My hands are still healing up so I've spent a lot of time thinking, "Hmm. What can I possibly do to continue the blog without having to use my hands...?" Finally, I hit on the idea of pulling the Generic Ensign concept into video form. If you're new to this, the conceit is that I write summaries of or commentaries on the show or specific episodes in the form of logs from the point of view of a nameless Ensign. So... here's the first one.
Thanks to Trek Core for the sounds and http://www.lcars.org.uk/ for the LCARS animations.
Today is Trek's 50th Birthday. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to sit down and write the sort of longish post I wanted to. The kind of post I've been thinking about since 2016 first rolled around. The kind of post I used to contemplate back in 2013 when I first started this project. I can't go ok for ages about how much Star Trek has meant to me, how important it's been to my life, how unexpectedly meaningful this blog has become to me. If you've seen my latest Captain's Vlog or read any of my recent posts, you'll understand why.
I'm happy, though, that I was able to do a little TNG-inspired art tonight. In honor of Star Trek's big birthday, here's my Trek-sona:
Happy Birthday, old friend. May we all celebrate many, many more with you.
I'm still having a hard time typing and realized that it was high time for the triumphant return of the Captain's Vlog:
I'd like to do a few of these until I can get back to regular blogging so if you have anything you'd like me to talk about or ideas for videos, just let me know! I'm at the end of TNG: Season Four at the moment and still watching.
Over the weekend I re-watched Best of Both Worlds. I'd known it would be coming up and was sort of dreading in. Not just because I always dread it because of the whole Locutus thing but because I've written about this major episode twice already. And so has every other Trek blogger/reviewer/fan out there. So I just let this blog sit here.
I thought, "Maybe I'll write about Worf's perspective, or Data's. Or follow Beverly through the trauma of this whole mess."
But no. None of that really felt right. And I didn't really feel like writing at all, to be honest. Not because I don't want to. Because my hands are still a complete mess. An hour of typing renders them completely useless so I feel the need to save them for the comic I'm working on and the query letters I'm sending out for the most recent book and the editing I was doing (now finished!) for the second Awesome Jones book. I never mean to put this project on the back burner but there it is. It happens sometimes.
Anyway, re-watching this two-parter, what I mostly thought about was the role of the women herein.
Troi actually has something useful to do here. She can sense when Picard is and isn't Locutus. She can monitor the emotions of the crew. She can actively participate in the mission with something other than, "He's hiding something, Captain."
Crusher goes on the away mission to retrieve Picard and comes up with the idea of treating the Borg ship like a giant organism and acting as a virus within it.
Guinan realizes how bad is the state of the crew's emotional wellbeing and confronts Riker about how he needs to let Picard go. It's in this speech that we get a clue about the closeness between Guinan and Picard. She's assertive and involved here in a way that she, in her mysterious Guinan way, doesn't usually get to be.
And finally, SHELBY. Everyone hates Shelby. When I was a kid, I didn't like Shelby. She shook up the crew, my crew, and she challenged Riker in ways I found uncomfortable. As an adult female though, I see Shelby differently. Under that floofy hair and flamingo lipstick, Shelby is 1000% baller. This woman has made it her business to know everything there is to know about The Borg. THE BORG. That's a dangerous damn job. She's also gunning for first mate of the Federation's flag ship, something she lets practically everyone know as soon as she steps foot on board. She's assertive and smart and she has bucket loads of gumption--which she gets chastised for. I get that she shouldn't be running off to inspect suspicious business with Data without letting anyone know but this is how bitches get shit done. They beat every dude at poker and don't get to sleep until 1AM. They roll out of bed in full (probably yesterday's) makeup. They beam down to some dangerous planet with their new robot friend in tow. And they do risky science at the crack of dawn. And... they still get talked about in terms of being, "just an old man's fantasy..." which is a shame. Because Shelby has fantasies of her own. And those fantasies include commanding a damn starship. I have no doubt that she does just that.
Ok. As predicted, my fingers are on fire. So this BAMF lady is going to go soak her hands in some hot water and say a thousand curse words while I wonder, "What would Shelby do?"
(In case you're new here, Generic Ensign's Log is a series of posts wherein I write from the point of view of a no-name Ensign and record the crew's misadventures.)
Generic Ensign's Log Stardate: 43917.4
It's been a whirlwind couple of weeks. And, I should say first off that my hands were damaged while I was uncoupling a node in Jeffries Tube 19 so this entry will have to be short.
A few weeks ago things were going pretty smoothly after Riker's insane holodeck murder trial. Nothing happened at all except one day I saw Guinan giving Commander Worf some prune juice and then right after that she called into the bridge. It sort of felt like something was happening. Sort of like... all of time and space were briefly in flux and things weren't as they were supposed to be and it would take two entire starships to right some cosmic wrong and possibly one of our own crew would have volunteer to die in a timeline which we will never know anything about.
But, I mean, I didn't hear about anything weird so I guess it was fine. In any case, things were quiet on my deck.
Then, I swear to Sha Ka Ree, not two days later Data up and had a kid. She was adorable and I mean, legit adorable. And he seemed like he was going to be a great dad. Her name was Lal. I talked to her a few times in Ten Forward. Just like Data but... different. But it didn't last. I wanted to make note. I want to not forget her. We aren't all capable of just permanently storing her memory in our cybernetic brains.
About a week after that we got an officer named Kurn through the Klingon Officer Exchange Program. Man, this guy was a real piece of work. Total hard ass. And he brought all this drama with him. He was here for like twenty-four hours and then suddenly Worf and Picard are all up in arms and everything is Cha'DIch this and Mogh that and then they took off for a while and when they got back Worf was a sad sack. But that probably won't last long, right? How long can Worf really go around being depressed?
Alright, about a week after they got back the cap was replaced with an imposter who was just really amazing at flirting and ordering us to go places and singing Starfleet drinking songs.
Not gonna lie. There was a mutiny.
After our real captain got back he went out on a holiday and things on the ship were back to normal. I went down to Risa for a few days but I got a sunburn so I spent the rest of the R&R days in my quarters reading an ancient JK Rowling tome.
Right after that we took on a Betazoid guy who was sorta kinda crazy and I know that because Counsellor Troi has apparently NEVER heard of doctor-patient confidentiality and she was basically going around the entire ship yammering about how this guy used to be her patient. Anyway, he and Data got good and chummy but then he flounced off with a giant, space dwelling alien.
The next few days were a major headache for me and pretty much everyone else. Some biological samples apparently leaked everywhere during transport and the ship's systems went on the fritz. We were all working around the clock to fix it. Everyone seemed really centered on Barclay and I'm glad about that. He's a really smart guy, just awkward, probably logs too many hours in the holodeck. He gets in his own way a lot of the time, bless his heart. Eventually they fixed the issue and I hear Barclay was instrumental in that.
After all that, I think everyone needed some rest. We were scheduled to pick up Sarek. THE Sarek. So he could talk trade relations with the Legarans. We organized a banquet and a concert and we were all gonna take it easy breezy until we got to Legara IV. Things were quiet at first but then people just started getting super intense. I was walking into Ten Forward and saw a huge brawl going on:
And later I heard Riker say that he saw LaForge and that Crusher kid almost come to blows. Come to blows? What would that even look like? The greatest slap fight ever? Ugh. I wish I'd been there. Anyway, I don't know what they did but this whole thing only lasted about a day and then we made it to Legara IV and things were pretty chill during the whole conference. Though, I didn't see Captain Picard for a few days. Not until after Sarek left.
Next up we're headed to Betazed for a trade conference. Hopefully things'll be more relaxed for a while. I know I need the rest.
Scott and I finally made it out to see Star Trek: Beyond on Sunday.
I was excited but... a little nervous. I really loved the Abrams reboot but I'd been worried for a while about this one. I hadn't seen a single trailer in theaters (in spite of seeing multiple, big blockbusters since Star Wars) and I'd seen very few previews on TV. I was worried this was a reflection of how Paramount felt about the film—maybe they were dumping it off without trying to spend too much money, maybe it wouldn't be good, maybe it would get bad reviews, maybe people wouldn't go see it... etc etc. It was a rabbit hole that, as it turns out, I didn't really need to go down.
I don't write reviews on this blog. Not really. MYOST is about me and my experience with or thoughts about Trek rather than a compilation of graded reviews. That being said, I loved this one.
Spoiler Free Thoughts:
Star Trek Beyond is the first rompy "episode" of this Star Trek "series." It's fun. It's wild. It's weird. It's self-referential. It doesn't take itself too seriously but still manages to tug at the heart strings which, if you're like me, you'll feel that in your lower right side. I absolutely, without reservation, recommend it.
NOW FOR SOME SPOILERS!!! ALL HANDS ABANDON SHIP!!!! TO YOUR KELVIN PODS!!!
Alright. You've been warned.
References: Beyond was written by a longtime fan and it shows. References fly not only from TOS but also the two most maligned (and, of course, my favorite) series, Voyager and Enterprise. Part of this comes from the fact that the only canon Trek history pre-TOS-era is from Archer's time but they could easily have ignored it and just jammed in more technobabble and new history. Instead, Beyond is flooded with terms, costume designs, and history from Enterprise which, I loved. LOVED.
Chicks, Man: Beyond is the first of the rebooted Trek to feature multiple women with real agency. Amanda (Spock's mom) and Carol Marcus (Kirk's love interest) were both fine. Both actresses did a great job but their roles weren't expansive and you can sort of tell that by the way I've reminded you who they are. They are characters who exist to help deepen two main (male) characters. But here we have:
The Commodore played by the amazing Shohreh Aghdashloo has incredible gravitas. She's the only person in authority Kirk deals with in this movie and she conveys a deep understanding of his situation at the beginning and end of his story in Beyond. And, her name is Paris. Guys, I literally started crying when Kirk said he'd spoken to Commodore Paris. I just completely broke down. At that moment this movie said, "Yes, I am for you."
Kalara, the (apparently) alien woman who escapes to Yorktown from a nearby unstable nebula has a lot going on. She manages to dupe everyone at Yorktown and lure The Enterprise and its cargo back to the hands of her captain. Her screen time is ultimately limited but she manages to set a lot of story in motion.
Jayla. Alright, I love Jayla. She reminds me a lot of Lori Petty's character, Noss, from the Voyager episode, Gravity. She's tough, resourceful, brilliant, and she's been stranded on a hostile planet for years. She also manages (like Petty) to have a weird sort of punky/spunky quality that I found really refreshing. Given Anton Yelchin's tragic death, I found myself wondering/hoping that she might be on the bridge for the next film.
Big, Dumb, Fun: There are movies that you laugh at and there are movies that you laugh with. And there are movies where you do both and enjoy every second of it while it's happening. Beyond falls into that last category. In the (almost) climax, the key to defeating the hive of alien ships, comes down to disrupting communication abilities and they do this with... Sabotage. The same song from from the 2009 reboot. Waves of enemy ships explode like fireworks as the Beastie Boys blast into deep space. The moment this happened I immediately had that same old feeling I get when I watch Trouble With Tribbles, Trials and Tribulations, Mirror, Mirror, Author, Author, Hollow Pursuits, or any of the episodes in the long, long tradition of rompy Trek.
Hell Yes, Optimism: Beyond is unapologetically optimistic without being saccharine. An alternate title might as well be Star Trek: Friendship is Magic and I would absolutely be alright with that. Trek has always been about the power of unity, of friendship, of kinship among crew and Beyond gets at that in multiple, fantastic, resonant ways. Beyond sends a message that we are always more powerful together than divided. And that's a message I think we all need to hear right now.
Broken Captain: This is a trope that goes all the way back to TOS and occurs in pretty much every Trek series. Some captain has had it up to here with the Federation and their... ways. And he totally loses it and freaks the hell out and its up to our captain (and their trusty crew) to defeat them in a way that makes us all sad and yet grateful for our friends who somehow keep us from turning to the dark side. Idris Elba is the latest in a long line of broken captains and he does a lovely job of portraying a man who has done everything, everything for his crew and, in the process, has lost his humanity. He (physically) makes strides back to it throughout the film in a way that is pitch-perfect in it's Star Trek-ness.
Sulu's Family: Much has been made of Takei's reaction to the fact that Sulu has a husband in Beyond and, I suppose I get it. He feels ownership over this character and thinks about Sulu's life and legacy in ways that none of us can anticipate. However, several years ago I considered trying to start up (what would've been a largely ignored) campaign to Give Sulu A Boyfriend. I've been in favor of this idea since before it was an idea so, I'm happy. I think it's a great tribute to the character and the actor and it's high time we finally had an LGBTQ character in Trek.
Big Picture: Beyond is the first of the rebooted series to really, really feel like Trek. I loved the Abram's films. I really did. But this one felt alive. It had the heart and soul of the thing I've spent the last three years of my life (with basically 99% of 2013) writing and thinking about. I've written many times about growing up with Trek, about not remembering my introduction to it, about how it's always been in the background of my life, like an old friend. Beyond was like seeing that friend again, unexpectedly, and getting the biggest, warmest hug.
Some Issues: The action is a mess. The bulbs in our theater were a little dark so that might've been part of the problem but I'm a huge fan of frenetic, fast action and so much of the action in Beyond was just confusing and disorienting. This is surprising given that the director is known for action but it is what it is. Action scenes are dark, the framing is constantly askew, the camera is always shaky. Which is, in an otherwise lovingly written, powerfully acted movie, unfortunate.
Still, action was never really Trek's strong suit. So, I guess it's not the worst thing that ever happened:
One of the most beautiful things about this movie is its acknowledgement of history. Both days gone by and the people we've loved and lost. Anton Yelchin passsed away suddenly in a time that I wasn't writing a lot. I was really sick and my hands were a mess and when Scott broke the news to me I had no emotional space to process it. When, For Anton, came up on the screen during the credit sequence, I smiled, teary eyed. That kid was brilliant. A perfect Chekov. And his work in Beyond (as in the first two films) was wonderful. He was gone far too soon and he will always be a beloved part of Trek.
Of course, Yelchin wasn't the only Trek star we lost recently.
Nimoy's death had a profound impact on Trek fans and his loss was carried into Beyond with the death of Ambassador Spock and the effect it has on young Spock. Toward the end of the film, Spock opens the box containing the Ambassador's belongings. Inside is this photograph:
Multiple choices were made and I love them all. One, I love the choice to just use this photo. I love that it's just the original cast with no attempt at melting their faces to look more like the rebooted cast. It's them. It's the characters and the actors we love and we are allowed to have that moment.
Two, I love the choice that Spock made. The fact that this photograph was in his belongings meant that when he initially boarded The Jellyfish to chase after Nero, when he knew he might never come back, when he knew he might die or he might be stuck on the wrong side of an inescapable wormhole, he took this photograph with him. The most meaningful thing to him, the thing he refused to leave behind, was his crew, his family.
So, basically, Beyond has the thing I'm always going on about, the thing that means so much to me about Trek—Beyond has heart. I can't wait for more.