Monday, October 12, 2015

Short Treks Movies - 6

Star Trek VI
Release Date: December 6, 1991
The Undiscovered Country

As we come to the end of the original crew’s story together, Spock remains "The Franchise," again acting as the driver of events.

With the Extra Galactic Invasion’s years of planning and manipulating finally crushed, I should be finished with crazy theories connecting disparate stories together…

But I’m not!

Let’s start with the trial. Star Trek is built on strong, theatrical characters, insuring high drama in any courtroom scene.  Because of that we will ignore trivialities like how no individual or scanning device in the entire Klingon justice and penal system notices the matchbox car sized electronic signaling device glued to the Captain’s jacket.  No wonder he was so protective of it arriving at Rura Penthe.

Kirk is his usual dynamic self, showing why he deserves the ostentatious, and finally cannon, middle name of Tiberius.
However, McCoy steals the show with his wit and charm winning over the hostile Klingon crowd.  He doesn’t completely lose his composure until the attack on him changes tactics from targeting his ability to targeting his intent.  Never accuse Bones of not putting any patient first. After all, that’s how he got into this mess in the first place.  Since he specifically states, in this film, that he’s unfamiliar with Klingon anatomy, why did he go over to their ship in the first place?  1) He’s a doctor, and 2) Kirk may need help. Later on in the movie, yet again he suggests a friend let him freeze to death in order to save themselves.  That’s his standard sacrifice mode, I guess.

Back at the trial, their own abilities and the efforts of a familiar looking Klingon grandfather let them avoid the expected death sentence.  When this happens, the conspirators’ plan is severely jeopardized.  The bad guys know the abilities and willpower of Kirk and his crew almost guarantee and escape focused on thwarting them.  This is one reason they start to organize their own rescue attempt, which is certain to fail.  The President of the Federation allows the discussion of this secret illegal plan against the Klingons with their known ally, the Romulan Ambassador, in the room.  Crappy Starfleet safety protocols go all the way up to the top, and Sarek is still the only decent and competent ambassador in the galaxy.

The schemers need someone on the inside at the prison to make sure our heroes are never seen again.  Would they trust this vital task to any common criminal or mercenary who was too dumb to avoid capture? 
Not a chance. 
They must have used a plant.
No not those sentient flowers on the planet with the Giant Spock, a fake prisoner that works for them.

Someone with ties to the upper echelon of Starfleet where the conspiracy resides.

Someone who’s been defeated by Kirk and seeks revenge.

Someone who would be happy to replace the Captain on the bridge of the Enterprise.

Someone insane enough to break into “the alien’s graveyard.”

Someone who can change shape to deal with any eventuality.

She does state the main form seen is not her true form, but something Kirk would find pleasing.

The M113 creature's appearance was based on something like that, but didn’t appear capable of transformation without an empathic contact. 

Plus it didn’t have a reason to choose the name Martia, which is likely a guiltily chosen tribute to the Orion dancing girl, plagiaristic poet and psychopath: Marta.

Yes, Martia is, in fact, Lord Garth of Izar.  We know the spinny light chair mental health treatment we last saw him receiving doesn’t work
Admiral Cartwright probably yanked him out of Elba II with a promise of commanding of the Enterprise and whatever else he could steal from Kirk’s life.

Why else would he copy Captain Kirk during the fight, other than as a remembrance of their previous meeting?
And, of course, to tell the captain that kissing himself, “Must have been your lifelong ambition.”  I think that’s my favorite line Shatner ever delivered. It was brilliant self-parody, yet completely in character.

In general The Undiscovered Country  is a beautiful capstone to the journeys of the original crew.

Supposedly the crew was on the brink of retirement at the start of this film.  I’m sure Scotty bought a boat only to take it a part, soup it up and put it back together again, because he looks so ecstatic to be back in the engine room, there’s no way he voluntarily left it. 

Bonus:  During the “did we or didn’t we fire” scene he said, “Computer’s don’t lie,” in an identical tone my Dad always used when customer service tried to tell him the computer “made a mistake.”

And Uhura’s a teacher?  Considering her uniform went back to having a skirt, in homage to the one she wore so well on the five year mission, and her all around awareness of everything around her, she must be giving lessons in awesome. If that goofy translation scene with the books is any indication, they never put back the part of her brain with the Klingon language in it, which Starfleet’s greatest communication officer must have surely had, after Nomad deleted the hard drive in her cabesa.  I have no “Captain Continuity” explanation for why the Klingon scanner couldn’t tell the difference between the most famous heavy cruiser in the Federation and a freighter.  Maybe the system went down and the I.T. ticket hadn’t been processed yet?

Hey, for that opening briefing with the top brass of Starfleet, how come only they have their dress uniforms with the ribbons on?  The Big Three would have looked like a king sized quilt was stapled to their lapel.

Man, the Excelsior turned out to be just as awesome as I thought it was when I first saw it and ran out to buy the blueprints.  It just needed the right captain- Hikaru Sulu.

“Then Fly her Apart!” indeed!  Woo!

His first name finally confirmed in cannon in the same film as Tiberius, due to Peter David choosing the right day to visit the set and remind the film makers of it…because he’s awesome.

Janice Rand shows up as a Commander again, but also as the communications officer. It is a logical path. Anyone in business has seen Administrative Assistant get inspired by friends at work, go back to school and advance their careers.  In her few appearances, Rand always seemed close to Uhura. 

I know I’ve beaten an entire team of horses to death, but not having Star Trek: Excelsior be a series was downright criminal.
The rest were close to retirement, but Chekov took the conn in the last movie as the highest ranking command grade officer when Kirk and Spock were off ship.  He could have been First/Science Officer adding to Rand at Communications.  Throw in some new people for the other roles.
Let Christian Slater geek out by showing up once in a while, and have the occasional guest appearance of Admiral Uhura providing them with missions and information.

Oh it would have rocked!

Notice that while Sulu was always focused on following Kirk’s footsteps to the command chair, they have different command styles based on their skill levels.  Kirk was a navigator, gives more details about “setting a course”, but left the execution and steering up to Sulu.  Since he was the best Helmsman in the fleet, Captain Sulu gives more specific orders to the pilot of his ship about how to execute maneuvers. 

They couldn’t ignore the beginnings of peace in the previous film, although they did ignore that none of the crew had any problems sharing Romulan Ale with Korrd, Klaa and company without ill effects.  The eventuality of that peace in later series might have been established, but the swan song of our heroes also brings in a properly villainous Klingon for a last hurrah.

Though not acting for his government, Chang is the last of the real Klingons, and Christopher Plummer uses his magnificent acting ability for some high octane, yet somehow cultured, refined and appropriate overacting to serve as a perfect foil to Kirk.
He also has, by far, the most awesome “fire the weapons” motion in the history of Star Trek, so it’s hard not to root for the guy.

There were some high quality Klingon actors in this one, weren’t there? Besides Plummer, David Warner (Gorkon) proved himself to be so cool that he was cast in two, back to back, Trek films in completely different roles.

He also travels in a K’t’inga class battle cruiser. YAY! That Bird of Prey design is pretty, but I think I stood up in my seat when the shinier version of the old school D7 soared once more onto the big screen.

Back to Chang, whose personality most closely resembles Kor in his love of battle and attempts to identify with Kirk.  Our Captain, however, has evolved over time, and has moved further away from the pure warrior both Klingons accused him of being.

Question about the final solution to Chang and his invisible ship…

We all know why it was the Enterprise that made the tracking torpedo even though Excelsior was on the mission concerning gaseous anomalies.  (Bill, you know I love you, but you do hog the spotlight sometimes.)

The question comes from this: Once the torpedo was fired, it doesn’t smash the Bird of Prey in the impulse engines, or in the warp nacelles. Instead it slams full force directly into the bridge.

But wasn’t the whole idea of the torpedo that it would track gas emissions?

Looks like Romulan Ale reacts far worse with Klingon digestive systems than it does with human ones.

Valeris makes a great deal more sense when you know she was Saavik in early drafts of the script.  The folks running the franchise couldn’t accept her as a traitor, but if they worked David’s death as the motivation angle, it could have been plausible.

It would also have been far less weird to have Spock expect her to be his replacement. Saavik was doing surveys for science vessel Grissom in her last job.  Valeris is a helmsman. I’m not sure in what capacity she could replace Spock, other than upholding the pointy ear quota.

The scene with the two of them in his quarters gave insight into Spock.  It’s not only that Spock accepts emotion now, that’s been shown constantly throughout the films.  It’s the fact that he’s got a painting of Paradise Lost hanging as a reminder that all things end. 
Decades after it happened, the main focus of his living space is a call back to paradise ending…or at least, for him, “This Side of Paradise” ending.  Thanks to Miss Kalomi, Uhura and Zarabeth never had a chance.

Valeris learns a valuable lesson herself.  In the past “angry Spock” led to yelling, and physically tossing people into bulkheads.  However, now that our favorite Vulcan is well past his prime, her betrayal leads to quiet fury and reaching directly into her mind to rip out the information needed regardless of the physical or emotional damage to either of them.  It’s an illustration of a quote I’ve heard a few ways but my favorite is:
“Don’t pick a fight with an old man, because if he’s too tired to fight he’ll just kill you.”

Uhura is, of course, the most heartbroken at this event. Not because of the violation of Valeris, but because she’s aware of the terrible effect it’s having on Spock.  Even without a relationship, the bond between the two and the knowledge of each other remain strong after all these years.

Kirk has evolved and grown, but in many ways remains his awesome self.  Too old to be shirtless now, he makes sure to open his uniform flap after the disastrous dinner with the Klingons.  Note that the Big Three go off on their own, away from the rest of the bridge crew. That’s likely because he/they have to assess the damage and plan the next move at the command level.

As per usual, one of the main sources of the Captain’s trouble on this outing is logging out loud with his door unlocked. How many conflicts would have been aborted before they began if the man had just bought a notepad?

Spock plays the Sherlock Holmes scenes most excellently.  I am of the side that states the ancestor he mentioned was Doyle, not Holmes when he referenced the “eliminate the impossible” quote.  The Star Trek universe has much of the same classic fiction as our own. Plus it feels right, given his mother’s background, for Spock to have a famous author in his family tree.

However, it’s fortunate that The Undiscovered Country is an engaging adventure tale filled with political intrigue, because as a mystery, it’s got some issues.

Granted photon torpedoes coming from a ship below the Enterprise would look like they were fired from the ship’s own launchers beneath the saucer section from the Bridge on top of it.  However, the decks on the secondary hull and on the bottom of the saucer have windows.  Ignoring the sensors (because the writers did) and those extra windows (maybe the whole crew had Romulan Ale) the main view screen has often been used to show multiple angles around the ship with a rewind and play back feature.

The uniforms had to have been hidden on the ship, because they couldn’t be phasered, and they couldn’t be beamed away without the technology being detected. However, since they and the assassins were on the ship, it means they had to have been beamed aboard after Gorkon was shot.

I can try to put my Captain Continuity hat on for it.  The killers beam with red sparkles, the color of a Klingon transporter. Since the series established multiple instances where the Federation has absolutely no alarms or detection methods built in when someone else beams aboard their ships, this one could get a pass.

Until you realize that means the Bird of Prey could have easily transported the uniforms away during the initial chaos.

Yes, there were gaps in some of the middle steps, but the resolutions more than made up for any.

Scotty found the uniforms, because ABSOLUTELY NOBODY knows the Enterprise like its Chief Engineer.

Federation President Boddiker is not saved from the physical threat of conspirators by a crack company of Federation marines or security agents, which would be the logical choice if this was a story that went for those kinds of choices.

No the President is saved by an aged group of command officers, because they are the only ones in the Galaxy with the clout, and chutzpah to pull the mission off.

Cue Applause!

Note that the Enterprise bridge crew comes down alone, but Sulu brings security guards.  He’s been captured, marooned and attacked in enough landing party missions to know better.

The cascade of awesomeness the film concludes with makes it difficult to pick the “Awesome Ending Line” that stays with the audience from this outing. 

The final space battle has both Chang’s Shakespearian ranting and Sulu’s powerfully delivered commands.

It also has Uhura doing what she does best, noticing important things while the men are running around fighting, which leads to Spock and McCoy switching roles:

 “Well, what about all that equipment we're carrying to catalogue gaseous anomalies? ...Well, the thing's got to have a tail pipe.”

Spock - “Doctor, would you care to assist me in performing surgery on a torpedo?”
Bones - “Fascinating!”

Kirk’s speech about fearing the future and his exchange with Azetbur about restoring the faith of lost family members is powerful as well.

However, the “Awesome Ending Line” of this Awesome Ending of the original crew comes in the final scene.

Uhura has observations and information, Scotty compliments Sulu, and Chekov actually says, “So…this is goodbye.”

As usual, the best lines come from the Big Three.

McCoy gets in one final barb in the most entertaining argument between best friends ever committed to television and film:
“Well, they don't arrest people for having feelings.”

Spock’s reply to the order to be decommissioned proves once and for all that he does have emotions tucked away in there, and every time he’s seemed to misunderstand human behavior, he was just messing with his friends.  Straight men always have the best sense of humor:

“If I were human, I believe my response would be 'Go to Hell!' ...If I were human.”

However, the line that gets the nod comes, as it should, from Captain James T. Kirk sitting in the command chair of the U.S.S. Enterprise with his bridge crew around him, minus a respectfully empty Helm, as he announces their final heading…

“Second star to the right...and straight on 'til morning”


longbow said...

*Short* Trek, indeed.

I think I'm a Savik but my friends are like, duh, you're such a Valeris. It's totally obvious.

Jeff McGinley said...

Either there's a Star Trek horoscope I wasn't aware of, or that's the geekiest Archie comics cross reference ever written. Either way THANX!

longbow said...

It was a reference to Kim Catrell being on Sex in the City. Though I may have done it poorly since i've only watched about 10 minutes of one episode that had been edited for viewing on basic cable.

Jeff McGinley said...

Actually, that was a completely perfect reference to Sex in the City.

And I am more than proud to say I didn't get it at all.

Nicely done for both of us, I'd say.