Who’s the best captain?

It’s been some time I’m trying to find the perfect timing for a Star Trek post and it seems the celebration of 45 years since the first episode makes it a perfect time for it.

Before I go, I think it’s better to tell you what are my expectations in the Star Trek universe. When Gene Ronddenberry created Star Trek, his plan was to make a series showing that, in the future, humanity would always solve things going the higher ground. The captain of the most important human ship, thus, most embody those qualities.

So, in order from worst to best:

Benjamin Sisko (Deep Space 9)

Deep Spacers forgive me, but Sisko was the worst captain the Federation could get, even if you compare him to Jellico. Maybe Sisko wasn’t a bad captain before he took the helm of Deep Space 9, but after the very first episode, he turned into the reluctant captain: He didn’t want to be the captain of Deep Space 9 and couldn’t get into terms with the loss of his wife — and he didn’t for the whole series.

Not only that, but he did slip every single thing for what the Federation stands for: He accepted, with no regret, about people doing wrong things under his nose (won’t spoil, but it involves Garak and the 19th episode of the 6th season) and used his position of “Emissary” to manipulate a whole system. His actions may had saved the station and brought peace to the region, but it was still wrong. For a series that tried to show the best of the human race, Sisko shown the worse.

Kathryn Janeway (Voyager)

Janeway wasn’t bad per se, she was in a very thought and dark situation — honestly, the darkest of all series: In the other side of the universe, with no hope of getting home in a lifetime… If that wasn’t dark enough, their ship was slowly falling apart, replicators falling and the biological memory slowly going out. Everyone mentions “Janeway slow decent into madness”, but I never noticed that. She does start lacking control of her ship due a fall into depression (in one episode, she isolates herself completely from the rest of the crew), which should probably be diagnosed before she was given the big chair.

Jonathan Archer (Enterprise)

Archer had a hard time in front of him: The Federation and all the prime directives didn’t exist yet and his Enterprise (the one without the NCC-1701 prefix) was the first big human warp ship. No rules, no role-model… Archer was fated to fail. But thing is, he didn’t.

In all the crazinest that happened, he had to deal with the fact that he was, at the same, responsible for exploring the universe, trying to make new alliances and the captain of the biggest space weapon Earth had. In one episode, knowing Earth would be under attack, he tried to reach Earth, but the dilithium crystal was completely drained. On the way, only with impulse engines, they find a merchant ship and ask if they are willing to trade their dilithium crystal for supplies, which the merchant says no. After exploring all the possible options, Archer decides, showing a complete regret on his decision, to steal the other ship dilithium crystal (leaving behind enough supplies for the merchant ship to complete its route, promising his crew that he’ll come back and help that ship once Earth is saved). That puts Archer way above the others, simply ’cause he sees and regrets doing what’s wrong.

James T. Kirk (The Original Series)

Kirk didn’t had a soul of a captain: deep down, Kirk was an adventurer. Being a captain only gave him the perfect tool to go into the greatest adventures a man could be part of. He also knew that he would have to play by the rules, so he does. The fact that he doesn’t like to lose is also the reason he follows such rules (’cause he knows he would lose his ship and had to give up his adventures). Also, following the rules made things hard, which only made the things more exciting.

Surely, he had the greatest crew ever: Bones and Spock played two sides of a conscience (the emotional side and the logical side) and Kirk played the judge of those two. But, deep down, Kirk knew the rules and had a conscience (even if it was only strong enough to hear Bones).

Jean-Luc Picard (The Next Generation)

For the Federation standards and rules, Picard was the perfect captain. He followed rules, he had conscience to do the greater good (even against the rules), he had absolute control of his ship and crew (without a strong hand, like Jellico) and, most importantly, he took the job of being a captain seriously. He did not take vacations ’cause he knew there was a job to be done and he was in the position to do so.

Contrary to Kirk, Picard didn’t need the “conscience personifications” walking around him to remind him of logic and morals: He had that in himself.

And, for being the “better human” Roddenberry expected in his series, and having a soul of a captain, Picard is the better captain.

The early possibilities for the TNG cast

SlashFilm psoted a very interested thing for Trekkies: The list of early actors considered for The Next Generation. When I was reading the list and wondering “Who is that guy?” a few names suddenly popped up like “Hey! I know this guy!”, so I decided to check Memory Alpha to see if any others joined any of the series later.

  • Picard
    • Patrick Stewart: Well, he got the job.
    • Mitch Ryan: Played Riker (Jonathan Frakes) father, apparently in 2 episodes.
    • Roy Thinnes: Didn’t join the cast.
    • Yaphet Kotto: Didn’t join the cast.
    • Patrick Bauchau: Didn’t join the cast.
  • Tasha
    • Lianne Langland: Didn’t join the cast
    • Julia Nickson: Did two different, minor, characters, in two different TNG episodes.
    • Rosalind Chao: Really joined the cast, and with a character the got into two series: first, 9 episides in TNG and then 18 in DS9, as Keiko O’Brien. The curious thing about this is that, in my humble opinion, Keiko and Tasha are completely opposites.
    • Leah Ayers: Didn’t join the cast.
    • Bunty Bailey: Didn’t join the cast.

    The actress that got the job was Denise Crosby, which was selected for another role.

  • Data
    • Mark Lindsay Chapman: Didn’t join the cast.
    • Eric Menyuk: Joined in 3 TNG episodes, as a center character for those episodes.
    • Kevin Peter Hall: Only for one TNG episode.
    • Kelvin Han Yee: Didn’t join the cast.

    (Weird fact: Brent Spinner, who got the job and was considered one the best impersonations of an android, is not in the list.)

  • Ryker
    • Michael O’Gorman: Didn’t join the cast.
    • Gregg Marx: Didn’t join the cast.
    • Jonathan Frakes: Got the job and shown the world what a manly beard looks like.
    • Ben Murphy: Didn’t join the cast.
  • Geordi
    • LeVar Burton: Got the job.
    • Reggie Jackson: Didn’t join the cast.
    • Tim Russ: Did a small appearance in TNG as a thief knocked out cold by Picard in the first half of the episode, made a Klingon in a single DS9 episode and joined Voyager in full time to play Tuvok.
    • Wesley Snipes: Didn’t join the cast.
    • Victor Love: Didn’t join the cast.
    • Chip McCallister: Didn’t join the cast.
    • Clarence Gilyard Jr.: Didn’t join the cast.
    • Kevin Peter Hall: Yes, see above.
  • Beverly
    • Anne Twomey: Didn’t join the cast.
    • Jenny Augutter: Didn’t join the cast.
    • Cheryl McFadden: Yes, she joined the cast as Beverly Crusher. Unsuspecting trekkies know her as Gates McFadden, though.
  • Troi
    • Denise Crosby: Joined the cast, but not as Troi. She got the part for Tasha Yar while Troi was played by Marina Sirtis. The history says that, in the episode Tasha dies and they have her funeral, Sirtis was really crying, as both became really good friends.
  • Wesley
    • J.D. Roth: Didn’t join the cast.

Star Trek (2009)

IMDB Plot:

A chronicle of the early days of James T. Kirk and his fellow USS Enterprise crew members.

Spoiler-ish review follow.

In all honesty, I was expecting the movie to blow. I saw the trailers and they looked pretty shit. So I was pretty surprised that the movie was better than I expected. Unfortunately, it wasn’t as good as I wished.

First thing, special effects (it’s sci-fi, it’s supposed to make a difference.) They are good, in a sense that they kept it out of the plot. As in the series (all series), technology is part of the universe, but it’s not the changing factor. Same goes here.

The Enterprise is redesigned with more fluffy stuff. No more black consoles everywhere and weird, non-sensical flashing lights everywhere. You have transparent consoles and the general look is more whiter than the original. It makes sense, if you consider the leap the actual technology took in those years since the original series.

The plot is also ok-ish, but… there is something missing there. I mean, it’s not bad, there are no holes but it doesn’t totally feel like Star Trek. You have a guy looking for revenge purely for the revenge itself. In all the series, everyone is doing something based on their cultures: Humans like to explore, as do Vulcans (in their reclusive way), Klingons seek honor above everything else, Cardassians and Romulans want to expand their respective empires, Ferengis would do anything for profit and things like that. The main villain is a Romulan, but he doesn’t seem to be acting “for the Empire” although he cites that as one of his motives.

Another plot thing that feels wrong is that the Enterprise, the new flagship of the Federation, is assigned a full crew of cadets instead of a veteran crew. I mean, you have the best ship you could ever build, you have at least 12 other ships around with a crew with more experience and… would you assign some not-yet-out-of-training cadets to it? That doesn’t make any sense.

Acting/characters development is also ok-ish. In a sense, I was expecting Zachary Quinto to, at some point, “do a Sylar” and cut someone’s forehead with his finger. But, for some reason, you never expect him to do such thing in the movie, which seems he did a good job portraiting something that it’s not Sylar. And, honestly, at some point, he did seemed to be Leonard Nimoy and the original Spock. Also, the idea of explore more deeply the human side of Spock seemed pretty good for the movie. I mean, the original Spock was a Vulcan above everything else, even if he had a bit of make fun of himself — and that’s as far as he went in the original series. The new Spock is way more dimensional than the older counterpart, which is incredible good to show how he have a human nature after all.

Chris Pike, on the other hand, doesn’t seem to be Kirk. At all. I can’t blame the actor himself, but I guess the script, although focusing in the first years of those, doesn’t pay the proper respect to Kirk. In the original series, Kirk was the damn bastard you’d follow without hesitation. In this movie, he’s just a damn bastard. At some scene, when he’s running away from a big monster, I really wished he wouldn’t escape and that would be his end. “Please, remove that guy from the movie.” But, alas, he survive.

Also, it seems that new version of Kirk have some miraculous healing factor. He hurts his hand while fighting in a platform, only to take the bandages off a few hours later when he is thrown out of the Enterprise. And a couple of bruises around his left eye (after getting into some fights) slowly heals themselves in also a couple of hours.

Simon Pegg, playing the bit of Montgomery Scott, is… bleh. I didn’t like it, mostly ’cause I know the history of James Doohan. And, honestly, making Scott as a comedy relief (in the “pie in your face” sense) it’s just plain wrong. I mean, someone who personally took someone out of a suicide and fought in wars should at least have a most respectful representation of their most famous character.

McCoy is also bleh. DeForest Kelley’s McCoy was the guy that know morals above everything, even if that meant breaking laws. He was the bastion of “what is right” against “what is in the books” (which is exactly the opposite of Spock.) But, right in the middle of the movie, he does what is immoral and wrong at the same time. And, in the end, his character never get enough time to get a proper development. He’s just the guy in the background with a well known name which says a couple of lines and then vanishes.

I guess a lot of people would say “the appearance of Nero fucks up with the old timeline, so things are completely different now, including people.” Well, ok, but, for an old time trekkie, it still feels that those things really annoyed me, ’cause they were not the problem with the series. It was, actually, one of the best baselines for any series.

But not everything is “screw the old series” in this. There are several “echoes” from the original series: A “red shirt” (not shirt in this case) dying seconds after jumping into a mission, Christopher Pike (the original Enterprise captain, not the actor) in a wheelchair and even Orion girls appear in the movie.

Overall, I’d say it’s a good movie, although I would expect something more.

Why the new Star Trek bothers me

For a while, I’ve been ranting about the new “Star Trek” movie by J.J.Abrams and written by Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman. This morning I finally realized why it bothers me and why the line “OMG, boobies in Star Trek?” makes me giggle.

First, let’s take a look at the list of main Star Trek characters in the series:

  • The Original Series: James T. Kirk, Spock, Dr Leonard “Bones” McCoy, Montgomery Scott, Hikaru Sulu, Pavel Checkov, Uhura (and let’s throw Christopher Pike just for the sake of it.)
  • The Next Generation: Jean-Luc Picard, William Riker, Geordi La Forge, Worf, Beverly Crusher, Wesley Crusher, Deanna Troi, Data.
  • Deep Space Nine: Benjamin Sisko, Kira Nerys, Odo, Julian Bashir, Jadzia Dax, Quark, Miles O’Brien, Jake Sisko, Worf (yes, again), Ezi Dax.
  • Voyager: Kathryn Janeway, Chakotay, Tuvok, B’Elanna Torres, Tom Paris, Harry Kim, The Doctor, Neelix, Kes, Seven of Nine
  • Enterprise: Jonathan Archer, T’Pol, Charles Tucker III, Malcolm Reed, Hoshi Sato, Travis Mayweather, Phlox.

    Go on. Go clicky-clicky and try to find the two that doesn’t fit. I’ll wait.

    Did you spot the two?

    Ok, the answer is: Wesley Crusher and Jake Sisko (although I made it hard for you to noticed why Jake doesn’t belong there.) They are the only teenagers in the whole list of series that were main characters (there we some kids in “Voyager”, but they would appear in only one or two episodes.) All the others look like they are in the late twentys or early thirties (with a few exceptions that look more like they are getting into their fourtys.) And that also includes non-human, ageless forms, like Odo, Data and the Doctor, and the ones with longer lifes, like the Vulcans. Even the youngest crew of all series, the Voyager (they were going into final training before going officially into service when they were transported to the Delta Quadrant) looks like they were in the later twentys.

    And that’s why the new Star Trek bothers me. All the actors (with the exception of McCoy) look like they are in their early twentys and in full operational status already. Even in the original series, when the Enterprise goes into its official mission of “explore strange, new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations”, Kirk looks like he’s in the late thirties. And now you have a Kirk that looks like he just out of puberty.

    Yes, there were boobs in the TOS. But they belonged to mature females, not some out of puberty, hormone full chick.

    To me, it looks like the tone of Star Trek changed from “When you get out of your studies and do some real life training, you may be a member of the most important ship of the human race” to “jump into the most important ship of the human race! All you need to do is be able to talk!”. Sign of the times, maybe, when you’re supposed to finish college and be a full experienced whatever-they-call-you-in-the-field. But, still, Star Trek looks a little bit tainted with an “easy way to get there” view.

    But, then again, I’m an old trekkie (although I never remember if the proper way is trekker or trekkie…)

The best of the Bad Slashdot

As I was expecting, a lot of geek hate on Slashdot article about the new Star Trek trailer. Basically, it’s the same thing I’m saying since the very first real thing. But here, let me show you some of the best or the worst of Slashdot:

#25794021:

As both franchise got similarly raped by dubious quality prequels

I had some hopes for this movie, because I like JJ Abrams. Now that I’ve seen the trailer, I can’t help but agree with you. Holy crap, what is so hard about making good star trek movies? They have so much background to choose from, finding the right story should be easy.

Actually, I know what the problem is. They see the fanbase as a bonus, not as the target demographic. We have these people who are going to see the movie no matter what, so might as well aim for a completely different demographic. This way we get the other people AND the trek nerds!!!

#25795543:

Hmmmmm, Scotty, Kirk, McCoy, Spock, Uhuru, Sulu and Checkov all at the academy at the same time despite the differences in age. Yeah, this is gonna’ suck.

Yup, it’s becoming more and more apparent that Abrams has no regard whatsoever for the history of the series. McCoy was older than both Kirk and Spock (so was Scotty, but not by much), and Sulu, Uhura, and especially Chekov were all younger than Kirk… Chekov was a freakin’ ensign, and didn’t even join the series until year two. Now Abrams has them all at the academy at the same time?

This isn’t Star Trek. It’s Starfleet 90210.

#25794117:

I noticed something wrong too: if you watch the trailer closely, you’ll notice that it looks like this movie is shit.

#25794091:

As has already been mentioned this looks more like a Summer Blockbluster then anything else. I was expecting to see Will Smith strut into a scene with a cigar splutting a corney one-liner.

ST is old. We have had 18 YEARS of non-stop Trek (TNG aired in 1987, Enterprise ended in 2005) and reusing the same script for many of those shows. We were/are tired of seeing the same thing over and over again. You know what we are not tired of?

Hope, charisma, and a calm assurance of success.

TOS had this in spades, and we responded with resounding joy. The others all took a piece of that formula, but none had it the same.

This movie looks like it has nothing to offer but flash and CGI. The original Kirk could have just as easily been a pirate-ship captain; he was cunning, daring, full of guile, and a swashbuckler. This new Kirk looks like Prep-School prankster.

This reboot looks like it has lost the original intent. That is why it will fail.

#25794811:

My favorite of the TOS movies was 6 because the enemy overestimated Kirk’s racism and underestimated his intelligence and dedication to duty. The turning point was when, instead of starting the war he was expected to start, he said “signal our surrender.” In TOS, Kirk was never a warmonger or really prone to violence at all. Not a hothead. Maybe these people watched the old series and noticed all the fights and shit without noticing that Kirk didn’t start hardly any of it. And when he did start a fight, it was more to prove a point or to keep someone else from having to fight. Kirk doesn’t like losing. Anything. That’s the fundamental truth of Kirk.

I don’t expect this movie to show an old, wise, thoughtful Kirk, but let’s not turn him into a stereotypic cocky youth.