Thursday, May 7, 2009

Final Thoughts on Star Trek (Until I Have More)

J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek hits theaters tomorrow, and I’m modestly but undeniably excited. Remarkably, I’ve been extremely successful at avoiding trailers, advance reviews and gossip about the movie, so while everyone else is probably feeling Trekked out, my enthusiasm is peaking at just the right time. I hope to see the flick Saturday, at which point I expect to get answers to questions I never actually pondered, like, “When did Kirk and Spock first meet?” and “Who was the first girl Kirk kissed?” and so on. Alas, I suspect that some actual mysteries will remain unaddressed.

For example …

Why is it that crewmembers of the Enterprise only talk to the computer operating system when captured in close-up? In wide shots of the bridge, ancillary crew members are always seen pushing buttons in the background, yet whenever Kirk wants something it’s “Computer, do this…” and “Computer, do that…” If the computer can respond to voice commands, shouldn’t the entire crew be mumbling directions at their assigned stations?

Speaking of which, just how many people does it take to make the Enterprise run? In The Wrath Of Khan it appears to take a small army of experienced crewmen, but in The Search For Spock things seem to go okay with just Scotty, Sulu, Chekov and McCoy operating in front of Kirk.

And what’s the rule on beaming? If Kirk and crew can beam from the Enterprise to any planetary surface, why is it necessary to beam from one transporter room to another transporter room when traveling ship-to-ship? Why not beam straight from the transporter room to the bridge (or wherever), or vice versa? Also, while in space dock, why would someone take a little shuttle to the ship when it’s faster and easier to just beam aboard?

More questions …

How is it that the Enterprise always visits planets with upright-walking bipedal aliens? And was the Star Trek creative team having a bad day when they decided that Romulans and Vulcans would look nearly identical?

Is McCoy’s retirement beard in Star Trek: The Motion Picture the worst fake beard in cinema history?

Seriously, how many times does the captain a ship have to get thrown from his seat before he decides that the 20th Century seatbelt is a good invention?

Finally, can anyone identify the mystery man who helps save Kirk from exposure to radiation in Wrath Of Khan, when Kirk wants to rush in and tend to the ailing (and doomed) Spock?

Apparently the filmmakers decided Kirk is far too manly to be held back by McCoy and Scotty alone, so they had this other guy jump in there, too …

… saving Kirk while being careful to keep his head down so as not to upstage him …

… and then holding Kirk …

… holding Kirk …

… holding Kirk …

… and then quietly slipping out of the way.

I’m guessing that was the actor’s career highlight, but maybe not. Think he's excited for Abrams' film? I wonder ...


Tony Dayoub said...

Hey Jason,

Although some of your questions are obviously rhetorical and poking fun, I felt the need to answer a few that you genuinely seem befuddled by (I may be wrong).

"If Kirk and crew can beam from the Enterprise to any planetary surface, why is it necessary to beam from one transporter room to another transporter room when traveling ship-to-ship?"

Transporter technology at the time necessitated the crew beam into wide open spaces or onto another transporter which would pull them in. If not, they ran the risk of materializing into a bulkhead, which they only did under extreme circumstances, i.e. beaming onto Khan's sleeper ship.

"And was the Star Trek creative team having a bad day when they decided that Romulans and Vulcans would look nearly identical?"

This was deliberate, and a story point. The Romulans were an offshoot of the Vulcans who left to preserve Vulcan's warlike heritage once the majority of Vulcans decided to leave emotional behavior behind.

Jason Bellamy said...

Tony: Yeah, these questions are rhetorical and yet genuinely curious, at least to a degree, so I appreciate the detail.

On beaming ...

I figured your explanation is at least the Trekkie defense for the inconsistency, and perhaps it's also stated "fact" from the TV series. Watching the films, however, I noticed that the beaming rules seemed quite loose. Sometimes you needed someone in each transporter room, sometimes not. And often the beam-downs were very precise. Of course, I'm fine with this. I'm even fine with the fact that in the third film two humpback whales (and all the water around them) gets beamed out of the ocean and into a room that isn't even the transporter room. Still, the ship-to-ship beaming defense smacks of the series covering its ass with logic rather than seeking to obey the physics of its world, and that makes me smile.

On Romulans/Vulcans ...

I figured that was the case. (You description sounds familiar.) In that respect, perhaps Romulans are just victims of their own popularity. Regardless, its unfortunate that two of the three most popular non-human species in the series happen to look much alike. (Of course the real reason this happened, and the reason the Enterprise always encounters rather human-esque aliens, is that it's easier on the makeup artists, and thus it's cheaper. Fair enough.)

Good clarifications!

portrower said...

There are exceptions to the "upright-walking bipedal aliens" rule. Ever seen "the Devil in the Dark" original series episode? The Horta, one of the most original aliens ever to appear on ST (and a truly thought-provoking episode) looks like a giant hairy pepperoni pizza, scuttling around on the ground.

PIPER said...

Here's how it goes.

Mysterious Guy: I want a table for me and my friends.

Host: I'm sorry, there are no tables available right now.

Mysterious Guy: Do you know who I am?

Host: Should I?

Mysterious Guy: I'm the guy that held Kirk back from getting all radiated in Wrath of Khan.

Host: Wrath of who?

Mysterious Guy: Khan. You know, Star Trek. Look, there's been a mistake here. Just find me a table.

Host: I'm sorry, we don't have any tables available right now.

Mysterious Guy: Look, I held Kirk back from running into a room. THE Jame Kirk. Don't make me come after you.