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Old 03-04-2021, 02:34 PM   #21 (permalink)
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"Jim, cancel those Orion Slave Girls! I've just sorted the entertainment for the Christmas party!"
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Old 03-04-2021, 02:35 PM   #22 (permalink)
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As mentioned some time ago, the first movies I want to review are all of the Star Trek ones, so obviously much of that was going to happen here, this month. I've no chance of getting through them all, but I can tell you I've done the first four. Whether I manage any more before the end of the month is debatable but we'll see.

For now, sit back, enjoy the view of space from the viewscreen, pop your quantum headphones on and enjoy the ride!

Title: Star Trek: The Motion Picture
Released: 1979
Writer(s): Alan Dean Foster/ Harold Livingston
Director: Robert Wise
Starring: All the usual Star Trek crew plus: Stephen Collins as Willard Decker, Persis Khambhatta as Ilia
Runtime: 132 minutes
Budget: USD 46 million
Boxoffice: USD 134 million
Critical acclaim: Very low
Fan acclaim: Very low
Legacy: First in the franchise, but quickly forgotten about.
Enterprise: NCC-1701

Finally convinced they had killed the goose that laid the golden egg when they had cancelled the original Star Trek series in 1969, and having seen its phenomenal success in syndication all over the world, Paramount decided to cash in on this and began plans to revive the series, but changed their minds in 1978 and went for a movie release instead. This is not hard to understand. The late seventies had seen movies such as Alien, Star Wars and Close Encounters coin it in, and make a mockery of the belief that sci-fi was just for geeks and losers. Smashing box-offices all over the world, it seemed science-fiction and space opera was here to stay, and you could buy your next beachfront property if you hedged your bets in that area. And so in 1978 filming began on what would be the first live-action reincarnation of Star Trek since the original series was cancelled.

What resulted, sadly, was a critical and creative failure, although it did pull in the box-office receipts. It does have to be stressed though that most of those who went to see the film more than likely did so because it was after all the first Star Trek movie. There are no records for film-goers who went to see it and were disappointed: you couldn't demand your money back at the end. Not that it was that bad. But it was. Listen to this:

A huge alien energy cloud is headed for Earth, and is surprisingly immune to the photon torpedoes three Klingon warships throw at it, destroying them all in the process, and also taking out one of the Federation's monitoring stations on the way. Spock, on pilgrimage to Vulcan, is about to reach Kolinahr, the state prized by his people in which total control of their emotions is achieved, but just as the culmination of his labours arrives and he is about to be presented with the symbol of total logic, something distracts him. He hears a call from out in space, and the high priestess realises he is listening to his human emotions, and that he is not yet ready. Back on Earth, at Starfleet Headquarters an older but perhaps not necessarily wiser Admiral James Kirk demands to take command of his old ship, which is being refitted and will soon be ready to be launched on its first mission. There is one problem though: the USS Enterprise already has a captain, one Willard Decker, and he is not happy about handing over the captain's chair.

There are many new crew members, but when Lieutenant Ilia, a Deltan, boards, it is clear that she and Decker have history, although she mentions a vow of celibacy. En route, another crewmember joins them. It is Spock, but if they expected a tearful reunion the crew are to be disappointed, as the Vulcan is, if possible, even less friendly and more aloof than before. He is however able to help Scotty repair and recalibrate the engines, after Kirk had foolishly demanded warp speed too soon, taking them into a wormhole and nearly destroying the ship, certainly damaging the engines. Spock tells Kirk and McCoy that he began sensing a powerful intelligence while on Vulcan, an exceedingly logical being, and believes that his answers, which he was unable to find while on his home planet, may lie within the entity they are approaching.

With his help, the Enterprise makes it to the cloud while it is still one day away from Earth, whereupon they are scanned, and Spock says he believes there is an object at the heart of the cloud. He also detects a feeling of surprise, that they have not responded, having been contacted. Kirk refrains from assuming a defensive posture, in case this is misinterpreted by the cloud (or whatever is at its heart) as a hostile act, but when they are attacked he has no choice. Spock manages to modify their communications to allow them to send messages of friendship the entity can understand and interpret, and the attack is broken off. For now. Needing to make contact with whatever is inside the cloud, Kirk has little alternative but to order the ship to enter the cloud, despite the danger and the uncertainty. On doing so, they do indeed find an object inside; seems to be some sort of alien spacecraft. As they hold position over the craft they are suddenly probed. Spock tries to shut off the ship's computer, as the probe is running their databanks, but the probe attacks him. Next it goes for Ilia, vapourising her and then disappearing. The Enterprise is drawn inside the alien craft.

Suddenly there is a security alert and they rush to find that Liuetenant Ilia has returned. Or not quite. Her form is that of the Deltan, but the voice speaks with a mechanical monotone, and McCoy and Spock confirm it is a probe from the alien vessel, merely taking the form of Ilia, the better to communicate with them. It says it is from V'ger, and wishes to study “the carbon-based lifeforms infesting the Enterprise.” That's them: Kirk, Spock, Scotty, the whole crew. Carbon-based lifeforms. That's us. The probe tells them it is heading towards Earth in order to merge with “the Creator”, but when Kirk tries to dig deeper he gets no further explanation. He sets Decker to chaperone the probe, as he was involved with Ilia, and the probe tells him that once it has completed its examination it will “reduce all carbon units to data packets.” Doesn't sound too good for the crew of NCC-1701! Meanwhile, Spock goes out of the ship to penetrate into the inner chamber of the vessel, a risky manoeuvre but he finds inside some sort of digital holographic record of all the planets and places this V'Ger has visited. He believes it is not a vessel after all now, but a living being.

He finds a pulsing sensor at the centre of the chamber and believing it to be some sort of conduit for the intelligence driving the alien, tries to mind-meld with it, but it literally blows his mind and he floats, unconscious, until Kirk, who has gone out after him, finds him and brings him back to the ship. He tells Kirk that the alien, V'ger, is a probe from a world populated by living machines, is incapable of understanding emotion, and is going through what can only be described as an existential crisis, as it seeks to discover if this is all there is to its existence? The cloud is now almost within reach of Earth, and V'ger begins sending an old-style radio signal --- a message to its creator, which it expects to be answered. When no reply is forthcoming, the vessel, entity or whatever it is sets up powerful weapons arrays above the planet, after having knocked out all defensive systems, as it prepares to scour the Earth of life.

In a desperate ploy to save his home planet (and his own life; they're next obviously) Kirk tells the probe that he knows why the signal has not been responded to, why the creator has not replied, but he will only disclose this information on two conditions: one, the orbiting devices must be removed from around the planet, and two, he must give the information directly to V'ger. He and Spock have realised that if the probe takes them to the central processor unit of the vessel, they should be able to deactivate the devices. The probe agrees, but the devices will only be removed after Kirk has disclosed the required information. V'ger learns fast! And so they are taken into the machine, where with the benefit of an oxygen atmosphere being provided we are treated to the first ever instance of the crew walking on the saucer section of the Enterprise outside.

What they find solves the mystery. A huge alien probe, and at its heart an old Earth one, Voyager VI. V'Ger is Voyager, and it is trying to transmit its collected data back to Earth, its creator. It was launched three hundred years ago, but now has been sent back by the inhabitants of the machine world, and is trying to fulfil its mission. But it can't, as there is nobody left on Earth who knows the transmission code that will allow it to send its data. Kirk has Uhura look it up and they send the code, but V'Ger does not receive it, having intentionally (apparently) burned out the wires that make the connection with its receiver. It wants to literally join with the creator, whom it now sees as Decker, with Ilia the probe. So Decker will after all get his end away and Ilia's vow of celibacy is about to be broken in the most spectacular fashion!

Decker puts in the transmission sequence manually and he and Ilia the probe are surrounded by light as they join and science goes out the window under total Star Trek technobabble. The cloud, the probe, the orbiting devices all disappear and the day is saved as the Enterprise comes out triumphantly, having once again saved the day.

Kirk (on taking over the captaincy): “I'm sorry Will.”
Decker: “No, sir, I don't believe you are. I don't believe you're sorry one bit, Admiral. I remember when I took command of the Enterprise you told me how envious you were, and how you hoped to get a command yourself. Well, sir, it looks like you found a way.”
(Considering he has not asked for permission to speak freely, this could go down on Decker's record as insubordination. He is, after all, talking to a superior officer in a very belligerent and familiar way).

McCoy: “The admiral invoked a little-known, seldom-used clause called a reactivation order. In simpler language, they drafted me.”
Kirk: “They didn't.”
McCoy: “This was your idea?”
Kirk: “Bones, there's a ... thing out there ...”
McCoy: “Why is any object we don't understand always called a thing?”
Kirk: “It's headed this way. I need you. Damn it Bones: I need you! Badly!”
(You'd have to wonder at the validity of this. After all, McCoy is a doctor, this is a cloud measuring tens of atmospheric units across. What's he gonna do? Diagnose it?)

Decker: “Permission to speak freely sir?”
Kirk: “Granted.”
Decker: “You haven't logged a star hour in over two and a half years, sir. That, plus your unfamiliarity with this ship and its redesign, in my opinion sir, seriously jeopardises this mission.”

Kirk: “Full sensor scan, Mr. Spock. They can't expect us not to look them over now.”
Decker: “Not now we're looking right down their throats.”
Kirk: “Right. Now that we have them just where they want us.”

Kirk: “Where's Lieutenant Ilia?”
Probe: “That unit no longer functions.”
(Oh. What an epitaph for the Deltan officer: Here lies Lt. Ilia, of the USS Enterprise. She no longer functions.)

Kirk: “Who is the creator?”
Probe: “The creator is that which created V'ger.”
Kirk: “And who is V'ger?”
Probe: “V'ger is that which was made by the creator .”
(Circular logic at its best!)

Decker: “Within that shell are the memories of ... a certain carbon unit. If I could help you to revive those memories it might help you understand our function better.”
Probe: “That is logical. You may proceed.”
(Howay ya lad ya! )

Spock: “Captain, V'ger is a child. I suggest you treat it as such.”
Kirk: “A child?”
Spock: “Yes captain. A child. Learning, evolving, searching. Instinctively needing.”
Decker: “Needing what?”
McCoy: “Spock, this child is about to wipe out every living thing on Earth! What do you suggest we do: spank it?”

Kirk (as Decker prepares to manually input the signal): “Decker, don't!”
(It's such a sincere request; Kirk obvously sees his main competitor for the command of Enterprise about to be removed from the game, and he can't wait. He might as well have said “Yeah go on, do it.”)

Kirk: “Mister Sulu, ahead, warp one.”
Sulu: “Warp one, captain. Heading?”
Kirk: “Out there. Thataway.”
(I don't think you'll find this in the Starfleet manual of operations, Kirk me old chum!)


Why does at least one of the Klingon warships not hit warp and get the fuck out of there when they see how powerful the alien cloud is? I know, I know: Klingons never run, but have they never read Sir John Falstaff? I mean, come on! They are clearly up against a vastly superior power, and as any commander worth his salt knows, it is no shame to retreat in the face of either overwhelming odds or from an enemy who has you completely outmatched. Besides, won't the Klingon High Command, to say nothing of the homeworld itself, need to be warned, apprised of the danger? Isn't this one time where a bit of brains should triumph over chest-beating brawn? But no: they instead fire --- with one of the ships already vapourised in seconds before their eyes --- three photon torpedoes at an entity which has already proven immune to such weapons. Are these guys idiots?

Kirk mentions that “the only starship in range of the cloud is the Enterprise”. But they're at Starfleet fucking headquarters! Are we supposed to believe that there is no other warship, starship or cruiser docked there, that the only ship moored there of consequence is NCC-1701? Seems at best unlikely.

Why does Kirk demand to be in command? Sure, we need it for the movie, but in reality, is there any justification for this? Decker knows the ship inside out, he's a competent captain. Why does Kirk think he is the only one who can complete the mission? Is he that arrogant? Don't answer. Seems to me he may just have grabbed at his only chance to get his own command again, particularly the one ship he would have wanted. A little petty? The needs of the one outweighing the needs of the many?

Spock mentions that, while inside V'ger, he saw the alien's home planet, a “planet populated by living machines”. He refers to them as “cold”, using “pure logic”. An early template for that later scourge of the galaxy, the Borg?

Memorable scenes and effects
The energy cloud is done well, but basically it's, well, a cloud with a lot of colours and things floating in it. My main plaudits have to go to the initial approach as Kirk and Scotty see the Enterprise for the first time in the movie --- I remember the lump in my throat when I saw that the first time too. After all, remember, this was the very first glimpse for us of a ship we had see carry Kirk and his crew through three seasons of television adventure, and we thought we would never see it again. A special moment. The sequence is perhaps overextended and a little indulgent, but you can forgive them for that. The scene where they leave spacedock is also very impressive.

Kirk's hubris
Never a man to listen to others when his mind is made up, Kirk is well known for pushing the limits and taking often unnecessary risks. Here, I'll be charting the moments when his overconfidence is his undoing, putting his crew and others in potential danger.

As they leave Earth, Kirk demands warp power immediately, even though everyone from Decker to Scotty advise against it: more simulation time is needed. The ship is untested, having just undergone a complete refit, and they should not be pushing things. Kirk, however, as usual listens to nobody, with the result that they nearly end up colliding with a wormhole in space and ending their mission before it has even begun. He is forced into an embarrassing climbdown, and it won't be the last time he has to admit he was wrong, or at least too hasty in ordering something. Also, while in the wormhole they encounter an object in their path. With helm unresponsive, they can't avoid it and Kirk orders phasers to fire, but Decker, knowing the new ship better, countermands the order and uses the photon torpedoes instead.

Themes and motifs
Certainly the theme of homecomings is evident here, and not surprisingly so. This is, after all, the return of Star Trek to the screen, albeit the big one too. But apart from that, it's a sort of homecoming for Kirk, who has been flying a desk for some years now and has almost forcibly changed that to ensure he has returned to the captain's chair. V'ger has its own sort of homecoming, returning to the planet from which it was launched, although certainly it comes back a changed probe, with a somewhat skewed idea of its mission! It's also a return for Decker and Ilia, as they meet again after an unspecified but not hard to guess at liaison on her home planet.

There's a theme too, though, I feel, of helplessness. Kirk feels helpless as an admiral, unable to take command of a starship as he has been used to, until he forces Starfleet's hand and convinces them to give him his old ship back. Helpless describes Decker, relieved of command and now subservient to a man he does not like, and whom, he knows, is angling for permanent command of the Enterprise. The Earth is helpless before the attack of V'Ger, and even V'ger is, to some extent, helpless, as it tries to work out what it is supposed to be doing, and how it is to do it.
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Old 03-04-2021, 02:36 PM   #23 (permalink)
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The plotline follows basically the same as a TOS episode called “The changeling”, in which an Earth probe returns, having collided with an alien probe, and, well, goes a bit loopy. Essentially, Kirk does the same here as he did there (or tries to): pretends he is the one the probe is seeking.

The relationship between Decker and Ilia, or at least their initial reunion, is mirrored almost exactly by the same scene in TNG when Riker and Troi meet on the Enterprise.

And isn’t that…?
Two cameos at the beginning of the movie for Grace Lee Whitney, returning as Janice Rand, promoted after all this time from Yeoman to Commander, who handles the disastrous transport of Sovak and another crewman, the fault in the teleporter resulting in their grisly deaths. The commander of Epsilon 9 monitoring station is none other than the late Mark Lenard, who played the Romulan commander in “Balance of terror” but is best known for playing Spock’s father, Sarek, in both TOS and TNG. He later returns as Sarek in the third movie.

Does this movie deserve its reputation?
Here I'll be looking at what is generally thought of the movie, good bad or indifferent. Does it deserve the plaudits, or indeed the derision it has earned over the years? Having watched it fresh, perhaps for the first time in a very long time, is my mind altered on how I originally received it, or does it still rock/suck, or is it still meh, or even a case of the jury being out?

The basic reputation this movie has is perhaps best encapsulated in a title my brother once jeeringly gave it, calling it “Star Trek: The Slow Motion Picture”. And he's not wrong. It's a terribly plodding, dull, uneventful movie. When you look at the later ones in the franchise, you can see how they must have agreed. There's very little action here, and no space battles at all. The only other vessels we see really, other than V'Ger, are the Klingons and they're gone within the first three minutes of the movie's opening. There's little too of the famed easy friendship between the main characters: Kirk is stilted and uptight, knowing he has overstepped his authority at least morally, in taking command of the ship and secretly unsure if he's still up to the job. Spock is even less human, having been on pilgrimage to Vulcan, and McCoy is, well, McCoy, but he's worried about Kirk. Scotty is fine, but then Scotty will always be Scotty.

The plot is wafer-thin. As I said above, it's basically cobbled from ideas taken from “The Changeling” and what was to have been the pilot for the new series, which was cancelled. It also has some elements of “2001” about it, but the resolution is ridiculous, and jumps right off the science-fiction trail into the woods of magic and sorcery. There is no scientific explanation as to why Decker suddenly becomes one with V'Ger after inputting the code, and why a new lifeform results. It might as well be magic, and it's a stupid, lazy ending. Had it ended as it should have, with V'Ger transmitting its message and Earth being saved, that would have been okay, but this pseudo-psychological mumbo-jumbo about creatures joining because someone fuses two wires.... bah!

The thing is that up to then there's very little that happens, and like a certain point in later “Generations”, when a friend at work confessed to me that she fell asleep during the scene that explained what was going on, the whole thing is very boring. It survives on one real pretext only, and that is that it was the first of the Trek movies. Everyone wanted to see the gang again, everyone was eager to see the Enterprise in action, and because of that it got what can only be described as a pass. I'd venture to bet that a very large percentage of those who went to see it came out bewildered and disappointed. In the “Questions?” section I laughed at the contention that there were no other starships in the vicinity of their fucking home base (!) but now have to ask what the hell were Starfleet doing while Kirk and Co rode to save the day? When the Enterprise, within the V'Ger cloud, gets back to Earth they still haven't launched any ships, called any back to assist in the defence of the homeworld? They're pinning all their hopes on NCC-1701, just waiting?

I'm also quite disappointed in the soundtrack. I didn't know it at the time of course, but it's basically the theme for TNG, note for note, with the odd nod back to the original theme and a few heavy bass or guitar notes when V'ger comes on the scene. Very poor. If I had to pick out things that could have saved the movie, or at least areas that impressed me, the launch of the Enterprise, the transporter accident and maybe the trip through the wormhole. That's about it. Not much in a movie that's over two hours long.

So yeah, at the end, I feel this does deserve its poor reputation. It's almost like the writers weren't trying, or maybe were trying to hard, and fell somewhere in between. The movie was overall quite boring, no real action, too wordy and without question, if she fell asleep during “Generations” then Helen would have been snoozing about ten minutes after this began. Thankfully it was the last such poor movie, and they totally upped their game for the next one. But as a debut for the film franchise it leaves a whole lot to be desired.

Therefore, having taken everything into account and approaching this both from a fresher and more informed perspective, all I can award this first Star Trek movie is a poor
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Old 03-04-2021, 02:38 PM   #24 (permalink)
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#1: Spock tells his wife and her lover to fuck off. In traditional Vulcan style, of course!
Spock returns to his home planet to fight for his mate, being in the throes of Pon Far, the Vulcan mating cycle which induces in him a blood fury. He is told by his wife, T'Pring

that there is a challenger for her heart and he must fight for her. He prepares to engage in combat with Stonn, his rival.

But T'Pring is clever; she can choose her champion and she does not choose Stonn, but Captain Kirk, who then has to fight his first officer.

and believing that he has actually killed Kirk, Spock returns to the Enterprise, leaving his scheming wife with the result she wanted. Before he goes though he pwns them both:

"Flawlessly logical", he compliments T'Pring, when she has explained her plan,that "if you won, you would not want me, and so you would leave, but Stonn would still be here. If your captain won, he would not want me and so he would leave, and there would still be Stonn." She inclines her head at the perceived compliment, but I personally believe that Spock was actually insulting her, telling her that she was unable to see beyond logic, as he has sometime managed, and more, has used logic to furnish her with the outcome she wanted.

He then turns to Stonn and says, "She is yours. You may find, after a time, that wanting and having are not the same thing."

ZING! Fuck you, Stonn! You can have the bitch! I am OUT of here! Laters bitches!
Luckily, when he gets back to the ship he finds Kirk is not dead, and loses control of his emotions for a moment. Ah, bless!

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Old 03-05-2021, 03:55 AM   #25 (permalink)
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Class: Humanoid, warlike
Home planet: Cardassia Prime
Values: Stealth, cunning, treachery, strategy, betrayal, brutality, lack of mercy
Cardassians of note: Gul Dukat, Elim Garak, Enabran Tain, Tret Akleen, Gul Damar
Featured in: DS9

A warrior race like the Klingons, the Cardassians are more brutal in that they do not prize honour. In fact, in their society the most underhand and treacherous rise to the top, and in that they are probably comparable to Nazis. They wear full body armour at all times, and have just recently been defeated (they would say decided to pull out) after the fifty-year-long occupation of Bajor, whose citizens they treated as subhuman slaves. They are a military society, ruled by the Cardassian Central Command but more accurately by their intelligence arm, the shadowy and feared Obsidian Order. Cardassia is a police and military state, where even the slightest hint of disaffection is greeted with instant arrest and possible subsequent disappearance. No Cardassian trusts another, and this constant air of paranoia helps the Order to keep control of and over its people, as well as affording it the opportunity to remove any elements it deems “inappropriate”, which is to say, threatening its power.

Cardassians are not happy about their retreat from Bajor, but like the Centauri in Babylon 5, the guerilla war against them by the indigenous population became too costly to support, and anyway they had strip-mined the planet to the point of exhaustion and starvation so there was little left for them to occupy. When the Federation went to war with the Dominion, the Cardassian Empire joined the latter, fighting against Starfleet. With a small rebel force building among the Cardassians, the tide was turned and the Cardassians turned on their former allies (a typically Cardassian thing to do!). However, although they prevailed, they paid a high price and were never again the proud, conquering arrogant race they had been. Cardassians are possibly unique in being the only race that feature in only one series, Deep Space 9. They are mentioned in passing in Voyager, and I don’t care about Enterprise but I doubt it as it’s set way before anyone encountered them. Actually they’re not the only ones, but even so it’s a little odd that they are so inextricably tied into DS9.
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Old 03-05-2021, 03:58 AM   #26 (permalink)
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Every hero needs his nemesis, every goody needs his baddy and although in the Trekverse there is little in the way of arch-enemies, there are a few who crop up more than once. Star Trek as a franchise though is built more around evolving storylines than your average superhero movies, which tend to bring back in the same opponents time and again, or even the likes of Doctor Who, where you cant move without bumping into a shipfull of daleks or a Cyberman army hidden away.

Nevertheless, when Star Trek has bad guys, or girls, they're usually pretty damn good. So to speak.

Kai Winn Adami, played by Louise Fletcher
Originally a lowly vedek, Winn ascended to power after the death of Kai Opaka and by manipulating a series of half-truths that discredited the other candidate. Once in power (and even before she gains the seat) Winn proves to be an arrogant, militant leader who wants nothing to do with the Federation. She is jealous that an alien (Sisko) has received visions from her Prophets and become their emissary, a situation that leads her into constant conflict with Sisko, both as the Emissary and as commander and later captain of Deep Space 9. In her desire for power she unwittingly allies herself with a Cardassian-funded separatist movement, and later with the Cardassians themselves, through the disguise effected by Gul Dukat. She is instrumental in his almost taking power in Bajor and releasing the evil spirits known as the Pah-Wraiths, but eventually atones somewhat for her misdeeds by trying to stop Dukat, before he disintegrates her.
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Old 03-05-2021, 04:36 AM   #27 (permalink)
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Picard lets it slip about the illegal rave being held after hours on the Enterprise...
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Old 03-06-2021, 05:05 AM   #28 (permalink)
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Getting back to our countdown of my ten favourite Trek themes, in at number

we have one of the most maligned and least liked of the Star Trek movies, although I certainly enjoyed it a lot more than bloody Insurrection, that's for sure!

As for the theme, I like the sort of hint of darkness, the militaristic line that runs through it. It's not so upbeat and chest-beating as most of the themes, and it's brooding and just a little sinister in a way that prepares you for a movie that is certainly atypical of the franchise; indeed, there hadn't been as dark a movie since First Contact. Given that this then was the last of the original "proper" Star Trek movies I think it got something of a bum rap, but whether you agree or not, the theme certainly stands out.
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Old 03-06-2021, 05:08 AM   #29 (permalink)
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Captain Kathryn Janeway, played by Kate Mulgrew

The first and to date I believe only female starship captain, Janeway was in pursuit of a ship full of Maquis rebels when she ordered her then-experimental USS Voyager into the area known as The Badlands, and they were all transported seventy thousand light years by the creature known as The Caretaker, thus beginning the fourth series in the franchise. Janeway is the archetypal strong female character: she does not like being addressed as ma’am but frowns on the traditional navy affectation of calling all crew by “mister”, and so she will not accept being called “Sir” either. She says “Captain” is fine.

She is certainly not a weak woman, but in ways her single-mindedness and refusal to bend often lead her into difficult and dangerous situations, like when she makes an alliance with the Federation’s traditional enemy the Borg, or when she makes the decision to strand Voyager and its crew in the Delta Quadrant. Not a woman used to having her orders questioned, she demands unswerving obedience and expects everyone to fall in line. She has a husband back in the Alpha Quadrant, of whom we only hear once, in the pilot episode, and while away her main confidantes are Tuvok and Chakotay. When Voyager rescues the Borg drone Seven of Nine, she becomes a sort of surrogate daughter for Janeway, who tries to show her how to remember to be human again. Janeway constantly battles with the ship’s doctor, who, though a hologram, is as opinionated as any crew member --- perhaps moreso ---- and is one of the few who will openly challenge her orders, perhaps because as CMO he is the only one who has the authority to relieve her of command, should the occasion arise.

Janeway’s morals are very fluid. On one level she is the quintessential Starfleet officer, sticking rigidly to its codes of conduct and hiding behind the Prime Directive, while on other occasions, when it suits her, she will flout these very rules and make often bad and ill-informed decisions. When Neelix and Tuvok become merged as one (god help the poor Vulcan!) she makes the decision to separate them, acknowledging uncomfortably the resultant new lifeform’s accusation that she is “murdering one person to save two”, perhaps another example of Spock’s “the needs of the few” logic. When everyone is against her making a deal with the Borg she goes ahead and does so, and then sulks when the alliance falls apart and she is seen to have been duped. She constantly shoots down suggestions from officers she should trust, and despite a pretty shining career refuses to promote Harry Kim in seven years.
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Old 03-08-2021, 06:40 PM   #30 (permalink)
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From the very moment Star Trek: The Next Generation hit our screens the new captain was compared to the old. I did it myself ---- “Kirk would never have done that” etc., and it was probably obvious to Patrick Stewart that he would have to live up to, and if possible equal or exceed the memory of the first captain of the starship Enterprise. But as time went on and the series found its feet, becoming in some ways more popular than the original, and certainly lasting longer, Captain Jean-Luc Picard has for some fans become the captain of choice, eclipsing his predecesor. For others, of course, only one man is fit to be in command of Starfleet's flagship.

So, the question has boiled and raged across decades, as people on internet forums, fansites, in fan fiction and at conventions, even at workplaces debate the dilemma that has haunted man ever since we first heard those immortal words --- “Broadcast this on all channels and in all languages: we surrender.” Words we had never expected to hear Kirk say, but which were uttered on his very first day out by the new captain, and which instantly, in my eyes anyway and surely in that of other diehard Trekkers, reduced the man and set him forever in the shadow of the greater captain. But as I mentioned, we came to find that Picard was a different kind of captain. Where Kirk would break the Prime Directive three times before breakfast, Picard would protect it with his life and those of his crew. Kirk flouted regulations with a cheeky grin, while his successor was grim and stuffy in his slavish devotion to the rules. Kirk wooed women from one end of the cosmos to the other, Picard rarely if ever even had a fling.

And yet, it is Picard who has survived and taken the name of Star Trek to the minds and hearts of a younger generation, as his older counterpart endeavoured to solidify and maintain his legacy via the big screen, later followed by the man who was walking in his footsteps. Kirk is gone now (though rumours abound that he may guest in the third of the rebooted movies next year) and so is Picard, as both shows have ended and the movies starring both have changed hands, as a younger, more hip and happening (!) crew take the new Enterprise where no-one has gone before. So as the lights dim and the dust settles, we ask the burning question of our time: who is the better captain?

Obviously, there's no way to answer that definitively, since it's as much a matter of taste and perspective as it is of facts and figures. But science has helped me work out which was the better of the two movies about Christ's life, which album of Black Sabbath's was better and recently, which veriosn of “A Christmas carol” deserved the title of Best Ever Scrooge. So, as I'm sure at least Picard would approve, and Urban shakes his head in despair, we're heading into Trollheart's Laboratory once again, to check out each captain in various categories, compare them and see who comes out on top.

And where else would be begin than with the early years of both at Starfleet Academy?

Academic Career

Kirk: Commended for his “creative” solution to the no-win Kobyashi Maru test, seems to have taken to the Academy like a proto-duck to quantum water.

Picard: Failed his first attempt, and had to be coached by Boothby the gardener, though he did go on to win the Academy Marathon, the first ever freshman to do so.

Nonetheless, in terms of their academic career I would have to award this to Kirk. 1-0 to him.

Command: How did each attain their first captaincy?

Kirk: Although he distinguished himself while still a lieutenant serving aboard the USS Farragut, it seems Kirk earned the command of the Enterprise in the usual way, without any real heroics or incident while

Picard: Took control of the USS Stargazer when its captain was killed, which gives him the edge. Rather than be given command, he took it (albeit temporarily and in the utmost necessity) and was thereafter given command of the Enterprise.

So we have to give this round to Picard. Score is now 1-1.

What about service time? Well, Let’s see.

Kirk: Served as captain of the Enterprise for three years (the mission is described as a five-year one, and may have been, but we can only count the timeline we witnessed), from 1966-69, after which the crew appeared in six movies from 1979 to 1991, so that makes 3+11=14 years.

Picard: Captained NCC-1701D through seven seasons from 1987-94, and then four films from 1994-2002. That’s a total of 7+7=14 years. Hey! Exactly the same!

Now, let’s take into account Kirk’s guesting in “Generations” (1994). Does that change things? Well not really as Kirk was retired --- indeed, presumed dead in his timeline --- at teh time, and brought forward to Picard’s time, so the timelines are getting a little messy here. It’s the same as if he does reprise his role in the new Star Trek reboot movie: I just think it confuses things too much. So this is a draw then, and the scores remain at 1-1.

Ships destroyed? Each captain has wrecked his own ship, so where does that leave us? Let’s look into this in a bit more detail. What? Yes, we must.

Kirk: Destroyed the original Enterprise in order to stop her from falling into Klingon hands and also to take out almost all of his enemies at the time. Plus the ship was in a bad way and would not have lasted any protracted battle. The Klingon ship was damaged too, but not as badly as Enterprise, so it seems to have been the correct decision.

Picard: Allowed a woman to drive in Generations and paid the price! Seriously, the stardrive section was destroyed by a warp core breach initiated by the Duras Sisters and the saucer section was hit by the shockwave and crashed. So ended NCC-1701D.

Technically, though, it could be argued that he destroyed NCC-1701C too, when he ordered it back through the rift in “Yesterday’s Enterprise”. Yeah, but then what about the million other versions of the ship that appeared through the rent in space/time? No, I don’t think we can count that, plus Picard was not in charge of that ship, so it was really up to her own captain as to whether he wished to go back and set history straight.

So we have two ships, each destroyed, one by the captain’s hand as a final “fuck you” to the Klingons, and one destroyed by a combination of the Klingons and Deanna’s woeful driving. Think on balance, Kirk gets this one. NCC-1701 was destroyed intentionally, and with a clear purpose and a sense of sacrifice, while NCC-1701D was really just taken down in battle. Have to give this one to Kirk.

2-1 to Kirk then.

How about personality?
Kirk: Had an easygoing, friendly way of commanding; friends with his crew, approachable, would go drinkign with them as we saw in “Wolf in the fold”, where other such “nights out with the boys” were alluded to. Smiled a lot. Took discipline seriously but often did so with a heavy heart. Although everyone respected Kirk, he seems like the kind of guy you’d enjoy sharing a beer with, and wouldn’t be so stuck up that he would only mix with his officers.

Picard: Very aloof and generally unsmiling, rigid and uptight. Never joined in on the poker sessions on the ship, not until the finale, and indeed the final scene of that. Can’t recall him ever going for a drink (other than once, in “Allegiances”, but that time it wasn’t him but an alien taking his form). Did attend recitals and concerts on the ship but more as a matter of protocol and duty than actual enjoyment. Those who are close to him know and trust him, but I get the feeling that most of the rest of the crew hardly know him at all, and I doubt he makes it his business to even know their names. Then again, he does allow “Captain Picard Day” although he doesn’t get on with children, but that’s again more a matter of doing something because he has to than that he wants to.

If you’re looking for a captain who’s just one of the guys but still has the air of command about him and knows how to lead, and inspire loyalty, I think that has to be Kirk.

So that’s 3-1 to Kirk.

Stickler for the rules?

Kirk has been known to break the rules on plenty of occasions, when the situaton warranted it, and though Picard has taken part in covert operations (as has Kirk) he generally tends to stick fairly rigidly to the regulations, quoting article this and directive that, so it would certainly seem that Kirk is the one more ready to bend or even break the rules if needed.

But before we award this round to him, let’s consider if this is a good thing. If you’re prepared to break the rules once, you’re certainly going to do it twice, and where then do you draw the line? Do regulations after a while just become something you need to find a way around, at which point they cease being regulations at all? And as for Picard, if you refuse to break the rules on any grounds --- even personal --- does that make you a better or worse captain?

I’d have to say that I would prefer a captain who would be willing to think on his feet and assess the situation as it developed, without having to be bound by the strictures of the regulations all the time. So again I feel Kirk wins this round.

4-1 to Kirk.


Kirk’s ladyfriends are spread (sorry) far and wide across the galaxy, some from his past, some picked up on missions, some used to get an advantage over an enemy. Kirk is not at all averse to using a woman to get what he wants, and has the charm and good looks to make that happen. He’s also very persuasive, and women of course are drawn to power. Picard? He’s had the odd romantic fling but never anything serious, unless you count his feelings for Beverly Crusher, but then he never acted on those. Or did he? In the final episode of TNG we see a future wherein he has married her. But is this an actual future or a possible one? I think we can take it that it is the actual one, so there’s some romance there. Kirk never gets married, not even in the movies, though he does have a son, as we see in “The Wrath of Khan”.

Kirk is the adventurer, the action man, the romantic and the smoothy when he needs to be, whereas Picard is more intellectual, preferring women who he can relate to on his own level, thoguh Vash is certainly a woman Kirk might have been expected to pursue. In many ways, she’s the perfect mate for Picard, but she doesn’t want to settle down and can’t stand the discipline of the ship so their relationship, were there to be one, is doomed from the start. When he is in fact matched with his perfect mate, in the episode of the same name, Picard’s honour and sense of duty and responsibility, to say nothing of his moral code, will not allow him to be with the woman he is clearly meant to be with, as she is promised to another.

And yet, both men put their career above thier love lives. Kirk left Carol Marcus because he wanted to be in command of the Enterprise, while Picard seems married to his ship. In terms of being a “galactic lothario” though, we think more in the direction of Kirk than Picard, so once again he gets the round.

5-1 to Kirk.

Picard had better up his game, and soon!


Probably due to the nature of the show and his being the star of it, I don’t think there’s one episode of TOS that doesn’t have Kirk in it, and whenever there’s a planet to be explored he’ll be leading the landing party. By contrast, Picard is often content or impressed upon to be left behind, Riker tellign him they can’t risk putting the captain in danger. Pah! Kirk laughs at danger, and drops ice cubes down the vest of fear! Nobody’s saying Picard is not brave, or willing to beam down or over when the occasion warrants it, but Kirk never stays back at the barn, no matter what. Kirk again.

6-1 to Kirk.


Has either captain ever fought against, or been forced to fight against, his own people?

Picard is the obvious example here, when he is assimilated by the Borg and turned into Locutus of Borg, forced to direct the battle of Wolf 359, a massive defeat for Starfleet. He also takes up arms against Starfleet in Insurrection, the ninth Trek movie, for a cause he believes in.

Kirk takes the Enterprise, against Starfleet orders, in The search for Spock, in order to try to help his best friend find peace, and for his actions is busted down from admiral to captain.

But I think Picard aces this one; so for once the round is his.

6-2 to Kirk.

Back from the dead?

Kirk died, Picard did not, but being assimilated by the Borg is a kind of living death. The memories, the free will, the emotions all slowly die to be replaced by automatic mechanical and computer responses as the individual becomes part of the hive mind. Picard is to date the only human, bar Seven of Nine, to reverse that process and become “human again”. Kirk got lost in “The Tholain Web” and also in “The immunity syndrome”, but I don’t think that even comes close to coming back from the Borg, as it were. So again Picard gets this round.

6-3 to Kirk, as Picard begins to fight back.

Crew under his commmand

This is a simple, if unfair one. NCC-1701 carried about 400-odd crew, NCC-1701D over a thousand. More people equals more responsiblity so Picard get this round too.

6-4 to Kirk. They thought it was all over…


No, not those things you just got through taking off your Christmas tree two months ago! I’m talking about medals here, citations, commendations. Which of our captains has won the most honours during his career?

Kirk: Starfleet Silver Palm, Starfleet Medal of Honour, Starfleet Citation for Conspicuous Gallantry, Starfleet Award for Valour, Prentares Ribbon of Commendation, Palm Leaf of Axanar Peace Mission, Karagite Order of Heroism, Grankite Order of Tactics. That makes seven.

Picard: I've looked, and I'm sure he has been decorated, but you know, I can't find a record of a single one. So we have to award this to the ribbons-and-discs heavy Kirk.

7-4 to Kirk

Loss of command?

Did either captain ever lose, have taken or wrested away, their captaincy?

Kirk was replaced by the M5 computer in “The Ultimate Computer”, but that was only temporary and did not reflect on his ability to command, so let’s forget that one. He was again relieved in “The deadly years”, when the ageing virus made him too old to be fit for command. Janis Lester took control of the ship while in his body, and the aliens from Andromeda in “By any other name” took the ship over totally. Again, the ship was taken over by the space hippies in “The way to Eden”, but perhaps the worst blow was the decommissioning of the Enterprise in The search for Spock.

Picard’s authority was challenged and rescinded in “Allegiances”, but again that was not him. He certainly lost command of the Enterprise when he was assimilated, and when he was on covert operations on Cardassia in “Chain of command”. But overall I think it was Kirk who was more often relieved of command in one way or the other, so Picard takes this round too.

7-5 to Kirk.

Yeah, but do you have your own office?

Well, Kirk and Picard spend most of their time on the bridge, naturally, but when he wants to relax Kirk goes to his quarters, which are seldom seen and really nothing more or less any different than other crewmembers. Few people visit him here, unlike Picard, who has the Ready Room just off the bridge, where he can conduct business that is not for general bridge consumption, chew officers out, give secret orders or whatever he wants to do in private. He also has his own quarters, so Picard wins this one by a country mile.

7-6 to Kirk

Wounded in battle?

Though Kirk took many a knock, and did eventually die helping Picard in Generations, he never to my knowledge received any life-threatening wound. He seemed to almost lead a charmed life. Picard, on the other hand, was mortally wounded in a fight with Nausicans the night before he shipped out on the Stargazer, and had to have an artifcial heart implanted, something which later led to his almost dying. Have to give the bragging rights to Picard here, which levels the score at


The next category could be crucial!

Willingness to put his people in harm’s way

One of the many traits required of a commander is that he should not shirk from the hard decisions. If someone is to go into battle and it’s pretty clear they will not come back, the captain should be able to order them to do so, or take a request from them to do so without comment. Kirk, to my knowledge, never lost any of his people (other than redhirts!) whereas Picard approved (through Worf) the assigning of a yougn Bajoran ensign to a covert operation from which she did not return. He’s the harder captain here, and he pulls into the lead as the score tilts in his favour

8-7 to Picard

Personal tragedy

It happens to everyone at some point in their life. You lose someone dear, a marriage breaks up, there’s a rift in the family. Kirk loses his brother Sam in “Operation: annihilate!” and later his son in The search for Spock. Picard loses his best friend, Jack Crusher, but it’s hardly on a par with losing your child, so you’d have to say Kirk aces this round, and brings the scores back level.


Diplomatic skill

Any captain has to have a mix of soldier and bureaucrat in his makeup, so who is the better politician? Kirk always goes mostly headfirst into any situation, all guns metaphorically (sometimes) blazing; gunboat diplomacy at its best. Picard is more the thinker, prepared to talk things through and try to find a solution through dialogue. He’s definitely the better diplomat, better suited for negotiations and mediation, whereas Kirk’s backside gets itchy if it’s stuck in a conference chair for too long. Both can play teh statesman when required, but Picard is definitely better at it. He wins this round easily.

9-8 to Picard

Battles lost

Just as important as battles won are those where, with the odds stacked against him, a canny captain can see the value in retreat or regrouping. Certainly the biggest and most public defeat Starfleet ever suffered was at Wolf 359, but Picard was not working for them at the time. In fact, technically he won that engagement for the Borg, though of course he would rather not claim that particular own goal. He did surrender on the Enterprise’s maiden voyage though, and when they originally encountered the Borg in “Hide and Q” he had to go running to Q to save them, so that’s certainly a battle lost.

Kirk lost the battle against Khan and the Reliant initially, but he gave his opponent a bloody nose before he had to retreat, and in the rematch although Enterprise was badly damaged he came out victorious. Not so when he went up against Kruge: he was defeated then, though turned it into a kind of pyrrhic victory by using his dying ship as a weapon against the victorious Klingons.

I think in this case Picard seems to have lost more battles so Kirk takes this round, and again it’s all square.

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