable destructive power is less than three days away from this planet. The only starship in interception range is the Enterprise. Ready, or not, she launches in twelve hours.”

TMP-40th
Can ya believe it? Forty years ago today.

Warts and all, it’s still an indelible part of my childhood. I remember standing in the lobby of the theater waiting to go into the auditorium, and looking at the ginormous display they’d erected. The brand-new Enterprise in all its glory, along with monster-sized heads of Kirk and the rest of the crew, including the weird-looking bald lady who was intriguing to my 12-year-old brain on a level I couldn’t quite fathom at that point.

I’m oversharing again, aren’t I?

At the time, 12-year old me didn’t think Star Trek: The Motion Picture was as good or entertaining or fun as the original series. Like 2001: A Space Odyssey or Close Encounters of the Third Kind to name a couple of examples, I only learned to appreciate it much later. For whatever the hell my opinion’s worth, it remains the one Star Trek film that really tried to be something other than an expanded episode of its parent television series. It was a flawed yet noble effort, and it paved the way for the juggernaut that became and remains “the Star Trek franchise.”

So, yeah, I have a soft spot for this flick.

Several years ago, I wrote about it for Tor.com as part of a “Star Trek movies” theme week they did, covering a bit of its troubled production and what I at least think I saw in the (sorta) finished product at the time, and why it’s managed to still grab my attention every so often in the years since:

Tor.com – “Star Trek: The Motion Picture – Big Ideas Worthy of A Return”

And if that’s not enough, check out this poster, which is just painted in Awesome:

The film also features what I still consider to be the best Trek film score to date.

Star Trek: The Motion Picture was also the beginning of Simon & Schuster’s association with Star Trek publishing, which continues to this day. They observed this anniversary in their own way this year, re-issuing Gene Roddenberry’s novelization of the film in a slick new trade paperback edition as well as enlisting frequent Star Trek book narrator Robert Petkoff to provide an all-new unabridged audio adaptation of the novel. I hadn’t read the book in decades so I was eager to revisit it via this format. Listening to it back in October when didn’t provide quite the same level of excitement as I got from reading the book for the very first time back in 1979, but it still brought back a lot of memories about the anticipation I had for the film.

Related
Star Trek.com – Simon & Schuster and 40 Years of Star Trek Publishing

Throughout 2019, I’ve been anticipating celebrating this particular Star Trek milestone. I wondered if they might bring the film back to the theaters as had been the case for a number of other films observing anniversaries this year (Alien, The Shawshank Redemption, and Forrest Gump are just a few titles that got my money when they were the subject of event screenings at local theaters). When I heard they were adding this to that list, I plunked down coin so fast it made light bend. Kevin and I took in that screening back in October and yes – the Enterprise has never looked better than it does as depicted here, displayed on a huge movie screen the way it was meant to be seen.

Happy Birthday, Star Trek: The Motion Picture, you imperfect yet strangely lovable beast, you.

Happy 35th Anniversary, 2010!

“Wait, what? It’s 2019, dude. 2019-35 isn’t 2010. COMMON CORE IS ROTTING YOUR BRAIN, MAN!

Relax, yo. I’m talking about the movie: 2010.

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Nine years after the events of 2001: A Space Odyssey, Doctor Heywood Floyd is still haunted by the tragic end to the mission of the spaceship Discovery near the distant planet Jupiter and the mysteries surrounding the loss of its crew. Feeling responsible for sending those men to their deaths, Floyd takes advantage of an offer to ride on a Soviet spacecraft that is about to be sent to Jupiter. He, along with an engineer who helped build the Discovery and its sister ship and the computer genius who created the HAL-9000 computer that apparently murdered the ship’s crew, Floyd sets off with a crew of Russian cosmonauts, all while relations between the United States and the Soviet Union continue to swirl at the bottom of the great political toilet bowl.

Of course, things get really weird once Floyd and company arrive at Jupiter.

Sometimes but not always subtitled The Year We Make Contact, 2010 was released 35 years ago today. That’s 1984, for those of you without the requisite number of fingers and toes, and if you do have the requisite number of fingers and toes, the leaders of our world’s various governments would like to have a word with you. Adapted from Arthur C. Clarke’s 1982 novel of the same name (but carrying an Odyssey Two subtitle), 2010 carried on its slumping shoulders the thankless task of being a sequel to “The Greatest Science Fiction Film Ever Made,” depending on who you ask.

Yeah, no pressure.

William Sylvester, who portrayed Heywood Floyd in 2001, was deemed to old to reprise his role, and the part was given to venerable everyman Roy Scheider, who does a great deal to anchor the film’s humanity, humor, and sense of awe. He gets plenty of help in the form of solid performances from such reliable names as John Lithgow, Helen Mirren, Bob Balaban, and Elya Baskin. Keir Dullea returns to reprise his role as ill-fated astronaut Dave Bowman from 2001, as does Douglas Rain to provide voice to HAL.

On its own, 2010 actually works as a decent if not spectacular standalone science fiction movie. I still think it’s one of the better looking SF films – particular of the era in which it was produced – with the Soviet ship Leonov‘s cruder, utilitarian design standing in terrific contrast to the cleaner, almost antiseptic look of the Discovery. The challenge of recreating the ship and its interiors from 2001 is worth a book or two all by itself, given that no blueprints or set plans existed from the first film (as the story goes, director Stanley Kubrick ordered all of that material destroyed). Production designers worked from photographs and blow-ups of screen stills from 2001 in order to recreate everything. It was an amazing effort that really pays off on screen.

Indeed, such a book exists: The correspondence between author Arthur C. Clarke and director Peter Hyams, captured via the then-nascent communications medium of “electronic mail” and chronicling the early days of pre-production on the film, resulted in The Odyssey File. One of the topics covered during their extended back-n-forth was the challenge of recreating the Discovery sets. It’s possible the book is one of if not the first of its kind, though I’d have to research to be sure.

Like the novel from which it sprang, 2010 does its best to address some of the myriad questions left behind by its predecessor, while also deepening the mystery of the beings who created and dispersed the Monoliths first seen in 2001, and who apparently are okay with us pesky humans poking our noses into other people’s business just so long as we stay off their lawn. As for the lingering questions and mysteries, Arthur C. Clarke would return to explore them again in different ways in two subsequent novels, 2061: Odyssey Three in 1987 and 1997’s 3001: The Final Odyssey.

If you’ve not yet seen it, then go on, give 2010 a spin. It’s full of stars, yo.

Happy 25th anniversary, Star Trek Generations!

Captain of the Enterprise, huh?

That’s right.

Close to retirement?

I’m not planning on it.

Let me tell you something: Don’t. Don’t let them promote you. Don’t let them transfer you. Don’t let them do anything that takes you off the bridge of that ship, because while you’re there, you can make a difference.

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Released on November 18th, 1994, just six months after Star Trek: The Next Generation completed its seven-year television run and proved to naysayers lightning could be captured twice–albeit in a slicker and shinier bottle–Star Trek Generations launched Captain Jean-Luc Picard and the crew of his starship Enterprise to the silver screen. With the cast of the original series having taken their final bow three years earlier in Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, the time had come to pass the baton so another crew might boldly go on to successful cinematic adventures.

However, and perhaps due to concerns Picard and company might not entice enough viewers to follow them from their televisions to theaters and while also hoping to attract that larger mainstream audience films need to thrive, the decision was made to stack the deck, so to speak. Therefore, this “next generation” of Star Trek films (see what I did there?) would be given a sendoff by none other than the legendary James T. Kirk himself.

It actually wasn’t a bad idea, in and of itself. Besides, the idea of a character from a previous series helping to launch a new one had already been done twice before (McCoy appears in the TNG pilot, “Encounter at Farpoint,” and Picard himself appears in the first episode of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, “Emissary”) and had become something of a Star Trek tradition that would later be observed in the first episodes of Star Trek: Voyager and Enterprise, to say nothing of “original Spock” being on hand for the 2009 reboot film.

Generations opens in the 23rd century, nearly 80 years prior to the events of TNG, with Kirk, Scotty, and Chekov on hand to celebrate the launch of the U.S.S. Enterprise, NCC-1701-B, the successor to the starship said to be retired after the events of Star Trek VI. When “Stuff Happens” as it always does, the trusty trio is on hand to help save the day and the lives of a number of refugees from a disabled spaceship that’s been caught in a mysterious “energy ribbon.” However, that comes at a steep price: the death of Captain Kirk…or so we’re led to believe.

Flash forward 78 years to Picard’s Enterprise (NCC-1701-D on your scorecards), where they encounter Dr. Tolian Soran, a dude who’s hellbent on finding his way back to that aforementioned energy ribbon. Oh, and did we mention he was one of those refugees Kirk and the gang saved all those years ago? Oh, and did we also mention Guinan, the Enterprise‘s enigmatic bartender, is also a refugee? Remember this…it’ll be on the test later.

Hijinks ensue, eventually leading to a confrontation between Picard and Soran on the surface of an uninhabited planet, where Soran has developed a means of changing the ribbon’s course through space. This is done by blowing up key stars and sending gravimetric shockwaves that alter its trajectory, and he’s been hop-scotching through the quadrant in order to move the ribbon close enough for him to get into it. Why? Because when he and Guinan and the others were transported from their doomed ship decades earlier, they were in the ribbon’s grip; phasing in and out of our space-time continuum, and part of each of them is still in there, somewhere, so they feel a constant yearning to return to “that place.” It’s sort of like longing for Taco Bell even though you get there too late for FourthMeal.

Of course, this whole “blowing up stars” bit also has the effect of destroying any nearby planets, including inhabited ones. As that’s pretty much a huge buzzkill for anyone living on said worlds, Picard has to stop Soran before he can blow up this planet’s sun and wipe out the civilization living on an adjacent world. That doesn’t work out so well for Picard, who’s helpless to watch as Soran launches a rocket into the star, destroying it and bringing the ribbon to him. As the Enterprise, in orbit above the planet and getting its ass kicked by a Klingon ship, crashes on the surface, the planet is destroyed by the shock wave from the exploding star just as Soran and Picard are swept up in the ribbon’s effects.

And that’s when shit gets weird. Why? Well, let’s just say once he’s in the ribbon, Picard should probably have a sit down with astronauts Bowman and Cooper and discuss bizarre trips through spatial phenomena, amirite? And that’s before he runs into the aforementioned James T. Kirk chopping wood outside a remote mountain cabin.


1994 was a fantastic time for Star Trek. Two successful television series were in first-run syndication and the original series cast had bid their fond farewells. Star Trek: The Next Generation had wrapped, but Star Trek: Deep Space Nine had just started its third season and Star Trek: Voyager was waiting in the wings, and the TNG crew of course was now transitioning to the big screen. Merchandising was cooking with gas, and Star Trek was even embracing the still-minty fresh World Wide Web. Did you know that Star Trek Generations was the first film to get its own promotional website?

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Though not a perfect film and not my favorite of the bunch, I still have a soft spot for Generations. In many ways, it really was the “passing of the torch” so far as Star Trek in the mainstream went. After saying goodbye (so we thought) to Kirk and his crew in the previous film, the events in Generations serve to cement the transition, figuratively and literally, and tell old-school Trekkies our Star Trek, the one we’d grown up with, was over. All good things, and all that, right?

Meanwhile, the TNG cast does get a bit of a short-shrift here, with so much time given over to Picard’s “Brave and the Bold”-esque team-up with Kirk. It wouldn’t be until their next outing, Star Trek: First Contact in 1996, that they’d get the screen all to themselves…sorta.

The story takes a bit of heat for a few logic problems, and the more vocal critics maintain that screenwriters Ronald Moore and Brannon Braga actually did a better job with their script for the TNG series finale episode, written in two weeks, than the film, which was the result of months of work. I tend to forgive Moore and Braga on this point, as the story they were asked to write was saddled with various studio requests and directives in order for the film to be the “baton pass” from Kirk’s era to Picard’s.

The scene where Kirk tells Picard not to retire is perhaps my favorite of the film. Until that point, Picard had largely been portrayed as the leader who manages situations while sending others to the front, which of course was a completely different (and arguably more proper) approach than what we’d seen Captain Kirk do every week on the original show, when he beams down and gets into trouble episode after episode. For me, this scene is a turning point for the character not just for actor Patrick Stewart, who would see Picard’s action quotient increase in the subsequent films, but also those of us who ended up writing the character in different media. I always look to this moment between Kirk and Picard to explain or justify why Picard continues to eschew retirement or promotion in the novels set after the TNG movies.

That’s my story, anyway, and I’m sticking to it.

Generations also has special meaning for me because I used the film’s climax as a point of departure for “Reflections,” the story I submitted to the very first Star Trek: Strange New Worlds writing contest back in 1997. You know how things went down after that.

So, Happy 25th Anniversary, Star Trek Generations. That predator time seems to have been pretty good to you.

2019 Edition! Marvel Movie Tip: Stay for the credits, yo.

It seems like just a few short months ago that we were all running to the movie theater to see Avengers: Endgame, and now here we are with this week’s release of Spider-Man: Far From Home. We’ve been doing this in fits and starts since 2008 with Iron Man, the first movie in what was to become “the Marvel Cinematic Universe.”

After all these years, you’d think some of the basic protocols would be all but ingrained into our collective consciousness, but we all know someone who’s going to drop the ball on this. Because of this, it’s a warning we need to repeat often:

“Stay through the credits.”

It’s been a while since we last visited this topic…all the way back to 2016 and Captain America: Civil War, so we’re definitely due for a look at the updated picture. Since 2008, we’ve been treated to:

Iron Man
The Incredible Hulk
Iron Man 2
Thor
Captain America: The First Avenger
The Avengers
Iron Man 3
Thor: The Dark World
Captain America: The Winter Soldier
Guardians of the Galaxy
Avengers: Age of Ultron
Ant-Man
Deadpool
(yes, not an official MCU film but still here because fucking Deadpool, people)
Captain America: Civil War
Doctor Strange
Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2
Spider-Man: Homecoming

Thor: Ragnarok
Black Panther
Avengers: Infinity War
Deadpool 2
(Again…fucking Deadpool)
Ant-Man and the Wasp
Captain Marvel
Avengers: Endgame*
Spider-Man: Far From Home

What’s the one rule that applies for each of these movies? Say it with me:

“Stay for the credits.”

(* = Endgame didn’t have such scenes until…you know, it suddenly did.)

And yet, there I was today with Clan Ward, watching people leaving the theater just as the credits began to roll at the conclusion of Spider-Man: Far From Home, even though there’s not one but two–count ’em…two–extra scenes: One during the credits, and one just after.

OH, THE HUMANITY!

Forgive them, Stan Lee, for they know not what they do.

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Now, it’s arguable that several of these little add-ons aren’t essential to enjoying either their respective movie or the larger story arcs laid down over the course of these films, but some of them are. Besides, dang it! They’re part of the fun, amirite?

You stay for the credits, people.

Always.

Friends don’t let friends leave a Marvel movie early.

If you’re catching these flicks for the first time at home with disc or digital download, then you fast forward if you have to, but the rule is the same: “Stay for the credits.”

With that in mind, I’ve instituted a checklist of tips to help Marvel moviegoers avoid missing out on the important stuff lurking in and around a given film’s end credits. Consider this a public service, movie nerds:

1. You stay for the credits.

2. You stay after the credits.

3. You stay until the lights come up.

4. You stay until they start the slide show between screenings, and you make sure you sit through the entire slide reel at least once.

5. And look on the back of your ticket and the underside of your popcorn. Just in case. (via Bernie Kopsho on Facebook)

6. Then run across the hall and sit through the credits of the non-Marvel movie. LEAVE NOTHING TO CHANCE.

7. Then run outside and look for skywriting, because who knows? (via Bernie)

IT’S THE ONLY WAY TO BE SURE.

In summation: “Stay for the credits.”

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Okay, now we’re done. You can go home.

Happy 35th Anniversary, Star Trek III: The Search for Spock!

The death of Spock is like an open wound. It seems that I have left the noblest part of myself back there …on that newborn planet…..”

June 1st, 1984: Spock was dead, but he was about to get better.

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Celebrating 35 years since its release to movie screens far and wide, Star Trek III: The Search for Spock, as its title explains, was the third theatrical film featuring Captain (nay, “Admiral”) Kirk and his merry band of senior officers from the U.S.S. Enterprise. Picking up soon after the chaotic and tragic events of the prior movie, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, the film opens with the Enterprise, still wounded from its encounter with the maniacal Khan Noonien Singh, on its way back to Earth. Once there, Kirk and his gang learn that all of that business with the Genesis planet and torpedoes which can create entire planets–and destroy them, too–has become something of a political hot potato.

That might well have been the end of it, making for a pretty short movie and all that, except that Spock’s father, Sarek, shows up at Kirk’s apartment and basically tells the admiral that he done gone and dicked up, big time. He shouldn’t have left Spock’s body in a burial tube on Genesis, you see. Also, Kirk and Sarek learn that Spock, prior to his untimely demise, mind-melded with Doctor McCoy and transferred his katra–sort of like a flashdrive backup of his living spirit–from himself to the doctor.

This, of course, explains why McCoy has been acting like three flavors of crazy since the Enterprise‘s return to Earth. Now armed with a mission to retrieve their friend’s body and return it and his katra to Vulcan, Kirk and his posse steal the Enterprise and make for the Genesis planet. And, as they often do in these sorts of movies, things get seriously weird and Kirk’s plan goes right out the window when it’s discovered that Spock is alive. You know…again.

Huh.

Directed by the OG Spock himself, Leonard Nimoy, and working from a script by the great Harve Bennett, Star Trek III is a tight little flick. While not the best the franchise has offered us over the years, it’s definitely not the worst, either. Its modest budget betrays the production in a few spots, particularly in the scenes spent on the “Genesis planet” (in reality a studio soundstage), and the cringe-worthiness of a few wardrobe choices only worsens with the passage of time (lookin’ at you, Chekov).

While unspooling their story as Kirk and company race to Genesis to retrieve their friend, Nimoy and Bennett do a nice job lacing the film with nods, callbacks and affectionate hat tips to various bits and bobs from the original Star Trek series. Like Star Trek II and very much unlike Star Trek: The Motion Picture, the script features a healthy dose of humor to balance out the otherwise heavy story, and the onscreen chemistry between the actors is as good as the best of the original series episodes. The movie’s ending leaves Kirk and his crew at something of a crossroads, of course, and fans would have to wait more than two years until lingering questions were answered by the next film in the series, Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home.

Mark Lenard’s brief appearance as Sarek is a highlight, with the actor reprising the role he helped create 17 years earlier in the original series episode “Journey to Babel.” It’s the second of six occasions Lenard would return to the role, after providing the voice for his cartoon doppelganger in the animated Star Trek episode “Yesteryear.” Fans know to look for him in Star Trek IV and Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country as well as guest turns on the Star Trek: The Next Generation episodes “Sarek” and “Unification, Part I.” He also provided an oh-so short voice snippet for a younger version of the character in Star Trek V: The Final Frontier.

Christopher Lloyd seems an odd choice to play the Klingon captain, Kruge, and there are times when you’re sure he’s channeling Reverend Jim from Taxi but he manages to pull it off, especially in some of the higher-tension scenes. He also gives William Shatner a run for his money in the scenery-chewing department when the two finally face off as the Genesis planet comes apart around them.

Wrapping up everything in a neat little package is another solid score from composer James Horner. For years, it was criticized as being little more than a knock-off of his previous work for Star Trek II. It’s a perception strengthened by the release of a truncated soundtrack which, for reasons surpassing understanding, was limited largely to those pieces which evoked the previous movie. However, I think his efforts were more than redeemed upon the 2010 release of the complete score from Screen Archives Entertainment.

So, with all that, I guess I’ll spin this up and let it run today as I work. Join the search, y’all, and celebrate. Happy Anniversary, Star Trek III.