Category Archives: Star Trek fans

Short Treks: “The Brightest Star” review

I’ve been busy this month, and haven’t had time until now to write comments on “The Brightest Star,” which was a “Short Treks” episode of Star Trek: Discovery. (Yes, there are spoilers. Stop reading now if you don’t want any.)

The episode is about Saru’s origins on the planet Kaminar. Being a Saru fan, I was looking forward to this. What Saru established on Discovery is that his species, the Kelpiens, are a “prey” species, and they’ve evolved abilities as a result, such as the ability to sense danger (and there are “threat ganglia” which fan out from the back of his head when he does).

All this time, I thought that meant there was another intelligent species on Saru’s home planet which hunted them. While I guess this still could have been the case in Kaminar’s past, it isn’t during Saru’s time. Instead, a species called the Baul travel to Kaminar. They do not even beam down to the planet. Instead, in a ritual reminding me of the original Trek episode, “Taste of Armageddon,” Kelpiens just assemble in a certain spot and the Baul beam them up.

The rest of the story is Saru wondering what is out there in space. The Baul accidentally leave some of their technology behind, and Saru sends a signal. Eventually, Lt. Georgiou comes in a shuttle, picks Saru up, and takes him to the Federation.

Thus the debate among fans so far has been whether Georgiou violated the Prime Directive by going to get Saru. Personally, I don’t think so, because of the Next Generation episode “First Contact,” where Picard and co. take someone who wants to leave the planet and let her live in the Federation.

In my opinion, this is the wrong aspect of the Prime Directive to explore. The larger issue, in my opinion, is why the Federation is doing nothing to stop this. This is not 2 species on the same planet, or in the same solar system, preying on each other, in which case one might (though Kirk didn’t) make a case that interference is a violation of the prime directive. This is a case where one species from one solar system goes to another solar system, takes intelligent lifeforms off the planet, and has them for dinner. This is a no-no; more than that, this is an atrocity of the highest magnitude. FFS, doesn’t anyone remember “Journey to Babel” where members of the Federation were in an uproar over their members (and the Orions) doing illegal mining in the Coridon system, and doing everything to stop it? That was mining; this is murder. The Federation should start with sanctioning the Baul’s butts, continue with blockading the Kaminar system, and, if necessary, firing on Baul ships. Citizens of the Federation everywhere ought to be outraged (where the hell is Sarek?).

The writers have said that they know there are questions and those questions will be answered. I certainly hope so!

Later addition: Saru specifically said that the Baul was a predator species on his planet, which I take it to mean the Baul originated there, as did the Kelpians. In that case, the Prime Directive would apply; however, since the Baul apparently have transporter technology, I would think that the application of the Prime Directive would be very tenuous (the Baul may not have warp drive, but they’re close enough to it). In addition, it would seem that Vahar’ai is not a fatal condition, but a transition, loosely analogous to a caterpillar becoming a butterfly. That, too (as Saru indicated), changes things.

Even later addition: I was right all along. The Baul have warp capability and the Prime Directive does not apply to them. The Federation should have had the Baul’s butts in a sling long before this. At least they finally come to the conclusion that the Prime Directive doesn’t apply and take action to keep the Kelpiens from being slaughtered.

Star Trek Beyond review (2016)

The 50th Anniversary of Star Trek would not have been the same without an addition to the Trek universe, and Star Trek Beyond is a solid performance. It’s not the best, it’s not the worst, but it does have a lot to recommend it. (And yes, spoilers follow. Stop now if you don’t wish to see any.)

Early in the movie, Kirk and Spock are shown having second thoughts of continuing the five-year mission (it’s year three). Kirk wonders if he can live up to his father’s reputation; Spock learns of Ambassdor Spock’s death and wonders if he should continue his work on New Vulcan. The Enterprise visits a city in space called Yorktown (a spectacular special effect) and is assigned to assist a ship captain who has asked for help to get her crew back. However, this turns out to be a trap: the Enterprise is destroyed and the crew is stranded on a planet. Scott quickly encounters an ally (Jaylah), Kirk and Chekov try to get to the crashed saucer section to get technological assistance, Spock and McCoy try to find the others, Sulu and Uhura and the remainder of the crew are detained by Krall, who has a grudge against the Federation. The rest of the film finds the crew resisting Krall and preventing him from destroying the space city and its millions of inhabitants. (This involves finding and restoring an old starship which had crashed on the planet over a century before. The seatbelts on the bridge were welcome and needed in the escape. They also, interestingly, found a strategic use for music radio.)

The film has interesting references to events that had happened in previous Treks (particularly original Trek and Enterprise)—though Simon Pegg (a co-writer) seems to have forgotten about the Vulcan healing trance. The special effects are outstanding (particularly the space city and the Enterprise traveling through space at warp speed, which is brief but breathtaking). All of the the regulars have significant roles in resolving the issue, which makes Anton Yelchin’s loss keenly felt (the credits have an acknowledgement of him). I thought his Chekov was extremely well portrayed, both in the 2009 film and in this one.

Most of all, I was happy to see that Roddenberry’s overall Trek philosophy of Starfleet (and the Federation) as a representation of peaceful exploration (and not of war) was emphasized, and the point was made that resilience and strength can be developed without conflict. At the end, each member of the crew takes a line of “Space, the final frontier…,” and Uhura’s (Zoe Saldana’s) recitation of “to boldly go where no one has gone before” moved me to tears (it was wonderful!).

Let’s hope that the next film (already scheduled) does at least as well.

P.S. Though I’m standing in front of an IMAX poster for Star Trek: Beyond, I saw it in 3D. (Not because I wanted to, but because 3D was the only choice at the time I wanted to see it.)

P.P.S. Before the movie, the theater showed a brief clip of Simon Pegg (Scotty) thanking the audience for coming to see the film in a movie theater (as opposed to waiting until it was available on cable, DVD, or NetFlix, I suppose).


Star Trek: Into Darkness review
Joan Marie Verba

(Yes, there are spoilers, so don’t read this if you don’t want them.)

Before this movie was released, I read an article that said the studio and production staff wanted this movie to appeal to more than Star Trek fans. This is understandable, and it can be done (Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home managed it). However, though this movie did have elements that definitely appealed to the long-time Star Trek fans, it also had some discontinuities where it was not…quite…Trek.
Even so, I felt this movie was better than the 2009 one (and I found the 2009 Star Trek to be satisfactory). ST:ID avoided silliness such as the 2009 scene where a large beast chases Kirk across a snow-covered plain and into a cave, or Scott being beamed into a water tube.. Star Trek: Into Darkness is serious throughout, and that’s a strength.

From the publicity before the movie, I also feared a couple of developments, which, fortunately, did not appear . The first was the statement that ST:ID was set mostly on Earth. Maybe if someone timed it, there were more minutes spent on Earth, but to me, the bulk of the movie seemed to be in space, where it belonged (you know, the “Space…the final frontier…” sort of thing?). Roddenberry deliberately avoided Earth in the original series, and Star Trek seldom went to Earth even after that. The second was the movie poster showing the Enterprise descending into a planetary atmosphere. When I saw this, I groaned inwardly, thinking that they were going to go for cheap dramatics and destroy the Enterprise yet again. Well, they didn’t. Good for them.

There’s also been some complaining about ST:ID being a remake of  Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. So what? The 2009 Star Trek was a remake of The Wrath of Khan (you know, the bad guy wants revenge for losing his wife and picks a member of the Enterprise crew as the primary object of his revenge?). For that matter, Star Trek: Nemesis (which I enjoyed, in contrast to about 90% of other Star Trek fans) was a remake of The Wrath of Khan, with Data in the place of Spock. I find it contradictory for fans who didn’t protest those films copying Wrath of Khan to complain now.

The movie starts with Kirk disobeying the Prime Directive by (a) saving a planet from destruction and (b) allowing the Enterprise to be seen by a non-spacefaring culture. As a result, he’s demoted. Really? How often did Kirk violate the Prime Directive in the original series and get away with it? And since when is it a violation of the Prime Directive to save a planet from total destruction? Seems to me that the Enterprise did that a lot (in both original series and in TNG), and why? Because it was the moral thing to do, that’s why. Once you’ve saved the planet from total destruction, you’ve already artificially changed the course of history, so allowing the planetary residents to see the ship is a negligible event. Kirk should have demanded a hearing and hired Sam Cogley to advocate his case.
Then there’s the matter of John Harrison. As “John Harrison, terrorist,” the character works. As Khan Noonian Singh, he doesn’t. I don’t know whether Benedict Cumberbatch (whose performances I enjoyed in Sherlock and Amazing Grace) saw “Space Seed” or The Wrath of Khan before assuming the rule of Harrsion, but he’s not channeling Khan. The personalities are entirely different. It would have been better to cast either Antonio Banderas or Lou Diamond Phillips or Naveen Andrews in the role if they wanted Khan. We needed an actor who projected the viciousness of Khan (as Cumberbatch did), as well as his egomaniacal rants and his explosive anger (which Cumberbatch didn’t). Banderas also has the advantage of having acted with Ricardo Montalban before and could capture his acting style (which Cumberbatch didn’t). It would have been far better for the character to remain John Harrison, terrorist, and say he either was genetically enhanced on Earth (remember, the technique was not lost, it was simply illegal, as we see in Dr. Julian Bashir on DS9), or another crewmember of the Botany Bay. The non-Star Trek viewers of ST:ID won’t notice the difference, of course. But the original Trek fans will.

(There’s a similar mistake with Carol Marcus. Alice Eve simply does not project the strength of character we saw in The Wrath of Khan. Sarah Michelle Gellar would have been a better choice.)

Even so, again, I enjoyed the movie overall, and thought it had some nice touches. I was glad that Uhura had more to do, although putting Chekov in charge of engineering was far above his pay grade. I would have preferred to see Sulu get more screen time than he did. McCoy and Scotty seemed just right. They also put in “Cupcake” from the previous movie as a red shirt, and he seemed to have survived the movie!

What I thought was the best of the movie was the conflict between the idea of Starfleet as a science/exploration fleet or Starfleet as a war fleet, and I’m glad the movie ended with the idea that it should be exploratory. Spock convinces Kirk that killing Harrison (sorry, the guy’s not Khan), with a drone is NOT something they should do, and Kirk agrees. This was a wise move not only because executing Harrison without a trial would be a bad precedent, but also because a drone strike on the Klingon homeworld could have started a war (whether it was in inhabited territory or not) and because it would have killed 72 of Harrison’s associates. And, the ending wrapped up the theme very well: “There will always be those who mean to do us harm. To stop them, we risk awakening the same evil within ourselves. Our first instinct is to seek revenge when those we love are taken from us. But that’s not who we are…” – Capt. James T. Kirk

Back to the story: upon the Enterprise crew leaving the Klingon homeworld, Admiral Marcus shows up with his super-ship and decides if Kirk won’t abandon his and Starfleet’s principles, Kirk (and his crew) have to go, and he (Marcus) will make sure that Starfleet goes to war. Montgomery Scott, who made his moral choice earlier, sticks to his principles and helps the Enterprise. (Speaking of Scott, there’s an astronomical error when Scott discovers the super-ship: Jupiter’s clouds are in constant motion, and the movie’s special effects department put in a still photo of Jupiter as background instead of having the clouds move, as they correctly did in the movie 2010). I wondered why Scott didn’t disable the super-ship’s weapons systems before Marcus fired on the Enterprise, but at least he was still there to help when needed. I also appreciated the realization of the factor of inertia when Kirk and Harrison arrive and slide across the floor quite a distance before they can stop. I also thought it was nice that Spock contacted his counterpart to ask about Khan. Smart move. 

When they get to Earth, they correctly say that the Enterprise is in danger if it re-enters the atmosphere, and it did show the heat of re-entry, but unless there was some sort of shielding at work, re-entry would probably have caused even more damage, if not catastrophic damage, before theEnterprise hit the cloud tops. (I was delighted to see that the Enterprisefinally got seat belts for its crew, even though some seat restraints were seen in Star Trek: The Motion Picture.)  I presume the super-ship, which was intact, survived re-entry because of shielding.

Back on the Enterprise, the warp core needed attention, and this time it’s Kirk that  sacrifices his life to fix things (though I wondered why Kirk didn’t bring any tools in with him). Spock then releases his anger in an all-out chase to get Harrison (J. J. Abrams seems to think Spock needs to have an anger release every so often). I didn’t have a problem with reviving Kirk with Harrison’s blood (though I agree with the observers who said that any of Harrison’s genetically engineered associates could have been the blood donor), because it saves us from having another movie on the order ofThe Search for Spock.  I did miss, however, Kirk saying, “Out there. Thataway!” in response to being asked where to take the ship next.

In brief, yeah, it wasn’t perfect, it had problems, but in its own awkward way, it got to where it needed to go: putting the Enterprise on a five-year mission “to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, and to boldly go where no one has gone before.” We can only hope that will be the case in the next movie.

Posted by Joan Marie Verba at 5/20/2013 1:35 PM


First, a word about what I think about spoilers: I prefer never to go to a movie unprepared. I can think of only one movie I’ve seen in my entire life where I felt I was better off not knowing the ending beforehand. Otherwise, I prefer to know as much as possible. For the early Star Trek movies, I had the local science fiction bookstore call me when the novelization came in so that I could read it before seeing the movie. For this movie, I read a detailed synopsis on the Internet. I’m glad I did.
Therefore, if you don’t want to know anything about a movie before you see it, and you haven’t seen the Star Trek movie yet, this essay is not for you. Come back and read it after you’ve seen the movie.
I noted that the last Star Trek movie I saw was Star Trek: Nemesis, in 2002. I haven’t enjoyed all the Star Trek movies. I left Star Trek III: The Search for Spock, Star Trek V: The Final Frontier, and Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, with feelings of disappointment. On the other hand, I greatly enjoyed Star Trek: The Motion Picture and Star Trek: Nemesis, which many other Star Trek fans weren’t happy with. I feel the best of the Star Trek movies were Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, and Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home. The remainder of the movies I felt were satisfactory.

I always want to see the Star Trek movie on the first day, as soon as possible. Knowing that there might be showings on Thursday, May 7, I checked the newspaper for movie times. I found out, to my surprise, that the newspaper doesn’t have movie times anymore. Instead, I was directed to call the theater for show times or check the theater’s web site. In so doing, I couldn’t find anyplace showing the movie before 7 pm. I prefer to go earlier to avoid crowds (and sellouts). Also, afternoon prices are lower.

For the 7 pm showing, I arrived at 6:40 pm to avoid a sellout. Not only was there not a sellout, I was the first one there. By the time the movie started, there were maybe 20 viewers in the theater. (This was about the same number as I found when I watched Star Trek: Nemesis on the first day.) In addition, the projection was out of alignment and one of the audience members had to inform the theater staff to fix it (they did).

Now, for the movie:

J. J. Abrams did a very smart thing by establishing this as an alternate Star Trek timeline. This has the advantage for him, as a producer, of not having to keep track of all the Star Trek history for the past 40 years; and, it has the advantage for me, the viewer, of not having to be annoyed at the production staff and writers for not following the history.

With that in mind, I thought the movie was largely spectacular with occasional unnecessarily silly scenes (example: materializing Scotty in the water tank). I left the movie with a pleasant feeling, and I would want to see it again. I would definitely want to purchase the DVD.

I thought the characters were great. Chris Pine does a wonderful job with James T. Kirk. I felt the portrayal was realistic. As with Jean-Luc Picard, it seems that a defining moment for Kirk was that he was in a bar fight where his opponents won. This concept didn’t work for me for Picard; it did for Kirk. The Kobyashi Maru scenario was vintage Kirk.  I thought the idea that Kirk was a genius with an attitude also worked. (In fact, the Enterprise seems to be filled with geniuses. That’s fine with me, since the Enterprise WAS supposed to be staffed with the best and brightest.)  He ends up being, as before, the youngest captain in Starfleet, and the way the story unfolds believably tells us that he deserved it. (His premature sitting in the captain’s chair was priceless!)

I always felt Spock was the strongest character, and Zachary Quinto does a great job. (As did the actor who played the young Spock, fighting his schoolmates…which is a part of Star Trek history, though hinted at in the animated “Yesteryear.”) Leonard Nimoy also did his usual fine portrayal.
I knew from the hints that Dr. Leonard McCoy joined the academy as an older student, and I really enjoyed this being played out on the screen. I’m glad they mentioned the divorce as his reason for joining Starfleet.

Scotty, Sulu, and Uhura also came off very well. I particularly enjoyed Uhura’s conversation with Spock when she tells him that she deserves to be assigned to the Enterprise.

The Chekov character and actor were first-rate. I was not happy with Chekov from the time he was introduced in 1967 (and wasn’t happy with Walter Koenig, either). But THIS Chekov I enjoyed watching! He is not the annoying boy genius that Wesley Crusher was, either. I wish they had given Chekov this potential in the first place!

Being a long-time fan of Vulcan and Vulcans, I was grieved when Vulcan was destroyed. I presume that T’Pau was one of the rescued? Sarek, however, was well-played, though the Amanda character seemed weak.
Miscellanous comments: I noted Admiral Komack in the tribunal, though he didn’t have any lines. When Sulu and Kirk went to destroy the drill, I wondered why they didn’t have phasers with them. (Sulu, at least, brought a sword!) And this is the second movie where the bad guy is motivated by revenge for the death of his wife. I hope that this is the last time, because this is getting old!

These are my initial thoughts about the Star Trek movie. I hope there’s a sequel!

Posted by Joan Marie Verba at 5/8/2009 11:09 AM