Dissecting the Scene: Emotional Climax Moments From Star Trek Films (Part II)

Star Trek V: The Final Frontier- Release the Pain

Sybok, played brilliantly by Lawrence Luckinbill (in a role originally intended for Sean Connery) is Spock’s half-brother turned religious charlatan. He amassed a following by tapping into the emotions of a down-trodden people who later helped him gain control of the Enterprise. In this scene, Sybok uses his emotional trickery to tear apart the the Original Series triumvirate…Kirk, Spock, and McCoy…and nearly succeeds: McCoy is forced to relive the pain of euthanizing his father, and Spock is reminded of his half-humanness that caused him to be a pariah in Vulcan society and feel less loved by his father.

Kirk, meanwhile, sees through this bullshit and reject’s Sybok’s offer to be “released from his pain.”

Regardless of how you feel about Kirk’s rationale for clinging on to his pain (to me, Sybok and Kirk seem to have the same philosophy of “deriving strength through pain,” it’s just that Kirk kept his eye on the ball…regaining control of the Enterprise…while everyone else succumbed to Sybok’s charisma) this is actually a very well directed and well written scene. And it just so happens to be in the worst Star Trek movie there is (personally, I think Insurrection, Nemesis, Into Darkness, and Beyond and WAY worse, but whatevs).

This is why I think director William Shatner isn’t to blame for STV. When it comes to the character interactions, this might be the best that Star Trek has to offer. By the time this film was made, the actors had been playing these characters for over 20 years and it certainly shines through in this scene.

Shatner made the right decision to not create an elaborate set design. It’s like an intimate theatrical production and it’s one of the highlights of the franchise.

Star Trek: First Contact- “The Line Must Be Drawn HERE”

The Enterprise follows the Borg back in time to the late 21st Century and it’s up to the TNG crew to save history. Meanwhile, the Borg take over the Enterprise and Picard goes on a warpath.

Now this might be the most famous example of an “emotional climax” moment in Star Trek, but it’s got some problems. While Alfre Woodard delivers an Oscar-worthy performance, as any Star Trek fan could tell you, it should have been Beverly Crusher who confronted Picard. Additionally, Picard is out of character. While Patrick Stewart is an incredible actor, in my opinion, he never quite understood Star Trek OR the appeal of his famous character. And it was Stewart’s push to make Picard more vengeful and heroic in this installment. While that doesn’t make a lick of difference to the average viewer, things like that DO matter to Trek fans, which is why First Contact has fallen out of favor with some.

That being said, everything is well executed. This is also director Jonathan Frakes’ (who plays William Riker) first motion picture and it doesn’t show. Star Trek seems to excel when one of the actors is allowed to direct.

Oddly enough, science fiction is somewhat secondary to Star Trek. First and foremost, the franchise is about HUMAN stories that uses science fiction as a backdrop. That’s why Trek is such fertile ground for actors. And I think the sequence above highlights that point.

While the stuff between Woodard and Stewart is incredible, I also like the mini-arc between Worf and Picard. The Captain’s judgment had clearly been clouded and Worf was absolutely correct in confronting him. Picard was in the wrong, plain and simple. Which is why I love the payoff when Captain Picard makes his apology and states his admiration for his longtime security officer.

It’s a small moment, but for longtime fans, it was an impactful one.

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.

The 90s Reevaluated

Sorry, still sick so here’s another phoned in post.

Pierce Brosnan has been blowing up my news feed for whatever reason. I guess he’s playing some superhero or whatever, but I don’t watch that stuff. Unfortunately this has created a lot of (likely clickbait) opinion pieces that reevaluate his James Bond tenure.

I’ve always placed Goldeneye in the top 5 Bond films, which is where most 007 fans have historically placed it. But there’s a massive drop off with Brosnan’s other three films. The consensus is that while Brosnan could have been a great James Bond, his movies were either mediocre or terrible.

Or, I should say, this WAS the consensus during the Daniel Craig era.

Now that Craig’s moody and brooding Bond is dead and gone, perceptions on Brosnan’s portrayal have shifted. Craig’s 007 matched the times while Brosnan’s seemed clownish by comparison.

But after two years of a pandemic, record high inflation, and superhero movies flooding the theaters, audiences seem primed for a more tongue in cheek James Bond. So the Daniel Craig era is looking more passé by the second.

People are looking to return to a simpler time. And the most (relatively) simpler times in recent memory is the 1990s. At least this is my best explanation for why Pierce Brosnan is undergoing a micro-renaissance.

As a side note, the Star Trek: Next Generation films (which were also released in 90s) are being reevaluated. This is probably due to the cast returning for the final season of Picard. So Generations, released in 1994 and which infamously killed the original Captain Kirk, is being discussed again.

Why I bring this up is because a fourth “Kelvin era” Trek film, starring Chris Pine as nu-Captain Kirk, has stalled for probably the 10,000th time (thank god). While that (hopefully) means we won’t ever see Zachary Quinto as Spock and Karl Urban as McCoy again, that does NOT mean we won’t see Pine as Kirk again.

Why?

Because as any Trek fan can tell you, while Shatner’s Kirk was killed in Generations, technically his existence is preserved in some “ribbon” that floats around in space where time doesn’t mean anything blah blah blah. And this “ribbon” hasn’t been mentioned in Star Trek since.

So you can see where I’m going with this: when another Trek film makes it to the streaming services sometime this decade, the original Captain Kirk will be pulled out of this ribbon to be played not by William Shatner but by, you guessed it, Chris Pine.

Anyways, enjoy the 2020s, aka the 90s Reloaded.

All good things…

When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. -Paul of Tarsus

In all sincerity, in his review of Picard Season 2, Mike Stoklasa nearly moved me to tears when he discussed his realization that Star Trek really was dead, comparing his journey to the that of the boys in Stand By Me (which coincidentally starred Wil Wheaton). His journey of grief led him to face the realities of life, put away childish things, and blossom into a man (who subjects his friends to shitty movies and laughs at old people for a living).

After the disaster that was Season 1 of Picard, I figured that the powers that be…the writers, producers, Paramount+…would have corrected course and made a proper send off for the legendary cast of Star Trek: The Next Generation.

Then the trailer above dropped.

And I’ll admit: my heart absolutely sank to my feet. Patrick Stewart will no longer be alone in his debasement for the upcoming season. Now the entire cast of TNG will be along for this pitiful, disgusting ride.

I could go on ripping this trailer to shreds, but I won’t. You know why? Because someone…a LOT of someones…LOVE this show. When the Star Wars prequels arrived, they were derided by the entire fan base. But they made a FUCK TON of money. So I knew in my heart, despite me hating the SHIT out of the prequels, there’s gonna be a whole generation that will love them.

And honestly, good for them. It’s the next generation of fans that these long-established franchises are aiming at. I could spend the rest of my life being angry at what these new producers have done to my beloved Star Trek. But I’ve been on the ride long enough.

It’s not the way I would have liked to have seen my favorite character go out, but he was a hero of my childhood. And it’s time to put childish things away.

Farewell TNG

***

But you know what I WON’T put away…or even put DOWN:

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I said “31% off for the entire month of October! You gotta be shittin me!”

And HE said, “why would I be shitting you? I’m AFRAID of you?!”

So after the police and the Los Angeles Superior Court banned me permanently from the airport, I immediately saved 31% off my next purchase at Dead Star Press!

Look at what I bought:

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Dead Star Press: It’s okay to be a weirdo, but at least be a LITERATE weirdo!

rip David Warner and Henry Kissinger

David Warner was a Star Trek legend.

My favorite role of his was when he played the Cardassian commander that tortures Picard for two episodes. Honestly, that’s my favorite two-parter in TNG. Yes, I like it better than The Best of Both Worlds.

Go cry about it, nerds!

Paul Sorvino was another TNG alum that passed away. But my favorite role of his was in Oliver Stone’s Nixon as Henry Kissinger. The ending was incredible. I’ll admit, I teared up a bit when Nixon and Kissinger bawled as they realized the end was near. But Sorvino aced the part.

It’s just sad that Henry Kissinger somehow outlived Paul Sorvino 😔

RIP legends

ranking starfleet uniforms

I’m not gonna rank every fucking uniform that Starfleet produced. Some were designed to simply be shown once. So I’m only evaluating the uniforms that were created to be the full-time outfits for a particular series or film.

13. Star Trek Discovery

To my surprise, there are devoted fans to this show. I don’t get it, but to each their own. But we can all agree that these uniforms are just straight up shit. They are neither militaristic nor do they look comfortable. This is just reason #57482 of why I hate this show.

12. TOS- The Cage/Where No Man Has Gone Before

I’m sure there’s a difference between the uniforms in these two episodes, but whatever they are, they’re minor. Now these outfits do look comfortable, however they look a little too warm. Under a stressful situation, I’d burn the fuck up in those sweaters. Plus, in the early days, there were only TWO Starfleet divisions: Command Gold and Science Blue. Without the Engineering/Security/General pissant Red, these uniforms don’t pop as well.

11. The Motion Picture

A part of me likes these uniforms. I think it’s very important that you’re able to see the outline of a Starfleet Officer’s junk. But I understand people’s objections. They do lack the color that made the TOS uniforms so iconic.

10. TNG Films/DS9 Seasons 4-7

I thought these were cool when I was a kid. But now, they just lack the fun of their predecessors. The grey shoulders just seem pointless. I dunno, this is just ‘meh’ for me.

9. Voyager/DS9 Seasons 1-3/Generations

I like the idea of these uniforms. It’s supposed to make officers seem more “mechanically inclined”. Which is fine. DS9 teased out the idea that ship crews wear standard TNG uniforms while crews stationed everywhere else wore these. But they didn’t stick with that concept, which annoyed the shit out of me. That’s why they’re ranked this low.

8. Beyond

These are just cheap knockoffs of the TOS classics. They’re a clear downgrade from the next ones on the list.

7. ST09/Into Darkness

They took an iconic look and turned it into something fresh. That’s incredibly hard to do. They seem both practical and comfortable. The only knock is that the pattern looks cool from a distance, but upon closer inspection, it’s just a bunch of Starfleet emblems. Kinda lame, tbh.

6. Enterprise

Probably the most realistic of the bunch. There’s not much to say about it, other than it would make sense that these would be the first uniforms for a new space fleet.

5. TNG-Seasons 3-7

It feels wrong to put these down this low. These are great uniforms. But they simply got beat out by the last 4.

4. The Wrath of Khan

These uniforms come and go with me. God knows I love Nicholas Meyer, but sometimes I wish he didn’t take the uniforms in this direction. Starfleet *technically* isn’t a military organization. But these uniforms say otherwise.

As a former military man, I can tell you that these would be impractical for standard military operations (unless, I assume, you’re bridge crew in the Navy). For those purposes, the pajama-like outfits worn in TOS are far more suitable, and for that reason REALISTIC, which runs contrary to what most people think about the military. You gotta be comfortable, protected, and not constricted.

So that’s my main beef with these outfits. But aesthetically, they’re incredible! And since Strange New Worlds has updated their appearance, these uniforms look better than ever.

3. Strange New Worlds

The producers of Discovery fucked up when they reintroduced the iconic uniforms in Season 2. I don’t know what the fuck was up with that collar. But they remedied that mistake in SNW.

I’m glad that the designers trusted what came before and didn’t try to do too much to update it.

Which leads me to…

2. TOS

Gold, blue, and red. What else is there to say?

1. TNG- Seasons 1 and 2

“You’re fucking kidding right?”

Nope.

We all know how this uniform was taken away: Patrick Stewart’s chiropractor had a lot to say about them. Which kinda makes Stewart an important figure in Starfleet uniform history.

Prior to TNG, commanding officers wore the color gold…for example: Captain Kirk. Then Patrick Stewart was cast and the producers realized that he looked terrible in gold. So now the commanding ranks wear red. And that change has never been explained in Star Trek canon 👍

But I love these jumpsuits. If I ever decide to pay money for one of these uniforms, this is the one I would buy. Are they cheesy? Absolutely. To me, they’re the most sci-fi looking of the bunch.

And besides, yeah they might’ve been bad for his back, but Patrick Stewart looked DAMN good in this uniform.

fckn fans man

My go-to site for nerdish bickering is Trekmovie.com. One of the writers for Star Trek 09 and Star Trek Into Darkness, Roberto Orci, infamously jumped onto fans there a few years ago. For internet anthropologist/historians like me, it’s a goldmine.

Trekkies just aren’t used to having nice things. And Strange New Worlds is a nice thing. Sure it’s not perfect, but overall it’s pretty good Star Trek.

But the latest episode involved a species called “the Gorn” who were first introduced in TOS way back in the sixties. If you’re not a Trek fan, you probably know who they are because a member of that species was involved in one of the most parodied scenes in all of science fiction:

Remember this shit?

In SNW, the Gorn were updated to look more terrifying and were introduced to Starfleet earlier than what canon allowed (SNW takes place before the adventures of Captain Kirk). This predictably caused a shitstorm with the fans.

Look, I can roll with the best of Star Trek nerds. But to most sane people, this is a big nothing-burger.

This is also why the James Bond series is the most underrated of all the long-running franchises. The producers simply don’t give two shits about canon. Each film can theoretically take place in its own timeline. They just don’t get bogged down in the details because their purpose is to entertain.

Arguably, Star Trek serves a different purpose. Still though, fans are missing the forest for the trees. The larger question should be: was it a GOOD episode?

Personally I thought they killed off Hemmer, a very solid character, too soon. But his death did provide a good character arc for Uhura (and laid the foundation for Spock’s most infamous decision in Star Trek II). Obviously they were going for an Alien feel in this episode (which is okay, science fiction series often steal from one another) but overall it was pretty good.

Some fans are angry because the writers aren’t inventing new species to explore. But this “alien of the week” method that Trek fans have become accustomed to makes the series feel paper thin. I like it when writers take the time to explore an existing world. It adds depth.

But this latest Star Trek struggle session only highlights what is perhaps my biggest annoyance. Just because something is old and established, that doesn’t make it holy. The people behind TOS, to include Gene Roddenberry, were making shit up as they went. Besides, no television writer will want to pour through 9 million hours of Star Trek just to make it all add up. Hell, except for myself and Mike Stoklasa, NO ONE would want to do that. And this not only goes for Star Trek, but also for the Bible, Plato, Aristotle, Karl Marx, etc etc. They are all products of man and they can be changed by man.

As fans, we should have only one question: is it good storytelling?

A gene Roddenberry production of a Robert wise film

Because I’m a chump, I finally broke down and paid for Paramount+.

Available on the service is the newly remastered version of Star Trek: The Motion Picture starring William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, DeForest Kelly, and renowned sex pervert Stephen Collins.

When Robert Wise’s Director’s Cut came out years ago, it greatly improved what was an otherwise interesting but clunky and boring movie. Unfortunately, this version of the film wasn’t updated for high def until recently.

It looks incredible. Douglas Trumbull’s special effects have been vastly improved. Jupiter, V’ger, the Enterprise…it all pops in ways that it didn’t before. That element alone makes the film much more watchable.

However, while some aspects of the film have been improved, it only only highlights its weaker aspects. While the special effects, music, and (most of its) production design are incredible, that only makes the direction, script, editing, and acting look that much more terrible.

It doesn’t matter how hard they try, they can’t disguise the fact that this movie was hastily thrown together. At the time, I think, it was one of the most expensive movies ever made. And to be honest, it doesn’t look it.

Oddly enough, I think fault lies on the shoulders of legendary director Robert Wise and his DP. Much of the film takes place on the bridge of the Enterprise. And the set looks godawful. It’s too claustrophobic, too cheap, too bland. And the editing doesn’t do much to improve it as actors awkwardly wander on and off the set without much of a purpose.

It’s not the best design for the Enterprise bridge. But Nicholas Meyer and Leonard Nimoy…both novice directors at that time…make that same set look like a million dollars in subsequent Trek films. Meyer especially puts the claustrophobic aspect to good use in Star Trek II.

Fortunately, I think most of this could be easily fixed. And that requires jettisoning most of the journey through the V’ger cloud. While visually it’s interesting, it adds absolutely nothing. The immensity of V’ger itself is also established in the next sequence (which also needs to be cleaned up a bit editing wise) therefore making the cloud voyage redundant.

It’s a small change, but it would go a long way in improving the pacing. I’m sure there’s a fan edit floating around the internet somewhere that does this.

The uniforms also look underwhelming. I don’t hate them. Some internet genius explained that these surgeon-like uniforms actually highlight the delicacy of the matter: the characters have to be precise in their decision making. In that light, the uniforms add a nice touch. Nevertheless, the film could have used an updated version of William Theiss’ iconic designs.

Unfortunately nothing will fix the caricature performances and phoned-in script. But that’s okay. This high-def version of the Director’s Cut…which will presumably be the final cut…elevates what was one of the worst Trek films into a pretty solid sci-fi movie.

And that’s good enough 👍

Strange New Worlds. it’s pretty good 😔

So I guess I owe Alex Kurtzman an apology.

I was reading an article somewhere by someone that ranked all the Star Trek TV series. They placed placed SNW at #3.

Already.

Only four episodes have aired.

But here’s the sad part: I’d rank it there too 😔

Yes, SNW is pretty damn good. I’m ashamed to admit it. The nerds may nitpick the series to death. They may question its science or its adherence to canon. They may bitch about nuTrek being too “woke” (Star Trek’s always been woke). They, like me, may never want to admit Alex Kurtzman finally did something right. But they know in their hearts: SNW is quality Star Trek.

I knew Star Trek had a JJ Abrams/Alex Kurtzman problem when Into Darkness went into production a little late because, it seemed, they just straight up forgot about it. And the final product was predictably shit.

That’s when I came to the conclusion that Star Trek should have died with the ending of Enterprise. OR they should have waited longer than 5 years to reboot the franchise.

ST just wasn’t out of the public consciousness long enough to make much of an impact, I felt. And to be honest, I still kinda feel that way.

Can you imagine if Paramount waited until NOW to reboot Star Trek?

We probably would have been given an “R-rated” treatment directed by Denis Villanueva, where the 24th Century would have been presented as completely alien to the 21st Century audiences. Probably graphic violence and nudity galore as Starfleet officers take it all in stride due to Vulcan, stoic ideals permeating the Federation.

It was a missed opportunity tbh because Paramount wanted to continue exploiting the pockets of Trek fans.

But, finally, 13 years after ST09, we finally get quality Star Trek. 👍

tapping into the Roddenberry box

We can all agree: Kurtzman era Star Trek has been godawful. There was no reason to think that Strange New Worlds would be any different, but then the first episode became available on YouTube. So I thought: “fuck it, I’ll give it a shot.”

Whoever’s running SNW had the right idea: just tap the ball into the hole. Don’t try to do too much.

It’s common to assume that Trek fans are notoriously hard to please . This is false. In fact, they’re a little too easy to please. Furthermore, I’d say that Star Trek is stupidly easy to write: minimize drama between the main characters, the Federation humanistic…almost utopian…ideals always win out, the “alien of the week” is analogous to current events, and everything can be solved using science…even if the science is totally pulled out of your ass.

This is also called the (Gene) “Roddenberry Box.” TNG writers initially struggled with it until Michael Piller turned staying within it into an art. The Next Generation is now considered one of the best shows in the sci-fi genre. It’s also the benchmark for which all other Trek shows are evaluated.

Hollywood writers, especially ones that aren’t familiar with Star Trek, might think they have to do MORE to make the story interesting. But they really don’t. You can “challenge” the box every now and then, but the optimism and science MUST win out.

So using this criteria, based on the first episode, Strange New Worlds is Star Trek…which is more than I can say for Discovery and Picard. Yes, that’s a low bar to hurdle but I guess third time is a charm. Maybe the rest of it will be shit, but as long as the show runners don’t try to do too much, they might have a pretty good show.

Still not paying for Paramount+ tho.