Dissecting A Scene: Emotional Climax Moments in Star Trek Films (Part I)

So over the Thanksgiving weekend, I made my family watch arguably the worst Star Trek film, Star Trek V: The Final Frontier. When the Sybok interrogation scene of Kirk, Spock, and McCoy came up, it occurred to me: “Star Trek is REALLY good at doing this.”

Doing what exactly?

They’re good at creating emotional climax scenes where character arcs come full circle. Trek films may not be the flashiest of the science fiction genre, but that’s not really their intention. Star Trek is at its best when it’s theatrical, or allowing the actors to fully explore their characters. Two of the franchise’s most notable faces, William Shatner and Patrick Stewart, are quite effective stage actors and that’s where Star Trek is at its strongest: being character driven.

So you have to let the actors ACT.

Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan: Mutara Battle/Death of Spock

This is probably one of the most famous and most parodied death scene in all of film. But this sequence is quite remarkable on multiple levels.

It’s a shame that William Shatner didn’t get any accolades for his performance in Star Trek II. His portrayal of Captain/Admiral Kirk is often viewed as hammy, but in truth, Shatner was quite nuanced in his approach. Director Nicholas Meyer figured out that his leading man was far more effective when doing more takes, which caused the actor to slowly dial back his performance. In short, Meyer wore out Shatner, which perfectly suited a beat down and aging Kirk at the beginning of the film. Obviously, Meyer let Shatner return to form at the end which had a huge emotional payoff.

Not only does the villain Khan get his comeuppance by succumbing to his own wrath but…in pursuit of vengeance…he ends up becoming a force for creation. Spock, of course, delivers the ultimate sacrifice, but Kirk finally faces the very thing he’s cheated his way out of throughout his illustrious career: a no-win scenario.

Thus, everything comes full circle.

Of course, it also helps that there’s exceptional editing and the score that made James Horner a sought after composer is playing in the background.

Star Trek III: The Search for Spock: Stealing the Enterprise

James Horner is typically given credit for the success of this scene. But you have to tip your hat to the editing and, again, the performances.

While we can criticize Shatner’s acting choices all we want, he always makes it perfectly clear what his characters are feeling. And James B Sikking’s arrogant-ass performance almost makes you forget how shitty the Excelsior bridge set is.

It’s a shame that Leonard Nimoy didn’t direct more movies. While he directed some television before, it’s hard to believe that this was his first motion picture because he REALLY elevated this scene. If you pay attention, not much happens here: the Enterprise slowly backs up to the space doors before they magically open and then the Excelsior begins its failed pursuit. But it’s fucking intense! The hairs on my neck always stand when the Enterprise clears space doors and Kirk orders warp speed. That’s a testament to Nimoy’s superb direction of an otherwise ‘meh’ script.

While this isn’t the “emotional climax” to the film, it is an emotional highlight for the Original Series crew; they’re sacrificing EVERYTHING to save Spock. Now Star Trek III isn’t the best Trek film, but the “stealing the Enterprise” scene is one of the best in the franchise.

2051: a space monstrosity (part ix)-conclusion

“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.

“God, dumbass!”

“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?”

“Thanks God.”

“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?”

She smiled. “Yes sir.”

I smiled back.

“Prepare for landing.”

THE END

meh

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.

Which is why we must let Star Trek go.

‘the internet ruined everything’s’ canon of greatest films ever made

You know what the internet needs? Another list of greatest movies.

So, in no particular order:

The Deer Hunter (1978): I’ve discussed this movie at length numerous times. I think it’s the greatest example of the power of filmmaking.

Robocop (1987): For the simpletons, this is just another 80s action film. For those that know better, it’s the greatest satire ever made. But each time I watch it, the more horrified I become. The idea of “Robocop” is terrifying. Imagine getting killed in the most violent way, then you get revived and made property of an evil corporation and begin to struggle to understand who or what you are. Hollywood is a lesser place without Paul Verhoeven.

-The Thin Blue Line (1988): This, along with Errol Morris’ (currently known for directing Chipotle commercials) Vernon, Florida are my two favorite documentaries. This is the story about a killing of a Dallas cop and a man getting rear ended by the justice system. I love Randall Dale Adams. He’s an everyday dude that took an unfortunate trip to Texas. We’ve all been there.

Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982): Yes, I’m a Trek fan. While every nerd has seen this movie dozens of time, I don’t think it gets the credit it deserves. It’s not really sci-fi, it’s more of a Shakespearean tragedy in space. In many ways, this film revived Trek. And director/writer Nicholas Meyer, who knew nothing of Star Trek prior to this, deserves credit.

Dances With Wolves (1990): I will go to my grave saying Kevin Costner deserved his Oscar. Fuck Martin Scorsese.

Taxi Driver (1976): We all know Martin Scorsese is a genius. And Paul Schrader may be the greatest screenwriter of all time. In the era of angry, lonely young men roaming the internet, this movie was well ahead of its time.

2001: A Space Odyssey (1968): if you’re gonna do science fiction, do it right. Everybody knows this movie. And because this movie rightfully gets the credit it deserves, we take it for granted. But, to this very day, it is the most ambitious film ever made.

The Taking of Pelham One Two Three (1974): I love movies that satirize a very serious situation. It’s kinda like Dr. Strangelove, albeit this film is dealing with a much less serious subject: the taking of hostages. Every actor is great, but Walter Matthau was an unusual talent. His face alone could carry a film.

No Country For Old Men (2007): The best movie made in the last 20 years. Cormac McCarthy may be the greatest living author and it ain’t easy adapting his work for the big screen. The nihilism, the existential themes, Javier Bardem, the vast, empty Texas landscape… “okay, I’ll be a part of this world.”

Blood Diner (1987): Most fans of the B-movie, cult genre are familiar with this film but it should be more widely known with general audiences. Probably the funniest fucking movie I’ve ever seen.

best soundtracks in film history

Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (James Horner)- Listen to that opening track. Then listen to it again. James Horner (RIP) had a distinguished career, and this is where he started to get noticed. And honestly, he never really topped it.

Star Trek: First Contact (Jerry Goldsmith)- Some say Goldsmith was phoning it in during the 90s. That’s okay. Everyone was. But he kinda zigged here when any other composer would have zagged. Many consider this Trek film as “Die Hard in space” so anyone else would have done their best Michael Kamen impression. Goldsmith didn’t do that. He went right for the emotional gut and it worked.

Dances With Wolves (John Barry)- When playing this on the piano, I like to mix it with Goldsmith’s First Contact score. That’s all I got to say about that.

Blade Runner (Vangelis)- Man I love the crash that kickstarts the opening credits. Vangelis is the only one that could have done this film justice. Tears in Rain is one of the best songs in electronic music history. Speaking of Vangelis….

Alexander (Vangelis)- The screenplay is godawful, Colin Farrell is terrible, and Oliver Stone is out of his league in this one. But despite all of that, I’d still say that this is an okay film. But Vangelis’ soundtrack gets overlooked. It’s different in that Vangelis tries to do a traditional score with his use of strings, but there are some electric elements that are worth looking out for.

Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence (Ryuichi Sakamoto)- The only reason people know this movie is because of the soundtrack, and for good reason. But the film as a whole is an overlooked gem.

The Deer Hunter (Stanley Myers)- You get one song and one song only on this soundtrack. But that’s all that’s necessary.

The Last Temptation of Christ (Peter Gabriel)- Gabriel’s international sound puts a modern spin on a familiar story. Every track slaps, but A Different Drum might be the standout.

killing james bond

Yo! Respect to Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson for killing off perhaps the most important character in film history (spoilers! 🤷‍♂️) Don’t believe that James Bond isn’t the most important? Well without this franchise, we probably wouldn’t have the modern action blockbuster. He was the model for the postmodern, morally questionable hero…before Han Solo, before Indiana Jones, before John McClain. James Bond was doing that shit before everyone.

And now he’s dead.

That takes balls.

I say fuck the fanboys. As Star Trek II director Nicholas Meyer said when he was told that he couldn’t kill Spock (paraphrase): “of course you can, as long as you do it well.”

Did they do it well? Don’t know. No Time To Die hasn’t been released in the States yet (they probably didn’t). But I will respect any filmmaker that takes chances.

Audiences be damned.

So where does the franchise go from here? The answer is obvious: HBO Max (or Apple TV, or Netflix, or Amazon Prime, etc). The James Bond Expanded Universe on television is the next logical step.

“But nobody cares about that universe without James Bond

Perhaps. But the good thing about this universe is that the timeline does not matter. Seriously. Does Goldeneye happen before or after the events of Live and Let Die? Does it matter? Is Ralph Fiennes’ M the same as Bernard Lee’s? Does THAT matter?

You see, nothing in the James Bond timeline matters. With the exception of the Daniel Craig films, each film and each actor sort of takes place in its own timeline.

So in this James Bond extended universe, James Bond is still alive because why not?

So is James Bond the main character in this new series? If yes, then the series writes itself.

But if the producers made this dramatic move in No Time To Die just so they can free themselves to explore this universe, here’s my pitch (since Barbara and Michael aren’t taking my calls):

Series name: 00

Characters: Ralph Fiennes as M, Ben Whishaw as Q, Naomi Harris as Eve Moneypenney, Rory Kinnear as Tanner

New characters:

001: (Male, 50-60yrs) An old Irish bastard. Hard hitter, hard drinker. Has been a 00 longer than anyone. Was actually a family man at some point against the wishes of Her Majesty’s Service, but naturally fucked it up. Has been wanting to reconnect with his son for years, but his son wants nothing to do with him.

002: (Male, 40s) Borderline autistic, has no close personal relationships. But make no mistake: this mother fucker can kill. Not much is known about his background.

003: (Female, 20s) the newest member of the service. She was one of the first women to get into the SAS before joining MI6. Fresh off of her first mission, she appears to be experiencing a degree of PTSD. 001 takes her under his wing and treats her as a surrogate daughter to make up for his deficiencies as a father.

004: (Male, 20-early 30s) a total cad. Along with James Bond, he often stays in trouble with M. Not liked by many in M16. A snarky, fratish type.

005: (Female, 40-50s) a seasoned veteran of MI6. There’s no situation she can’t handle masterfully. Often a part of M’s “A-Team”, she gets dispatched on the more difficult missions. The perfect female counterpart of James Bond, an expert seductress.

Recurring characters:

006: Alec Trevelyan (Male, 30-50)-James Bond’s best friend in the service. However, he holds a secret grudge against the British government. Will later be “betrayed” by 007.

007: James Bond (Male, 30-50)- The GOAT.

The Story:

M is ripping one of his agents a new asshole. It’s 001. He’s too old, M says. He’s a drunk and they already have enough alcoholics on the force (James Bond). But there’s still one more mission for 001.

“Don’t cock it up,” says M.

It’s not a difficult mission, but he’s getting a partner: 003. 001 resents this but follows orders. He banters with Moneypenny and goes to Q to gather his equipment. But instead of the flirty charm of 007, he’s cantankerous and crusty. He understands none of the technology that Q gives him.

001 and 003 go through the usual formula: they go undercover, enjoy the finer things in life, go to bed with numerous individuals, and cause plenty of property damage. And they do it with their own spin and charm. However, the mustache-twirling villain has a much bigger plot under his sleeve, one which has international implications.

With the plot spread globally, the mission comes under the direction of Tanner. We are introduced to the other 00 agents and their individual missions in different parts of the world.

But when things start to get real, M has no other choice but to bring in the big guns: 006 and 007. This culminates in 007s supposed “betrayal“ of 006, and while Bond temporarily plays the hero, 001 and 003 overcome their differences to save the day.

The mission is interwoven with the personal drama of 001 and 003.

Bond once said that 00s often have short life expectancies. 001 is aware that he faces death at every turn; the next mission could be his last. And he has been on too many missions. His demise in the season finale will serve as a reminder to 003: death is never an option.

jose peniswater

I haven’t been to Norco since I was mugged behind that high school in 95.

But I was taking Nicky, my dad, to Dale’s house in my mom’s Saturn Ion. It was a pleasant drive down I-10.

“You know,” Nicky said. “I haven’t been to Norco since I mugged a guy behind that high school in 95.”

“Well hopefully this will be your first steps towards a new beginning,” I said. “Say, when was the last time you’ve seen Jenny?”

“Not since you were born. I’m sure your mother is as beautiful as the day I met her.”

I didn’t reply.

Nicky looked out the window, taking all the sights that Riverside County had to offer. After several minutes of silence, Nicky said:

“You know, I’ve fucked everything up. I’m just a total disaster, a loser, a piece of shit, totally worthless, absolute garbage, just trash, deserve to be castrated, impaled, burned alive, and dumped into the sea. But if I’ve done one thing right in this life, it’s having a son like you. It’s made it all worthwhile.”

We continued to enjoy our drive as father and son.

We arrived at Dale’s cabin outside of town. Dale was outside, firing his rifle aimlessly into the air.

“Now Dale,” I said. “Dad gets depressed and suicidal frequently. So you might have to give him some of your unused medications from time to time.”

Dad went inside to take a nap while I went to the car to get his bags. Something glistened across the horizon out of the corner of my eye. I looked again at the eerie apparition.

“Fuckin Norco,” I thought.

Then the howling of hell echoed across the valley. A legion of bikers, renegades, outcasts, mohawks, and cenobites filled the prairie, ripping up the fields with their choppers, dirt bikes, and jacked up Dodges. Their storm cloud of dirt and smoke moved ever closer.

“Could it be?” I thought.

Dale stood in awe of the ungodly sight, paralyzed by fear.

“Dale,” I said. “Grab your G36.”

But it was too late. The ragtag army had us surrounded. The leather cladded gang bound both Dale and me and took us to an undisclosed desert location.

We were forced to our knees and the shrouds were lifted from our faces. A hooded figure, decked in black robes appeared before us. The figure slowly began to remove their coverings, revealing a face that neither resembled man nor earthly creature.

I instantly recognized this devilish being.

“Honda,” I gasped. Her face was no longer human. She was more machine than man.

She walked up to Dale and looked him up and down. “You. I don’t know you,” she said.

“But you, I never forget a face. James.”

“Honda,” I said. “What’s the meaning of this attack? If it’s money you want, then I’ve got some bad news for you.”

“SILENCE!” she yelled. She moved closer to us. “You know how I got this face. You know that you kicked my uterus into sterility. You’ve cursed me to wonder this earth as a nomad, as a castoff. Unwanted by the syndicate. Unwanted by society. This crew you see, we seek not money, or acts of deception, or extortion. We have one aim that unites us all: Revenge.”

“Okay, I’m sorry for kicking your poonan beyond repair,” I said. “But it wasn’t me that detonated all that dynamite. Randy did that. He was trying to cover his tracks. He never cared about you and Anthrax. You were both cannon fodder to whatever his deranged plan was. Come on, Honda! You know that’s true! It’s Randy you want, not me!”

Honda turned around in contemplation. After a long pause, she slammed her hands into the table in front of her, smashing it to bits. After standing over the wreckage, she directed her attention towards me.

“Perhaps you’re right,” she said. “But you and I have some unfinished business.”

Honda then slowly lifted me off the ground, gazing into my eyes, and kneed me square in the dong.