Saturday, May 16, 2009

Dollhouse Gets Renewed?!

So, The Los Angeles Times is now reporting the unofficial news that Joss Whedon's Dollhouse has been renewed for a second season by Fox.

If true, this is amazing and welcome news for the genre, and for series fans! Dollhouse has gone from being positively iffy to addictive, must-see-TV in the span of just six or seven episodes. So the sky's really the limit here. Can't wait to see what Joss Whedon has up his creative sleeve for a sophomore sortie...

And also, I must give a shout-out to Airlock Alpha, because the site has been counseling cautious optimism on this subjectl for weeks while other major news sources have been insisting renewal chances for Dollhouse were slim and none (and Slim was out of town...). Congratulations to Airlock Alpha for getting the story right (and I hope like hell that this unofficial news becomes official on Monday so I don't have to retract that!!!).

CULT MOVIE REVIEW: Star Trek (2009)

Long story not so short: Star Trek is in good hands.

Different hands, to be certain. But good hands nonetheless.

The J.J. Abrams big-budget film, which opened last weekend, accomplishes the very mission many industry insiders and long-time Star Trek fans had judged impossible just half-a-decade ago, during the Berman Era doldrums of Nemesis and the TV series, Enterprise. It actually welcomes new fans -- and general audiences -- into the Trekkie fold with a well-dramatized, beautifully-cast, emotionally resonant tale of Kirk and Spock's youthful beginnings.

This movie is that rarest of birds, a blockbuster summer movie that lives up to the hype. It is fast, fun and frenetic, the very qualities you would desire and seek in an epic space saga.

Penned by Robert Orci and Alex Kurtzman, the new movie genuflects appropriately to Star Trek''s storied tradition with the presence of the franchise's elder statesman, Leonard Nimoy, in a significant (and touching...) role. Simultaneously, however, the movie adopts a warp speed trajectory straight for the unknown, essentially re-booting the franchise and the beloved core characters with new and therefore unpredictable destinies

Call this delicate (and dangerous...) dance The Abrams Maneuver: a deft strategy that permits this cinematic enterprise to operate on two levels at once, appealing both to the hardcore aficionados on the basis of knowledge and nostalgia, and to the unconverted masses on the basis of the new cast's pure charm, the dazzling visualizations, and some rock 'em, sock 'em action scenes...the likes of which previous Treks could never have imagined, let alone afforded to execute.

This radical Abrams Maneuver -- creating an alternate timeline while maintaining the beloved characters and core spirit of Trek -- was no doubt deemed necessary because, to utilize a metaphor from author David Gerrold in his Encounter at Farpoint novelization of 1987, commanding the U.S.S.Enterprise has become rather like "making love in a fish bowl." Everyone has an opinion of your performance, and there isn't much room to maneuver.

Ditto for the franchise itself.

In other words, forty-five long years of accumulated continuity, arcane rules and byzantine history had effectively hobbled creativity (and more importantly, spontaneity...) to the point where Star
Trek had dropped out of warp and was suffering from a terminal case of "replicative fading" (a cloning disease named in the Next Gen episode "Up The Long Ladder").

Voyager, Enterprise,
Insurrection and Nemesis all seemed like tired copies of a tired copy of a...well, you get the picture.

The glory days of Star Trek were over, and the once-widely beloved mythos became the sole purview of nostalgic thirty-five year olds (me! me!). But even for many aging fanboys and fangirls, the thrill was gone...or at least slipping away.

I'm a huge Star Trek fan, but dammit Jim, I'm not a masochist! So I was outta there by the time Voyager reached Earth. I watched a few episodes of Enterprise, but didn't really need Star Trek as the visual equivalent of Sominex, and moved on. Whenever people I trusted insisted "it's getting better, really," I checked back in, and you know what? it wasn't getting any better. It was still deadly dull, stodgy, predictable and uninspired.

But with The Abrams' more.

Star Trek
is back.

The new Star Trek of 2009 has injected much-needed youth, vigor, inspiration and spontaneity into the franchise's faltering heartbeat. The Next Gen era of all Starfleet officers getting along, not eating red meat, wasting time on the holodeck and endlessly sitting around discussing tertiary domains of subspace and reversing the polarity of the deflector array is -- at long last, history.

Instead, the characters we see on screen in J.J. Abrams' Trek are recognizably and gloriously human once more, as they were in the landmark, still classic Original Series. These men and women fumble, get drunk, bump their heads, weep, fall in love, make impulsive mistakes, and -- in the finest tradition of Star Trek -- do their ingenious, inventive best for a cause greater than mere self-interest.

The Future Begins

The new Star Trek depicts the story of a very angry Romulan named Nero (Eric Bana) who -- after the destruction of Romulus in a cosmic disaster (a supernova) -- inadvertently travels back in time 130 years and sets out to destroy the young Federation, starting with charter members Vulcan and Earth.

Nero's accidental temporal journey brings him back to the year (and moment, actually...) of Jim Kirk's birth aboard the Federation starship U.S.S. Kelvin.

When Kirk's heroic father is killed aboard the Kelvin, events diverge from the "prime" time line we remember from the Original Series. Without a father to guide him, Kirk (Chris Pine) grows up to become aimless and rebellious, the "mid-west's only genius level repeat offender," as Captain Christopher Pike (Bruce Greenwood) calls him. Kirk's story is cross-cut effectively with the development of the young half Vulcan, Spock (Zachary Quinto), who is torn between his human and alien natures. Both men are brilliant, but both are also incomplete...

Eventually Kirk and Spock find their way to the Enterprise bridge and -- despite their vastly-different natures -- battle Nero for the survival of the Federation. Another visitor from the future, elderly Ambassador Spock (Leonard Nimoy) helps to nudge fate back in the right direction, doing everything in his power to bring the hot-headed young Kirk and the repressed, logical Spock to an awareness that they need one another to be successful, to be complete. This is where the script works at its symbolic best. Kirk, lacking a father, needs the advice of a tempering, prudent man like Spock. And Spock, now absent his human mother, requires the inspiration and human unpredictability of the tenacious Kirk.

I have considerable reservations about many specific elements of this Star Trek story (which I will explain below, in detail), but as is the case for many Star Trek episodes and films of years past, the movie is ultimately more than the sum of its individual (and sometimes faulty...) parts.

Overall, this Star Trek is emotionally satisfying and enormously affecting (particularly Elder Spock's heartfelt, nostalgic send-off to the Enterprise). And the new cast seamlessly (and I mean seamlessly) takes over from the Original Series cast, and the performers are all so likeable, game, and enthusiastic that you feel a surge of good will towards them.

So yes, if you're wondering, lightning has been captured in a bottle again: there's a familiar joie de vivre about and amongst this group of performers that frankly hasn't existed in Star Trek since The Undiscovered Country's send-off in 1991. This chemistry, this joy, this exuberant sense of fun, glosses over many of the movie's largest problems. Just as in the old days, you're swept away by the colorful, well-drawn characters and their extraordinary travails, even if the individual journey raises a few questions.

This is Not Your Father's Star Trek?

The new Star Trek movie boasts a 96% percent critical "approval" rating on Rotten Tomatoes, which is practically unheard of. And indeed, I also approve of it.

However, it isn't nitpicking or being contrarian to point out that major elements of the Orci/Kurtzman script are, quite frankly, a mess. I'm not talking about specific lines of dialogue or even character motivations...but rather breathtaking gaps of situational logic that you could fly a space armada through.

First and foremost, let us discuss the nature of Nero's weapon of choice, the red matter. It can generate huge, destructive black holes in space. Fine, I accept that. I can even accept that starships can safely travel through said black holes and move back and forward through time. No problem.

But why must Nero go to all the trouble of dropping red matter into the core of a planet like Vulcan or Earth with that lovely but not terribly-effective drill device?

The drill not only wastes time and is highly ineffective (as we see in the movie's finale), but it is also...entirely unnecessary. Just eject that little red matter blob in orbit, Nero, and planetary destruction will surely ensue.

Black holes are so powerful that nothing, not even light can escape their crushing force. So even if you dropped a black hole near our moon, we'd be in some deep bantha poo doo (sorry, wrong franchise...). Putting the red matter at the Earth's core, or Vulcan's core, just seems like gilding the lily to me.

And actually, I'm a bit concerned that at the end of the film, a black hole has been formed relatively close to Earth (in our solar system, if I'm not mistaken). That's...uh...asking for trouble. (We know this too, because McCoy gives a very convincing lecture, early in the film, about the hazards of space flight under even normal conditions.)

And also, you're telling me that a 24th century Romulan can't just upfit photon torpedoes with the red matter and blast away at Earth or Vulcan from a safe distance, rather than going to all the trouble of deploying that unwieldy drill and being tethered to it? If you believe that, Harry Mudd has some happy pills he'd like to sell you too...

Basically, the red matter threat is inconsistent and poorly-thought out. It is made to seem so all-powerful that it can destroy planets and cause time travel(!), but if that were indeed the case, you wouldn't have to delicately send particles down that drill's esophagus to a planet core, right?

That's not even the worst offense, however.

During his mind-meld with Kirk, Ambassador Spock notes that the safety of the "galaxy" was threatened by "a supernova." Huh? A supernova is dangerous a solar system. Maybe two solar systems, tops, on a really bad day. But an entire galaxy? I don't think so. The Enterprise escaped from a supernova by going to warp speed in "All Our Yesterdays" and the galaxy was never imperiled, just the local star group.

This is another classic mistake, and what I find ironic (and yet oddly poetic...) about it is that derisive Star Trek fans have ridiculed series like Battlestar Galactica (original) and Space:1999 for forty years based on the fact that those series occasionally made such basic errors in astronomical nomenclature (confusing solar systems and galaxies.) At most, a supernova could have threatened Romulus. But it's a novice mistake to indicate it could do harm to a galaxy. This is science fiction, and again, some flights of fancy are permissible, expected and desired. But so basic an error in science (about something we already know about), is troubling.

Another novice mistake: Spock actually sees Vulcan implode from the night sky of Delta Vega (a world now oddly transformed into an ice planet, though it was just kind "Where No Man Has Gone Before.") Just think about this for a minute. Would we be able to see in our night sky a planetary implosion in another solar system? Of course not.

Why, Spock isn't even using binoculars when he sees the catastrophe! Rather, Vulcan is apparently no further away from Delta Vega than we are from our moon. Before you suggest Delta Vega must actually be a Vulcan is established in Star Trek lore that Vulcan has no moons. Additionally, Star Trek lore establishes that Delta Vega is near the edge of the galaxy, and so remote a planet that Starfleet only visits the lithium-cracking station there once every quarter century. So how did Delta Vega move to within eye-shot of Vulcan?

Orci and Kurtzman's "re-boot" (set off by Nero's arrival) didn't change planetary orbits or positions. There's no way Spock could watch Vulcan's destruction from Delta Vega. Again, you suspect that these writers don't really understand the vast distance involved in outer space....that every planet isn't merely a stone's throw from another. The writers could have saved themselves a lot of heartache if they hadn't named this planet Delta Vega, which already has an established nature, geography and location in Star Trek history.

These days, especially with J.J.'s terse advice to "purists" to "stay home" and not see the movie, it's convenient and easy to deride criticism like mine as coming from an anal-retentive fanatic who lives in his parent's basement and catalogues crew member serial numbers.

On the contrary, I'm merely extrapolating from the ground rules the writers have established. Their screenplay makes it explicit that the time scape has changed as a result of Nero's intervention. Unless Nero is moving planets, or has changed the nature of "supernovas," "black holes" and other such objects (like planets...) these changes are inconsistent and impossible. Plainly, they're sloppy, easily-avoided mistakes.

However, my admiration for past Star Trek doesn't preclude me from stating the obvious here: this isn't the first time in history Star Trek has made stupid technical or plot blunders.

In The Wrath of Khan, U.S.S. Reliant visits the wrong planet by accident, and ends up finding the evil Khan. (Oh, you wanted Ceti Alpha 6! Oopsy!) And in Generations, the Nexus threat is every bit as ridiculous and inconsistent as the Red Matter is here. I mean, if Soran wanted to get inside the Nexus Ribbon, why didn't he just steal a thruster suit and fly in all by himself (instead of, say, destroying an ENTIRE planet and killing billions of people)? And Star Trek VI tells us Excelsior is carrying equipment to catalog gaseous anomalies, but in the film's last act, the Enteprise is miraculously carrying the same equipment for the same mission! Convenient!

So see, I really am being objective here. The new Star Trek makes the same dumb errors that the old Star Treks often did. That doesn't make the mistakes excusable in either scenario. All instances represent...sloppy writing. But by the same token, these mistakes certainly don't disqualify the films from being good, either.

Unfortunately, this new Star Trek doesn't inherit a more noble quality of the original: a sense of the universal human condition. In previous Star Treks, the scripts always remembered Earth history and great literature, often drawing parallels between events of the 24th century and our long recorded past as a species. Khan quoted Melville in Wrath of Khan. Chang quoted Shakespeare (in the original Klingon...) in Undiscovered Country. Spock even quoted John Masefield ("All I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by") in the much-maligned Star Trek V: The Final Frontier. These moments in the franchise were not elitist; were not simple affectations for the intelligentsia. They represented an explicit connection to the past that reminded viewers that no matter how far we travel into the final frontier...we take our history and legacy along with us.

By contrast, this new Star Trek pulls all of its vital quotations from Star Trek history (even Spock's Sherlock Holmes quote from The Undiscovered Country...which isn't attributed here), instead of from the wide, majestic history of human literature and myth. As a result, an important Trek idea is all but lost here. The film refers to franchise history and legacy, but nothing outside it, which makes it feel a bit insular.

Also, I must wonder why we couldn't have seen a five minute scene (or hell, a one minute scene...) involving Kirk in a history class at Starfleet Academy, listening to some instructor report about the peaceful, pioneering spirit of Starfleet. Or IDIC (Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combinations) for that matter.

Or even how the troubled Earth outgrew its "infancy" and had matured to join an interstellar community. Something -- even a token mention -- would have sufficed to remind us that Star Trek is about a future of growth and evolution.

Again, some people may state that my complaint is nitpicking, but the essence of Star Trek is optimism, the hope for a better tomorrow, and the belief that we can outgrow our violent infancy to achieve amazing things. This Star Trek has its moments of optimism, to be certain. I enjoyed seeing a man of Middle Eastern descent, Captain Robau (Faran Tahir), command a starship, for instance. But again, I believe that if we'd had one little, tiny moment in which Kirk was in class -- kind of being an arrogant prick while an instructor discussed Starfleet philosophy -- his spontaneous idea to asist Nero and the Narada at the film's climax would have been more dramatically resonant. We would have known, as viewers, that the philosophy of Starfleet had "sunk in." That Kirk had embraced it.

The destruction of the planet Vulcan is another sticking point, honestly. I understand why it was considered necessary from a structural and dramatic standpoint. The destruction of Vulcan dramatically establishes the seriousness of the red matter/Nero threat, and it also "shocks and awes" the audience into realizing that the future in this alternate universe is indeed going to be rather different from the voyages we are already familiar with. Yes, I get it.

But still...six billion Vulcans die in the incident. And make no mistake, Vulcan too has been a symbol of optimism and brotherhood in Star Trek for almost fifty years. The Vulcans on Star Trek are equals to humans (and Earth) in importance, even though they are so very different from us in their nature. Indeed, their differences show us up a bit. As Amanda declares in "Journey to Babel," the Vulcan way is "better" than ours. The Vulcans were the living embodment of pacificism; of diversity; of the creed that we need not be carried away by violence or anger or any other primitive human emotion. Now they are reduced to an asterisk in history.

From a practical standpoint, the destruction of Vulcan and the genocide of the Vulcan race also seemingly closes off as many story avenues as it opens up for future writers. Now there shall be no Kolinahr ritual for Spock (and importantly, no failure of the Kolinahr); there shall be no Mount Seleya and "Fal Tor Pan," and no "Amok Time" return to Vulcan for Spock's Pon Farr. More importantly, every time Bones decides to say "are you out of your Vulcan mind" or quip about "green blooded hobgoblins" in future Treks, isn't he going to feel at least a sliver of shame, given that, in Spock's own words, the Vulcans are now an endangered species? The fact that six billion Vulcans are dead sort of takes the air out of McCoy's insults. Spock can just turn to him and say, "It is unfortunate, doctor, you find genocide a source of comedy." That ought to shut Bones up.

The loss of Vulcan to the Star Trek universe carries grave dramatic repercussions, and I'm not entirely convinced that the shock and awe in this particular story was worth the destruction of so major and rich a source of lore and mythology in Star Trek canon. When you couple the destruction of Vulcan with the writers' stated desire to destroy the Enterprise in this movie as well, you start to wonder about their emotional maturity and stability. You know, guys Khan just wanted to take over the Enterprise in "Space Seed" and he was pretty damn threatening. Janice Lester switched bodies with Kirk, and that was pretty scary in "Turnabout Intruder." One episode, saw the crew face a personal apocalypse when they began to age rapidly ("The Deadly Years.") A little more cleverness would be welcome here; not necessarily more grand gestures like destroying whole planets.

I can't write here, in my capacity as an honest, objective reviewer, that all these flaws -- the inconsistent red matter threat, the technical inaccuracies, the lack of several important Star Trek ingredients -- don't matter. Indeed, they do matter, very much. The most difficult part for me is that all of these problems could have been rectified with just one more polish of the script.

On the other hand, I can also tell you that I sat through five of the most dreadful, brain-dead theatrical trailers I've ever seen in my life, waiting for Star Trek to start (for Year One, GI Joe, Night at the Museum 2, Inglorious Basterds, and Transformers 2, respectively). I'm afraid my IQ dropped several points just being exposed to them. If that's the state of the competition, and of movie making in 2009, then Star Trek even without Shakespeare is still...Shakespeare.

You've no doubt read several other reviews of Star Trek by now, in which new cast members are alternately lauded or derided (some people like Karl Urban, some don't; some people approve of Chris Pine; others not so much, etc.) I thought everybody did a terrific job. This is a talented bunch, and I'm ready to see this fantastic cast engage in a sequel. Down to a person, I found this new crew impressive and charismatic.

Who Was That Pointy Eared Bastard?
Okay, I've shared with you -- at some length, actually -- my reservations about this bold new Star Trek. I haven't pulled my punches, either.

Now, I want to write about the reasons Star Trek is still a good film (perhaps even a great film).

First, I must praise the writers, Orci and Kurtzman, whom I was just cursing out and damning a moment ago. Overall, they have done a fine job of incorporating myriad elements of Star Trek lore both famous and obscure, and blending them all into a strong and cohesive narrative.

Here you will find mentions of figures like Admiral Komack and Admiral Archer. Here you will witness Kirk's mythic third go at the Kobayashi Maru "no win scenario" test, and Spock's much-discussed but never seen confrontation at the Vulcan Science Academy. Amanda spoke of other boys teasing Spock in "Journey to Babel," and again, we finally get to see for ourselves the bullying in live-action here. And It's not just the obvious stuff the script gets right, like Kirk bedding down a green Orion Slave Girl. Instead, I believe the writers did a fine, thorough job of extrapolating from Trek history some interesting and unique twists. I very much liked, for example, their origin for the nickname "Bones."

Another case in point: Uhura. In this film, Spock and Uhura share a romantic relationship, and though some people complained about it, I felt this was easily a relationship that could have blossomed between those characters (and I found it much more believable in nature than the Scotty/Uhura romance of Star Trek V, for instance).

To buttress this belief, I go back to three specific instances in which Spock and Uhura shared something more than mere "official" business in The Original Series. In "The Man Trap," Uhura and Spock bantered about Vulcan and the lack of moons, as well as Uhura's boredom with constantly opening hailing frequencies. In "Charlie X," Uhura teased Spock with a flirtatious song (in which she commented on his devil ears and devil eyes...). And, in some other episode that I can't remember now (D'oh! Is it "Who Mourns for Adonais?"), Spock revealed a special confidence and tenderness towards Uhura in a tense moment, noting that if anybody could accomplish something difficult, she could.

Given such interactions in the Original Series, a romance between Spock and Uhura is not that much of a jump. And, in fact, it's delightful. You see, this is where Orci and Kurtzman are far cleverer than the hacks who wrote the recent Star Trek movies: they don't just blindly rinse and repeat old chestnuts hoping to elicit the same reflexive responses (Spock died in Star Trek II, so Data should die in Star Trek: Nemesis, etc.). On the contrary, it's clear they've pondered Star Trek lore a great deal and considered, in Spock's words, that there are always...possibilities. This film absolutely dwells and revels in those possibilities. What if Spock and Uhura got together? What if Chekov wasn't just a young apprentice to Spock, but a genius in his own right? What if the seeds of Scotty's weight problem began with his hunger on Delta Vega? (Kidding about that last one...).

Also, I believe a very strong case could be made that, overall, Star Trek is really and truly the story of Mr. Spock and his life-time journey towards enlightenment. Spock began life as a derided outsider in two worlds. On the original five year mission, he found a place of acceptance and friendship on the Enterprise, but still longed to prove himself as a Vulcan. After his encounter with V'Ger, Spock came to a point of new understanding, an epiphany that logic was "not enough" and that without emotions, people can be "barren," and "cold." By the time of Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, he had gone far enough to realize that logic was the "beginning of wisdom, not the end."

What I find amazing (and touching...) about the new Star Trek is that Orci and Kurtzman have given us Spock's final chapter at the same time they have provided us his first chapter, thus wackily making their one-of-a-kind film a prequel and a sequel simultaneously. Miraculously, they pull it off too, with Spock confiding in his younger self that in the future he should just do..."what feels right."

Indeed, I can see plainly why Leonard Nimoy returned for Star Trek for this opportunity. Ambassador Spock serves an important role in the story, and his long journey towards "complete personhood" (with nudges from a fella named Jim Kirk...) reaches a logical conclusion and destination. I found it shocking and sad how wavering and weak Nimoy's voice has grown, but I nonetheless felt all his scenes granted the film a real sense of heart. To see Old Spock sending off the Enterprise on its maiden voyage was, well...overwhelming to me. A beautiful, beautiful moment. I also loved the fact that Spock gets to put into words what his friendship with Jim Kirk has meant to his life. I could not imagine a better ending for Leonard Nimoy's Spock than this one. This aspect of the film is superb.

I also rather enjoyed the fact that this Star Trek found time for a few goofy moments, such as Kirk's "inflated" hands (an allergic reaction to a vaccination) and Scotty's watery ride through an engineering tube. Goofy humor has been part and parcel of Star Trek since the very beginning; since episodes like "I Mudd," "A Piece of the Action" and "The Trouble with Tribbles." I liked that this Star Trek felt confident enough to get silly. It's a good signal that the makers of the movie understand just how multi-faceted the franchise can be.

Finally, I loved that the fate of the galaxy and the future -- as usual -- seemed to depend entirely on Kirk getting Spock emotionally riled up at the right (or wrong...) moment. Again, that's very true to the series and its history (think "Thgis Side of Paradise") but not so similar to what came before that it feels hackneyed. I could go on and on about the fun moments I enjoyed here: the pit-bull nature of Kirk (never surrender, never say die), the moment Sulu forgot an important launch procedure, the portentous first view of the gorgeous new Enterprise in space...etc.

Again, I feel strongly that the overall joyful aura of the film outweighs the specific and numerous deficits.

His Pattern Indicates Two-Dimensional Thinking

Last thing: Do you remember how in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, Spock informed Kirk that Khan's battle strategy indicated "two-dimensional thinking?"

Alas, the same could be said of the Star Trek franchise's approach to depicting space battles over the years. How come the Enterprise always encountered Klingon Birds of Prey right-side up? How did various ships know which way they should position themselves to align with other traveling ships? Why did they always come at each other face to face, like lumbering elephants, or jousting knights?

Well, J.J. Abrams gets that problematic trope out of the way in this film's first scene, showing us, for perhaps the first time in Star Trek history, a legitimately three-dimensional playing field, one in which starships approach, retreat and combat one another using the full-scope of the interplanetary arena. This is an arena where Abrams has improved the franchise with his aesthetic approach, and it's fair in my review to note that fact too.

Even better (and compensating for some of the script's scientific errors), Abrams remembers that there is no sound in space and occasionally adopts a perspective outside the hulls of the warring vessels. He lets the sound go silent (save for the roaring, martial soundtrack...) and we achieve a strange sense of distance from the attack; standing back and marveling at the epic quality of the scene. It's amazing and inspiring, actually, and lends credence to the opinion that this is the best visualized Star Trek yet forged.

I absolutely hate the use to which the Romulan drill is put, but that "space jump" scene is another fantastic bit of action filmmaking...better than anything I've seen for some time. Kathryn, who is a little less jaded than I am, told me she jumped out of her seat a few times during that tense sequence alone.

And I guess, at long last, that brings me back to my opening point. Star Trek is in good hands. J.J. Abrams, Orci and Kurtz seem to have recognized the very qualities that Star Trek requires to "live long and prosper" at this juncture in pop culture history. Those qualities are: (in random order): vigor, excitement spontaneity, camaraderie, humor and a sense of fun...all writ large. This movie is not without significant flaws, but all in all, it's quite a proper shakedown.

How do I know? Well, I walked out of Star Trek yesterday -- and for the first time in a very long while -- I felt...young.

Friday, May 15, 2009

CULT MOVIE REVIEW: Logan's Run (1976)

Before George Lucas's Star Wars (1977) changed the face and feel of cinematic science fiction forever, the Saturn Award-winning (and Nebula-nominated) Michael Anderson film, Logan's Run, was likely the standard-bearer for the genre in the malaise days of the 1970s.

In many ways, the bicentennial-released Logan's Run serves as a kind of critical "bridge" production of the turbulent disco-decade: blending the Dystopian qualities of such film predecessors as Soylent Green (1973) and Planet of the Apes (1968), with the elaborate, expensive visual effects of the Space:1999 - Star Wars epoch.

Logan's Run is based on the William F. Nolan and George Clayton Johnson novel of the same name, which was first published in 1967. The novel depicted a bizarre world set post-"Little War," in which the ascendant youth society of the turbulent late 1960s (think student demonstrations and sit-ins) had grown to become the globe's dominant social force. In an attempt to stave off overpopulation, starvation and poverty, a new society of the young was forged in which the mandatory age of death was 21 years of age. It was "never trust anyone over thirty" (or 21 here...) as a governing philosophy.

Citizens of this New World Order had "palm flowers" embedded in their hands which displayed their age and their chronological proximity to "Last Day." On said "Last Day" (their 21st birthday...) they would willingly report for mandatory termination at a local Sleep Shop. Those who didn't choose death would illicitly "run" instead, seeking escape through an underground railroad, in search of a place called "Sanctuary." Policing the populace and destroying these rebellious runners is the bailiwick of a young, fascist military force called "Sandmen."

In the book, a dedicated Sandman named Logan 3 teamed with a female runner named Jessica to locate Sanctuary, but he was secretly a double-agent for the government, tasked with the destruction of Sanctuary. Logan was pursued on his "run" by a Sandman friend named Francis, who also boasted a secret Ballard, an ally of runners and the man who knew where Sanctuary was actually located. In the book, Sanctuary was but a rocket trip away, on Mars...

Many aspects of Nolan and Johnson's brilliant novel were significantly altered for the blockbuster film (which earned back over 50 million dollars on a cost of less than 10 million...).

Michael York's Logan 5 (not Logan 3) was the new hero of the silver screen, and his Sandman comrade, Francis (Richard Jordan), became a dogged enemy and Agent of the State instead of a secret aide to the Runners. Also, the Sleep Shops (actually seen in Soylent Green....) were replaced with the bizarre but impressive public spectacle of Carousel, a festival in which those aged thirty (not twenty-one) would be blown up before the eyes of excited crowds who believed that the doomed were actually being "renewed" (reincarnated...).

The general setting was changed too. In Logan's Run, the movie, a nuclear war rather than a "Little War" precipitated the creation of the City of Domes, meaning that the world outside the City was almost entirely rather than merely futuristic.

Perhaps the most significant change in the movie was that there was no real place of safety and peace for the runners. Instead, Sanctuary was just a myth...

Despite these radical changes from the excellent source material, Logan's Run survives (and thrives...) as a worthwhile, exciting, and intriguing science-fiction artifact in 2009, for quite a few reasons.

Instead of aging the film and rendering it irrelevant, the disco-era visualization and tenor of Logan's Run -- the aura of hedonism and "anything goes" -- continue to ably support the didactic narrative. The glittering, sexy-but-shallow production design -- abundantly rich in neon and mini-skirts -- originally helped to define the City of Domes culture in terms of "Me Generation"-style self-centeredness. However, in the 21st century and the vanity-driven Age of Facebook, that "Me Generation" looks rather quaint by comparison. Therefore in 2009 viewers can still easily and immediately recognize the City of Dome-ers as a surrogate for "us." In fact, we are much closer to the callow youth culture of Logan's Run today than we were in 1976.

Perhaps more trenchantly, after eight long years dealing with a protean authoritarian state -- years replete with Orwellian double-talk like the "Clear Skies Initiatives" and "Operation TIPS (Terrorism Information and Prevention System) -- it is more obvious now how a seemingly benevolent government can actually become totalitarian; working against the very people it is sworn to protect and nourish. Again, given context, Logan's Run seems more in tune with us in the 21st century than it did even in its original bicentennial context.

One for One: Dogma, Double-Speak, Euphemisms and Jargon in The City of Domes

Perhaps the finest aspect of Logan's Run is indeed the film's capacity to build in the viewer's imagination a believable and frightening future dystopia. The City of Domes and its byzantine laws and practices fit the very definition of an authoritarian or totalitarian state. Let's look at what the pieces of that definition are, and how Logan's Run successfully conforms to them.

First, a totalitarian state "creates myths, catechisms, cults, festivities and rituals" designed to "commemorate" the State.

The central myth of the City of Domes, of course, is "Renewal," the State-supported lie that upon death the souls of the fallen (those who attend Carousel) will transmigrate to new, young bodies.

This lie is reinforced by the numbering system employed to "name" individual citizens (Logan 5, Jessica 6, Francis 7, etc.) These numbers (which replace last names in this future society) explicitly indicate the march of generations; that a new baby is actually a "new" version of a person who has already existed, "died" and "renewed." The numbers are also, as The Prisoner's Number Six would no doubt remind us, totally de-humanizing.

The Carousel "festival" -- a state-sponsored celebration of "Last Day" -- is attended by all citizens of the City of Domes, and is essentially the equivalent of, for example, a contemporary NASCAR race, only govt. run. The people down on the track or field (those who are ostensibly to be renewed...) circle around and around, and many of them "wreck" before our eyes, blown apart by a ceiling-mounted laser device that resembles a crystal.

Spectators watch and cheer for Carousel participants to "renew," but what they are really cheering for is the violent, explosive deaths of friends and fellow citizens. The State has thus turned a mandatory death sentence into the very "ritual" or "festival" inherent in the tradition of totalitarianism, one that actually reinforces (or "commemorates" as the definition goes), the Law of the State: mandatory death at 30. Economically, this ritual of Carousel combines the "bread and circuses" aspect of Rome's gladiator games -- satisfying the blood lust of the crowd -- with a "spiritual" or "religious" church function: the honoring of the dead (or dying); the belief in transmigration or reincarnation.

This ritual of Carousel is also supported by a State-created and encouraged catechism -- an education in the faith meant to indoctrinate -- here termed "One for One." In the film, we witness Logan and Francis debate the dogma/doctrine of "One for One." Francis accepts it blindly (by simply repeating it) while Logan questions it...the first sign of his independent streak.

This easy-to-remember phrase means -- in simple terms -- that one person dies/one person renews. It's the seamless, simple transmigration of the soul or spirit from the dead to the living. From Logan 4 to Logan 5. From Francis 5 to Francis 6. It's so simple that there can be no denying it. It's essentially programming through mnemonics and repetition, though; a phrase/teaching/sound-byte repeated so often and so widely that it is accepted blindly for "truth."

The idea of "One for One" (and catechism) is part and parcel of entrenched absolutism (or totalitarianism) because it is representative of a "cliche-ridden language whose formulaic utterances are designed to impede ambivalence, nuance and complexity." People don't die in the City of Domes, they "renew" (as if they are just TV programs, not living human beings.) The light on your palm which signals your death is not a "death clock" but, tellingly, a "life-clock." Sandmen don't kill. No, they never kill, according to Logan. They simply "terminate" Runners. and Runners are like "Terrorists" aren't they? Just a bogeyman...not real flesh and blood people. And additionally, the day of your death isn't called "Death Day or "Execution Day," but known by the pleasant euphemism of Last Day.

This is exactly how Orwell's double-speak, jargon and euphemisms work, and every single one of us should recognize the nature of them with some sense of shame or anger. For we Americans know them as "Stay the course," "As they stand up, we'll stand down," "We're fighting them there so we don't have to fight them here," "Shock and Awe," "Mission Accomplished," "The New Way Forward," etc. These phrases are widely-disseminated simplifications designed to impede questioning; to preserve and nurture an authoritarian regime and its agenda.

A totalitarian state is also one with a "culture of military solidarity" in which "the pursuit and elimination" of Enemies of the State has become a primary purpose. Again, it's easy to see how Logan's Run fits this aspect of the definition of totalitarianism. In general, the Sandmen lord it over the non-military personnel of the City of Domes, as Francis specifically does when an innocent civilian bumps into him at Arcade. If looks could kill.... And, according to City of Domes-style catechism, the Sandmen (the military of this State) are elevated above other citizens in matters of transmigration too. "Sandmen always Renew," the catechism goes.

The enemies of the state are termed "Runners," but they are those, simply, who question the status quo and consequently opt out of Carousel, attempting to live longer than their allotted thirty years. The Sandmen are in place to destroy the Runners and prevent all knowledge of "Sanctuary" from the distracted populace. Runners can't be imprisoned (that would imbalance the population control system); they have to be "terminated" on sight. And again, the State employs euphemisms like terminate (instead of "kill") to make the act palatable. When a runner dies, the corpse is melted down by strange hovering, futuristic machines, but this gory act is euphemistically termed "cleaning up." As in "clean-up in Arcade" or as we know it from our super markets "clean up in Aisle 6." It's just a mess, after all...not a human body. If we were to see the destroyed human body and count it as such (as we were forbidden from seeing our dead return home from Iraq...) we might begin to question the government's simplifications and slogans, not to mention the status quo.

Logan's Run succeeds as a film in no small part because of the carefully designed and constructed totalitarian state that our protagonists, Logan and Jessica flee. This world -- run by unfeeling computer -- is so inhuman, so callous, that it does not even permit mothers and fathers to raise children. No, families create a sense of loyalty outside of loyalty to government, and that cannot be tolerated in a totalitarian state. A good villain goes a long way towards making an effective movie, and in Logan's Run we have a great one; a 23rd century Big Brother ordering mandatory executions and destroying humanity's spirit.

Note too, that like many real life dictatorships, the City of Domes is carefully erected on lies and deceit. Inherent in the system of the City is the belief that one does not need to work or produce (the people are occupied entirely with leisure). This lie (one even beyond the lie of Carousel/Renewal...) is laid bare when Logan visits the outer workings of the city and finds that a mad robot called "Box" has frozen the 1,056 unaccounted for runners to be used for the city goers. He ran out of plankton and animals some time ago, and now has resorted to capturing and storing unlucky humans in stasis. So the City of Domes is actually feeding on itself to survive. The self-sufficient system (which demands death at 30) is not so self-sufficient after all.

Never Trust Anyone Over Thirty: Life in A 23rd Century Shopping Mall

If the City of Domes is a cage for its people, it's rather definitively a gilded cage. The people who dwell there, according to the film's opening card "live only for pleasure." And that's another core aspect of the Totalitarian/Absolute State: distraction. The government wants your mind on "other things," not the government, not the way things are.

Again, we can detect this aspect of life creeping into modern America. Remember what we were told to do as patriotic Americans after 9/11? Were we called to greatness? To military service? To higher taxes (so as to pay for our soldiers' body armor or health care)? To energy conservation so as to deny our terrorist enemies in the Middle East funding?

Nah, we were to told to...go shopping.

The people of the City of Domes have been told to go shopping too: in perpetuity. Their beautiful City is actually a colossal shopping mall, and the film was, in fact, shot in a shopping mall in Texas. This Arcade offers every manner of distraction and entertainment imaginable. So if you're feeling vain, why not head over to the New You Shop, where you can get a quickie face lift (or tummy tuck) and come out looking absolutely fabulous? If you hurry, you can make your work-out at the gym this afternoon too (as Logan and Francis do during one critical scene...).

If you seek companionship, head over to another part of the mall: the Love Shop -- the 23rd Century equivalent of Studio 54. There you can take legal (and safe!) mood-altering drugs called "lifts" (think Prozac or Xanax). Then, you can have casual sex with gorgeous strangers (all under 30!).

If you want to stay in your deluxe Sandman apartment tonight instead (conveniently located right off the mall's promenade...), Logan's Run even offers the 23rd century corollary to our Internet Porn: the so called computer "circuit" which materializes sexual partners (male or female), right at your doorstep.

What does all this mean? Well, clearly the City of Domes is consumed with youth, beauty, sex, and hedonism. Again, a pointed reflection of our culture in the 1970s, and even more so today. Who cares if the world is burning. We want our MTV!

So we can be at war with two foreign countries, our economy economy can be in tatters...but did Jennifer Aniston get a face lift? Did Miss California get a breast enhancement? Meanwhile, our movie and TV icons grow younger and younger too, whether it's Superman (Smallville), Captain Kirk (Star Trek), the Doctor (Doctor Who), Or Darth Vader (Star Wars).

In fact, the City of Domes may actually be the old WB Network gone wild: Katie Holmes, Joshua Jackson, James Van Der Beek and Michele Williams can have anything they want...except they can't be renewed after their thirtieth birthdays...

While the City of Domes government kills its citizens, forbids families, and squashes the truth, it asks its people to have a good time. Live for the now. Live for today. Just have fun. Fuck everybody else (literally). Again, go shopping, dude! Take a Xanax. man!

What I find affecting about all this is that in many cases totalitarianism arises out of what appear to be good intentions. And make no mistake, Logan's Run is about a leftist power grab (and I've used examples of a right wing power grab here).

In both cases, however, good intentions have had disastrous results. In real life, we've fought two wars we can't afford, broken the Geneva Conventions and seen a lapse in Civil Liberties...but the original cause was surely just: protecting the country from harm. In the world of Logan's Run, overpopulation was the motivating problem, but de-humanization was the outcome. In both cases, ideological over-reach led to disaster (either a world at War and the Great Recession or a New World Order.) This may be Logan's Run's most important lesson.

Logan's Run's solution to the dystopia may be naive, however, especially today. The film espouses, among other things a renewal of the natural order: a return to the re-born outside world, and a prscribed departure from computers, climate-controlled, shopping-malls and 24-hour-a-day leisure. I don't think that's a genie you can put back in the bottle (which is one reason I found the last episode of Battlestar Galactica so utterly intellectually dishonest: no one who has enjoyed running water and air-conditioning is going to willingly turn his back on all technology). Although Logan literally sees the "light of day" when he leaves the City of Domes (his first vision of the natural world is an apricot-colored sun rise...), it is not until he encounters The Old Man (Peter Ustinov) that the pieces of a re-born future start to come together. In the end, I think the message of Logan's Run is that with age might come wisdom, but - heck! - "older" leaders were the ones the original youngsters of the City of Domes inherited the mess-up Earth from in the first place.

One thing is for certain: Logan's Run favors humanity over machines. When faced with the reality that Sanctuary is but a fairy tale...a dream, Logan and the humans go on to (hopefully) construct a better society, a new "Sanctuary" where death is not mandatory at 30. By contrast, the Computer that runs the City of Domes is not able to conceive of such a silly ideal -- a fantasy utopia and paradise -- and it goes haywire in response; short-circuited Once again, we see imagination as a critical human quality; but it is a heritage that Logan's people have flargely neglected for hedonism. It takes the odyssey outside by Logan and the return visit to the City by the Old Man to rekindle it.

Those who watch Logan's Run and deride it as cheesy or outdated have missed the point. Perhaps they have not gazed deeply enough at the world it so confidently creates. The film -- for all its silliness and outdated special effects -- reveals what might happen to a society that finally turns irrevocably inward; becoming obsessed with youth and beauty at the expense of wisdom.

If we let that future become reality, then Washington D.C. and all those beautiful national landmarks there will end up but monuments to irrelevancy; artifacts of an age when liberty and intellect actually meant something. Indeed, that's what they have become in Logan's Run: meaningless, empty ruins from another epoch.

So in the final analysis, Logan's Run is a good cautionary science fiction film, one that reminds us to hold Big Brother accountable. And to -- at least every now and then -- peer out of our happy little gilded cages and ask, precisely, what the hell is going on in our names. Totalitarian States believe you are either with them (and Carousel) or against them (Runners), but Logan and Jessica find that a rich life exists beyond dogma, sound-bytes and jargon. After their visit to the ruins of Washington D.C., they find that, at the very least, life has...nuances. And that -- with human experience and age -- again, should follow...wisdom.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

CULT TV-MOVIE REVIEW: Goliath Awaits (1981)

From "Operation Prime Time" ("for better programming...") came this 1981 made-for-television, prime time extravaganza starring Christopher Lee, Robert Forster, Mark Harmon, Emma Samms and Frank Gorshin (in the performance of his career).

If you were around in the 1980s and paying attention to pop culture currents, you likely will recall this Kevin (Motel Hell) Connor-directed genre TV venture; one which was advertised with the haunting image of a winsome woman (Samms) gazing out of a porthole on a ruined old ship; staring out at the murky depths beyond.

That evocative, Gothic image alone probably generated some great ratings for this impressive four hour mini-series (shown over two nights, as I recall.)

Goliath Awaits opens in 1939 as Edward R. Murrow reports that England has just declared war on Hitler and Nazi Germany. Unfortunately, the British sea liner Goliath is already at sea and imperiled by a pack of German U-Boats. Soon, the magnificent vessel is sunk with all 1800 hands aboard, and lost to the tides of time. Her exact fate (and location) becomes a nautical mystery.

In 1981, however, an exploratory ship captained by Peter Cabot (Harmon) discovers that Goliath is -- miraculously -- intact (and positioned upright) some 1000 feet beneath the surface of the sea. As a deadly hurricane approaches, Cabot dives to investigate. He hears an S.O.S. emanating from the rusting hull of the "most famous ship of all time" and more incredibly, peers into a porthole and sees that beautiful porcelain face staring back at him.

Cabot quickly goes to the U.S. Navy for help solving this mystery. Admiral Sloane (Eddie Albert) is intrigued by the discovery and orders Commander Jeff Selkirk (Forster) to lead a rescue team to Goliath. Sloan boasts a secret too. Aboard Goliath (and in the care of a U.S. Senator named Bartholomew...) is a diplomatic pouch with an eyes-only message for President Roosevelt. The contents of that communique could conceivably tear down the NATO alliance. Now there are two jobs for Selkirk: rescue Goliath's survivors and also acquire (and destroy) the communique, which is believed to be a Nazi forgery.

The British vessel Enterprise 4, from British Oceanics, leads the rescue attempt. After receiving a message from Goliath in Morse Code (which warns the air is "toxic" and to "beware of McKenzie"), Enterprise's submarine docks with Goliath far below the surface, and a Navy team enters the ship through a torpedo breach. There, Peter, Jeff and Dr. Sam Marlowe (Alex Cord) learn that 337 souls now live aboard Goliath thanks to an air-bubble that has existed aboard the sunken ship once "equalization" occurred with the sea outside the hull.

In charge of this isolated society on Goliath is Mr. McKenzie (Lee), a former third-engineer and a man of extraordinary resources and intelligence. When the ship was struck by the torpedo all those years ago, McKenzie thought fast and managed to convert the ship's engines into air processors. Even more than that "miracle," he created an entire Utopian society, one featuring hydroponic gardens, fish hatcheries, and other wonders. Accordingly, the people of Goliath virtually worship the man.

Alas, there are also rebels aboard Goliath, deformed "Bow People" (suffering from the bends) who -- according to McKenzie -- just don't "fit in." They are lead by a man named Ryker (Duncan Regeher), a man who rejects McKenzie's brand of authoritarian leadership.

McKenzie's major domo is a petty Irish criminal, Wesker (Gorshin), who performs the difficult (and morally questionable...) tasks required to make a society like Goliath's thrive. This means that Wesker commands a virtual gestapo security force, and administers lethal injections to the physically or mentally infirm...those who can't work, but would use up precious resources.

Even as Peter finds himself growing attracted to McKenzie's fetching daughter, Lea (Samms), he starts to see the downside of Goliath's society and a the world where an "old man made himself king." Soon, he becomes convinced (thanks to Ryker) that McKenzie and Wesker will never permit the rescue, because they will be losing their hold on power. Commendably, McKenzie puts the decision up to a democratic vote, but lies to his people about the feasibility of continued survival aboard ship. In truth, the vessel is running out of fuel, and the environment will soon turn bitter cold and inhospitable.

What you get, then, in Goliath Awaits is a thoughtful meditation on the idea you find in some Space:1999 episodes of the 1970s: that (to quote the episode "Dorzak"), it is the battle for survival that makes monsters of us all. McKenzie is a fascinating character: a man who achieved technological miracles to save his people. He created a workable society from the ground up, one that -- amazingly -- flourished for forty years. Yet, at some point, he got used to the power, to "playing God," and his miraculous victory on Goliath became an oppressive terror to some of those whom he ruled.

You may recognize some elements of Goliath Awaits' plot from the famous fourth season Twilight Zone episode "On Thursday We Leave For Home," a story in which another charismatic, brilliant leader (James Whitmore) of an isolated community (on an inhospitable planet) came to resist a rescue mission because he simply couldn't give up his authority; can't give up the idea that he is "needed."

Goliath Awaits is sort of "On Thursday We Leave For Home" meets The Poseidon Adventure. Despite the fantastic nature of the scenario (300 people survive in an air bubble over the generations...), Goliath Awaits is contemplative, deliberate and smart. It doesn't skimp over the difficult aspects of a rescue mission at the bottom of the sea. In fact, it even paints a relatively full (and realistic) presentation of the world's reaction to the rescue, from White House Press conferences to TV news bulletins, to the diverse reaction of Goliath's citizenry. Since I've always been fascinated by stories about strange disappearances and mysteries at sea, I very much enjoyed the film and the fictional world it created.

Kevin Connor (who also directed Land that Time Forgot and some episodes of Space:1999), executes s a few brilliant compositions on what was obviously a relatively limited budget too. For instance, there's a P.O.V. shot where the camera adopts the position of a speeding torpedo, and we essentially "ride" it (underwater) as it strikes the Goliath's hull. Amazingly, the already-impressive shot doesn't end with the expected collision. Instead, there's a sort of optical cut and we actually enter the ship's interior with the torpedo, and see crew standing by unwittingly as it explodes. It's a fancy shot for the pre-CGI age, delightfully conceived.

Another good composition also involves subjective P.O.V. A Navy rescue diver enters the Goliath, and emerges from the water, only to see Wesker standing before him, aiming a pistol at him. Before we can entirely register what's happening, the gun is fired, and we see the diving helmet's glass visor (over our eyes, essentially) shattered. Then blood hits it the visor in a spray.

Goliath Awaits also reminds me of Space:1999's "Mission of the Darians" or even The Starlost, genre entertainments in which a giant vessel is compromised, and mankind is forced to "evolve" or "adapt" based on limited resources. Here, the people of Goliath dwell not merely in an air bubble, but in the equivalent of a time bubble. They existin a world where Hitler was not defeated, and where the ship's band is always playing "Happy Days are Here Again." John Carradine plays a movie star of the silent age, the only celebrity in residence on the ship, and another beacon of a long-gone age.

The idea that "absolute power corrupts absolutely" is a cliche, I guess, but Goliath Awaits makes an interesting genre tale out of the truism. Lee gives a restrained but highly effective performance as McKenzie, a dignified man who unknowingly went from being a a devil. And I also admired the sub-plot involving Jane Marsh's character. She plays Goliath's Dr. Goldman -- a Jew -- a character who is asked to permit Nazi-like tactics by Wesker so that the strong survive, and the weak perish.

I distinctly remember watching Goliath Awaits in 1981 (when I was 12 years old), and at the time I loved it. Today it seems a bit over-long and drawn-out, but the miniseries remains an interesting meditation on the use and mis-use of power. The claustrophobic feeling of encroaching doom is strong, and the climactic sense of catharsis -- as Lea rises to the surface and sees the sun for the first time in her life -- is still moderately affecting.

I see that some ambitious film studio is remaking the classic Don't Be Afraid of the Dark, a TV movie of the 1970s. If that endeavor proves successful, and TV-movies become the new "re-imagined" efforts of the industry in the decade ahead, it's not at all difficult to imagine an updated, big-budget movie version of Goliath Awaits. The magnificent Frank Gorshin is gone, alas, but Christopher Lee would still be a great choice to play McKenzie. He brings a regal, noble quality to the role, making the man more than just your average villain. You can't help but admire McKenzie, despite his turn to the dark side. He accomplished so much, but somewhere, in the long, difficult years, the tide turned...and he lost sight of morality. For a country now undergoing an examination of "torture" and terrible (illegal), immoral things done in all our names, this is a timely character study..

Monday, May 11, 2009

Think or Eaten: Millennium Interview Parts 3 and 4

Part III and Part IV of my detailed interview with Think or Be Eaten host (and great guy...) Vyzygoth on the subject of Millennium (1996-1999) are now posted online.

Part III, we look at the third and final season of the Chris Carter series. And in Part IV, we cover more generalized thematic ground; material not related directly to seasons or specific episodes. Have a listen! It's good stuff!

Dammit, Jim!

So, I've been inundated with e-mails this weekend asking about my opinion of the new Star Trek.

Some readers have interpreted my silence as dislike for the effort, and a "let's not do the movie any harm" attitude.

In truth, the answer is much simpler than that!

We had no babysitter available this weekend, and well, Star Trek isn't exactly age-appropriate for my two-and-a-half year old!

My sweet wife, Kathryn, told me I should feel free to go see the movie by myself if I needed to, but if Star Trek has taught me anything, it's loyalty. I wasn't about to go see Star Trek without Kathryn, especially on Mother's Day Weekend. In this case, the needs of the family outweighed the needs of the Trekkie.

So, yes, I am now officially the last person in the United States to see Star Trek.

I'll be going to see the movie this coming Friday, and then publishing my review here on Saturday. I guess patience is a virtue. I just hope, in this case, that "having" turns out to be as great a thing as "wanting."