Daily Archives: August 6, 2022

BQB Reviews Star Trek – Star Trek – The Motion Picture (1979)

Woo hoo! Star Trek on the big screen! Good for you for following this blog. When you do, you get news like this over 40 years late.

BQB here with a review.

I saved the first Shatner-centric Star Trek movie review for last for a simple reason. I literally have never seen it before.

I know. Gasp! Gasps all around. A man who professes to be a nerd having never seen this movie before. What can I say? It came out before my time while I saw the others either in the theater as a little kid (The whole trio of Spock dies, is reborn and gets delivered home arc) or on VHS (the last two.)

At any rate, I’d seen bits and pieces of it but never the entire thing at once.

So let’s dive in.

At the outset, you can tell that this film was released at a time when Star Wars unleashed a wave of space flicks, all the studios thinking there is gold in them thar space movie hills. I don’t think any of these space flicks matched up to Star Wars, though the Star Trek films were at least profitable and memorable.

You can tell though that the producers, writers, special effects team, etc. are all trying to do things with the franchise that would have never been possible in the original 1960s TV show.

It all begins with now Admiral James T. Kirk arriving at the Enterprise, where it is being worked on in space dock. In an early scene, Scotty pilots a shuttle craft, bringing Kirk to the ship and the scene is dragged out, going out of its way to show the sheer size and magnitude of The Enterprise in all its glory, whereas the best they could do in the old TV show was show a teensy model that we were supposed to pretend was big.

The special effects are amateurish compared to today’s CGI, but at the time surely wowed audiences. Smaller craft fly by the Enterprise. There are dudes in astronaut gear flying around it, though they don’t seem to serve any purpose other than some technician wanted to prove he could put a little astronaut guy out there flying around the ship. If you can forgive the bad effects, you do get a sense of awe as you picture what it might be like for a person in the 2300s seeing an enormous spaceship.

And now to the story. A bizarre entity, some sort of large energy field is headed on a path to Earth. Dum-dum Klingons try to intercept it only to be instantly vaporized. Kirk arrives to take control of the Enterprise from Captain Decker (Stephen Collins who would join the actress who plays the lady whale scientist in ST5 to play the other half of a couple with a lot of kids in 7th Heaven.)

A pissing match between Decker and Kirk ensues. The old Enterprise is no more. This is an all new Enterprise, complete with computers and bells and whistles that Kirk has never trained on. Decker knows all the changes. Kirk doesn’t. Decker presumes Kirk is just using the crisis to take over the Enterprise because that’s what he really wants. There is truth to this as Kirk hates being behind a desk and wants to be out on the open space road, living a life of adventure, punching out alien d-bags and getting jiggy with fine ass green space hotties.

It’s the late 70s, so Kirk and the original cast aren’t as old but they are all in middle age range. Shatner is actually kinda buff and studly in this one, so they go out of their way to put him in a muscle shirt. The film’s overall tone is quite serious, perhaps a bit more serious than we are used to in ST films. In Khan and later films, we really see the storyline embrace equal parts humor and seriousness. Kirk, Bones and McCoy find their niche as a quasi-Marx brothers routine as space explorers who get on each others’ nerves but at the end of the day, love each other.

Here, the trio comes out of mothballs. Kirk has been riding a desk. Spock and Bones, to my shock, have quit Starfleet only to reenlist (be drafted?) for this flick. McCoy returns with a bushy beard, greatly offended to have been forced back into service. Spock was on Vulcan, learning a process that would truly rid him of the little emotion he had so he can be a full blown logical mofo and not have to deal with emotions from his human side when he senses the entity’s presence and leaves to help his old Starfleet homies. Alas, he’ll never be considered 100 hundred percent logical by Vulcan’s exacting logic standards, though his human friends will always consider him absurdly logical. Dude just can’t win.

Long story short, the crew investigates, even flying through the entity, unraveling the mystery of what this presence is. All that is revealed early is that it calls itself V’Ger. Sadly, and in a rather creepy move, it kills then takes control of the body of Ilia, a Deltan navigator played by the late, great Persis Khambatta. We never see Deltans before or after this movie and all we know is that Ilia is a bald lady who blurts out to Kirk that she has taken an oath of celibacy upon her arrival on deck. The line seems strangely timed and I can’t tell if it is just a fact the writers wanted us to know or if Kirk is such a notorious space-poon hound that she felt she had to launch a preeemptive strike to let him know her lady parts are closed for bidness.

The Ilia-bot scenes are scary indeed. The late 70s/early 80s saw a lot of movies where humans end up controlled by machines and this might be the most disturbing. Her computerized voice, the way she stares coldly at the crew as they realize she is recording info and sending it back to V-Ger, all strange indeed. Decker, who once had a romance with Ilyia, is crushed.

Sidenote: If you look her up online, Persis Khambatta’s story is inspiring yet sad. She was somewhat of a Cinderella story. Born and raised in India, her father abandoned the family at a young age but her mother and siblings scraped by. She gets model work in her teens, gains national Indian notoriety in soap commercials. Becomes a Bollywood star. Gets recognized by U.S. Hollywood. Lands this role. Gets steady work in US movies in the 1980s. Sadly, develops heart problems in the 90s and dies young at 49 in 1999. I always hate to see people die young but at least her star was able to burn bright in her youth.

STATUS: Shelf-worthy. The colors are drab and it is definitely trying hard, perhaps too hard, to be very serious. One might argue that when a giant, strange entity is on approach to destroy earth, there is no time for humor, but then again, something is always trying to destroy earth in the other films yet the writers manage to strike a balance between humor and high stakes. There is a scene where the transporter malfunctions and you get to see the horrifying dark side of what happens to people when the transporter shits the bed, making you wonder why anyone would get into the transporter beam field at all. It is a bit of a plot hole that there are no safety protocols, i.e. no one calls and asks ahead like “Hey is your transporter working?” before they start beaming people aboard but oh well. It’s all part of the film’s attempt to say, “Hey, this is grown up adult Star Trek” before someone at the studio apparently advised to make things a little lighter, which I’m glad they did so little kids like me back in the day could have fun watching these flicks.

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BQB Reviews Star Trek – Star Trek 6 – The Undiscovered Country (1991)

“The undiscovered country from whose bourn no traveler returns.”

BQB here with a review of the final Star Trek film featuring the OG Shatner and Friends Crew.

Star Trek 5 faced heavy criticism, ultimately with many wondering whether a philosophical sci-fi series where characters spend a lot of time debating and contemplating would survive in an era of blockbusters where moviegoers expected characters to kick ass first, second and third and maybe think about it later, four or more steps down the line.

This film closes out the voyages of Capt. Kirk’s Enterprise well, providing a decent mix of action and ass kickery.

Everyone’s least favorite warmongering species the Klingons have suffered a terrible disaster. A mining explosion on Praxis destroys the Klingon moon as well as the ozone layer of their home world, Kronos. If you can cite these intricate details of the Klingon Empire as well as I can then fear not, for one day you can be like me and spend all of your time blogging about Star Trek and not tapping any pussy whatsoever.

Moving on.

Reeling from disaster, Klingon Emperor and total peace-nik Gorkon proposes to turn a crisis into an opportunity – namely, since the Klingon Empire can no longer afford to fund its warmongering expansionist ways throughout the galaxy, they must make peace with their dreaded enemy, The Federation of Planets, i.e. those who gave us Starfleet.

Kirk is not a fan. He is pretty vocal in his hatred of Klingons. Ever since they killed his son in The Search for Spock, Kirk becomes a rabid species-ist and if some sort of KKK-like organization existed in space for the purposes of shitting on, destroying and defiling Klingons, then Kirk would totally volunteer to be its grandmaster. OK, maybe he isn’t that bad but even so, the dude really despises Klingons.

Klingons feel the same way about humans and tensions are high when Kirk is voluntold by Starfleet to escort Gorkon and his contingent to a peace summit where negotiations with the Federation will ensue. A state dinner between the humans and the klingons is fraught with strife, though not without occasional moments of common ground and lots of Romulan ale, which according to the film is the quickest way to get mad drunk in space.

Alas, treachery ensues. The Enterprise fires upon Gorkon’s ship, taking out much of his crew, as well as the ship’s gravity. Left defenseless as they float around, two mysterious humans in unidentifiable helmets and magnetic boots beam aboard and bat cleanup, zapping the shit out Klingons in a bloody mess that a) seems a bit much for a Star Trek film and b) I can only assume this scene inspired a young Quentin Tarantino.

Kirk and Bones beam aboard the Klingon ship to offer assistance, but no good dead goes unpunished as they are quickly taken prisoner by the film’s villain, General Chang (Christopher Plummer.) Yeah, it was 1991 so some writer somewhere thought it would be cool to make an alien sound exotic by giving him a Chinese name but whatever. It was a different time, right? No, that’s not cool? OK fine. Build a time machine and travel back to 1991 and protest the movie then.

Fun sidenote: Shatner and Plummer are both Canadian Shakespearean actors. Shatner served as Plummer’s understudy in a production of Henry V in the 1950s. Flash forward to the 1990s and Plummer is decked out in heavy alien makeup, hamming it up and chewing on scenery as he convinces a Klingon judge to find Kirk and Bones guilty.

Blah, blah, blah. Kirk and Bones must escape the space prison work camp they have been transported to while Spock and crew, working with she-vulcan Lt. Valeris, scour the Enterprise for clues that will absolve their captain and doctor and point to the true traitors.

Another fun sidenote: Before she became a total Samantha on Sex in the City, Kim Cattrall was a staple in many of your fave 1980s flicks. Mahoney’s love interest in Police Academy. Kurt Russell’s love interest in Big Trouble in Little China. A hot lady vulcan in this film.

Overall, the film is a political thriller, one might call it a Tom Clancy-esque flick of espionage, sedition and intrigue but with dudes in alien makeup grabbing their knees when Kirk discovers that sometimes when you kick an alien in the knee, you are kicking an entirely different and sensitive body part altogether. Whoops!

STATUS: Shelf-worthy. Shatner and Plummer’s love of Shakespeare shows in this film. Gorkon is a fan of the bard and quips to his human colleagues that they simply “must read Shakespeare in the original Klingon” one day. While Hamlet referred to “the undiscovered country” as the afterlife, the place humans go after they die, i.e. the last place to explore, this film sees it as a state of peace, i.e. a state long sought after yet never achieved…until now?

Bonus points to the movie for being woke in a time when woke wasn’t really a word, at least not one used in the sense that it is today. Gorkon and Shatner discuss how for peace to be achieved, their elder generation will have to be the ones who suffer the most, learning how to move on and work together while setting longstanding grudges and memories of the other side’s bad acts aside. Younger generations who never saw war and conflict will find it easier to embrace the other. This film came out in 1991, just after the Berlin Wall fell, so one wonders if there aren’t some undertones about America and Russia working together in the wake of the Cold War.

NOTE TO 1990s STAR TREK WRITERS: RUSSIA’S OLDER GENERATION BOSS CONTINUES TO BE AN A-HOLE.

Double Bonus Points – Kirk does grow in this film in that he eventually learns that holding a grudge against an entire species because one of its members killed his son is not cool. We also gain some insight into why Klingons aren’t fans of humans. Throughout the series, Klingons are treated as vile scum for Kirk to fight but we learn that Klingons see the Federation as an organization that is racist against all non-humans and that while the Federation claims to represent many different lifeforms, only humans seem to grab the highest ranks of the organization.

A fitting ending to the 6 film series featuring Shatner and the original crew. Kirk and his crew retire, having played their parts in negotiating what will hopefully be a longstanding peace between two feuding factions of the galaxy.

Even so, Scotty still can’t get the damn warp drive to work.

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