Star Trek Beyond Pushes Past Other Treks In A Thrilling Ride

Star Trek Beyond poster

The latest Star Trek film, Star Trek Beyond, is unlike other Star Trek films, but shares many qualities of the best of them. It is a fun thrill ride that has heart and character development and takes audiences along into a grand adventure.

The way this film is different than other Trek films is that it takes place in deep space, nowhere near Earth and all the trappings of the Federation and nearby space. No Klingons, Romulans or other familiar trappings that have started to stifle Star Trek, even the reboot films. Star Trek Beyond feels completely original because it doesn’t try to ape lines and scenes from other films and in doing this the film feels very fresh and is the jolt that the franchise needs.

kirkAt the same time, this film pays respectful homage to the original Star Trek and especially Star Trek: Enterprise. To explain how would spoil too much of the film’s plot.  Star Trek Beyond takes place in the third year of the Enterprise’s five-year mission. Captain James T. Kirk (Chris Pine) is feeling burned out in his job and is thinking of taking on a new challenge. Soon after, the Enterprise arrives at this magnificent Starbase called Yorktown, which is more like a floating city or colony unbound by gravity. The scenes that show off the splendor of the Yorktown base are jaw dropping and is unlike anything seen in most films and bring to mind many literary sci-fi orbital cities.

Enterprise attacked by swarm

An alien woman in a spaceship arrives and asks for help rescuing her crew past a nearby nebula. The Enterprise is sent through the nebula and on the other side is attacked by swarm-like ships. Quickly, the small ships overwhelm the Enterprise and actually rip it apart. This forces Kirk to evacuate the ship and this splits up the main cast, who take refuge in a nearby planet. Separately, the bridge crew struggle to survive and stay one step ahead of the alien swarm. With most of the ship’s crew captured by the aliens on the planet, Kirk has to find a way to marshal his resources to free his people and defeat the aliens. Splitting up the main characters is a good move since they’re given their standout moments. An interesting thing to note is that the cast looks noticeably older now but fit the iconic roles better because of this factor. It is much easier to buy these actors as the characters they’re interpreting.

As usual, Karl Urban steals the film with his dead-on Jayla, Spock and McCoyimpersonation of the late DeForest Kelley doing Dr. McCoy. He gets most of the funniest lines and his scenes with Spock (Zachary Quinto) allow the two characters to bond and echo the classic banter between Kelley and Leonard Nimoy. Other stand out characters are Scotty (Simon Pegg) and his alien ally Jaylah (Sofia Boutella) who rescues Scotty on the planet. Jayla is full of fire and is a breakout character in the Star Trek films. The villain in this film, the aliens’ leader Krall (Idris Elba), is one tough foe who is after an alien artifact that was on the Enterprise. But what makes him stand out is his backstory, which makes him one of the most unique Star Trek villains on film or TV.

On the whole, Star Trek Beyond is consistently fun to watch and goes a long way to validate the reboot in ways that the past two attempts did not.

kirk trio

At the same time, the film took time out to have some quiet character related moments that add heart and nuance. It was very welcome and overall strikes a good balance with the flow of the film. Do not be put off by the first trailer which did not represent the film’s tone at all. Anyone involved with that trailer should not be allowed near another Trek film because of the way it gave the wrong impression about Star Trek Beyond. It needs repeat viewings to confirm that this is the best of the three reboot films and one of the better entries on the whole. After some shaky summer releases Star Trek Beyond is just what was needed. It’s a terrific and reverential way to celebrate Star Trek’s 50th anniversary thanks to its characters, their interactions, and a non-stop sense of adventure.

José Soto

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Top 50 Star Trek Episodes, Part 2: Episodes 11-30

 Star Trek collage wallpaper

As many reading this know, this year marks Star Trek’s 50th anniversary. It’s actually an event that will happen in less than three months from now as celebrations will most likely hit fever pitch among fans who delighted in the space-faring adventures of Captain James T. Kirk (William Shatner), First Officer Spock (Leonard Nimoy) and the rest of the starship Enterprise crew. Continuing our countdown of the 50 best episodes from the original Star Trek series, we will start with the 30th best episode…

30. “Tomorrow is Yesterday” The starship Enterprise and its crew time travel to the 1960s and rescues a U.S. Air Force pilot (Roger Perry) who isn’t allowed to return home and report on what he has witnessed.

Tomorrow is Yesteday

29. “The Conscience of the King” Excellent scripted lines and stellar acting by Arnold Moss as a tortured former dictator turned Shakespearian actor highlights this episode.

Conscience of the King

28. “The Devil in the Dark” Captain James T. Kirk and Spock investigate killings at an underground mining facility by a monstrous rock-like creature. But there is more to the story…

Devil in the Dark

27. “Journey to Babel” The Enterprise transports diplomats to a peace conference; among the passengers are Spock’s estranged parents (Mark Sarek and Jane Wyatt). Complicating the occasion are the strained relations between Spock and his father and an onboard secret agent trying to wreck the conference.

Journey to Babel

26. “Assignment: Earth” In this backdoor pilot, Kirk and Spock time travel to Earth in the 1960s and meet the mysterious Gary Seven (Robert Lansing), a human sent by aliens to Earth to keep humanity from destroying itself. However, his mission is hampered by Kirk and Spock who suspect Seven is up to no good.

Gary Seven Assignment Earth

25. “The Empath” Kirk, Spock and Dr. McCoy (DeForest Kelley) are captured and tortured by callous aliens. During the ordeal they meet Gem (Kathryn Hays), a mute woman who has the power to heal others and is also under study by the aliens to see if her people are worthy of salvation. Helping make the episode so memorable were Hay’s magnificent and expressive performance and a beautiful score.

The Empath

24. “Amok Time” Spock must return to his home planet Vulcan and mate or else he will die. This episode was the first one to lift the veil on the enigmatic Vulcans and revealed much about their logic-based culture. The Vulcan travelogue and cultural exploration were punctuated by a nail-biting duel between Spock and his friend Kirk for the hand of Spock’s betrothed.

Amok Time duel

23. “The Enemy Within” A transporter malfunction splits Kirk into two halves. One meek and indecisive, the other lecherous and primal. This oft-used trope of the evil twin actually worked well because the script (by Richard Matheson) thoughtfully examined how dual aspects of Kirk’s personality, including his savage side, were essential to his survival and capability as a leader.

Kirk the Enemy Within

22. “Friday’s Child” On a planet with a primitive and brutal society Kirk, Spock and McCoy are embroiled in a tribal power struggle involving Klingons. After the head of local tribal leader is killed the trio must escort his pregnant wife (Julie Newmar) to safety while avoiding the leader’s successor and his men. Meanwhile, McCoy has to deal with an uncooperative patient and Spock, who is clueless around infants.

Friday's Child

21. TIE: “The Cage”/”The Menagerie, Part I &II” The very first Star Trek pilot “The Cage” about telepathic aliens imprisoning Captain Pike (Jeffrey Hunter), a previous Enterprise captain, was rejected by NBC, but the network allowed series creator Gene Roddenberry to produce a second pilot. However, footage from the original pilot was recycled into a classic two-part episode of the regular series as Spock undergoes a court martial for helping his former commanding officer.

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Top 50 Star Trek Episodes, Part 1: Episodes 31-50

trek crew

Star Trek, the landmark science fiction TV series will celebrate its 50th anniversary six months from now. It is hard to believe that 50 years after its debut, people are still fascinated with the adventures of Captain James T. Kirk (William Shatner), Mr. Spock (Leonard Nimoy), Dr. Leonard McCoy (DeForest Kelley), and the rest of the Enterprise crew. As some of you might have noticed, there has been an increased number of posts lately focused on Star Trek and its spinoffs and this will continue throughout the year. To commemorate the awesome occasion of Star Trek’s 50th anniversary, along with more articles devoted to Star Trek, we’re going to countdown the top fifty episodes from the original series in separate posts. Let us commence…

50.  “A Taste of Armageddon” At a planet at war with another world, a  landing party led by Captain Kirk is sentenced to death because a computer determines them to be casualties in a battle simulation.

taste of armageddon

49. “The Paradise Syndrome” On a planet settled by Native Americans, a weary Kirk loses his memory and becomes a member of a local tribe who see him as a savior.

paradise syndrome

48. “Whom Gods Destroy” Kirk and Spock are trapped in an insane asylum by a former Starfleet captain (Steve Ihnat) with delusions of grandeur. This episode featured Yvonne Craig as a voluptuous, green Orion patient.

whom gods destroy

47. “What Are Little Girls Made of?” Kirk and Christine Chapel (Majel Barrett) travel to a planet to search for her fiancé (Michael Strong), a famous archeologist who went missing. Instead, they discover a plot to replace key Federation personnel with androids, including Kirk.

what are little

46. “The Changeling” The Enterprise encounters a long-lost Earth probe that was enhanced alien AIs and mistakenly thinks Kirk is its creator. The Enterprise captain then struggles to control the increasingly hostile and deadly probe.

changling

45. “The Squire of Gothos” Kirk and the Enterprise crew contend with Trelane, a powerful but immature being (William Campbell) who delights in torturing the crew with his vast powers. Trelane was clearly an early influence for Q who appeared in the Star Trek spinoffs.

squire

44. “The Galileo Seven” Spock, McCoy and others in a shuttlecraft crash land on a deadly planet with vicious giants and have to fight for survival. Meanwhile, Spock’s command abilities are questioned by the survivors who decry his cold Vulcan logic.

galileo seven

43. “The Immunity Sysndrome” The Enterprise is ordered to destroy a giant one-celled organism that is invading our galaxy. The episode was heightened with some memorable interplays between Spock and McCoy and colorful special effects.

immunity syndrome

42. “The Gamesters of Triskelion” Kirk, Uhura, and Ensign Chekov (Walter Koenig) are kidnapped by wagering aliens who force them to fight in deadly fighting games against other competitors. An action-packed entry, with obvious stuntman stand-ins for Shatner.

gamesters

41. “The Deadly Years” Kirk, Spock and other members of a landing party experience rapid aging and become very old. The result is that their ability to perform their duties are questioned, highlighted by a hearing where an aged Kirk argues that he still has value.

deadly years

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Star Trek Movie Retrospective–Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country

“‘Second star to the right, and straight on ’til morning'”

Captain James T. Kirk’s final course heading for the U.S.S. Enterprise-A

trek 6 poster 2The final Star Trek film to feature the entire original cast from the Star Trek TV show has many distinguished qualities such as a thrilling story, craftsman-like direction, solid acting and yes great special effects. But Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country will always be known for its parallels to the end of the Cold War and more importantly as the last hurrah for the original Enterprise crew.

When the film was released, the Cold War between the U.S. and the Soviet Union had ended bringing on a new uncertain era with ramifications still affecting us today. In Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, the long-running feud between the United Federation of Planets and the Klingon Empire comes to a peaceful end with adversaries on cast VIboth sides struggling to accept the new normal. This was done bravely with the main character Captain James T. Kirk (William Shatner) who expressed an unpleasant side with his unhidden bigotry towards the Klingons.

Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country literally begins with a bang. A giant shockwave from an exploding moon reaches across space and slams into the Federation starship Excelsior. Commanded by Captain Hikaru Sulu (George Takei), the Excelsior rides out the shockwave’s destructive path. Sulu and his crew learn that the explosion came from the Klingon moon Praxis, which was overused as mining facility in an analogue to Chernobyl.

Months later, Captain Kirk and his senior Enterprise-A crew are summoned to a meeting at Starfleet Headquarters. To their surprise, their colleague Captain Spock (Leonard Nimoy) presents at the meeting not only the finding that the Klingons are dying out but that peace negotiations have begun between the two powers. Kirk is ordered by the Chief in Command (Leon Rossum) to have the Enterprise-A escort the Klingon leader Chancellor Gorkon (David Warner) to Earth for continued negotiations.

Kirk is angered that his friend Spock vouched for him to carry out this mission but Spock did so because Kirk’s reputation and antagonistic history with the Klingons will serve as an effective olive branch if he peacefully escorts Gorkon to Earth.

The Enterprise-A crew leaves Spacedock for its mission, but not before Kirk meets Spock’s protégé Lt. Valeris (Kim Cattrall), the ship’s helmsman. We later learn that Spock thinks highly of her and intends for her to succeed him as first officer of the ship.

enterprise and klingon

The Federation starship makes its rendezvous with Gorkon’s Klingon battle cruiser Kronos One and Kirk invites the chancellor over for dinner. Gorkon beams over with his entourage, which includes his daughter Azetbur (Rosana DeSoto) and General Chang (Christopher Plummer), a bald, crusty Klingon with an eye patch and an obvious dislike towards Kirk. He is practically chomping at the bit for the chance to engage the famous starship captain in combat and is clearly disheartened that he won’t get the chance.

chang and troop

The dinner held in the officer’s mess goes poorly. There is an uncomfortable tension as both Kirk and his senior officers and Gorkon and his entourage trade charged barbs at each other. The Starfleet officers, except Spock, can barely hide their contempt toward the Klingons. It was a bit jarring to see our heroes in a negative light, but it was very bold and dimensional because we see some flaws with our heroes. final dinnerThe only other person who tried to be polite and engaging was Gorkon. He is a clear reference for the Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev and exhibited a mature, open and statesman-like demeanor. David Warner was very memorable in this too brief but important role and made the leader seem sympathetic and noble.

After the uneasy dinner, the Klingons return to their ship while Kirk retires for the night nursing a hangover from drinking illegal Romulan ale during dinner. He has no time to rest when he is called to the bridge. These scenes were quite revealing; Kirk seems weary and ready to retire. But he is still the captain and acts as one when he instantly stops slouching after the turbo lift doors open to the bridge.

As he enters the bridge, the Klingons are attacked by an unknown source. The attack damages Kronos One’s gravity field, leaving the Klingons afloat and defenseless. Two men garbed in white Starfleet suits, garbed helmets and gravity boots beam aboard the Klingon ship and fatally shoot Gorkon.

Their work done, the assassins beam back out moments before the Klingons restore power. After answering the Enterprise-A’s hail, a furious Chang accuses Kirk of an unprovoked attack and begins a counterattack. Kirk, horrified and realizing the severity of what is unfolding, orders the Enterprise-A to surrender before an intergalactic war can begin.

Wanting to help, he and Dr. Leonard McCoy (DeForest Kelley) beam aboard Kronos One. They find Gorkon and McCoy desperately tries to save the chancellor’s life, but he is unsuccessful. Gorkon’s last words are to Kirk, a plea “Don’t let it end like this.”

gorkon

The two Starfleet officers are arrested on the spot by the Klingons. Spock assumes command of the Enterprise-A and begins investigating what happened. According to their computer,  their ship did fire on Kronos One, but Chief Engineer Montgomery “Scottie” Scott’s (James Doohan) inventory reveals that all of the ship’s photon torpedoes are accounted for. Spock orders Valeris to continue investigating, convinced that the assassins are still onboard the starship.

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Star Trek Movie Retrospective–Star Trek V: The Final Frontier

“What does God need with a starship?”

Captain James T. Kirk questioning “God” on the planet Sha Ka Ree

trek V posterAfter the triumph of Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, anticipation and demand was high for another Star Trek film. What audiences received was William Shatner’s directorial effort Star Trek V: The Final Frontier.

The fifth Star Trek film is an undeniable disappointment and it has many things going against it. Ranked by many as the worst Star Trek film, it’s hands down the weakest one to feature the original cast from the TV show. Let’s face it, Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home was a difficult act to follow. It would’ve taken a master director and writer to deliver a worthwhile followup. But Paramount Studios wanted to placate William Shatner, who wanted his shot at the directing chair because his buddy Leonard Nimoy got to direct two Star Trek films. So in addition to paying him and Nimoy a high salary, they allowed him to direct the fifth Star Trek film.

trek 5 cast 2

Now it’s easy to lay all the blame on Shatner but there are others to blame for this film. Notably Paramount Studios itself, who should shoulder the majority of the blame. In a foolish move, the studio severely slashed the budget, which resulted in the amateurish looking special effects that were horrendously bad and added to the film’s drawbacks. They also wanted a lighthearted romp similar to Star Trek IV because the studio felt that the comedy in that film made it such a success and wanted to repeat the formula. Instead of gentle comedy, Star Trek V: The Final Frontier came off as goofy and too heavy handed in the laugh-o-meter with our heroes behaving at times out of character. There were laughs alright, just unintentional ones. Who can forget the immortal line, “Spock, it’s me. It’s Sybok!” The Writer’s Strike in 1988 curtailed the film’s pre-production and didn’t allow time for a polished script. When you boil it down what the film needed most was a decent script doctor.

The film starts in a desert planet, Nimbus III, which has the so-called Paradise City colony set up by Klingons, Romulans and the Federation as a means of promoting peaceful coexistence. But the place is run down and practically forgotten. Out of the horizon, a mysterious stranger riding on a blue horse-like animal appears and promises to heal people of their painful memories through his empathic powers and in return asks for followers on a religious crusade. This person is a bearded Vulcan called Sybok (Laurence Luckinbill) and he needs a starship.

el capitan 2The film then switches over to Earth, where James T. Kirk (William Shatner), recently demoted from admiral to a captain, is spending shore leave mountain climbing on El Capitan in Yosemite National Park. After being saved from falling by his best friend Spock (Leonard Nimoy), he and Spock settle down for the night at a campfire with their other close friend Dr. Leonard McCoy (DeForest Kelley) and shoot the breeze. The genial banter between the three was the best thing about the film. It was genuine and funny without going overboard. Shatner conveyed a sense that the trio were close friends with a deep bond.

At this time on Nimbus III, Paradise City welcomes the newest Romulan ambassador (Cynthia Gouw), who is all full of energy and optimism. She is greeted instead by two surly and cynical ambassadors (David Warner and Charles Cooper), a human and Klingon respectively. Oddly enough, she and the Klingon are the only members of their race seen in the city, everyone else is either human or some kind of alien. These scenes with the ambassadors were interesting since the actors were good in their roles. The film presented a seedier side to life in the 23rd century, which was an interesting contrast to earlier films’ depictions of near-nirvana.  sybok and gangWe see drunkards (principally with Cooper playing the bitter and washed up Klingon general), cheap salesmen (watch the video monitors in Paradise City’s bar) wearing ugly plaid jackets and alien strippers. The latter being a feline-based alien with three breasts that predated the famous hooker seen in the original Total Recall. It was a refreshing change from the ethereal utopias from earlier films. Soon after, the colony is invaded and conquered by a literal rag-tag army from the desert led by Sybok, who promises to heal everyone of their spiritual pain.

Back on Earth, our heroes’ shore leave is interrupted by an urgent call from Starfleet. They rush back to their ship the Enterprise-A, a replacement of the ship lost in Star Trek III: The Search For Spock, to learn about their next mission. They are ordered to go to Nimbus III and save the hostages in Paradise City. But there’s a problem with the Enterprise-A. The new ship is a go climb a rocklemon. Why would Starfleet reward Kirk and company with a broken down ship after they saved the Earth is beyond me. Except maybe to provide a moronic venue for cheap laughs, such as Chief Engineer Montgomery “Scotty” Scott’s (James Doohan) tirades about needed repairs and sight gags such as malfunctioning turbo lifts. The plot point of a broken ship that in the end pulls through would’ve been an interesting story. But that gets lost in this film. As for the film’s desperate earning of laughs at this point, the funniest gag on the ship is Kirk’s reaction when he’s told by an admiral (producer Harve Bennett in a cameo) via viewscreen that Starfleet needs him. He turns away from his superior and makes an exasperated face. It’s a good way of acknowledging this common plot thread of the Enterprise crew being the only capable personnel in Starfleet. Seriously, why send the Enterprise-A? It’s undergoing repairs on Earth so why have it travel all the way to this distant planet? There aren’t any ships closer to the planet? Doesn’t Starfleet have its own version of SEAL Team Six for these kind of situations?

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