29 March 2013

Trek Review: Star Trek IV - The Voyage Home

On their return from Vulcan to Earth to face discipline for their recent actions, Kirk and crew find they must attempt a visit to Earth's past in order to save it from a destructive probe that is vapourising the planet's oceans. 

In the past, they work to right a wrong and experience some of the archaic culture of the time...

The Voyage Home is probably the most memorable film for any non Star Trek fans, often referenced as 'the one with the whales'. It is the most different of the feature films in that there are no battles or space conflicts, humanity is actually the enemy and it is sprinkled with a decent amount of humour throughout. Up until 2009 it was also the most successful film with non-Trekkers, probably due to it not relying too much on prior Star Trek knowledge.

Kirk and crew repeat their sling-shot maneuver (first seen in Tomorrow is Yesterday) and find themselves in San Francisco, 1986 on the hunt for two humpback whales, extinct by the 23rd century and what the alien probe is attempting to communicate with. After landing in Golden Gate Park under cloak, the crew must try to fit in, find currency, explore the public transport system, regenerate the Bird of Prey's power and construct a tank to hold the whales once they're located.

Kirk and Spock have luck in locating two humpback whales at the Cetacean Institute and meet Dr Gillian Taylor, their tour guide and whale lover. After conducting a mind-meld with one of the whales and subsequently being thrown out of the Institute, Spock believes the whales understand the mission and are willing to help.

Chekov and Uhura locate a nuclear vessel, the Enterprise, from which they'll extract protons for the Bird of Prey's power systems. They discuss a simple plan to Kirk to beam in and out that night before anyone can detect they were there. Meanwhile, Scotty and McCoy approach Dr Nichols of Plexicorp, posing as scientists from Edinburgh, about the creation of transparent aluminum - even though it could alter history. Sulu, outside talks with a Huey chopper pilot and starts asking questions about how to operate one.

Kirk asks for more information about the whales from Dr Taylor over dinner - going so far as to reveal his true identity and intentions from the future, which of course, Taylor doesn't believe. Finding out that the whales are due to be released much sooner than expected, Kirk leaves dinner to report back to the crew. At Golden Gate Park he asks Taylor how to track the whales but she refuses. He asks her to think about it, but not to take too long.

Chekov and Uhura's mission to the Enterprise is almost successful as the protons are collected but only Uhura is able to be retrieved by transporter. Chekov is detained by security personnel and later taken to hospital after a fall from the ship's deck. Dr Taylor returns to Golden Gate Park after the whales were released without her knowledge. She sees Sulu and Scotty assembling the whale tank in the cloaked Bird of Prey and begins calling out for Admiral Kirk. Brought aboard by transporter, the crew enlist her help to get Chekov out of hospital.

With Chekov healed and the crew reunited, Taylor sneaks aboard with Kirk to go with them. They track the whales off Alaska and confront a whaling ship before beaming them aboard. They then return to the 23rd century and crash land in San Francisco bay, saving the Earth once the whales begin communicating with the alien probe.

Kirk and crew face the Federation Council for their recent actions. Following the saving of Earth, only Kirk is reprimanded for disobeying the direct orders of a Starfleet Commander. He is demoted to Captain and the crew are returned to their ship. In Spacedock, while debating where they are headed, McCoy suggests they'll get a freighter while Sulu has his hopes on Excelsior, much to Scotty's disgust. As their shuttle takes them past the Excelsior, a familiar ship is sighted - the Enterprise, NCC-1701-A...

The Voyage Home is a nice film that is more about the crew and our future than it is about explosions and battles. The mix of humour and contemporary Earth make for an interesting film that most can relate to. It is only aged in 2013 by references that no longer apply - eg, Chekov asking a San Francisco Police Officer where the 'nuclear wessels' are, but we can still laugh at Spock's interaction with Gracie the whale, or Scotty trying to work an old Macintosh computer. 

Leonard Rosenman helms the musical composition with a different take on Star Trek scores. While some of the familiar themes remain, some of his flourishes in Chekov's escape from Enterprise security and others are definitely and noticeably different. Leonard Nimoy's direction remains positive although some of the acting from new cast members seems wooden compared to our seasoned crew.

The premise of an alien probe, travelling across the galaxy to communicate with whales (that have been extinct for 200 years) is a bit strange when over-analysed, but as Spock himself mentions to McCoy about 'human arrogance', perhaps it is something we merely don't understand :P

I was expecting to give Star Trek IV a 4 star rating, but instead it ranks equal with Star Trek III. It's a fun movie to watch and it completes the trilogy started in The Wrath of Khan.

My rating: 7/10 or 3.5 stars
Eleonor's rating: 5/10 or 2.5 stars

11 March 2013

B5 Review: Voices of Authority & Dust to Dust

I suppose there should be some mention that this is my 200th posting on this blog :)

Things aren't quite right as Season Three continues to ramp up with these two episodes...

Voices of Authority
Walkers of Sigma 957
Sheridan, Delenn and the command staff are meeting more regularly about the coming war and it seems these meetings aren't as secret as they would like them to be, raising attention from G'Kar and Zack. Delenn convinces the others that it's time to seek out the First Ones as allies against the Shadows and enlists Draal's help.

Sheridan is caught up when Earthdome and the Nightwatch send a political advisor, Julie Musante to watch over and assist him with his image and decision making, keeping him tied up and instead sending Ivanova to meet with Draal. On Epsilon III, she locates activity at Sigma 957 but is chased by 'the enemy' and somehow stumbles upon the image of Earthforce One approaching Io, from two years ago and intercepts a transmission that could just provide the evidence they have been looking for to prove that President Santiago was in fact assassinated.

This is one of those episodes where it is quite obvious that things are starting to happen. The meetings, people asking questions and our crew are actually out there preparing and doing things for what's to come. Meanwhile, we get a disturbing image of how things are at home, through Julie Musante. Earth has no problems because Earthdome and its many ministries have redefined words like crime, poverty, homeless. More worryingly is that the Nightwatch are being given even more powers and we are at least partially tipped off that something big is going to happen on Earth soon once these new rules kick in.

Elsewhere, Ivanova and Marcus take the Whitestar to search for the First Ones. I'm not sure why Ivanova is so agitated by Marcus' presence when in Matters of Honor they seemed to get along fine. Maybe they hadn't got to know each other at that point? In any case, it appears that not everyone thinks to highly of the Vorlon...

A good episode where things are starting to be put into place with bits of humour, a naked lady in Sheridan's quarters and G'Kar giving Garibaldi the Book of G'Quan.

This episode also marks the first use of the Third Season title theme in the end credits. My rating, 7/10.

Dust to Dust
G'Kar's VisionBester returns to the station with another crisis. Dust, a dangerous drug with telepathic effects is on Babylon 5 and Bester wants to track down the supplier. The crew are on edge as they fear Bester will scan them and find out what they're up to, so devise a way around it.

G'Kar comes into the possession of some Dust and soon seeks out Londo, finding out much more than he expected and reaching a turning point in his journey...

A somewhat dark episode from the beginning. Once Bester's involved, we know it will be interesting and it begins with Ivanova's near destruction of his ship on approach to the station. The rest is filled with awkward humour between Bester and the crew while much is revealed about Londo through G'Kar's attack.

There are other, smaller but noteworthy snippets relating to Talia in this episode and the fact that the Psi-Corps have been behind some interesting and disturbing experiments. We are also seeing more conflict between civilians on the station and the Nightwatch/Security officers, a follow on from the previous episode and the revelation of Clarke's possible involvement in the late President Santiago's death.

Why has Kosh suddenly taken an interest in G'Kar? Why did he repeat the line he said to Sheridan last year, 'I have always been here.'?

I'm rating this one a 7/10 as well.

02 March 2013

B5 Review: A Day in the Strife & Passing Through Gethsemane

A Day in the Strife
G'Kar meets with Na'Far and Ta'Lon
Na'Far, a Centauri appointed Narn deligate is sent to replace G'Kar on Babylon 5 while a strange alien probe comes to the station offering a trade of information for untold wonders and technologies - with a catch.

Na'Far arrives with Ta'Lon, the Narn that was captured along with Sheridan and others in 2259 (All Alone in the Night). Both manage to find the time to catch up briefly during the episode. Na'Far returns with news of Narn to both Londo (who ensures Na'Far's pride remains stripped from him) and the Narn population on Babylon 5. Unfortunately, his presence comes with the threat that if G'Kar does not return to Narn, the families of those who are still on the station will be harrassed by the Centauri back on homeworld. G'Kar decides he must do what he can to help others - even if it means certain death.

Meanwhile, Londo arranges for Vir to be promoted and transferred to a new position on Minbar, assuring Vir he will be happier there.

The Babylon 5 crew and staff get to work on answering a list of quite difficult questions from an alien probe that promises advanced technologies and medical advances in exchange and we see Dr Franklin continue down his rocky road of 'stim' usage.

A Day in the Strife provides a good episode without being key to some of the major story arcs in the show. There are of course connections with the Narn conflict but for the mostpart this episode can stand alone. We see many faces of Sheridan in this one, from his confrontation with a worker in the episode's teaser to figuring out the probe's true nature. We also see G'Kar selflessly decide to return to Narn while all those who care about him attempt to convince him not to. How far this character has come from the agitator we saw in The Gathering.

Rating: 6/10

Passing Through Gethsemane
Brother Edward & Ivanova
One of Brother Theo's monks, Edward starts seeing phrases written on the walls around the station that no one else can see and memories that aren't his haunt him leading to an unfortunate encounter and realisation. Meanwhile, Lyta Alexander returns to the station aboard Kosh's Vorlon Transport.

This episode is designed to confront us about morals and ethics when it comes to Brother Edward's situation. We have all seen the 'death by personality' used in the show before, but this episode expands on that a bit further, with a surprise at the end.

Lyta's part opens up more questions after her claim she had visited the Vorlon homeworld, however she is key in assisting with the investigation to what is happening with Brother Edward, bringing up another moral question in the process.

It's designed to make us stop and think and to feel uncomfortable about what is happening and is better than I remembered. Rating: 8.5/10