new photo blog

i started this blog in 2006, and it's shifted along with my interests through the years. it's been witness to a lot of learning for me...

still, i feel that i need a home for my photography -- so from now on, i'll be posting my pictures on the journal on my reworked website. if you like my photos, you might decide to follow me there!

my first post is here -- check it out!

as for this blog, i'm not sure what will happen. i don't think i'm willing to let it go, and certainly i'll keep it as an archive, but i need some time to figure it out.

for those of you that pop in from time to time, thanks for the visits and encouragement.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

star trek: my thoughts

-- red alert: a few spoilers ahead --

i saw star trek last night. or rather… my mother, my sister, her husband, my brother, my partner, my daughter… and i saw star trek last night.

star trek:  my thoughts
like my picture? click it!
i've been a fan of star trek all my conscious life. i've seen TOS countless times in reruns. i bought paraphernalia -- magazines, books, concordances, models and blueprints.

when you're a kid, things are imprinted deeply into your memory -- but it's always selective. for me, star trek was never mainly about the science. it also was not only about the starships, battles, aliens,languages, costumes and details. that is all extremely cool but i'm not a star trek trivia buff -- if you quiz me, i'll fail.

for me, star trek is important because:

1. it had characters so well developed, i feel i know them as close friends.
2. it projected of a humanitarian world view and social commentary and helped shape me into the person i am today.

the bad astronomer, phil plait, has a wonderful write up of the existing -- or non-existing -- science in the movie. it's a pleasure to read his comments, as well as the comments from his readers below. i read it before and after seeing the movie -- and it helped, both times. if you haven't already, go read it. it's fun and enlightening.

the special effects were exceptional. i find myself hard-pressed to imagine how they could be any better, at least in a two-dimensional screen.

the very best, and highly memorable scene in the special effects department, is, by far, the enterprise emerging from the clouds on titan, with saturn and its rings in the background. we have carolyn porco, star trek's science advisor, to thank for this imagery. it was a moment i was expecting as i knew about it beforehand, but still i gasped as i saw it, audibly, as i did several times through this film.

yes, the bridge looks like an applestore but i don't mind. i don't understand why engineering had to look like a brewery (what's with all the pipes) but again, i don't mind. TOS sets had a minimalism that was popular in the 60's, but aesthetics change and i have no qualms with the designs being in tune with the tastes of 2009.


why i liked star trek: the characters and the acting

as i said, star trek's characters are my virtual childhood friends. i know them well. i know how they feel and how they react. i know their little tics and quirks. i know how their bodies stand and move and i catch the tiniest movements in facial muscles that tell me that they are who are.

star trek was not a cast of imposters. i am stunned, awed and humbled by the work these people have done. for me, it's the best part of this movie.

a lot has been written about zachary quinto's wonderful performance, and the great collaboration he had with nimoy to get to the spirit of the character. quinto did such an exceptional job, that i mostly forgot i was seeing a new spock and just thought i was seeing spock. spock.

quinto brought new elements to the character, but blended them seamlessly into this most familiar persona. i had to sometimes forcefully remind myself that it was quinto, and i was successful in doing so only because of the minor differences in facial features between quinto and nimoy.

in contrast, little has been written about chris pine's outstanding performance -- and much has been written about how only shatner can truly be kirk. i adore william shatner's work and captain kirk was very much his creation, but i don't know if people realize what an amazing work pine has done in playing kirk. maybe it's because I wasn't expecting it, but pine's rendition of kirk blew me away.

i don't think pine and shatner collaborated at all on this -- if not, pine has not only done his homework, he's completed a phd. he must have watched and rewatched and rewatched kirk's scenes -- 'arena', 'amok time', the dramatic and especially the comic moments -- everything -- because, many times, i was convinced he was shatner. no, he did not do the shatner talk but he did the shatner walk, stance, smile, smirk, and polishing-the-floor-during-a-beating. in the final scene, when he walked in and, after looking around, exclaimed 'bones!', smiled, glanced momentarily down and bounced his head from side to side, as shatner did in happy end-of-episode scenes, i gasped, loudly.

chris pine succeeded in transferring the essence of the original kirk into a character with new elements, as quinto has, seamlessly. chris pine is not shatner, but he is kirk.

pine will never read this, but: congratulations, mr. pine.

karl urban looked and sounded like mccoy. zoe saldana was a brilliant uhura -- one that both paid homage to nichelle nichols work but updated the character to our contemporary views on women. scotty was a brilliant scot but didn't have innate pride that doohan had breathed into the character. anton yelchin was a true russian, struggling over his pronunciation of B's and breaking away from the much-loved monkees' davy jones look created for walter koenig. john cho was a great sulu but his role was not as revealing as i would have wished.

i found eric bana's nero indifferent. winona ryder evoked very little much-needed emotion. ben cross was a fine sarek.

and leonard nimoy is nothing short of legendary.

why i didn't like star trek : the (un)content

the movie's plot served one purpose: to reboot star trek. it was devised to transfer the original star trek universe into a new, malleable timeline. a group of people travel back in time, and change events, creating an alternate universe where everything is the same and everything is different. the characters we know intimately now have to deal with a tweaked set of circumstances -- spock has lost his home and mother, and is a hot lover. kirk has lost his father and knows how to drive. that was fine and necessary. this is an alternate star trek universe giving writers the freedom to create interesting stories unshackled by TOS events.

the value in the outstanding episodes of TOS is that they are true science fiction: they are all about exploring the human condition by creating extreme conditions to make a point. ' the city on the edge of forever' and 'a taste of armageddon', commented on war, and 'a private little war' on the vietnam war, in particular. 'let that be your last battlefield' commented on racism and 'plato's stepchildren' featured the first interracial kiss on american television. 'the mark of gideon' explored the problem of overpopulation. these episodes were not about things we don't have to really know about that happened in a galaxy far, far away -- they were about humanity's collective experience.

gene roddenberry's star trek universe was optimistic: humanity had grown out of its primitive childhood, solved the properties that enslave it and was on its way to realizing great potential for discovery and creation. some people complained that it was so optimistic, it was downright bland.

the present plot was indifferent and could have been applied to just about any space opera of today. roddenberry's vision is conspicuously missing, and it's a disservice to audiences. films can be art as they have the potential to spread messages and to inspire. the makers of star trek have made business decisions and not artistic or moral ones. their problem was how to satisfy die-hard trekkies who have derived and invested large chunks of thought with star trek while, at the same time, draw in new fans among younger people who know very little about and are, for the most part, indifferent to anything trek. i suppose that, judging by the first weekend's response, they've been successful.

still, i've been wondering if all of the references on the internet to president obama's being a vulcan express a deep need for people to again find direction and to pursue a peaceful and creative coexistence of humanity based on mutual respect and reason.

racism is not as generally prevalent, but it's there. intolerance has not disappeared... pick a group, any group. war, hate, insanity -- we still got it. i'd love it if these issues were addressed. for me, the problem is not to create a newfangled trek to draw in younger paying audiences, but to find a way to excite young people with the original humanitarian principles of star trek, the quality that i suspect was the main the reason for its spectacular success and fan loyalty.

while i had mixed thoughts and feelings while i was viewing the film, in the final scene, i experienced a swelling of emotion i didn't expect. i found myself crying like an idiot. i felt as if i had just met up again with much loved, long-lost friends.

star trek was -- and seems to still be -- a product of its times. i'm hoping that, despite our present difficulties, we'll find the strength to pull ourselves, our messages and our art, towards the original, positive, humanitarian principles that conceived it.

i want to keep loving star trek.

note: i plan to perhaps tweak or edit this post, or perhaps add thoughts at the end. i don't consider it completely finished.


  1. Hi tmt - great post.

    I too saw the film last night and. like you, had some reservations but mainly LOVED it! I wanted to go straight back in and watch it over again. I really hadn't expected to like it and had only gone out of loyalty to the Star Trek name.

    I too was absolutely wowed by Chris Pine as Kirk. I couldn't quite take to the young Spock, though the portrayal may grow on me but Pine was fab! Most unexpected. He absolutely got the vitality and sheer naughtiness of Kirk and at the end he seemed to mature in front of our eyes as he sat in the captain's chair, morphing ever more closely into the Kirk we know and love.

    I haven't read up on the intentions of the guys who made this film but my one big reservation is that they have changed the Star Trek universe. If, as you say, they intend a whole new alternative reality Star Trek, then in one way it's exciting, but what does it mean for all that history we love? When we watch our DVDs now, are we going to be constantly thinking - but this never happened because Nero cahnged the future? Feels like a marketing ploy to me.

    But, apart from that I absolutely loved it and cannot wait to go back and see it again!

  2. Anonymous11/5/09 07:30

    Although I don't usually like time-travel in science fiction unless the story is specifically about time-travel, I do hope Abrams will do something interesting with it now that it is the fulcrum upon which his version pivots.

    He's accomplished his reboot, but unless he tweaks his universe, it is a Star Fleet that is less idealistic than TOS and with officers much less tethered to regulation and ethics.

    Nature doesn't like to be messed with, so it would be interesting if Abrams continued to revisit the time-line aspect in his version and if, over time, the universe he created shifted more and more (over the next films) to the one we loved from TOS - exploring the theme that time doesn't like to be altered (It's not nice to fool Mother Nature)


  3. I'm in complete agreement with you on the (un)content. I'll put it more strongly, though:

    It was shallow. Which, to me, means it wasn't Star Trek.

    I've actually had to think occasionally in the Star Trek universe I know. Where was the thinking here? The ideas? The depth? The closest to it was the Capt. Pike character, who was one of the few in the movie that was great, with no childishness, immaturity, or silliness.

    You can't say that about the other characters. They were acting like, well, kids. Literal kids. I don't mean just young folks. After all, as a new NASA engineer, I was in Mission Control in Houston at the ripe old age of 22, controlling the Skylab space station as it semi-controlled came back to Earth. Maybe the closest current equivalent to what they were trying to do in the movie. Except I never acted that childish in my life, not even in my teens.

    I mean this statement literally: there was more depth in the average, 50-minute Star Trek/Next Generation episode, than in this two hour movie. I felt like a background basis in my life - one that led me to the 34 year career I've had so far in NASA - was yanked out from under me by some kiddish producer and director looking for the big bucks.

  4. Hi, Tmt,

    I also went "running" to the cinema with a friend.
    I confess that I`m not a big fan of J.J. Abrams work, I find his productions somehow confusing, and his stories end up falling into some kind of labyrinths.I was afraid of what could happen to "Star Trek".
    The moment I saw Chris Pine i got the clear idea that he was kirk.However, who surprised me the most was Quinto, who disappears into the Skin of Spock. I believe the comic tone of the film was given by Chekov, and not Scotty. That accent killed me. But what made me vibrate was, in fact, de moment Leonard Nimoy appeared, I clapped my hands with excitement. Despite his advanced age, he exudes spirit of youth.
    Don`t forget to mention the soundtrack.Did you noticed that the scenes on Vulcan, and with vulcans, were tempered with a soft chinese music?
    It was great!

  5. a great post and interesting comments........
    I will be back......

  6. JohnFinn6418/5/09 00:34

    Hi Helen

    so noow I've seen it - feel free to talk! your review is perfect spot on for me. But I was so elated when I left the cinema - I loved every minute of the ride - it is only in retrospect that I find myself with a few doubts.

    I would honestly go see this again - something I pretty much never do. The reason? the characters - it is as if they all came alive again. I found myself smiling and catching my wife's eye every few minutes with a recognition of something loved or familiar.

    Pine and Quinto belong in their illustrious shoes but Karl Urban was also excellent as bones (always my favourite character - ascerbic, brittle and dry).

    The moment you describe on Saturn -wonderful - goosebumps and yup I welled up as Leonard Nimoy spoke the immortal words at the end. I am hoping that this new universe will be as good as the old one.

    I'm not a doctor or a physicist damnit! but I know Star Trek when I see it - and this was it.

  7. I really enjoyed the film, it's a great re-boot for the franchise....I think. I too had a few issues with the seemingly advance technologies aboard ship but I'm willing to look the other way. My biggest gripe was the romance between Spock and Uhura. I don't remember any hint of a fling between the two during the entire TOS run....but I might be wrong. But to me it was as if the writers / producers tossed a surprise romance in just for additional flavor & spice in a soup that was already full of great wasn't needed.

    I also have an issue with always playing the time-travel card! At least 5 Star Trek films had some kind of time travel twist to make the plot work. And I'm sure you've seen time-travel countless times throughout all of the various Star Trek T.V. shows. Future Spock meeting present day Spock, Kirk, and Scotty was kind of a let down....I'm sorry to say. Future Spock encouraging present day Spock to loosen up (and stick with Kirk) while also telling present day Kirk of their great "future" friendship kind of changes what we though we knew about the relationship between the two central characters over the past 43 years....the dynamics have now been changed forever!

    Overall I liked the film and would recommend it for every Trek fan or non-fan. Also when it's released on DVD (or Blu-Ray for all you folks not feeling the economic pinch...ha ha!) it's a must buy.


  8. You Know Damn Right!21/6/09 09:46

    Can you see me TMT? That's me turning my back on you. I'm turning my back on you. See?

    And yes, I'm eating cake. Chocolate bunt cake. The very same cake I bought for your baby blog's 3rd birthday. But after this blasphemy, I've decided to eat your cake.

    Incidentally, I avoided *all* media coverage of this movie until i saw the I didn't even know who this Quinto guy is. If my friends started talking about it, i'd tell them I didn't want to hear about it and we'd talk about it after i saw the movie.

    Tell me that Porco's only role was in the rings of Saturn. Otherwise i'm going to have to fire off an email to her about how gravity works. Or tell her she has to get in the face of those idiots who made this movie.

    Except for the prettybintboy playing Kirk, the other acting was passable, often even good. Chekov was a bit over the top. Most of all I'm saddened that Nimoy saw fit to take part in a story that is utter contemptible crap. Going back in time to fix problems is always a problematic cheat, and too many hacks rely on it. But here they broke every freakin' rule about time travel in a story. Every one. Every bleeding one.

    I mean why the hell doesn't elder Spock just go back in time again and do a better job and prevent this bullcrap alternate universe from being generated? It's not like there's anything stopping him. It's like the frickin' earth2 of DC Comics.

    Gene Roddenberry is spinning in his urn. Even the ghosts of Desi Arnez and Lucille Ball are pissed.

  9. @MR CAKE EATER....

    I don't know what yr mental illness is!
    but y hv to see a shrink
    very soon...yesterday!

  10. @you know damn right!

    you're absolutely right... the story was crap.

    i think people are being fed awful mind-numbing stories because the people who are creating these movies and television shows aren't storytellers -- they're businessmen, products of their time, exceedingly disconnected from any sort of social justice issues i care about.

    the creators of the original trek were visionaries and cared about our future. i'm dumbfounded how the creators of the latest trek are completely satisfied because the numbers look good.

    but i've been a star trek for too long to turn my back on it after this film. i think that there's potential to steer it where i'd personally like it to be. however, you know, that will only happen if american society itself gets back on track.

    i'm willing to give it another chance and i look forward to a second film... but they won't get a third chance from me.

    since it's chocolate, gimme a piece.