Category Archives: Reviews

The Man Who Loved Islands

“Write what you know.”

It’s one of the simplest pieces of advice any writer is ever likely to get, but it’s also possibly the most crucial.

I may be nothing more than an amateur writer, but it’s something I love to do and I firmly believe you have to have a passion for it to do it well. By writing what you know, you can help tap into that passion and help to pick up on the nuances that really make a good piece of writing come alive for the reader.

I’ve been writing on and off since I was at school. Although English wasn’t my strongest subject, even at primary school I used to love what they called “creative writing”. Sadly by the time I got to high school I had abandoned that in favour of focusing more on the storytelling than my actual abilities as a writer. So much so that what I did write was done in playscript format, nicely avoiding the need to paint any kind of picture and doing almost everything through dialogue.

Mind you, that may also have been because I was writing Star Trek fan fiction and I found it really difficult to write space battles through anything other than the characters telling you what was happening. Indeed, setting things in space was pretty much a theme of my writing through school! Even those “creative writing” assignments became a challenge in how I could twist the latest story into sci-fi/fantasy.

But the problem with what I wrote back in high school was that it didn’t read well. If you don’t paint that picture for the reader, then it’s difficult to truly engage them. The only place the picture exists is in the writer’s head, and that’s no good to anyone.

My more recent writing has focused more on the non-fiction world of Scottish football. I’ve mainly been blogging, but a few years ago I took on the much bigger challenge of writing a self-published book about Celtic’s 2003/04 season. When it comes to writing what you know, a book about your favourite season of your favourite sport pretty much ticks all of the boxes!

I can’t say it was perfect. If I did it again, I’d probably do certain things differently. Maybe that’s self-critical, but show me a writer who doesn’t reach that point of “will people actually like this rubbish” and I’ll show you someone who probably isn’t taking their writing seriously!

If there was one main criticism I’ve had of that book, it was that it was too dry. It’s packed full of facts and figures and quotes, but for a football book I wasn’t able to get the passion across as I would have liked. The best bits are probably where I veer off to talk about my own memories from certain aspects of that season. That’s when the passion starts to come across, that’s when I can paint the picture for the reader.

Perhaps if I’d focused on that at school more, I would have done a better job. Now that I understand how crucial it is, I could have done something about it. I still could if I had the time, but work and family commitments have severely limited what I can realistically achieve now. It’s a shame, because there have always been plenty of pictures in my head. With a bit of work, I’m sure I could paint those pictures for readers.

One of the best exponents of painting those pictures that I’ve read in recent years is David F. Ross.

A couple of years ago I set myself the New Year’s resolution of reading an average of a book a month in a year. I’d fallen out of reading on a regular basis and I wanted to get back into it. To try and push myself to do it, I tweeted my goal. David, ever the opportunist and someone I knew only through a shared involvement with the then ByTheMin Twitter project, suggested I give his book “The Last Days of Disco” a go.

How could I say no to that?!

I’m really glad I couldn’t. Of the thirteen books I read that year, yes I actually kept to my New Year’s resolution that year, Last Days of Disco was the highlight of the lot.

It was set in an era just after my birth, but it still let me reminisce about my own memories of the decade as a whole as it was clearly an era that David knew personally. Not only that, but it was set in a Scottish town. Again, not my Scottish town, but I could still acknowledge the references – especially about being slightly removed from the big city of Glasgow. I know that particular feeling all too well, having started out life there and moved away when I was young.

But the key for me is that David was able to not only transport me back to an era now long gone, but into a town I could picture in my own head. I couldn’t point to Onthank on a map of Kilmarnock, but I’ve a fairly good understanding of what it may be like – or at least was like – thanks to Last Days of Disco.

So when The Rise and Fall of the Miraculous Vespas came out, I rushed to read it. More or less the same early 80s era, a clear overlap of the characters, but a brand new story and one I was fully invested in from start to finish. You always know it’s a good book when you’re disappointed it’s over, and that one built up to a crescendo.

Now, The Man Who Loved Islands completes the trilogy and takes me back to catch up with the likes of Bobby Cassidy and Joey Miller and how they’ve been getting on since the Last Days of Disco. Having followed their exploits through that first book, I’m immediately invested in them once more because I genuinely want to know what happens next.

I should say that reading Last Days of Disco and The Rise and Fall of the Miraculous Vespas isn’t a prerequisite for reading The Man Who Loved Islands. It definitely helps, but there is more than sufficient exposition in this third book to explain any references. The main difference is instead of thinking “ahh that’s what that’s about” you’ll just have a wry smile as you remember the details of what happened previously.

Without wishing to give too much away, because you really should go and read the The Man Who Loved Islands for yourself, over the course of the first third of the book you’ll find the timeline rapidly catches up with near-present day and therefore goes through a period I’m even more familiar with than in the previous two books. In fact, even after “catching up”, the use of flashbacks works really well to fill in backstory as and when required. That’s a departure from the first two books, and I really like this style when it’s done right as it is here.

It isn’t just Bobby and Joey that we catch up with though. In a blend of the first two books, we catch up with the likes of Hammy May, Max Mojo and eventually the Miraculous Vespas themselves. Indeed, by the end of the book there are even minor characters turning up that make you smile. Characters you wouldn’t otherwise have considered until they show up and then you find yourself wondering why they didn’t come to mind in the first place.

That’s the fictional past of the previous two books of course. When you find yourself thinking “remember when…” about a fictional realm as often as I did reading this book, you know the trilogy has hit the mark.

As with the previous two books, The Man Who Loved Islands has humour laced throughout and there are plenty of moments that made me laugh and get funny looks from people depending on where I happened to be sitting while reading on my Kindle app. Given some of the subjects broached in this book, the humour is sometimes quite dark but more often than not it seems a good way to lighten the mood just when you need it.

And, indeed, this book is probably the darkest of the three. The first two books may have dealt with things like gangland lifestyles and even the questionable mental health of Max Mojo, but this book goes deep into the serious problems all too often encountered by people leaving their childhood behind and being forced to embrace the big bad world of responsible adulthood. Areas that may well overwhelm even the happiest among us from time to time.

But perhaps the greatest triumph of David’s is his use of music. The writing across all three books is so good, you don’t need to know the songs involved. I’ll freely admit I didn’t know most of them. But when a song is referenced that you do know, it only serves to add colour to the picture he has painted. That understanding of how music can almost uniquely invoke images and memories as soon as you hear it is masterfully utilised throughout The Man Who Loved Islands just as it was in its two predecessors.

And, as David himself says at the end of the book, if you haven’t heard the songs then give them a go. There’s a helpful list of them printed at the back to make that easier, and it’s a list of which I’ve been making use.

I would love to have the ability to paint vivid pictures with words in the manner with which David seems to do so effortlessly. Perhaps it’s just the wrong time in my life to be thinking about it. Work and family commitments notwithstanding, as you may have gathered I’m younger that David. Throughout all of these books, David is able to draw on his own experiences and memories, some of which predate my own. He writes what he knows, and he does it to critical acclaim.

As for me? Maybe one day I’ll be able to write what I know, because maybe one day I’ll know more to write.

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Civil War

I saw Captain America: Civil War last weekend, but to be honest I’ve had to spend several days gathering my thoughts on it before I could be happy with this blog. Because I get the feeling I’m missing something about the movie given the almost overwhelming love for the movie I’ve seen coming from elsewhere.

Okay, let me try to explain. And as I do so be warned this is full of spoilers.

First, is this even a Captain America movie? No, not for me it isn’t. Not that I’m saying it’s a third Avengers movie either you undertand. No, this is more Captain America and Iron Man. It could quite easily have been Iron Man 4. The only reason for making it Captain America 3 is that it’s his friend they’re chasing and not Tony Stark’s. So as far as I’m concerned, this is not a standalone Captain America movie. You can claim that all you want, but it didn’t work that way. There’s too much focus on Iron Man for that to be the case.

The others in the movie, yeah, fair enough, they’re extras rather than being main characters. That’s the same as it was with the Winter Soldier really. But Iron Man is just too central to this storyline, and he’s the one that goes on the journey through the movie – not Steve Rogers.

Not that Tony Stark’s journey made much sense for the most part.

I really don’t understand why he is just accepting that Captain America has gone off on one? I don’t believe he’d just accept the idea that Bucky was the bad guy and not framed. It should have taken him five seconds to listen to what Steve had to say and then he’d have sided with him. The whole storyline about Tony wanting the Avengers to have oversight is fine, but it doesn’t at any point address the idea that Tony would accept those people having the oversight are trustworthy. They’ve done nothing to earn it, especially in the post SHIELD are Hydra era.

But more than that, the whole main thrust of the civil war is utterly needless.

If the whole point was to get Captain America and Iron Man to fall out and kill each other, then we didn’t need them going to war and involving all the other characters to do it. That whole plot is needless, because ultimately they still get back together in Siberia. It’s there that the revelation comes out about Bucky having killed Tony’s parents, and that revelation coupled with Steve knowing the truth about it would make them fall out in the end anyway.

Which was the whole point. There’s your real civil war, and the best part of the movie by a mile, never mind the other three quarters of the movie.

You can throw most of this movie in the bin and it makes almost no difference to how the plot goes. They’re all conflicted and so some retire and some sign the accords. Fair enough, I can understand that aspect. In fact it’s probably the strongest part of the whole story. I can even understand both sides of it as well, so there’s no way I’m picking a side at this point. Which only feeds back into my refusal to say I was Team Captain America or Team Iron Man from the trailers. I knew there had to be more to it and so there was.

Having oversight makes a lot of sense. After all, you don’t want a bunch of vigilantes and you need consequences for when things go wrong as they have been in recent movies. But equally it also makes sense to be wary of that oversight given what happened with Hydra within SHIELD. Prior to Winter Soldier, SHIELD was the oversight for the Avengers. So what the accords are basically doing is putting that back in place.

If this aspect have been allowed to build over time then I could see how the friction might come from this… but it doesn’t get the chance to do that because things escalate too quickly. It’s far more believable for Captain America and Iron Man to be disagreeing about Tony wanting to protect the world from all the scary stuff that’s out there and going too far to do that.

You know, like in Age of Ultron?

But here we get a whole new story. Suddenly it’s Tony who wants brought under control and Steve who thinks there’s too much hand tying. If anything this is a role reversal of their positions in Age of Ultron. Suddenly Tony wants the Avengers restrained and Steve wants freedom to do anything and everything to protect people.

But then the story runs away from that aspect as Bucky gets framed and the world wants to get him. Except Captain America of course who wants to save his friend and convinces some others that he’s been framed. Not that there’s any logic as to who picks which side of course. It seems to me that it’s a coin toss at times, roughly along the divide over the accords but it’s not even consistent about that as others get roped in. And as I said earlier, even Iron Man makes no sense just to accept that Bucky needs brought to justice.

The civil war doesn’t happen because of a difference in opinion around the accords, it happens because some people believe Bucky is framed and some people don’t. And to get to that point, you have to accept the idea that Captain America is driven purely by the need to save his friend and not do what’s best for the world. I’m guessing those who believe that didn’t see the Winter Soldier? And have also ignored why he doesn’t want to sign the accords in the first place?

It seemed to me that the whole civil war in this movie was put in place purely to throw half of them in jail and ultimately send them underground. But lets face it, rebelling against the accords to help the framed Bucky could have sent them underground just as much as anything else. What we got here was Iron Man throwing half the Avengers under the bus, albeit inadvertently.

On top of that, I think a few of the characters were a waste. Vision was an utter joke. After establishing how powerful he is in Age of Ultron, they’ve cut the feet from under him and made him a comedy figure instead. Dressing him up in a shirt and jumper and making him cook, yeah, great, you could have got Ant Man in longer to be the comedy relief. Spiderman was a really nice addition, but again you would have to think you could throw his character away and not lose too much from the overall movie. He felt a little tacked on as an afterthought sadly.

And yes, most of them were like that – but you’ve gone out of your way to get Spiderman into the universe. That will work better later on when he gets a standalone and this is seen as his intro that lets us skip the origin aspect entirely. I think it might be worth revisiting this introduction when we have more of Spiderman and then I’ll probably appreciate it more. If this movie did one thing, it’s made me look forward to Spiderman Homecoming a lot more than I thought I would, so full credit to them for that.

I also loved Black Panther. I thought he was a great addition and that’s another standalone movie I’m now looking forward to seeing. Here though he’s probably the one character in the movie that they added and he added to the movie. The main plot would lose something without him, as he’s a good comparison for Iron Man when it comes to revenge.

Scarlet Witch was good as well, and if anyone in this movie showed the difficulty with dealing with the consequences of their actions then it was her. But then why on Earth is she on Captain America’s side? Because Tony locked her up? Okay, I understand why that would be frustrating, but surely she’d just clear off and go into hiding instead of following Hawkeye? Actually, come to think of it, you’ve just spent half the movie thinking you need to be controlled for your own good and for the good of everyone else, but the minute you realise you are controlled you switch sides?

And then there’s the utterly needless Sharon Carter. Oh come on! I can’t have Peggy so I’ll have her niece, that’s ALL that is. There’s no reason Captain America would hook up with her, there’s no chemistry with them and it just gets thrown in here. The best bit of her whole story arc was the truth about who she really was from Winter Soldier coming out at the funeral.

Okay, so I might be slightly disappointed they’ve killed Peggy off. It’s not like we didn’t know that was coming though. Maybe watching this movie the same week they cancelled Agent Carter was a bad idea from that perspective!

Here’s the thing though. So many of these criticism, in isolation, actually work well. They just don’t seem to blend into the movie properly. The fight at the airport is brilliant, I loved it, it just isn’t necessary for the story. Spiderman is a really well done character and I’m looking forward to seeing him expanded in Homecoming, but he still feels tacked on to this. The conversations between Vision and Scarlet Witch – despite his comedy value – are truly wonderful and insightful, but they are then completely undone when she fires him through the floor and he later shoots down Brodie in friendly fire because he’s distracted by her.

What, does he have a computer virus or something?! Geez I hated the Vision in this movie. PLEASE make him better in Infinity War, we know he must be important in it!

So what about the bad guy? Zemo? He’s rubbish, right? Well… he is what he needs to be. He’s had his family ripped away from him by the actions, or possibly inactions, of the Avengers in Age of Ultron. I don’t agree with what he’s doing, but you can understand why he’s doing it. Yes, he’s not actually doing all that much. If anything, he does us all a favour by killing the super soldiers so he’s not even that bad a bad guy! He does just enough to push the civil war over the edge. So I’ll tip my hat to the writers for not going overboard with the bad guy, it would have taken away from the central plot if they had.

However, why does he do anything to split them in the first place? All he wants to do is get Captain America and Iron Man and the Winter Soldier to Siberia. That’s his goal, right? Those three need to be there for the climactic scene. So if that’s the case, the civil war at the airport completely deflects away from that! Splitting them makes it less likely that Iron Man will be there, and he needs to be there or the whole plan fails.

As I’ve already said, you don’t need to set up friction between the two characters in this movie, because we’ve seen the friction when Tony created Ultron. In fact, we saw friction between them in the first Avengers movie as well, so we know it’s there. We don’t need an airport fight to show it.

So as far as I can see, Captain America: Civil War is a movie that comprises of some really terrific bits and pieces that are cobbled together into a flimsy plot that makes little sense in an effort to get to a brilliant ending and also to ensure that other pieces are in play for future movies.

Sorry Marvel, but as far as I can see you’ve fallen into the third superhero movie trap that so many others before you have done as well. I enjoyed the movie as I watched it, I loved certain parts of it, but it just doesn’t work for me and so the movie doesn’t even come close to the other two Captain America movies. Granted those were a high bar to try and reach, but you’ve left me somewhat disappointed by a movie I was really looking forward to seeing.

A real shame.

The Force Awakens

So I have literally just walked out of the cinema at the end of The Force Awakens. I’m sure my thoughts on the movie will formulate over time as I finally get a chance to talk it over with friends and family in the coming days.

But what follows are my initial thoughts. Be warned HERE THERE BE SPOILERS!!!!

Anyone reading from this point forth, don’t say I didn’t warn you…

First off, it was nice to see the scroll including the words Episode VII. It’s not really been mentioned much, but that ensures its a continuation of the story. I’m happy with that.

The storyline of Luke being missing seems like a very interesting parallel with Yoda. Like his old master, Luke had failed and into exile he goes. If anything, Luke seems to have gone into hiding more out of shame than the way Yoda went into hiding until the time was right, but I rather suspect the clues to his whereabouts are there specifically so he’ll be found when the time is right.

That wasn’t the only parallel of course, but we’ll come back to that.

The story of Rey is going to be a very interesting one. As soon as she was cast in the role I’ve suspected she’s related to Padme Amidala in some way. She just looks like she’s been picked out as she bears a striking resemblance to Natalie Portman.

We still don’t know for sure what her back story is, but I’m sure we’ll find out in due course. All we know for now is that she was hidden away at a young age, and she’s been waiting for whoever hid her away to return. I’d need to see the flashback again in detail to know what that was all about, but it looks like she was at Luke’s academy before Kylo Ren turned. She may have had her memories wiped of it, or they’ve just been forgotten.

That reminds me though, one totally unanswered question is this – how did they get the lightsaber that used to be both Luke’s and Anakin’s? Last we saw that, Luke’s amputated hand was holding it as it tumbled away on Bespin! A story for another day as they said in the movie.

Another thought is that Han appears to know Rey’s story. The 1000 year old character whose name I can’t remember asked him and we cut away before he answered.

Finally on Rey, she’s clearly strong with the force, and I can’t wait to see how her and Luke interact in the coming movie. Or movies.

I like Finn. A stormtrooper whose conditioning didn’t take and now he wants to do the right thing. There should always be room in life for redemption, although I don’t think he’s in need of it. He doesn’t seem to have done anything wrong. Not like Kylo Ren anyway.

I’m coming to him, don’t worry!

Finn has potential, that’s all I really have to say about him.

I loved BB-8 though. Given how little R2-D2 we see in this movie, for reasons of plot of course, he more than made up for it. JJ Abrams nailed it giving him character in the way the original movies did with R2.

And while we’re talking about JJ, I have to credit him with a wonderfully visual movie. The battles were terrific, and he seems to have a thing about ships and water. There were several hallmarks I recognised from his Star Trek movies and that was one of them. Not so much lens flare though!

He does have a thing about blowing up planets though. Was that Corescant he wiped out? I thought they named a different system, but it looked like Corescant and they certainly suggested it was the Senate that got it. Considering JJ has wiped out Vulcan in Star Trek he’s clearly not scared to irrevocably alter the universe that movies are set in. Which brings me to this.

JJ Abrams is a brave, brave man to kill off Han Solo.

If you’ve read that and didn’t know already, then you were warned! I’m not apologising!

I say brave, but I respect him for it. If you’re going to kill off one of the iconic cinematic heroes in history, you have to do it right. Do it wrong, and I’ll write a four part blog about how I hate you and your whole movie.

See my review of Generations on this blog for more details.

But JJ did it right. Han dies trying to save his son from the dark side. There’s that old family aspect back in Star Wars once again. He does as Leia asks him to do, and you think maybe he will manage it.

Actually, I didn’t, I knew Han was dying the second he shouted “BEN!!!!” Nice nod to Kenobi there incidentally. Maybe I sensed a disturbance in the force, or maybe I just know what JJ is like these days.

I’m not going to pretend I’m happy about it. JJ just killed off one of my all time favourite characters after all! But Han is getting old, he’s went out as he should, and in doing so we now all have a new bad guy in Kylo Ren that we can despise.

Darth Maul and Count Dooku never quite hit the same heights as Darth Vader, but in Kylo Ren we have a great chance of that. To be honest, up until then I thought he was just a bit of a moody teenager. That moment, and hopefully his training that will come from Snark or whatever Gollum’s name in this was, will give us an iconic bad guy for a new generation.

I really hope it isn’t Snark, that was the doggy thing in Thundercats.

I’m kinda glad the Starkiller Base is gone though. If there was one aspect I didn’t like about this movie then it was that. It sucks power from the sun and then channels it into a weapon to fire at planets across space? I’m filing that with the red matter under B for bullshit. There’s always the need to suspend belief in movies like this, but I have my limits and that far exceeds them. The big planet destroying death star was fine. A big cannon built into a star draining planet? Come on.

I also thought that JJ went a bit over the top with the whole Nazi imagery. We already knew long ago that these stormtroopers, and even the clonetroopers before them, were based on the Nazis. But this movie hit you over the head with it. You may as well have called the First Order the Third Reich instead and be done with it.

As I suspected, John Williams nailed it once again with the music. I’ll listen to that on the way home no doubt! But like all the other movies before it, the music set the mood perfectly. We even heard a few old classics at just right the time.

I’m sure there are many aspects of the movie I haven’t covered here. I probably need to see it again to see what else I might pick up on, and I’m sure other thoughts will come to me in the coming days. But my initial reaction is a really good one, and I think we’ve got a classic to get the Star Wars BB-8 rolling once again.

Time Is The Fire In Which Generations Can Burn – Part 4

Of course not. Instead we get a little insight into the mind of Jean Luc Picard. Apparently he’s a traditional Christmas type person, and when I say traditional I mean he dresses up his family like they’re from the 19th century. This whole scene reminds me of Kathryn Janeway’s Governess holonovel, and I didn’t understand her love of that either.

Okay, so I understand why Picard might be craving a family at this particular moment. He’s still stricken with the grief of losing his brother and nephew so family is foremost on his mind. But I really don’t understand why they seem to be from a time period a full 500 years in the past. We’ve seen Picard likes aspects of the past, from Dixon Hill to his archeology, but even when he visited his brother on his vineyard on Earth after the Borg has assimilated him it was more modern than this!

Of course, the blissful happiness for Jean Luc Picard lasts about five minutes. Earlier in the movie, Guinan described the Nexus as being wrapped inside joy, but good old Captain Picard sees through the whole thing the minute he sees a flash of light in a Christmas bauble. Oh yes, about those stars blowing up…

Oh, hiya Guinan.

Literally from nowhere, Guinan shows up. Not that she’s the only thing to show up out of the blue, as Picard’s communicator is with him for the duration of his stay in the Nexus. No explanation, so we can only imagine that he’s imagined he has one and the Nexus was only to happy to oblige. But back to Guinan’s sudden appearance.

Well, it is and it isn’t Guinan. She explains that she’s actually an echo of the person that he knows, no doubt a call back to her other description of being “ripped” away by the Enterprise-B’s transporter. Pesky things those transporters, they have a habit of leaving behind duplicates. Good and evil Kirk, Will and Thomas Riker, now two Guinans.

Hang on though, doesn’t that also mean there’s two Sorens? After all, he was ripped away at the same time as Guinan. Indeed, there should be two of every one of those 47 survivors that were rescued earlier in the movie.

Why is that important? Well, in the conversation that follows Guinan tells Picard that she can’t go with him as she’s already there. What, the two of you can’t exist in the same place at the same time? Well how come Soren was able to enter the Nexus then? He’s already in there! That would have been a real blow to his plans. Can you imagine him going through all that star destroying only for the energy ribbon to pick up Picard and not him?! The look of horror on his face as it would have kept going and he realised he was about to be destroyed himself. You could have done that little extra bit and not even had to change the movie!

Anyway, never mind that as we’ll just assume the Nexus is different and will re-integrate the two Sorens when he returns. No, there was a far bigger point made in that same conversation that blows yet another massive hole in this already flimsy movie.

Guinan tells Picard that in the Nexus time has no meaning. Okay, so what does that mean? Well, that means that if Picard wants to leave the Nexus then he can go to any place, any time.

Okay, first, how does that work? Any time I can accept if “time has no meaning” there. But any place? Surely you’d need to go somewhere that the energy ribbon was? That’s the gateway to the Nexus after all! So you’re trying to tell me that you need to be in the right place at the right time to get into the Nexus, but if you want to leave you can literally go anywhere? I’m not buying that at all. But lets just pretend that it’s a magic gateway where the ribbon’s location only matters for those wishing to enter the Nexus but not those wishing to leave it, all for the sake of argument number two.

Picard decides he wants to go the mountain top on Veridian III just before Soren destroys the star.

Really? You can go anywhere, any time, and you choose the battle you lost already when the odds were stacked in Soren’s favour?

Not, say, to that point in time when you were talking to him in Ten Forward? Never mind not destroying the Veridian star, how about not destroying the Amargosa star either? In fact, lets go back to before the Romulans attacked the observatory and maybe stop that particular tragedy happening. I don’t think they ever said how many casualties there were on the station, but there were certainly a few.

Actually, how about we remember that Picard is standing in his family house because family is on his mind and we head back to Earth to stop the fire that killed his brother and nephew? Do that and he can phone in the issues with Soren! That way his family are safe, the Amargosa and Veridian stars are still intact, Soren gets taken into custody for stealing the Trilithium and – unknown to Picard at this point in time – the Enterprise-D stays in one piece too!

No, instead, lets go back to the most ridiculously difficult bit of the day. Screw Robert and Rene, the Amargosa observatory staff, and making life easy for himself. Utterly, utterly unfathomable. And don’t tell me it’s a temporal investigations issue, because wanting to go back and stop Soren will be breaking their rules anyway! If you want to avoid them, you’ll have to leave the Nexus at the point you entered it.

So, Picard has decided where he wants to go and Guinan can’t help him. But she knows a guy who can…

Suddenly the scene changes and we’re outside a nice little cabin tucked away in the woods with mountains off in the distance. Picard sees someone chopping wood and quickly realises who it is. It’s Captain Kirk!

Yeah, if you hadn’t figured out by now that he was still alive then you’ve clearly not been paying attention.

Picard helps him to chop wood for a bit before heading inside to help him cook breakfast. All the while Kirk explains how he’s just got there from the Enterprise-B and Picard tries to convince him that he needs to leave again to help him out. Kirk doesn’t really seem to be listening, but when he needs to reply then he’s quick to reference things Picard has said. For instance, Picard’s claim of being from the 24th century goes completely ignored until Kirk points out that this isn’t the future but is in fact the past. In particular, it’s the day Kirk told the woman he was living with that he was going back to Starfleet.

There’s a bit of a hole here as to Kirk’s history. A quick google tells us that this takes place somewhere between the first two movies, so somewhere along the line Kirk was on sabbatical between the V’Ger incident and teaching Saavik and co at the academy. That’s fine though, there’s a big enough gap between those two movies that it’s quite possible he did just that.

Kirk tells Picard he’s done enough for the galaxy already and instead he’s going to tell this woman that he wants to marry her. He takes the breakfast tray upstairs and into the bedroom. Creepily, Picard waits a few seconds and then follows him into the bedroom! Maybe Data learned tact from Picard…

Fortunately for Captain Creepy, the door doesn’t lead to a bedroom. Instead, Kirk and Picard find themselves in a barn. Kirk claims that this is even better than his bedroom – might have known a bed would be too simple for Captain Kirk… No, what he actually means is that this is the day that he meets this woman. He declares the Nexus a great idea as it means he can start again and do things right from day one. He then jumps on a horse and rides off. Again, Picard hesitates before deciding to follow on another horse. A bit of horse riding later and Kirk finds a ravine to jump, clearing it with no problems whatsoever.

Not physically anyway. Kirk stops, looks back, and jumps the ravine again. No problem again. At this point Picard catches up and Kirk reveals what the real problem is. He’s jumped that ravine a hundred times and been scared about it every time… except this time because it’s not real.

So there you have it. Picard snapped out of the Nexus trance in about five seconds because he just didn’t care about joy for some unexplained reason. Kirk, on the other hand, only snapped out of the joy when he realised that it was fake and there was no risk. Nothing to risk, nothing to gain. At least Kirk’s realisation makes sense to me. Picard just seemed to suddenly remember he had something better to do. Having said that, neither of them seemed overly fussed by being wrapped “inside joy”, although Kirk seemed to at least be giving it a go for a short period.

So having decided that neither the ravine or the woman in the distance are real, Kirk is ready to listen to what Picard is offering. But not before telling him not to retire because it’s utterly terrible not being on the bridge of the Enterprise, in the command chair. That’s the only place he truly made a difference. Picard uses this to suggest he come back with him and make a difference again.

Then we get possibly the only quotable bit of this entire movie – other than Data’s swearing I mean. Captain Kirk sums it all up.

“Who am I to argue with the Captain of the Enterprise?” – well, you’re benchmark for that.

“I take it the odds are against us and the situation is grim?” – only because Picard hasn’t told you that you could just go back to the Ten Forward and arrest him there, but yes. Oh, and never mind the fact that he originally asked Guinan to help him – I’m sure she’d have been useful in the ensuing fist fight with Soren. Never mind that for now…

“You know if Spock were here, he’d say that I am an irrational, illogical human being for taking on a mission like that.” – he’d be right as well, as the logical choice is to go back earlier.

“Sounds like fun!”

And with that they ride out of the Nexus.

So, we’ve reset, the saucer section has just crashed, and Soren is standing on the mountain top looking up from his watch to see… Kirk. This confuses Soren, but instead of pouncing on this moment of confusion, Picard decides to talk some more and Soren manages to evade both of them. They decide to split up, with Picard heading for the launcher to stop the solar probes firing while Kirk chases after Soren. Basically, Kirk is a distraction for Soren while Picard does the actual stopping of the missiles. Ahh, now I see how Guinan would been useful. She could have talked Soren into distraction. I’m sure he wouldn’t have paid any attention to what Picard was doing in that instance.

Of course it’s Kirk and not Guinan, so what Soren actually does is hides around a corner and points his gun at Kirk when he comes around. But just when he seems to be in trouble, Picard appears to catch him off guard. This lets Kirk get a few punches in on Soren and eventually knock him off the cliff. Unfortunately, there’s a rope and Soren grabs on to it, saving himself from a deadly fall. He gets out a remote control and cloaks the launcher.

Okay, two things at this point. One, can the missiles fire when their cloaked? You know how that’s usually an issue for what I can only assume is Klingon technology since they are the people helping Soren. If those missiles are cloaked, then it’s not really an issue as Soren drops the control pad seconds later when the rope slips.

Secondly, isn’t this all taking a lot longer than the first time round? When it was just Picard there was a brief fight, just long enough for Picard to knock the gun out of Soren’s hand but lose the fight, before the missiles fired. Now we’ve had a bit of banter, Soren running away, Soren catching Kirk, the two of them fighting, Picard changing his mind about going to the launcher to help Kirk, and Soren cloaking the missiles. Oh, and we’re not done yet either.

The two Captains try to retrieve the control pad from one of the bridges that Soren has set up around the mountain, but Soren fires on the bridge just as they get there. After initially missing – again – he hits it and narrowly misses killing them both. Picard is safe, but Kirk is stuck and narrowly avoids slipping to his death when Picard grabs him and pulls him up.

Taking time to regroup, Picard and Kirk notice that the energy ribbon is approaching. Picard notes that they’re running out of time.

No you’re not.

Think about it, what’s the worst possible scenario here? Forgetting the fact that the missiles are still cloaked and probably can’t fire anyway, lets assume they can indeed fire while cloaked. They destroy the star, the energy ribbon swoops down and picks up all three of them. Great, you’re back in the Nexus and can start again! After all, Picard knows for a fact that he failed the first time and is getting a second shot at it. Why not have a third? Surely by the third attempt you’ve helped Kirk get to grips with the area and you can come up with some kind of plan of action before even leaving the Nexus.

Like, maybe, capturing him in Ten Forward? I know, I’m labouring that point. Well it’s a big point!

No, rather than consider that they could just wait and start again with an actual plan, Kirk decides he’s going to jump from one side of the broken bridge to the other while Picard heads for the launcher. Picard argues that he’ll never make it and they need to work together, but Kirk assures him that they are working together already! Wishing the Captain good luck, Picard heads off as Kirk tells him to call him Jim. The smile of Picard’s face clearly shows just how much that simple act means to him. First name terms with a hero, wow!

So, having had a not-real-so-not-scary jump to do in the Nexus, Kirk now has a real one. We get a close up as he realises the irony of this situation before he jumps across. Of course, he makes it, grabs the pad and decloaks the launcher. Job done, Kirk doesn’t get time to escape as this half of the bridge detaches and falls, taking Kirk with it.

Meanwhile at the launcher, Picard tries to stop the launch. Soren interrupts him from a distance, pointing the gun at him. Picard does as he’s asked and steps away, but he runs around a corner before Soren can do anything else. Soren runs up to check that the launcher is okay, only to discover that the locking clamps are engaged. With the missiles armed, the launcher explodes and kills Soren in the process.

So, what we have here are missiles loaded with Trilithium, a substance apparently so dangerous that it can stop all nuclear fusion within a star, but if it blows up on a planet it’s just a small local explosion that kills the guy standing right next to it but leaves the mountain top – never mind the entire planet – well intact.

Actually, I at least have a theory for this one. The missiles were never armed, it’s just the propellant that explodes as the missiles try to escape but can’t because they’re locked in place. Nuclear warheads would do similar if they’re not properly armed, so I’ll give this one a pass.

The energy ribbon continues to pass overhead, ensuring that there’s no return journey to the Nexus for Picard. Which is a shame, because there’s another casualty in all of this. Picard rushes over to where the broken section of the bridge has fallen and starts digging around to try and free Kirk. He does so, but it’s evident that it’s too late already. Kirk is conscious, but won’t be for long.

“Did we do it? Did we make a difference?” Kirk asks Picard.

“Oh yes. We made a difference. Thank you.” Picard replies.

“Least I could do for the Captain of the Enterprise.” Kirk gives his approval for the metaphorical passing of the baton as far as the Star Trek movies go. All very nice.

Then the writers nail it. You’re killing off the iconic Captain Kirk, the hero of the Star Trek franchise over nearly thirty years across the original series and the now seven movies, and he has the chance at some dying words because of the way you’ve put this movie together. Make them good.

“It was… fun.”

Brilliant. I love it. It calls back to his comment in the Nexus earlier in the movie, but it also fits with just how much the viewers have enjoyed the near thirty years of adventures of the original series crew. I hope that when I look back on my life in my deathbed I’m able to think it was fun too.

“Oh my.”

Yeah, you’ve fucked it. You had absolutely nailed it with the “it was fun” line and you should have left it at that. But no, you had to make him say something else.

I’ll be honest, there is nothing in this movie that makes me angrier than Kirk’s last words. The whole story is an absolute travesty from start to finish with more holes than Swiss cheese, but ruining Kirk’s brilliant last words with another couple more after it was just unforgivable. Even if they’d been utterly rubbish I could have let them away with it, but they actually had something I really thought was fantastic! Leave it at that for fuck sake! But no, two more words had to get thrown in there anyway.

I was thirteen years old when I saw this movie in the cinema. When people ask me who my hero was growing up, I’m just enough of a geek to admit that it’s Captain Kirk. To this day I’m not sure if I was choking back tears watching this scene because my hero was now dead, or because they’d ruined his epic last words.

Anyway, let’s finish this awful movie. Picard buries Kirk on top of the mountain.

Oh for goodness sake, haven’t you done enough already? A legendary Starfleet captain who saved Earth, Starfleet and the Federation on numerous occasions and you’re burying him on some random mountain top on an uninhabited planet? Are you kidding me? Take him back to Earth for the state funeral he deserves!

Okay, I know he probably had one after the Enterprise-B incident, but now that the truth is out and you actually have a body you can do it properly.

There is also another problem with burying him here, and it’s one that William Shatner and the Reeves-Stevens addressed in the book “The Return”. Leave aside everything that happens in that book to “resurrect” Kirk, the simple fact is you can’t leave Kirk here as it violates the Prime Directive.

Remember that pre-warp civilisation on Veridian IV? Well, you can bet that when they develop warp the first place they’re going to head is the other habitable planet in their solar system. Obviously, we humans keep talking about going to Mars and it’s far less habitable than Veridian III! Furthermore, they’ll be able to do that before inventing warp drive, so the prime directive will actually still apply to them at that time. What are they going to think when they discover an alien body buried on that mountain top?

For the same reason, Soren’s setup needs to be dismantled and the Enterprise-D saucer section needs to be taken away as well. None of this is addressed in the movie of course. No, Picard just leaves Kirk’s body on the mountain top and makes a log entry about how the Enterprise can’t be salvaged.

Oh yes and, while all this was going on, at some point the Enterprise managed to work out where Picard was. No explanation given as to how that happened given the saucer section was inoperative and they couldn’t find him earlier when they were fully operational in orbit of the planet, but never mind, eh?

As the movie winds up, Deanna Troi helps Data find his cat Spot, which of course causes Data to cry. He thinks his chip is malfunctioning, but Troi assures him it’s working properly. Meanwhile, Picard is also raking through the wreckage of his ready room looking for something important. He tosses aside several bits and pieces, including a gift the now deceased Professor Galen gave him in the season six episode “The Chase”. Clearly a gift he was delighted to get at the time, one that was rare, complete, 12,000 years old, and one that was from a friend who has since been killed, isn’t worth bothering about. He literally throws it away when Riker finds his photo book.

Okay, I get the importance of the photo book, but come on. Other things are important too!

So having retrieved the photo album, which at some point was moved from his quarters to his ready room for no apparent reason, everything else gets left behind as Picard and Riker step out onto the bridge so Riker can have a moan about never getting the chance at the Captain’s chair.

Eh… you had it, on several occasions. In fact, in the Best of Both Worlds, it was made official. Riker was wearing Captain’s pips and being stopped from going on away missions by his first officer right up until Picard was rescued. I still haven’t worked out why Riker stopped being Captain after that episode actually. He was promoted, officially!

It wasn’t even the last time. In Gambit, Picard was declared dead and Riker was given command. At least this time he wasn’t actually promoted as he investigated Picard’s apparent death, but he was definitely the Captain of the Enterprise during that time. And we’ll forget about all the times Riker passed up promotion – at least we know why. He doesn’t want to be Captain of just any ship, he wants the Enterprise.

At least he does until Nemesis, but lets not get into that. There’s enough problems in this movie already without adding in another movie.

Fortunately, not only does Riker plan on living forever – maybe he fancies living in the Nexus – but Picard also reassures his doubts that this will be the last ship named Enterprise. Well, we know it wasn’t of course. We knew at the time as well, as this movie was only ever set up to be a passing of the movie torch so the Next Generation crew could get into the movies on their own. This was clearly a not-so-subtle hint about something we all knew anyway.

Taking one last look around the wreckage, Picard contacts the USS Farragut to beam the two of them up. Clearly they’re the last two people to leave as the Farragut, along side it’s two companion ships, leave orbit and warp off to finish the movie. Well, the Captain should be the last one to leave, and standing there with his first officer beside him was a good symbolic way to say goodbye to the starship we’d watched for seven seasons.

But even in that final scene there was one final thing I had an issue with. The uniforms.

I haven’t mentioned them until now, but even the uniforms annoy me in this movie. Uniforms are supposed to be just that – uniform! So how come you can basically pick and choose whether you wear your department colour with black, or black with your department colour?

Prior to this movie the uniforms made an element of sense. In The Next Generation it was mainly your department’s colour with the black shoulders. That was the uniform throughout Starfleet for a while, at least until we saw that Starfleet Academy had the reverse. Of course, then Deep Space Nine started up and they had the same as the Academy, but even that seemed to make sense as starships had one and starbases had the other. Commander Sisko even switched from starship to starbase in the pilot DS9 episode Emissary, as if to indicate that his transfer was complete.

Of course, as The Next Generation finished on television, so Voyager started. But they all had the starbase uniforms despite being a starship!

But you can rationalise that one as well. The pilot of Voyager takes place around the same time that Generations takes place, so it’s quite possible that the long term plan of Starfleet was to move all of their starship personnel to the starbase uniforms. Everyone on Voyager has already made the move, and everyone on the Enterprise-D was actually in the process of changing.

So accepting all of that, why on Earth does Captain Picard switch BACK to the older style uniform at the end of the movie? He actually switches several times. From the first time we see him in his holodeck sea-faring ship uniform, he later changes into the starship uniform when he is talking to Troi about what has happened with his family. By the time he faces off against Soren he has changed into the new starbase uniform so you then accept that he’s made the change. If that’s the case, why change back again?

This isn’t the only movie that ever suffers from this problem of course. The Motion Picture didn’t seem to have any sense when it came to uniforms either, but other than that the rest all make sense. From Wrath of Khan to the first part of Generations they all wear the maroon uniforms. By the time we get to First Contact we’ve introduced another new uniform that also makes its way onto Deep Space Nine, and it’s used in both Insurrection and Nemesis too.

CONCLUSION

Throughout all of this, I’ve absolutely panned Generations. I can’t help it, there’s just so much about the movie that doesn’t make sense, goes against other ideas that have been set out previously, and basically just annoys me in general. So if it’s really this bad, then why do I care?

Well, it’s Star Trek!

I’ve already said that I grew up with Captain Kirk as my hero, but Star Trek in general has been my all time favourite television and movie franchise since I was old enough to think. My earliest memory is of seeing the bright colours of the Original Series. I couldn’t tell you what episode it is, but I know it was this show. I distinctly remember a conversation with my dad about how exciting it was that a new Star Trek show was coming soon. Specifically, how odd it would be to see a Klingon on the Bridge! So I definitely remember when there was nothing other than one series and a handful of movies. Indeed, one of the first movies I ever got taken to see in the cinema was The Final Frontier.

I might have grown up with The Next Generation being fresh, but it was always the Original Series that I preferred. It’s not perfect by any means, but I love it nonetheless. I can completely understand that people feel the same way about Generations!

But for me, Generations ruins the wonderful ending the original series had in The Undiscovered Country. They should have left it there and they didn’t. They shoehorned the two crews together to pass some baton that didn’t need passed in anything other than the closing log entry of Captain Kirk on the Enterprise-A. In doing so, they not only make the final adventures of this incarnation of Captain Kirk an absolute travesty, but they didn’t do much justice to the Next Generation crew either. After the wonderful ending to the series on All Good Things, this was an awful way to finish off the iconic Enterprise-D.

But lets not end on what annoys me about this movie. Lets remember one simple fact. Even bad Star Trek is better than most other television series and movies at their best. If you can get past all of the plot holes, this movie is actually quite good fun at times. Not as much fun as The Final Frontier in my opinion, but fun nonetheless. Data is the comedy relief, and I definitely remember impersonating “Mr Tricorder” at school for a while afterwards!

The music in this movie is brilliant as well. Dennis McCarthy did a fantastic job of scoring it and it’s the one aspect I will always defend. Good music can salvage even the worst of movies – you just need to look at Duel of the Fates from The Phantom Menace to see that! I’ll happily listen to the soundtrack of this movie, and it even stirs up all of the emotions that go with the movie when I do.

But perhaps best of all, this movie clears a path for First Contact. As much as I don’t particularly like Generations, First Contact is in my top three of Star Trek movies. The Enterprise-E is a fantastic ship, and actually it’s one that I prefer to the Enterprise-D. It would never have existed without destroying the Enterprise-D in this movie, and after all of the plot holes I’ve illustrated here I’m pretty sure that Kirk would have been alive and well in the 23rd century while the Enterprise-D would probably have had a reasonably quiet day in the 24th century. But then I would have used the Nexus properly.

Of course, my suggestions would mean there was never a crossover between the Original Series and the Next Generation. Since that was the whole point of this movie rather renders the whole thing absolutely pointless.

Time Is The Fire In Which Generations Can Burn – Part 3

Having destroyed the Amargosa star, kidnapped Geordi, and escaped on a Klingon vessel, Soren is looking… annoyed. He’s not happy with the Klingons, who turn out to be Lursa and B’Etor the Duras sisters, for having been sloppy enough to allow the Romulans to find out where their missing Trilithium might be. Yes, it appears that the Duras sisters are stealing from the Romulans. That relationship hasn’t half gone downhill since the Klingon civil war, eh?!

Apparently that’s what this is all about. Having lost out to Gowron in that civil war, Lursa and B’Etor are now hoping to use Soren’s research and the Trilithium to take control of the empire. It’s never clear what their plan is, but I can’t imagine it’s blowing up the star of the Klingon homeworld. Although, who knows, they might be that mad.

The last time we saw Lursa and B’Etor they were being accused of plotting to kill Worf and his son Alexander, but that turned out to be nonsense as it was actually a ploy by a future Alexander to get younger Alexander to be more of a warrior. What that episode did reveal though was that Lursa was pregnant, with what was going to be a son according to future Alexander. Whatever happened to that son? Who knows, it’s never brought up. Lursa is clearly not pregnant at this point so either she lost the child during the pregnancy or she’s left the baby somewhere. Actually, given the speed at which Alexander grows throughout Star Trek I wouldn’t be surprised if Lursa’s son is a member of their crew already.

Anyway, missing son aside, the Duras sisters grudgingly set course for the Veridian system as Soren tells them he wants to go there and if they don’t help him then they won’t get his research. Meanwhile, Soren goes elsewhere to torture Geordi into giving up some information about Trilithium, and also to mess about with his VISOR for a bit. At this point it seems like the VISOR might be part of the torture but it’s never that clear. In fact, in the final cut of the movie we never actually get much detail about the torture, save for one throw away line from Crusher later on. If you read the book, you find out Soren has implanted a nanoprobe that stops Geordi’s heart by remote control – a pretty effective form of torture by the sound of it.

Speaking of Crusher, she’s actually done some investigation into who Soren is! Nice to know there’s one person on board the Enterprise who’s thinking straight. She’s learned he was on board the ship that was rescued by the Enterprise-B – so clearly Harriman senior didn’t cover up Johnny’s mess after all – and also told Picard who else was on that ship. So that’s Picard’s next stop – go talk to Guinan. Nice to have some old fashioned investigating in this movie.

Guinan very quickly reveals all. That energy ribbon is a doorway to another realm of existence which they call “The Nexus”, and she went through that doorway before she was “pulled, ripped” away from it by the Enterprise-B. She didn’t want to go at the time as the Nexus was a blissful place that she describes as being like “inside joy”. Sounds like a drug with no comedown really.

The fact Guinan gives up this information so easily just goes to strengthen what I said earlier. Did NO ONE ask any of the survivors about their experience after they were rescued? Really?! Not even the guy screaming “let me go back”? No one asked “back where?” at any point? I can’t believe that. I also doubt very much it was a secret, even if adjusting to being ripped away from it was difficult.

So having told Picard all of this, including how hard it was to forget about it, both of them reckon Soren is trying to get back to the Nexus. Guinan warns that if he is that determined to get back there he’ll stop at nothing to do it. So that explains why he’s happy to destroy stars, but how does destroying them help?

Picard meets Data in Stellar Cartography to try and piece the puzzle together. Data’s emotion chip has been fused into his neural net, so he’s stuck with the emotions that crippled him earlier – and as Picard soon finds out he is indeed still crippled by them. Fear has been replaced by remorse and regret as he remembers how he let Geordi be captured while cowering in the corner. After acting distracted by these emotions, Data finally loses it and angrily blurts out that he wants to be relieved of duty and deactivated until someone can work out how to removed the emotion chip. He doesn’t want the emotions any more.

Picard’s response? Boo hoo, grow up. You’ve spent years saying you want to be more human, well here you are. We all have to deal with emotions, so now you do too.

Actually, his response was to order him to do it and Data responded with “I’ll try” but it amounts to the same thing. I preferred my first suggestion though. Still, Picard seems happy with “I’ll try” as he says that takes courage and, after all, that’s an emotion too. This seems to do the trick and Data gets on with the task at hand. Ahh, can’t beat a Picard speech to fix everything. Must be an Enterprise captain thing…

Picard and Data slowly piece things together. First they work out every affect destroying the Amargosa star had on the area. The key one they pick up on is that the USS Bozeman – presumably a new one and not the 80 year old one we saw in Cause and Effect commanded by Captain Frasier Crane – had to make a course correction due to the change in gravity in the area. So having figured that out, they bring up the energy ribbon’s last known location and course and find that it’s course has altered too! That’s it, that’s what Soren is doing!

Wait, why is he doing that? Why doesn’t he just fly into with a ship?

Yes, exactly. That’s how he got there the first time! Yes, as Data says, every ship that has approached the ribbon has either been destroyed and severely damaged. We know, the one Soren was on was destroyed but that didn’t stop him ending up in the Nexus anyway, did it? Soren will stop at nothing to get there, surely the most obvious way to get there is to get there the same way he got there the first time? He clearly has no problem destroying whole solar systems to get his way, I’m not sure he’d be too worried about losing one tiny little ship!

This, for me, is the single biggest plot hole in the entire movie. Soren doesn’t need to be destroying stars to get what he wants, he just has to do what he did the first time. It worked, he knows it works, it will very easily work again. It’s a lot less risky that what he is doing, and a lot less destructive as well. He can fly into the Nexus in a ship on his own and not hurt a fly. But no, he’s destroying entire solar systems and making pacts with renegade Klingons who are stealing from the Romulans to give him the same ultimate goal. That is utterly ridiculous and kills this movie stone dead for me.

I’m not sure any of the other Star Trek movies has a hole this big. V’Ger being lost in a black hole? Okay, bad science, but if they meant wormhole then it works anyway and it’s fine. The whole Genesis project? A bit far fetched as science goes but it’s more of a leap of faith than a massive hole. Time travel to retrieve whales? We’ve done time travel using solar gravity in the original series.

No, the Final Frontier is the only one that comes even close to having this big a plot hole. It’s pretty dreadful thanks to the idea of being able to travel to the centre of the galaxy in a matter of hours – ruining the entire premise of Voyager in the process – but even that plot hole isn’t as ridiculous as this one given that the speed and distance throughout the whole of Star Trek has been pretty variable.

Incidentally, if you want a plot hole about speed and distance then Generations has another stinker coming up later.

The other one you often hear about The Final Frontier is the one that suggests the whole movie boils down to it being “Kirk versus God” – which to me is only ridiculous until Spock’s line “this is no God of Shakaree nor any other God” nails it. Yeah, it wasn’t God at all, it was just a very powerful being who had been imprisoned there.

The difference can be boiled down to two questions in the movies. “What does God need with a starship” is a funny question that not only makes that movie a little better by making it quotable but it even gives you a massive hint at what’s going on. “God” wouldn’t need a starship. “Fake God” would. “Why doesn’t he just fly into it with a ship”, on the other hand, is a terrific question which utterly destroys the entire plot of the movie.

So, anyway, assuming Soren is the worst scientist in the history of science and therefore too thick to realise all of this, just where is he heading?

Well, the ribbon passes quite close to Veridian III, but not close enough… unless you destroy the Veridian star as well that is, in which case it passes right through the planet. Fortunately, Veridian III is uninhabited and so it doesn’t really matter if Soren gets his way. Oh no, wait, Veridian IV has a pre-warp civilisation on it at around 230 million of them. Suppose we better go and stop him killing off that entire species then!

There is another point that gets raised during the Stellar Cartography scene that gets brushed under the carpet. Data says that the ribbon passes through this area of the galaxy ever 39.1 years. This makes sense given we’re 78 years after the incident with the Enterprise-B by this point, but it does raise one question – what happened the last time it passed through this area of the galaxy? Did Soren miss it? Did he really spend 39 years missing the Nexus after being ripped away from it by the Enterprise-B, but at no point realise when it would be back? Was he not ready to blow stuff up then? Wouldn’t he just have flown into it with a ship at this point?!

This is something they just gloss over and ignore entirely, but I can’t help but think Soren wouldn’t have let that opportunity pass him by. It would have been a lot easier to suggest the energy ribbon only passed through this area of the galaxy every 78 years, but no they had to clever about it.

Oh yes, and I’d love to know where it is the rest of the time. Elsewhere in the galaxy? Just how fast is the energy ribbon travelling that it can run around the galaxy in 39.1 years? Voyager, at maximum warp, would take twice that long to get home! And of course they’d be going the quickest way possible in a straight line! The Nexus must be both coming and going! So the Nexus is likely covering twice the distance in half the time? How does anyone even notice this ribbon when it’s whizzing around the galaxy at four times the speed of maxmium warp? Well, it clearly isn’t as we’ve seen already and will see again.

Back on the Klingon ship, they’ve just arrived at Veridian III. But no sooner have they done that but the Enterprise shows up! So despite having a head start on the Enterprise, the Klingons only just got there first? I’ll accept that the Enterprise is a faster ship, but that still seems a little odd. It’s fine though, we’ll let them have this one for the sake of the plot. This isn’t the speed and distance thing I mentioned earlier, that’s still to come. Still, it was nice of the Enterprise to show up and blindly broadcast to them.

Yes, blindly. The Klingon ship is still cloaked. Obviously the Enterprise figured they’d probably been here for some time too. At least that makes sense given the head start, although maybe they didn’t realise how much faster the Enterprise might be than the Bird of Prey.

So what are they going to do? Well, Soren has a plan and it seems to involve Geordi getting his sight back. Meanwhile, Lursa and B’Etor decloak the ship and decide to have a conversation with the Enterprise. They claim Geordi has been a guest but quickly change their tune when Picard demands him back. Of course he’s not a guest, he’s a prisoner. Well, how about a prisoner exchange? Data is quick to volunteer, clearly still guilty about how Geordi ended up a prisoner in the first place, but Picard overrules him and offers himself as a prisoner. The Duras sisters like the sound of this as he’s a much more valuable prisoner and they agree.

Okay, so how does this help? Well, somehow Picard convinces the Duras sisters to let him go and talk to Soren on the planet’s surface. No explanation for this agreement, it just appears to be part of the deal. Why would you let a prisoner go somewhere else? How is he still a prisoner if you do? What exactly do Lursa and B’Etor get from Picard going down to speak to Soren?

What makes this even worse is that Memory Alpha claim that it was the Enterprise that then beams Picard directly to the location of Soren on the planet. Now, in my head, Picard always beamed over to the Klingon ship and they then sent him down to the planet to talk with Soren. That at least makes very slightly more sense as I’ll reveal shortly. But the fact the Klingons are even prepared to let Picard go to the planet has never made any sense to me. Part of the deal or not, why would they agree to it? They hold all the cards as they’re the one’s holding Geordi prisoner!

Anyway, as Picard beams off the Enterprise so Geordi beams onto it. It’s simultaneous, as you’d expect with a prisoner exchange, but as Geordi finishes materialising he collapses and has to be taken to sickbay.

Down on the planet, Picard materialises near the top of a mountain – without his communicator. Well, he had that when he beamed off the Enterprise. Maybe the Klingons took it off him? How would they have done that if he’d beamed there directly? Of course, Soren is up there as well, working away at a control panel. Picard can’t get to him thanks to a big forcefield in the way, so he has to make do with trying to talk him out of doing what he is planning to do. As Soren says, it’s a “nice try” as he points out that what he’s doing is just as bad as what the Borg did to his world, but Soren isn’t for stopping now. Unlike so many times in the TV series, and of course with Data earlier in Stellar Cartography, Jean Luc isn’t going to talk his way out of this one!

Back on the Klingon ship, we see what Soren’s plan was as the Duras sisters watch Geordi-vision. Not the “Heart of Glory” or “The Mind’s Eye” multi-coloured Geordi-vision, but a regular camera view. I can only imagine it’s a hidden camera rather than a proper interface to the VISOR then, but maybe others would argue that this is yet another minor oversight.

What’s a far bigger oversight is that no one has thought to check that Geordi’s VISOR hasn’t been tampered with. Seriously, after “The Mind’s Eye” where he nearly assassinated someone thanks to a combination of mind control and someone interfering with his VISOR, you’d think it would be standard procedure on the Enterprise to check his VISOR for tampering if at any point Geordi went missing! But no, no one even considers it. More amnesia from the crew no doubt.

Still, on the plus side, this is the last time we see Geordi’s VISOR. Clearly someone thought about it after the even and decided that for security purposes he should have implants instead of a VISOR – which is exactly what he has in First Contact.

Anyway, the first thing the Duras sisters see through Geordi’s VISOR is Dr Crusher hanging over him.

Now, I dunno about you, but that’s not exactly the worst sight in the world. Certainly Scotty thought the Enterprise doctors were a lot prettier in the 24th century! But Lursa and B’Etor seem to think she’s repulsive. I’d suggest that’s a lot more “not funny” than when she was pushed into the water earlier.

Of course, the payoff for the Klingons isn’t long in coming. Well, not from our perspective anyway. For some reason he wandered around for a bit before going to Engineering. Bathing I could understand after his ordeal, but the wandering about for a while made little sense given the Enterprise was hunting for Captain Picard’s location.

Yes, they don’t know where he is. Despite Memory Alpha claiming the Enterprise beamed him down, the Enterprise has no idea where Captain Picard would be. That’s just not possible and so that should convince you that the Klingons beamed him to Soren’s location and he didn’t beam there directly! However, maybe this is just Memory Alpha being wrong and not the movie itself. It is possible you know!

Anyway, not knowing where Picard is also poses another issue. Worf and Riker discuss the problem on the Bridge. Apparently it will take 11 seconds for the Enterprise to detect the launch of a solar probe, lock its weapons on the probe and destroy it. Okay, fair enough. Worf then claims that the solar probe could take anywhere between 8 and 15 seconds to reach it’s target.

Cool, faster than light solar probes!

Veridian III, and no doubt Veridian IV, look like nice and hospitable planets for human beings to live on. The star itself looks pretty much like ours, so lets just assume that Veridian III is as far away from the Veridian star as Earth is from the Sun. It takes light eight and a half minutes to travel the distance from the Sun to the Earth. So you’re telling me these probes do it over 30 times quicker than that?

Okay, so we’ll assume these solar probes really do travel faster than light for now. They don’t look like they’re capable of it, but as we have no other evidence to go on, we’ll park that one for now.

Trying to get the odds back in their favour, Riker orders Data to start scanning the planet for lifeforms. Data, obviously happy that Geordi is safe, starts playing the console like a piano and singing a song he’s just made up about lifeforms. His sense of humour isn’t any better than it was on the Amargosa Observatory then.

But hang on, how come we can’t find these lifeforms quickly? Veridian III is uninhabited apparently, so it should be relatively quick to find the one spot on the planet that has two lifeforms on it. We’ve seen them do it before after all! Remember Kevin and Rishon Oxbridge? Apparently the only two survivors on an entire planet after a Husnock attack. Well, it was pretty quick to find them and confirm they were the only two lifeforms on the whole planet. Okay, so Rishon was a fake, but that just makes it worse!

Nope, that’s just yet another TNG episode we’ll conveniently forget about for the sake of this movie’s plot. Okay.

Actually, in this case they do explain it a bit. They tell us that the sensors can’t penetrate the ionosphere of the planet. They never explain why this is the case, or why the ionosphere of an otherwise perfectly nice M-class planet is even an issue in the first place, they just leave it there for the importance of the plot. At least they thought about it I suppose.

Down in Engineering, Geordi has finally arrived. Hurrah! Nothing like a crisis or two to ensure that your Chief Engineer gets to Engineering with a matter of urgency, eh?

Actually, no. Even now that he’s arrived on duty, the first thing he gets to do is run a diagnostic on some bit of the ship. Never mind everything else that’s going on like trying to stop Soren or worrying about the Klingons that are still around and had until recently just captured Geordi himself, no lets run an unimportant diagnostic! Lets face it, if it was really that important she wouldn’t have been asking for his permission first!

Of course, now that Geordi is actually in Engineering, Lursa and B’Etor very quickly get everything they need – like the Enterprise’s shield modulation frequency. A quick alteration to the photon torpedoes and the Klingons open fire. The torpedoes go straight through the shields like they’re not there, and no one on the Enterprise has any memory of the other times the shields get penetrated like this.

“Rotate the frequency of the shield harmonics”

Nope, no one ever remembers uttering this phrase. I’m pretty sure it was a standard procedure when facing the Borg, but no one even thinks of it here. Nope, just let them fire through the shields while trying to figure out a way to even the score. Well, at least Riker has the sense to tell them to try and break orbit, something Troi has to attempt after one shot causes half the bridge to explode and kills the helmsman.

While she tries to get them out of there, Riker asks Worf if he knows any weaknesses about the Klingon ship. Why would he know, he’s been in Starfleet all this time! I doubt the Klingons would have broadcast what the issues might be. But no, Worf remembers that these old ships were retired due to defective plasma coils.

What good is that? That only affects their cloak. Well, trigger their cloak with an ionic pulse and their shields will fall leaving them vulnerable. That’ll do! Data sets up the pulse, Worf gets ready with the photon torpedo and then the plan goes into action just as another console at the back of the bridge explodes and sends another crew member flying.

Over on the Klingon ship, things are a lot happier. “Fire at will” is uttered in what I can only assume is another comedy line given he’s in command of the Enterprise at the moment, but that comedy line is very quickly countermanded by a very shouty Klingon informing everyone in three sectors that they are cloaking!

What follows is the longest cloak in the history of Star Trek.

From the point that the Klingon shouts “we are cloaking” to the time that we cut back to the Enterprise and Riker orders Worf to fire – with no urgency in his voice whatsoever – most Klingon ships would already have cloaked. But we’re not even close to over yet as the torpedo fires and takes the longest time any torpedo has ever taken to go anywhere. And I include the heat seeking torpedo from the previous movie in that! It zig-zagged it’s way to Chang’s cloaked bird of prey and STILL got there quicker than this normal torpedo managed to find it’s target.

It gets better though. Remember how Chang’s Bird of Prey got hit by that one torpedo, only to then get bombarded by both the Enterprise and the Excelsior firing a full volley of torpedoes at it to destroy it? Well, we’ve obviously advanced quite a bit in the 24th century because now a single photon torpedo can do the trick. With just one torpedo, the Duras sisters are blown to bits. How many did the Enterprise take? I lost count.

Oh yes, and just to finish the comparison, the makers of this movie obviously decided to save money by blatantly reusing the same shot of Chang’s bird of prey exploding. In case you hadn’t already thought about the comparison of shooting down a cloaked Bird of Prey. I don’t know about you, but I’d have wanted to distance myself from that vastly superior battle.

Back on the Enterprise, Data clenches a fist and exclaims “yes!” in delight. Ugh. Apparently if you give Data emotions he takes great delight in killing Klingons while everyone else on the ship has a feeling of relief. Obviously the emotion chip didn’t come with tact. Thanks Doctor Soong.

Back on Veridian III, Picard is now bored. Having tried to talk Soren out of doing his terrible deeds, he’s now pacing about and throwing stones at the forcefield that separates him from Soren. Even Soren asks him “don’t you have anything better to do?” It’s a good question. He’s obviously given up trying to talk to Soren, which must be a first for Picard who went seven seasons of The Next Generation giving speeches to save the day, but he doesn’t seem to have any other plan. Obviously the “nice try” earlier was his lot.

At least he doesn’t have another plan until he accidentally stumbles on a conveniently positioned rock that has created a gap between the forcefield and the ground!

Seriously, Picard stumbles upon it. He doesn’t go looking for it, he only finds it after Soren tells him off for throwing stones at his forcefield. He really had run out of ideas entirely. Which, amusingly, means everything that happens after this point is completely irrelevant because Soren would have been successful and both Soren and Picard would have gone into the Nexus anyway.

Anyway, having confirmed that it actually is a hole by throwing a stone through the gap, Picard waits for Soren to move away so he can make use of it.

Back on the Enterprise, Geordi’s day is getting worse. The Klingons might have been destroyed, but the damage they did is extensive. So much so that while reporting to the Bridge about one problem another one occurs. The dreaded coolant leak. Well we’ve seen this before from the TV series.

And I mean that literally.

Geordi can do nothing about it, rolls under the door just as it’s closing like he’s Indiana Jones, and Engineering is evacuated. Now, not only does Geordi do that barrel roll on several occasions in The Next Generation, but this whole series of events happens exactly the same in Yesterday’s Enterprise! Oddly, despite things being exactly the same, in that episode there was two minutes until a warp core breach. This time there’s a whole five minutes. Phew!

Everyone piles into the saucer section and the Enterprise-D separates into two for the last time. As the saucer section pulls away, the warp core breaches and the stardrive section explodes… causing a shockwave that knocks the saucer section out of orbit and diving towards Veridian III!

“Oh shit” exclaims Data. Right, who taught him to swear? And how come his use of “colourful metaphors” is so much better than Spock’s was in The Voyage Home? Data spent seven years of the TV series showing a lack of basic understanding of cultural language and a complete inability to use contractions, but suddenly he can swear perfectly at just the right time? No tact, but swears like a trooper. Thanks Doctor Soong.

Back on Veridian III, Picard’s chance to sneak through the hole is a short one, and as he does so Soren catches him with his usual accuracy of shooting. There’s that Imperial Stormtrooper accuracy again. He NEVER hits the target with his first attempt. In this instance, he hits below the hole which causes the rocks to collapse – and probably frees Picard who was a little stuck at the time (you need a diet Jean Luc) – before his next shot hits the hole and the forcefield reshapes to fill it.

On the Enterprise, they’re screwed. The saucer section is going down, and despite the crew trying to steer it they’re now managing a crash landing. In the lower decks, the rest of the people take shelter in what I can only imagine are decks higher up than the lowest just in case the crash collapses them. The saucer section clips a mountain on it’s way down before sliding to rest through a big forest that is dwarfed by the saucer section. As the final lurch forward oddly rips seats and consoles from their fixtures on the Bridge, the crew recover enough to stare out of the broken window in the roof… giving a nice view of the beautiful blue sky beyond.

I’m not sure why the lurch forward was so violent, it’s not like they hit the brakes! But for some reason it was enough to send everyone on the Bridge flying, along with consoles that have been fixed to the floor since the Bridge was built. Everything that the ship has been through and sliding to a halt is what does that? Well, it looked good on screen. A bit like the smashing of glass windows – which of course we all know to be made of transparent aluminium and not glass. Again, it looks good on screen.

So the Enterprise is down, and now the fate of the entire crew lies in the hands of Picard. No warping away at the last second this time! Can he do it? Well, he has a go. He comes face to face with Soren, has a quick fight with him… and loses. Soren knocks Picard rolling down a hill and seconds later the solar probes launch. In just seconds they reach their target – without going to warp at any time – and we see the star extinguished immediately.

Yep, immediately.

Never mind those 8 and a half minutes for light to travel from the star to the M class planet, we’ll just forget about that. In fact, lets be generous, this is Veridian III not Veridian IV. We’ll call it 7 minutes. That’s just a guess of course, but it’s still a lot closer to the truth than INSTANTLY!

Honestly, the faster than light without going to warp torpedoes is bad enough, but the faster than light… eh… light?! Come on.

The darkness doesn’t last long though as the energy ribbon arrives, heads straight through Veridian III and scoops up the willing Soren and the bystander Picard before heading off to wherever the energy ribbon is heading next. They never do explain why it’s travelling about the galaxy, just that it is.

As it leaves, the shockwave from the dying star arrives to rip apart the planet, Enterprise-D saucer section and all. End of the movie, Soren wins, right?

Time Is The Fire In Which Generations Can Burn – Part 2

78 years later, on board the HMS Enterprise, Worf is being promoted. This calls for a bit of fun on the holodeck as we finally give Worf the Lieutenant Commander rank. About time too, now jump for that hat. Never under-estimate a Klingon. Or Riker’s sense of humour as he removes the plank. Sorry, retracts the plank.

Data, of course, doesn’t see why Worf falling in the water is funny. That I can understand, he’s an emotionless android and proved in the Outrageous Okona that he doesn’t understand humour at all. What I couldn’t possibly understand though was why no one else thought Data pushing Dr Crusher into the water – and in the process knocking Worf back into the water after he was starting to climb back up again – was just as funny, if not more so.

Data, that was not funny, that was hilarious. Never mind those killjoys.

Of course, this is all a plot device to get Data to finally plug in that emotion chip he first found out about in the episode Brothers and later retrieved from Lore in the two part episode Descent. Good continuity there though guys, we’ll just pretend that the giant emotion chip you plug into Data’s head in this movie is the exact same thing as that tiny little disc shaped thing Data almost took a phaser to at the end of Descent. But that’s nitpicking.

Did they check that the emotion chip was actually going to work though? It spent a good few years in the wrong android, and was later used to remotely control the right android to the detriment of his duties on the Enterprise. I’m assuming this was also sanctioned by the Captain? After all, we can’t have the third in command of the ship being remote controllable and an emotional wreck, can we?

No, of course it wasn’t sanctioned. By this point in the movie, Captain Picard is an emotional wreck himself. Having spent the terrific episode Family showing us Picard’s brother and family, the writers of this movie decided to kill him and his son off to screw up Picard for the movie. That’s pretty harsh, but we’ll run with it.

The Captain clearly isn’t up for running the ship at this point in time. After all, the fun on the holodeck was interrupted shortly after Picard got the message from home by a red alert as the Amargosa Observatory was under attack. It turns out to be Romulans, who appear to have just given up and left the area. Well, we have to assume so as they are never referenced in the movie again.

Taking a tricorder from a dead Romulan back to the Enterprise-D, Worf later informs Riker that they were hunting for Trilithium which can stop all nuclear fusion within a star. Riker’s reaction to this suggests he’s never even heard of the stuff, despite the fact that the Enterprise engines actually produce the stuff as a by-product and it is stealable when you stop off to have a baryon sweep. Maybe Riker should pay attention next time and worry less about infinite small talk with people called Hutch. Sadly though this won’t be the last time in the movie that Riker appears to suffer from amnesia.

Hang on though, why is Worf telling Riker about this? Did he suddenly get promoted to Chief Engineer? Isn’t this usually the kind of thing Data and Geordi would be investigating? Oh no, wait, they’re too busy fitting Data’s emotion chip. Right in the middle of a situation with the Romulans that is so big Picard tells Riker to inform Starfleet that they might be upping the ante in the sector. Never mind, you two pursue your own goals, I’m sure it won’t affect the mission in any way, shape or form.

Of course, the other odd thing in all of this was Riker being told to call Starfleet by Picard. That’s usually the kind of thing the Captain would do, but he’s not up for it. Despite this, Riker also tells Picard that there’s a scientist they found on board the observatory who would like to meet with him. Despite not being up for doing his job and putting in a call to Starfleet, he bizarrely decides that he will go and chat with this scientist.

Wouldn’t you just leave that up to Riker as well? I dunno about you, but when I’m not feeling my best I’m far more likely to talk to someone over the phone for a couple of minutes than I am to meet someone face to face. I know Picard’s messed up at this point in time, but he isn’t even acting like a messed up person would do at the moment.

So Picard goes to meet this scientist, Dr Tolian Soren, in Ten Forward and as we all know it’s the same guy who was rescued by the Enterprise-B and was ranting about wanting to go back. We also know that Guinan was another person rescued from that ship, so it’s not much of a surprise that Soren looks a little shifty when he leaves Ten Forward as he catches sight of Guinan.

This is after he’s hit a few raw nerves with Picard of course. “They say time is the fire in which we burn”. Well that phrase makes no sense until we find out exactly what happened to Picard’s brother and nephew later on. I’m not sure we ever got an answer for why El-Aurians have some magic power to sense just what to say, but Guinan was pretty good at it throughout the series as well so we’ll just assume they have a gift. That whole “race of listeners” thing perhaps.

Soren wants to go back to the observatory as he’s left a few experiments running that need critical timing. Picard doesn’t care though as they haven’t finished investigating the attack yet. Tough titties Soren, you’ll need to slum it on the Enterprise instead. Picard says he’ll see what he can do, but it’s left at that.

Meanwhile, Geordi has brought Data to Ten Forward to get him drunk. Or at least to try out some drinks. Is that really the first thing you do to try out emotions? You couldn’t tell a few jokes first? Show Data some pictures of puppies, kittens and fluffy bunnies to see if he goes all gooey over them? No, lets buy him a drink! Which he hates. Something that delights Data no end. The chip is working then.

So having established that the emotion chip works, but having not yet tested it to any limit whatsoever, Geordi and Data suddenly remember there’s important stuff happening and get back to work. As such, they are sent over to the observatory to look for the Trilithium that the Romulans may or may not have found. What, is Worf now too busy? Is it shift change time? Or have you suddenly remembered that there might be Romulans in the vicinity and decided Worf is needed at Tactical now? If that’s the case, why has your Tactical Officer been in Engineering all this time and no – you know – at Tactical?!

Honestly, Picard has a few personal issues and suddenly his entire ship is an utter shambles.

The good news is, sending Geordi and Data pays off. Geordi’s visor lets him see the hidden compartment and one of Data’s servos is modified to open it up. “OPEN SESAME!” exclaims Data as the doors open to reveal solar probes loaded with trilithium. Data cracks a joke about having a magnetic personality before whipping out Mr Tricorder. Not a euphemism. Sorry Data, but you were funnier when you were pushing Crusher into the water.

Unfortunately for Data, something isn’t quite right and suddenly his emotion chip is taking over. The bad jokes keep coming and he goes into a laughing fit at the most inappropriate time. Geordi gets angry at this at first but on realising it’s serious he calls for backup… which can’t get through a dampening field.

But just then, Soren arrives! Did Picard really sort him out after all? Or did he sneak off the ship? Well, it seems odd that anyone would authorise Soren’s return when there’s such a crucial part of a dangerous investigation going on, but Picard has gone a bit mental by this point so it wouldn’t surprise me. You can imagine someone objecting to it and Picard barking at them to “just do it” like he did with Riker on the Bridge when they first arrived at Amargosa. That certainly seems more likely than him sneaking off the ship without anyone noticing. No one seems at all worried that an unauthorised transport or possibly an unauthorised shuttle launch has taken place after all. Including Data and Geordi who you’d think might have been alerted that they were about to be joined by the scientist. Maybe that happened just before we viewers joined them on the station. Although that wouldn’t explain why Geordi seemed slightly surprised to see him. Only slightly though, he quickly accepts that Soren is there and could be of use.

No, sorry, I’m not buying this. Geordi and Data are on that station looking for Trilithium just as the Romulans were. The station is, at best, a crime scene. At worst, someone who was on the station may or may not have been hiding Trilithium, and yet the crew allowed a member of that station to beam over without any form of escort as they had some crucial experiments to tend to? I don’t think so. This seems like the kind of thing Worf would definitely have objected to. I’m surprised he didn’t have Soren in for questioning never mind letting him roam the ship – and apparently the station – freely. At the very least, Worf would have sent a security detail with Soren to the station. Or maybe he’d have escorted him personally – it’s not like being at Tactical was all that important after all.

Anyway, Soren is only too happy to help Geordi understand what’s going on with the hidden Trilithium-laden solar probes he’s just stumbled across. And by only too happy he means not at all and proceeds to knock him out. One phaser pointed at Data later and the shit-scared android is effectively useless. How’s that emotion chip experiment working out for you now? So glad you did this during an important time guys, it’s really worked out well.

Back on the Enterprise, we have a scene with Picard and Troi in which we find out what’s happened to his family. Of course, we’ll get the payout from this scene later on. Picard tells Troi how there will be no more Picards because his only brother is gone and Jean Luc doesn’t have any kids of his own. What, you couldn’t go and start a family now? I know you’re busy, but if it’s that important I’m sure you could “make the time” and find someone willing to settle down with you. Clearly Jean Luc Picard has never heard of Hikaru Sulu. Besides, you’re a guy in the 24th century, I’m sure you can father children even at your age. Hell, at Picard’s age you could father a child when this movie came out at the end of the 20th century!

But before Troi can raise this obvious flaw – well, I’m assuming she was about to tell him the truth about the birds and bees anyway – the Amargosa star flashes and dims. Well that can’t be good. The two head for the Bridge where Worf – who actually is at Tactical and not off duty – tells us that a probe was launched from the observatory moments earlier and that the star’s fusion reaction had stopped.

Okay, I know a bit about about how stars work so lets examine this. Somehow the magic Trilithium has stopped the star’s ability to fuse Hydrogen into Helium. Or possible Helium into further heavier elements, I’m not quite sure what stage the star was at. The energy from that is certainly why stars shine, so we’ll accept that it’s dimming. We’ll also accept that it’s probably now shrinking as the fusion reaction is what keeps a star from collapsing in on itself under it’s own gravity. Which it might just have done is got to a point where it can’t collapse any more and then “bounced” causing a shockwave which we now have heading towards the observatory and the Enterprise.

Yeah, I’m happy with this bit. I can accept the slight leap of faith about trilithium here as the rest seems to fit with what I know about stars, and specifically supernovae. This is how good science fiction works!

Riker and Worf head for the transporter to go and see why they can’t get in touch with the observatory – they have to get Geordi and Data back before that shockwave hits after all – but you’ll note at no point does anyone say “oh you’d better get that scientist guy as well since he beamed over there as well”. Either they don’t care about him – unlikely – or they really don’t know he’s there. Which goes back to what I was saying earlier about whether he was allowed to go or not!

Oh yes, and suddenly it’s not important for Worf to be at Tactical again. Maybe they’ve decided that the Romulans have probably legged it before the shockwave hits and they’re definitely no longer a threat. Or they’ve just forgotten all about the Romulans completely.

Of course, Worf and Riker don’t get it easy and are soon under fire from Soren. We’ll see as the movie progresses that Soren couldn’t hit the side of a barn if he was standing next to it, and as such neither are actually in any danger. Honestly, watch him throughout this movie, Soren has all the shooting prowess of an Imperial Stormtrooper. I know, that Star Wars, but if the shoe fits…

Riker quickly scurries over to Data to see if he can get to Geordi, but our poor emotional android is still checking to see if his bowels are fully functional and is of no use to anyone.

Meanwhile, Soren has arranged his getaway. A Klingon Bird of Prey makes contact, decloaks and quickly beams him and Geordi away before warping out of the system. With no one left to rescue, Riker, Worf and Data beam back to the Enterprise just in time to warp away themselves as the shockwave reaches the station – destroying it in the process.

Time Is The Fire In Which Generations Can Burn – Part 1

Twenty years ago today, Star Trek passed the movie baton from the Original Series to the Next Generation. Three years earlier, Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country had wrapped up the story for the Original Series characters in a terrific movie and had that been the final voyage for those characters I’m sure everyone would have been delighted at that. With the Next Generation finishing up it’s seven season run on television, making the next movie about them made perfect sense.

Sadly, someone, somewhere, thought it would be a good idea to actually pass the baton on screen. The result was arguably the worst Star Trek movie ever made.

Now, I say arguably because I know lots of people who love Star Trek: Generations. Most of them are probably screaming “Star Trek V: The Final Frontier” in their heads right now as that’s clearly the worst Star Trek movie ever made. A few are probably thinking the same about Star Trek: Insurrection, while I’m sure Star Trek: Nemesis features top of some worst lists. That’s without even touching the JJ Abrams universe movies which I know have divided opinion at times.

Leaving those aside, I’m now going to try and explain why I despise Generations just as much as I do. I’m going to run through the movie and pick it to pieces, and I’ll warn you now – this could last longer than the movie itself! I’ve always reckoned I could spend longer ripping this movie apart than it takes to actually show the movie itself, so this is probably about as close as I’ll get to finding out whether or not that’s the case.

I should also point out that a lot of this is probably covered by Red Letter Media, but I’ve got to admit I wrote all of this up before watching it from bits and pieces I’ve thought about over the last twenty years. Yes, the movie bothers me THAT MUCH. You’ll probably find out why eventually.

So, shall we begin?

We start off at the launch of the Enterprise-B. Good start, the Enterprise-A was being decommissioned at the end of the last movie and this nicely fills in the gap of the one ship we haven’t seen yet. Well, we have, but it’s been a model on the wall of the Enterprise-D and looks a bit like the Excelsior. Well, now we know, it’s a slightly modified Excelsior class ship. So far so good.

At the launch, as well as lots of media coverage for some unknown reason, are Captain Kirk, Captain Scott and Commander Chekov. Now, first off, why are the media there? Do the media get to ride about on the launch of every new ship? Does that happen today? If the American navy launch a new ship do the media get to sail on its maiden voyage? I’ll admit this is a very minor nitpick of mine.

A far bigger nitpick is why Scotty and Chekov are there with Kirk. We all know it would have been Spock and McCoy, but we also know that neither Leonard Nimoy nor DeForest Kelley wanted anything to do with these small cameo roles. I’m guessing Nimoy has softened to cameos in the 20 years since, as he turned up in both of the JJ movies and the second of those was completely needless as turning up in Generations would have been.

Personally then, I’d have rewritten this entire sequence. Scotty being there I can almost understand as he’d probably be curious to see the new technology. But then Scotty being there also ruins continuity as he turned up in the TNG episode “Relics” and the first thing he thought when he was told the Enterprise had rescued him was that Jim Kirk had rescued him. Apparently the official explanation for that is disorientation after 70 years in a transporter buffer, but I’m more inclined to think he just refused to believe Kirk was dead. We’ll come back to that though.

We’re introduced to the new captain of the Enterprise, John Harriman, who appears to be newly promoted. Okay, so they’ve given the new flagship – I’m assuming it’s the flagship anyway – to a new guy. Well, Kirk was fresh when he got the job I suppose. Kirk could probably have done without hearing that this new guy read about him in grade school though. Well done on making the living legends feel old Captain!

We’re also introduced to Demora Sulu, the never before mentioned daughter of Sulu. Where did he find the time to have a family? Well, if something’s important then you make the time. Good advice, but a massive cop out from the story writers there. Given her age, I’m guessing it happened after the first five year mission. After the original series but before the Motion Picture. That seems about right. Could have been after the Motion Picture as well.

So anyway, the Enterprise-B is taken out on the orders of Captain Kirk, to much applause and embarrassment and piss taking by Kirk’s “friends”… piss taking that would have worked much better with Spock and Bones of course. It doesn’t really make sense with Scotty and Chekov. They might not work under him any more, but they’re not the close friends I would expect to make such jokes. See what I mean about rewriting this scene?

Of course, this is the Enterprise so it wouldn’t be right if something didn’t go wrong. There’s a distress call and the new Enterprise is the only ship in range.

Really? Does anyone protect one of the most important planets in the Federation? They pulled this stunt a lot in the original movies. In the Motion Picture the Enterprise was the only thing standing between V’Ger and Earth. Okay, the Enterprise was the newest ship after it’s refit, so that made sense. It also made sense that they sent Kirk for his experience, in fact that’s precisely the argument Kirk takes to Admiral Nogura.

The Search for Spock and The Voyage Home both show us that there are indeed other ships hanging around Earth, but they’re all useless with idiots in charge of them. Captain Styles for instance, what an utter roaster that guy is. Funnily enough, he’s nowhere to be see when the whale probe shows up. Not that it would have mattered given what it was doing to the power of the ships. At least that made some sense then. The Final Frontier actually acknowledges this issue quite well, when Admiral Bennett actually tells Kirk that there ARE other ships but he needs the experience of Jim Kirk. Fair enough, that’s pretty much the same argument from The Motion Picture! The Undiscovered Country also uses the whole “only Nixon could go to China” quote to suggest that “only Kirk could go save the Klingons”.

The biggest flaw in any of the movies before Generations is actually when the “little training cruise” in The Wrath of Khan gets cancelled because the Enterprise was the only ship in the quadrant. Well, leaving aside that a quadrant changes meaning during the run of Star Trek, I can only assume they mean near Regula I rather than near Earth. I can’t imagine that’s too far given the Enterprise isn’t out of dock for very long, so it’s still pretty bad in my book. However, Carol Marcus did contact Kirk specifically so even then it made sense to send Kirk to investigate from that perspective.

But in Generations they’re on a quick run round the block – even shorter than the “little training cruise”. They were going out by Pluto and back again! Surely this time there’d be another ship that could respond? You can’t seriously tell me there’s nothing at all. This new Enterprise wasn’t ready to launch five minutes earlier so there must have been something protecting Earth and the centre of the Federation. You can’t use the experienced Captain excuse this time either because Kirk is retired and Harriman is new. Besides, it’s a distress call, you shouldn’t really need experience!

Regardless, the Enterprise is sent to help. Harriman looks worried by this, clearly showing his inexperience in doing so. If you look worried as Captain, then you can bet the rest of your crew is worrying as well – not just about their own situation but also the fact that their captain looks worried. He’s the leader, he needs to be the strong one in this situation. But no, he actually has to be encouraged by Kirk to do the right thing and try and assist after he hesitated to even respond to the distress call!

Of course, as they get to the problem – an energy ribbon with two trapped ships – things go from bad to worse and one of the ships explodes. 265 people on board, all “gone”. Yes, “gone”, we’ll come back to that later. First, lets just take a little bit of time to remember that these ships are El-Aurian refugee ships.

Did NO ONE in the 23rd century think to ask the most obvious question? You know, the one that asks” refugees from what exactly?”

We know that the El-Aurians were fleeing from the Borg because Guinan revealed the truth about the Borg after Q sent the Enterprise-D to meet them. Until that time, no one in the Federation had even heard of the Borg! Well, except for Annika Hansen’s parents of course, but Voyager is it’s own continuity headache!

Seriously though?! I know the El-Aurians are a race of listeners (they listen), but are you really going to convince us all that not one of them heard the question “refugees from what exactly” at any point in the three quarters of a century between this energy ribbon incident and Q sending the Enterprise 7,000 light years? Just how dumb are they making Starfleet personnel, doctors and officials in all that time?

Okay, lets leave that to one side for now. There’s still a ship to rescue.

Now, it would be nice to use the tractor beam to pull the other ship out of danger, but sadly that won’t be installed until Tuesday. So the ship wasn’t ready for launch after all? Who sanctioned that one? Remember when the refitted Enterprise almost didn’t launch in the Motion Picture because it wasn’t ready? They needed a crisis to get launched with dodgy warp drive. This wasn’t a crisis, it was a media circus. Maybe they figured a tractor beam wasn’t a major problem though so you could let this slide.

Without the tractor beam, the Enterprise has to get closer, into transporter range. But that’s inside the ribbon. Harriman at least decides to do this on his own, and now it’s Kirk’s turn to look worried. Well that makes no sense. If it’s the only option, then it’s what you need to do. Kirk was pretty much suggesting that to begin with and Harriman was worried about it, now the roles have reversed? Nope, sorry, I don’t get that at all.

The Enterprise moves into transporter range and Scotty manages to beam over 47 out of the 150 passengers before the second ship explodes. It was a neat trick as the people on the ship were phasing in and out at the time. Still, 47 people rescued is better than none and they’re now being attended to by the medical staff. Oh wait, no they’re not, the medical staff won’t arrive until Tuesday. Great. Should have launched after Tuesday really. I’m guessing the media pushed for this and they got an early launch to fit their schedules.

Fortunately, Dr McCoy is on hand and he takes two of the media to be “volunteer” nurses. Oops, it’s not McCoy, it’s Chekov. Well, we’ll assume he’s had field training. You’d assume even among a skeleton crew he’d not be the only one on the Enterprise that has had such training, but apparently he’s the only one willing to volunteer for it as if he’s actually a real doctor anyway. Yeah, this is another bit they really should have rewritten instead of just getting different characters to say the same lines. You can actually imagine Dr McCoy saying “you and you, you’ve just become nurses” as he heads for the turbolift.

Unfortunately, now the Enterprise is trapped by the ribbon. They need to disrupt the gravitational distortions and a photon torpedo should do the trick. Oh wait, there’s no photon torpedoes. Let me guess, Tuesday? Harriman’s look says it all. Even he’s fed up apologising for Starfleet sending out a ship that wasn’t ready.

Okay then, so how do they get out? Well, Scotty has a plan. Use the navigational deflector to simulate the effect of a photon torpedo. This might be the one bit where I think that Spock probably could have come up with the solution but Scotty coming up with it made even more sense. It seems like his kind of fix, and he probably should have been the man to head down to the bowels of the ship to make the necessary changes.

Of course, no one else thinks that. Never mind that there’s an experienced Engineer like Scotty around, Harriman decides he’s going down there to make the changes. Why doesn’t he just ask someone down there to do it? Surely he has his own Engineering staff? Or are they not arriving until Tuesday either? Is there anyone on this ship that’s not on the Bridge? I’m having my doubts at this point. Which is odd, because a few movies ago it took some special work from Scotty to ensure that “a trainee and two chimpanzees” could run an entire starship from a partially automated bridge.

However, just as Kirk is about to sit in the Captain’s chair, he remembers that he’s not the captain of the Enterprise any more. On the bridge of the Enterprise is where the captain belongs and so in a gallant act of passing the baton he stops Harriman, heads for the turbolift himself and leaves Harriman to take the centre seat. Well that wasn’t symbolic at all…

Down in the bowels, Kirk makes the changes necessary as the ship is battered by the ribbon. Harriman orders it to be activated and it works – the Enterprise breaks free. But just as it does, the ribbon almost seems to get angry and lashes out one final time. It’s such a big hit that a big chunk of the Enterprise is knocked out. Back on the Bridge, now free of the ribbon, Demora Sulu reports the damage and everyone realises that it’s the exact area of the ship where Kirk had to be.

Scotty calls him and there’s no response. He and Harriman head down there to look for him and Scotty tells McCo… Chekov to meet him there. Well, if Kirk’s injured they’ll need a doctor. But when they get there they find the entire section is open to space. Chekov arrives late and exclaims “My God, was anyone in there?”

“Aye.”

Later in the movie, Picard confirms history recorded that Kirk died saving the Enterprise-B from the energy ribbon. One last heroic act from a legendary Captain, and lets leave it at that.

Bullshit.

“You came back for me.”
“You would have done the same for me.”

Remember those words from the end of The Search for Spock? Kirk was the one who came back for Spock, and you can bet your life that Spock would have done the same for Kirk. In fact, I reckon that upon hearing of the death of his friend, Spock immediately stopped whatever he was doing to find out every detail of what had happened.

I reckon the bit that would have intrigued Spock most would have been the bit where the lifesigns were phasing in and out. What was all that about? Did anyone even bother to check? I’m sure Spock would have coupled that with the story Chekov told him. The bit I’ve left out of this first part. The bit where he was in sickbay with the 47 survivors, one of which was screaming “let me go back, let me go back” while the other 46 all seemed pretty shaken.

Back where exactly? Back to the ship? Did he leave something there? Do you not think Spock would have located this rambling lunatic to make sure? Surely someone, somewhere asked him why he wanted to go back after he woke up following being sedated. Surely after asking him he’d have confirmed with the other 46 passengers that what he was saying was something they had all shared. We know from later on in the movie that Guinan experience the same thing after all, surely she could have explained it?

Oh no, wait, maybe this is another one of those questions that NO ONE asked the race of listeners at any point. A bit like the whole “refugees from what exactly” question I mentioned earlier.

Well maybe everyone else is useless, but I would bet Spock would have investigated every last piece of this apparent death and he would have come to the same conclusion that the TNG cast do later in the movie. That the ribbon was some kind of gateway to another realm. Except Spock would also have figured out that Kirk might just be there – as might the other 103 people from the second ship and all 265 from the first ship.

We’ll come back to how I think it’s possible later, because there are another couple of points in the movie later on where comments from characters make it relevant again.

The first part of the movie ends with Harriman, Scotty and Chekov staring out of the big gap in the shiny new Enterprise. Harriman’s career is clearly in tatters given that on his very first command mission he’s managed to break his new ship and kill off the most legendary Starfleet captain in history. That inquiry must have been fun…

Actually, maybe that explains everything. Maybe Harriman has an Admiral daddy who gave him the job, and when this clusterfuck happened he pulled a lot of strings to have it swept under the carpet. Yeah, lets not investigate all of this, we don’t want little Johnny to get his starship taken off him again. We’ll just get it patched up again and pretend this never happened. Nothing to see, move along. All media recordings confiscated and classified.

Lets just say if Harriman is the kind of captain you give your new flagship to then I could probably believe that no one asked the El-Aurians “refugees from what exactly”. But I’d also reckon the Federation would have fallen apart long before Picard’s time as they would probably give the Pakleds a run for their money on the intelligence stakes.

Swan Lake

I’ve never really been an arty person. I like museums but it’s generally the information I like to learn. Art Exhibitions pass me by completely. My idea of entertainment in a theatre might involve a movie. Or Riverdance. I like Riverdance actually, but I’d call that entertainment rather than art.

The missus isn’t really into it either. But she’s curious like me. Most importantly she likes Billy Elliot. I don’t, I think it’s a load of rubbish. But when her birthday comes round and the ballet just happens to be in town… well, it’s brownie points at worst!

Admittedly, I wasn’t to know that the tickets I’d bought for Swan Lake were going to clash with a Celtic game. But, a promise is a promise, and we’ve been rubbish of late. As it was, Celtic won 1-0 in a fairly dire match, so I didn’t miss much there after all.

Like I say, I’m not arty. So I know nothing about who’s good at ballet and who’s not. Truth be told I don’t even know that many ballets. I know Swan Lake. Well, I’ve heard of it. The Nutcracker, is that one? Maybe? Madame Butterfly possibly? Anyway, we went to see Swan Lake by the Russian State Ballet. I’m told they’re good. I’m also told the Russians are overrated. I have no frame of reference to call it either way.

I also don’t know the story going in. I’ve assumed there’s a lake and some swans involved somewhere. But having now seen it, here’s what I think happened.

We start off at the castle party. The dad – possibly the king – is out his face and one cup isn’t enough. There’s two younger boys, I think a prince and his pal, and later the queen arrives. She seems to have decided it’s time her boy gets married. He’s not too fussed about the two wenches kicking about though. His pal knows this and appears to think he’s in with a chance of a threesome. That’s more or less the whole of act I.

Act II and we’re at the lake. And there’s swans. Our prince is also there and seems to spend the whole act trying to get off with the queen swan. Meanwhile, there’s a crow or something kicking about trying to stop him getting off with the swan. Maybe the crow thinks humans and birds don’t go. Or maybe the crow fancies the queen swan himself. I dunno, I never figured that out. And that takes us to the interval.

Act III and we’re back at the castle where queenie is holding Princess Idol. Seriously, there’s five wenches showing off their talents. The way they’re dressed I get the impression they’re from far and wide. The prince turns up and again, he’s not impressed. Too human for our boy probably. But then the swan turns up and shows what she’s got. Queenie is so impressed she gives her blessing. The crow, watching all this going on, steps in and cockblocks. This act seems to end with the crow and the swan laughing at the prince. Probably a case of “yer human ya dick, away and ride yer ain species”. Cos clearly Swan Lake is just outside Glasgow.

Act IV and we’re back at the lake. There’s some kind of stand off between black swans and White swans – I’m guessing the black ones are with the crow and the White ones are with the prince and the swan. The swan appears to have stopped laughing and changed her mind, the cocktease. Anyway, the stand off inevitably comes down to crow versus prince, then the lake steps in and drowns the pair of them. The swan is left all alone. And then it ends.

The missus tells me this is different to the ending of Swan Lake in Billy Elliot where something happens and he gets feathers. But to be honest, this is all such mind altering experience I’m not sure it could be any more mental.

Maybe I’ve missed the point. Or maybe whoever wrote Swan Lake was on something. Given it’s so highly acclaimed by the arts though, I’ve probably missed something.

Maybe I should just stick to my entertainment like football and Lord of the Dance. This art stuff is on a different level.