The purpose of this blog is to have a little fun. It is NOT to start arguments. I don't profess to be an expert on Sci-fi, nor do I aspire to become an expert. You are welcome to comment on any and all content you find here. If my opinion differs from yours, as far as I am concerned, it's all okay. I will never say that you are wrong because you disagree with me, and I expect the same from those that comment here. Also, my audience on the blog will include some young people. Please govern your language when posting comments.

Posts will hopefully be regular based on the movies I see, the television shows I watch, and the books I read as well as what ever strikes me as noteworthy.

Spoilers will appear here and are welcome.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

1-800-Henchmen: Double Lives, Double The Fun By Katherine Wielechowski - Leading A Double Life Ain't Easy!

1-800-Henchmen: Double Lives, Double The Fun by Katherine Wielechowski

Double Lives, Double the Fun begins almost where the first book in the series, First Shot leaves off. In this segment, Alfie is doing his best to balance a very complicated life, which he does so while maintaining his sense of humor while developing his skills as a member of the Henchmen team to which he has been assigned. It was discovered that Alfie has a lot to offer his team in the area of firearms proficiency, but is lacking in the area of hand-to-hand combat. So while he undergoes training to improve his skills, obtaining many bumps and bruises along the way (the Henchmen don’t pull their punches in training), he has to limp home and try to maintain his family life, concealing his aches and pains as he perpetuates the falsehood of being a simple employee in a gym. Thankfully he is still young and he recovers quickly, but he doubts his improvement as his trainers ramp up the torture as he gains skills.

Alfie’s non professional life continues on a more or less normal track as we get to meet more of his family, including two brothers who visit all too infrequently as far as Alfie’s mother is concerned.

Now, if balancing leading a double life isn’t enough, throw in an unintentional budding romantic relationship with one of the members of Alfie’s team and a den of terrorists in Canada bent on causing more nuclear mayhem, you have the makings of a really fun story.

In this novella, the second in a series of four (so far), we find our hero, Alfie facing the rigors of leading a double life trying to hide the true nature of his job from his family, which he is doing brilliantly. Once again, Katherine knocks it out of the park with her brilliant character development and imaginative plot development creating a story that can be easily read in one sitting, but is jam-packed full of fun banter between characters, hilarious situations, and action packed entertainment.

While the Henchmen stories may not be pure Sci-Fi, I would have to say that they are within the superhero, action/adventure genres and are well worth taking a look at.

Well, there it is…


Sunday, September 11, 2016

Blood And Fire (Star Wolf #4) By David Gerrold - The Last Book In The Series Is Outstanding And Thought Provoking

Blood and Fire (Star Wolf #4) By David Gerrold

All good things must come to an end, and so it is for the Star Wolf series by David Gerrold. Sometime back, I asked the author what he would recommend for a good space opera book by him to read and he responded with Voyage of the Star Wolf, which I immediately downloaded on my Kindle and started to read. I very much enjoyed it and grabbed the remaining three novels. Blood and Fire is the fourth and final installment in this amazing series of tales.

In this story, it is some time after the events of the third book in the series, The Middle of Nowhere. In that story, the Star Wolf had not earned its name and will still known in the fleet as the LS-1187 (LS meaning Liberty Ship), even though the crew and especially the first officer, Commander Jon Korie, knew that they actually had, several times over. Korie also believed that he had earned his captain’s stars as well. At any rate, the ship was devastated by a small group of imps left behind by a Morethan assassin in the second novel in the series. These imps were doing a thorough job damaging the Star Wolf, and came very close to causing the destruction of the ship itself, but also causing the destruction of the starbase that the ship reported to.

Repairs and upgrades have been made to the Star Wolf and the ship gets a new captain, a woman named Parsons. Parsons is an experienced captain that knows her business and holds the respect of the crew and Commander Korie as well, which has not been the case with previous captains of the Star Wolf. The ship has also earned its name between novels.

Star Wolf has been dispatched on a rescue mission for another Liberty Ship, the Norway, which has not been heard from is some time and is in danger of being lost in a binary star system. When Star Wolf arrives at their destination, they find that the Norway is in danger of being destroyed by a ribbon of plasma that is created when one star is taking the plasma from the other. The Norway appears dead, but life signs are detected on board. Commander Korie leads a boarding party to investigate and he and his people run into some nasty trouble when they discover that the ship is infested with bloodworms that have the ability to eat right through his people’s environmental suits, but multiply when an attempt to destroy them is made with a flame thrower.

The landing party, minus one unfortunate soul, manages to escape and locate the ship’s survivors and attempt rescue, all the while fighting a race against time between the bloodworms and the plasma ribbon.

The book, in its entirety, is a great story as one would expect from David Gerrold. There is plenty of excellently written action with characters that are compelling; in short, it has all of the elements that make a spectacular space opera. However for me, the real meat in this book is the third chapter that defines much of what this piece is about. That chapter is entitled “History.”

Please allow me to digress for a moment to Star Trek. As a Trekkie/Trekker, I have come to think of our future among the stars as being rather utopian. According to canon, one day in the future, after a devastating war, Zephram Cochrane takes the first warp drive capable ship on a little jaunt in our solar system which is noticed by an enlightened race who has warp technology. This race visits the earth and it sparks a new era for humanity. According to Trek lore, we eventually no longer feel the need to acquire wealth or possessions, we no longer have wars over ideologies or belief systems, and we solve all of the problems that plague us today and have for all of our history. According to Star Trek, humans are no longer the problem, it is all of those other races in the galaxy that are messing everything up and all we humans want to do is help everyone get along and play nice with each other. Please don’t misunderstand, I am a lifelong Trek fan and always will be, and it is not my intention to bash something I have enjoyed for most of my life, but Trek does have the tendency for not accurately depicting what I feel would be the reality of what it will be when and if we do ever begin traveling to the stars. I think we will take much of our baggage with us as we move among the stars. I have always thought this and am great full to Mr. Gerrold for helping me clarify my thoughts so I can put them into words.

In the chapter called “History,” Mr. Gerrold briefly discusses what we would actually take with us as we move out among the stars. The opening statement of that chapter hit me like a ton of bricks when I first read it and has given me much food for thought. To quote: “Contrary to popular expectations, the invention of faster-than-light travel did not create an age of enlightenment. Quite the opposite.”

In the test of the third chapter, Mr. Gerrold discusses the memes that we will most likely take with us as we move away from our own solar system and travel to others. In today’s popular culture, memes are pictures usually depicting the image of a celebrity with a sometimes clever statement that is intended to be humorous, ironic, entertaining, or to advance a certain point of view (usually in a disparaging way) that appears on social media. One of my favorite memes of this type is this one:

However, this is not the type of meme that the author intends for the reader to think about while reading. According to the definition of the word meme from the dictionary on my Kindle, a meme is a noun from the study of biology which is “an element of a culture or system of behavior that may be considered to be passed from one individual to another by nongenetic means, especially imitation.” In other words, memes are what we pass from one another in the form of political, religious, economic, and other beliefs which may, or may not be based on fact, as well as being malignant or benign in their nature. History is replete with how memes that are antithetical clash oftentimes resulting in death and destruction on a massive scale. According to the author, often when antithetical memes meet, there is only one result, both sides endeavor to eradicate each other. So, in light of history, and seeing the same thing happening over and over again, I unfortunately have to say, sorry Mr. Roddenberry, I have to go with Mr. Gerrold on this one.

In Blood and Fire, it is the eradication aspect of clashing memes that comes into play as a small group of humans work to create a weapon of mass destruction to be used against the Morethans until something goes very wrong and the weapon works against the people creating it. Solutions to problems have to be found and as more problems arise, more solutions are needed, and sacrifices have to be made.

This book and the three previous installments are all excellent stories that are very compelling to sensitive intelligent science fiction fans and I would place them high on a list of must reads. David Gerrold writes so well in his character development, plot, and voice that I rate his work at least on par with Asimov, Heinlein, Anderson, and other classic masters of the genre. He creates worlds that one can immerse one’s self in and does it in a way that makes reading his stories feel real.

Once again, the books in the Star Wolf series include:

Voyage of the Star Wolf
Middle of Nowhere
Blood and Fire

Well, there it is…


Saturday, August 20, 2016

Star Trek: Legacies Book 1: Captain to Captain - A Number One Book About Number One!

Star Trek: Legacies: Captain to Captain by Greg Cox

Is there a Star Trek fan that doesn’t know that it is the fiftieth anniversary year for the first airing of this, one of the most beloved and influential television, movie, and literary phenomenons to every exist. Well, perhaps there might be one or two. Star Trek hit the airwaves on September 8, 1966 with the first episode called The Man Trap on the NBC television network. What followed was the stuff of legends; I am sure that there is not a single person in the civilized world that doesn’t know what Star Trek is in some form.

On the literary side, we were promised a trilogy of novels, the first of those, Captain to Captain by Greg Cox, is the subject of this review.

In 2267, Captain Una (better known as Number One from the Menagerie, and played by Majel Barrett) comes aboard the Enterprise in her small, but powerful starship Yorktown. The reason she gives for her arrival is to pay a visit to her former crew mate, Spock, but she has another agenda in mind as well. While Kirk and crew go about their business of running the Enterprise, Una breaks into Kirk’s quarters and steals an item known as a Transfer Key, to simply The Key. This device is apparently so dangerous that it has been passed from Enterprise captain to captain to keep secure in his/her quarters and even Starfleet Command knows nothing about it. After a chase, which Una has apparently planned very well, it is up to Kirk to retrieve the device, but he must keep it a secret from everyone except for Spock, who also knows about the Key.

Flashback to 2249. Under the command of Captain Robert April, the Enterprise achieves orbit around Libros III where they discover a pre-industrial civilization that is being displaced by an alien race called the Jatohr. The alien race is not only exploiting the Usildar, the indigenous race on Usilde (as the Libros III is called by the natives), but they are reforming the face of the planet. When the then Lieutenant Una leads her first landing party to see what is taking place, they find themselves captured and all but Una are sent away from the planet to no one knows where, or whether they are alive or dead. With the help of a sympathetic Jatohr scientist, Una secures the key and the Enterprise escapes.

Forward again to 2267, Una has made it her mission to find and rescue her lost crew mates from 2249. She has the key and manages to find the help she needs to complete her task. Finally, the Key is back in safe hands, but there is a twist. But then, isn’t there always?

Captain to Captain was a fun look at events that involved two eras of Star Trek, one of which I know very little of. I enjoyed reading the exploits of Una, who appeared in TOS known only as Number One. She apparently was given that name because she was the best at everything that she did. While appearing in the TOS two-part Menagerie episodes, we saw an emotionless and logical character, much like Spock became in the series. This story shows that she does indeed try to control her emotions, but isn’t always successful as some very disturbing circumstances arise for her. Finally, her loyalty for her lost friends drives her to act in ways that one wouldn’t expect.

Creg Cox's story is well written and is a fun read. It centers mostly on Una, but does also include many members of Enterprise crews from both 2267 and 2249. All of the characters behave as one would expect in the Star Trek universe and there are some fun exchanges between characters. I recommend Captain to Captain as a fine opening to the three part Legacies series honoring the 50th Anniversary of Star Trek. It is going to be fun to see where the rest of the series takes us.

Well, there it is…


Monday, August 8, 2016

Remanence (Confluence Book 2) By Jennifer Foehner Wells - Excellent An Thoughtful Sci-Fi

Remanence (Confluence Book 2) By Jennifer Foehner Wells

Not long ago, Jennifer Wells posted on Twitter that she noticed a marked uptick in the sales of her first book entitled Fluency released in 2014, and which I reviewed on this blog. I tweeted back that it was perhaps due in part to my review which is the second highest hit-getter on this blog. I was kidding of course (about my blog increasing sales, not about Jennifer's book being in 2nd place), and realize that Fluency needs no help from me because it is just that good. Almost immediately, Jennifer tweeted back that I needed to read the second book and subject of this review, Remenance. It had taken me completely unawares that there was another book in this series and don’t know how I missed any announcement of its release.

Remanence picks up nearly where Fluency left off with Jane Holloway commanding the Sectillian starship that was accidentally discovered to be hanging around in our solar system for some time. Jane Holloway, along with other crew and her commander were sent by NASA to learn what they could, assuming that the Speroancora was a derelict. What the crew of the Providence (NASA’s name for the capsule sent to investigate the alien craft with a crew of six) was a ship that was abandoned by sentient life with the exception of Ei’Brai, the ship’s Kubodoran Gubernaviti (a squid-like being that takes part in the administration of Sectillian ships including the navigation and other duties of the vessel while being bound by yoke to the ship’s commander), and some very nasty and hostile creatures called the Nepatrox.

After taking several jumps, the Speroancora arrives at Antelle, a habitable moon orbiting the planet Sectilia. Upon arrival, it is discovered that the system has been devastated by the Confluos Gigantus, a predatory insect that eats everything in it’s path and is adapted to space travel to move through the galaxy seeking ecosystems to devour. The people of Atelle have learned to survive, but the once thriving and highly technological species has been thrown back to roughly the stone ages. Then there is also the constant threat of the nepatrox that is trying to eradicate what is left of the population on Atelle as well as the visitors from Earth. When their shuttle is disabled on Atelle, the crew of the Speroancova is stranded and forced to dodge the nepatrox, learn new customs, avoid breaking taboos, and figure out how they are going to get back to their mission.

With all of that going on, there is a threat to Earth itself that has to be dealt with.

Once again, as she did in Fluency, Jennifer has produced a work of Sci-Fi literature that is to be enjoyed by any reader that enjoys well written, detailed, and emotionally charged stories that keep one guessing. At every page turn there is something new and fresh and exciting, but at the same time doesn’t feel rushed or glossed over. The main protagonist of the story, Jane Holloway, is a fantastic strong character in the tradition of Ellen Ripley of the Alien movies, while at the same time being fair and compassionate. Through her telepathic connection with the ships kubodoran navigator, Ei’Brai, Jane feels almost everything that he feels and she has made it her mission to return him to his home. At the same time though, Ei’Brai also has a little tendency to get in the way because he can see and feel everything that Jane sees and feels which strains her relationship with the engineer, Alan Bergan. Alan is brilliant but he also has a temper and is not afraid to let it show, especially when Ei’Brai gets into his thoughts, but even more so when he get into Jane’s thoughts during more intimate moments (which are tastefully written, however I would say that this story would be rated for older teens to adult).

Two scenes in the book stand out as fine examples of Jennifer’s skill as an author. Both the descent to and ascent from Atelle were classic Sci-Fi scenes that included edge-of-your-seat excitement and suspense. Routine operations became unsure for the crew and on one occasion a chapter-ending cliff hanger wouldn't allow me to close the book; I just had to read one more chapter, but this was the case for the entire book. It seemed that no matter how skilled the crew, there was always something that got in the way of an easy success and the members of the crew had to come up with some innovative ways to problem solve in the face of what felt like certain doom.

Looming over everything was the constant and very dangerous threat of the neaptrox that turned up no matter what was happening and at one point, it looked like we would lose at least a couple of characters before they could accomplish their task. The nepatrox are as relentless as the Borg on Star Trek and even more dangerous. I honestly found myself looking over my shoulder wondering when they would turn up again, figuratively speaking, of course.

For most of the story the main antagonists are the environment the crew finds themselves in, but also their own lack of knowledge. A more tangible antagonist comes on the scene a little later that seems to be so angry and vengeful, it will stop at nothing to assure the destruction of all life in the galaxy.

The story simply flows, but one cannot think that there wasn’t a lot of homework done on the part of the author. Jennifer has indeed researched and taken what she learned and put it all together in a fantastic voyage of discovery, character development, emotional involvement, and just plain good storytelling. I recommend Remanence as an outstanding piece of Sci-Fi literature that very stands on its own, but would also recommend reading the first book in the Confluence series, Fluency. The author does include a synopsis of the first book in the series, but not reading Fluency would mean that a reader would miss the genius of this author. Remember, it isn’t always getting to the end of a journey that is important, but rather, how one gets there.

I instant messaged the author and asked if there were plans to another installment of the Confluence series and received the following response...

"Yes, the next book will be titled Valence and will be releasing next Summer!

Further, Jennifer offered...

"I will be releasing another book in October (2016) called The Druid Gene. It is in the same universe as Confluence but with new characters and different challenges."

Some things to look forward to!

Well, there it is...


Thursday, August 4, 2016

1-800-Henchmen: First Shot By Katherine Wielechowski - A Fun Novelette By A Talented Aspiring Author

1-800-Henchmen: First Shot By Katherine Wielechowski

I have been attending meetings of the Central Nebraska Writers Guild for a year and have met some brilliant writers. One of those is the young woman who is an aspiring author named Katherine Wielechowski, a very friendly person and a writer who shows great promise if this first released publication is any indication of what will come in the future. Anyway, while running through my Facebook feed, I saw a post from Katherine giving away the second of her four novelettes in the 1-800-Henchmen series for one day only, so I grabbed that one and bought the other three as well, not really sure what to expect.

1-800-Henchmen: First Shot centers on Alfie Vihar, a young man that is days away from high school graduation and looking for a job that hopefully pays more than fifty dollars a week. Answering an ad for Resources, Inc., a company that is apparently hiring a summer intern. Alfie secures an interview with Mr. Kadish, who is awaiting his arrival. After Alfie gives his memorized stock interview answers, Mr. Kadish prompts Alfie into giving him some real answers to a few rapid fire questions. We learn that Alfie is an aspiring writer that speaks three foreign languages, two of which he learned to impress girls, and the third, Chinese, so he could understand the Chinese cursing that is used frequently in his favorite television show, Firefly. Kadish tells Alfie that he is not quite the right fit for the summer internship, but he is qualified for another opening at one of the company's other divisions.

When Alfie reports for his first day of work, he has no idea what he has gotten himself into, but soon finds out that he either has a dream job for an eighteen year-old, or he is in so far over his head that he may not measure up. He finds that he has gone to work for the Henchmen, a quasi-mercenary group that aids whomever hires their services to accomplish their missions, for good or evil. Funny thing is that all he really wanted to do was earn enough money to go backpacking around Europe, but his first adventure finds him traveling all the way to Beijing, China!

What came through this novelette for me was that Katherine has a huge talent for character development. RIght from the opening, I found Alfie to be someone that I would like to know. He is a nice young man who has a tendency, as most eighteen year-olds do, to speak before his brain is engaged. He obviously has a good brain and an ear for languages. Even on his first mission, he and his team is looking for what might be his specialty, to what talent he posses that will add to the team he has been assigned to. Alfie has a good home life in a middle-class family that is close. His best friend is a girl that he has apparently known for quite some time, however they are not romantically involved, which I find very refreshing.

Even the supporting characters in this story have some degree of fine character development. For instance, Mr. Kadish, whom Alfie only briefly visits for his interview, is alive and very real. Brief descriptions of Alfie’s Henchmen team mates are packed full with great visual clues that make them also jump off the page, appearing as personalities as opposed to simply being supporting cast.

All in all though, I found that as I read, I wanted more. While the first three-quarters of the story was full of marvelous character development, as well as brief but detailed well written descriptions of things and places, I wanted more story on the hero; I wanted more on Alfie’s training and more on why the villain was plotting an attack with a nuclear weapon on Beijing.  I would have liked more on how the fight went before the UN soldiers and the super heroes arrived on the scene to break up Huanxiang’s (pronunced wone-she-ow) little party. In short, the last quarter of the story felt rushed.

Nevertheless, this was a fun story that gave me pause numerous times to laugh. At 47 pages, it is easily read in a little over an hour and is well worth the effort. I look forward to reading the next three installments of Alfie’s adventures with the Henchmen. This is a fun piece of writing and is a fine example of seeing growth in a talented writer. As someone who reads a lot of heavy science fiction, I found that this was a nice break from my usual fare and it gave me pause to laugh a little. I recommend First Shot for it lighthearted tone and interesting characters.

Well, there it is…


Friday, July 29, 2016

Star Trek Beyond - A Giant Leap For Trek-Kind - An Outstanding Film That Moves Toward What Trekkies Want More Of!

Star Trek Beyond - 2016


Since 2009, we, the fans of Star Trek, have been a severely divided group over the films that have been made in what is popularly referred to as “The JJ ‘Verse.” I’m not going to go into the reasons for this, mostly because anyone interested can find out for themselves quite easily by Googling the titles of the films and looking on forums that are many, and vocal.

Personally, I have said on many occasions that I enjoyed Star Trek (2009) and Into Darkness, however I did have a few reservations. The recent films just had a little something missing. For me, they seemed somewhat impersonal focusing more on the action and less on the interpersonal relationship that is one of the hallmarks of what makes Trek meaningful, at least in my opinion.

The latest installment in the franchise, Star Trek Beyond comes closer to either of the two previous films in capturing the old feeling that makes Star Trek what it has always been for me; the relationship between characters that has their friendships and conflicts out for us to feel and experience.

The film starts with Kirk giving a rather lengthy log entry which finds him somewhat disenchanted with the routine of running a starship. The Enterprise next arrives at the Yorktown Starbase, a huge facility that houses millions and is described by McCoy as a giant snow globe in space. Upon entering the Starbase, Kirk visits with an admiral after applying for promotion to vice admiral and becoming the Starfleet commander of the base. Further, Sulu begins shore leave with his husband and their daughter, Spock and Uhura have decided to end their relationship, but remain friendly, and Scotty continues to keep the ship up and running. Spock is informed that Ambassador Spock has died.

A small escape pod arrives out of a nebula near Yorktown carrying a passenger, Kalara who appeals to the admiral and Kirk that there are people in need of rescue. Kirk is on the job and gathers the crew for the mission. Upon arrival on the other side of the nebula, the rescue mission turns into an ambush by a huge swarm of small ships that begins to shred the Enterprise and cripples the ship. An alien named Krall and some of his people board the Enterprise in search of an item called the Abronath, one of two components of a devastating weapon.

The crew of the Enterprise leaves the ship in escape pods while the saucer section is separated and crashes somewhat in-tact on the surface of a planet. Uhura, Sulu, and a large number of the crew are captured and held in Krall’s compound, Spock and McCoy crash land on another part of the planet where McCoy discovers Spock to be severely injured, Kirk and Chekov, accompanied by Kalara find and survey the saucer section, and Scotty is helped by Jayla, a scavenger and former prisoner of Krall, who asks that he help her repair her house, which turns out to be the USS Franklin, a starship that crash landed on the planet 100 years earlier.

Kirk and Chekov trick Kalara into revealing that she is actually working with Krall to find the Abronath and return it to him. When some of Krall’s drones arrive on the scene, Kirk and Checkov escape by igniting the thrusters causing the Enterprise saucer to move and crush Kalara. They then make their way to the Franklin. McCoy uses some old fashioned medicine practices to stabilize Spock well enough to travel and they begin to search for survivors. While resting, Spock tells McCoy about Ambassador Spock’s death and how he intends to leave Starfleet to help his race rebuild. Kirk, Spock, McCoy, and Chekov are reunited with Scotty and Jaylah on the Franklin where they begin repairs on the ship and make plans to free the Enterprise crew; McCoy takes the opportunity to do a more thorough job on healing Spock. Meanwhile, Krall manages to coerce a member of the enterprise crew into turning over the Abronath.

Kirk and company move against Krall’s encampment and transport the captive Enterprise crew to the Franklin as Krall and his fleet of “bees,” as Jaylah calls them, launch to destroy Yorktown and eventually move on to destroy the Federation. Kirk, in command of the Franklin goes off in pursuit of Krall.

Spock and McCoy are transported onto one of Krall’s ships where they learn how the ships are all able to move together in their swarm formation. Scotty and Jaylah use her music device to transmit a VHF signal to the swarm, confusing them can causing them to self destruct. Uhura and Kirk access the Franklin logs and learn that Krall is actually Balthazar Edison, the original commander of the Franklin, and former soldier who fought in conflicts with the Romulans and the Xindi, and is upset that humanity has made peace with former alien enemies, and is determined to show humans that it is a mistake to befriend alien races. With Edison’s fleet destroyed, he manages to gain entry to Yorktown, and Kirk chases him. Edison intends to release the Abronath weapon into the ventilation system of the station and Kirk manages to open a hatch into open space. Edison and the weapon die in space and Spock rescues Kirk from following Edison to his doom.

Kirk decides that he will turn down promotion and stay with Starfleet, Spock also decides to remain with Starfleet, and Scotty tells Jaylah that she has been accepted into Starfleet Academy if she wants to go. McCoy escorts Kirk to a Birthday celebration with the Enterprise crew and The closing scene sees the bridge crew witnessing the construction of the USS Enterprise-A.

What Star Trek Beyond Got Right…

Tributes to Absent Friends: There were three scenes that paid tribute to Leonard Nimoy’s character. FIrst when Spock was informed of the passing of Ambassador Spock, he was handed a pad with the details and the dates listed in stardates. The second was the scene in which Spock informed McCoy, and the third was at the end when Spock opened a small case of personal effects from Ambassador Spock in which there was a photo of the aged bridge crew of the Enterprise from the Prime Universe. It has been just short of a year and a half since the passing of Leonard Nimoy and as I sat in the theater, I shed tears; these tributes were very tastefully done and respectful, and were also quite unexpected on my part. Along with that was another brief tribute to Anton Yelchin as the scene paused on Chekov after Kirk proposes a toast “to absent friends” during his birthday celebration. These were beautiful moments that seriously tugged at the heart strings.

The Maturation of James T. Kirk: Gone from this film was the juvenile Kirk portrayed in the ‘09 film and Into Darkness. The Kirk in Beyond is more thoughtful, focused, and in control, not to mention more respectful and respected by those around him. Missing from this film were scenes with women standing around in their underwear and bedroom scenes that were in the last two. Also absent was Jim Kirk introducing himself to everything wearing a skirt that happened to be passing by. Since the early days of Star Trek, Kirk has jokingly been given the reputation of being controlled by his libido. I have watched every episode of TOS numerous times and he wasn’t near the womanizer that many think he was, not nowhere near as he was portrayed in the ‘09 film and Into Darkness. I was also pleased that the script didn’t allow Kirk to refer to Spock as “pointy” again; I did not appreciate that reference in the film before and was taken quite by surprise when it happened. I cannot help but think that a great deal of Spock’s decision to remain in Starfleet was when Kirk admitted that he wouldn’t know what he would do without Spock at his side; very much in the tradition of that particular friendship.

The Emotional Spock: I have seen much criticism concerning Spock and his emotionalism as portrayed in previous films. Spock’s emotionalism is not without precedent even as far back as TOS when he learned that he had not killed his captain in the Amok Time episode. It has been established on numerous occasions that Vulcans do have emotions, but as their emotionalism in previous times almost led to their downfall, they have chosen to control their emotions, or better yet, not allow themselves be controlled by their emotions as humans often do. In one scene, Spock laughs out loud at a quip that McCoy lets out. Through his laughter, I choose to think that it was Spock paying a high compliment to Bones by lowering his barriers for his friend.

Interactions Between Characters: The writing and direction need to be credited with a crew that was far more relaxed with each other than in previous films. While keeping in mind that the ‘09 film saw a crew that was untested and didn’t really have a chance to get to know each other, this film felt more like familial relationship had developed between the members of the bridge crew. Each had their talents and areas of expertise and everyone knew what those were, and knew when to jump in and help, or back away and let the expert handle the situation. There were no arguments or disagreements and they behaved more naturally. I was more comfortable with the cast than I was in the past and it felt more like Trek, even with all the modern trappings of film making. Most impressive was how everyone had a good amount of screen time and dialog without getting campy. The humor was appropriate and the supporting cast added a great deal to the film.

The best depiction of a relationship in this film was between Scotty and Jaylah. They hit it off almost immediately when she rescued him early in the film and their relationship developed quickly. It was hard to tell just who in this pair was mentoring who which added to the fun. The characters offered many moments of humor, but also went far beyond comic relief. Simon Pegg & Sofia Boutella have a great chemistry on screen and it is my sincere hope that Jaylah graduates from Starfleet Academy and returns to the Enterprise in the next film.

Nods to the Past: As I think back over the years I have spent watching Trek, all of the captains have had thoughts of what their lives might have been had they chosen a different path. Christopher Pike dreamed of owning a business in the first TOS pilot. In The Wrath Of Kahn, Kirk was woebegone over the advent of his birthday as well as being ponderous about what his life might have been like if he had stayed with Carol Marcus and been a father to David. Picard was actually shown how lackluster his life would have been when Q sent him back in time to avoid being impaled through the heart. In Beyond, Kirk similarly thinks about his impending birthday remembering that his father had died on that day and how he joined the service on a dare from Pike instead of believing in what Starfleet stood for as his father, George Kirk had.
It is no secret that McCoy does not like the transporter, and it is the same in this film when he is snatched from being killed thanks to Scotty. He makes quite a deal out of making sure that he is all in one piece before he leaves the transport pad of the Franklin.

Of course the biggest nod to the past was the picture that Spock found among the personal items of Ambassador Spock; it was the real deal and one hell of a tribute to what came before. I don’t know for sure who was responsible for that, but that was brilliant idea and is to be commended; it shows a healthy respect for the franchise in general.

There are many more that I have not listed here. My good friend, fellow blogger and podcaster, and a man who knows Star Trek inside and out, Colin Higgins posted more tributes on his blog, Trek News and Views. I cannot improve on what he has, so please, follow the link and enjoy.

What Could Have Been Done Better…

Too Fast and Too Furious: Beyond feels more like an action adventure film than science fiction. While the backdrop is Star Trek, and there are many very Trekish moments in the film, the action never stops or slows down and is always right there in your face as scenes cut from one to another leaving no room to breathe. I posted on Facebook that two hours and thirteen minutes went by like nothing which is not necessarily always a good thing. Yes it is entertaining and yes it has a strong Trek flavor, but I would liked to have a chance to savor the moments and see more of what was going on. The camera angles were often so close that I couldn’t see what was happening and then we were off to the next thing before I could digest what I had just witnessed. There is plenty of action, and it is loud, explosive and exciting, and all of that, but please pull back the camera a little so we can enjoy what we are watching and get some information from it. I would have liked to see more of the designs of the ships and a little more detail of what the Enterprise crew was fighting against, as well as more of what was happening on Yorktown station; it was a magnificent set that was far too underused. I wanted a reason to care that Krall was bent on destroying Yorktown beyond Sulu’s family being there. Just slow down a little, pull back, and let us enjoy what has been created.

Formula One: Once again, the story was the same rehash of what has become the trope for science fiction/action films in recent years; it boils down to a very large population being threatened in some way by some horrible villain who has an axe to grind because he has been set aside by society and he is going to take revenge on a massive scale and it is up to our team of heroes to save the world. It is time to move on and write a different story, something new and unexpected.

Duality: The movie felt a little like there was two stories happening at the same time. It is a coincidence that there were two writers? I’m thinking not. The story is well edited and flows, however quickly, but I am thinking that perhaps the action was taken care of by Doug Jung while the Trek elements were handled by Simon Pegg. It is no secret that Pegg loves Star Trek and if one looks closely, one can see where he had his hand in the film and where Jung took the helm. The story itself kind of had me lost for most of the film; I kept asking myself why Krall is doing what he is doing? It was a guarded secret that Krall was a human until the closing minutes and his motivation for wanting to destroy Yorktown was something that distracted me during most of the film. It would have been nice to have some idea what Krall’s problem was before the big reveal. The cryptic hints he dropped on a couple of occasions were not enough to make me really understand why he Swiss-cheesed the Enterprise, or why he had taken the crew captive, beyond looking for the Abronath. Some background on Krall would have been welcome earlier in the film for the purpose of understanding.

Despite the few complaints, I love this film and will be happy to see it again; it is the closest thing to a real Star Trek film that has hit the screen since before the ‘09 reboot. Star Trek Beyond is a huge step in the right direction and with the promise of another one yet to come, I am excited about the future of the franchise. It is a great time to be a Trekkie/Trekker in this, the year of the 50th Anniversary of our beloved Star Trek, and with this film, there is hope for the future.

[Well, there it is…