Star Trek: 30 Years - A Tribute

Time for a little shameless cross-promotion here ... for those of you who are both Star Trek/sci-fi fans and music lovers, I've taken the liberty of putting this post on both of my blogs at the same time, since it firmly touches on both points of interest ("the best of both worlds", if I may toss in a Trek in-joke). So, by all means, check out my other blog if you're so inclined, as it's quite nifty-neato in its own right, if I do say so myself.

various artists
(BMG Ariola Germany, 1996)

"Unendliche Weiten" by Illegal 2001

The surrealistically anti-hip "special" Star Trek: 30 Years and Beyond (Ted Danson? Kenny G? WTF?!?) was forebodingly telling of how tired the once-venerable sci-fi franchise had become. But as terrible a train-wreck as that spectacle was, the occasion of Star Trek's pearl anniversary did produce a couple of unique and interesting pieces of memorabilia, even if they did come from outside of its home country of the United States. A prime example: this "curious" (as Spock himself might describe it) compilation of music, assembled in Germany, in honor of Star Trek's 30th Anniversary.

Given its origin, it stands to reason that the majority of this album's tracks are performed in German, but that's not nearly the deal-breaker in this case that it might normally be. In fact, a good part of the fun comes from listening for the recognizable Trek names that pop up regularly through the German language ("Kirk", "Picard", "Klingons", and I think I even heard "Tasha Yar" and "Cardassians" at least once each). Another thing that keeps this CD from becoming boring is the multitude of music genres represented: you'll find everything from jazz ("We've Lost The Captain", which employs a soundbite of that very quote from the original pilot "The Cage") to techno ("Die 4. Dimension") to pop ("Ich Bin Verknallt In Jean-Luc Picard", which sounds a little like something off a Dido album) to punk ("Ich Bin Knille, Pille") to hip-hop ("Reime, Räume Und Zeiten", full of the forementioned Trek shout-outs as well as a handful of authentic sound effects), resulting in a pretty safe chance that everyone will find something to like here.

I won't lie to you -- I was a bit disappointed when I first played this CD, as I was expecting more faithful interpretations, mostly instrumental, of the various Star Trek themes heard throughout the years; indeed, the first track, a cool synth-rock sort of take on the Star Trek: Voyager theme, got my hopes up a bit too much the first time around. But the dazzling cover design, and the fact that it was an official Paramount-licensed compilation from a major label, compelled me to more readily accept it. It's now safe to say that this album has come to hold a place of honor in my collection of Star Trek music CDs -- Worf himself would probably be proud.

Buy the CD (while you still can...!)


To Boldly Go Wild

Okay, J. J. Abrams' Star Trek has been out for a week now (well, about a week and a half actually, but I wasn't able to get around to posting this last Friday like I wanted to), so anyone who has really wanted to see the movie has probably done so by now, which means I should feel free to post my thoughts about it without worry of ruining things with a ton of spoilers. To put it succinctly, I freakin' loved this movie!! At the risk of making it sound like I don't value the opinions of my friends and acquaintances, I tried to think as little as possible of the hype and the positive comments that I'd heard, so as not to get my expectations too high, but I needn't have worried. As I mentioned in a recent post, I went into the theatre hoping to be entertained, and boy, was I ever! The movie was two hours and six minutes long, but it flew by faster than any other movie has for me in quite a while. I'm not sure yet if I like this one better than Star Trek: First Contact, but if I did, that'll mean that it was the best Star Trek movie in eighteen years (since Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, if you have trouble doing the math).

This movie may not have been perfect, mind you, but I thought it was about as close as it could come. First of all, I'm still not quite sure how I feel about the way the elder Spock ("our" Spock, or "Spock Prime" as he's technically referred to) was involved in the story. It's not necessarily the fact that he was there, because obviously the story as it was couldn't have existed without his involvement; it's just the specific way he was injected into the chain of events. The image of a revered and aged ambassador and peacemaker flying off in a ship, completely on his own, to launch a probe into a star, is something I have a hard time wrapping my head around -- to me, that's something like watching Nelson Mandela, at the age he is now, charging off in an armored Humvee to pluck a combat soldier from certain death. But, as with every other imperfection in the story, I'm able to more-or-less "speculatively rationalize" it to the point that it doesn't interfere with my enjoyment of the film. (In this case, I'm assuming that Spock's relationship with the Romulan government vis-à-vis his reunification efforts between them and the Vulcans compelled him to personally involve himself in the matter in question as depicted in the movie.) I also thought that Kirk just happening to end up being dumped on the same ice planet as Spock, and Scotty just happening to be stationed there as well, was an awfully reachy coincidence, but then I just chalked it up to the written-between-the-lines suggestion that it was largely destiny that that classic family of characters would end up coming together. I am, however, still a bit flummoxed at how and why Spock would justify literally throwing Kirk off the ship like he did ... was the brig still being painted or something?!? Oh, and I thought that Scotty's little green sidekick was totally superfluous and kind-of cutesy ... could have easily done without it.

So, what did I love about the movie? Sure, let's pretend that I can narrow it down to some selective list. I really liked the casting ... my favorites are probably Karl Urban as Bones and Anton Yelchin as Chekov; I'd love to put Simon Pegg as Scotty and John Cho as Sulu in that list too, except that they didn't really get enough screen time. And, of course, Zachary Quinto was perfectly cast as Spock, and not just because of his uncanny resemblance to Leonard Nimoy. It was cool seeing ol' Christopher Pike in the story, and he was excellently played by Bruce Greenwood. The visual effects were way cool, particularly the images of the Enterprise at warp speed ... almost this half-windblown/half-distortion sort of effect wrapping around the ship. I really liked the design of the bridge (I read a review that likened it to the interior of an Apple Store, and that brought a funny scenario to mind: maybe its change in appearance is the result of someone coming back in time and convincing Starfleet to switch from PCs to Macs!), but I'm not sure about the engine room -- it seemed a bit too much of a contrast, I thought. Oh, and did you catch the phasers? Did you notice how the barrel is double-ended and spins around when the weapon is being switched from "stun" to "kill"? I really tripped out on that! Oh, and the music was fantastic, I thought ... particularly how Michael Giacchino cleverly took his own theme (for the Enterprise, or Kirk, or the crew, or whatever it was indended to represent) and layered it underneath the classic Alexander Courage theme as the end credits rolled ... created a completely natural-sounding counterpoint ... genius!

Overall, I'm more than satisfied with this movie (unlike that Confused Matthew guy, who simply doesn't seem able to just sit back and enjoy a movie every once in awhile ... ironic that he summed up his review of this movie with 15 seconds of exasperated groans, as that's precisely how I felt after listening to his review). I was worried when I first heard that it would involve time-travel, which may very well be the most over-used plot device in Star Trek history ... but in a refreshing twist, nobody hit the "reset button". Some big changes have been made to Trek continuity in this alternate timeline, some of them unsettling, but it opens up a multitude of new storytelling possibilities as a result. Not only will I definitely be scooping up the DVD release of this movie as soon as it hits, but I've even got the itch to go see it again on the big screen...!


Subspace Noise

You know what's pissing me off about this new Star Trek movie? It's nothing about the movie itself, 'cause with all the positive things I've heard about it from both professional critics/journalists as well as friends and acquaintances -- not to mention the totally bitchin' trailers I've been grooving on -- I'm maintaining a healthy (but cautious) optimism in preparation for seeing the film on Wednesday. No, what's pissing me off are all these Trekkies (not "Trekkers", and I'll proceed on the assumption that I don't need to explain the distinction I'm making) who chose to slam this movie, before they even saw it, based on only two post-production trailers and the small trickle of information that the official sources have released. I expected all the snarking and sniping from the revelation that the characters would be played by new actors, and I figured there'd be some noise because its nature as a "reboot" means that the original sequence of events would be tinkered with. But I finallly saw, just in the last few days, a couple of examples of how the "get-a-lifers" (as I quasi-affectionately refer to them) have gone a bit overboard.

I'll start out with Confused Matthew who, after seeing just a couple of his YouTube videos, I get the impression is extremely difficult to please about anything. Here he proceeds to assume that a two-minute trailer is completely representative of the other 118 (give-or-take) minutes of the movie's content, and whines (quite literally "whines" ... just listen to it) about how Star Trek isn't supposed to be an action movie. While it's true that this trailer is far more action-packed than any other Trek trailer of the past, it's also true that a trailer's job is to get people to see the movie, and what draws the most people in on a primarily visceral level these days is two minutes packed with as much rollicking, hold-onto-your-seat action as possible. If there's one thing that any of us who have been paying a decent amount of attention have learned in the last several years, it's that you can't judge a movie by its trailer. If they can pack all the funny scenes of a mediocre comedy into a 90-second trailer (and lord knows, they're absolute masters at doing that ... look no further than "Baby Mama" for proof), who's to say they haven't packed most every frame of action in an otherwise dramatic talky-talky-moral-implications-prime-directive-yadda-yadda movie into a two-minute ad? It might suck, but it's the nature of advertising. Oh, and besides, this guy hated First Contact, so how reliable can his opinion be anyway?

Going from there, we have some guy in a USA Today article who not only calls J. J. Abrams' movie a "travesty" sight unseen, but goes so far as to say that it has "gone back in time and wiped out 700 years of Trek history." (I could only count about 400 years by my math ... Trekkies aren't that bad with numbers, so he's probably just being a drama queen.) And then there's this blogger -- a nice enough guy in real-life, I'd assume -- who appears to have entered into a state of out-and-out mourning over the Shatner/Nimoy era of Star Trek and has remarked that the new film will "cannibalize" and even "destroy" the Trek we have known and loved up to this point. Uh ... am I missing something? Unless Paramount has demanded that all Trek fans out there either shred or return to the studio all copies of their Trek DVDs, books, and comics, the Star Trek of the past is not going anywhere. Those 600+ TV episodes and ten movies, from the sublime "Far Beyond The Stars" and The Wrath of Khan to the ridiculous "Sub Rosa" and The Final Frontier, exist forever as canon and won't be undone ... unless someone actually does figure out a way to come back into our real-life past and change our real-life timeline. And we all know that hasn't happened, because you're sitting here reading these words and you wouldn't be if they did. (Okay ... minor geek-out ... sorry.)

I'm starting to think that maybe the writers should have left Leonard Nimoy's Spock and his time-travel-induced (from what I understand) appearance out of the picture, which would have untethered this film from "our" Star Trek and thus (presumably) put a stop to all this alternate-timeline-destroying-everything-we-love-about-Star-Trek jabberwocky. My point is: this is only a movie. It's another person's vision of the Star Trek universe. Simply seeing different actors in the classic roles should have been enough to clue you in on that. I for one am going into this theatre with no expectations (or at least I'm trying to ... gotta dig those trailers!), no demands that it live up to a "Star Trek standard", because when this is, in a sense, the first Star Trek movie, there are no standards, or at least none that we can justifiably hold it up to. (Would we go into a Michael Bublé concert demanding that he be as entertaining and captivating as Frank Sinatra? No, and we shouldn't.) Abrams said somewhere that he just wants the movie to entertain us, and that's the one expectation I'm carrying with me into the auditorium. Hey, maybe Chekov's hair is a little goofy, and maybe Kirk ends up tapping Uhura for real instead of in the context of telepathic playthings for aliens' amusement, but we can't charge Abrams with destroying Star Trek ... the last few years of the Rick Berman regime did that just fine on its own (or have you not seen Star Trek: Nemesis?).



For those of you who missed the last incarnation of this blog of mine ... what exactly is "Trek-Ease"? I chose that title 'cause it seems to best reflect my current, more laid-back level of Trekkerdom in particular, as well as geekdom in general. I like to think I maintain a good balance between getting caught up in Star Trek's continuity ("Why did the writers have Tuvok pose as a Maquis? Wouldn't he believe their cause to be illogical?") and relenting to its artistic context ("Because he was really the only primary character who worked in that aspect of the plot."). Many moons ago, I was one of those who debated the implications of Dr. Crusher becoming head of Starfleet Medical and being replaced by Dr. Pulaski, as well as the credentials and qualifications of both, as though they were flesh-and-blood people, even though I never actually lost sight of the fact that they were not. I won't kid anyone here ... Star Trek: The Next Generation is in a perpetual tie with Quantum Leap as my favorite television show of all time, and I have this pathetic mental disorder whereby a person can describe to me the plot of any TNG episode and I can immediately respond with its title as well as approximately when in which season it aired, but my overall fandom nowadays is much more casual. It's still a pretty fair part of my life, and probably always will be, but I think I'm quite a ways from being approached by Roger Nygard and Denise Crosby for a chapter in the next Trekkies movie.

I started "Trek-Ease" a couple of years ago, and it sputtered out after a few months of extremely occasional posting. Then, about a year ago, I tried doing a blog (which I called "DVD-1701" ... I’m now declaring that title officially up-for-grabs if anyone wants it) intended to chronicle my episode-by-episode viewing of all four of the first Star Trek series, but although I'm still watching two episodes per week -- just finished off The Original Series and started in on The Next Generation, in fact -- it too peetered out midway through TOS's second season. For one thing, I found it more and more difficult to think of witty things to say for each and every episode. Plus, it was such a structured routine that, to paraphrase the late George Carlin regarding doing regular updates on his own website, "it started feeling like homework -- f**k that shit." I like to think of it this way: they never showed hide nor hair of Robert April's five-year mission, and Christopher Pike's command never got past the original pilot episode ... so maybe the third time will be the proverbial charm in the case of this blog, too. This time, I'm shooting for a more informal and off-the-cuff blog, in which I'll ramble on semi-aimlessly, and hopefully at some semblance of a regular interval, not only about my thoughts on various aspects of the Star Trek universe, the various knicks and knacks of my Trek collection, and so on, but also about whatever other sorts of geek-culture randomness tickle my fancy.