Thursday, February 11, 2010

Star Trek by the Minute 073: Only the Delicious Run

STbtM Posts: First Previous

Kirk logs: "Acting Captain Spock has marooned me on Delta Vega." This matches the storyline so far only if we are willing to suspend disbelief about a great many things leading up to this point, and the fact that Vega's home in the constellation Lyra (right ascension 19h, declination +40) is somewhat on the opposite side of Earth from the constellation Eridanus, where Vulcan is placed. Dropping Kirk on Earth would have been quicker. In Abrams, Orci, and Kurtzmann's Trek, habitable planets are easier to stumble across than a Wall Drug billboard.

In a long shot, we see Kirk wandering through a desolate ice-scape, featuring a relatively flat glacial surface broken by large protrusions, somewhat reminiscent of the ship from Aliens, complete with precipitation obstructing our vision and howling windstorms that make hearing difficult, similar to the Nostromo crew's situation.

Kirk judges Spock's actions are "…in what I believe to be a violation of security protocol forty-nine-point-oh-nine governing the treatment of prisoners aboard a starsh…" Kirk's specificity in citing regulations seems a bit too impressive here…after all, we've never seen him crack a book or demonstrate any familiarity with regulations when opportunities presented themselves, such as in the horrible "enlist in Starfleet" conversation or at the Kobayashi Maru debate. Adding this would have helped make Kirk more believable, or 1.5 seconds could have been spared in the escape pod to show him looking at regulations in the pod. Having him jettisoned unconscious is not only an unrealistic plot element in itself, but damages Kirk's character by preventing him from reasonable prep for later actions which a reasonable audience has a right to expect like gathering survival gear or brushing up security regulations. Again, I'm left wondering why Kirk's rattling off such detail in the middle of a tornadic blizzard seemed like a good idea to the writers.

Kirk stops speaking suddenly, and turns to his attention toward the urgent task of gaping open-mouthed through the darkening storm toward an eerie howl, as a moving shadow appears from the swirling gloom. As the shadow nears, thunderous hoof beats accompany snarling as a large, shaggy predator gallops toward Kirk at about 5 times his size, bearing its fangs in threatening displays. Ordinarily, hunting predators tend toward more stealthy actions, but it is possible this giant saber tooth is testing the new primate in the area to see if it runs. If the primate runs, it is probably good to eat – whereas if it appears unconcerned by the large carnivore's approach, it is probably either very dangerous itself, or it could be inedible or even poisonous. Kirk, able to rattle off regs' chapter and verse with 4 significant digits of precision while marooned in the middle of a raging snowstorm on an alien world should have no trouble holding his ground, knowing this has the best chance of preventing an attack in this situation. Nevertheless, he instead chooses to virtually force an attack by running across snow-covered ice in full gear with the apparent idea of escaping the equivalent of a horse-sized arctic predator. We might be tempted to consider this a stupid move on his part and a sloppy decision by the writers, but since Kirk is shown 3 times, mesmerized and with his mouth hanging open, it really seems more embarrassing than anything.

The only thing that could make it worse might be for Abrams & Co. to throw in a couple of miracles to save Kirk's life and limbs from the inevitable consequences of playing the idiot in survival crises. In this case, the otherwise fearsome predator is somehow unable to close the last few feet to reach the bumbling James T., even when he falls. While closing intervening miles to Kirk relatively quickly, once Kirk starts running, the critter miraculously just can't seem to catch up to our hero until it makes a leap for the kill, and a split second before it's claws tear our protagonist to shreds, the ice behind Kirk's feet explodes with clouds of ice and another gigantic predator snatches the oversized sabre-toothed polar bear in the middle of its pounce and starts to chew. Rather than eat the precious protein it has just risked its life to kill, expending many calories, this new creature tosses the fresh, warm, meaty carcass away, runs up to Kirk, stops, and begins roaring – showing off lots of teeth. The scene is impossible not to relate to the similarly ridiculous Phantom Menace scene where the heroes are saved from death when the fish that is eating their submarine is itself attacked in the final split second prior to their certain death. When the main characters are rescued from death by miracles over and over again, it is not spectacular or exciting: it is disengaging, at least for adults.  At least in the frighteningly bad Star Wars Episode I, the carnivore actually ATE its kill, i.e.: it was more "realistic" in terms of known predators' behavior.

This abuse of the audience is reminiscent of the dream sequence in film.  The reason that using dream sequences are among the worst offenders for screenwriting is that any typical adult viewer confronts, if only on a subconscious level, the fact that no dilemma or danger is really any threat, since the dreamer can awaken and all can be well, or we can be made to think so, only to have that reality turn out to be a dream, and so on. The infamous "murder of JR" in the series "Dallas" was perhaps the most egregious example, as the show was written to reintroduce a dead character, a year's worth of narrative was explained away as a dream.

No women appear or speak in this segment.

The chase continues in our next segment, Star Trek by the Minute 074: Miracle Cave.

1 comment:

Haaris Qureshi said...

Some big creatures only eat small prey, even if they are capable of killing bigger creatures. I mean look at its mouth. It could probably swallow Kirk whole, but not chew up the other creature as it would have to. That's my theory anyhow.