Friday, November 29, 2013

Best in Language as Metaphor---Darmok

In "Darmok," Captain Picard has to figure out what the Tamarian captain is trying to convey. The language is made up primarily in proper names, places, and a one or two word description depicting an action or backdrop. What I found amusing about it was that their language is English, but based on their ancient stories and myths. As Counselor Troi stated, it would be like describing "love" as "Romeo and Juliet on the balcony."

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Star Trek: Nemesis (review with spoilers)


The film begins when a Romulan council is meeting to decide if they should join forces with Reman fighters to destroy the Federation. The lead council, also called a Praetor, rejects the idea and a traitorous senator excuses herself from the meeting and a weapon is released that gives off deadly radiation and the council dies gruesome deaths.

Then we are witness to the wedding celebration between Troi and Riker with Captain Picard acting as best man. Also appearing at the festival are Wil Wheaton (Wesley) and Whoopi Goldberg (Guinan).

Back aboard the Enterprise, the crew detects positronic waves emitting from a nearby planet near the neutral zone and an away team lead by Picard, with Data and Worf, go down to the planet to investigate and find several android parts scattered throughout. They get  fired upon by others in land rovers and escape to the transport shuttle.

The android is reassembled and identifies himself as B4. In the meantime, a priority message from Starfleet command from Admiral Janeway (guest star Kate Milgrew) asks Picard if he'd like a trip to Romulus to investigate a shakeup of leadership with a new Praetor named Shinzon, who is believed to be a Reman. The Reman's are considered a lower, worker-bee class by the Romulans. The mostly work in the mines on Romulus and manufacture weapons for them.

The away team, consisting of Picard, Data, Troi, and Worf, board Shinzon's vessel. Shizon tells them he wants peace with the Federation and reveals something else; he knows Picard's medical history and cuts himself with a blade and gives it to Data. The blood is analyzed by Dr. Crusher. Shinzon is a clone of Picard! Over dinner later that evening, Shinzon tells Picard that the Romulans had acquired some of Picard's DNA and planned to replace him with the clone. But before the plan was carried out, Romulus had undergone new governance and the plan was aborted. The clone was sent to work in their mines with the Reman. Shinzon developed an alliance with the Reman, including his protector whom he now calls his viceroy.  In his friendship with the Reman's, he was able to assemble an army, acquire weapons and build secret bases and a war ship.  His motive for this was freedom for the Remans. Through force and sabotage, he was able to become Praetor of Romulus.

Picard says he will trust Shinzon when that trust has been earned. He boards the ship to learn that the ships computers have been rerouted through subspace bans. They pick up thalaron radiation particles which are highly toxic and dangerous to living tissue. Data and Geordi learn the source of the unauthorized access and tell Picard they have a way to stop it with a tactical advantage.

The captain gets beamed aboard Shinzon's ship without permission. Shinzon tells Picard that with B4's help, he now has access to the ships communications protocol and has all information about the goings on of Starfleet. His "destiny," is to not bow before anyone, not the Romulans or the Federation, but to control them. He tells picard to "look in the mirror and see yourself."

B4 enters and disarms one of the guards and it's revealed to be Data. Shinzon was given incorrect information about Starfleet, fed to him on purpose when the unauthorized access was discovered. They escape and board the Enterprise.

We learn the reasons for Shinzon's spasms of pain, Dr. Crusher discovers his RNA sequences has been programmed to accelerate the aging process at a certain age, most likely to be able to take over as Captain Picard in the due time. A blood transfusion from Picard could save his life and Picard realizes Shinzon may come back for him.

A battle ensues between Shinzon's ship, the Enterprise, and Romulan warbirds with Romulans who are tired of Shinzon's shit. The Enterprise breaks through Shinzon's ship's cloaking when Troi gets into the Viceroy's mind (it's payback for the mindrape, bitch!)

Shinzon breaks down shields on the Enterprise deck 29 and his boarding party lands on the ship. Outgunned, Captain Picard decides to give them a battle Shinzon can't refuse; crash the Enterprise into his ship. Shinzon puts the ship in full reverse and sets the thelaron radiation weapon to target the Enterprise. While the weapon is getting ready to deploy, Picard does a site to site transport aboard Shinzon's ship and does battle with him.

In the meantime, Data runs through a cargo bay door and floats across space to the other ship after the transporters go offline. Picard gets the upper hand against Shinzon and impales him with a metal beam. Data beams Picard back aboard the enterprise using a portable transporter device and destroys the weapon, and himself, before it deploys.

In the aftermath, the crew goes their separate ways. Riker gets promoted to captain and the Federation is on its way to forming relations with the Romulans.

The films ends with B4 slowly getting his neural pathways aligned to that of Data's as he sings a song that Data had tried to whistle in the holodeck on the ship's Farpoint mission many years before.


Some of the action sequences were impressive. When Shinzon's ship breaks down the Enterprise's shields and crashes into it's bridge, it causes a compression that's stunning to watch, but has tragic results for minor members of the crew. The collision between the two ships is also very impressive on a technical standpoint.

The best part of the film was Tom Hardy as the villain, AKA Nemesis. His expressions, line deliveries, and all around scheming presence make the film enjoyable---mostly on that alone.

Data's death was a spectacular send off, unlike the underwhelming death of Captain Kirk in "Generations."


Can you say plot holes? The ones in this film are GIGANTIC! 1) How or when did Shinzon have time to build an army, build that enormous ship, and garner weapons of such magnitude after having spent the first part of his life in the dungeon mines of Romulus?  2) Why did the Romulans allow Shinzon to live instead of destroying their creation and avoiding conflict if he was of no more use to them? 3) Why did his viceroy take orders from Shinzon when it was the Reman protector that aided and protected Shinzon in the mines to begin with? You'd think their roles would have been reversed after their escape from the mines. 4) Where did B4 come from? The only explanation offered was that Shinzon and his army found the android and tinkered with his circuitry and then used it as bait. 5) How did Shinzon know that it would be the Enterprise to find it? 6) Why leave the android in parts scattered when a trap for the landing party could have been accomplished easier with the android left intact?

WTF is it with Picard's bald head in his youth? In episodes of TNG, we see in photos and flashbacks Picard in his youth with a full head of hair. Here, he's seen in early photos looking like his bald nemesis! Come on, Trekkers don't appreciate bullshit tricks like this!

The film would have been better with Hardy playing the same character but without the backstory of being a clone of Picard and a former slave laborer of the Romulans.

The storyline was also like a dusted off first draft of The Wrath of Khan---the obsessive quest for revenge by the antagonist and the death of a major player.

And we could have done without the mind rape scene with Shinzon and his viceroy attempting to (for lack of a better word) penetrate Deanne Troi as she makes love to her new husband Commander Riker.

Finally, the film lacked the spark, humor, and personal interplay between the characters that were evident in the previous TNG films. The cast seemed tired throughout. Brent Spiner was obviously getting too old to play the ageless android, so his ending was both heroic and necessary.

My score  2 1/2 stars out of  5

Friday, November 8, 2013

Star Trek: Insurrection review (with spoilers)

Star Trek: Insurrection review (with spoilers)

Plot Summation

The film begins on the surface of a planet being observed by Federation scientists, including Commander Data, and inhabited by a human race called the Ba'Ku. Data experiences a malfunction and appears to be injured with circuity exposed around the neck area. He fires phasers upon a cloaked (holographic) station where the scientists and members of the Sona (a human race that appears mummified) are exposed to the Ba'Ku.

The Enterprise investigates and is ordered by an Admiral Doughtery (played by Anthony Zerbe) to retrieve Data and disable him. Captain Picard asks the admiral to retrieve Data and find out what caused his malfunction. The admiral reluctantly agrees but gives Picard only 12 hours until he must leave the area of space.

While investigating, the Enterprise crew discovers that the planet has rejuvenating properties caused by it's rings giving off a form a healing energy. It is this energy that the Sona hope to harness and conspire with the admiral to seize this power without the Ba'Ku's knowledge. They hatch a plan to beam up the planet's colonized inhabitants into a holographic replica of their homeworld on a ship and it was this ship that Data had originally discovered, which lead members of the Sona guards to fire upon Data which caused his malfunction.

Once the conspiracy is exposed, Captain Picard and his loyal crew work against the admiral and the leader of the Sona, Ruafo (played by Academy Award winner F. Murray Abraham) to ensure the Ba'Ku's continuous existence on their planet, hence the insurrection. 

The Sona send energy markers to the planets surface, kidnapping individual Ba'Ku and beaming them aboard their ship when their plan to beam them aboard the holographic replica fails. Dr. Crusher discovers, while on a trek with the crew and the Ba'ku to find safe shelter from the invaders, that the Ba'ku and the Sona are the same race, but split off when disagreements about their way of life cause a small faction to leave--including Ruafo and his henchman Gallatin. The renegades have gradually lost their ability to rejuvenate and heal, causing them to find other means of surviving cellular decay which includes the constant overlapping of skin and giving them their less than appealing appearance.

Ruafo's plan to ignite a charge to explode and harness the rejuvenating power from the planet's orbit is thwarted when the crew, lead by Commander Riker, with the help of Gallatin, manage to beam Ruafo's gang into the holographic/cloaked ship, making them believe they are still on their ship. When Ruafo discovers the trick, he beams aboard the space station to launch the torpedo, but too late. Picard has beaten him to it. Picard self destructs the weapon and beams aboard the Enterprise and leaving Ruafo to his fate on the station. The rest of the Sona are welcomed back into the fold to live peacefully among their Ba'ku brethren on the planet.

The Good

Watching the Enterprise crew experience the rejuvenating properties of the planet is fun: Picard dancing a rumba; Worf getting a "gorch," and having a craving for a live beast, Geordi getting normal human eyes, and Troi and Crusher noticing their "boobs" looking firmer. Data asks Worf if he's noticed the same thing. "Have you noticed how your boobs have started to firm up?" Picard even falls in love with the matriarchal leader of the colony and promises to pay her a visit again in the future.

Data is introduced to the concept of play by a young male colonists. His relationship with Data develops over time, having been afraid of the android at first and then accepting him as a friend and tutor to the android who is still figuring out all the nuances of the human experience.

My favorite scene is when Picard and Worf hunt down and finally capture the runaway malfunctioning android during a shuttle chase scene. Picard manages to get Data involved in singing a production number to keep him occupied while Worf works on overriding Data's transporting lockout. 

Commander Riker decides to shave off his beard after Troi tells him she doesn't like the feel of it after a kiss. "Yuck,!" He asks Data if his close shave looks as smooth as an android's bottom. Data confirms otherwise.

The Not So Good

The Sona's elastic skin with sometimes bleeding lesions is repulsive to look at. And instead of patching things up with their relatives to live in harmony on the planet and experience healing, they seek revenge and plot to steal the planet's healing properties for their own use. They could have avoided decades of unnecessary suffering by swallowing their pride and returning home. 

Admiral Doughtery meets his fate in a rather grisly  fashion---being thrown into a skin stretching machine by Ruafo.

Final Rating:

This is the most lighthearted of the TNG films. It felt like watching a long episode which gave me a feeling of nostalgia, especially while watching it for the first time in the theater in 1998. It's a fun film, with the exception of a few dark moments involving the Sona. 

The episode feeling is also its drawback. It's a 90 minute episode with more computer generated graphics. But it's great seeing the staff of the Enterprise come together for a principle and idea instead of just another threat to the Federation.

My score: 3 1/2 stars out of 5

Friday, November 1, 2013

Lt. Reggie Barclay Appreciation Post

Lt. Reginald "Reggie" Barclay is a socially shy (make that very very shy) individual with a penchant for fantasy, especially fantasy that brings him unconditional love from women. He can be assertive and display prowess with the sword, jousting with the seasoned Captain Picard---but only on the holodeck.

When he's not indulging his fantasies, he's good at figuring out what's causing strange mutations and break down in matter and the cause of strange apparitions in the transporters in "Realm of Fear." He forces himself to face his fear of the dreaded transport device in order to give a more detailed report of what he saw, all the while obsessing with the possibility of being infected with "transporter psychosis."

In "Genesis," he even has a new disease named after him (Barclay's Protomorphosis Syndrome) after contracting a flu in which Dr. Crusher treated with a shot of a T-cell to replace a dormant one. That T-cell contained DNA that causes human tissue to revert back to a much earlier stage in evolution.

He even gets a shot at being the most advanced human known in the Alpha Quadrant after being zapped by a probe on a transport shuttle in "The Nth Degree." With his accelerated I.Q., he figures out how to hook himself up to the ship's computer and gain complete control of it, sending the Enterprise to an unknown area of space and introducing the crew to a new advanced life form who has the ability to bring new species to them to say "hello."

The probe has other positive side effects, such as giving him new confidence which allows him to participate in plays without stumbling awkwardly through his lines and asking counselor Troi for a walk around the arboretum.

He also helps the newly emerged Professor Moriarty gain new life outside the confines of the holodeck in "Ship in a Bottle."

He approaches Zephrem Cochran like a school boy with a crush and nervously shakes his hand vigorously in the film "First Contact."

In one of the funniest moments in TNG ("Hollow Pursuits"), crew members give Barclay the nickname "Broccoli" behind his back. After the captain orders his crew to cease with the name-calling, he accidently mispronounces the Lieutenant's name to his face.

"I look forward to your report Mr. Broccoli.....Barclay."