Warp Speed to Nonsense

Warp Speed to Nonsense

Monday, January 25, 2016

ST:TNG, Season One, Episode One: "Encounter at Farpoint" (Part 1)

Star Trek: The Next Generation, Season One, Episode One: "Encounter at Farpoint" (Part 1)
Air Order: 1
Original Air Date: September 26, 1987

"Wait, aren't we supposed to be on the fifth movie this week?"
We sure are. That's why we're doing the first season and first episode (part one) of TNG.
"LOL, whut?"
Okay, lemme explain: unlike viewing the TOS episodes in production order (which was done to eliminate continuity error complaints, and which most fans view in that order anyway), I've set it up so that the remainder of the blog will review each Star Trek production by way in which they were presented to the viewing public. (And as far as I can tell, Next Gen episodes do not differ between production order and air order. They were filmed and then shown in the same order.)
This means two things:
Firstly, it means that we will take a pause in our films, as approximately one and half seasons of TNG were shown before Star Trek V: The Final Frontier was released in theaters. (And thank Zod for small favors there, because that movie is shit.) I'll cover that movie between episodes 18 and 19 of season two of TNG, just to keep with the chronology of release dates.

Secondly, it means I'll have to do some fancy footwork where Next Gen, DS9, and Voyager overlap. (Voyager did not quite overlap with Enterprise, as Voyager ended in the summer of 2001, and Enterprise began in the fall of that same year, missing each other by a matter of months.)

Thirdly (and most of all), it means that I've come to the decision to spend the rest of my natural life writing this God-forsaken blog. I had been waffling about whether I was going to go ahead and just do TOS productions, or to do the whole kit-and-kaboodle. Doing just TOS would have meant that this blog would have ended in a matter of weeks, and I could have gone back to my life without having to continue to share my woes with my friends Phil and Casey, who write the ALF and Perfect Strangers blogs, respectively.
Doing the entire catalog on a weekly basis was once added up by my friends, who put the run-time of this blog at approximately ten years... if JJ Abrams stopped making AU films. But here we are, staring down a third film, and the promise of another series from the same set of writers, and I wonder if I'm setting myself up for a lifetime writing project.
Oh, well. Writing on a weekly basis is good practice.
Plus, it's almost a year before I have to deal with Kirk's shit again, and that makes me relatively happy.

When we last left of in our IRL saga, Gene Rod had been kind of reduced to a guy in an office on the studio set who had a nice title and pay bracket, but also no say in his own films. Paramount wanted to do another show. Gene wanted to retire.
"Fine, retire," said Paramount. "We'll do the show without you."
Paramount owned the rights to Star Trek, but Gene still had creative control over the thing, so they were kind of at an impasse.
"It's not Star Trek without me," he countered, and that's pretty much how he got roped into doing another series.
(There's actually a fairly good documentary hosted by The Shat that covers this time period. It's called "Chaos on the Bridge" and it's available on Netflix right now.)
So they went 'round a few times about doing a one-hour pilot or a two-hour pilot. Gene wanted one. The studio wanted a splashier two. DC Fontana was brought in to write the pilot, but told Gene that she couldn't write a two-hour pilot in a two-week timeframe, so she came up with enough material for one, and Gene rewrote bits, adding in the character of Q to pad out the pilot. The pilot now had a slightly different outcome, the proper run-time, and a memorable character who would play recurring roles on TNG, DS9, and Voyager.


New show, new opening.

It took me forever to figure this out (embarrassingly so), but the planets they move around in this first season opener are from our own solar system, sans a few. There's the sun, the Earth and it's moon, plus Mars and Saturn. Suspiciously absent: Mercury and Venus between the sun and Earth, and Jupiter between Mars and Saturn. Also, the moons for those other planets. Maybe they figured we weren't smart enough to catch that? I dunno. But if we were that close to the sun, we'd fry. Just sayin.'
And this is our new ship, the NCC-1701-D Enterprise.
Pretty sexy, though I'm not sure why the glowing blue target. Whatever.

Patrick Stewart does the opening "Space: the final frontier" speech.
Also, new font. I like the A's.

We get a bit of a introductory shot of the new ship here, where it approaches from the front and rolls up over the front of the saucer. I can't really call it a loveletter shot, as they're not so much wooing the audience with shots of the beloved ship, as they are showing them how cool and sleek the new design is. And bigger, too. TOS Enterprise held approximately 43 crew members, but because the E-D is a Galaxy-class ship that holds both crew and their families alike, the number of souls aboard is more than 1000. (Also, I'm never calling it the E-D again. Sorry for that. Did not mean to associate a starship with erectile dysfunction. Okay, unless it leads to a funny joke. Maybe then.)

Picard's Log 41153.7: "Going to Deneb IV. Some poetic stuff about space exploration. We're going to check out Farpoint station."

Right away, you get the feeling that this show is going to be different. Our initial shot of Picard as he gives his voice-over log are of him stepping out of the dark, and only partially into the light. He's older than Kirk was on TOS. But he's capable-looking. Not "young and virile", but the sort of guy you can trust not to fuck up a diplomatic mission. Plus, he's British, and to American ears, any British accent that's not Cockney automatically means "smart as hell."

There's a marked difference between Kirk and Picard, which is interesting because they're both based on Horatio Hornblower, and to a certain extent, Gene Rod. Twenty years earlier, Gene had wanted to be the swashbuckling womanizer, so he wrote Kirk. Now, he wanted to be older, wiser caretaker of the future, so he wrote Picard.
"Tell me about this dude," says Sir Stew to Gene.
And Gene pushes a stack of Horatio Hornblower books at him. "This is what you need to know about Picard."
This is both risky and brilliant. Risky because, what if Patrick Stewart had selected some character trait of Hornblower that Gene didn't like, and chose to accentuate that in his performance? But brilliant because a good actor can see what will work for a character and expand upon it, making it something bigger than it was before. Look at all of the times that Leonard Nimoy made Spock a thousand times better than expected, simply because he knew that character so well.

Picard moves into engineering, and we get a shot of the warp core in all it's glorious beauty, a glowing, throbbing blue, the same color as the sonic screwdriver of Doctor number Ten. I love that blue. 

The captain boards a tiny lift (I've never seen those outside of engineering, so I think they're only used on the upper and lower floors around the warp core) and proceeds to the bridge. He's continuing his log as he goes, talking about getting used to the sheer size and volume of the Galaxy-class ship, so you're assuming that's why he seems to have detoured through engineering.
But you'd be wrong for a hilarious reason: the studio told Gene that they weren't going to build any sets for any part of the ship that didn't appear in the pilot, and knowing that he'd need the engineering section at a later date, Gene rushed back to his script and added the bit about Picard walking through there on his way to the bridge, so the studio would have no choice but to design and build an engineering set.

Picard then goes on to say that they are still missing some people on their crew, which they are going to pick up, including a first officer. An expository conversation with Data on the bridge reveals that, while there are people at Farpoint station who run it, those people did not create the area. So the E's mission is to not only negotiate with the squatters for use of the station, it's to also find out who made the area in the first place.

Let's real quick dive into some costumes here: firstly, you'll remember that the costume designers for the films wanted to move away from the PJ look that the TOS uniforms had, which is why they messed around with the uniforms on the films. But now we're back to PJ's again. My best guess for that is budget - neither show had money, whereas the films were practically swimming in cash. 
Secondly, the three primary colors have been retained for the different sections, but swapped a bit. Red is now Command, gold is Ops. Deanna Troi, ship's counselor, is in medical blue, but that blue is now closer to teal, as the colors used have drifted toward jewel tones.
I like the little dip upward of black into the color swatch, as it sort of pays homage to the insignia of TOS, and I'm enjoying the color block scheme, the modified insignia that remains the same for everyone, and the fact that the sleeve bands indicating rank have been replaced by collar pips.
 I have only two complaints. One is that barely-perceptible colored piping near the shoulders, which says sailor suit to me, but not like a regular sailor... like a kid in a sailor's uniform. That same piping appears around the lower hem of the pants. No thanks.

My other complaint concerns Worf's hair. It looks terrible short like that. His pageboy cut in later seasons isn't any better. I prefer the long, wavy style in late TNG and Deep Space 9, but we have a way to go until then, so I'll just sigh in irritation to myself.

Also, check out Marina Sirtis' hair. Between that, her modified uniform, and those go-go boots, it's no wonder the designers thought she looked like "a cheerleader from space." However, let's thank the sci-fi gods that the writers decided against giving her four breasts. Like seriously, no.

Okay, enough about that crap.
Picard uses the word "snoop," which is unfamiliar to Data, and the captain reveals that the second officer is an android. Data begins listing synonyms, but he's interrupted by Deanna, who is getting a bad feeling, maybe channeled through that god-awful gold headband they put in her hair. Holy crap, dude. Did they assign her to the Enterprise straight out of high school?

She says she senses "a powerful mind" and then I think the ship puts itself on red alert? No, I guess it's a proximity detector, but it makes the same sound as red alert. Hey, show. Pick a different sound, okay?
Some electric fence goes up in front of the ship.
Oh, fuck me. It better not be the Tholians again. I'd be so pissed. So not dealing with their unconnected web crap.

We actually spend a few minutes with this web-fence thing, scanning and trying to figure out what it is. Picard yells at the helmsman to turn of the proximity alarm and just go to yellow alert, which I guess has no alarm.
Suddenly, there's a flash of bright light, and this douchebag appears on the bridge. Now, we don't know this guy yet, but he's dressed vaguely like Christopher Columbus, and at this point in time, everybody knows that Columbus was a complete douchebag, so we can guess that this guy is too.

"GTFO," this guy tells Picard, though he uses a bunch of "thous" and "thines."
"Dude, WTF are you?" demands Picard, because some guy doesn't just randomly beam onto your ship from nowhere. This guy is most definitely a "what."
"We're the Q. You can call me that also." And he strolls around the bridge like he owns the joint, blocking some entering gold shirts on the lift with another one of those web things, then freezing the navigator when he pulls out his phaser to stun the intruder.

"You dick!" says Picard. "He wasn't gonna hurt you! He was only going to stun you!"
"No way," says Q. "Now leave, or you're gonna die."
Dramatic music! Commercial break!

Picard's Log, supplemental: "Lt Torres went to sick bay to be thawed out. But what do I do with the guy with the crummy fashion sense and insane powers?"

So Q was only dressed like Columbus because he figured dressing like a captain would make an impression on Picard and get him to leave. So he goes through a few costume changes.

He actually tells them to go back to Earth to "fight the Commies." Behind the
times much, dude?

"What the hell?" asks Picard.
Apparently, Q thinks that humans are a dangerous child-race, and accuses them of killing their own over the centuries over stupid stuff.
"We're over that," Picard argues. "Have been for a long time."
Then Q switches into another costume, one that the E crew clearly knows about but which leaves the audience completely in the dark. His dropped hints talk about the human race previously controlling their armies with drugs.
Sick bay calls the bridge to say that Torres will be fine. Everyone seems relieved. Q makes fun of them for giving a shit about Torres.

Yar and Worf both respectfully request of Picard that they be able to rip Q a new one. Picard turns them down.
Q and Picard get into it, and Picard calls Q "self-righteous" and that it really sucks when they encounter life-forms that are there to "prosecute and judge" others. Unfortunately, this gives Q a fabulous idea. Then he disappears again.
Worf and Yar are both eager to hunt Q down at the playground to beat his ass. Deanna thinks Q is too powerful, and recommends avoiding him at all costs.
I feel like I miss something here, but Picard starts barking orders and about going out to find "them" at maximum speed, so I guess he's going with Worf and Yar's suggestion? He also wants to know about saucer separation, and we all know why. It's because the writers invented a new toy, and they want to show it off. It won't actually have that much of a practical application here.
Worf goes down to engineering so that they can use that set again, and also so that we can see there's a Vulcan science officer down there. Dude only appears for a split-second, and gets no lines, but I'm sure someone felt better seeing that.

Picard intends to turn the ship around and warp the hell out of there at an ungodly speed, which they do. Unfortunately, the web-thing folds in on itself, forming a ball, and warps after them. Yar reports that "the hostile is now giving chase." They've past the point of safety at 9.4, but the ball is catching up, and Picard asks Troi for her best guess.
"It's like, beyond what we would call a life-form," she replies.
When it's obvious that they can't run any faster and will be overtaken, Picard orders emergency saucer separation. Everybody turns and stares gape-mouthed at him.
He puts Worf in charge of the saucer section. Worf immediately bitches about how he's Klingon, and Klingons don't run from a fight. Dude wants to go with the drive section.
"Just fucking do it," barks Picard. He's annoyed now, and isn't gonna brook any honor crap from Worf.
He takes Troi, Data and Yar, and transfers his command to the "battle bridge."
Dramatic music! Commercial break!

Picard's Log 41153.7: "Moving all of the families and non-essential personnel to the saucer section so they can get away safely."

Droves of people with children and other ship's crew are shown flooding the corridors and making their way quickly in one direction. It's like an orderly fire drill.

Picard, Yar, Data, and Troi enter the battle bridge and are joined by Colm Meany, who is wearing red and doesn't have a name or character yet. He's just a warm body in the nav position of the battle bridge.

The plan is to fire torpedoes at the ball, blinding it to the fact that the saucer is leaving, and then to back away quickly from the saucer, so that it can make a get-away before the ball has noticed. There's a count-down to separation, and everyone is tense, but then when they actually separate, the ship looks like it's on a pleasure cruise in the stars.
The separation is shown from multiple angles, and we get the rollicking theme music again.
Here, I made some lyrics to go with this scene:
at this ship,
what it does right now.
It's just the coolest thing
you've ever seeeeeen.
at this ship,
and this thing it does.
The old ship never did this thing -
isn't it greaaat?"

Look at this thing I do! Loooovve meeee!

The rollicking music continues, and it juxtaposes oddly with the faces of the crewmen on the battle bridge, who all look terrified as hell that this isn't going to work.

Pretty sure Tasha's about to piss herself.

The drive section turns and heads back to the place where they detonated the torpedoes, then comes to a stop, waiting. Yar is on edge, wanting to know if they intend to fight. Picard asks what she has in mind. She clearly wasn't expecting that, and admits that she doesn't have a plan. Then she pauses to suggest that they distract the ball to keep it from going after the saucer.
The ball approaches, and Picard tells "Commander" to signal their surrender to the ball-thing. Everyone looks apprehensive at the order and what it will mean, but I'm left wondering who he's talking to. Though the subtitles label Colm Meany as "O'Brien," I'm pretty sure they're relying on future episodes to tell them that, as Picard refers to him as simply "conn" - his current position. And he doesn't have enough pips on his collar that I can see. Data is a Lt commander, Yar is a lieutenant, Troi is a Lt commander. Yet Troi is the one who replies, "aye, sir" and relays the message.
The ball overtakes the drive section and surrounds it in that web-thing.

But then there's bright light, and the battle bridge crew (minus Colm Meany) are suddenly in a room with stands full of crowds. Some kind of security guard (wearing that soldier-drug suit that Q was wearing earlier) fires a machine gun into the air and the crowd quiets. A man steps forward and commands that "all prisoners must stand," meaning the seated Data and Troi. Instead, Picard motions for himself and Yar to sit.
The crowd, in that annoying way they do, all go, "Ooooh!"

Apparently, they're in some kind of mid-21st century Earth courtroom, which Picard labels as being "post-atomic horror" and which Data labels as being "very, very accurate." Troi warns them quietly that what they are seeing is real and not an illusion.

Everyone is supposed to stand for the judge, and oh gee, guess who it is?
Q comes in on this throne thing that's attached to some kind of platform. It's not obvious what's pushing the platform forward, as it appears to be levitating, but it's clearly being pushed somehow.
And you know, I honestly didn't think he could be dressed any douchier than in that earlier scene, but it turns out that I couldn't be more wrong.

The soldier guy steps forward and yells at the E crew to stand, but they just stare at him blankly. So he fires off his machine gun into the air and yells again. Again, they do nothing. He fires at the floor. Tasha Yar loses her cool and rushes forward to beat his ass, which the crowd seems to enjoy.

She succeeds in flipping him to the ground. Q declares the guard to be out of order, and the dude takes a hit off his drug suit before another guard steps forward and fills him full of lead.
Then Q tells the other guards that none of the prisoners will be harmed until found guilty. Picard asks if the trial will be a fair one.
Look around, dude. No.
"Oh, totes," says Q.
The bailiff steps forward and declares that the four E crew members are being put on trial for the crimes of humanity.
Data stands and objects, as the United Earth government  of 2036 had declared it illegal to make any one person responsible for crimes committed by the whole of humanity.
"Yeah," waves off Q. "But this is 2079, and United Earth stuff no longer applies."
Tasha is fucking done. Though human, she yells that grew up on a world where bullshit courts like this were the norm, and she isn't putting up with it.

Q waves his hand and freezes Tasha.
"The fuck?" demands Picard. "You said this trial would be fair, and that you wouldn't harm the prisoners!"
After some quick bickering, Q waves his hand again, and unfreezes her, much to the disappointment of the courtroom spectators.
Picard says he recognizes this court system as being the one that agrees with the Shakespeare quote "Kill all the lawyers," and carried the notion of everyone being guilty until confirmed to be innocent. Q says they are being charged with the "grievous crimes" of humanity.
Picard argues that that term is too broad, and that he won't participate unless they are charged with something specific. When he's given the charges to read, he declares that he can't find anything that pertains to them individually.
Q tells the soldiers to shoot the prisoners if they plead anything but guilty.

With his crew in danger of being shot, Picard pleads "guilty... provisionally."
Q is intrigued.
"You say we're savages," states Picard. "We say we're not. I think you should give us some time, watch how we handle things, then judge us."
"Okaaaay," agrees Q. "But I won't have to watch very long.  Farpoint has more than you've bargained for."
There's another flash of bright light, and they find themselves back on the battle bridge. Troi and Yar exchange "did that just happen?" looks while Data stares at Colm Meany. Colm, for his part, is simply pushing buttons casually on the conn. Tra-la-la, hangin' out on the battle bridge.
"Sooo, hey, Conn. What are we doing again?" asks Picard.
"Going to Farpoint," replies Colm cheerfully. He sort of gives Picard a fleeting, weird look for standing right in front of the viewscreen, but seems otherwise unfazed.

Riker's Personal Log 41153.7: "Hanging out at Farpoint, waiting for my new ship to arrive. Been asked to visit Groppler Zorn, the guy in charge."

Riker enters the office of the groppler. He's young, but polite, friendly and professional. But holy crap, does Jonathan Frakes have a baby face. Like, I'll admit that I don't like beards, but some dudes just gotta have 'em. Jonathan Frakes is one.

So Riker and Zorn make space station small talk about construction of the station and geo-thermal energy, blah blah blah, and and when Riker mentions that the station went up quickly and is perfectly suited to Starfleet's needs, Zorn deflects the comment by offering Riker a bowl of "Earth delicacies" - fruit that we've seen on his desk a few times. You don't even notice the bowl there unless you've rewound the footage a few times.
"Maybe an apple," says Riker, but realizes that there are none in the bowl. "Oh, well."
Zorn apologizes for not having the fruit Riker wants, but when Riker glances back, there's now a second bowl... full of apples.

Dude, do not eat that suspicious fruit.
He does, anyway.
Zorn steers things back to Starfleet setting up shop at Farpoint Station, and some fancy footwork has Riker agreeing with him. They part on good terms, and Zorn closes the door.
"Dude, I thought I told you not to do that," he tells the empty room. "We're gonna lose the fucking contract with Starfleet, and it'll be your fault."
There isn't anyone else there, so I can only assume that he's talking to Tony, the alien who lives in his mouth and tells him not to play with little girl ghosts. He probably does, anyway. Groppler Zorn looks like he runs a cult in the desert. Ohh, Brother.

Riker meets the Crushers near some kind of marketplace. Beverly Crusher is hesitant around Riker, who she just met, but the teenaged Wes is bouncing around excitedly. They walk through the marketplace, and Riker suggests that they hang out and get to know one another until the ship arrives.
"So, hey," says Riker. "This planet is kind of fucking weird. Have you noticed? We could do some sleuthing."
She looks at some pink fabric, and remarks out loud that it would be nice with gold.
"Piss off," says Beverly. "I'm shopping, and you just want to suck up to Jean-Luc before you meet him."
But when they glance back at the fabric, it's suddenly patterned with gold flowers.
"This place magically has everything you want," Riker tells her.
Weirded out, Beverly tells the merchant that she wants the whole bolt of fabric (no, seriously: that's a shit-ton of fabric), then to have it sent to the E when it arrives, and to have it charged to Dr Crusher.
(Oh, hey, TNG - I thought we were pretending that money doesn't exist? Gene Rod was pretty insistent in movie #4 that it didn't.)

They walk away from the creeper merchant (who looks at Wes like trying to figure out what quart stockpot to boil him in), and Riker notes that Dr Crusher said "Jean-Luc" rather than "Picard" or "the captain."
"Do you know him?"
"Yeah, he brought my dad's body home," says Wes nonchalantly.
Wow, way to be morbid with a stranger, Wes. Not "he and my dad served together" or "he and my dad were besties." Nope. It's "he brought my dad's body home."
The Crushers leave, and Riker tells the effervescent Wes that he'll see him on board.
Riker is immediately approached by Lt Geordi LaForge, who tells him that the Enterprise has arrived... but only the drive section. 
"The captain wants you onboard ASAP," Geordi finishes.

"Okay, cool," says Riker.
He steps away from the crowd and calls the E for a beam-up.
There isn't any real reason for this next photo. It's just beautiful. Also, look how freaking weird the E looks without the saucer section. Like someone cut of its head, or something.

Yar meets him in the transporter room and introduces herself. They hop in the lift, and he asks why they arrived without the saucer. She brushes him off.
When they reach the battle bridge, Picard remains in his chair and barely turns to look at Riker. Picard tells Yar to set Riker up nearby with a viewscreen before dismissing them both. Data and Colm Meany's character exchange a look.
Riker ends up watching bits of that first scene between the bridge crew and Q, using that technique that Star Trek has of convincing us that old footage is actually recordings of situations that occurred onboard the ship. It does, of course, end before they attend their trial.

So along with a second bridge, the ship has a second "ready room" for the captain as well. Interesting, as we haven't seen the main one yet, and this appears to be a new concept. It certainly wasn't in TOS or any of the films, which had crew members meeting with the captain in his own quarters.
Picard has asked Riker to meet him in the ready room when he is done with the video. Post-video, Riker turns slowly and makes a great WTF? face.

He enters the ready room, where Picard finally looks him full in the face and announces that Q has put them on trial for the crimes of humanity. They're on probation right now while Q watches them for signs that they suck as a race. Data calls Picard to let him know that the saucer has arrived, and Picard answers that back that that's awesome, because Riker is going to manually dock the parts together. Riker is confused as to why he's being asked to do this, but he agrees anyway.
I know why. It's because 25 minutes ago, the ship did a cool thing, and they wanted to remind you of that cool thing this new ship does. They can explain it away and say that Picard is testing his new officer, but let's just own the fact that we're showing off our cherry new ride, mmmkay?

With that test passed, Picard tells Riker that he did a good job, but now he wants to know some stuff about Riker's record, specifically the part where Riker would not let a previous captain go on an away mission. Picard takes the defensive approach and asks Riker if the captain's rank means so little to him.
"No," says Riker. "The captain is more important than myself, and he is too much to risk in a dangerous situation."
OMIGOD, FUCKING THANK YOU. Could no one on TOS have pulled Kirk aside and asked him what the fuck he thought he was doing, going on all of those away missions? If I recall correctly, he was only challenged like twice, and one of those times, it was the damn computer that did it.
Picard argues with him for a moment, but is satisfied. Then he asks that Riker make sure that he doesn't look like a total a-hole in front of kids, because kids are really not his thing, and Starfleet has given him a ship full of them.
He finally smiles for the first time since we've met him and he officially welcomes Riker on board.

And Riker smiles back like he's just been offered a spot in his favorite sorority at the end of Pledge Week. He's the prettiest girl at the ball, y'all.

Now we go down to sick bay to officially meet Geordi, the blind guy who flies the ship with the help of a banana clip that he wears over his eyes. The writers have decided to drop Geordi's situation into expository conversation between him and Dr Crusher. So the things we learn here are:
- Geordi was born blind;
- he's worn the VISOR (it's an acronym) pretty much his whole life;
- as long as he's worn the VISOR, it's been slightly painful;
- the pain he experiences probably comes from him using his other senses in unique ways to compensate;
- the VISOR is an "amazing piece of technology," but he's tired of hearing people rave about it.
This scene would feel less clunky if Geordi didn't tell Crusher that he's had that pain his whole life. If he's always had it, then why is he down in sick bay complaining about it? Is it different than the normal pain he feels from it? Doesn't seem like it.
She tells him that she can give him painkillers (which would affect how the VISOR works), or do exploratory surgery to "desensitize those areas of the brain" (which would give a similar effect as the painkillers). He vetoes both, puts his VISOR back on, and leaves let down. Come on, Geordi. If you've always had this pain, then you've probably had this convo with other doctors. Why did you think the options would be different this time?

Riker goes to the bridge to locate Data, and Worf tells him that Data is on special assignment, escorting an admiral over to another ship via shuttlecraft. Apparently, this admiral has been on board all day overseeing the medical facilities. Riker asks why said admiral didn't just beam over, and -

You're killing me, Star Trek.

Bones tells Data that it's a new ship, "but she's got the right name."
"Treat her like a lady, and she'll always bring you home."

Fucking dead.

So far, this episode has some good stuff and some crap. Now, I'm pretty biased, because as I've said previously, I'm a TNG girl all the way. I'm less likely to think badly of this particular show. Most fans will say that seasons one and two are no good, but that the seasons afterward are pretty good. I've never really noticed much difference, but I haven't really been paying much attention to it in this way, either. My viewings of TNG go one of two ways: I either tell Netflix that I want to watch a shit-ton of Next Gen, and start it from the beginning to run in the background; or I search through the episodes for my favorites. It wasn't until recently that I took note of which ones I normally want to watch, but it turns out that none of the ones I go for are from the first two seasons.

The storyline with Q is pretty interesting. We don't quite know how it fits in with the Farpoint story, but I guess we'll have to wait until next week to find out.
The introduction of characters was a mixed bag. I like that they waited until several acts in to introduce Geordi, Riker and the Crushers. It was fewer characters to get used to at once, and now they each have a slightly different story to tell concerning the beginning of the Farpoint story. Geordi's backstory was necessary (and kind of fascinating), but handled awkwardly. I didn't quite get enough of Worf, besides to note that the Klingon Empire is no longer at loggerheads with the Federation.
At this point, my biggest beef with this episode is the over-the-top feeling of the saucer separation and re-connection. Each scene lasted several minutes, which was several minutes too long. A lot was made of the fact that one should not separate the ship at high speeds, then they went ahead and did so. Seems like they'd done this before, but then they were super-awed by the process. It was a bit heavy-handed.

The scene with Bones and Data is really sweet, though. It was nice to see that kind of torch-passing, even though they'll make two more TOS movies before doing another torch-passing, this time in film.

Fun Facts:

- Like TOS, TNG had a crap budget. This was partly due (at least at first) to The Shat not wanting to do movie #4, and them having to offer him more money to do it. Where did said money come from? TNG, of course.
- Speaking of Star Trek cheapness, Denise Crosby (Lt Yar) remarked that the kraft services table on TNG was so lacking that she would often steal food from the kraft services set on "Cheers." She also notes that their dressing trailers were dilapidated old Airstream-type trailers that hadn't been used in decades, and which had no water hook-ups or bathroom facilities. Patrick Stewart corroborated this.
- De Kelley only asked for scale pay for this role. "Scale pay" is what actors would normally be paid by the Screen Actor's Guild. He could have asked for quite a bit more money, but requested scale pay instead.
- Gene, an atheist, was always interested in his crews "meeting God" and used the idea multiple times in his shows and films, but all dressed in some other way so that one could not really claim that these productions were about meeting God, which the studio claimed was "blasphemous." For "Encounter at Farpoint," Gene created the character of Q, who in many ways, is God.
- The Shakespeare play that's referenced as being the basis of Q's court system is Henry VI, Part II.
- The scenes involving Q were filmed in the second half of production, as John DeLancie was doing a play and was not available earlier. The producers really wanted him for Q, and agreed to the later schedule.
- Geordi was named after George LaForge, a handicapped Trek fan.


Roomie brought home two new teas that I had never seen before, so of course I stole one. Stash Tea's Mango Passionfruit is a really lovely herbal. It tastes like a bubble tea without the jellies, which is nice if you dislike the jelly bits. Along with the mango and passionfruit, it also includes orange peel, rosehips, lemongrass, hibiscus, safflower,and a bit of licorice.
It appears to be also available in those little K-cup things, if that's what you're into.

 August 1999- Jan 25, 2016

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

"Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home" (Part II)

"Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home" (Part II)
Original Theatrical Release Date: November 26, 1986
Rating: PG
Stardate: 8930

So my friend Legolas sent me this link, and now I'm kind of pissed off, because I want it but I don't currently have $17 in my Big-Ass Mug Fund. You should get it, though.


Okay, so where did we leave off?
Oh, yeah. Kirk Classic going on a date with an unsuspecting whale expert. Poor Gillian. She doesn't know that Kirk is the he-whore of Starfleet.
So they've dropped Spock off at the park, and now they've gone to a pizza place somewhere nearby, and I'm not sure if that counts as the "Italian" that she promised, but whatever. (Fun fact: this restaurant did not have a pizza oven, and the production company wanted one, so they paid to have a working pizza oven installed in the restaurant... which was then never shown on camera. Oh, well. Free pizza oven!) 
Gillian orders a pizza and some shit-beer, which she mentions by name, so I'm guessing that the beer company paid for product placement.
Then Kirk drops the cheesiest fucking line ever, and I swear to God, if I had been Gillian, I would have just gotten up and left:
"How did a nice girl like you get to be a cetacean biologist?"
All the facepalms, Kirk. I know you probably think of the twentieth century as being primitive compared to your own time, but she's not a caveman. Terrible pick-up lines do not work in any century. Also, your tone and choice of wording imply that her job sucks. She has a PhD, you douchebag. You're not doing yourself any favors here.

He jumps right into it, and asks how they'll let the whales go. She replies that a special 747 will fly them to Alaska and release them there. They'll have radio tags on them so they can keep an eye on them over the years. Kirk, in the shadiest way possible, tells her that he can take the whales someplace where they would never be in danger of being hunted. She laughs and tells him that he's full of shit, because he and his weirdo friend don't even have a car, let alone some way to transport whales.

He kind of takes offense at this, and asks why she would have dinner with him if she has such a low opinion of him. I dunno, Kirk. Usually a girl goes out with a guy she has a low opinion of because she wants a meal and a screw. You're really not helping your case here.
Their beers come, and he takes a sip and makes a face, because, you know, it's shit-beer. Maybe that beer company didn't pay for product placement.
Gillian is conflicted. This weirdo and his friend are offering to take her whales someplace safe, but they are straight-up weirdos, despite the fact that she wants to believe Kirk when he says they'll be safe. She admits that there's a crap-ton of hunting going on right now, but humpback whales do not do well in captivity, so they're screwed either way, and that is exactly why she's having dinner with Kirk.
Scotty calls Kirk with an update, and Gillian is instantly suspicious, because she though he had a pager, but apparently it's some kind of walkie-talkie and Kirk is telling Scotty "phasers on stun"? She wants him to level with her, and makes a sarcastic guess that he's from outer space.
"No, I'm from Iowa. I only work in outer space," he quips, and I feel like that joke would have worked better in his own time.
He tells her that he's from the twenty-third century, and that he's come back in time to get two humpbacks and take them back to his time so they can repopulate. She replies in the most sarcastic way possible, and I like her better all the time.

After much pressing, she reveals that the whales are being moved the next day at noon, and he decides that they don't have a moment to waste. They get the pizza to go, and he makes her pay, because they "don't have money in the twenty-third century," despite the fact that he has some cash. Are you really gonna tell me that you spent all of your money riding the bus, Kirk? You can't even pay for your shitty beer, or cover the tip for her? Dick move, dude. You want her to give you some freaking whales after you made her buy you dinner?

A bit later, Chekov and Uhura have snuck their way onto the nuclear vessel, the Enterprise. They make it down to the reactor, and then they have to wait for the equipment to do something, based on "how many layers of shielding there are between us and the reactor."

Gillian drives Kirk back to the park. She's mildly pissed off because he made her pay for a short-ass dinner where they didn't eat anything, and now he's asking for the frequency for the radio transmitters that they're going to slap on George and Gracie. He tries to convince her again before getting out of the truck (with a pizza that he didn't pay for!) and she drives away. There's some flashing lights behind her, but when Gillian looks back, Kirk is nowhere to be seen.
In a very short scene, Scotty and Bones tell Kirk that their whale tank will be ready by morning. Kirk is concerned that that's cutting it too close. A frustrated Kirk yells at Spock for not being more moved by the fact that, if they fail, all life on Earth will cease to exist. Kirk, you idiot. If it comes down to crunch time, who do you want helping you to run the show? A weepy first officer, or someone who will simply put his nose to the grindstone and unemotionally get his job done?

I'm pretty sure that Bones isn't doing anything but watching Scotty work.
Bones is supervising.

Uhura and Chekov are still next to the reactor on that ship. They finish collecting the energy they need, but the officers on the ship have noticed an internal power drain and have gone to investigate it. Uhura tries to call Scotty, but when she gets a hold of him, the message back is staticky and he says that he can only beam them back one at a time. Chekov gives her the collector thing and Scotty beams her off the ship. Chekov cannot get a hold of Scotty again. Scotty is frantically trying to raise Chekov again. But here come the guys with the guns. Oops.

He's taken upstairs for interrogation, where, like anyone captured during military service, he gives his name, rank, and service number. The guy who's questioning him is getting frustrated because Chekov won't say what he's doing there, or what his phaser and comm are. but this idiot has two pieces of info: Chekov is Russian, and clearly part of some kind of military operation, because civilians don't give rank and service numbers.
Chekov threatens to stun the guy, but when he tries, it makes a squeaking noise, Chekov says he guesses it's the radiation. He tosses the phaser at the guy and takes off running through the ship, getting a head start when it takes the guys in charge a bit to make an announcement over the PA.

Also, can I just say how excited I am that vest and tie combos are coming back?
This guy looks dapper as fuck.

There's some jaunty chase-scene music (because this is a fun movie) and the military police chasing Chekov are yelling "hit the deck!" as they go along. I was surprised that this was actually a thing, but it totally is. The other sailors literally dropped to the deck, which was convenient for the MPs, as that made Chekov really super-obvious out in the open. They're about to catch up to him when he slips and falls over the edge of some railing. He's unconscious when they collect him.

Uhura is fretting over leaving Chekov, who they've been unable to raise. Kirk calls Scotty and asks how it's coming with the crystals. Scotty replies that it will probs take him until tomorrow to complete the process, and Kirk says that's not quick enough. 
Kirk, you a-hole. You want Scotty to regrow un-growable crystals and build a fucking whale tank in an alien ship, and both deadlines are tomorrow morning. How about, an hour before these projects are due, you beam a whole bunch of hay on board, and make him fish through it, looking for a needle? Kirk is like every shitty manager I've ever known. Later, when Scotty has finished these monumental tasks, Kirk will congratulate him and then give him a smaller-than-usual raise, just because he can.

The next morning (probably around the same time that Kirk is beaming that hay on board), Gillian arrives at the institute. She parks in a red zone and also at the bus stop, which means that her day is going to get progressively shittier as she realizes that she's gonna have to get her truck out of tow and also pay double fines. You'd think she'd know better.
Anyway, she goes out to the whale tank outside and discovers a lack of whales and a water-draining in progress. She rushes inside, where she encounters Bob, the guy who insinuated that whales are dumb. Bob tells her the whales were moved the night before, in order to head off the media, and also because they though it would be easier on her. Gillian's palm meets the side of Bob's face when he says that last part, and it was totally improvised. The guy playing Bob didn't know that was coming, and you can see the surprise when she slaps him.

She rushes out to her crappy truck to cry on the steering wheel, but then it hits her that she knows a crackpot who lives in the park, and that he and his Mormon-fucking friend told her that they would like to kidnap her whales and take them to the future. She speeds off, thus avoiding a massive ticket.
When she gets to the park, she starts running around yelling for "Admiral Kirk!" Much to her surprise, the top half of a dude appears in mid-air, and a stolen Huey helicopter lowers a huge piece of Plexiglass into... something.

What's really hilarious is that she runs forward and smacks into the invisible ship.
"Well, shit," says Scotty, and he yells down to Kirk that his new conquest is outside looking for him.
So Kirk just freaking beams her on board.
Gillian has one of those moments like on Doctor Who when a human enters the TARDIS and is all transfixed, because ermagerd! Aliens! And bigger on the inside!
He takes her on a tour and she forgets about the whales until he shows her the in-progress tanks, and she freaks out again.
"That sucks," he replies. "One of our guys is missing, and now we have to go to Alaska to get our whales?"
Uhura comms Kirk. She's been monitoring things, and has found that Chekov has been taken to a hospital for emergency surgery and is not expected to survive.
"I have to go on this rescue mission," says Bones. "Medicine in this century is scary."
Spock concurs, and Kirk asks Gillian if she can help them look like doctors from the 1980's.

Kirk, Bones and Gillian show up at the hospital in surgical scrubs. They split up to find Chekov and Bones encounters a woman on dialysis for kidney failure. He's horrified at the thought of her going through this treatment, and gives her a pill to take. 

Kirk and Gillian find out where Chekov is having surgery, and they snag Bones and an empty gurney. Gillian hops on and they cover her with a blanket. They climb onto an elevator, where two other doctors are talking about ways to treat cancer, and Bones is clearly going to bust a gut. He's been here for ten minutes and already referred to "modern medicine" as being in the dark ages and also as the Spanish Inquisition.
The group encounters cops at the entrance to the OR, and Bones yells at them in doctor-speak in order to get the gurney inside.
"What the hell did you say?" Kirk asks once they pass the cops.
"Cramps," shrugs Bones.
Then he and the main surgeon get into it, because the surgeon wants to drill a tiny hole in Chekov's head to relieve the pressure. Kirk forces the other doctors and nurses into a side room at phaser-point, then uses said phaser to melt the lock.
Bones mutters angrily to himself while slapping a medical thingy on Chekov's forehead. This is a funny movie, so I guess we can forgive some things, but where did Bones get this stuff? So far, he's handed out miracle pills to cover dialysis and had a thing in his bag of tricks to cure whatever head trauma Chekov has suffered. Did he grab these things from the E's sickbay before they blew up the ship? Does the Klingon Empire have a fully-stocked infirmary that he raided? Did he get these things from Vulcan before they left?

After a moment, a groggy Chekov wakes up and tells them that he's an admiral. They wheel him out of the OR, and the cops have the wherewithal to look back and see that the other doctors are locked in the back room. The cops let them out and then give chase. Our protagonists haul ass with the gurney. They pass the old woman who got the miracle pill from Bones. She's all excited because she grew a new, fully-functioning kidney. 
They climb into an elevator, and Kirk calls for a beam-up. When the cops get downstairs and the doors open, the lift is empty.
Our heroes appear in front of the Bounty, which is sitting visible in the park.

Kirk breaks the bad news to Gillian: she isn't going with them to get the whales. They're going straight back to the twenty-third century, and she doesn't belong there. But Gillian is pretty sure that she wants to go with them, so when he calls for a beam-up, she jumps on him and yells "Surprise, motherfucker!" as Scotty transports him.
They stroll onto the bridge.
"Spock, where the hell's the power you promised me?"
"One damn minute, Admiral."
Yay, Spock learned how to swear!
They take off from San Fran, Uhura dialing the radio to correct frequency to find the whales. Kirk asks Scotty if the tanks are ready, and he replies that they are, but that he's never beamed up 400 tons of weight before. The admiral is confused because he forgot that - hello? - Scotty has to beam up the water, too. That's kind of freaking important, Kirk. Forgetting about that can fuck up all of the shit.
Bones approaches Spock, saying that Spock appears to have a problem. 
Spock confirms this, replying with a bunch of calculation-speak that basically leads to: "The acceleration is different this time than last time. But I was using the calculation from before to get my answers for this time."
"You're gonna have to guess," Bones answers. He seems tickled that Spock is out of his element here. Normally, I'd say his glee is kind of douchey, but that's just Spockoy for ya.

They locate George and Gracie, and because it just can't be that easy, there is (of course) a whaling ship following our whales.
Seriously? Weren't they just dropped off? Seems like the people from the Institute would have dropped them off and stuck around  for quite some time to make sure that they were "settling in." Now it seems like they just opened the plane doors and pushed them out next to a whaling boat. Damn.
There's kind of an extended scene here where Sulu points the ship down and flies real fast toward the whales while dramatic music plays. The whalers point a harpoon at George and Gracie. The whales, for their part, are just swimming and minding their own beeswax.
The whalers get ready, and when one of the whales surfaces to breathe, they let fly with the harpoon, which ends up bouncing off the invisible Bounty. The Bounty de-cloaks between the whaler and the the whales, and the sailors swear and turn that shit around, because what the hell is that thing?

Fingers crossed, Scotty beams the whales and water into the hold.
Jimmy Doohan and I both agree that this is an awesome line: "Admiral, there be whales here!"
He's pretty freakin' stoked. I bet he figured that wouldn't work at all.

Kirk orders Sulu to warp, then gives him the conn so he and Gillian can make out near the whale tank. He pauses at the science station and asks Spock if he's taken whale and water-weight into account in his calculations, and Spock admits that he must make a guess on those numbers. Kirk laughs at this in the same way that Bones did, because all of Spock's friends are assholes.
Then he leaves and Spock tells Bones that he doesn't think Kirk is taking this issue seriously. Bones replies that Kirk has more faith in Spock's guesses than he does in other people's facts and that Kirk was actually complimenting him, and maybe Spock's friends are not so much assholes as they are lovable d-bags.

Kirk and Gillian go down to check out the whales, and he actually quotes whale poetry at her, which of course she knows. Dude, gimme a break. He's trying to impress a whale biologist he just met with whale poetry that he just happens to have memorized? Yeah, no. He Googled that shit.
Scotty cock-blocks him by reminding them that their chances of getting back to the twenty-third century in one piece are not that great.
Kirk tells Gillian that she probably should have stayed behind, but she points out that no one in his time is going to know jack-shit about whales, and that her being there is going to be hella helpful. She's totally right about that.

Kirk returns to the bridge for the scary part of the time travel (the slingshot-around-the-sun part), and this time, there is no ridiculous CGI scene. Nor does anyone black out. There's that same sticky moment when no one is quite sure if the braking thrusters fired, but I think it's pretty safe to say that if you're not moving, then they freaking fired.
"When are we?" asks Kirk.
Because all of the computers are down, they determine this by figuring out that they can hear the probe again. And even though it's quite a distance from the Earth to the sun, they manage to find themselves very quickly within the atmosphere.
Oops, now they're falling. Our helmsmen have no control over the ship.
Down in Starfleet headquarters, we get a brief replay of some earlier scenes: Admiral Cartwright once again yells "get them back!" which he did previously when Kirk was calling them to tell them he was going to time travel, and they lost the screen feed; and the window breaks from the wind and pounding rain.
In a new line of dialogue, Cartwright yells that the Bounty is on collision course with the Golden Gate bridge.

You probably know Brock Peters, the guy who plays Cartwright. We'll see him again
 in movie #6. He also plays Joe, Ben Sisko's father on DS9.

Sulu manages to get enough control to make a water landing in the bay, and Kirk yells for everyone to get the whales into the water, then abandon ship. He puts Spock in charge of getting everyone outside, then Hero Kirk heads to engineering to free Scotty, Gillian, and the whales. The ass-end of the ship is heavier (being filled with whale tanks), so it's sunk further down in the water. He forces the doors open manually, and Scotty and Gillian climb out to safety. Of course the bay doors are jammed shut, the whales are trapped, and the manual override is underwater. Hero Kirk swims forward, and after much tugging, is able to get the bay doors open.

He swims out with the whales, surfacing near the front of the ship with the others, and there's a moment or two where everyone is worried about the whales, but then there's a partial breach of one, then the other and they all cheer.

The penis probe keeps up its steady stream of loud-ass noises, and the whales dip down to answer. (Whales don't sing upright. They dip their heads so they're vertical.) They do a little song, and the then the probe also dips down to reply.

There's several minutes of whale-probe conversation before the little penis retracts back into the probe and flies away silently. We don't ever find out what they had to say to one another. For all we know, the probe came to Earth to ask if it could borrow a cup of sugar.

The clouds clear. The satellites come back on line. The whales breach.

Playful music plays as Kirk pulls his friends into the drink. (This has to suck especially for Chekov, who is still just wearing his surgical clothes.) A shuttle flies down to collect them.

Now we get down to brass tacks here: the court-martial trial. Everyone comes into the tribunal in full uniform and lines up before the Federation president. Spock leaves the spectator area to stand next to Kirk, and when the president points out that he hasn't been accused of anything, Spock replies, "I stand with my shipmates."
The charges are pretty heavy: conspiracy, assault on Federation officers, theft of Federation property, sabotage of the Excelsior, willful destruction of Federation property, and disobeying direct orders of the Starfleet Commander. Kirk is authorized to plead guilty for all of them, and does so.
"So, hey. You guys saved Earth, so now we're gonna drop all of the charges but one," the president says.
The crowd is pretty excited by this.
"The last charge of disobeying a superior officer is for Kirk only," the president continues. "And we're gonna punish you by demoting you back to captain. But you're a hella good captain, and you really wanted to be there all along, so it's less of a punishment than a reward. Also, we're giving you a ship! Hooray!"
The audience applauds. Look how freaking stoked Rand is.

Then the president says that the E crew has saved the planet, and there's a standing ovation. Multiple people yell "bravo!" 
I roll my eyes. Does nobody else think that this is some straight-up Dumbledore shit right here?
The trial breaks up, and the audience surges forward to pat backs and shake hands and congratulate themselves on being awesome.
Gillian tells Kirk that she's happy for him, then turns to leave.
"Where are you going?" he asks.
"I've got an assignment on a science vessel," she replies.
Kirk is kind of stunned. I think he figured that, since he had brought this woman three hundred years into the future, that she'd be grateful enough to want to do him. Instead, she's going off to have a career. In the end, he gets what he wants, but not the girl.

She kisses him on the cheek and leaves. He gets this look on his face like, "Did that really just happen?"

Spock and Sarek have a moment where Sarek says he is leaving to return to Vulcan, and Spock thanks him for coming. Sarek replies that this was no problem, as Spock is his son, and that he was impressed with his performance. He reminds Spock that he had opposed him joining Starfleet, but that he was wrong, and that his associates have good character. Spock pops and eyebrow and replies that they are his friends. 

When Sarek asks if Spock has a message for his mother, Spock answers, "Tell her that I feel fine." Sarek pops and eyebrow at this, and they exchange the ta'al hand gesture.

Spock and Kirk leave the tribunal room together.

Later, everyone is one in of those little ship-to-ship shuttles going out to drydock. Bones bitches that they've probably been assigned a freighter. Sulu smiles that he's "counting on the Excelsior." (Remember: dude got promoted to captain, and is getting his own command. This means that Kirk now holds the same rank as three of his crew members - Spock, Sulu, and Scotty.)
"Meh. A ship is a ship," says Kirk.
He gets assigned to the Enterprise-A.

They climb on board and gather on the bridge. There are a small handful of short loveletter shots to the A, then Kirk orders Sulu to "see what she's got," and the Enterprise warps away.

So this, like pretty much everyone else, is my favorite of the Star Trek films. It's lighter and funnier than the others, and because of comedic aspects, I'm a willing to overlook more of the scientific crapola that they try to get away with. For instance, the possible paradox that's created when Kirk hawks the antique glasses that Bones gave him as a gift - did those ever exist outside of that loop? There's also the major Prime Directive no-no that Chekov commits while on the nuclear ship. In a goofy, slap-stick moment, he tosses the defunct phaser at the interrogator, thus giving people in the twentieth century technology from the twenty-third. Recall that a similar thing happened in "A Piece of the Action", when Bones accidentally left his comm behind on the gangster planet. Some brief concern is giving for the missing tech, but then they shrug it off again, because that episode is also a "fun one," and fun episodes don't try as hard to follow the rules.

No, my biggest pet peeve with this film is the return of douchey Classic Kirk, the guy who also saves the day at the last minute, who always gets the girl, and who always come out on top, even when he's supposedly being punished. I thought we had left Mary Sue Kirk behind in the dust when he grew as a character in "Wrath of Khan." A guy who has to face the consequences of his actions is far more interesting and believable to me than a guy who is punished with a reward. How convenient that he miraculously saved the day and then got everything he wanted. (Though I did enjoy the twist at the end where Gillian essentially ditches him to run off and have a career. I like that she had a life before he appeared on the scene, and that she continues to have one, in spite of being sort-of involved with him. I get the feeling that, while we don't dive into her personal life, if we had, this film would pass the Bechdel Test, and while that isn't a good indicator of whether a movie is good or bad, it does add bonus points when it passes.) Carol Marcus was a great girl-of-the-week for older, wiser Kirk because they had some troubled history and a great backstory with the promise of having to deal with the fall-out. What's more, though they remain on good terms, they do not take up again, and she remains a strong female character with her own life. While Gillian does have her own life and mind, she comes dangerously close to being that old damsel who falls straight into Kirk's arms and sighs. Blech.

This film also demonstrates the idea that "good writing will bolster a bad premise." If you saw a TV Guide description of this film and knew nothing of Star Trek, would you watch it? "The crew of a starship from the twenty-third century must travel back in time to bring home some whales to prevent the destruction of Earth." Let's face it: that sounds like a terrible movie - something that played very late at night, just before the Star Spangled Banner played, and the network closed up shop for the night. It's almost a Sharknado-caliber premise. In this case, good writing not only saved this film, but it made it the most popular of the franchise. It's unusual because Star Trek so often goes in the opposite direction, starting with a good premise and killing it soundly with awful writing. As reader Phil can attest, there's nothing so sad as a good premise destroyed by bad writing, but nothing to celebrate more than when a bad premise is saved by good writing. "You took something shitty and made it good. You get a gold star!"

Overall, this film is really kind of fabulous. It includes the things that Trek-lovers wanted, and threw in some bonus fun stuff. The actors all relate to one other well. It's fun and light-hearted, and a nice place to pause and breathe between the heavier films that surround it. What's more, this film helped inspire a push to "save the whales," and I really can't complain when a fun film inspires humans to do good.

Fun Facts:

- I found out on a weird tangent that Michelob, the shit-beer that Gillian orders in the pizza restaurant, is kind of a thing of the 80's. I wondered what had happened to it, as I hadn't seen it on any menus lately, and it turns out that the company tanked big-time in the mid-nineties. Anhauser-Busch still owns and makes it, but it's harder to find these days because nobody drinks it. It was one of those upper-middle-class beers that was killed by the craft beer movement, making that moment in the pizza joint kind of a tiny time capsule.

- In "The Search for Spock," Bones says he would rather have given Spock a kidney than house his soul. Given that he has pills that grow new kidneys, this is really not that much of a sacrifice.

- The up-close whale shots earned the wrath of whale rescue groups, who thought that the filmmakers had gotten too close to whale habitats. "LOL," replied director Nimoy. "Those were all models." In the end, more than 90% of the whale shots in the finished film were models or special effects.

- There's a rumor that The Shat wanted to have a love interest in this film because he hadn't had one in previous films and thought that that was part of his character, and that this is why he is paired with Dr Gillian Taylor. But writer Nicholas Meyer has said that he based Gillian on a female biologist he had seen on a whaling documentary.

- Uhura is the only crew member in a regular uniform. Scotty is wearing a "casual captain's jacket" as he has just been promoted to captain. Everyone else is wearing civilian clothes.

- An early version of the script was going to focus on the trial of Kirk, but again, director Nimoy wanted a lighter film. Kirk's trial by the Klingons was then pushed back into movie #6.

- The whalers are Finnish.

- This was the first film screened in the Soviet Union, done so in 1987 to celebrate whale conservation. The audience was particularly delighted by a line spoken by Bones: "The bureaucratic mentality is the only constant in the universe."

- This is the first Star Trek film where they talk about not having a monetary system in the Federation, despite earlier canon stating that they did. This will later butt heads with ideas in DS9, where the money-less Federation has to deal with the fact that everywhere else in the universe seems to pay for things with gold-pressed latinum.

- Though there is no mention of it, the date on the newspaper says that the day the Bounty landed in San Francisco is Christmas Eve. Oddly, there are no holiday decorations anywhere, and no allusions to it being Christmas the next day.

- This film has become known conversationally as "The One With the Whales" to such an extent that, if you Google that phrase, it will automatically link you to sites about this film.

No, these unfinished quilt pieces belong to me now. Thanks.