Thursday, June 11, 2009

Star Trek by the Minute 007

Previous: STbtM 006

As this segment opens, commandos in skin-tight black with black ropes are rappelling down an area that looks possibly like engineering, as pyrotechnics are going off with sparks, flames, and lots of people running around for the evacuation. I'm guessing the assault of the spandex ninjas was thrown in because it looked cool, but one would think that some of the running to shuttles would have been done 4 minutes ago when Robau had ordered the crew to prep for evacuation. That order means: immediately get your emergency gear and report to your boat station. Shouldn't young, fully-qualified Starfleet personnel in the 23rd century be able to perform as well as drunken retirees in the 20th on a Carnival cruise? That said, the craziness looks good, even if insultingly nonsensical.

There's lots of yelling about and wild running through sets that really look primitive, like the inside a refinery, i.e.: gritty. Fortunately, the stunt men running the catwalks are evenly spaced, presumably so that if one falls or has a problem during the shot, the next guy can avoid injuring him. This is why whenever it is possible, we don't allow running in emergency situations where there are lots of people, questionable footing, etc. One might think young, healthy, fully-qualified Starfleet personnel in the 23rd century should be able to perform as well as stoned high-school life guards at a Des Moines pool 30 years ago? Um…based on what I hear ;)

The pregnant woman flips open a communicator and says "George". This has to be the best voice-activated dialing ever, since the skipper is answering before she even is done speaking his name, although perhaps he called her. In an earlier segment, I mentioned that Kirk was at least a shade better than Robau because although they both froze during moments requiring leadership, at least Kirk didn't start talking about God. Kirk says, "You're all right – Thank God!" First, the only thing he possibly knows is that she is capable of speaking one syllable. Is she trapped? Is she dying? She could be struggling to say: "George - I'm crushed in an pressure hatch...I love you." He has no clue - and just starts telling her what her situation is. Is his comment an attempt to reassure her? One ordinarily expects to have a cornflake of information before dictating to other about their situations – but it seems such considerations were not a priority for these characters/writers. Perhaps Kirk thought she might have died already, and was comforting himself aloud. Second, "Thank God?" If everyone aboard dies in the emergency shall we thank an invisible friend because more ships weren't lost? Perhaps the creators of the film felt that thanking occult spirits is always a good idea. Some people in our century believe when someone dies horribly, parts of brain activity are magically reassembled in an invisible universe where neurons are not required & conscious cognitive processes operate without energy or matter. Its like a candle that goes out, but saying the burning is reproduced forever in an invisible dimension without candles, flame, oxygen, etc., and is completely invisible, i.e: without heat, light, etc. Socially powerful delusions are risky for our species' long-term survival and as such, we might hope future cultures will do better. In fact doing better now may be needed for those future generations to exist at all.

Kirk directs the woman to shuttle 37, and tells her: "I'm on my way." At this point, he decides to actually follow an order and use the autopilot – intending to ram the enemy ship, but the autopilot is not working. We infer ramming was Robau's intent in his final orders to Kirk, although the tactic is questionable not only for reasons discussed earlier, but also because there's little expectation of success. Without any provision to detonate the ship's antimatter, why would the Romulan vessel incur any damage at all? It could warp away. It could creep away at impulse and vastly outpace its wrecked opponent. It could entirely destroy the Kelvin – or merely hold it in place with a tractor beam and phaser it into a big bust of Chairman Koval if Captain Nero was so inclined. Any of these options would still allow Nero to pick off all the shuttles if he so chose, so the plan makes little sense. It also violates one of the things learned during a Gemini mission in which Neil Armstrong was in command. The principle learned is: In space, don't abandon any potentially usable resources if you can help it. Come to think of it, that's not a bad idea on the ground either.
The Gemini 8 mission objectives were to dock with a target vehicle, the "Agena", and perform a spacewalk. While docked, a thruster malfunctioned aboard the command crew's capsule and the spacecraft started rolling. Hoping it might correct the problem, they detached from the target vehicle only to discover their rate of spin continued to increase - meaning the defect was on their capsule. Without the mass of the Agena, the rate of roll increased more rapidly and they they had just abandoned the increased stability and fuel resources on the Agena. While the specific thruster that malfunctioned was identified and the crew returned safely, there was a real danger they could have been lost after the uncoupling. Preserving options in the face of uncertainty is an important principle of crisis management. From this narrow escape which could have easily cost the lives of 2, (including Armstrong, the first person to walk on the moon), NASA people learned to avoid making guesses which might worsen the situation.

Meanwhile, Kirk's still-unnamed partner is whisked via wheelchair through a series of safely-timed explosions toward her shuttle. As a mere woman, perhaps it is felt her character needs no name. She yells periodically during the evacuation to dramatize her contractions, following the "screaming labor" delivery that seems a staple in the film industry. I don't understand why film makers choose to add a bit of biased drama at the expense of terrorizing younger audience members by this type of portrayal – perhaps they feel that a natural human feeling of profound awe and wonder at a birth lacks something. Unfortunately what seems more likely is that they lack or at least are insensitive such feelings, or they may feel their audience is insensitive to them. Neither option feels particularly uplifting...
Next: STbtM 008


crone51 said...

Apparently you have never given birth. I went with the screaming labor option with both my daughters. Worked out well. The awe and wonder came shortly after the yelling and screaming.

Folks were always saying ( and by "always" I mean at least once that I can remember) "Thank God" on the original series as well...but then Spock would respond" There was no deity involved - simply my cross cutting to circuit A " - or words to that effect.

interesting tidbit about Gemini 8!

This is so much fun. I look forward to the next 120 posts....

Jake (formerly Riposte3) said...

"Without any provision to detonate the ship's antimatter, why would the Romulan vessel incur any damage at all?"

Antimatter annihilates matter on contact, very energetically. The only provision needed to detonate it would be the loss of power used to maintain the magnetic containment field (which would happen due to damage from the collision), or the loss of vacuum in the containment pod (again, due to damage from the collision).

Why ram? They're obviously hoping that the damage from the antimatter explosions and the physical impact from the ramming will do enough damage to disable the Nerada long enough to allow the shuttles to get away. They've already seen that their weapons are useless and that the Nerada can destroy the Kelvin easily before it gets out of their weapons range and without even having to chase them. Even if they destroy it before impact, there's a chance it gets close enough that the explosion will do enough damage to achieve their purpose.

Assuming the "prepare to evacuate" order was given, there would still be essential personnel who would have to stay at their stations until the actual evacuation order was given. Those are probably the people we see. I agree the rappelling bit was over the top, though.

Whether people in sickbay should have been moved to the shuttles earlier or not is debatable - in many cases you don't want to move someone unless absolutely necessary - but he shouldn't have had to tell her which shuttle to go to, the medical staff should have already known.

I sincerely doubt that religion will go away in the next 200 years or so, but even if it does the phrase "thank God" is such a common expression of heartfelt relief that it's pretty much completely divorced from its religious roots anyway.

John C. 'Buck' Field said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
John C. 'Buck' Field said...

Hi Jake,

Apparently my objection to the attempt at ramming wasn't clear...

> [x] which would happen due to damage from the collision

In any kind of sensible combat, no collision would be possible. The Narada would have to sit and watch the puny opponent directly in front of them initiate the evacuation and do nothing, watch them fire up the engines and to nothing, watch the starship inch closer and closer and do nothing.

This would be like Tony Soprano's gang beating some guy senseless before they kill him, then standing there doing nothing as the guy takes out a Billy Bob's Gun Emporium shopping bag as they do nothing, watch him pull out a shiny new taser and pepper-spray ValuPack and do nothing, then watch him unwrap the weapons, assemble them, and slowly bring them to bear on them as he's talking on his cellphone to his wife about what he's doing.

My point: no one would tolerate this even in a gangster soap opera, its simply too ridiculous.