Assorted Star Trek Highlights

original enterprise

As we celebrate the 49th anniversary of Star Trek (God, that makes me feel old!), some quick thoughts came to me regarding the beloved show and the franchise it spawned. Star Trek and its many incarnations had many highs and lows, but what stuck with me throughout the decades were the highlights and some general observations about Trek.

Captain

James T. Kirk, played perfectly by William Shatner, is the best Star Trek captain. Period. Nothing more to say.

classic kirk

Villains

Star Trek has many memorable villains that faced off against Kirk, Picard and others. The biggest and baddest of them all still remains as Khan, the first version played by Ricardo Montalban. While Benedict Cumberpatch did a menacing job reimaging Khan in Star Trek Into Darkness, Montalban’s Khan was just insane. The other great Trek villains are the Borg Queen (Alice Krige) from Star Trek: First Contact, General Chang from Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country (Christopher Plummer had great chemistry with Shatner), Shinzon from Star Trek: Nemesis, Nero from Star Trek, Kurge (Christopher Lloyd) from Star Trek III: The Search for Spock, Q (John DeLancie) from Star Trek: The Next Generation, the Romulan Tomalak (Andreas Katsulas) of Star Trek: The Next Generation, Ron Perlman’s Nosferatu-like Viceroy in Star Trek: Nemesis, Gul Madred (David Warner) in Star Trek: The Next Generation and Gul Dukat (Marc Alaimo) in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. In general, I enjoyed the Klingons, Romulans and Borg. Finally, I have to give a shout out to the black oil spill creature that killed Tasha Yar. It proved that oil spills will be the death of us!

khan II

Ships

Star Trek is well known for its many distinctive space ship designs. Of course, one of the best has to be the original Enterprise from Star Trek. It’s simple, classic and culturally important. With that I will state that I loooooove the Enterprise from Star Trek: The Motion Picture! As for the Enterprise seen in the Star Trek reboot, I admit that I like it, but don’t love it like I did with the earlier movie versions of the Enterprise. I also thought the space station designs in the reboot didn’t work (but I loved the ones used in the early films, the same goes for the early space dock used in the first two Star Trek films).

enterprise refit

Other great ships for me were the Enterprise D from Star Trek: The Next Generation with its amazing concept of having the saucer separating from the ship. Meanwhile, I also liked the Enterprise E first seen in Star Trek: First Contact because it had this neat, sleek look.

Starfleet also had other great designed ships. Let’s start with the shuttlecraft Galileo. It was a classic, and I’ll have to say that the updated shuttle designs seen in Star Trek: The Next Generation were nice. Two other great ships were the Defiant from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine (it’s one great, tough, little ship!) and the Reliant from Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. It’s got the most innovative design and was actually a happy accident. Director Nicholas Meyer saw the blueprints for it upside down and approved it. This allowed for the designs of differently shaped Federation starships.

reliant

The alien ships used in Trek were also wonderful, take the Klingon Bird-of-Prey ships that were seen in most films and TV shows. It just showed what a great design it was. I also liked the Romulan warbirds from the Trek spinoffs and the Ferengi ships, too. Other ships that deserve mentioning should be the alien probes V’Ger and the whale probe. With V’Ger I didn’t know the full shape of it until I saw the director’s cut. I think it was OK, but the closeups of it are more spectacular than its outside silhouette shape. What I liked about the whale probe from Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home was that it kind of mimicked the elongated shapes of the whales.

vger

I should point out that the Borg cube first seen in Star Trek: First Contact is Trek’s answer to the spherical Death Star. Maybe the next sci-fi franchise should have the enemy ship look like a cone! Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Star Trek: Voyager and Star Trek: Enterprise had many more ship designs, but they weren’t very memorable to me except for the Bajoran solar sail ship.

Costumes

A common thread in these musings of mine is how great the original Star Trek was and how it got so many things correct. Any so-called improvements made by the movies and spinoffs, while mostly good, just can’t compare to Classic Trek. A good example of this is the costuming of the original show. They used simple multi-colored costumes that made it easy to denote rank and division. The design and colors were so great and the 2009 movie reboot kept the same pattern, but improved on the fabrics and patterns used.

Star trek reboot

A close second would be the classic red uniforms that were used for most of the original cast movies starting with Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. They had a naval design that was just perfect for the movie’s tone.

khan cast

The spinoff Star Trek TV shows also had some nice costumes, especially the ones used in Star Trek: The Next Generation that followed the spirit of the original series in having different colors denoting rank and division.

As for costumes that didn’t work, that dishonor goes to the bland outfits used in Star Trek: The Motion Picture. They looked like grey pajamas! But the fancy white and grey uniform worn by Admiral Kirk and Spock’s black Vulcan tunic were great.

Music

The original theme by Alexander old trek castCourage has a resonating hailing overture that builds to a sense of adventure thanks to the use of a singer and bongo drums. I just love listening to it. Composer Michael Giaccino built on that mood with his take of the original Star Trek theme in J.J. Abrams’ reboot. His version of the original theme is magnificent.

The second best Star Trek theme for me is actually a tie between Jerry Goldsmith’s majestic score for Star Trek: The Motion Picture and James Horner’s adventurous work in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. Goldsmith’s fanfare is a hail to adventure and the rest of the soundtrack made the movie better than it was. Horner’s work meanwhile had the right tone for the movie which evoked naval ships and battles.

Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country had a score that I liked a lot. It was dark, intriguing, yet had fanfares that were sentimental farewells for the original cast. The signature send off at the film’s end was fantastic. Other noteworthy scores are the ones for Star Trek: First Contact, Star Trek: Voyager, while the one for Star Trek: Deep Space Nine grew on me.

Background Design and Cinematography

wrath of khan bridgeFor me, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan had the best look on the whole because of its slightly darker lighting. It’s funny to think that the sets used in that film were the same ones from Star Trek: The Motion Picture. It’s amazing what lighting can do! On that note, I’ll say that I hated the bridge lighting used in Star Trek V: The Final Frontier, but loved the improved lighting in Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country thanks to Hiro Narita, who also worked on The Hunt for Red October.

 

Star Trek: The Next Generation had the best computer interfaces, it still looks futuristic and I love the look of the graphics. Meanwhile the look of the Trek reboot sports a fresh interpretation. It’s like walking into an Apple store with mirrors that produce lens flares! I didn’t mind the look, but I know purists object to it.

 

Walter L. Stevenson

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Star Trek Movie Retrospective–Star Trek II: The Wrath Of Khan

Spock: “The needs of the many …”

Kirk: “…outweigh the needs of the few.”

Spock: “Or the one.”

An exchange between Spock and James T. Kirk onboard the Enterprise

khan posterStar Trek II: The Wrath Of Khan was a radical departure from its predecessor Star Trek: The Motion Picture, which is what Paramount Pictures wanted. Even though Star Trek: The Motion Picture made money it was perceived as a failure. Many people complained that it was dull and pretentious. In other words, they wanted action! And that is what director Nicholas Meyer delivered with Star Trek II: The Wrath Of Khan, only he added a human element that elevated the film to classic status.

This film is the most personal Star Trek film out of the many that have come out. Its main characters go through some intense and heartfelt emotional journeys and are changed forever. Admiral James T. Kirk (William Shatner in his best performance as Kirk) faces the prospect of middle age and looking back at his life. His best friend Captain Spock (Leonard Nimoy) faces his mortality with a sense of bravery and nobility that touched audiences’ heart in a way that would have been more lasting if his fate had been final. On the other side of the coin, the main villain Khan Noonien Singh (Ricardo Montalban) is wracked with bitterness and hate over his lot in life and in the end this anger consumes him.

trek 2 crew

In the original Star Trek episode “Space Seed” Khan was part of a group genetically enhanced despots from Earth’s violent past found hibernating by Kirk and his crew. After briefly capturing the Enterprise, Kirk defeats him and exiles him and the other superhumans to an uninhabited planet.

In between that episode and the film, the planet. Ceti Alpha V, underwent an environmental disaster that made it practically unlivable. Think of Tatooine on its worst day with blistering sandstorms. Most of Khan’s people didn’t survive, including his wife. Now, Khan is a seething cauldron of fury out to annihilate the one he blames for his predicament: James T. Kirk.

Even though the film is a sequel to “Space Seed” it skillfully brings viewers up to speed with only a few lines of exposition regarding Khan, who is portrayed magnificently by Montalban. The actor originated the role of Khan in “Space Seed” and testmade a solid impression in that episode but by the time that the first Star Trek sequel came around, Montalban was more known for his role in the show Fantasy Island. His performance as Khan demonstrated the true nature of his acting prowess thanks to his bringing to the role a sense of regal eloquence, animalistic charisma, and maligned fury.

The film opens with the Enterprise, commanded by a young Vulcan  named Saavik (Kristie Alley in her first role), being attacked by Klingon ships and losing the battle with main characters like Spock being killed. But it was a simulation at Starfleet Academy. Some time has passed between Star Trek: The Motion Picture and this film. One noticeable difference is that the Starfleet uniforms are now bright red jackets with black pants giving its personnel a more militaristic look. The filmmakers wanted to convey a sense of naval conditions with this film since they saw it as a retake of Horatio Hornblower. In fact, the feel of Star Trek II: The Wrath Of Khan feels more grounded, less lofty than in the first film. Sets look more cramped and a bit more lived in although not as severe as with Star Warsor Alien. A good eye will spot a No Smoking sign on the set, which alarmed some fans who hoped that the awful habit would’ve been gone by the 23rd century.

The actual Enterprise is now training vessel commanded by Spock for young cadets and officers, including Spock’s protogé Saavik. Kirk is no longer commanding a starship and feels like a relic, in spite of the fact that it’s his birthday. Gifts from Spock and Dr. Leonard McCoy (DeForest Kelley) do little to cheer him up, prompting McCoy to urge him to do something with himself and stop living in the past.

reliant

Around this time, the starship Reliant approach the barren Ceti Alpha V, which is to be used as a testbed for the Genesis science experiment. Kirk’s former lover Dr. Carol Marcus (Bibi Besch) and her son David (Merritt Butrick) have developed the Genesis Device, which can initiate rapid terraforming on inhospitable worlds for colonization. The Reliant’s captain Clark Terrel (Paul Winfield) and first officer, the former Enterprise navigator Pavel Chekov (Walter Koenig) beam down to the planet investigate life signs only to find Khan and his people marooned there. After capturing the two men, Khan and his genetic superhumans gain control of the ship and set out on a mission of vengeance.

khan castKirk joins Spock onboard the Enterprise with his original crewmates to assist with a training cruise for Starfleet cadets. They receive a call from Dr. Marcus wanting to know why Kirk is taking the Genesis Device. What she and Kirk don’t realize is that Khan is trying to lure Kirk by manipulating a brainwashed Chekov into stating that Admiral Kirk wants the Device. Kirk takes the bait and orders the Enterprise to head out to Marcus’ science station Regula I, which orbits an asteroid the station is named after, and investigate. In a preemptive move, Spock relinquishes command of the Enterprise to his friend because as he famously said, “Commanding a starship is your first, best destiny; anything else is a waste of material.”

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