Finally saw Star Trek: Into Darkness…

September 16, 2013 at 1:23 pm (Geekery, Star Trek) (, , , , , )

To repeat myself: images from the infamous deleted shower scene. You’re welcome.

And because consistency is *not* my middle name, I wrote my review-ish thing on my main blog. Click here for my sad little mini-rant.

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Rewatching Star Trek: “Space Seed”

February 18, 2012 at 11:00 pm (Star Trek) (, , , , , , , , )


There will be episode – and some TWOK – spoilers below.

As I mentioned last post, I haven’t seen much of Classic Trek in many, many years, and I’m ashamed of it. I call myself a geek. There are reasons, but still. “Space Seed” is the first episode I’m watching in what will be a now-and-again series sort of thing I write as I – slowly,

I can't remember ever seeing a woman in gold except for a couple in this episode

as time permits – remedy this. It should be interesting; it’s almost like watching something new to me, yet with the perspective of someone who used to be – no expert, for sure, but a great huge fan. And someone who’s no longer sixteen.

In a way, this whole experiment going to be an exploration of what I do and don’t remember. One interesting thing that will impact on that: I was meticulous when I taped them, and I know the reruns I first watched back in the day were about 47 minutes after commercials were removed. The episode on startrek.com is 50 minutes and 38 seconds; I know the episode I saw last Saturday on ME-TV was kindly edited, but I don’t know the run time without commercials. But no matter what there will be a few minutes new to me, plus, if I go that route, the remastered versions. Neat.

So, “Space Seed”. There was no way I could resist the beefcake & cheese of Ricardo Montalban, Khan’s origin story and the prequel to Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, one of my all-time favorite movies.

The mundane notes: This is episode 22 of Star Trek’s Season 1, Initial air date: February 16, 1967.  Guest stars are Ricardo Montalban and Madlyn Rhue (who when planning started for STII was confined to a wheelchair because of multiple sclerosis; this is why her character is stated to have been killed in the interim). It was also sequeled by an episode of Enterprise, in which the

Poor Mr. Kyle

genetically engineered people are dubbed “Augments”. Series regular George Takei (Sulu) does not appear in the episode, though John Winston (Mr. Kyle, the transporter operator) does. Walter Koenig (Chekov) has not joined the cast yet. I’ll come back to that. The approximate date for the episode’s setting is 2270, from what I can find; TWOK takes place some 15 years later, in 2285. Or perhaps it was supposed to be exactly 300 years from the episode air date: 2267. Or perhaps the chronology is affected by the different planetary settings. It’s a little like keeping track in time travel …

McGivers's hair, before ...

There are transcripts of the TOS episodes (and all the rest of them, I think) on this Czech site: http://www.voyager.cz/tos/transcripts.htm – straight dialogue-only transcripts, which must have been a massive amount of work, and I thank them. It saved me lots of “rewinding”.

Joaquim and Kati, stretching

For whatever reason – that I saw it more often, or more recently, or simply that it stuck with me – I did better with “Space Seed” than the other episode I saw a little of (which was a complete blank). Some scenes I recalled vividly: Khan rearranging Marla McGivers’s hair; the other sleepers stretching artistically as Khan greets them. The former always annoyed me, which may be why I remembered it (he’s a “superman”, a tin-pot dictator, an  engineer – and a hairdresser!); it might have been different if he’d actually donesomething to her hair, but he loosened a couple of curls, which barely made a difference except to make her look scraggly, and then admired it like he’d become Vidal Sassoon.

The latter, the calisthenics of the newly-awakened, annoyed me slightly too, I think; those girls in the spangly gold see-through jumpsuits … Star Trek really was aimed at the boys. (Although Khan, lying in his chamber, was also wearing one of those spangly jumpsuits, with what looked like strategically placed bands underneath. Yet the men in the chorus line of waking “Augments” are wearing jumpsuits of actual opaque fabric. On the other hand, there were an awful lot of pec shots.)(Which reminds me – is there an extraneous hair on Khan’s whole body?)

I like that upon approaching what turns out to be the Botany Bay (and yes, it is to Star Trek that I owe all my familiarity with, among many things, Australia’s past) they go – not to yellow alert, but battle stations (no yellow alert yet?), deflector shields on maximum and phasers manned. (I wonder if the image at this time in writers’ minds was something like a tall ship, with gunners standing by their cannons with powder and shot and a flame to light the fuse…) No matter what, you don’t approach an unknown ship unprepared, particularly one which does not respond to hails. Well done. Also, later, a security detail is assigned to contain Khan pretty quickly – it’s not one of those stories where a lack of precaution results in stupid carnage.

This is a fair example right from the beginning of the relationships among Kirk and Spock and McCoy. There is one classic Trek tableau: Kirk in his Chair, mediating between McCoy on his left and Spock on his right, who are going at it again.
M-S-K
McCoy – The Eugenics Wars.
Spock – Of course–your attempt to improve the race through selective breeding.
McCoy – Now wait a minute. Not our attempt, Mr. Spock– a group of ambitious scientists’. I’m sure you know the type– devoted to logic, completely unemotional–
Spock – Doctor, I would be pleased–
Kirk – All right, gentlemen, as you were.

Both Spock and Bones have moments alone with Jim, too, and there are small glimpses of their friendships. The Kirk-McCoy moments are good: they are comfortable with each other; McCoy is not afraid to express his opinions very freely; it is at least a great working relationship between a captain and his chief medical officer; he is the only one to call Kirk “Jim” here, and he uses the nickname freely, and Jim calls him “Bones”. Kirk and Spock spar a little on the bridge … well, Kirk teases him and Spock responds as he must. Actually, in a way there’s no real sign of friendship in that, to me, although Spock’s responses are made softly; whether he “gets” it or not, he recognizes the game Jim is playing, and gives the answers that allow the game to continue. Still, it feels a little awkward – he’s logical. Get over it. It always drives Bones crazy because he is an emotional man and wants emotional responses, and later of course it’s all but habit, but with Kirk there almost seems to be a little bit of mean-spiritedness. If I were going based on that I would place the episode early on in the run, when writers and producers, actors, and Kirk and Spock themselves were still working out a friendship – but “Space Seed” was the 22nd episode out of 30 in the first season.

I would have loved to have seen a little more of this: Scotty – “I think they used to call them transistor units. I’d love to tear this baby apart.” I mean, come on – it’s the sort of thing he would have probably seen only in museums till now. Of course he’d want to get his hands all over – and into – the Botany Bay. I wish he’d had more of a chance.

Kirk: Suspended animation.
Marla: Uh-huh. [there’s professionalism for you] I’ve seen old photographs of this. Necessary because of the time involved in space travel until about the year 2018.

So – we are fortunate because we didn’t have a third world war in the 90’s (“In 1993 a group of these young supermen did seize power simultaneously in over 40 nations” – so were they organized or not? Or was it this lot sent off in the BB that was organized, and there were others who weren’t part of the group -?) – but we probably aren’t going to have interstellar space flight of any kind, awake or asleep, by 2018. Unless the Vulcans come spontaneously. (Where the hell is Zefram Cochrane?) Thanks, America.

Something I hadn’t recalled and which made me very, very happy was a bit of fodder for my massive crush on Dr. Leonard McCoy. Kirk was always pretty and impressive, sure, but I’ve always been uninterested in whatever everybody else is a fan of. Kirk was too popular, too obvious. Spock was awesome, but did nothing for me. Sulu, Scotty, Chekov when he came along – all dear to me – but it was blue-eyed Southern boy Bones, with his wisecracks and huge heart that won me. He might well have been my first love. And here in the first episode of my Rewatch was, pardon the pun, one of the seeds of that:

(McCoy comes in to check on his patient – who is no longer unconscious and has armed himself. In an instant Khan has him by the throat, with a stolen antique scalpel pressed into McCoy’s neck)
McCoy – Well, either choke me or cut my throat. Make up your mind.

Bones also always had the eyebrow lift down

Khan – English. I thought I dreamed hearing it. Where am I?
McCoy – (Starts to speak in a normal tone) You’re – (Khan’s hand closes; McCoy starts over, in a difficult whisper) You’re in bed, holding a knife at your doctor’s throat.
Khan – Answer my question.
McCoy – It would be most effective if you would cut the carotid artery. Just under the left ear.
(Khan stares at him for a moment, then lets go)
Khan – I like a brave man.
McCoy – I was simply trying to avoid an argument. (takes the knife away)

I love a brave man. A eugenically designed hunk with, he claims, five times the strength of Kirk has him by the throat, and is not messing about, and my Bones doesn’t even bat an eyelash. You’d think patients jacked him up every day. God, I love that man. Seriously, how many men would mock something like Khan in his hearing as he does? “I have a patient here with many questions, Captain.”

I never much cared for McGivers. Actually, I think my teenaged emotion was hissing, spitting, outraged

Open your heart!

contempt and a deep desire to rip her face off – how dare she betray her captain and her ship?! And for lust of a man who would probably punch her in the face for a wrong word? A man whose first words to her included “My name is Khan. Please sit and entertain me”? A man who forced her to her knees, begging and in pain, while telling her “Open your heart. Will you open your heart?” And then she betrays him! She should have been court-martialed – she should have been shot … And at the end of the episode Khan calls her “A superior woman”. Superior to … what? A bad romance novel heroine? No, wait – that’s exactly what she resembles. How could Khan really be attracted to such a feeble, weak female?

It was a little odd that as they watched Khan beginning to come back to unsuspended animation, and faltering, her response was not “Scotty! You’re a miracle-worker with machinery! Help!” or “Dr. McCoy! You’re the best doctor, like, ever! Spring into action!” No – it was “Do something, Captain.” Why? What’s he going to do? Was it because he was the alpha male present and that’s who she instinctively looks to? Some 23rd century independent woman. (As it turned out, Jim was the one to accomplish something, but that’s beside the point.) The wiki on Memory Alpha gives it that in a deleted scene Yeoman Baker tells the simp “that Lieutenant Hanson wants to go to a ship’s dance with her. McGivers tells her to tell Hanson to get lost, that she is waiting for a man who will ‘knock down my door and carry me to where he wants me.'” For a woman of the 60’s, that might not have been impossible, or at least a man’s view of a woman of the 60’s. For a woman of the late 20th – early 21st century, that’s contemptible. For a woman of the 23rd century, that’s perverse.

Kirk: If I were to rate your performance today–
McGivers: I know, sir. I’m sorry.
Me, for Kirk: Let me finish, Lieutenant. You were an embarrassment to your gender and to Starfleet. I question whether you truly belong on this ship or in that uniform. If I see one more incidence of the drooling stupidity you demonstrated earlier, I will – at the very least – put you on report, and make sure notations are made on your permanent record. At worst … as a historian you may know something about keelhauling?

Actually, had something like that happened, it might have been motivation for her to join Khan. Dang.

Kirk – And men were more adventure some then…bolder, more colorful?
McGivers – Yes, sir, I think they were.
– She is standing on a starship, saying that to the youngest captain in the fleet. That might be a good illustration of “irony”.

Khan is my name.
Khan–nothing else?
Khan.

He was plotting from the moment he woke up. He had to know that his full name would give them his history – but perhaps he was too proud to use a name not his own. Whatever enhanced bodily functions he had, he sized Bones up and knew that he would be able to play the patient card: “I find myself growing fatigued, Doctor. May we continue this… questioning at some other time?” He ignores Jim to appeal directly to McCoy, who – almost reluctantly, I think, but still willing to give the benefit of the doubt, and a doctor first and last – overrides Jim’s intent to continue. Later, at the little dinner, he pulls it again – “But if you will excuse me, gentlemen and ladies, I grow fatigued again.” I would have liked it if it had been obvious that he was concerned about giving away too much, that he really wasn’t yet up to par and didn’t want to take a risk. Otherwise, exposing weakness like this seems uncharacteristic – unless it’s disguising a greater weakness, or taking advantage of theirs.

There were a few “- ???” moments in the show (besides “Here are the full technical manuals for the ship – would you like a phaser too?”)…

– Kirk, looking at all the sleeping beauties: “Is it possible they’re still alive, after centuries of travel?”
Um. Jim, sweetie, what part of “heartbeats” do you not get? Revivable, maybe, would have been a better word, but alive – as in, hearts beating and not dead? You’re lookin’ at it.

Kirk – Would you estimate him to be a product of selective breeding?
Spock – There is that possibility, Captain.
Wha -? I thought it was kind of a given by that point. Bones just got finished telling him and us a few minutes ago about tremendously enhanced lung capacity and heart function; he could pick us both up with one hand, he said. Where do you think that sort of thing comes from?

need a weapon take a weapon

Khan – Captain, I wonder if I could have something to read during my convalescence. I was once an engineer of sorts. I would be most interested in studying the technical manuals on your vessel.
Kirk – Yes, I understand. You have 200 years of catching up to do.
Khan – Precisely.
Kirk – They’re available to any patient on the viewing screen.
– WHAT?! Is it my post-911 viewpoint, or is that just flat-out insane? I mean, keeping a wide-open display case on the wall of ancient and barbaric medical instruments, including scalpels, is one thing; most of the patients in a starship sickbay aren’t going to be violently inclined (I should check that), so it ought to be a safe “see how much worse things could be” decoration – although I don’t know if staring at clamps and scalpels would aid in my convalescence – – but handing out the technical manuals to the entire ship? To someone you haven’t even identified yet? Found under mysterious circumstances? That’s just … nonsensical.

A moment I enjoyed but which counts as a ” -???” is after Kirk’s assist to Spock after McGivers has let him out of the decompression chamber:
Spock – Surprised to see you, Captain, though pleased.
Kirk – I’m a little pleased myself. Situation?
– And they hurry out, leaving McGivers behind, disregarded. She betrayed them, then turned her coat back round again and betrayed Khan – and yet they hasten away and leave her loose to do whatever she wants. (Not much, apparently.) Then Kirk drops the charges against her. Then Khan indicates he esteems her above all other women, and 15 years later grieves so deeply for her that he wants to kill everyone he meets. I don’t get it.

There is one fact about this episode which for some reason has caused angst: As I mentioned way above, Walter Koenig had not yet joined Star Trek. And yet in TWOK, Khan says something like “Mr. .. Chekov, isn’t it? I never forget a face.” The question of how Khan he could not forget someone we never saw him meet is dealt with all sorts of ways; the explanation I like, with the virtue of simplicity, is that Chekov was simply a lowly crewman somewhere in the bowels of the ship, and ran into Khan while the latter was reconnoitering. (I seem to have a memory of Koenig positing that late one night Chekov kept Khan from getting into the bathroom, but I could be making that up…Ah! No, I’m not) Then Pavel was promoted and began serving on the bridge, which is when we meet him in Season 2. Ta da.

The biggest question of all, though – besides “What on earth could Khan still want with McGivers after he’s used her and she’s betrayed him?” – is how the Augments got out there in the first place.

Spock – I find no record whatsoever of an S.S. Botany Bay. Captain, the DY100 class vessel was designed for interplanetary travel only. With simple nuclear-powered engines, star travel was considered impractical at that time. It was 10,000-to-1 against their making it to another star system. And why no record of the trip?
Kirk – Botany Bay… That was the name of a penal colony on the shores of Australia, wasn’t it? If they took that name for their vessel… [Why on or off earth would they?!]
Spock – If you’re suggesting this was a penal deportation vessel, you’ve arrived at a totally illogical conclusion.
Kirk – Oh?
Spock – Your Earth was on the verge of a dark ages. Whole populations were being bombed out of existence. Criminals could have been dealt with far more efficiently than wasting one of their most advanced spaceships.
Kirk – Yes. So much for my theory.

What exactly did Kirk use as a weapon?

Well, then, what?? They build such a convincing argument against the Botany Bay being out there, but never provide a real explanation for how it, after all, is there. Khan’s only response is “A new life, a chance to build a world… other things I doubt you would understand.” I wish some questions like that had been resolved, or not opened to begin with: it’s odd, and leaves a huge amount of backstory unexplored.

I don’t recall ever seeing anything about plans to create a sequel to this prior to TWOK. But it seems so obvious, now – it’s tailor-made:
Spock – It would be interesting, Captain, to return to that world in a hundred years and to learn what crop has sprung from the seed you planted today.
Kirk – Yes, Mr. Spock, it would indeed.
A hundred, or perhaps fifteen or sixteen. It’s perfect. It would have been fascinating to see the world Khan would have built on Ceti Alpha V had things gone as expected. There must have been an interdict on the planet – hands off, do not approach, armed and dangerous … Had Ceti Alpha VI not “exploded, six months after we were left here”, would Khan have maintained his iron rule over his people? Or would there have been war? 72 beds still operating, of which 30 are women – would the women have been strong and independent, or would they have been fought over by the men who outnumber them? Or would there have been some system imposed by Khan as to who was paired off? An alternate universe story seems like a given here – but I don’t think there is one. (No, I’m not going to write it.)

(Not-quite-related: I’ve seen the movie’s Joachim referred to as Khan’s son … but it was only, best I can find out, fifteen – seventeen years between stories. Unless the years were very different on Ceti Alpha V, Judson Scott was not playing a fifteen-year-old. In this episode is a dark-haired SOB named Joaquin – he’s the one who hit Uhura. (I hope he died, painfully, with a Ceti eel in his ear. Each ear.) I have no idea what any of it means – and neither did the writers, I think.)

– – Incredibly obvious stunt doubles —

Something struck me as the episode ended on the second re-watch. Someone on TORn had a footer reading “The pity of Bilbo may *&#! Up the fate of many” or something like that, twisting (not inaccurately) Gandalf’s line “the pity of Bilbo may rule the fate of many”. To wit: Bilbo had Gollum at his sword’s point, and could easily have seen to it that no one would ever have to worry about the sound of flapping feet in the dark again. But he thought about the horrid existence the creature had always had, and couldn’t being himself to kill him … and many years later that turned out to be both a good thing and a bad. The good I won’t go into (“Spoilers!” said River Song), but the bad included, among many, many other things, mothers finding empty cradles under open windows where a hungry Gollum had passed. (It would be fascinating to try to remove Gollum from LotR and see what happened. I wonder if anyone ever has. I wonder if I’ll ever have time.)

What ... on earth... or off... are they serving?

Kirk sat in judgment of Khan at the end of the episode, and … dropped all charges. The man – and his people – tried to kill him, was just about to try to kill Spock, would have moved on through the crew until he grew bored, all after having hijacked the Enterprise, and I don’t excuse him from holding a knife to McCoy’s throat. Years later, he caused an untold (literally) number of deaths, including those of Scotty’s nephew and, heaven help us, Spock. An act of mercy – in his scope as Captain, based, it seems on an understanding of the bastard’s psychology (Bones said he’d make a fair shrink) and an admiration for the intelligence and power, an unwillingness to cage something like him, never mind 70 somethings like him … It was somewhat understandable – “Khan and his people – what a waste to put them in a reorientation center” – but in a way showed a remarkable lack of forethought. Of course it would have been a massive challenge to either contain or integrate the Eugenics Warriors (aka Augments). But Starfleet has dealt with all sorts of aliens.

Great line – “Would you reveal to war-weary populations that some 80 Napoleons might still be alive?”

Star Trek tropes honored in this episode:
Kirk and McCoy teasing Spock about his logicality

McCoy really hates the transporter:

Uhura = awesome

Kirk – You ready, Bones?
Bones – No. I signed aboard this ship to practice medicine, not to have my atoms scattered across space by this gadget.
Kirk – You’re an old-fashioned boy, McCoy.

Romulan ale?

Taken all in all, it’s not a bad episode. It could have been great. I do like a few McCoy scenes (obviously), and a few lines here and there; Uhura has very few lines, but has some very nice moments – her reaction to that bastard Joaquin hitting her is fantastic: now THAT’S a superior woman; it’s a terrific story and set the stage for a truly grand movie. It was nice that dress uniforms were trotted out – even if it was somewhat improbable that a dinner like that would be thrown for a complete unknown, and WHAT was that on the table, and isn’t Romulan ale illegal?! What keeps it from being great: let’s face it, Montalban was no Olivier. He left the scenery with some tooth marks. McGivers is an awful character and makes me want to burn my bra. There are several instances of objects and devices present which may not ever be seen again through the run of the series: the display of old medical implements in sickbay; the decompression chamber (it makes sense that sickbay would have one, but …)… a ship’s historian …

And one more general note on the episode and a half I’ve watched: the producers of the show loved that starship. Which might be a reason I love that starship so much. She wasn’t like anything that had been seen before, and the show – especially the opening sequence – is full of long, loving looks at Enterprise – I think the ‘net phrase for it would be starship porn. I can’t remember whether other Sci-Fi shows spent as much time giving viewers an eyeful of their beautiful spacecraft (I should clock it). Indeed, for me I think the reasons I love Star Trek can be listed something like:
1) The vision of the future
2) The ability to live there vicariously
3) Bones
4) Enterprise
5) the crew’s relationships, particularly the three boys at the top

Bones and the ship might be tied. I’m not sure.

One down.

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What happened to my Trekkiness?

February 16, 2012 at 9:51 pm (Star Trek) (, , , , , )

I haven’t watched Star Trek TOS (how geeks say The Original Series) in about … um. Twenty years, maybe? It used to be on all over the television, and I used to watch it as often as possible. When I was first discovering it I remember it was like a hunt – stalking through the TVGuide to try to find episodes I hadn’t seen yet, seeking out a list of all the episodes so I could check them off and make notes and whatnot (and memorize it – I used to test my memory when I was really bored at work by listing all 79. Or 78, depending on who you ask.) After a while it got so that I could identify an episode within about four seconds.

It’s been a while. It hasn’t been on at a convenient time in years; I used to have quite a few episodes on tape, but I think it was when I revolted against The Undiscovered Country that I gave away a lot of them, and sold quite a few more on eBay. That’s another factor in the deterioration of my Trek geekiness; I developed a loathing for Shatner for a while (it was the “Get a life” comment combined with my being very young and sensitive) (I was gleeful when Kirk was killed off) and then I came very close to walking out of the theatre during TUC (I’d explain, but it’s very, very geeky, and I seem to be the only one who feels as I do; I still have never seen the movie again) and went largely off the whole … enterprise.

But, deep down, I’m still the same geek/nerd who cried her heart out when Spock died, and when the Enterprise blew up, and then – for different reasons – when the little shuttlepod rounded a turn and Enterprise-A came into view. (I miss that kind of fierce joy.) I can still recite chunks of TVH and TWOK, my two favorites of all the films.

Which brings me to the present. There is a new (to me at least) network broadcasting locally which shows only oldies, classics, The Good Stuff. Mary Tyler Moore, Dick Van Dyke, The Bob Newhart Show, M*A*S*H – in an uncut or less-cut version I’ve never seen before in some cases. And, on Saturday evenings, they put up an episode of Star Trek. I discovered this a couple of weeks ago… And not only could I not identify the episode in four seconds, I couldn’t have identified it at all if I hadn’t seen the title. (It was “Return of the Archons”.) It was bizarre. I scared my mother when I told her; I think she might have started worrying about early onset Alzheimer’s or a mini-stroke or something (she is a world-class worrier). It was so bizarre. There are the boys – Kirk and Spock and Scotty and my Bones; there’s that red-shirt who never went the way of the red-shirt, who was in the background of a whole bunch of episodes but I don’t think ever said a word or even, maybe, got a name and why do I feel like I should know who he is …? And … Landru. Right. And….Whoa. You could get quite a bit past censors if everyone stayed relatively clothed and women being carried off by men assumed balletic poses. But I didn’t remember a thing about the episode; didn’t remember character names; didn’t remember what happened next … That weekend I couldn’t stick around to watch the whole thing, and I was unhappy about it, because I have no memory of the show – it was like watching it brand new.

It’s strange, because while watching some of these M*A*S*H episodes – also, some of them, not seen in many years, I can predict lines that are coming up down to the intonation and remember bit characters and suchlike. I figure I saw them more often than I did Star Trek episodes, and saw them earlier, in my more formative years: I remember dinner every night as a child as 5:00, right after Dad got home from work, all five of us at the kitchen table with the tv by the door to the living room and M*A*S*H on. Mac and cheese by the light of spurting arteries in the OR. No wonder I’m not more squeamish.

I have NO memory of Sulu in a fluffy cravat.

Sitting there realizing I had no idea what happened next in “Return of the Archons” was when I started thinking about rewatching the series. I don’t know if this is going to wind up being the whole series or not, and heaven alone knows what order they’ll come along in between ME TV and whatever renting I do from Netflix … or … I might even buy the series, especially now it’s been remastered … Hm.

What convinced me to make a start was the next episode: Space Seed. Whee! Khan! I’m in.

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The Stand Episode 1: The Plague

August 31, 2011 at 7:19 pm (TV) (, , , , , , , )


The end of the world is just the beginning.

I’ll try to keep spoilers to a minimum, but … no promises. : )

In June, I read The Stand (my review of the book is over here, and kept remembering the little bit of the miniseries that I watched back when it aired. I’m a wuss: I can’t do horror.  Can not.  That might be why I never watched the whole thing back in 1994.

At the moment (up till my next payment is about to go through and I change my membership) Netflix is still including free streaming with their subscription (*grumble*), and The Stand is available …

It’s faithful, as is only to be expected given that Stephen King wrote the teleplay.  There goes Campion and family; and there goes 9/10 of the population … I was right, it was all a great deal quicker on TV, as, again, is only to be expected.  There goes New York.  (*shudder*)  There goes the Vermont Center for Disease Control … There are the first cornfield dreams, creepy as only cornfields can be (though the color in Stu’s dream was just odd).  This first episode does a very nice job of creating likeable characters to kill off.  These deaths are (as, yes, is only to be expected) considerably neater than in the original – genteel small pools of liquid (some of which turned out to be spills, not vomit), very little blood, just a horrible mottling of the skin and some random sores.  We don’t see the rotting bodies of Campion’s family, nor the one that will haunt Larry (yet, at least – I just realized that might be to come); there is no corpse with his face in a soup bowl (though there was “Is that Hungarian goulash?”) … There have been no pants-wettings so far, though there was ample opportunity for at least one, for Dr. Dietz.

I’ve read scoffing comments about the conceit that a dead person looks like he’s sleeping; death isn’t sleep and doesn’t resemble it, they say.  It certainly doesn’t look like sleep in The Stand.  Each time someone dies, there is a remarkable transformation: a stiff relaxation of the body, not that that makes much sense, and a striking change in skin color … it’s horrifying.  It’s very well done.

The cast is a kind of mixed bag:

Gary Sinise is great; he’s so young.  I enjoy him, and he’s managing the East Texas shtick well enough.  I doubt I’m going to have any problems with Stu Redman.  It does help that I had him in mind while reading the book.

Molly Ringwald … dark hair doesn’t suit her.  I’m not overwhelmed with her performance, positively or negatively – my attention, to be honest, was on her belly in her first scenes and on her hair throughout.  We’ll see.  There’s much more to come.

Miguel Ferrer seems too strong an actor, too strong a personality to play Lloyd Henreid; I’m not sure I believe him as the character I remember.  Richard Lineback, the actor who played Poke (briefly), would have been ideal, I think.  Again, we’ll see.

Rob Lowe is Nick Andros.  My main thought is that I hope to all the saints that he changes clothes soon; he spends most of the first hour and a half dressed in a plaid shirt and khakis that look too big for him, cinched in at the waist and just … ultra nerdy.  And to reverse the Molly Ringwald quibble, he looks better with darker hair.  It’s early to tell on the performance, as with most of them; he’s pulled out a couple of great expressive expressions.  I’ll reserve judgment.

Apparently he was first considered for Larry, and I think I kept picturing him there (to the extent that even though I said “Hi, Larry” when the car with the DIGYOMAN license plate showed up, I kept thinking who’s that? when Adam Storke was onscreen.) (With Rob Lowe, Adam Storke, and Gary Sinise (at least), someone should suggest that gorgeous bright blue eyes might be related to survival of Captain Trips…) (They didn’t help the uncredited Ed Harris, though.) (That was a rather big role to have uncredited…) Adam Storke has an excellent Elvis lip curl, and may well be perfect for the part; even without more detail on his troubles in California, it’s clear that he could go either way, to Mother Abagail or to Flagg.  But he is a boy who loves his momma. (Loved.)

Ruby Dee as Mother Abagail … shouldn’t she have been aged upward a bit more?  “I’m a hundred and six years old, and I still make my own bread” – Mother, you don’t look a day over 80.  There’s nothing not to like, but…

Corin Nemec as Harold is … not fat, for one thing.  He’s a dweeb with thick glasses, lank hair, terrible acne, and a jogging suit.  It’s probably because of the book’s influence that I can imagine he smells – but then again he’s the kind of kid you tried not to sit near in school because he did smell.  He’s pompous, he’s verbose (hey, I don’t talk like this (usually), so I can say that), and Frannie can’t stand him.  Okay then.

It was a nice treat to see Kathy Bates as Ray (Rae?) Flowers, also uncredited as the radio host who defies the army.  (I wonder if Ray was one of the immune? She didn’t show any sign of being ill, though that might have just been due to location and successful avoidance of others.)

And as for Randall Flagg … Hm.  I very much hope that he isn’t one of those Bruce-the-shark-like things which are much more effective when left to the imagination.  The book’s Flagg was terrifying, though never as scary to me as the man-made plague.  Psychotic, more than human (and less), unpredictable, as a book character he could do anything and be anywhere and be frightening.  In the miniseries, he has been … a skinny guy (played by Jamey Sheriden, mostly in silhouette so far) in tight jeans with too-long hair (a mullet?! Oh, I do hope not) and eyes that sometimes glow red.  That part was pretty well done.  The moment when Lloyd sees him sitting up on top of the telephone pole in place of the crow was very well done.  The “AAAH” moment with Stu in the cornfield …. Meh.  I’m not optimistic.

Cast that is yet to appear: Matt Frewer as Trashcan Man.  All right then.  That should be good.  Should.  However, Ray Walston as Glen Bateman doesn’t sit well with me at all.  I pictured him as someone like Kelsey Grammer – longish curly hair, tall and solid, bluff.  Ray Walston is none of the above.  Ray Walston is a pillar of American television and film, so don’t get me wrong – he’ll be wonderful, and will assuredly capture Glen’s intelligence.  It’s just going to be a challenge to fit him into the role in my head.  He’s one of my favorite characters, so I’m a little worried.  The other one I really, really am looking forward to is Bill Fagerbakke as M-O-O-N spells Tom Cullen.  Yay.  I hope.  I don’t have good memories of Laura San Giacomo as Nadine Cross (whose character is blended with … oh dear.  *search* Rita Blakemoor), but I like her as a rule, and also didn’t think I saw that far into the miniseries – so, here’s hoping.

It was a very good start, this.  It’s a masterful job of compression of time and plot and characters, a wonderful abridged version of the book – I wish Stephen King would consider screenplays of books other than his own, he does such an excellent job.  (‘Course, he knows his own book better than anyone, but still.)  This first episode laid out many of the threads that will be braided together.  I look forward to seeing the interactions as threads twist around each other, and as new threads are woven in.  My instinct is that it will not compare to the book – but I still need to see it.

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It Happened One Night

July 13, 2011 at 8:26 pm (Capra, Classics) (, , , , , )


Clark Gable & Claudette Colbert, directed by Frank Capra

What a movie.  It’s one of the beautiful classics I saw eons ago and not since.  Claudette Colbert is Ellie Andrews, who has run off and married King Westley, a world-famous pilot – and her father doesn’t like it.  He has grabbed her up and stuck her on a yacht and is taking her home.

This ties in to “The Popcorn Dialogues”, a podcast which I’ve just discovered, which is two writers looking at romantic comedies and how they convey the story, whether it’s done well, and how, and why.  This was, coincidentally, the first movie they tackled.  At the beginning of the podcast they talk about how someone tweeting during the film said they didn’t like Ellie – but as the ladies and Ellie herself point out, she’s not a spoiled brat.  She’s bursting out because she’s never had her own way, and she has decided that she is going to do this dammit, because after all she loves her pilot – doesn’t she?  I thought the beginning was wonderful: she is refusing to eat, and so the father orders food brought to her cabin and goes to see her.  When the stewards bring the food in Ellie yells at them – she told them not to bring any more food! – and they cower before her.  The father makes them put it down, and as soon as it’s down they scamper.  She’s a terror, she is.

He provokes her, so she jumps off the boat and swims for it – and manages to evade the men Dad sends after her.  A telling detail: right then he’s angry, and frustrated, and kinda proud of her: “She’s too smart for you!”  Nice character development.  Next time we see Ellie, right after a moment with either detectives or reporters (sorry – can’t remember) talking about how she would never travel by bus, she is paying off a little old lady who went to the ticket counter for her for a ticket to New York.  Ellie very sweetly thanks her and tips her.

We are introduced to Peter Warne in that station, on the phone with his editor being thoroughly fired.  Again, nice character development – he is hung up on, and, since he has an audience, creates a new ending to the story.  On the bus – to New York, of course – he can’t resist getting into a battle of wits with an unarmed man – the conductor.  “Oh yeah?” It could be a revelation of an ugliness in him, baiting a poor stupid Neanderthal in front of an audience, but the Neanderthal is so very stupid he hasn’t the least idea that he is being baited.  He is probably certain that “Oh yeah?” is all the witty riposte that is needed.  And Peter isn’t cruel about it – he surrenders, and the conductor never sees the mockery.

He turns to his seat, and finds it has become occupied while he fenced: Ellie.  And she’s tired, and not in any mood to yield.  And so it begins – – and as it begins so it continues, bristly and funny and growing quickly warmer.  Their relationship was genuine – they’re on the same level, intellectually and in terms of understanding, and it looks like a keeper.  They’ll wear well.

Cropped screenshot of Clark Gable and Claudett...

Image via Wikipedia

One apparent bone of contention is that people think she’s extremely bratty because she expects the bus to wait for her – but she simply doesn’t know any better.  It isn’t as if she’s ever been on a bus before; she asked nicely – it wasn’t as though she came back late and expected them to have waited.  She let the driver know she needed to go somewhere (they never did explain why she needed to go to that hotel), let him know about how late she would be, and had no frame of reference to know that that wasn’t the way things work.

Cropped screenshot of Claudette Colbert and Cl...

Image via Wikipedia

I love the tidbits some of the hosts – on Reel 13, and on TCM (On Demand in this case) (I swear, I want a quarter every time I mention On Demand or Reel 13).  This time I learned: Claudette Colbert didn’t want to hoist her skirt and “hitch-hike”; she didn’t think it was funny.  He said that was fine; they would bring in a leg double.  Claudette changed her mind.  And, to her surprise, from that moment on she was mentioned any time gorgeous gams were listed: Betty Grable, Marlene Dietrich, and Claudette Colbert.  Hee.

I’ve said it before about other movies – it won’t be nearly as long till I see this again.

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Roxanne (Earn more sessions by sleeving!)

June 20, 2011 at 11:01 pm (Movies) (, , , , , , )

I’ve been listening, off and on, to a podcast called The Popcorn Dialogues: two writers of romantic comedies (novels) who decided to do a review of movies in their category across the decades to try to learn from them, what works in storytelling and characterization and dialogue and what doesn’t. What makes a good rom com, and can a novelist (or two) learn from the good and the bad and the
ugly of film? It’s a great idea, and the two ladies are charismatic and (usually) fun to listen to (not so much when they’ve had a little extra wine or when they repeat their conclusions for the 83rd time in a 45-minute podcast – which two things often go hand in hand). (I may have to crib off the idea of the podcast: what can I take away from a movie in terms of storytelling – maybe it’ll make me review more films.)

I only listen off and on because I have seen remarkably few of the movies they’re talking about. It isn’t as though they choose obscure little films – all of the original movies are considered classic rom-coms, and most of them are pretty big. I just don’t get out much. Or something.

One I did see long long ago, and not since, was Roxanne. I listened to the podcast for it, and they adored it (except for Darryl Hannah), and that made me want to see it again, immediately. I bumped it up the Netflix queue, and watched it over the weekend.

The ladies were right, as was my memory of having loved it forever ago: it’s wonderful.

The cast, aside from being a proverbial blast from the past, was excellent:

– Rick Rossovich as Chris is (to quote Frasier) “Cute but stupid”: a truly nice, and truly adorable, boy with no self-confidence. The only story-telling flaw I can think of in this was that it might have been nice to know why he’s so phobic; was he a late bloomer, and still getting used to being a hottie?

– Shelley Duvall as Dixie was perfect, warm and strong. She’s the kind of friend everyone needs.

– Fred Willard as Mayor Deebs – Fred Willard!! Enough said.

– Michael J. Pollard as Andy was just adorable. And his history in Star Trek (“Miri”): bonus. I’m a fan.

– Damon Wayans as Jerry – wow. I forgot he was in it. And I never noticed him. Not what you expect from Damon Wayans.

– Shandra Beri as Sandy – one of those actresses who was in everything in the 80’s, from commercials up, and whose name I never knew. She was beautiful and really quite good – great chemistry with Chris/Rick Rossovich; why didn’t she become a household name?

– Blanche Rubin as Sophie, Jane Campbell as Dottie, and Jean Sincere as Nina – three of the elderly ladies who provide lovely grace notes throughout.

– Daryl Hannah as Roxanne … Hannah was hot right then, still riding the (pardon the pun) wave from, among other biggies, Splash. And she was fine; I loved what she did with the last scene. The PD ladies weren’t enamored of her; they didn’t feel she quite filled the role of beautiful geek. And while adding glasses to her boho look didn’t quite cut it as indicator that she’s smart, she did a nice job in the role – she had several good moments, and none that were outright bad.

– Steve Martin as C. D. Bales. All hail Steve Martin. I love Charlie – I’m in love with Charlie – and considering Steve Martin wrote Charlie (wrote the screenplay), I’m a fathom or two deep for him as well. He’s sheer joy to watch; he’s completely unafraid to make an utter fool of himself. He is bloody brilliant. And Steve Martin’s fantastic too.

I’m not as intimate with the details of Cyrano de Bergerac as I could be (he was real???) (and he wrote science fiction – in 1662! “Cyrano travels to the moon using rockets powered by firecrackers and meets the inhabitants. The moon-men have four legs, musical voices, and firearms that shoot game and cook it” – wow), but I love the use of what I do know. “C.D.” for Cyrano de; Chris for Christian de Neuvillette; a firehouse instead of a corps of the French army (still a brotherhood). From what I’m reading it follows the story faithfully
(except for the ending) – and does it with joy.

In terms of storytelling, there was one scene that was to me a gorgeous little model of efficiency.

We see Roxanne seeing Chris in a bookstore
Chris: Hey, did that copy of ‘Being and Nothingness,’ by Jean…
Clerk: Jean-Paul Sartre? Yes, it did. I got it right here! It’s all paid for.
Chris: Great! Okay, thanks a lot.
Clerk: De rien. Il n’y a pas de quoi.
Chris: All right, okay…
Clerk: It ain’t nothing, bro!
Chris (reading as he goes back out on sidewalk): “… Therefore my body is a conscious structure of my consciousness…”
Andy: Yeah. Thanks, Chris. I was too embarrassed to go in there and ask for it myself.
Chris: A little light reading, huh, Andy?

In nine lines, 77 words, here’s what we get from that scene:

– – Roxanne takes away the impression that Chris is a reader; I’m not sure whether she overheard what he was picking up, but even if not – well, he’s only been in town a few days and he’s already in the bookstore? This is a definite plus in a man.
– – Andy is more than just the sweet and kind of dim guy he appears to be, but not very confident in being more – which might be why his appearance is deceiving
– – Chris not only doesn’t speak French, he doesn’t know Jean-Paul Sartre from Jean-Luc Picard, and a bookstore is actually very much not his natural habitat. And he does not speak French.
– – While Chris is sweet and kind of dim, he’s also a very nice guy, willing to do a favor for someone he’s only worked with a couple of days, and refraining from teasing him as some of the other firefighters probably would have. He seems a little impressed at the end – as he should be.

Bravo.

The movie was written by Martin, which makes me very happy. It’s beautiful.

C.D. Bales: I really admire your shoes.
Drunk #1: What?
C.D. Bales: I love your shoes.
Drunk #2: What do ya mean?
C.D. Bales: And I was just thinking: as much as I really admire your shoes, and as much as I’d love to have a pair just like them, I really wouldn’t want to be IN your shoes at this particular time and place.

The firehouse scenes (Operation Snowball!) were sweet; the old ladies were wonderful (I can’t do the alien sound effect); taxidermy-man (“All Things Dead”) was perfectly creepity; it was just grand.  The story ran a beautiful course to a satisfying ending (happily not the original).  It won’t be as long again until I watch Roxanne again – that was just too much fun.

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Remembering

May 8, 2011 at 8:14 pm (BBC) ()

Many thanks, Elizabeth Sladen – rest in peace, Sarah Jane Smith.

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Remembering

April 30, 2011 at 8:08 pm (Star Trek) (, , )

William Campbell, beloved to Trekkies everywhere as “The Squire of Gothos” and Koloth in “The Trouble with Tribbles'”, died on Thursday. May his afterlife be tribble-free.

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Remembering

March 23, 2011 at 7:19 pm (Classics, Movies)

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Castle just gets better

February 22, 2011 at 12:01 am (TV) (, , , , , , , , , )

It is nothing short of miraculous when a tv show is good, stays on, and can boast not only a truly magnificent lead actor and really nice writing, but a truly brilliant production crew.  Nathan Fillion – the marvelous Nathan Fillion – is the magnificent lead; his Captain Malcolm Reynolds of Firefly is one of my favorite characters in all of tv, movies, or print, as Firefly itself is one of my favorite entities in all of tv, movies, or print.  Well, not movies.  Not the movie.  No. 

The amazing thing is that someone in charge of Nathan Fillion’s current series Castle, long may it wave, knows this.  Not about me – I assume – but about all the other geeks who started, as I did, watching Rick Castle because they loved Mal Reynolds.  Above is the costume Castle wore for the first Halloween episode, “Vampire Weekend” in 2009. 

Alexis: What exactly are you supposed to be?
Castle: Space cowboy.
Alexis: Ok, A: there are no cows in space. B: didn’t you wear that like five years ago?
Castle: So?
Alexis: So, don’t you think you should move on?
Castle: I like it.

I love it.  I had a fair-sized conniption that night.  Bought the episode on iTunes. 

Another mini-conniption:

Castle (in Chinese): My partner is crazy and may start firing at any moment!

Beckett: Semester abroad?
Castle: No, a TV show I used to love.

Every now and then they toss one out.  It’s nothing that will get in the way of watching the show if you never saw Firefly – but if you did, it just makes for the happy. 

Tonight’s episode, “Setup” not only is using a song by Pink Martini in the background – bravo – but involves Martha wanting to take Alexis off to a spa where she will shed her ego in preparation for teaching the students who will be flocking into her acting school.  Richard never heard of the place.  Martha’s response?

“You haven’t heard of the Serenity?”

There’s no way that was accidental.

To whomever it is responsible for the recognition of your geek fan base – I love you. 

You too, Mr. Fillion.  You too. 

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