Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Star Trek by the Minute 117: My Honor, Commander

"Bones!" says Kirk, slapping his Chief Medical Officer: "Buckle up!"  McCoy rolls his eyes.  Kirk sits in the Captain's chair and calls engineering, "Scotty, How we doin?"  Does ANY ship actually require verbally checking with personnel in engineering in to determine operational status?  Would the Flight Director at NASA actually need to contact a launchpad engineer to make certain the rocket was fueled, or would fuel status be automatically visible in Mission Control?

"Dilithium chambers at maximum, Captain," replies the Chief Engineer, who then turns to Deep Roy and yells "Get down!"  The obvious question regarding Scott's report is: how does a "chamber" vary from maximum to minimum?  I suppose if one knows very little of "Treknology", one might think dilithium is a fuel, like diesel or gasoline, in which case this report would make sense, like saying (of a car) "The tank is full."  Although treknology is not my forte, as I understand it, dilithium crystals regulate the matter/anti-matter annihilation in the reaction chambers, but considering the colossal errors typical of the film, this complete cluelessness about basics of FTL propulsion in Star Trek actually seems quite benign and quaint by comparison.

Back on the Bridge, Kirk orders "Mr. Sulu, prepare to engage thrusters."  Oh boy, this dialog is ridiculous - Sulu already reported that thrusters are not only "prepared", they are "at your command", you can't get any more ready, prepared, etc. than that, can you?  Like the rest of the film, we will probably have to cut to a complete change of subject to keep the obviousness of this incoherent babbling from Kirk being revealed...

In a complete surprise, we cut to Spock standing on the Bridge, which without warning attempts to keep Kirk's incoherent babbling from becoming obvious by distraction with Spock's ludicrous line: "Permission to come aboard, Captain?"  He is not merely aboard, but he's in the Command and Control heart of the vessel, its nerve center, or "brain"...just a little bit of a fait accompli, isn't it?

"Permission granted," smarms Kirk.

"As you have yet to select a First Officer, respectfully I would like to submit my candidacy.  Should you desire I can provide character references."  This line actually fits the kind of understated humor for which the original Spock was famous and loved.  This is one of his best lines, although certainly not in a class with the brilliant repartee at the Vulcan Science Academy.   

"It would be my honor, Commander," replies Kirk.  For a well-developed character, this would be a moving line that portrays mutual respect, but since Kirk has been consistently shown as an undisciplined, unprincipled criminal, this compliment comes off as a self-serving ploy to prop himself up, using Spock to assist in preventing others from discovering how unqualified he is.  Everyone in the audience with experience and responsibility for assigning or delegating authority is tearing their hair out as Spock exits stage left and Kirk issues the meaningless order: "Maneuvering thrusters, Mr. Sulu."

Sulu responds to Kirk's nonsensical phrase by actually reporting: "Thrusters on stand-by."  First, they were "At your command," meaning they were ready for use, then Kirk ordered them "prepared" which would be completed before an "at command" status, and now he orders them to STANDBY?  A standby status is typically used to describe something like a sleep mode, where a component or function is not active or in use, but can be brought to a ready status quickly.

"Take us out," orders Kirk.

"Aye-aye, Captain."

As we cut to an external shot, old Spock reads "Space, the final frontier.  These are the voyages of the starship Enterprise, her ongoing mission, to explore strange new worlds, (Do we ignore the new worlds that aren't strange enough?), to seek out new life forms, (Is this a clarification to prevent us from seeking life without form?), and new civilizations, to boldly go where no one has gone before."

Credits roll, without a woman speaking in this segment.

To all the readers and commentators, thanks for reading, enjoying, and your suggestions!  To all: I welcome your thoughts.

24 comments:

Mike said...

I want to thank you for carrying this to completion: it was clearly a huge task to undertake, and I have read the whole thing with great interest.

When I saw the film I had a good time enjoying the effects and the general spectacle, as one often does in the cinema. But a lot of stuff was gnawing at the back of my mind, and I think you've expressed it amply, and gone way further in your analysis than I ever could.

It's strange how much detail I forget after leaving the theatre, and it's an interesting experience to have it all hauled before me again by a diligent person. There will be flaws in any film of course, but the sheer number of them you have identified is astounding. Sadly, I am now forced to admit that I don't think this film worthy of the title it bears. I'm not a massively dedicated Star Trek fan, but I know enough to know a fake when I see it.

Thank you for your efforts! Are you going to provide a total screen time for the appearances of women, or a word count of their dialogue? I think that might be interesting...

BurntSynapse said...

Hello Mike, and thanks for the feedback!

I have no idea how many are actually following the blog, since most don't post - so I'm very grateful to hear that you found it educational and worthwhile. I'm sure there are a great many things I missed, such as the brick wall in Engineering which I've heard about, but did not catch. I don't think I'll go for timing the dialog, since I believe the point that this film was shamefully sexist, religious, ignorant, inconsistent, and poorly written in ways I never would have imagined...I believe these all have been made sufficiently by the detailed qualitative assessments in each segment.

I intend to focus the blog more on real-world development necessary for creating faster than light transit.

Reverend Jim said...

I also want to add my thanks for your intelligent and entertaining analysis. Now, what are you planning for the sequel?

BurntSynapse said...

I'm very glad you enjoyed it Jim.

Although I don't plan on putting much effort into it: for the sequel, in a best case scenario I'd be able to insure the plot, visuals and dialog are consistent internally.

I'd insure the script went through several QC checks, (simultaneously for schedule compression), followed by TIGER team integration for compliance with general rules for mythological narrative as well as Trek universe consistency within the alternate timeline...if I had to come up with a wish list off the top of my head in an Amaretto based, semi-stuporous state.

I appreciate your thanks very much, its great to hear from readers - very few actually share their reactions.

muser said...

I'd also like to thank you for completing this monumental task. Although we don't always agree I always enjoy the exchange of ideas and I hope you do as well.

BurntSynapse said...

Thanks Muser - it has been a real pleasure and education discussing these topics with you!

Steamblade said...

The best thing to come out of this catastrophe has been your analysis. Thank you for that.

Steamblade said...

The best thing to come out of this catastrophe has been your analysis. Thank you for that.

BurntSynapse said...

LOL!!

Muchas gracias, mi amigo.

R. Anthony Steele said...

I haven't done an exact count, but the number of minutes with women speaking or appearing in this film amounts to less than a quarter. Considering that the only 'person of color' in the film also happens to be the only woman with a significant speaking role is just a further indictment of the film.

I stand by my original assessment. RIP Star Trek. I won't be wasting any more money participating in fannish activities that would force me to acknowledge this horribly flawed film.

-RAnthony

BurntSynapse said...

Hi RAnthony,

It's definitely much less than 25%, and the essentially all vanilla, all male commands, crews, nemesis, henchmen, & supporting characters which are at such odds with the actual distribution of humanity, combined with such immature stereotypes and sexual objectification of the female characters (i.e.: the whole Madonna/whore complex thing, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Madonna%E2%80%93whore_complex) suggests a bit about some of the development team's prejudices and emotional development.

Chris M. said...

Having read interviews with Orci & Kurtzman, my interest in learning more about their prejudices and emotional development is less than zero. Their professional writing abilities (or lack thereof) are obviously compromised by same, though, however hard they try to rationalize their storytelling choices after the fact. It's a sad commentary on what drives success in Hollywood these days.

I've enjoyed this blog a lot more than I enjoyed the movie. I certainly won't be wasting any money seeing future sequels, so long as these writers and this director are involved.

At least there's still lots of other good Trek out there to enjoy... in prose, if nothing else.

BurntSynapse said...

I'll probably go through the torture of watching them all... Yes, there is good SF out there!

Anonymous said...

Hi Burnt Synapse,

Yes there is good SF out there! And one other sequel that should be RIP is Tron: Legacy. I was so traumatized when the film credits rolled.

Flashman85 said...

Hi BurntSynapse,

Though I finished reading through the series a few months back, I've been holding off on my closing thoughts until a few of our other discussions were wrapped up.

I'm a completionist, so I would've read to the end anyhow, but these posts are entertaining and thought-provoking enough that it was frequently a pleasure to explore your take on this film.

I'll also say that it was at times frustrating and draining to read these posts, especially in the latter half of the series where--as I seem to recall--there was less humor and more strong opinions that I tended to disagree with, and at that point I was already too worn out from our long discussion on 040 to attempt to bring up anything else.

I am simultaneously alarmed and fascinated by how much of an impact reading and discussing these posts has had on my life. Most notably:

- I have reconciled my feelings about this movie, determining that it did not, in fact, ruin Star Trek for me because it is a pretty action movie that happens to have "Star Trek" in the title;

- I spent about two months unable to fully enjoy real Star Trek because I kept finding myself overanalyzing every line of dialogue and every action the characters took;

- Fiction in general became less of an escape for me because I kept noticing indications of the writers' religious and political biases that took me out of the moment; and

- I found myself paying more attention to logic and evidence in my arguments and the arguments of others.

At the very least, you've challenged me to think critically about some of the things I take for granted. While "ignorance is bliss" is a motto I'm generally happy to live by in certain aspects of my life, I suspect it's building character to figure out how to operate on a more critical level than I'm accustomed to when the situation calls for it.

I'm ultimately conflicted about how I feel regarding the time I've spent here. Part of me wants to thank you; part of me wants to delete this bookmark and forget about the whole experience.

The time I've spent here has absolutely been valuable for me as a Star Trek fan and as a person who enjoys thinking from time to time, but you've elicited some very strong reactions from me--whether I've voiced them or not--and frankly, I can't tell whether that's a Good Thing, a Bad Thing, or just A Thing.

If nothing else, I appreciate the time and effort you put into not only analyzing every MINUTE of this film, but also responding to my comments in such a thoughtful and thorough way.

BurntSynapse said...

Thanks for the feedback Flash.

My goal in the effort and discussion was to grow, which typically involves some pain, but the rewards are on the whole, of greater satisfaction. Clarity of thinking and moral obligations to follow where the evidence and reasoning lead do incur emotional costs. We lose certainty and social advantages in a manner similar to religious fanatics or conspiracy theorists.

Our discussion and debates over the past months has been a real pleasure. I respect your effort and am grateful for your diligence in pointing out errors, missing links, logical problems and factual errors I committed.

Thanks!

Cryogenic said...

Hi "Burnt" / "Synapse" / "BS" (?)

Congratulations on a stunningly detailed -- though, of course, by no means, thorough -- analysis/evisceration of this J.J. Abrams' feature. I, too, consider the 2009 film to be a particularly loud, brutish, silly, smug and stupid entry in the Trek and Sci-Fi pantheon, chock full of poor research, inane screenwriting, lame cinematography, over-baked editing, mediocre casting and direction, ridiculous story "logic", all of which is further mired by an all-round shallow, TV-like aesthetic and puny-mindedness, informing (infesting) everything from the treatment of "emotional" moments to even the smallest of set details or action beats. In short, a mess. A confected mess, perhaps, but still a mess.

To reiterate: your enterprise, here (pun intended), is worthy of esteem. It is also incredibly edifying to see a fellow Star Trek fan engaging with media in this fashion: with genuine knowledge and thoughtful insight, cogency, clarity, precision, wit and eloquence. If only more people were able to think and write like this. Some of your entries, in particular, like the one for "Minute 013", in which you briefly discuss high-speed pursuits, have been truly revelatory to me. I have now read your entries beginning to end twice over. It was high time I left you some feedback! A couple of months ago, I intended to post a response to your comments on the "Kobayashi Maru" test scenario presented in this film, but the comments ended up rather long and cumbersome, so I scrapped that idea; but I have them saved in a file and may resuscitate them in time. For the time being, I will leave my feedback at this lone message, but I do intend to supplement your blog with further feedback on other entries -- yes, entries, plural -- for this movie in the near future. Don't hold me to it, but that's the plan!

Until then, I will close by asking... have you read "3D Master"'s detailed review at The Trek BBS? --> http://trekbbs.com/showthread.php?t=96577 There's a fair ol' degree of ranting and profanity that "3D Master" is given to throughout his review, and many of his criticisms overlap with yours, but his review is also written -- for my measure -- with a gratifying/entertaining level of pugnaity, and there are some additional criticisms and protestations that 3DMaster makes that don't appear in your entries, too. It is definitely worth a read (in my opinion). Some noise has been made about this Star Trek movie, but rather fitfully for the most part. You and "3D Master" (along, perhaps, with Bernd Schneider's localized objections on his marvelous "ex-astris-scientia" fan-site) have given structure, depth and intelligence to this fuzz of discord; and those who find STXI a rather dismal and disconcerting affair now have a voice of sorts. Again, thank you for your efforts with your substantive undertaking, and all my best.

BurntSynapse said...

Hi Cryo,

It's been a happy & humbling experience reading your feedback and 3DMaster's review.

While I could not have written his material and with his style, nearly all of continuity issues appear valid, reminding me of background information from the series that I'd ignored in my review.

I actually tended to avoid these since STXI was supposed to be a re-imagining by a self-proclaimed "not a fan" of ST, but 3D pointed out great flaws which I think I should go back and edit in with credit to him.

I appreciate the link, and look forward to your comments on specific posts.

Nemo said...

Where's the "next" link? :(( noooo

Anyway, THANK YOU for keeping it up for the entire movie, this was hell of a ride!

I silently laughed in the cinema but this was incomparable! You managed to point out tons of errors and moments of sheer ignorance that I missed even after second viewing. And I totally love your sarcastic style and editing ;)

It seems to me that I've been mistaken about this movie. I thought it's just harmless zero-brain-activity summer flick with excellent visuals, loosely (LOOSELY) based on Star Trek, but after storming through your posts, it looks like some sort of U.S. Army brainwashing propaganda footage.
This is sacrilege and blatant rape of the Star Trek ideas as presented by Gene.
I swear now that I won't go see and pay for the sequel if the dirty trio is involved (it is sadly) and I'm putting Abrams on my list of enemies :)

Cheers and I sincerely hope you will be there for the sequel!

Anonymous said...

thank you for this

John C. 'Buck' Field said...

The thanks make it very worthwhile, I'm glad you enjoyed it.

John C. 'Buck' Field said...

The thanks make it very worthwhile, I'm glad you enjoyed it.

Anonymous said...

Any chance you'll do this for the upcoming new movie, too if it ends up being as hilariously nonsensical as the last one?
That would be something to look forward to at least.

John C. 'Buck' Field said...

Oh yes, I've been planning on reviewing the sequel since this one came out.

I may try do do it in video though.