Friday, July 06, 2007

Captain's Log: New Movie(s), Dr. Who and Saving the Earth Now

"The" Movie: Things seem to be moving at least at impulse if not yet warp speed on Star Trek XI, with major announcements due soon, especially casting. Its writers, Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci, have been giving lots of interviews in advance of another movie they wrote called Transformers. Reviews of that movie and their writing were mixed (though even one review that questioned the script said that they tend to work well with J.J. Abrams, the new Trek's director), but it still opened big--very big--bigger in fact than any movie had before.

Based on their track record, I hadn't been real hopeful that Kurtzman and Orci would come up with a good Trek quality film, but additional background from the New York Times story as well as a lot of what they said in various interviews gave me some hope. I like that they started out in love with Jean-Luc (both Godard and Picard), and at least respected the kind of filmmaking accomplished by the French New Wave. They both seem to know their Trek and have a nice balance of Original Series and TNG preferences. They went out of their way to express respect for the Star Trek associated with Gene R, and promised a movie that will work for fans and for those new to the concept.

But of course I still worry. One of them mentioned the formula of heroes versus a villain, as in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, which is what the last outsider to write Trek--John Logan--tried to do with Nemesis. In fact, the only time a Star Trek film excelled with a single bad guy was Khan. The Borg in First Contact were a special case, but without personality, and as the story developed, Picard realized that the really dangerous villain was inside him: the compulsion for revenge. The quintessential Star Trek film--The Voyage Home--had no villain but human stupidity. While they correctly insist a Trek story must have emotional power, that's also not the same as simply visceral--that is, the push-button fight-or-flight responses evoked by battles, etc. in most action movies. Star Trek has never been about explosions and especially us versus them. They've been a component, judiciously and appropriately used in the best Trek.

They also mentioned that in order to be Star Trek this movie has to touch upon topical issues, which is true--but that's another source of worry with people I don't know. Are we going to get more of dealing with terrorism with torture that infected some of the post-9/11 Trek novels? Nothing so antithetical to GR's Star Trek would prompt me to run away faster from this film... I hope I'm worrying for nothing.

There was also a flurry over whether William Shatner might still be in the movie. He said he didn't know anything about the film, there was a rumor Leonard Nimoy had accepted a role but he hadn't been offered one (very unlikely in my opinion--Nimoy has a record of loyalty not only to Shatner but to the rest of the original cast), and most recently, that the producers really want Shatner. Perhaps this will be among the casting news likely to be made around July 26.

Among the Other Movies news was the wrap of a New Voyages production which will feature George Takei, and the announcement of another, written by David Gerrold and featuring Denise Crosby. But the most fascinating news to me was the announced non-Trek science fiction film, InAlienable, executive produced and written by Walter Koenig, starring Koenig, Marina Sirtis, Gary Graham, Alan Ruck (all of Trek) and Richard Hatch (of the old Galactica), with Sky Conway as one of the producers. What's interesting to me is that, except for Hatch, all of these principals were present at the 40th anniversary Star Trek Celebration I attended in Seattle, and I get the feeling that it was pretty much put together right there in the Blue Room of the Science Fiction Museum. It was Sky Conway's convention--he's produced Of Gods and Men, which features a number of Trek stars, but not Marina. After we all saw a very impressive excerpt of the work-in-progress, Marina Sirtis asked lightly from the stage, "Why didn't they call us [she and Jonathan Frakes, on stage with her) for that?" She later asked Conway that question in more direct terms. Now she's in this film, which is very good news. Here's the film's site.

Aside: I love my closest video store. When I went in the other day, the two twentysomething clerks behind the counter were discussing the Khitomer Accords.

Talk about time travel: I'm watching the second season of the new Doctor Who on DVD, while the third season begins tonight in the U.S. on the Sci Fi Channel, just as the fourth season starts shooting in England. Plus, the first show tonight is the "Christmas" episode which features the actress who has just been announced as the Doctor's new fourth season companion, so not only will I soon be getting my first look at the new 3rd season companion in the "Smith and Jones" episode also being cablecast tonight, but also of the next season's episodes which haven't been filmed yet.

Actually, the episodes are on right now as I write this--I'm recording them so I can watch them unimpeded. But the truth is I love the DVDs best. Not only do I get the full episode, with the best picture and sound, but there are more commentaries this year, so I wind up watching each ep at least twice and more like 3 or 4 times, just on DVD. Doctor Who is the only new sci fi series I really watch. I'm intrigued by the serials--"Heroes" for example, and "Lost," but the characters and incidents don't interest me enough to put that kind of time into it, especially with the deadly commercial breaks. I'd love to have a condensed sense of the story, though. Like with Galactica--they made an hour summary of the first season that was plenty for me. An hour per season would work well as far as I'm concerned. Dr. Who, though it has some weaker episodes, is always worth watching for something--the combination of well-written scripts, clever stories, great production values, acting and personality, usually with some meaning and some interesting and cumulative additions (or alterations) to the Doctor's character, as well as tantalizing threads running through the season ("Bad Wolf" through the first, and Torchwood through the second.)

I suppose I'll also record Eureka when it starts up again, if only because I live six miles from the actual Eureka, CA., which doesn't even look like the town on the TV series. Still, what if I'm one of the secret geniuses at work here?

Saving the Earth: Saturday--7/7/07-- is Live Earth day: 24 hours of music from 7 continents to rally support for confronting the Climate Crisis. It's being streamed on MSN, and in the US parts of it--from a couple of hours to 22--will be shown on NBC, CNBC, Bravo and the Sundance Channel. There's more info on it all here. This is a perfect Star Trek issue: based on science that Mr. Spock and Data would find convincing, it evokes the Kirk in all of us to act--to enact hope for the future in our own lives as well as creating the critical mass of political support for action by governments, big businesses and other relevant organizations. Let's save the only planet we've got, and its future, including the future of the human adventure.


Darrell P said...

This is a great blog...I was lucky to come across it. Your back and forth thoughts on the new trek writers was spot on. I was sorta hopeful until I actually saw Transformers. The story was empty, and inferior to the 80s cartoon premier. Your observations sound very similar to all the chatter going on around John Logan when ST X was in production. I am still hoping it turns out for the best through.

I also wanted to say prepare for a roller coaster watching Series III of Doctor Who. Its simply amazing, that show gets better and better!

Captain Future said...

That's good news about Doctor Who, because the Christmas show and "Smith & Jones" were good but not that different. I do like that the Doctor still has emotional ties to Rose--I suspect we'll see her again someday.

Glad you found the blog, thanks for the praise, and spread the word!

Darrell P said...

I wish you already saw the season so we could discuss it. I won't give anything away but you are moving in the right direction with your predictions.

And there is no reason to worry...even when Russell writes an OK episode, some of it ends up being golden.