A Philosophy that Fascinates and Attracts

I picked up a book on Kindle yesterday. Spock’s World, by Diane Duane. A Star Trek novel from 1986, it’s said — so I’d heard — to deal with Vulcan society in great detail, examining their culture and philosophy to a greater extent than the TV show ever really did.

A lot of Trek fans spend a lot of time discussing the matter of canon — in other words, what story elements can be considered part of the ‘real’ Star Trek universe, and what parts have been made up unofficially and therefore don’t count as actual events in that storyline. Generally speaking, it’s a rule that anything produced by Paramount or officially commissioned by them — such as the TV shows and movies — is canon. Material and stories that appear in novels, fan movies, fan fiction and the like — is generally not considered canon and is therefore not authoritative. This can go for many licensed works, since Paramount often only licenses the right to use the characters and settings, and doesn’t arbitrate what the stories should be beyond imposing a few basic rules (don’t kill off main TV characters, for example, or have a big reveal that Picard had been a Cardassian sleeper agent all along).

But the question of canon can be fraught: sometimes, the sad fact is (and I say “fact” in the sense of “totally subjective opinion” here) that some of the licensed works treat Trek’s characters and concepts with far greater respect and attention than the TV shows and movies ever have.

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Your Enemy’s Enemy

Now I’ll be the first to admit I don’t know much about NeoGAF Idon’tknowmuchaboutNeoGAF – hah! Got in before you.

I don’t know much about it save that it’s been mentioned on Podquisition a few times. I do know that it’s a forum, I believe it’s focused on videogames, and it seems it’s been a favoured stop-off for games journalists looking for insider info. Apparently it has a sort of Wikileaks vibe to it. I don’t know. But I also get the impression — perhaps unjust, perhaps not — that NeoGAF has a sizeable population of Gamers. I don’t mean gamers, as in “people who enjoy playing videogames”. I mean… Gamers. You know. Them.

Truth be told I’m not really that interested in NeoGAF, except inasmuch as it’s been mentioned on some YouTube channels I follow, and recently some of those channels have said that NeoGAF has been struggling to keep going after an apparent sexual abuse scandal erupted over alleged behaviour by the community’s leader. The site had, as of a few days ago, been taken down, and I don’t know whether it’s back up or not.

I don’t know because honestly I haven’t looked, because NeoGAF isn’t really the subject of this post. I mention it only as background, because this mild interest in the apparent collapse of a site I’d vaguely heard of is the reason I ended up watching a couple of YouTube videos on the subject, including this one from ReviewTechUSA, as presented by Richard Masucci.

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Movie Pondering: Star Trek Beyond

This is not a review because I’m not a reviewer and don’t understand filmmaking. I don’t know about cinematic techniques, personnel histories, or prior to looking them up what a key grip or a gaffer do. I know now, but I do hate leaving a thing un-looked-up when I find out I don’t know it.

Anyway the point is, don’t expect Ebert levels of informed analysis here. Do, on the other hand, expect SPOILERS, because I intend to talk freely about the movie. If you haven’t seen it, and if SPOILERS bother you, best stop here.


 

I have to say I was quite pleasantly surprised by Star Trek Beyond (I wanted to put a colon in that title because it looks as though it needs one, but IMDB informs me that’s what the movie used to be called. Now it’s colon-less).

After watching 2009’s reboot movie Star Trek, and its sequel Into Darkness, I felt ambivalent. On the one hand, the graphics were great. There were a couple of little tips of the hat to what the Star Trek franchise used to be – particularly from Into Darkness – by there was still the nagging thought that This Wasn’t Quite Star Trek.

I’ll be the first to admit I’m a terrible sucker for anything Star Trek. This is to the extent that I not only enjoy the show, but it also informs a lot of my political and philosophical viewpoints as well. On the other hand, apart from a couple of words I’ve picked up along the way I don’t speak Klingon (one of those words is “qa’pla”, which doesn’t count anyway because it constitutes around 47% of all Klingon dialogue), I don’t go to conventions and wear pointed ears, and I don’t assume the cast are their characters.

So having established my slightly hipsterish and snobby “I’m a huge fan but I’m not, you know, like those fans” credentials, here’s what I thought of Star Trek Beyond:

For the first time in the reboot movie series, it’s actually Star Trek. Proper Star Trek.

I mean, sure, there’s still a shit-tonne of explosions, phaser fire and running. But there’s something about the characters now – maybe the cast are settling fully into their characters; maybe it’s just something about this particular movie’s plot…? I don’t honestly know. But whereas in the previous two movies I’ve been torn on the new actors’ portrayals of established characters, in this one they just seemed to click into place.

Related image

All right: this is a shot from 2009’s Star Trek, not Beyond. But never mind.

It’s not that any of them were doing a bad job, I should make that clear. They all clearly knew who they were supposed to be, and did a good job. Perhaps it was direction that distracted me in some cases; or perhaps it was simply that they were working with slightly sub-Star Trek material. Some character gelled more than others: I saw the Kelly’s McCoy in Karl Urban’s version; likewise Zachary Quinto’s Spock — though in neither case was there a great physical resemblance to the original actor. But the mannerisms and, in Urban’s case particularly, the speech, there were some very clear echoes.

Less so, I thought, for Simon Pegg’s Scotty and Zoe Saldana as Uhura, and particularly for Chris Pine as Kirk. In none of these cases, I repeat, was there anything wrong with the performance. Quite the opposite: they were all good, and I thoroughly enjoyed watching them. But they didn’t quite ring as ‘the same people’.

This isn’t just me being unimaginative, I hope, or unadaptable. It’s just that the whole premise of the new movies is that they’re the same people in a divergent timeline. (Personally I’d have preferred the same people in the same timeline, but so be it. If you can’t start your movie with an entire planet being exploded, you’re not doing modern Hollywood properly.)

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