Thursday, January 22, 2004

Martia provides them a plan for their escape, and their trek across the frozen wastes provided a brief scenic interlude, accompanied by the sweeping orchestral score. Cliff Eidelman’s music, beginning with its mood-setting portentous opening, styled after Holst’s “The Planets” and Stravinsky’s “Firebird” as suggested by Nick Meyer, was unusual for a Trek movie, but was elegant in its parts, its whole, and especially in how it matched up with the action. This scene was a conspicuous high point, as were the beginning, and as the ending would soon be.

Spock has concluded that a cloaked Klingon Bird of Prey had fired on Gorkon’s ship from beneath the Enterprise (which meant a new technology, for the series established that Klingon ships could not fire while cloaked), and because the Enterprise logs were altered to show it had fired the torpedoes, he deduced that there were conspirators aboard his ship as well.

Meanwhiel, Martia is revealed (through morphing) to be a shape-shifter--with the attendant amusement that Kirk had kissed her when she had “assumed a pleasing shape”---borrowing Biblical words about Satan. When Kirk realizes she was setting them up to be killed as escaping prisoners, she shifted into his double. It wasn’t the first time that Kirk squared off against Kirk, but this time it was played with high spirits, a kind of giddy tribute to the good feeling engendered by the original cast’s episodes and movies, that they would all be saying goodbye to shortly.

Spock rescues Kirk and McCoy just as they are about to learn who ordered them killed (also played for comedy) but Kirk has an idea who might be a conspirator aboard the Enterprise. He recalls that his personal log railing against the Klingons used against him at his trial was witnessed by Valeris. Suddenly both her flattery and her attempt to talk to Spock about her anxieties fit the pattern. They lay a trap for her, and when their suspicions are confirmed in a scene in sick bay, Spock acts with obvious anger. As she points a phaser at him, he tells her bitterly that if she’s logical she must kill him. She says she does not want to. “What you want is irrelevant,” he says. “What you have chosen is at hand.” He smacks the phaser from her hand.

Valeris explains why her course had been logical. Klingons can’t be trusted---their assassination of their own leader proved it---and the Federation risked destruction. She took Kirk’s expression of prejudice literally, not discounting for the emotional effects of grief and even weariness. Spock had counseled her to have faith in the future, but she couldn’t make that leap beyond her logic.

After Valeris refuses to name the conspirators voluntarily (She says she doesn’t remember. In a variation on byplay between them throughout the movie, Spock asks, “A lie? “A choice,” she replies), an even darker side of Spock is revealed in his forcible mind meld with Valeris, a kind of rape and a kind of torture, that elicits the names of the conspirators.

This is saved from being too much like the torture of prisoners currently a source of anguish and controversy, since it is a brief, unique method certain to extract the relevant information, and not the clumsy, prolonged, cruel and counterproductive torture that is all too common in the world today. Not only does it almost never result in useful information, but those who practice it know this. It is done out of fear, anger, malice and utter disregard for the humanity of prisoners, always regarded as aliens, as others, as less than human yet predominately dangerous.

Still, it is the darkest scene in a Star Trek movie. That it was a difficult scene for everyone is suggested by James Doohan’s account in his book. He writes that Meyer had no plan for it, and it was his suggestion for staging it with Valeris on the lower level of the bridge and everyone else above her, until Spock descends to her level for the mind meld.

Kirk learns the location of the peace conference, not from Valeris, but from Captain Sulu on the Excelsior. They agree to meet there, as Kirk suspects the Bird of Prey will be watching for the Enterprise.

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