No Concessions: Bob and Lance Boldly Go Into “Star Trek”

Written by Film, Film Reviews, No Concessions

Bob Cashill and Lance Berry are together at the film desk for this week’s No Concessions, discussing the new Star Trek. Join in!

Just as Kirk meets Spock under trying circumstances in the new Star Trek movie, so, too, did I meet my Popdose colleague, Lance Berry. “This is Lance. He’ll be joining you for film coverage,” said the boss.

Well, OK, fine. Far be it from me, the film editor, to question a Prime Directive from HQ. But who the heck was Lance Berry?

This was Lance Berry. True, he rubbed me the wrong way on the whole Daniel-Craig-as-007 thing. (Give it up, Lance. Craig rules.) But I immediately sensed a kindred spirit, one who could go to town on pop culture phenoms (or non-events) like Watchmen and Wolverine while I covered films so niche or obscure the directors’ mothers don’t know they made them. I of course exaggerate: We’re cross-trained in movies across the cinematic spectrum. (And I’m not forgetting our comrade Arend Anton, who works his own turf, or the other Popdosers who hang out in our expanding celluloid sandbox.)

Star Trek was a natural for Lance, who pegged it as a movie to look out for in his summer preview. I liked the look of it, too, based on very promising trailers (which grabbed me in a way trailers usually don’t) and thought I might say a few words about it. Leaping out of the Popdose space/time continuum, Lance posted a thorough review on his own site, but I snatched him back for a little Q&A, a modest start which we hope will spill over into the comments section, as everyone in the known galaxy saw it last weekend. (I expect to hear from Lance, anyway—I saw his A’s, but he hasn’t seen mine. That’s the editor’s prerogative. But he Q’ed me too, so we’re even.)

If it goes well, we’ll be back for a smackdown on Ghosts of Girlfriends Past, which Lance has seen four times. (Kidding! It was me who’s seen it multiple times. Matthew McConaughey repenting, and growing, and learning to open his heart and share tugs at me powerfully in every film he makes.)

Digression over. Stardate 51509. Captain’s log (I’ll stop with the corny references now, I promise).

BC: I’m old enough to recall watching original Star Trek episodes when they were aired, or right as they were going into syndication in the early 70s. It was really more my dad’s thing: He can probably still quote from it chapter-and-verse. But it left an impact, and got me thinking more seriously about science fiction. What impact did it have on you?

LB: I was born the year ST first aired, and remember watching it as a kid in syndication. I’m definitely more an original series guy, since the stories in the OS have more emotional resonance and hold up better for me than the ones on Next Gen. Star Trek was one of the primary inspirations for me when I started writing my own science fiction series, The Reign (http://www.thereignstory.com/).

As someone who’s been a fan of the OS, which of the subsequent ST shows—Next Gen, Deep Space 9, Voyager and Enterprise—do you feel carried the torch passed on by Kirk and Spock the best? Which one do you think failed most in presenting its stories, and why?

BC: I trust our readers to carry the ball on this one. I really only know Next Gen, and I missed a few seasons of that when I was living out of the country. Star Trek was more of a big screen touchstone for me. I saw the first, much fussed-over-at-the-time Star Trek movie in 1979, and all of them since. What are your favorites?

LB: In order, my favorite OS films would be Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982), IV (The Voyage Home, 1986), VI (The Undiscovered Country, 1991) and The Motion Picture. I’ve recently rewatched TMP a couple of times, and while it does have its flaws, I feel this is a very underrated film, as in many ways it properly highlights the friendship between Kirk, Spock and McCoy, and how they interact together. It’s also a very good drama, as far as dealing with the Kirk-Decker dynamic and how the young buck feels betrayed when the elder stallion returns for one last shot at glory by taking the Enterprise away from him.

BC: The Motion Picture was the first time that I can recall that a TV series had been translated to the movies in such a big way, and it was a massive undertaking.

LB: When you first saw TMP back in ’79, were you disappointed in its storyline, and wary when the sequel Wrath of Khan was announced?

BC: It disappointed at the time: Too slow and ponderous. I had more fun with that same Christmas’ The Black Hole, which embarrasses me today, but hey I was 14. The recut version that’s on DVD held my interest more. The director, Robert Wise, made an admirably stately film, just somewhat arid.

Wrath of Khan had the advantage of Nicholas Meyer at the Conn. I’d been a fan of his since his Sherlock Holmes “reboot” books in the 70s, and his Trek screenplays, and direction of II and VI, pumped a lot of blood into the series. Overall, though, I’d pick IV as my very favorite; it’s tremendously witty, expands upon the time travel element of Meyer’s marvelous Time After Time (1979), and has a lump-in-your-throat environmental message. Save the Whales never had a better friend in the media.

(I know we’re talking old school here, but I should mention that Alice Krige gave me nightmares as the Borg Queen in First Contact. And I don’t scare easily.)

How apprehensive were you about this “reboot”? What did it get right?

LB: I have been, and ever shall be, an Original Series fan! While I enjoyed the new film more than I thought I would, I have to say that as an Old Schooler, the trailers made me think Abrams and company were going to screw the pooch in every way possible.

BC: That’s interesting. I could have lived life without another Star Trek movie, but the trailers are what hooked me. The reveal of Starfleet Academy was awesome. After the cost overruns on The Motion Picture, Paramount kept a close eye on the budgets of the movies, and the weaker ones seemed kind of threadbare. Clearly the wallets were opened on this one.

LB: What the film got right: Definitely the Kirk-McCoy relationship. I enjoyed watching them become friends.

BC: Yes, and I’m happy to see Karl Urban, who’s had to tread water in lesser pictures, get a breakout role as McCoy. It makes sense that he’s the most “finished” of the group, in terms of personality. He’s older and has the grumpy been-there-done-that personality down pat. Also well cast is the perpetually underrated Bruce Greenwood as Pike. He speaks with the voice of experience.

LB: I was hoping that after Vulcan was destroyed and Amanda killed, that Sarek would admit his love for her, and the scene in the transporter room between him and Spock could not have been more perfect. The story-to-action ratio was also fairly balanced, so I didn’t feel like I was losing brain cells watching this, as I did when viewing the first Transformers movie.

BC: My IQ dropped watching the trailer of the Transformers sequel. But that is a lovely scene between father and son. I’m not sure why Winona Ryder was hired to wear middle-age makeup when a middle-aged actress might have been up to the task, though.

LB: Did the various plot holes and pseudo-pseudo-science detract from the story for you, or were you able to get past it and enjoy the film overall as a cinematic experience?

BC: That doesn’t usually bother me. The movie gets all bent out of shape with time travel, and maybe leans too much on old Spock to sort everything out, but I rolled with it.

What did Star Trek get wrong, and how would you chart a course for the inevitable sequel?

LB: As much as I enjoyed this film (saw it twice), there are so many flaws to get into, it would take too long to list them. A couple of major problems for me: the lack of understanding Abrams and his writers have of basic science and physics. It would be IMPOSSIBLE for Spock to stand on the surface of the ice planet and watch the destruction of Vulcan as it happens. As far as Nero’s motivations for wanting to make Spock suffer through this and destroy other Federation worlds, his reasoning is absolutely HOLLOW, as Spock was trying to help Romulus survive the super-nova. Spock didn’t mean to fail, the nova occurred sooner than anyone expected. Nero’s basically blaming Spock for an act of God.

BC: True enough. But it’s hard to think logically through all that scowling.

LB: As for the sequel…it’s already been stated by the writers that any main character could die now in this alternate universe, so more than likely one of the “lesser” main characters will be killed off just to prove this point. There have been hints of including Khan in upcoming sequels, as well. I would stay away from BOTH of these ideas! There’s no way Abrams and co. will ever be able to recreate the emotional resonance of Spock’s death with any other character, and the original Wrath of Khan was virtually PERFECT, so leave that one alone as well.

Do you think Star Trek–the films, including this one–are still taking us boldly where no one has gone before, or are there more original ideas that could be utilized in place of the Klingons appearing in every other flick?

BC: Paramount has a stake in the Transformers movies, so they could meet Optimus Prime…seriously, though, I think Abrams is charting a good course, so long as he stays away from things like a Khan redo. And I’m not sure how far I’d pursue a Kirk-Spock-Uhura triangle…but the notion’s intriguing. The final frontier is up for grabs again.

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