Wednesday, July 1, 2009

STbtM 022: Leap Without Looking


Previous: Barfight!
Kirk, miraculously saved from being pummeled to death in the fight he started, lays across a table at his Starfleet benefactor who asks, "You all right son?" Kirk gurgles through the blood and alcohol, "Yoo c'n really wissel loud, y'know that?" Fortunately, he was wearing an instant-dry shirt, so all the dozens of drinks and bottles-worth of alcohol he was rolling in a second ago have disappeared without a drop of wetness remaining - cool!

We cut to a few minutes later and Kirk and Captain Pike are sharing a drink at a table. Shouldn't Pike be getting Kirk's open and bleeding wounds cleaned and closed somewhere? What about checking for concussion, the most common traumatic brain injury and one which kills thousands? Behind the two, the floor is getting more attention than this injured and bleeding lowlife. If Pike really has no care for this violent criminal's welfare, he might as well have left Kirk drooling blood on the floor. Apparently, this captain is not concerned with his own Starfleet cadets having committed battery or attempted murder either, nor those who exhibited dereliction of duty by failing to take any preventative action to end the violence, nor did any of them render aid, nor did anyone even notify security. I suppose Starfleet officers are really busy, and can't be expected to notice EVERY little thing, like making sure cadets change out of uniform before a night of abusing civilians. The uniforms do look great, btw.

When Pike says: "Y'know I couldn't believe it when the bartender told me who you are." Kirk asks: "Who am I Captain Pike?" "Your father's son." 

Kirk slurs over his shoulder while waving an empty glass: "Can I get another one?"

"For my dissertation I was assigned the USS Kelvin. There's something I admired about your dad, he didn't believe in no-win scenarios." lf only Pike were referring to his current approach to Kirk, but alas, this is merely a non-sequitur, unworthy attempt at an homage to WOK. WOK is not a great classic merely because of the great battle scenes, it featured good writing with intelligent actions by smart characters despite many flaws.

Kirk opines sarcastically: "I sure learned his lesson."

"Well, that depends on how you define winning. Yur here, arncha? …You know that instinct to leap without looking that was his nature too, and in my opinion it is something Starfleet's lost." Actually, this might be OK as a feel-good line to build rapport in a counseling session under different circumstances, but here it seems more likely that Captain Pike is delusional, since skippers in the real world who "leap without looking" end up killing themselves long before their hubris gets a chance to slaughter crews and destroy ships. Ignorant and negligent individuals who do get to offices of authority typically are too cowardly to endanger themselves, preferring others to die for their gut "instincts" and leaps of "faith". They unwittingly betray and weaken those who trust them for protection squandering precious resources causing reckless harm, and thereby creating enemies. Such behavior causes legitimate fear, anger, resentment or even hatred as we have seen in very recent history – but the past has famous examples as well.

The bold, leap-ahead-in-the-fog skipper of the Titanic springs to mind, as does the Exxon Valdez. 133 years and 5 days ago, a leader followed Captain Pike's advice, leaping into action without "wasting" time on looking to where he was jumping. He was killed with his brothers, nephew, brother-in-law and hundreds of others under his command, ending George Armstrong Custer's hideous genocides against the indigenous peoples of North America. Despite the fact Pike's recommendation is without merit under the best circumstances and contrary to any institution's stability, (much less one involved in the kind of risks space exploration entails), even I would have to admit a catastrophic ending to a career of mass murder would represent a step up of sorts for Abrams' version of James T. Kirk.
Kirk asks "Why are you talkin' to me, man?" "Because I looked up your file while you were drooling on the floor. [Ha!] Your aptitude tests are off the charts, so what is it? You like being the only genius-level repeat offender in the Midwest?" Kirk: "Maybe I love it…" "So your dad dies, you can settle for less than ordinary life, or do you feel like you were meant for sump'm better?"

Isn't it miraculous that more than 20 years after the Kelvin incident, Riverside Iowa hosts two survivors from an impossible anomaly about as far away from earth as it is possible to get? It's even more amazing that 4 people in Riverside end up as bridge officers on the Federation's flagship! It's even more unbelievable that the survivor who shows up disregards every responsibility he has in order to obsess over the history and future of some unknown guy in a bar fight, who may not even survive the week without getting to a hospital? Wow; clever plot twists or insults to audience intelligence? You decide! 

12 comments:

Steamblade said...

I'd like to know when the Federation became an armada? You mean Starfleet Pike? I find slight issue with the smart character writing in The Wrath of Khan. Scotty's nephew has been critically injured so where does he take him, the bridge? Yeah, that's where all the medical personnel are. It's nothing but a cheap audience reaction shot.

BurntSynapse said...

Hi Steam. I agree with both points and feel the we have not kept canon clear on the actual mission and purpose of the Federation and Starfleet.

It has been so many years since I've seen WoK, I'd forgotten about that scene with Scotty and was thinking about Saavik quoting sensible regs correctly, Kirk advising her to learn "why things work", and the general outsmarting opponents instead of relying on divine miracles from writers who are over-stretched. Of course, I have to agree 100%, you would really have to add alot of background tap-dancing to justify that white elephant scene with Scotty carrying the cadet onto the bridge!

R. Anthony Steele said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
R. Anthony Steele said...

I always saw that scene with Scott and his nephew as Scotty's throwing the cost of avoidable battle in Kirk's face. It's possible he expected Bones to be on the bridge, since that is where he seems to spend most of his time on the show.

In any case, while WOK is one of my favorites, I don't consider it to be exactly 'canon'. None of the films really work in the context of the original show (except the first one) since they are all products of the writer/producer/director team makes them.

Having said that, I have to say that I no longer consider myself a Trekkie or a Star Trek fan, after this last film. It's dead for me now. I can't think of anything that could have been more of a betrayal of the Trek that I followed and loved than this latest film is.

I have enjoyed every minute of the review that I've read so far. Thanks for writing it, it has saved me the pain of doing it myself, as I pointed out on my blog.

RAnt(hony)-ings - Star Trek

BurntSynapse said...

Thanks for the feedback and the links, Anthony. You're the type of fan I'm trying to reach, and I enjoyed your Abramination posts. I would like to read your TrekBBS posts; Are they accessible?

R. Anthony Steele said...

if you go into the interface and do a search for 'ranthony' you should get all my posts in a list.

There's really not much there, if I remember correctly. I reposted the RIP blog post, and was looking for feedback (it's still there, in the closed thread) and then was attacked, repeatedly, for daring to ask where my posts went, and for not liking the film.

It's funny. I used to run a Trek fanclub. When I see my former club members, almost all of them *love* the film. When they find out I don't, the questions begin, and it almost follows a script.

"Loved the action" Yep, it was great.
"Loved the actors" Yep, they were great. They clearly all had respect for the characters they were portraying, and they did good jobs with what they were given.
"So, what don't you like?" EVERYTHING else. A story would have been nice. Some science would have been good too (red matter. It would be funny, if it wasn't in a Trek film) REAL FEMALE CHARACTERS sort of tops my charts of complaints. Where are they in this film?

I have a theory, and I wish I had the money and permission to give this a try. Take STV, and remove every special effects scene. Rework it with state of the art effects, and the budget this film had. I think it would be every bit the seller this film was. And it would be a real Trek film, to boot.

That film was thrown to Shatner as a bone, and the studio never got behind it. But it has some of the best scenes with classic characters interacting. There are some really bad scenes (the birth sequence, as someone else noted, is horrible) but mostly it suffered from a lack of a real effects budget. Compare the comic moments between the two films. I don't see the difference.

...and yet STV is routinely panned as the worst film. Why? Because of the laughable effects, IMO.

Anyway, thanks for reading my linked posts.

-RAnthony

BurntSynapse said...

Anthony,

Moving the moment, I'm far behind in emails and blogging, but wanted to add a responst to your March 14th post that I'm very interested to rewatch WoK based on yout response to the point Steamblade raised. I probably never would have thought of that motivation, which I'd like to see as plausible. My secret thoughts on that scene (projecting personal bias, no doubt) were that Scotty knew the cadet was dead, but wanted to insure his last moments were with the legendary Captain looking into his eyes and saying essentially "Yes, we sailed the stars - faster than light." Personally, if ending my life on a high note were of any value, I think this scene would be an exceptionally good death and would love that to be my last experience!

As for the production team determining canon, I try to avoid involving *who* did the material rather, I try to focus on the content and stability of that content. If it violates previous content in some way, then I try to be fair in assessing whether or not the violation was justified, regardless of how much I enjoyed the episodes in which the original rules were presented, i.e.: I try not to let my affection for "Balance of Terror" influence me as I assess the retcon of Starfleet intel on Romulan cloaking tech that occurs in "The Enterprise Incident". Some retcons are improvements such as correcting mistakes, as Roddenberry clearly stated. For me, who made it is almost always irrelevant. Perhaps if I learned some teams' signature material, it would hold greater importance.

Let's keep our eye on the ball as Trek endures at least a 2 film rape, and at some point in the future is able to fulfill the goals of forward-looking, optimistic, science-based fiction in the universe we have come to love.

muser said...

Who are the two survivors from the Kelvin? Jim Kirk is one of course. But Pike only he says he studied it, as far as I recall, not that he was there. Maybe I remember it wrong... ?

A more important point. Pike says he values the "Leap before you look" philosophy. And, if Sulu had not forgotten about the "parking brake" the Enterprise would have leapt into battle with the Narada and been destroyed. It is KIRK who gives Pike the intel he knew that Uhura had, and makes Pike stop and think about what they will encounter before they reach the battle over Vulcan. Ironic, really.

BurntSynapse said...

I think "two survivors" is an error on my part. It reads like I was thinking Pike was aboard the Kelvin, which I don't believe is supported by anything in the film, just James and Winona are portrayed as living in Riverside, with the Enterprise.

It was awfully convenient for Sulu's error to give Kirk time to be the hero, yet Pike does nothing sensible with Kirk's information other than put the ship on alert/battle stations.

muser said...

I agree completely. As you well know and have pointed out, the whole script is unfortunately filled with such convenient coincidences (like Kirk and Spock Prime and Scott all being within 20 km.s of each other when there's an entire planet they could be scattered across, to point out the most egregious). They could have written this so that Kirk's putting things together told us something more significant than "Pike should have known that since he wrote a thesis about it.". But, they didn't.

Anonymous said...

[The curtain is lowered for 17 months to denote the passage of a year and a half]

"The bold, leap-ahead-in-the-fog skipper of the Titanic"?

Harrumph. Such was not EJ Smith's reputation, nor was such behavior what sank the ship. Lower sulfur content in the hull steel would likely have made Lightoller's mistake of ordering reverse-engines AND a hard turn moot. (A hard turn at full speed would have caused the ship to miss the iceberg, while a head-on collision at reduced speed would have killed crewmen but not sunk the ship.)

BurntSynapse said...

@Anon,

Actually, you're quite right about the skipper of the Titanic, I'm referring more to how he springs to mind as a cultural icon of recklessness more than truly being reckless historically.

I strongly recommend the book "Deadly Decisions: How False Knowledge Sank the Titanic, Blew Up the Shuttle, and Led America into War" for a great treatment of the historical complexities.

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