Star Trek

I Shouldn’t Like This…

Fact: My dislike of JJ Abrams’ 2009 Star Trek remake movie only grows the more I think about it.

Fact #2: The trailer for its upcoming sequel, Star Trek into Darkness, not only failed to grab my interest, but actually irritated me with its fade-in/fade-out editing and its pretentiously somber tone.

So, given these two facts, you would think that a fan-made trailer for the original Star Wars trilogy, cut together in the style of that Into Darkness preview, ought to have me pulling out what’s left of my hair, right? Certainly I was expecting a pretty painful experience… and yet, weirdly enough… it works:

I think it works very well, in fact, considering I’m suddenly in the mood to go watch me some Star Wars, which is, after all, the whole point of a movie trailer. But I still don’t know what to make of Abrams getting his hands on Episode VII. If nothing else, it makes me uncomfortable to think of having the same man in charge of both the big sci-fi franchises of my generation. They’re supposed to rival each other, these two pop-cultural juggernauts, differing in theme, tone, texture, and probably a dozen other intangible concepts that literary types like to analyze. But with only one man’s vision guiding both, isn’t there a danger of them becoming too much the same? Of their identities bleeding into each other? We’ll see, I guess…



“She’s a Beautiful Lady and We Love Her!”

There’s been a really cool image floating around various places on the InterWebs the last couple of days… I’ve seen it on Facebook and Tumblr, and when it turned up on one of my essential daily blog reads,  Space: 1970, I decided to share it here as well. And here it is:

star-trek_enterprise_light-paradeAh, yes, that’s my girl… the Starship Enterprise, the original Enterprise from the classic 1960s television series… no bloody A, B, C, D, or Abrams-Trek versions, to paraphrase the irascible Mr. Scott. I managed to backtrace this photo to its original source here, a collection of photos from a holiday light parade held in East Peoria, Illinois, a year ago. The album highlights a number of other really cool entries — what would you even call these things? They’re not exactly “floats,” are they? — including an X-wing, a space shuttle, and a ‘57 Chevy, but I think this one is the most realistically evocative of what it’s supposed to be.

Incidentally, if you’ve never been to one of these light parades, they’re really a lot of fun… magical, in their way. And this is coming from someone who’s grown really sour on traditional daylight parades in his curmudgeonly years. One of these days, I ought to scan some old snapshots I’ve got of my ’63 Ford Galaxie dressed up as the RMS Titanic, festooned with lights in her “rigging,” cruising through a light parade in Layton, Utah. Now that’s quite a story…


J.J. Abrams Isn’t Winning Me Over

If my Loyal Readers will recall, I didn’t hate J.J. Abrams’ 2009 reboot of the Star Trek franchise, but I wasn’t especially wild about it either. I thought it was a superficially exhilarating popcorn flick, but really pretty dumb at its core. Also, for all the ballyhoo about the way Trek 2.0 (as I like to shorthand it) created an alternate Star Trek timeline in order to free the filmmakers from the accumulated continuity of five TV series and 10 previous feature films, its plot about a vengeance-seeking madman with a doomsday weapon struck me as, well, let’s call it overly familiar. And we won’t even speak of those damn lens-flares.

Now the marketing machine is cranking up again for the first of who knows how many Trek 2.0 sequels to come, Star Trek into Darkness. (Yes, I typed that correctly. If you haven’t been keeping up with this stuff, Abrams, et. al., has dropped the franchise’s long-established naming convention, i.e., Star Trek-colon-subtitle.) The first official poster design has hit the InterWebs and I’ve just got to say… I’m not impressed.

star-trek-into-darkness_posterFirst of all, does it remind you of anything? It ought to, considering its obvious inspiration was well-nigh ubiquitous this summer:

dark-knight-rises_posterApparently, Abrams wanted to escape from established Star Trek lore so he could rip off Batman.

Okay, that’s not fair. A poster is just marketing, after all, and I’ve been following the movie biz long enough to know there’s often a huge disconnect between the marketing and the actual film, and the writers and directors rarely have anything to say about it. Perfect example: this year’s John Carter, a fun, swashbuckling fantasy of the old-school “planetary romance” variety and, in my opinion, the first adaptation of Edgar Rice Burroughs that came anywhere near to being faithful to the source material. (All those Tarzan flicks? Yeah, not much resemblance to the literary Tarzan, for the most part.) Carter should’ve been huge, in my opinion. But the movie was doomed from the start by a half-assed ad campaign that made the uninitiated think it was a turgid, deadly serious rip-off of Attack of the Clones, and also by the studio’s curious reluctance to accurately call it what it really was: John Carter of Mars. So I acknowledge that it’s far too early for me to write off Star Trek into Darkness as something I won’t like, and pretty reactionary to do so on the basis of one poster (not to mention the title, which, for the record, I also don’t like).

Nevertheless, I’m not seeing much in this poster that says “Star Trek” to me. Whatever happened to “the final frontier” and “strange new worlds” and “going boldly?” Where’s the wonder of the human adventure? What I see here is plainly Earth — specifically London, as you can see that weird Gherkin building in the skyline; apparently, it’s still standing in the 23rd century — and it’s dystopian and apocalyptic and, frankly, pretty damn pessimistic-looking. And that ain’t Star Trek. Not to me, anyhow. I don’t know what J.J. Abrams thinks Star Trek is supposed to be about, but I have yet to see much evidence that it’s what I — and generations of my fellow Trekkies — understand it to be about.

Fortunately, I’m getting better at compartmentalizing different aspects of the far-flung, decades-old media franchises that I’ve spent so much of my life’s energies obsessing over. I seem to have finally internalized the nasty truth: that as far as their corporate owners are concerned, these things are simply brands to be extended and diversified. And just as I don’t drink every product the Coca-Cola Company slaps its brand on, I’m not required to see, read, or buy everything that includes Star Trek in its name, either.


I’m Such a Nerd

Here’s something that’s been going around the InterWebs the last couple days, so you may have already seen it — I’m somewhat ashamed that our esteemed colleague Jaquandor beat me to the punch on this one — but I have to make a note of it anyhow because it’s just so damn cool. It’s the latest masterpiece by artist Dusty Abell, whose tribute to the live-action Saturday-morning kid shows of the ’70s caught my eye a few years ago. But this new painting handily surpasses that earlier one, both in terms of information density — there’s a lot to look at here — and also in the size of the smile it brought to my face. Yes, I can identify each and every character, ship, and object in this painting, and tell you the name of the episode it came from… and you know what? I’m not at all shy about admitting it…

star_trek_the_original_series_by_dusty_abellBe sure to click on the image and go through to the highest magnification so you can really savor the detail. If you’re of a certain age and even a mild fan of the original — the true Star Trek, I guarantee you’ll be impressed. This image is simply magnificent. I wish Dusty was offering a print of it, to be honest…

(Also worth your consideration: Dusty’s “Television Sci-Fi  and Superheroes of the ’70s.” They’re all there, man, all my imaginary childhood friends. This Dusty Abell is my kind of nerd.)


Of Course the Launch Went Well…

star_trek_Scotty_all-shes-got…Scotty was on board!

Following up on this morning’s successful Falcon-9/Dragon launch, I’ve learned that ashes of the late actor James Doohan, who of course played the irascible Chief Engineer Montgomery Scott on the original Star Trek and who died in 2005, were along for the ride. Remains of 300 people, including Doohan and Mercury-era astronaut Gordon Cooper, were carried aloft on the Falcon rocket’s second stage; while this payload was not technically part of the Dragon capsule, I like to think Starfleet’s Miracle Worker at least imparted a little good luck to the fledgling spacecraft.

Also, if you don’t quite understand what the fuss over this one little launch is all about, allow me to direct your attention to a nice piece by space reporter MIles O’Brien,* who spells it out the significance of today’s events quite handily:

Supporters of [NASA’s Commercial Orbital Transportation Services program] say it is tantamount to subsidizing nascent airlines in the barnstorming days by giving them contracts to fly the mail. The government didn’t tell Henry Ford how to build his Tri-Motor, but the mail those planes carried was an effective taxpayer tool to encourage a whole new industry – eventually making it possible for millions of people to board planes with as much fanfare as if they were buses – and then moan if they are five minutes late pushing back from the gate.


It would be nice if space travel could be that routine some day. And the Shuttle, a vehicle that I love and miss, was never going to get us there.

That’s pretty much my attitude as well. As hard as I’m grieving for my shuttles and wish they could still be flying in some capacity, they hard reality is that they didn’t bring us the future we imagined. SpaceX and the Dragon might not either, but it’s a step in the right direction.

* I always smile when I run across an article by Miles O’Brien. He’s an excellent reporter who has a real flair for boiling technical information down to where laypeople can understand it, and he genuinely seems to love the aviation and space-related subjects he specializes in. He also happens to share his name with a fictional character from the Star Trek universe, Chief Miles O’Brien, played by Colm Meaney, who was a Scotty-type engineer who could fix anything on both The Next Generation and Deep Space Nine. It’s not quite irony… but it is an amusing coincidence.


The President Is One of Us!

Happily ganked from Jaquandor:


History has already recorded that Barack Obama was the first black president of the United States, but personally I think it’s important to note that he’s also our first Trekkie president… at least the first who’s willing to own up to it! Look at that grin… he’s as thrilled as any of my fellow nerds to be standing next to a pop-cultural legend, the lovely Nichelle Nichols, a.k.a. Lt. Uhura from the original Star Trek.

For the record, Nichelle was the first celebrity I ever encountered. It was at a one-day Star Trek mini-con held at the Salt Lake Airport Hilton back in ’87 or ’88, during my freshman year of college. To place that in some context, the last Trek movie to play in theaters had been Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home — that’s the one with the whales, for you civilians out there — the previous year, and Star Trek: The Next Generation had just gotten off to a bumpy start in television syndication. (I didn’t think it would survive its first season, to be honest. Boy, was I wrong!) I’ll admit to being a wee bit awestruck when I found myself standing on the other side of an autograph table from a woman I’d been watching on TV since before I could remember, but to my everlasting gratitude, Nichelle turned out to be as warm, gracious, friendly, and beautiful in person as she’d ever been on screen. It looks to me like none of that has changed…


Surely… The Best of Times

star-trek_kirk-and-spock-in-pilotIn what seems to be turning into an annual tradition here at Simple Tricks, I’d like to wish a very happy birthday to the one and only William Shatner, who turns 81 years old today, and also to his friend and Star Trek costar Leonard Nimoy, who will be 81 as well on Monday. Their fictional counterparts, Kirk and Spock — as well as Doctor “Bones” McCoy, played by the late DeForest Kelley — were among my earliest heroes. They found their way into my life when I was a very small boy, and their example of loyalty, chemistry, camaraderie, and, yes, genuine love for each other strongly influenced my idea of what male friendship can and ought to be.

My thanks to Christopher Mills over at Space: 1970 (a really excellent blog if you, like me, happened to have been a sci-fi lovin’ kid during the “Me Decade”) for reminding me of this…


Happy 80th, Bill and Leonard!

If you don’t obsessively follow useless trivia the way I do, you probably don’t realize that Captain Kirk and Mr. Spock — er, I mean, William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy — both have birthdays this week, and they’re both achieving the same landmark age of 80 years old. Today is Bill’s day, with Leonard catching up to him this Saturday.

Hard to imagine my boyhood heroes becoming genuinely old, especially Shatner, who, despite his generally goofy latter-day persona, remains almost shockingly vital. In other words, he really doesn’t seem like an 80-year-old. (By contrast, Nimoy appeared rather frail in the Star Trek reboot movie a couple years ago, but perhaps he was just going through a rough patch while they were filming that.) Harder still to contemplate: if these guys are getting old, what does that say about me? I think I’m now about the age Kirk was supposed to be in Star Trek: The Motion Picture, and that’s just… weird


Almost Lost the Cole Slaw!

I don’t know about you, but after vomiting up that extremely long post on the Persian Gulf War, I could use a little palate cleanser. Here’s something that’s been making the rounds (and which I posted on Facebook a few days ago), so apologies to those who’ve already seen it, but I’m really amused by it:

I’ve been trying to find out where this ad came from, but haven’t been able to track down anything definitive. Some people who’ve reposted it are claiming it was made for the Canadian market a few years ago, circa 2005 or ’06, and I’ve also seen assertions that the voices are actually the original cast members dubbing their look-alikes. Kirk and Uhura definitely sound like Shatner and Nichelle Nichols. I’m not so sure about Chekov and Scotty, though; they sound to my ear like they could be very good impersonations.

Whatever the provenance of this, though, it’s a surprisingly loving homage considering what it is, i.e., a commercial for a fast-food place. It’s so loving, in fact, that I’d rather watch this a dozen or so more times than see the J.J. Abrams reboot movie a third time. But then I’m getting increasingly stubborn about such things in my middle age…