Notice...

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.


***SPOILER ALERT***
Spoilers will appear here and are welcome.

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

***SPOILERS***

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…

[Qaplah!

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Star Trek: I.K.S. Gorkon: Honor Bound By Keith R.A. DeCandido - Defending Honor Klingon Style

Star Trek: I.K.S. Gorkon: Honor Bound by Keith R.A. DeCandido

This is the second of three books in the I.K.S. Gorkon series of novels, and it is an action packed continuation immediately following the first of the series, A Good Day To Die.

Captain Klag of the Gorkon follows orders to find world's that the Klingon Empire can annex for resources to help rebuild after the war with the Dominion from the Gamma Quadrant. Chancellor Martok has sent a fleet to the Beta Quadrant to seek planets that are rich in the resources needed, and to conquer any populations that might be there. Klag found San-Tarah, a planet that is ideal in what it has to offer the rebuilding effort, however, it is also populated by a race of canine-like beings that fight as fiercely as any Klingon. While it should have been an easy matter for the crew of the Gorkon to follow through with the taking of San-Tarah, the situation is complicated by a series of anomalies that prevent the Klingons from using anything more than their hand-to-hand weapons for the fight, their advanced technology is useless. The odds are even as the Klingon landing party finds that the Children of San-Tarah, who have no technology other than their own, are amazing warriors in their own right.

Klag takes notice of this and after performing five contests, which the San-Tarah wing the majority of, has to keep a promise that no Klingons will ever step foot on their planet again. Klag’s commander, General Talak, takes exception to this and tells Klag that he and several other ships are on their way to San-Tarah, and that Klag and the Gorkon will participate in the conquering of the planet. Talak tells Klag that he has no right to make such arrangements on the Empire’s behalf, but he also has an axe to grind with Klag that involves the dishonor of Talak’s kinsman, so Talak will use the situation to take his revenge. Add to that, Klag’s own brother, Dorrek will also take advantage to right wrongs that he feels Klag has done.

Honor Bound begins with Klag calling on his fellow members of the Order of the Bat’leth to help him uphold his own personal honor as well as the honor of the Empire. While some come to his aid, a battle ensues both in space and on the planet that reaches epic proportions that finds many on both sides losing their lives. Many ships are damaged. And there is glory for all who come out on top, but is honor served?

Once again, honor is being tested on various fronts in this story. As the commanding officer of a ship, Klag is well within his bounds to make promises and enforce them, his sense of honor will not allow him to follow the orders of Talak, who will appear to follow Martok’s orders, but he uses this to cover his vendetta against Klag. It is a matter of orders versus what is right, and Klag will always err on the side of what is right and just because he holds his honor above all else.

This story is one of battles being fought on many different fronts. Klingons fighting against Klingons, Klingons defending the promises made to the San-Tarah, Klingons fighting alongside the San-Tarah, and then there is the battle in space between ships holding crews numbering in the thousands. There are also the personal battles that all of the Klingons fight within themselves as they take up arms against their fellow warriors based on orders received, and not knowing the real reasons behind the fight. This is a fast paced and multifaceted story that is exciting to its core and never lets up until the very end, where there is an interesting twist.

As I have stated before, Keith DeCandido knows Klingons and how to write their stories and present them as believable, colorful, and exciting to read. This is a real page-turner and I did not want to stop reading once I started. On several occasions, Keith fills in the blanks by giving just enough backstory on various characters adding to the understanding of the motivations behind individual actions and attitudes. His descriptions of the places in the story are well done so that the reader can visualize what the arena of action might look like.

I guess what I am trying to say is that if you want to read about Klingons in action, and about Klingon honor, then Honor Bound is what you are looking for, however I do recommend reading the first book in the series to better understand how this conflict came to be.

Well, there it is…

Qaplah!

The Middle Of Nowhere (Star Wolf Book 3) By David Gerrold - The Penultimate Story Of A Great Series!

The Middle of Nowhere (Star Wolf Book 3) by David Gerrold

The LS-1187 Star Wolf has returned from its mission to rescue with the Burk. While the Burke was lost with all hands owed to the efforts of the Morethan assassin Cinnabar, the Star Wolf did manage to destroy the Morethan ship Dragon Lord at the cost of thirteen of its crew, including its captain leaving Commander Jon Korie in command and having the unenviable task of dealing with Cinnabar, who transferred to the Star Wolf before the Burk was destroyed.

In this installment of the Star Wolf  saga by David Gerrold, the Star Wolf is a crippled ship thanks to the efforts of Cinnabar and is in need of decontamination and refit so they can rejoin the fight against the Morethans. Unfortunately, Commander Korie learns that the Burk was sent out as a decoy to lure the enemy ship Dragon Lord in, and the Star Wolf was sent to keep the Morethan ship busy while capturing the Burk, which had been booby trapped for the Morethans.

While Korie and his crew managed to kill Cinnabar, they didn’t know what he had with him when he boarded the Star Wolf. Cinnabar managed to bring along Imps; small, stealthy creatures that when let loose, continue to sabotage the ship while avoiding capture. So, the Star Wolf hangs in space, away from Spacedock in quarantine indefinitely, that is until Korie learns that his ship will not be repaired, it is to be decommissioned and he is to make parts from the Star Wolf available to any other ship that requests them. Furthermore, he also learns that he is not to be made captain of the ship and that the Burk is going to be given credit for the destruction of the Dragon Lord.

More determined than ever, Korie decides to make an effort to get his ship fit enough to get back in the fight, but first the crew will have to deal with the imp, who has the knowledge to destroy the ship and kill all hands aboard.

The Middle of Nowhere is a book full of chases. One crewman is sent on a quest to find a particular tool while another pursues a relationship with an unlikely partner, and everyone is looking to capture the imp that is wreaking havoc everywhere on the ship. The Star Wolfe really is stuck in the middle of nowhere because they cannot return to their base for repairs; the imp might jump ship and begin to infect the Spacedock, which would severely cripple the war effort.

My favorite story line is a subplot involving one young crewman named Gatineau. When Crewman Third Class Robert Gatineau reports to his department head, he is sent to find and bring back a “left-handed moebius wrench.” What the author does is send Gatineau on a search for a non-existent tool which at first seems like the youngster is being hazed. With every stop, he is given some of the dirtiest duties to perform on the ship and when that is completed, he is then sent to the next place to find the tool. What at first seems like hazing, actually turns out to be a hands-on training program that other members of the crew have endured. Gatineau didn’t know his way from one place to the other until he was sent on this “tour,” and when it was finally over and he was let in on the secret, he knew the ship and it’s many functions very well. But this subplot is not only for the benefit of the character, but for the reader as well, we also get to know the ship and it’s functions. This was a brilliant bit of writing by David Gerrold that I really appreciate. With each chapter involving Gatineau in the first half of the book, we learn a lot about the setting of the story and get an understanding of how the ship functions.

The hero of the story is Commander Jonathan T. Korie, First Officer of the LS-1187. Ships are not given names until they have been successful in battle. Korie was supposed to take command from Captain Lowell, the first commander of the ship. On their first shakedown cruise, the LS-1187 led a Morethan fleet to the convoy which they were charged with escorting. The convoy was decimated and the LS-1187 was crippled beyond the ability of the crew to repair. Lowell was killed and Korie assumed command and used some strange methods to get his ship home, which took six months of very uncomfortable travel through dangerous parts of space. The Morethans also attacked many colonies while the LS-1187 limped back to Spacedock. One of those planets was where Korie’s wife and two sons were living.

Korie is, understandably, very angry about this and instead of mourning his loss, he deals with it by throwing himself into his job and directing his anger at the enemy, and obsessively so. This is his main obstacle to being promoted to command of his own vessel. Even though the fleet is desperately in need of commanders, and Korie has the qualifications and training to be a great commander, he is being held back because, as Captain Hardesty tells him, he is “feral” and “wild, “ and therefore not ready to command his own ship. There is a glimmer of hope for him though, because the admiral informs him that they do have plans for him.

I love David Gerrold’s writing because it reads like classic science fiction in the same vein as the greats, but with his own style. As I read his work, the level of professionalism shines through. Each sentence flows into the next as the story unfolds making it easy to read, even when the author discusses technical aspects of the ship’s operations and technology. This story covers a lot of emotional ground as well, but I find myself cheering for Commander Korie to get his command, but when he is ready, which will hopefully happen in the fourth and final book in the Star Wolfe series.

My highest recommendations for fans of space opera and hard science fiction goes with this, and the previous three books in the series.

Well, there it is…

Q’aplah!

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: Rules Of Accusation - Quark's Scheme To Make Latinum Takes A Funny Turn

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: Rules of Accusation by Paula M. Block and Terry J. Erdman

A good and dear friend, Eric Cone sent me an instant message telling me that he had just read this book and that he found it hilarious and said that I should give it a look. Science FIction has a tendency to get a bit heavy, and just having read a book with a very grim scenario, I was ready for something on the lighter side.

Quark’s Bar is reopened on the newly rebuilt Deep Space Nine, and as always, the Ferengi bartender is contemplating new schemes to drum up business. Now the bar is not only a place of entertainment and gaming, but it has also become the Ferengi Embassy to Bajor, and quark is the Ambassador, duly appointed by his brother Rom, who was appointed to be the Grand Nagus, the current ruler of the Ferengi people. As far as Quark is concerned, the ambassador cannot function properly until there is a dedication ceremony. Quark sends out invitations to all of the most influential business leaders in the Ferengi Alliance, but the response to his RSVP’s is not what he had hoped. Quark visits with several of the station’s personnel about ideas to boost interest in his party including the station’s commander, Ro Laren. He asks Commander Ro if perhaps he could offer a door prize that would allow contraband to be transported through Federation space on a one time basis. When that fails, he visits with Chief O’Brien who tells Quark about a display of old, first edition classic books that he attended. At first, Quark thinks that no one would care about looking at old books, but perhaps, if he can arrange it, if he put the original Rules of Acquisition, penned by the first Grand Nagus on display, this might be just the hook he needs to get the other Ferengi entrepreneurs in the door.

After making arrangements with his brother, Rom agrees to bring the sacred document to the station for all to see after being locked in a vault for a long time. Quark’s scheme is successful and, on the day of the big event, all of the most influential Ferengi business leaders arrive ready and willing to part with their latinum to get a glimpse of the scroll that is the very foundation of Ferengi commerce and their way of life.

When Quark unveils the scroll, it is soon discovered that it is a fake and is the beginning of a search for the real scroll that takes the reader through many twists that leads our characters on a merry chase that includes an ironic ending to the story that actually started many years before the actual story took place.

Poor Quark, it seems that no matter what he tries to do things always seem to go wrong, but he always seems to manage to land on his feet thanks to the help of others. In this case, his former arch nemesis, Odo is a great deal of help in discovering where the real scroll isn’t, but it is a long time but absent friend who really gets to the bottom of the matter and makes everything right again. Quark doesn’t make a lot of profit on this venture, but all ends well, as it usually does in situations involving the Ferengi.

The authors do a great job in capturing the spirit of a Deep Space Nine story. The characters are all just as they should be, that is as they would be had this been an episode of the television series. The voice is just right and they all behave just as one would expect. The story itself is a lighthearted romp with no one really being in danger, with the exception of their reputations, which are shaky at the best of times where the Ferengi are concerned.

I would recommend this story for any Deep Space Nine fan who is looking for something on the lighter side.

Well, there it is…

Qaplah!