An Ode To Leonard Nimoy, and To His Undying Character

Spock with a cat is basically the epitome of awesome.

Spock with a cat is basically the epitome of awesome.

Spock is still with us. He was brought back to life by the Genesis Device, after all. He’s out there somewhere, with pointy ears and one eyebrow raised, telling us the most logical course of action.

It is Leonard Nimoy, beloved to millions of people across the globe, that is no longer with us. But somehow, that doesn’t feel quite right to say.

I generally have a slight aversion to cheesy celebrity death posts, mainly because I have never had personal experiences with these celebrities, or did not feel like I was enough of a fan to warrant writing a eulogy for someone I’d technically never met. I was a fan of Robin Williams, for instance, and was very saddened to hear about his tragic death, but I did not feel I was the right person to write about what he meant to people.

This is different.

Leonard Nimoy did much more than play Mr. Spock on Star Trek (here is the proof). But for me, and for most people, I imagine, Spock is what he will be remembered for the most. It’s obvious why, and I don’t need to explain what made Spock such a good character. What I want to talk about is what Spock meant to me.

My parents are huge Star Trek fans, and one day the decided to order the first show from Netflix, CD by CD (back when people actually still ordered physical DVDs from Netflix), and watch it episode by episode with us. Since we had to wait for the DVDs to come in the mail, it was the closest we could get to watching it as a real TV show. In a way, it was even better because we were seeing every episode in order.

The show gets off to a semi-slow start, but by the time I saw “The Menagerie,” I was hooked, and much of it had to do with that intriguing pointy-eared science officer that was so different from everyone else in the show. And yet, he fit in perfectly. There would have been no Star Trek without Mr. Spock, and I don’t think I would have been drawn to the show as I was if not for him.

I’ve said numerous times, in discussion of TV shows like The X-Files and movies like Gravity, that what I personally look for in storytelling are complex characters. A good story is carried by great characters, and the emotional arc of any tale rides on a character’s conflict and development. But a great deal of it also rides on personality, which is something I haven’t discussed much.

Spock was – is – a logical, practical, calm person with two halves, a person split right down the middle between two kinds of being: the logical, and the emotional. The emotional is his human side, the logical is his Vulcan side. Or so the show claims. What was so, so special about Spock – and what really drew me to him, as a shy, lonely, awkward twelve-year-old – was the way he showed his humanity through his inhumanity. Some of Spock’s most emotional, noble, loving material is channeled through a being of logic – his Vulcan side cooperating with his human side, allowing it to drive his actions. And damn, there’s just something so relatable about that. We all feel like that. We all have problems that lead us in different directions. We all must find ways to make two conflicting sides of ourselves help each other.

I think Leonard Nimoy took this character that Gene Roddenberry created and gave him a depth, a layer, that Roddenberry had not anticipated. One raised eyebrow is funnier than any joke, one sincere sentence says more than a monologue ever could have. The contrast between Spock and Kirk is striking: Kirk, whose emotional material is delivered through passionate monologues and rousing speeches; Spock, who can do the same with a softly spoken sentence. Neither is better than the other; they go together, complement each other. Two halves of a whole.

I had to go out and do stuff today. I had to do normal things, like eat breakfast and go to class and buy food and talk to people. And all the while, I kept turning my head away, blinking back tears. I kept thinking back to when I was younger, sitting on my living room floor with a bowl of popcorn, watching a spaceship full of people wearing primary colors flying through space, boldly going where no one had gone before. To my young mind, Star Trek was the greatest thing I had ever seen, the most exciting, the most intriguing, the most creative. In many ways, it still is. In great part thanks to Leonard Nimoy and his character.

Spock, you have been and always shall be my friend. Live long and prosper. Thanks to you, I know I will.

spock

Advertisements

Interstellar – Movie Review

MV5BMjIxNTU4MzY4MF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwMzM4ODI3MjE@._V1_SX640_SY720_

Space films seem to be taking a different direction as of late. What we’re getting is less Star Trek than it is 2001: A Space Odyssey, which is a film not merely about our future (or, the future as seen in 1968) but about our near, attainable future, a future so close it feels almost familiar to us. This is the world Interstellar occupies. Nothing in the film has happened yet, but it does not feel that far away.

I’ve pondered and mulled over this movie ever since seeing it. I can safely say that it’s a very good film – well made, original, engaging – but something about it isn’t sitting right with me. There were too many little problems, too many flaws that just kept nagging at my brain whenever I replayed as much of the three hours of film as I could remember in my head. I’ve swung back and forth on it – I like it, I don’t like it, I like it – and while I have reached the conclusion that I do indeed like it, I’m not sure I want to see it again any time soon.

One thing’s for sure – I didn’t love it. There was never a moment when I watched it that made me think about anything differently or that conjured that movie magic for me. Which is entirely me, of course – I know dozens of people that said this film was the most amazing thing they’ve seen in a while. But not me.

Here’s the thing about Interstellar that few have brought up – it’s sad. Like, really, really sad. This is not a triumphant film about people who conquer space to find a new home, it’s a film about a group of characters – really good, engaging characters, I might add – that suffer hardship after hardship, loss after loss, misfortune after misfortune. Most of the time, they’re miserable, and rightfully so, but it was hard to feel happy or elated watching this film with all the heavy emotional weight. And when you’re sitting there for three hours…

But like I said, I’ve been on sort of a seesaw when it comes to how I feel about this film. One moment I’m “eh” and another moment I’m “that was awesome!” A perfect scene to describe this feeling is the part where they go to the first planet. In my view, there was really nothing that made the first planet the best to travel to first – it was so close to a black hole, so the dangers traveling to it and the possibility of getting swallowed by the black hole itself made it a risky option, even without considering the dangers they found on the surface. The whole sequence cut out of the film would not, I think, have affected the film too much. However, on the other hand, there’s some real function to that scene because while I think their reasons for going to that one first were flimsy at best, one of my favorite parts of the film was watching those giant, kick-ass waves. The special effects junkie in me was practically salivating with delight (it looked amazing on the big screen, by the way).

I think the film’s greatest strength, though, is its characters. These are good, developed characters. They are not clichéd action heroes, they are real people with problems and motivations and complexities. A great majority of the film focuses on the relationships these people have with one another, and at the very core of the story is the bond between Cooper and his daughter, Murphy. That is the essence of good storytelling – to place what happens to a character and the decisions that character makes into a complex internal conflict. There are moments in the film where the mere absence of something can have just as much impact as someone acknowledging that it isn’t there. That was very well done.

So while I don’t think it’s the best movie I’ve ever seen, and I do have problems with it, I’d say Interstellar is a good, meaningful film and any science-fiction fan will probably enjoy it. The film didn’t really affect me all that much, but I did enjoy seeing it – although it was very, very long (bring a pillow for your butt). This one’s worth the watch.


Upcoming Reviews

Gravity Falls Intro and Pilot Talks – Monday, January 26

The X-Files Season 4, Episode 3 “Teliko” Review – Monday, February 2

Worldless, Part 3

Link to Part 2 here

Link to all parts here

Read on Figment here

________

Roos wasn’t really a waiter. He was a thief. He was the yellowest thief in all of Krimkus, according to the last description the KSS had sent out to their fleet. Not that they did so with much enthusiasm; Roos hadn’t stolen anything more valuable than a rich lady’s precious kulatstone bracelet. Still, the KSS had to alert its fleet if any known criminal, no matter how petty the crime, was possibly traveling around space.

Roos hated space travel. He hated the idea of being stuck in a can of metal for days on end, never knowing when something might go wrong or when exactly he’d be on safe ground again. It made his stomach churn.

Even more than space, he hated Moonport. He hated the swarms of people, Earthlings and Krimkusians alike, that walked around and pointed at things they pretended to like and oohed and ahed at things that didn’t really surprise them. Roos didn’t like people like that. He liked people who had missions, and did nothing but work to carry those missions out. It was why he liked thieving – you had one simple goal and you had to work to figure out how to achieve it. He had grown up in a rich neighborhood on Krimkus but, on days when he was bored and lonely (as being rich often was), he would travel to the poorer parts of the city, and would observe with fascination the street urchins take a gentleman’s money book without even brushing the back of his coat, or remove a necklace from a jewelry store window, long gone by the time the store owner noticed.

He’d spent so much time observing that eventually he picked up a few tricks himself. And, through a series of unfortunate circumstances, he’d somehow landed himself on Moonport, in the service of Balvin, someone he was regretting being associated with more and more each day.

Roos left the restaurant late that night, the same night the Earthling boy had left the restaurant with the Krimkusian girl. Balvin had given him a photograph of the boy, informing him that he would likely go to this particular restaurant, and Roos had sat waiting for him to appear. He’d slipped a recording device in one of the dishes, but after listening to it hadn’t heard anything worth reporting (though he had to present the recording to Balvin anyway). Roos didn’t like spywork – Balvin had promised him there would be lots to steal in this job, and Roos wasn’t sure if Balvin had been lying or had simply miscalculated the details of Roos’s job. In any case, Roos was getting fed up with Balvin, who so far hadn’t done a single thing he’d promised Roos.

The restaurant was closed. Roos waved goodbye to the head chef – a dumb, nearly blind old man who couldn’t tell the difference between Roos and the waiter Balvin had “replaced” – and sat down at one of the tables. It was dark, and the formerly candlelit restaurant, with its cheery golden glow and welcoming ambiance, was no disturbing, dark, and creepy. Roos shivered, but he wasn’t sure if it was because of his surroundings or the fact that he would have to meet with Balvin soon.

After what seemed like an eternity, the door flew open, and there was Balvin, his hood pulled over his head, breathing loudly and heavily. He looked like he had been running, and running fast. Roos began biting his nails.

“Get some light in here,” barked Balvin, slamming the door, but Roos didn’t move. He stared at Balvin, chewing his nails.

“Did you hear me?” Balvin snapped.

“What happened?” asked Roos.

Balvin snarled – he really snarled, like an animal – and stomped over to the lamp on the host’s table. He began fiddling with various plugs and wires, grumbling the whole time, until he finally managed to turn the thing on.

“Well, someone’s in a bad mood,” muttered Roos.

“If I were you, I would shut your mouth, Roos,” said Balvin, without turning around. “Please remember that you are a dirty, good-for-nothing criminal, and if you didn’t come from Krimkusian high society you’d be in the slums or in jail. It’s only your family name that has gotten you out of both. And me – though goodness knows why I ever entertained the thought of using you.”

“You need me,” said Roos. “Nobody suspects me, remember?”

“Yes, well, everything’s blown,” said Balvin. “Everything.”

“Did you try the diplomatic approach, like I said?”

“He has a Krimkusian girl with him,” said Balvin. “If it wasn’t for her, I would have gotten him.”

“If it wasn’t for her, he never would have come to Moonport,” said Roos.

“It doesn’t matter. I’m going to have to speak to Orthelion about this. And meanwhile, I want you on that ship.”

“You want me where?” 

“On the ship,” said Balvin slowly and forcefully. “Whatever ship those two are traveling with, I want you on it in the next twenty-four hours.”

“But – it’s probably already left! Long gone!”

“It hasn’t,” said Balvin. “I arranged for a fresh stock of American omelettes to be delivered to Earthling Captain Charles Fischer, who is currently doing a five-year internship with the KSS. He requests them every few months or so. And you, Roos, are going to deliver them.”

Roos felt dizzy and unsure of where he was. Why did Balvin have to drop new tasks on his lap so quickly? “How in the names of the five Krimkusian moons did you manage to arrange this so fast?”

“If you ever, God forbid, manage to get a job like the one I have now,” said Balvin, hurriedly tapping into his cell phone, “you will learn of a very useful and often lifesaving strategy known as a backup plan. Remember, you are not the only assistant I have, just the most unremarkable, which is why I find I need you the most. Despite your ridiculously colored skin, you manage to blend in to your environment through your sheer lack of charisma and personality. My other assistants have been watching and waiting for the various alternative plans I might possibly set into motion to be set into motion, and this is one of them.” He scribbled something on a piece of paper, handed the paper to Roos, and said, “Your name is Pikus, and you are to arrive at the transporting station in ten minutes. The supply of omelettes is Package #2005. You will be accompanying the supply to its destination because you are planning to visit your cousin, who works at the KSS and whom you haven’t seen in over four years.”

“Right,” said Roos. “And what am I really supposed to be doing?”

“Befriend the boy. Get every ounce of information out of him that you can. Try and remove the girl from the equation. And if you blow our cover, I’ll blow your head off. I won’t even consider doing anything else.”

Roos swallowed. He believed Balvin wholeheartedly.

“It might be best if you didn’t talk too much,” said Balvin. “Be a good listener. And remember – ” he tapped his phone – “I’ll be watching. So don’t even think about doing anything idiotic. Got it?”

“Got it,” choked Roos.

“Good. Your time is running short. Get to the transporting station.”

Roos nodded, shoved the paper in his pocket, and hurried out the door.

As he left, he heard Balvin call out from behind him, “And good luck.”

*     *     *

“Start over,” said Lieutenant Garah. “What did he say to you?”

Nate and Jena had just boarded the ship, and were telling their story to Lieutenant Garah and the Captain. Garah looked genuinely worried, but Malaa seemed unimpressed.

When they had finished retelling the story, Garah said, “Captain – if you don’t mind me saying so – this is serious. This man, whoever he is, is obviously dangerous. He tried to attack Jena.”

Captain Malaa nodded. “It is a concern, but not a large enough one to justify panicking. We’ll send out a description to the Moonport Police and make sure we are immediately suspicious of any crimson-skinned Krimkusian men wearing hoods. In the meantime, I think we should keep Nate on board at all times, just to be safe. And we should congratulate Jena on her excellent performance in the face of adversity. Very well done.”

Jena felt pleased, but Nate looked angry.

“If we see this man again, I want to be there when he’s confronted.”

“Nate, that’s silly,” said Jena. “You probably won’t even see him again. He’s just crazy or something.”

“Captain Malaa, can I have your word that you will let me speak to him?” Nate said, ignoring Jena.

“No, you do not,” said Malaa. “Not until we find out more about what he wants.” Or what you want, she thought to herself.

“Lieutenant Garah, we are expecting a shipment of Captain Fischer’s famous omelettes any minute now,” said Malaa. “Jena, I want you to go with Garah and oversee their arrival. You can escort Nate to his quarters along the way.”

“Yes, Captain,” said Garah, and the three left.

Jena felt Nate’s discomfort radiating from him, and the silence that ensued among the three of them was all at once the most awkward, uncomfortable, almost frightening silence Jena had ever experienced. She knew Nate was upset about the incident, but she had a feeling he was upset for different reasons entirely.

Nate went into his room without a word, and Garah and Jena continued to the shipping room.

Finally, Garah broke the silence. “Jena, do you notice anything strange about Nate? About how he acts, or what he says, or – “

“No,” said Jena. It was a lie.

“This business with the stranger at Moonport is a little disturbing to me, is all,” said Garah. “We don’t know anything about either of them – Nate or the stranger, I mean. It might be best if you, well, kept your distance from the whole situation until we can figure out what’s – “

“Thanks for your concern, Lieutenant,” said Jena, “but Nate hasn’t done anything wrong, and he’s been a good friend to me.”

“I just think – ” said Garah, but fell silent, unable to continue.

The uncomfortable silence took place again, and Jena almost breathed a sigh of relief when they reached the shipping room.

The supply of omelettes was already there, along with the man who had arrived with them. He was a short Krimkusian with yellow skin. Jena had a strange feeling when she saw him, but it was so fleeting and small that she barely noticed it.

“The shipment has arrived – ” the yellow man looked at a piece of paper he had in his pocket – “Lieutenant Garah?”

“That’s me,” said Garah. “And this is our First-officer-in-training, Jena.”

“Pleased to meet you,” said the man, bowing slightly. “I am Pinkus, and I am most pleased to be traveling aboard your vessel.”

“Wait, you’re coming with us?” said Jena.

“Pinkus is visiting his cousin at the KSS,” said Garah.

The yellow man smiled, flashing a row of unremarkable teeth.

“Whom I have not seen in over four years, I might add.”

TO BE CONTINUED

Short Story – Worldless, Part 1

Link to all parts here

Read on Figment here

_________

Earth Year 4126

 

The disc-shaped starship spun like a frisbee through the vast, silent realms of space. A row of blue lights surrounded its circular perimeter, giving it a strange, almost ridiculous, look. The ship was the latest design, the most advanced technology the planet Krimkus had created. Surely it was enough to bring their sister and rival planet Earth to its knees.

Krimkus and Earth weren’t actually in conflict, of course. There was a sort of friendly feud between them, an intense desire to beat the other in technological innovations but nothing beyond that. The people on both planets were nearly identical, the only difference being that Krimkusians had many more shades of skin color, everything from green to crimson to pale blue, and they hadn’t destroyed their planet by sucking it dry of its natural resources and clogging its atmosphere with foul chemicals. The Krimkusians highest value was the natural world, and everything they did was done in the cleanest, most environmentally efficient way possible.

Ever since the first contact between the “Earthlings,” as they called themselves, and the Krimkusians, the two planets had worked together to get Earth back to some sort of environmentally stable shape. But the pollution was so bad and the natural plant and animal life so devastated that complete recovery was probably never going to happen.

It was disgusting. Captain Malaa, the captain of the new starship, felt her stomach turn whenever she looked at Earth from her place on the bridge. The once-green continents were now a sickly greenish brown, and a foul glow surrounded the planet. Space trash orbited Earth, so much trash that it created a ring around the planet similar to those of Saturn, though not nearly as beautiful. The water, which had once been a brilliant blue, Malaa heard, now was an undefined blue-gray.

And yet, despite the fact that the planet was in a state of near disrepair, the inhabitants of Earth had found a way to profit from their extraordinary technological innovations. Even though the Krimkusians had (in Malaa’s opinion, anyway) beaten the Earthlings with their newest starship design, the brilliant scientists of Earth had created machines Malaa could only dream of owning. Computers that rearranged particles and created materials out of thin air. Weapons that knocked an unsuspecting victim unconscious thirty miles away in less than twenty seconds, with a laser-beam type bullet that was painless and, for the most part, would never kill you. Telescopes that had found a way to reach into the farthest corners of space and send a signal to other life forms. That signal had been what brought Krimkus and Earth together, in the Earth year 3053.

“For better or for worse,” Malaa’s grandfather would say often, and Malaa understood more of what he meant by that statement every day.

Malaa directed her ship to the Earth’s moon, where the main trading port between the two planets was located. The spinning disc hovered over a landing platform, and the blue lights blinked once, twice, then went out completely as the bottom of the ship touched the moon’s dusty ground. There was an uncomfortable click, and a slight shake as the ship securely locked into place. The ship’s design was newer than the landing pad, but the two were still compatible. For now.

“We’re here, Captain,” Lieutenant Garah said from his chair. He was a short, round man, with skin the color of an upturned leaf.

“How very observant, Garah,” Malaa said sarcastically. “Why don’t you inform the rest of the crew? I’m sure they haven’t noticed by now.” Malaa turned to her First Officer-in-training, Jena, a beautiful and brilliant young scientist on her first space mission, though not, based on her performance so far, anywhere near her last. Malaa had never seen a young person so talented and capable; it was as if she’d been commanding spaceships her whole life.

“The cargo is ready, Captain, and Lieutenant Faresh is in the cargo bay overseeing its transport,” Jena reported. “I can go down there to supervise if you feel it necessary, but I think they can handle it.”

“I agree,” said Malaa. “You’ve done splendidly, Jena. You deserve a break. Why don’t you take a few friends with you and make a visit to Moonport. It’s fun, if not a bit ridiculous. Just stay out of trouble.”

“Yes, Captain,” said Jena excitedly, and walked quickly out of the room, her amber eyes flashing with anticipation. Talented though she was, Jena was still young, and this was still a new experience for her.

After Jena left, Malaa walked down to where Garah was fiddling with his officer’s cap. The light of the ship made his pale green bald head shine, and not in a way that was at all flattering. It made him look smaller, more foolish.

“Stop fidgeting, Garah,” said Malaa.

“I don’t like it, Captain,” Garah mumbled, almost half to himself. He met her eyes and then quickly looked away. “I don’t like her going down there. Especially because she’ll bring him along, you know she will.”

“She’ll be fine,” Malaa said, but she wasn’t sure.

*     *     *

Jena hurried down the clean and polished halls of the starship until she reached the residence area, passing rows upon rows of doors, until she reached number 273. She knocked on it three times, and when there was no answer, she put her ear to the door and listened. He was definitely in there. Just ignoring her.

She shifted from one foot to the other, wringing her hands impatiently, and waited. She knocked again, and waited some more. Finally, after five good minutes had passed, she gave the door a swift kick and shouted, “Come on, Nate, I know you’re in there! Let me in!”

The door opened, and Nate stood there, his brown eyes sparkling with mischief. He was tall, much taller than Jena, and perhaps the only person on the whole ship besides Captain Malaa who had any sort of authority over Jena. But Nate’s authority was different. It was subtle and powerful and not at all healthy, although neither of them knew it.

“Off duty?” said Nate. “We’ve arrived, haven’t we? How did everything go?”

“Smooth as silk. The Captain’s letting me off for a few hours. I’m going to Moonport, you want to come?”

Nate looked at her questioningly, as if he were studying her. She hated it when he did that.

“Maybe…” he said, half to himself. “Sure, I’ll come. It won’t do much, but I’ll come.”

“You will?” Jena hadn’t really expected him to say yes. She had asked him with the knowledge that the moon, although it was not Earth, was still very much a part of Earth, and that Earth made Nate uncomfortable. She had asked anyway because she couldn’t help herself.

“I’ll do anything for you, dear Jena,” Nate said jokingly, and then shut the door, leaving her out in the hall alone.

He was so strange. He was so, so strange sometimes. So different. But what else could Jena expect? Nate was an Earthling.

*     *     *

Lieutenant Garah was a lot more intelligent than he let himself believe or act. He let his nerves get the best of him, and many people wondered why the KSS – the Krimkusian Science Society – had let him take a position on a starship. Lieutenant Garah had been flying starships for nearly twenty years, but had never once been considered for promotion. He was too timid, too willing to follow commands and not willing enough to give them. Still, there was something about him, Captain Malaa knew, that was invaluable. His advice had never once led them off course, and he had a steady conscience. And he was experienced. Captain Malaa trusted experience more than any other virtue.

Malaa tapped Garah on the shoulder. “Don’t bother watching them,” she whispered.

“But, Mal- I mean, Captain. It could be dangerous. He could be dangerous. He’s not part of the test, he could jeopardize the whole thing -“

“We aren’t to interfere with the test under any circumstances,” Malaa said. “Jena knows she’s being evaluated every step of the way, and it was her choice to ask the boy to go along. Every decision she makes will go into her score, Garah – every one. We can’t help her.”

“What if he puts her life in danger?”

“For goodness’ sake, Garah. He’s an Earthling, not an enemy.”

“His own planet doesn’t even want him.”

“No, he doesn’t want his planet. He came to Krimkus on his own.”

“I don’t trust him.”

“Really? I hadn’t noticed.”

Garah’s eyes flashed with momentary anger. “I’m sorry, Captain,” he said. “I care for the girl, that’s all. She’s quite the commander, and she could be a real asset to the Society if she passes her test.” He paused, and swallowed heavily. “A tremendous asset.”

“She’s done all right,” said Malaa, and left Garah sitting with his thoughts.

*     *     *

Garah retreated to his room and opened his Officer’s Log. Most officers kept their logs in their computers, but Garah had always preferred paper. He had a small, well-made notebook in which he kept all his reports.

Flipping back to six weeks before, he read the first entry he’d written for this particular mission.

We have a trainee on board, a young woman fresh out of the Society College named Jena. Her first assignment was to escort the human boy to his room. She has never seen the ship before. This task was meant to demonstrate her familiarity with the ship’s designs, and she appears to know them better than half the crew. She took him straight there, and although it took her longer than it should upon closer inspection we realized that the prolonged time had nothing to do with any mistake in direction on her part, but rather because she and the boy were engaged in a lengthy conversation. Even now they appear to be getting along well.

Today, Jena the trainee was allowed to direct the ship in and out of Jupiter V, one of the loading docks in the Earth’s solar system. She did it with accuracy and confidence. I wish I were able to speak like her, in that authoritative voice. Her presence as a commander is surpassed only by Captain Malaa’s.

Our Jena is not only a skilled officer, but a hero. I was not present when the incident occurred, but according to those who were, Jena was down in Maintenance inspecting the engines when one of the Repairmen had a large and heavy object fall on his leg. Jena performed some marvelous first aid, and got him up to Sick Bay as speedily as possible. 

And so on and so on, tale after tale of Jena’s marvelous expertise. Garah wished he felt as confident about her as he did when she’d first come. But he couldn’t, not when she was with the boy. There was something wrong with that boy.

*     *     *

Moonport was a conglomeration of colorful buildings, all nestled under one huge silver casing that stretched for miles and miles. Inside, a collection of restaurants, amusement parks, bars, movie theaters, and stores were nestled together on either side of a huge, seemingly endless hallway. It was the place space travelers and planet-dwellers alike went to have fun, although it was much more accessible to space travelers. Jena had never been before, but she’d heard stories about it, about what a colorful place it was, how many new people there were to meet.

It was one of the only places where there was a roughly equal amount of Earthlings and Krimkusians, although you hardly ever saw them walking together, as Jena and Nate were. Jena noticed people’s heads turn when they walked by, and she saw one or two people exchange confused glances. An Earthling and a Krimkusian, together! It was rare.

Even though they were similar it was fairly easy to tell the difference between the two races. Krimkusians had bright colors in their skin, hair, and eyes, while Earthlings were, well, Earthy and flesh-toned. Jena’s cerulean skin and amber-gold eyes were so unlike Nate’s nut-brown skin and chocolately ones. Even though sometimes, Jena didn’t feel so different from him. Not even in appearance.

“Do you want to go to a bar?” Nate asked. “Or perhaps we should start with something less exciting, since this is your first time on Moonport…”

“I thought it was your first time too.”

“No,” said Nate, “it isn’t.”

He didn’t elaborate. Nate rarely ever elaborated on his own, and Jena didn’t feel much like asking him to. She was so afraid of upsetting him.

“I don’t want to go to a bar,” said Jena. “I don’t think getting intoxicated, even on leave, is a good idea.”

“There’s nothing wrong with getting a little drunk sometimes,” said Nate. “It’ll be fun. I’ll make you stop if you start going crazy.”

“No,” said Jena firmly. “I’m being evaluated, Nate. I’m not going to mess this up. Let’s go to a restaurant.”

Nate was disappointed, Jena could tell, but he said nothing. Jena felt a pang in her stomach – was he upset with her? Was she too bossy?

“I mean,” she said, “maybe we can go later, if I feel like it. But I don’t want to spend my evening getting drunk.”

“It’s fine, Jena,” Nate said, and then he smiled, a beautiful smile that lit up his whole face and took Jena’s breath away. “I don’t want you messing up your evaluation, either. We’ll stay away from bars. Tonight we will be pure and temperate.”

“Thank you.” But there was still something in his voice that worried her.

They went to the only restaurant they could easily walk to that Nate claimed had any “class,” and got a table. There were few people inside. The tablecloths were white but faded and the atmosphere was dingy. Jena didn’t like it at all, but she said nothing.

Sitting at a table on the other side of the room was a figure wearing a hood. They were eating a bowl of soup and muttering to themselves. On the side opposite them was an Earthling family of five. The kids were very young and wouldn’t stop fidgeting and throwing things. One of the younger boys ran under the table, pulling the white tablecloth as he went, which knocked over a wineglass. Two Krimkusian waiters came rushing out with a broom and dustpan, and had cleared the mess before the parents had time to apologize.

“Have you been here before?” Jena asked Nate. “Is it good?”

Nate laughed. “Why, Jena, is that what you think of me? I wouldn’t have taken you here if it wasn’t good.”

“I could end up hating it,” said Jena.

“Well, if that happens I hope you won’t tell me. It’ll hurt my feelings.”

But there was something within Jena that couldn’t hate whatever Nate liked, and always found a flaw in something he hated. The waiters brought the food out, and Nate commented on the subtlety of flavor in the cheese, and the perfect consistency of the bread, and the unmistakable balance of sweetness and spunk in the wine, and Jena suddenly tasted these things as if he had told her mouth to enjoy them. Jena finished the dinner feeling quite full of food but empty of experience. She wanted to see more.

“You know,” she said, as they were leaving, “I want to see more of Moonport, but I think that one glass of wine is as drunk as I’m going to get.”

Nate laughed, and pushed open the door. “You know, Jena,” he said, “give it time, and I think I could manage to fall in love with you.”

*     *     *

The hooded figure in the restaurant pushed back his hood once Jena and Nate had left. The family had left too, thank goodness, and now he was finally alone.

He was a Krimkusian, with crimson skin and eyes. He was of average height and build, but there was something powerful in the way he moved toward the kitchen.

“ROOS,” he yelled through the kitchen door, through the sound of clanking pots and pans, and a tall, thin, yellow Krimkusian man hurried out.

“Was that him?”

“That was him,” said Roos, his voice shaking. “Oh, Balvin, please don’t do anything too horrible-“

“Of course I won’t,” said Balvin, and felt in his pocket for the handgun as he walked out of the restaurant.

TO BE CONTINUED

Read Part 2 here

Movie Review – Star Trek: Into Darkness

***WARNING: This review will contain spoilers. If you haven’t seen the film yet, don’t read any further and go watch it. Or, better yet, just spare yourself the trouble and go watch Star Trek II. And on that note, if you haven’t seen Star Trek II, not only are you missing out big time but you probably shouldn’t read this review because I’m spoiling that one too. (Seriously, though, watch that movie.)


star_trek_into_darkness_xlg

A little bit of context: I am about as big a Star Trek fan as it gets.

I have seen every episode of the original show and all of the movies featuring the original cast. I have seen most of The Next Generation and all but one of the Next Gen movies. The only reason I didn’t finish TNG and start with Deep Space Nine was because of The X-Files.

When it comes to the original series, though – which is by far the best – I am as devoted a Trekkie as it is possible to be. So you can imagine that when the first film of the new series came out in 2009, I was judging. Hard.

And, after seeing the second film in the new series, I have come to the following conclusion: the writers of this new film franchise are not real Star Trek fans, and they don’t know how a Star Trek film is supposed to work. They seem to have a fairly good grasp of the characters, the visuals, and the aesthetics, but they have no idea how to weave those elements into a true Trek story.

Which is why Star Trek: Into Darkness is a complete failure as a Star Trek movie.

Let me briefly explain what my experience of watching this movie in the theater was like. Actually, it’s probably just easier if I do it like this.

1st oh, 30 minutes or so:

Eager

Next 30-ish minutes:

Shifty

Last part:

khan

And it wasn’t just because of Khan, either.

But before I explain what I didn’t like about the film, I need to be very clear about what I did like.

First of all, and this is definitely the most surprising for me, I really like the new cast, particularly Kirk, Spock, and Bones. The actors they picked do a good job of playing these characters as well as bringing new life to them – that is, when they’re not restrained by the poor writing, but we’ll get to that later.

Second, the visual effects are awesome. That can’t be denied.

Third, I really like the soundtrack. As someone who loves film scores, this is a pretty big deal for me, even if it may not be for most people.

Star Trek: Into Darkness got off to a GREAT start. As I was sitting in the theater watching it, I actually thought I might be getting what I’d come for: a Star Trek movie. The last film had some good things in there, but unfortunately it traded the potential Star Trek magic for overused plot devices and annoying action movie clichés. I felt like I was watching a movie that was called Star Trek and had some elements of Star Trek in there that worked, but those elements were threaded into an action movie formula that has been used again and again and again. Which is precisely the opposite of what Star Trek is.

But what I couldn’t deny was the feeling that the cast and most of the crew that made the first film had potential. Maybe they hadn’t made that Trek film their first try, but perhaps they were just finding their footing. Now that they had an established cast and lots and lots of money, they could spend time and energy making something every Trek fan and newcomer alike would love to see.

I can’t speak for the newcomers, but I, as a Trekkie, was disappointed beyond repair.

It would be one thing if the film destroyed my hopes right from the beginning, but it does exactly the opposite. Sitting in that theater, I found myself enjoying the film so much that I was sure it was going to be great. We had Spock and Kirk dealing with actual issues, like rule breaking, the prime directive, and other moral questions which make Star Trek what it is. We had a well-established conflict, a mysterious villain, and high stakes. We had interesting, and at times familiar, interactions between Kirk, Spock, and McCoy. Everything seemed set up perfectly to succeed. What could possibly go wrong?

Well, in short: everything.

By the time the middle third of the movie comes around, it’s basically just one explosion after another with almost none of the moral issues raised in the beginning ever having significance in the story again. Actually, there were so many explosions and battle scenes that I found myself growing more and more confused about what the conflict even was. What happened? Where are they? Where the fuck did the movie go?

But things took a serious turn for the worse when “Khan” showed up.

I call him “Khan” because he’s not actually Khan. I don’t care what the movie says, I don’t care what the writers say, I don’t even care what the fans say, he is not Khan. Not because he doesn’t look like Khan. I couldn’t give two craps about what he looks like; it’s an alternate timeline, I get that. No. This guy doesn’t act like Khan at all. He doesn’t talk like Khan, he doesn’t think like Khan, he doesn’t even fight or move like Khan. Therefore I must conclude that he is not Khan.

You see, all ye that know not of what I speak, the real Khan was a thrilling, powerful adversary who absolutely exuded fire, drama, rage, and power. Every word he says is dipped in some sort of verbal poison. He chews words, rolls them around, quotes famous authors, and treats every action he does with care and importance.

This “Khan” has a blank expression on his face and screams “NOOO!” sometimes. That’s about all the rage we get from him. There is nothing about this guy that is different from any other bland, generic villain in any other bland, generic action movie. This is not Khan. He is Insert Bad Guy Here.

But the part that really pissed me off, the part that literally made me cover my face in the movie theater, not in fear as my poor friend sitting next to me mistakenly thought, but in disgust – was the end. I have never felt so unbelievably violated by a movie before.

It’s not just that it’s a ripoff of Star Trek II, because it really isn’t. It’s someone ripping off Star Trek II who has never seen Star Trek II before, or if they did, only saw the last scene and therefore had no context with which to experience the full emotional impact of the movie or the thought-provoking questions the film raised.

I suppose I should take this opportunity to mention that Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan is one of my favorite movies of all time. Not one of my favorite Star Trek movies or science fiction movies of all time. One of my favorite movies of all time, period. It is everything a Star Trek movie needs to be and more. It deals with complex issues of life and death, the effects of growing old, the no-win scenario, revenge, friendship, it’s got it all. And those themes come together beautifully, which is why the end is effective. Spock sacrificing his life and saying those words to Kirk aren’t meaningful because he sacrifices his life and says those words to Kirk, they’re meaningful because of everything that’s happened in the film up until this point, and everything that’s happened in the show up until this point.

In Star Trek: Into Darkness, the scene where Kirk sacrifices his life is preceded by…a lot of explosions.

That. Does. Not. Work.

And when Spock goes crazy, screams Khaaaan, and then runs off to beat “Khan” up, I literally thought I was watching a joke. Honestly, did they even think about how that would come across? It’s absolutely ridiculous. If I was in a good mood, I might laugh my ass off. It looks comedic.

And it really pisses me off.

What makes me mad about this is that newcomers won’t get why Star Trek: Into Darkness isn’t a good film because they don’t know two things: what a Star Trek film really should be and what a glorious masterpiece Star Trek: Into Darkness was so heinously referencing. And if this is what people are going to think of when they hear Star Trek, if younger audiences are going to be introduced to a Star Trek like this, I envision some dark days ahead for humankind.