Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Star Trek by the Minute 063: Amanda Dies

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As the segment opens, it has been 8 seconds since Spock alerted the Enterprise to begin the beam-out. Let's think about that: our team is in the middle of a catastrophic disaster with the Enterprise on split-second standby for the refugee call for rescue and the instant they are in a safe zone for transport, they request emergency evacuation. Tick, tick, tick goes the timer on their survival, while our 23rd century technology on the Enterprise takes longer to start than a hand-cranked 1912 Henderson, and whorls of glowing plasma surround the survivors. The survivors patiently wait for evacuation while some more cliffs collapse around them, more whirling plasma and nothing happens. More time goes by. More cliffs collapse as the survivors watch with increasing worry through more transporter special effects.

The characterization that during this time no one does anything is not quite fair, because Amanda does actually teleport from the safety of Spock's aid where she was during his call for rescue, holding onto his arm, warping over to a new location: on the precipitous edge of an obviously-doomed cliff.

After 12 more seconds of apparently doing absolutely nothing, and despite the transporters energy halos appearing around the survivors, Chekov begins actually counting down to energizing the beam: "Transporting in five, four, [Amanda now turns and looks to Spock], three, two…" and then? He stops counting! He must know that something's going to happen.

It's a little bit like those doors on the original series that were following the dialog in a room. A couple of people would just be sitting somewhere or standing somewhere having a nice conversation and at an appropriate moment the doors would precognitively open so that one or both of the speakers could get our of their seat, or turn and leave the room without waiting, and go on about their business. Back in this film, after another 5 seconds of no one doing anything like getting Amanda to a safer location, getting a solid transporter lock, beaming her away, or even Amanda herself jumping to safety so that she could take the next transporter beam up to the ship - instead of any of these, we see her gaze helplessly as the edge of the cliff dissolves under her feet, and she plunges to her death doing absolutely nothing but screaming and making faces. Apparently there are "transporter locks" like the ones that require someone be completely stationary relative to something under their feet, and then there are "transporter locks" that can snatch 2 people out of a tumbling freefall, and then there are "transporter locks" that are stymied if you breathe hard. In addition, why would Spock push his mother away, when he was formerly protecting her physically, and under less dangerous conditions? Why would she teleport out of his arms to the edge of the cliff? It's a mystery lost in sloppy writing and careless, rushed story development, but certainly mysogyny and hatred of logic appear likely influences for the consistently shameless violation of the film's own premises.

Now, Spock decides to reengage the caring neurons for his mother that led him down to the surface of the planet by ineffectually reaching out for her, and yelling "Mother!" Well, "reached out for her", is actually an exaggeration since she's already fallen - so he's technically reaching to where she was and not even looking down to see if she's survived the fall, successfully beamed out, grabbed a ledge, or whatever. Back on the Enterprise, Chekov seems to have a great deal of knowledge about the reproductive organs of each person on whom the transporter is mockingly indicating "locked" when he says of one: "I'm losing her, I'm losing her, (argh) I'm losing her… I'm losing her...I'm losing…losing." Perhaps the delay in recovering the refugees was spent with Chekov performing detailed scans of what was under Amanda's robes? In Abrams' Trek, the transporter probably only locked onto females as an afterthought, and Spock's mother wasn't really young and sexy enough to survive in this re-envisioning of the Star Trek universe.

Spock and the other Vulcans do materialize in the transporter room, but amazingly Spock still has his arm, even though he flung it out of position with arguably as much velocity as Amanda's fall, and he stares off into space dramatically.

A slow zoom in on the faces of those who matter (the men) in the transporter room show us, unsurprisingly, they are speechless. We see Spock, then Kirk & Sulu, then Chekov, then Sarek, then all of the evacuees, and then Spock walks over to the empty transporter pad in front of him and stares at it some more. A close-up of Spock shows him looking around the room, before we cut to an exterior shot of Vulcan's planetary collapse.

Unless we count an off camera scream, no women speak in this segment.

Next on Star Trek by the Minute 064: Endangered Species


Steamblade said...

The whole bit with Chekov is so mind-numbingly bad it's hard to believe that it stayed in. Not that the rest of this trainwreck is a pleasure to watch, but that is just painful.

Anonymous said...

Incorrectly regarded as goofs: Chekov obtained transporter lock on Kirk and Sulu because the transponders in their communicators helped him lock onto their biosignal, which was moving at a predictable velocity. However, losing transporter lock on Spock's mother was a different story. Whether from the lack of communicators or Vulcan's unique geology, transporter lock on the Science Council was only possible above ground. Unlike with Kirk and Sulu, her fall was a complete surprise, and her biosignal was masked by interference from the cliff walls and the debris engulfing her body.

BurntSynapse said...

Hi Anonymous,

The claim that a tumbling freefall of two people is more predictable than a slower vertical movement with a painfully long period of having a solid lock seems doubtful, but I have no problem with Chekov using communicators to assist the earlier beam-out, even though it may not have been explicitly specified in the dialog.

I can also easily cut slack on the geologic interference preventing beaming into or out of the Ark as you suggest.

I will ask for support of the claim that her fall was "complete surprise"m, which is hard for me to accept, unless one expects people to be able to stand perfectly still on the surface of a collapsing planet being destroyed by a black hole, Chekov's earlier instructions to that effect notwithstanding.

muser said...

Since the transporter can allegedly disassemble and the reassemble a person at the atomic level, not only down to the DNA but even the quantum states of their constituent subatomic particles (riiiiigggghhhht) it's not really surprising that it can, during the scanning process, in fact tell the gender of the people being beamed up (or in this case, NOT QUITE being beamed up).

Of course, as we all know, the amount of time it seems to take and the ability of the transporter to beam a person in crisis at all is governed by a formula that takes into account (a) the needs of the writers at that moment and (b) whether the person being beamed is a regular character or a guest, and (c) whether said person is wearing red.

BurntSynapse said...

Good one!

R. Anthony Steele said...

Put a link to Muser's site on my blog, with his comment above. Too funny.



BurntSynapse said...

I'm sure there's others, but here's another link to Star Trek Musings: