Thursday, December 31, 2009

Star Trek by the Minute 066: Sewer Interrogation Begins

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Uhura continues to look at Spock, and nearly breaking into tears says "OK." She then plants a kiss right on Spock's mouth to which he responds, and they separate as the lift comes to halt. The door opens and Uhura watches Spock exit and walk down the corridor. Speaking of which: where is he going? It must be someplace important for the acting captain to leave his post in the middle of an emergency, failing to hand off command to anyone or give anyone on the bridge a clue as to what was going on, where he was going, what he was doing, when he'd be back, etc. It seems reasonable that simply a normal viewer might want to know who was in charge of Starfleet's most advanced vessel and best weaponry, to say nothing of the crew aboard the ship. Apparently we will never find out, because the film cuts immediately to a scene of the Narada zooming through some sort of energy conduit or hyperspace with a blue-white light reminiscent of the signature "lightning storm" which betrays the ship's imminent arrival (and attack).

On board the Narada, in a long shot that pans out from behind a dark corner we see Nero standing over Captain Pike, who is strapped down to a table. Nero guesses aloud: "You must have a lot of questions for me…" as an entree to: "I only have one for you. I need the sub-space frequencies of Starfleet's border protection grids, specifically those surrounding Earth." Once again, we have dialogue that makes absolutely no sense whatsoever relative to the story(?) being told.

Actually, that statement does not seem quite correct because this film seems more a jumbled collection of video shots that don't really follow the normally conceived rules for narratives, making descriptions that this film is "telling" of "a story" somewhat misleading. So having said that, and based on what we've seen and heard in earlier shots, Nero definitely does not have any need for information regarding his helpless victims' useless attempts to protect themselves. All of Starfleet's defenses, all of defenses of a huge fleet of Klingon battlecruisers, and all of the planetary defenses of Vulcan have been repeatedly shown to have ZERO effectiveness in hindering the Narada for even one second, with the exception of the Kelvin miracle collision. Like Spock leaving the bridge, and 100 other scenes, actions, and lines of dialog in this film, this interrogation makes no sense based on what we must suppose is the film's substitutes for plot.

Another nonsensical element is the entire set where this interrogation takes place: a high tech vampire cave, complete with evil, pointy-eared Romulan Nosferatus, skulking around their dripping lair. Nero is actually wading through 30 centimeters of what looks like black water and sewage when he demands: "Christopher, answer my question." Pike growls back at him: "No, you answer for the genocide you just committed against a peaceful planet." As this segment closes, Nero continues his unbelievable, random ramblings with: "No, I prevented genocide. In my time, where I come from, this is a simple mining vessel. I chose a life of honest labor."

No women speak in this segment.

The clich├ęs seem never to end in our next segment of Star Trek by the Minute 067: Nero's Plan

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Star Trek by the Minute 065: Uhura's Kiss

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As the segment opens, Uhura puts down her earpiece and arises from her chair to follow Spock who is walking to the aft bridge turbolift. The precognitive door sensors demonstrate they are still functioning, as they patiently wait for just the right moment to do anything: first Spock enters, then stops, presses a button, waits for a moment, and then Uhura to clicks her go-go boots across the bridge, joining Spock in the lift. As soon as she enters, the doors begin to close the instant her first foot hits the lift deck – while she's still moving.

The pair gazes meaningfully into each other's eyes, before Uhura reaches over and presses a button to stop the lift. Spock, having read the Starfleet Seduction Manual section on "quick privacy", is well aware her actions have elevated the sexual situation status to yellow alert at the very least. Perhaps having spent too much time listening to Chekhov, she declares (no kidding): "I'm sorry", (pause), "I'm sorry.", (pause), " I'm so sorry.", (pause). As she's repeating herself, she reaches up to cradle the back of his head, and moves in to kiss him on the lips, (pause), on the side of the lips, (pause), on the cheek, (pause), and then hugs him. Spock responds and lowers his head onto her shoulder, (pause). He hugs her in return briefly, and then begins to straighten, pulling away.

Uhura looks into his eyes again and asks "What do you need?" (pause), "Tell me." (pause), "Tell me." (long pause). Spock turns, presses the resume button on the lift, and replies "I need everyone to continue performing admirably." Uhura responds with a look of resigned acceptance and caring regret as they both , you know: take another pause.

In all, this scene is about character development, and starting a relationship between Spock & Uhura. We do see a good representation of Spock's emotional and logical struggle - although it only lasts a moment and features almost no context providing depth, other than the ham-handed, unbelievable murder of Amanda and destruction of Vulcan to make Spock "a good guy".

Up next, we learn the Narada has plumbing issues in Star Trek by the Minute 066: Sewer Interrogation Begins

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Star Trek by the Minute 064: Endangered Species

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As the planet Vulcan collapses, we have an opportunity to see more examples of bad science, lazy writing, and an inconsistent plot that doesn't maintain even a semblance of coherency with itself. First, the bad science relating to the setup of the plot: the story is that a drop of red matter has been injected into the planet or so that it can create a singularity, or black hole. As discussed previously, there's absolutely no reason to drill to the core of the planet to position a singularity in some kind of central location, except as a poorly thought out plot device to enable lots of special effects scenes like those we just witnessed in this case featuring the giant tentacle drill, skydiving, sword fights, and professional wrestling moves worthy of the Insane Clown Posse.

If we suspend disbelief regarding the need for red matter delivery to the core of the planet and simply assume that this has occurred, then the planetary collapse shown in the external shot is again completely wrong and shameful in that an accurate reproduction of what would happen would be more interesting visually and no harder to animate - although it would require some minimal interest in getting some facts regarding real world physics. I will give the animators credit for what appears to be an attempt to show slight offsets in the collapsing planetary debris reminiscent of a vortex pattern, which we would expect to form as angular momentum from the rotation of the planet is conserved like that of water flowing down a drain.

The next most prominent flaw in this animation is that it portrays a very small object collapsing. Planets are so round because of a homogenous gravitational field in all directions, with only slight variations in altitude allowed from the mean radius to the center. So when we see Vulcan collapse along its equator of rotation with significantly uneven crumbling of the planet surface, and practically no indication of the massive heat that would be created, it seems like they just didn't care for science, logic, research, and the kind of ethics that the Vulcan culture stood for in the previous Star Trek.

As the planet finally disappears from sight, we see the Enterprise zooming away safely without any problems. Yet again, we are presented another clear violation of previous plot exposition from 4 minutes ago, when we were told the Enterprise had to leave "immediately" or be destroyed. Just try to sit for 4 minutes doing nothing when every second could be the difference between life and death. After 240 potential coin flips, you're pretty certain to get tails at least once - unless you have the magical protections we see routinely in this film.

We hear Spock making a log entry as follows: "Acting captain's log, stardate 2258.42: we have had no word from from Captain Pike, I have therefore classified him as a hostage of the war criminal known as Nero. Nero who has destroyed my home planet and most of its six billion inhabitants. While the essence of our culture has been saved in the Elders who now reside on the ship, I estimate no more than 10,000 have survived. I am now a member of an endangered species."

During this recitation we see Dr. McCoy examining some few surviving Vulcans in sick bay. As Spock completes his entry, we again see him staring off into space from the command chair, from which he rises as Uhura looks on in the background.

No women speak in this segment, although two or three appear as scenery – much like the furniture.

Next: Star Trek by the Minute 065: Uhura's Kiss

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

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Star Trek by the Minute 062: Katric Ark Escape

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As the segment opens we see Spock running up the large sloping mountainside that leads up to Katric Ark entrance. It seems to be quite a ways and we wonder why he would want to beam down so far away from the entrance. The planet is collapsing, everyone has mere seconds to survive, while Spock is doing some kind of weird crouching beam-in position, and has decided to try some mountain jogging across dangerous & unstable terrain for what, sightseeing? We know that everyone on the planet, everyone on the ship, and the Enterprise itself have only a few seconds. Since we later see the evacuees transported from just outside the Katric Ark entrance, we have to wonder why, in the Vulcan hell, (Thx Muser) would anyone would ever consider beaming to the bottom of the mountain they need to get inside?
Eventually making it into the entrance tunnel, he shields eyes from falling debris and sprints into the temple chamber door and up some stairs to a gigantic statue of some Vulcan icon, around which the senior council is assembled.
"Spock" Amanda says rising from her seated position as she notices her son. Spock declares, "The planet has only seconds left; We must evacuate!" The convened Vulcan dignitaries glance nervously at each other, and Spock says "Mother, now!" before they begin to exit the chamber and large chunks of statuary and boulders from the cave roof come crashing down in dusty clouds behind them. It may be that some of the Vulcans have very slow reflexes, as one of the extremely large statues slowly collapses like a giant sequoia, yet this does not stop one of the council members from sprinting toward its landing zone. The massive body parts of this statue and it's accompanying cloud of dust obscure what must be an impressive splatter of green blood but probably an unimpressive splatter up cranial contents - judging by his actions.
Spock and Amanda lead the survivors in and the dash through the tunnel with Spock protectively covering his mother ensuring she is safe, and first of the cave as stragglers are crushed by the rapidly collapsing passageway and the increasing severity of the shaking from all the seismic activity.
As the refugees emerge from the ark entrance, we see being in the destruction of the landscape around them with mountainous collapsing in huge boulders and Spock and Amanda view the destruction as Spock flips open his communicator and orders, "Spock to Enterprise, get us out now!" Chekov, still in the transporter tech seat replies: "Locking on you, please don't move. Stay right where you are!" Hm. I'd like to know how Chekov intends for people on the shaking crust of a doomed planet being sucked into a black hole as it's rotating on its axis and orbiting the system's star, which is in turn flying for the galaxy to "stand still". Perhaps he thinks saying "please" will make a difference? Although completely ridiculous and even at odds with the film's own exposition, this is what passes for "action" deserving glowing praise from enthusiastic fans and it is believed: escaping the "stale", "dead" Star Trek of the past. Hm.
Although they don't show it in the initial shot of the group exiting the Katric Ark, at some point while Chekov is locking onto them Spock incredibly places Amanda up to the brink of a cliff during this furious earthquake. After everything he has done to keep her safe, risking the ship, its crew, is life, and their escape, we are to believe that he would put his mother so close to certain death? This makes even less sense than kung-fu master Sulu standing with his back to the edge of the drilling platform with no chute as it dangles near the jet stream. Not only that, but he actually places her on the cliffs age out of reach where, if anything goes wrong, (such as her starting to plunge to her death), it will be impossible for him to do anything at all.
This is the situation in which we see the Vulcans as the transporter starts up and the energizing effect begins, and this segment ends.
The only female to speak in this segment is Spock's Mother Amanda who utters one single syllable "Spock!"
Next: another long, drawn-out transporter death sequence occurs in our next episode. Star Trek by the Minute 063: Amanda Dies.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Star Trek by the Minute 061: Spock Beams Down

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With Kirk and Sulu tumbling in an uncontrolled free-fall, Kirk yells: "Enterprise, where are you?" Again, what Kirk chooses to shout is not only pointless, but in the real world this shouting would be impossible as well. Any experienced jumper can tell you, just breathing is difficult enough when you have winds over 100 MPH hitting your unprotected face head on, try enunciating anything intelligible with this kind of turbulence blasting your mouth and lips. The effect can be simulated by having a competent friend drive over 100 MPH, while one sticks their head out the passenger-side window, and you'll see what I mean. Next, try holding a microphone 1 meter out to the side (like a cellphone) and get an understandable message to it. Good luck.

Naturally, you would not hear anything from the device because of wind interference, yet Chekov repeats "Hold on, hold on, hold on." Forget about the unbelievable story, the fact that this writing came from people who get paid for this dreck is the real excitement. Perhaps they were going for a "more dramatic" effect by more repetition? At this point I swear: Kirk responds "Now, now, now, do it now! Now, now, now, now." Dear reader, can you GUESS what Chekov says AGAIN to his free-falling comrades? That's right: "Hold on." Unbelievable. Another potentially suicidal mistake these geniuses have been making is for them to stay together in freefall. By separating, they can increase their surface area and gain valuable time by slowing their descent. Another potentially suicidal mistake was Sulu not bothering to try his communicator at all. In a worst case, it would give a signal to which the ship could lock-on.

Finally, his stuttering comes to an end, and he says: "Compensating gravitational pull and…gotcha!" They materialize just above the transporter pad – yet still falling. Apparently the transporter can filter out really big relative velocities that would puree any mammal, but when it comes to an object falling it's completely flummoxed.

In homage to the love between George Takei and the Shat, Sulu and Kirk fall to the deck in each other's arms – quite "touching". "Thanks" says Sulu, "No problem," pants Kirk. Spock strides in strapping on a black holster style belt and orders "Clear the pad, I'm beaming to the surface." Apparently, the 7 spaces on the transporter have fewer controls than a Tivo. Kirk, stepping down with Sulu asks another set of nonsensical queries: "The surface of what? What're you going down there? Are you nuts?" I would only guess this was thought to be humorous. Spock checks a phaser and crouches, for some reason. Kirk yells: "Spock, you can't do that!" which is obviously untrue, unhelpful, and meaningless. The former skipper orders "Energize!" To which Kirk yells his next incomprehensible line: "Spock!"

Spock materializes in a landscape that reminds me of Oblivion from Elder Scrolls IV, but is really a computer enhanced Vasquez Rocks. He looks around at the collapsing cliffs, stands up (why was he crouched again?), and bolts off running down into the Mentakan valley.

No women utter a word or appear in this segment.

Next time, we wonder why Spock beamed down so far from his destination, in Star Trek by the Minute 062: Katric Ark Escape.

Aspen Music Festival: Music with a View Concert

Distinguished theory and performance teacher provides expert knowledge during " Music with a View "at the Aspen Art Museum