There are few scenes in the history of film that hit me harder than the Super 8 sequence in Paris, Texas.
Rarely do films like this get made. Especially now. Not without a dose of heavy handed social commentary and violence.
That’s not the case with Paris, Texas. It’s subject is simple: one man’s inability to face his problems. All of this juxtaposed against the vast American landscape that’s both empty and crowded…dead and alive. Wim Wenders’ vision of America is embodied by the character Travis, played by the enigmatic Harry Dean Stanton.
The first time I watched this, it was almost like a religious experience. I was 10 or 11 years old and stayed up late while watching cable to see some tities. Fortunately, nothing was on Cinemax so I switched over to HBO. Paris, Texas was playing.
I don’t know why I kept watching it (probably because you see some Aurore Clement side boob), but next thing I know, I was fully engrossed in the story. It was the first movie where, when it ended, I didn’t know what hit me.
It was probably at that moment when it occurred to me: THIS is why people love movies.
Some people hate Paris, Texas. Some say it’s too slow. Some don’t like Travis because he abandoned his family.
I personally like movies that take their time. And if you don’t like Travis’ decisions, it’s not like the movie presents him as mensch.
In fact, Travis…along with his wife Jane…are presented as two VERY troubled people. From the perspective of Travis, he had to leave at the end because he was utterly broken. I would go as far as to say that Travis’ entire existence consists of (unintentionally) ruining people’s lives.
This film is not only about Travis trying to reunite his wife and child (Hunter), but it’s also about ruining the lives of his brother Walt and his wife Anne who took custody of Hunter during his disappearance.
Another heartbreaking scene is when Anne fails to convince Travis and Hunter to return home, and she goes to lie down in Hunter’s bed. Even though Hunter wasn’t her actual son, she was still attached to him. And that’s the last scene Anne is in, never to be mentioned again.
But Wenders’ direction mixes realism with a childlike perspective (which resembles Travis’ emotional state) quite well. So, I think, that permits me to have a pessimistic interpretation of the ending: there was no way that Jane would maintain custody of Hunter, and Hunter would return to Walt and Anne with a better sense of his “real” family, which would likely cause further damage to everyone involved. Meanwhile, Travis, once again, ran away from it all.
Is my interpretation correct? I dunno. But that’s how art works.
So do yourself a favor: stay up late one night and watch Paris, Texas.
So I was filling out my pimpin’ March Madness bracket (obviously UK is gonna win it all) when word got to me that William Hurt died.
According to Marlee Matlin, maybe Hurt wasn’t the most pleasant person to be around (to put it mildly). Which is another reminder that Hollywood is a terrible, godawful place filled with fragile egos and needs to be nuked off the map entirely.
But this is also a reminder that some of my favorite artists and actors are passing on and we should appreciate their art while they’re still fresh in our collective consciousness. Some of my favorite performances from Hurt are in Ken Russell’s Altered States, Lawrence Kasdan’s The Big Chill, and David Cronenberg’s A History of Violence.
“Hey God, God Alliance, the Holy Divers…whatever the fuck you call yourselves…come get your boy!” I radioed to the new energy source on radar.
Yah jammed the transmission. “Captain, you have fucked me over for the last time,” he said over the intercom. “You will never escape me. I’ll chase you around the moons of Nibia and around the Antares Maelstrom and around perdition’s flames before I give you up!”
“Suck my limp dick!” I replied.
The energy source pursuing Yah was gaining on him. And with his final act, Yah tail whipped the rear of the Sagan, causing the ship to spin out of control.
“Fire the braking thrusters!” I ordered Valdez.
“Thrusters are having no effect!”
I radioed down to engineering. “Nia, more power to the brakes!”
“Sir,” she replied, “breaking thrusters were destroyed in the last hit! There’s a coolant leak in engineering. I’m diverting power to both the lift and main thrusters. That will stop the spinning, but we will be unable to stop in forward motion!”
“Captain, we’re hurdling towards a massive object ahead. 50,000km and closing,” Dr. Jackass said.
“Valdez! Give it some gas!” I yelled.
Valdez floored it. We were seconds away from crashing into a large meteor in front of us. The Sagan got caught in the object’s orbit and we spun around it a few times until we broke free.
The ship was now on a straight path, but we were still traveling at light speed. “We dodged that bullet,” The Doctor said, “but it’s only a matter of time before we collide with another object!”
I called back down to engineering. “Nia, can you stop the engines?”
“Not at this speed sir!” she replied. “And with our coolant depleted, I am unable to ramp them down. We will continue to increase speed until the engines burn out, but there will be no way of stopping the ship!”
We were now traveling at 1.5 times the speed of light and increasing. It was the fastest that humanity had ever achieved. But it was going to cost the lives of my crew.
Valdez and Jackass looked to me for answers. I had none.
I went over the intercom.
“Attention crew of the Sagan,”I said, “it has been the privilege of a lifetime to serve as your captain. All of you are fine officers. You have achieved only what others have dreamt. Let’s just hope history never forgets the name: The USV Carl Sagan.”
I leaned back in the seat and closed my eyes. Vibration began increasing.
Then there was a miracle.
“Sir!” Valdez yelled. “Speed is decreasing!”
I opened my eyes. The universe was no longer speeding past us. Finally, the Sagan reached a full stop.
“What the hell happened?” I asked.
There was a voice behind me. “I stopped this piece of shit from flying apart, that’s what happened,” it said.
I turned around and there was a Jack Lemmon-looking asshole dressed in white robes standing on the bridge.
“Who are you?” I said to the strange man.
“You’re God?! I thought Yah was God!”
“No moron! Yah’s that damn Deceiver fella mentioned in that book of yours, the uhh…,” God started snapping his fingers to jog his memory.
“The Bible?” I said
“The Bible! That’s it! He had this cockamamie idea that he could come to Earth and establish a kingdom for himself or some stupid crap. I dunno. We stopped him and thought that he should be a prisoner to YOU guys because he tortured all of you for so long. Clearly that didn’t work out. So now we’re gonna have to find some other way to punish Yah. That guy’s fucking nuts!”
“So are you the ONLY God?”
“I’m the only one NAMED God, if that’s what you mean. But no, there’s a lot more like me.”
“What do you guys DO?”
“Hey! You stay out of our affairs and we’ll stay out of yours PAL!”
“But Earth needs your help.”
“Let me tell you something: no they don’t. You think that because we’re “gods” that we don’t know what it’s like to be you guys? Guess what? We were like you humans at one time. Humanity can climb out of this mess and come back stronger than ever. You know what? I believe in YOU. How do you like that irony?”
“Can you at least help the Ishnarians?”
“Yeah yeah, I’ll go back to Ishnar. I’m used to cleaning up Yah’s shit.”
“I have just one more favor to ask.”
“What do you want now?”
“Can you send us back to Earth? The ship’s kinda broken.”
“Look, I’m not allowed to break the laws of time. Earth’s kinda a shithole right now. Don’t worry though, there’s still people there but they’re all living underground. How bout I put you back in your hibernation chambers and by the time you reach Earth, radiation levels will be back to normal. Sound like a deal?”
“Alright, sweet dreams.” Then God snapped his fingers again.
Many decades later…
The Sagan was orbiting Earth. Tranquility Bay was abandoned and uninhabitable. I made the decision to land on the surface.
“Radiation levels have stabilized, Captain,” Dr. Jackass said.
“Thank you Doctor.” From the bridge, I looked out through the view screen, down to the big blue marble below. “Should we attempt communication?” I asked.
“There doesn’t appear to be any technology to receive it,” the Doctor replied.
“We really are back to the stone ages then,” I said. “I’ll be down in engineering.”
I met with Commander Mwangi at her station. “How’s the landing gear?” I asked.
“All systems are functioning normally, sir,” she replied. But she wouldn’t look at me.
“Is everything alright Commander?”
Mwangi stood up from her desk and turned her face towards me. “You took a big gamble Captain,” she said. “You risked the safety of the entire crew.”
“I ain’t apologizing for getting into a stare down with the devil and winning,” I replied.
“We could’ve been killed!”
“I couldn’t allow you to live in sexual slavery!”
Mwangi sucker punched me right in the face. As I stood in a daze, she grabbed my head and kissed me passionately. “You are one stupid, STUPID son of a bitch,” she said, “but I thank you for it.” She rubbed her body against mine as she sidestepped her way back to work.
I had no idea what just happened. But I liked it.
I returned to the bridge and patted Valdez on the shoulder. “I never congratulated you on your pregnancy. Congratulations Commander,” I told her.
“Thank you, sir.”
“Are you ready to raise this child in a brave new world?”
“We are going home,” I announced to the crew onboard the Sagan. “To repair the ship, we’ll need Yah’s help. He’s being brought to the surface as we speak. His chamber will be stored in the cargo area, where Dr. Jackass will release him. We cannot get too close to Yah. He’s highly radioactive, but the Doctor will be equipped with a radiation absorber that I stole from the Ishnarians. You are ordered to remain out of the cargo bay. The Doctor will ask Yah to remain a safe distance from the crew.”
“If he’s God,” Patel asked, “can’t he make more radiation absorbers?”
“Good question Patel,” I replied, “but let’s not overthink this. Yah is not a supernatural being. He is made of real matter and is bound by gravity. That’s why he needs a spaceship to get off this planet. Additionally, it should be noted that Yah can read minds. But it appears that he can only do so at a certain distance. Perhaps up to 60 feet. If possible, stay 60 feet away from the cargo area. I can’t go into any more details, but when I order everyone to be at their stations, you will have 30 seconds to get there. Am I understood?”
“Good. Begin preparations for launch.”
I exited the Sagan to meet with Hazov. Off in the distance, Yah’s chamber was being wheeled towards the ship.
“It’s a shame that you are unable to stay,” Hazov said, “hopefully this is the beginning of a fruitful relationship between our two worlds.”
“Possibly,” I said.
“If you don’t mind me prying, Captain, I thought your ship was having trouble launching.”
I smiled. “Someone forgot to carry the 1.”
“I see,” he said. “Farewell Captain.”
We shook hands and I immediately went to engineering to speak with Commander Mwangi. “Commander, once when you see that the hydrogen drive is back online, fire it up immediately,” I told her.
“But Captain, with lift thrusters firing we’ll be moving at a tremendous speed. We risk burning the hydrogen drive out again.”
“Just do it.”
I went to the bridge and strapped into the navigation station next to Valdez. “What’s the fastest you’ve ever flown a ship?” I asked her.
“About 1/8th the speed of light sir.”
“Prepare to shatter that record.”
The Doctor then came over the intercom. “The chamber is loaded sir,” he said.
“Close cargo bay doors and release Yah from the chamber,” I ordered.
Yah spoke up. “Thank you for releasing me from my chains, Captain,” he said.
“Don’t mention it.”
I monitored controls from the command post. Moments later, Valdez spoke up. “Lift thrusters are online sir!”
The Sagan began lifting off the surface and into the atmosphere. I channeled down to engineering. “How’s that hydrogen drive coming along, Nia?!”
“Hydrogen drive is fully operational!”
Then a deeply distraught Hazov came over the radio. “Captain Kananga! Our planet is facing a torrent of earthquakes and tornadoes! We are dying! What have you done?!”
I radioed down to the cargo bay. “Yah! Unleashing the apocalypse on Ishnar wasn’t part of the deal!”
“Sorry Captain,” Yah replied. “The people of Ishnar have broken the covenant. They shall face my wrath.”
Now Yah was about to face my wrath, I thought. “I see,” I responded to Yah. “Dr. Jackass, please report to the bridge.”
I looked over to Valdez. “Have we cleared the atmosphere?” I asked.
“Yes sir, we are about to leave the outer orbit of Ishnar’s moons.”
“Good. Hopefully we can put enough distance between Yah and Ishnar.”
Moments later, Dr. Jackass entered the bridge. “Doctor,” I said, “on my count, open the cargo bay doors.
I went over the intercom. “Attention crew: please be at your stations,” I ordered, then activated life support systems on all decks.
After 30 seconds expired, I looked back over to Valdez. “Alright Commander, step on it!”
“Damn it Valdez! FLOOR IT!”
As we accelerated to an extraordinary speed, I ordered Dr. Jackass to open cargo doors. Centrifugal systems instantly cut out and we were floating at zero-g.
“Sir!” the Doctor yelled, “all contents in the cargo bay have been suctioned out! Including Yah! Closing doors now!”
As the gravity was being restored, I looked up at the radar. An energy source outside the ship was keeping pace. “Damn it! Yah is on our tail! More speed!”
“But we’re traveling near the speed of light!” Valdez replied.
“Can God go faster than light?!” Dr. Jackass asked.
“I guess we’ll find out!”
The ship began to rattle back and forth. We were under attack. Using his god-like power, Yah came over the intercom. “Is this how you want this to end Captain?” he asked. “Empty space makes a cold grave.”
“Faster Valdez!” I ordered.
“She’ll fly apart Captain!”
“Fly her apart then!”
Alarms and buzzers were going off across the bridge. The vibration intensified. If we were going to die, we were going to die going the speed of light.
Then I looked up at the radar. Another energy source was was gaining on Yah.
“Earth has been destroyed in a nuclear hellfire,” I informed the crew. “The Sagan’s communication beacon has been pinging mission control for the last 50 years, ever since we entered hibernation stasis. We haven’t received a response back. It is safe to assume that all nuclear powers on Earth have indeed initiated Mutually Assured Destruction, leaving the planet in a radiated mess, meaning it won’t be safe to return there for the next 250 years.”
“279 years to be precise,” Dr. Jackass interrupted.
“In all likelihood,” I continued, “we are the last remaining members of Space Fleet, and possibly the last Earthlings.”
The crew looked at one another.
“When did you learn about this?” Valdez asked.
“Not long after we departed Tranquility Bay,” I replied.
“So we could have aborted the mission, returned to Earth, and Smashhouse would still be alive,” Valdez retorted.
“My orders were to continue with the mission and initiate population measures on the planet orbiting Tau Ceti. We have a responsibility not only to Space Fleet, but to humanity as well, to maintain our race.”
Valdez threw up her hands in frustration. “What about our responsibilities to the people of Earth?!” she cried, then stormed out of the briefing room.
Patel spoke up. “What about that ‘God’ thing?” he asked.
“Patel, you don’t seem to be too disturbed about this news,” I said.
“Sir, I’m in Space Fleet. We all knew the risks when we signed up.”
I nodded. “Forget about the ‘God’ situation. The being they have captured underground is indeed an intelligent life form, but I believe its intentions are deceptive. In my assessment, it’s too dangerous to bring it on this ship and back to Earth. Therefore, that thing, whatever it is, is the Ishnarian’s problem. I believe our best course of action is to remain here, under the good will of the Ishnarians.”
“Sir,” Hanson interrupted. “I’m in agreement with Valdez. We must return to Earth and assist in recovery efforts.”
“Hanson,” I said, “there may be nothing to return to. And that’s to say nothing about surviving hibernation stasis.”
“Earth is our home sir! We must do something!”
“Now I am the captain! And my orders are to remain here. Is that clear?”
“How can you be a captain when there is no Space Fleet?!” Hanson said and left the room in protest.
“I guess the meeting’s adjourned then,” I said. As everyone left the room, I pulled the Doctor aside. “Check on Valdez,” I told him. “Confirm that she’s pregnant. Run a medical exam if need be. We need to investigate the veracity of Yah’s claims.”
I returned to my quarters and pulled out a bottle of bourbon. There was a knock on the door. “May I speak with you sir?” the voice asked.
It was Mwangi.
After my encounter with Yah, I had been reluctant to make eye contact with her. I took a big swig from the bottle and invited her in.
“What can I do for you Commander?” I asked.
“Sir, I didn’t want to bring this up in front of the crew,” Mwangi said, “but launch thrusters are blown in addition to the hydrogen drive being depleted. And with hibernation chambers being iffy at best, it appears that we’re stuck here.”
I started to rub my temples. “I can’t believe that Space Fleet sent us up in this piece of shit,” I said. “Is there anything you can do?”
“It’s normally a simple refueling process,” she replied, “but because we’re on a planet stuck in the 14th Century, it might take decades before I could develop the materials to even begin the process. I’m sorry Captain.”
I sighed. “It’s not your fault Commander,” I said.
“I guess you can call me Nia now.”
“Can I offer you a drink Nia?”
“I would love one sir.”
“Please, call me Bill,” I said as I poured her a glass. After I handed it to her, she stared at it for awhile in deep thought.
“I also want to tell you that even though you’re the captain and have to maintain a stoic distance away from the crew,” Nia said, “I have supported your decisions 100%. And I know these last few days have been difficult for you. But you don’t have to be a stranger. You have my support.”
“A captain is only as good as his crew, specifically his Chief Engineer,” I joked.
“Then you must not be a very good captain,” she laughed.
“Nonsense,” I said, “I’m thankful to have your support.”
There was an awkward silence for a few moments as we sipped our drinks. Finally, Nia smiled and spoke up. “So how are you going to spend the rest of your days on this planet?”
“Honestly, I haven’t thought about it,” I laughed. “I guess I’ll be a farmer. There’s nothing else to do on this forsaken planet.”
Nia leaned forward to touch my hand. “I could be a farmer’s wife,” she said.
I clasped onto her hand. “Now I just need to talk to the Ishnarians,” I replied.
“Dear God,” I prayed, “we’ve never talked before. Mostly because I’m pissed off at you for doing nothing about Earth’s suffering. But I have no one else to turn to. So if you are a just God, I pray that you keep this crew safe as we enter into uncharted waters. Honestly, I don’t know what I’m doing. I’m a lost soul drifting among the stars. Give me the strength of courage. Give me the wisdom I need to guide this crew. Amen.”
Right then, Commander Mwangi entered my quarters. “Sorry, I didn’t mean to disturb your prayer sir,” she said.
“I wasn’t praying,” I replied. “I was uh…I was beating off. You know, masturbating until ejaculation?”
“I thought you said your dick don’t work. You told the whole crew.”
“Well I like to cum soft. What do you have for me?”
“This is the full report on the condition of the Sagan.” She then handed me a tablet. “While she’s holding now, the hydrogen drive might not survive a return trip to Earth. I also report that we have cleared the Astroid Belt and are approaching Jupiter. The hibernation chambers are now fully functional.”
“Very good Commander. Thank you.”
I departed for the bridge where I found Dr. Jackass marveling at Jupiter. “What a sight,” he said.
“Doctor, we were here three weeks ago,” I replied.
“I know, but this planetary beauty never ceases to amaze me.”
I nodded. “Assemble the crew,” I ordered.
The crew gathered in the hibernation section, ready to be briefed. “We will be hibernation stasis for the next 50 years. During that time the hydrogen drive will slowly pick up speed. Eventually we’ll be traveling near the speed of light,” I stated. “Once we’ve arrived at Tau Ceti, braking thrusters will fire and we will be awakened from hibernation. Have a nice long rest.”
The crew and myself then began dressing down into our undergarments. This predictably caused a stir. “Damn Patel! Does that hog have a rank of its own?” Smashhouse joked, referring to Patel’s abnormally large penis protruding through his shorts. He then looked over to Hansen. “Hey Liz! Nice tits!”
“Commander Smashhouse,” I interrupted, “behave yourself. You’re a Space Fleet officer.”
“Pardon me sir,” he replied, “hibernation makes me a little nervous.”
After he said that, I began to admire Mwangi’s body in her Space Fleet issued underwear. That’s all I could think about when I climbed into my chamber. I began to wonder if my partial erection would stay throughout hibernation stasis. Wouldn’t that have been something? A guy that hadn’t had a boner in nearly 10 years would now have a permanent one for the next 50.
It probably would have been a record.
50 years later…
Unfortunately the boner didn’t last. But I figured that I’d get it next time.
The crew slowly woke up and climbed out of their chambers. Everyone except Smashhouse.
“What’s going on?” I asked Dr. Jackass.
“It appears sir that Smashhouse didn’t make it. He died during stasis.”
The crew was stunned. Valdez began to cry. This was my first death after 20 years in command.
“Funeral will be held at 1500 hours,” I said. “Everyone please attend.”
Dr. Jackass placed Smashhouse’s body in a makeshift casket and draped the flag of Space Fleet over it. The casket was put into the the jettison chamber where it was waiting to be released.
“Unfortunately I didn’t know Commander Smashhouse for long,” I said at his eulogy. “He dedicated his life to the service of Earth and the exploration of space. This crew loved him and his presence will be sorely missed. He was a brave man.”
Dr. Jackass then readied the chamber.
“From the cosmos whence we came. To the cosmos we shall return.”
Commander Smashhouse’s casket was then released into the vast, empty void beyond.
After the funeral, Mwangi and her two engineers began work on fixing the stasis chamber. “I can’t guarantee that this won’t happen again,” Mwangi said to me. “It’s going to take a long time before we can get these chambers fully calibrated.”
“You have all the time you need,” I replied, then patted her on the shoulder.
Dr. Jackass approached me alone as I was walking towards the bridge. “When are you going to tell the crew about Earth?” he asked.
“Doctor, they just lost a fellow crew member. Now’s not the time.”
“Don’t wait too long.”
As I came onto the bridge, Valdez announced that we were approaching the fourth planet from Tau Ceti…our destination.
It’s resemblance was strikingly similar to Earth’s.
“Send out a message on the same frequency as the extraterrestrial transmission. Let it state: ‘Your message has been received. We come from Earth and are currently orbiting your planet to establish peaceful communication. Please respond.’”
Valdez relayed the transmission and the bridge stood silent until we received a response.
Moments later, a message was coming in through the computer. What appeared to me as gibberish, Dr. Jackass gawked at in amazement. “My god,” he said.
“This appears to be a mix of Hebrew and possibly other Sumerian languages. Whatever it is, it’s definitely an Indo-European language.”
“How’s that possible? Can you decode it?”
“Running it through the computer now,” the Doctor said. He typed away frantically until the results were in. “I have it, sir. These are coordinates. A diplomatic party will be there waiting on us.”
“These guys don’t fuck around,” I said. “Alright, assemble the crew and initiate landing procedures.”
Everybody was gathered together once again. At that moment, I hadn’t yet processed the gravity of the situation. “Shortly we will begin landing on this planet, whatever the occupants call it,” I said to the crew. “You need not worry: surface conditions are extremely Earth-like. Dignitaries will be there to greet us when we land. The Doctor and I are both trained in diplomacy, and we handle this situation. Please be on your best behavior. Now strap in, we will be on the surface shortly.”
I sat on the bridge while Valdez steered the ship towards the surface. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. This planet was like a second Earth.
Finally we landed on a prairie-like terrain. I walked towards the back of the ship with the Doctor where the bay doors were. I took a deep breath. “Open the doors,” I said.
We proceeded down the lowering platform, and there waiting on us were 15 humans. I was puzzled by this, but I pushed forward with the plan.
The Doctor and I walked up to the man in front. “I am Captain William Kananga. And this is my first officer, Dr. Sergei Jackass. We are members of Earth’s Space Fleet. We come in peace.”
The man smiled. “I am Hazov. And welcome to Ishna.”
He spoke perfect English.
“How can you understand us?” I asked.
“We were able to decipher your language by monitoring your communications.”
“Please Captain, we will go over all the details in time. But first, you must know why we invited you here.”
“We have undergone a massive revolution in the last 100 of your Earth years. We have taken control of Ishna by overcoming a being that both our planets are familiar with. We want to offer you a chance to bring to justice a Being so powerful that he forever altered your history.”
“I don’t understand.”
“We are offering you what was once called the One…Adonai…God.”
“I never go into space sober,” I told Dr. Jackass.
The USV Carl Sagan departed from Tranquility Bay en route to Tau Ceti. The doctor and myself were doing preparations before addressing the crew.
“I just don’t think introducing yourself to the crew is a good idea when you’re drunk,” the doctor replied.
“I’ll decide what’s best for this mission.”
The two of us got into our dress blues and proceeded to the conference area where the crew was assembled. “Good afternoon,” I said, “I am Captain William Kananga. You may call me Bill. The gentleman standing next to me is Dr. Sergei Jackass. He will serve as the executive, chief medical, and chief science officer of this mission. We are currently en route to Tau Ceti, approximately 4 light years away, which would make this the first interstellar mission outside of the Solar System.”
The crew looked at one another, startled by this revelation.
“The objective of this mission was previously classified, but now it can be told,” I continued. “Space Fleet has received a transmission from a planet orbiting Tau Ceti. The information contained in this transmission is of the most extraordinary nature. In fact, it has the potential to be the most significant finding in human history. There is now considerable evidence for the existence of extraterrestrial intelligence. So our mission is to initiate first contact with these beings.”
I took a pause for dramatic purposes, then proceeded. “I’m sure you all have had time to meet with one another, but I will do some formal introductions. LT Commander Lauren Valdez is our Chief Pilot. LT Commander Dick Smashhouse, the co-pilot and navigator. Commander Nia Mwangi, Chief Engineer. LT Elizabeth Hanson and LT Arun Patel are also engineers serving under Commander Mwangi. In case you haven’t noticed, serving under my command are six very attractive people of both sexes: three males and three females from all corners of the Earth. This is done for the purposes of genetic diversity should we get stranded on this alien planet. Yes, we might have to fuck one another because this will be a long ass mission. Don’t worry about me though. My dick don’t work. Any questions?”
Commander Smashouse raised his hand. “Yes sir,” he asked, “can the Starship of the Imagination handle a mission of this magnitude? After all, she doesn’t have the best reputation.”
The crew laughed.
“Yes yes, I know about the reputation of the Sagan,” I replied. “But I assure you, with this new design and refit, she is now the finest ship in the Fleet. Anything else?”
Not a hand was raised.
“Then you have your orders. Once we reach the orbit of Jupiter, we will initiate the hibernation phase of this mission. DISMISSED.”
The crew disbursed to their respective stations. I met with Commander Mwangi to discuss the condition of the Sagan. “Centrifugal operations are fully functional,” she said, “our gravity is now comparable to Earth’s.”
“Very good,” I replied. “By the way, the Sagan is a good ship right? I hope I wasn’t blowing smoke up everyone’s ass.“
“Well,” she said and gave a long, uncomfortable pause. “I’ll just say that she can do the job. I’ll have a full report for you in the morning.”
“Thank you Commander. I’ll be in my quarters.”
I sat down at the edge of my bed and cracked open a beer. Dr. Jackass walked in moments later. “You should’ve packed liquor. It’ll last you longer,” he said.
“Are you feeling better now that you’re back in Space?”
“You know doctor, I know that you’re the Chief Medical officer, but I don’t need you to be my psychiatrist.”
“Jesus Bill! I’m just trying to have a conversation!”
“Well I’m still pissed off that Space Fleet has sent us on this wild goose chase. How can we initiate first contact with an alien species while Earth is an absolute dumpster fire?”
“Maybe a perfect world can never be achieved. But we should always pursue a better one.”
“Whatever Dr. Confucius.”
We were then interrupted by Commander Valdez over the intercom. “Sir, you have a subspace message coming in from Admiral Stockdale.”
“Put it through,” I groaned.
I put down the beer and booted up the computer. “To Captain Kananga: FOR YOUR EYES ONLY,” the message read. I tapped on the screen and a video of the Admiral popped up.
“Bill,” the Admiral said, “I regret to inform you that the war in North Africa has taken a turn. All nuclear powers have initiated Mutually Assured Destruction. The number of casualties is yet confirmed. The Fallout from this event will be considerable and all of Space Fleet personnel and equipment have been reassigned to assist in recovery efforts. In essence, Space Fleet is being disbanded. Therefore, this will be the final order from Space Fleet command: DO NOT abort mission. Repeat: DO NOT ABORT MISSION. The planet orbiting Tau Ceti likely has Earth-like conditions. It is advised to begin population initiatives there. Should that fail, use the hibernation chambers for as long as possible until radiation levels on Earth return to normal. This is a process that might take centuries. It is also advisable to not inform the crew of this development until after reaching Tau Ceti. It has been a pleasure serving with you Bill. Farewell.”
As we settle into the Cold War II and the ever present threat of nuclear war, it’s time to look at the silver lining: we might get better movies.
One thing I miss from the first Cold War is character study films of the 1970s. They should make more movies that look into the depraved lives of ordinary people in an uncritical manner. I’m sure they still make em but they’re probably shit.
Jack Nicholson was the king of these movies back in the day. Perhaps the best example being Five Easy Pieces.
I’ve decided to get back to my roots and start building up my Criterion Collection. So I recently purchased Five Easy Pieces along with Paris, Texas (The only time I saw Paris, Texas when I stayed up late and watched HBO when I was 10 years old. It blew me the fuck away. I had a weird childhood).
When you have a toddler running around that gets PISSED if you watch anything other than Blippi, it’s hard to find time to watch these movies. But I got far enough into Five Easy Pieces to watch one of my favorite scenes in film history: Sally Strothers’ random heartbreaking monologue on being forsaken by God.
The essay pamphlet that accompanies the Five Easy Pieces blu ray is pretty good. Apparently this early 70s state of being, where everyone’s fucked-upness was a given…and people talked while others listened…is an existence that’s no longer.
So it’s refreshing to look back at a time that was no less deranged, but far less judgmental.
My news feed has been buzzing the last 24 hours. More so than usual. No, it has nothing to do with the Russians possibly invading Ukraine. It’s the announcement of a fourth “Kelvin Timeline” Star Trek film.
Unlike most Star Trek fans, I am content with saying that Star Trek died with the last episode of Enterprise. And we all owe Rick Berman an apology (even though he sounds like a legit asshole).
So I don’t give a shit about this new film (written by a bunch of writers whose work I also don’t give a shit about). 🚨 Spoiler Alert 🚨: it’s gonna suck.
How do I know?
Let me tell you about two men named JJ Abrams and Alex Kurtzman.
Perhaps I shouldn’t be too harsh. They did revive Trek. Because of them, there are four…about to be five…Star Trek shows airing. Audiences change. As ridiculous as it sounds now, TOS fans were reluctant to accept TNG.
Now I’m a TNG fan that’s reluctant to accept Kurtzman Trek.
The thing that TOS and TNG had in common though is one VERY important thing: Gene Roddenberry. And Roddenberry was succeeded by Rick Berman, who was hellbent on carrying out his predecessor’s vision.
No such chain of succession with this new Trek.
JJ Abrams did do one thing right though: the first 10 minutes of Star Trek 09. And that kinda highlights my biggest gripe with this current set of producers: they are Kliff Kingsbury of Star Trek.
All three movies, plus Picard, plus Discovery, start off fairly strong in their opening acts (or first few episodes) and then inexplicably derail into a total train wreck.
Moreover, this new “cinematic” feel to Star Trek just doesn’t…feel right. Trek works best on a shoestring budget, phenomenal writing, and the perfect casting. Case in point: Wrath of Khan. It is probably the Trek film with the smallest budget, but it’s also considered the best.
There’s a Shakespearean, theater-like quality to the Roddenberry/Berman-era Trek that, I think, many fans find appealing (even if we didn’t appreciate it at the time).
Of course, those days of television and movies are over (in part, due to JJ Abrams’ impact on the industry) and that’s okay. Things change.
“Just be warned,” Joe said to me, “Hell ain’t what you think it is.”
“You just have to see.”
Joe, Pete, and I gathered our divinely blessed weapons and proceeded to the cellar in the woods. Joe went into the portal first, then Pete. I hesitantly went in last.
I felt my body break down into its molecular and atomic parts while time and space melted down. Then reality reconstructed itself and the three of us were in a large theater.
On stage was a nude couple: one an elderly woman and the other an average-looking dude with an abnormally large dong. A horse was also on stage. It was a community theater production of Equus.
“Ah shit. Now I know what you mean,” I said.
We rushed out of the theater, side by side, weapons on ready. We were men on a mission, a mission to find…and kill…Jezebel. And more importantly, we had to stop the dead from invading the earthly realm.
Outside the theater, we hailed a cab. The driver stopped and we all piled into the back. “Does anyone want to sit up here with me?” the driver asked. “Son of a bitch,” I said then got in the front seat.
“Where to?” the cabbie asked. “Downtown” Joe replied.
The cab driver then blasted Jon and Vangelis from the radio and was humming along. I turned to the backseat.
“Hell seems more boring and mildly irritating,” I said, “much like Minneapolis.”
“Yeah, but imagine spending spending eternity here,” Joe replied.
He had a point.
The cap pulled up to a downtown bank. We all piled out of the car. “Are you sure that the Empress of Hell and all of Damnation is here?” I asked.
“Of course, with their ungodly interest rates, there’s nowhere else she could be!” Joe said.
So the three of us…a wizard, an idiot, and a guy with a shotgun…walked into the bank lobby. We went up to a loan officer.
“We’re here to see Jezebel,” I tell the man.
“Do you have an appointment?” he asks.
I cocked the shotgun and blasted a hole in his chest. “She’ll be with you shortly,” the loan officer replied.
Security guards rushed into the lobby and began firing indiscriminately. Pete became an absolute beast and started slicing away with his machete. Joe unleashed fire bolts from his staff. I unloaded shell after shell from my shotgun.
As we looked over the absolute slaughter of security guards, with blood and guts strewn about the lobby, Joe nodded his head. “I think our plan is working out pretty good,” he said.
“I’m out of shells,” I said and dropped the shotgun. Then I pulled out the .38 and kissed it. “But I still got six shots.”
We all went into the elevator and Joe hit the button for the 666th floor. “Holy shit!” I said. “How many floors are in this building?”
32 minutes later, we arrived. Jezebel was in a conference call with all of her minions. She was planning the final stages of her Hellish invasion of earth.
“What took you so long?” she asked.
“Your slow ass elevator,” Pete said.
“You think your earthly powers can stop me?”
I lifted the .38. “Nothing can stop these bullets sister.”