Thursday, July 28, 2016

Star Trek - Beyond

"I Believe in a Star Trek Future."

I've always said that and I've always believed it.  Sometimes I say it with a wink and a nod.  Sometimes as a tech reference and sometimes when things seem to be at their darkest. 

To me, a Star Trek future isn't just about space travel and the wonderful gadgets that go along with it, although I love them too.  It's about the community of mankind. 

I grew up in a turbulent time.  Civil and racial discord, the constant drumbeat of war on the evening news.  It was a frightening period.  Especially to a young child.

But I always had Star Trek and Star Trek understood the community of mankind.

There was one particular episode that I've always remembered it was called, 'Let That Be Your Last Battlefield."  One of my favorite actors of the time, Frank Gorshin, was in it. (I told I was young then!)  It told the story of two space aliens locked in an eternal struggle.  No matter how the crew of the Enterprise tried they could not settle the differences between these two intractable enemies.

Frustrated, one of the two finally turned to Spock and berated him, "What are blind Commander Spock?  Look at me.  Look at me!  I am black on the right side.  Lokai, is white on the right side.

I hadn't noticed.

But it didn't take me long too realize where this episode was going and what the metaphors meant.

Today, I look back at that episode and wonder how far we have come.  Sadly, it seems, not too far.  We have people shooting at each other in the streets and a minister of hate and intolerance that is running for President.

I anguish over this.

But we still have Star Trek and to me that means we still have hope.

In fact, that is one of the messages of Star Trek Beyond, in unity there is hope.

Star Trek may not be perfect but at least it tries.


I can tell you simply, if you loved the original Star Trek you'll love this one.

Oddly enough, that's what some critics have a problem with.  Apparently, they are not familiar with the comic asides, the corniness, Kirk's ego and Spock's angst.  That is their loss.

As for Kirk, he is the usual center of the show.  The crew is still on a 5 year mission but he seems to be on a voyage of self-discovery and he is a little bored.  Diplomatic missions are not his thing.  Careful what you wish for Jim.

The Enterprise answers a distress call and they boldly go where no man has gone before.  Or at least they wish that was true.  There is an Alien conflict but it goes much deeper than that.  As the crew deals with the calamity that has befallen them, they learn what it means to be part of a crew, a team, if not a family.

As the crew is split up they have to fend for themselves.  One of the best pairings is that of Spock and Bones.   If you imagine this to be a source of some comedic moments then you are correct.  These two often play as antagonists and polar opposites but as the struggle continues, they find they have more in common than they think and are actually pretty good friends.

Not that they'd ever admit to that.

The aforementioned Kirk (Chris Pine) is paired with Chekov played by Anton Yelchin.  You can't help but feel that pang of grief at Yelchin's on screen presence.  His tragic death not too long ago still hangs heavely upon one's consciousness.  Yelchin brought youthful exuberance to his role (if you recall, he played a seventeen year old in the first movie) and he displays a quick wit and positive energy.  In a sense, he is us on screen, as if we were suddenly thrust into a Star Trek movie.  We feel his excitement and the pure joy of being there.  He will be sorely missed.  (And, yes, there will be a fourth film.)

Kirk has to put his big boy shoes on for this movie.  No aimless romance to distract him or us.  Often known for his brutish gambler's approach, Kirk has to rely on his wits this time as well as his coolness under fire.  He does not disappoint.  In fact, I think there is a deliberate focus on how this Kirk is intellectually substantial versus the old school iteration.

It comes with a maturation process and having to be a leader and thinking for your friends and not just for your self.

Simon Pegg plays Scottie once again  and he gets a co-writing credit along with Doug Jung.  (Who has a sweet cameo.)  Pegg looks a little older in the movie.  That's not to say he isn't a little older but in the Utopian like universe that Star Trek exists in, everyone usually looks their best.  (In other words, lots of makeup.)

Scottie does play a mentoring role opposite Sofia Boutella as Jaylah so maybe his seniority fits.  For her part Boutella nearly steals every scene she is in.  She is fun, energetic and definitely irreverent.

We should be thankful Pegg helped pen this movie.  He really gets the original Trek vibe and even went as far as contacting the people at Memory Alpha the Star Trek wikia in order to get things just right.

Including this following gem.


Yeah, you'll see.  I loved it.

One of the surprise pairings of the show isn't a pairing at all.  As many of you know, Spock and Uhura have a thing going on.  In this movie they are deliberately separated.

The point?

Well, the point is they need each other.  They all need each other.  That is where Star Trek finds its strength.  Not only in its storytelling but in its morality also.   In one of the many nods to the original Star Trek, Jung and Pegg made sure they cast a mirror on society itself.  There are far too many people wistful for a bygone era that no longer exists.  That era no longer exists because it was rife with division and violence and celebrated the things that set us apart.  

That is nothing to be nostalgic about. 

You may say that is cornball and needlessly Utopian.   But that is the stuff dreams are made on.  That is the future we should all strive for.

That's why I I believe in a Star Trek future.


Sunday, July 24, 2016

12 Monkeys- Memory of Tomorrow

12 Monkeys finished its second season in dramatic if not dizzying fashion.  

Honestly, the ramifications and permutations of "Memory of Tomorrow" set my mind off kilter.  I tried to make sense of everything that just happened.  But, even after watching the episode a second time, I'm still not sure I understand it all.

Let's see.  

Cole and Cassie live in harmonious bliss. Cole meets a mysterious woman wherein he decides to toss his family life behind. Cole fixes the past through a mental convergence with his former self.  Cole is pulled into the future along with Cassie to see the storms have receded.  Cole and the gang defeat The Army of the 12 Monkeys at Titan.  Cole gets separated from Cassie.  We learn the future hasn't changed that much after all.  We also find out The Witness is someone we know but haven't met.  And finally, Cole gets shot into the future where he is due for one "Mother" of a headache.

Hmm, maybe I do understand it a little.

Let's break it down and take a closer look.

Monkeys Mysticism


I love Madeline Stowe.  Ever since 1992 when she stared in "The Last of the Mohicans" opposite Daniel Day Lewis.  Always classy, demure and first rate.  What a coup it must have been for TV's 12 Monkeys to get her to rejoin a property she hasn't been connected with since 1995 when she starred as Kathryn Railly in the big screen version.

Her character, Lillian, trembled with schizophrenic zeal as she brought Cole into her little world.  Yet, something about her performance seemed a little forced.  It must have been difficult for Stowe to inhabit her character.  She sounded appropriately spooky but her take on Lillian seemed a bit too earnest.

No doubt having to step into the TV world of 12 Monkeys without a season long stretch to get used to her character's skin must have been problematic.  Also, saddled with having to introduce the mysticism that is part of that same world to James Cole in such a quick fashion must have been daunting too.

And it is the "mystic" part that I've always had a problem with.  

There is a cultish or religious angle to the TV world of 12 Monkeys that doesn't ring true to me.  I guess it is because I am a hard science guy.  Even if that "hard science" is from the world of science fiction.  

Stowe had the unenviable task of melding the mystic with the "machinery" we have grown so fond of.  I cringed a little when she went through the motions of telling Cole of the Red Tea, wherein, he pieced together the tenets of, "two things existing at once", "minds being untethered" and drifting through the "time stream."  I had to reconcile myself with the fact that this always been part of 12 Monkeys and like it or not, this is how Cole was going to fix things.

I think I might have been a little put off on how her character seemingly appeared out of nowhere.  I guess, as a "Primary" she was able to sense Cole and with her close relationship with time she knew things were collapsing and it was time for him to make things right.

That's a big leap but necessary in order for the story to work.

Also necessary was, "And have a Merry Christmas" from Lillian.  A nice homage to Stowe's classic line from the Twelve Monkeys movie.

Oh, and speaking of Christmas.


This is what James Cole had to walk away from.

Cassie has given Cole the greatest gift of them all.  A new life.  (No, it wasn't the razor.)  They are happy together.  They have all they need.  They are together.

Time is on their side. 

But if he leaves his friends to the fate of Titan, "They will be consumed by the Red Forest and suffer eternal."  Remember James, "Death can be undone but love cannot."

Quick aside here, should we really trust Lillian?  Given all we know about how the episode ends, how do we know she wasn't complicit in all big of W's plans?

(Or is it Little W?)

Cole succumbs to the Red Tea and is given a magical mystery tour of events past.  He relives the time he first encounters Cassie.  The loveable lunacy that is Jennifer Goines appears next.

He even returns to the Raritan Facility that is now home of the Splinter Machine in 2044.  There, the spectral essence of The Witness haunts its hallways and stalks Cole.

(Judging by that creaky neck Big W should see a chiropractor.)

Finally, he returns to the point he has been searching for.

This time he is one step ahead of Charlie.  Thanks to the convergence of mind and body through time Cole eliminates The Messenger.  Charlie wasn't really a bad guy.  He loved his wife and didn't want her to suffer.  But he couldn't kill her.  He promised her The Red Forest and then took it away.  Then, oddly, he brought it back.  At least the idea of it.  Make up your mind Charlie!

Don't worry Charlie, unlike death, love cannot be undone.  Oh wait, I don't think that applies to you.

Time Bump

Here's where we have a point of contention or perhaps, consternation, for 12 Monkeys fans.  If Cole shot Charlie and saved the Primary that was his wife, how is it that Cassie is still pregnant in the future?  Also, how is it she remembers the butterfly statement and everything about their former home and the love they shared?

Certainly, Cole thought everything would be erased.  That's why he said "Goodbye" to Cassie before he shot Charlie.

Here's one thing, there was no "Time Bump" when Cole shot Charlie.  You know, when everything shakes in the scene, the characters double over in pain and there is a weird noise.  We saw it when Cole set fire to the plague vials and Jennifer yelled out, "Times they are a changin'".  We also saw a visible Time Bump during the episode "Immortal" when Cole and Ramse had the alleyway gun fight that spared the life of Victoria Mason.

Not that we had a chance to see any Time Bump because the next thing we know the tether is restored and Cassie and Cole are splintered back to 2044.  We also quickly transition to hear Jones' tale of loneliness and woe.  (Bad ass with a shotgun though!)

But no Time Bump.

To add fuel to the contention/consternation fire, Jones tells us of how a year passed and she watched as the Time Storms slowly receded.

So everything must have worked right?

Well, we thought we saw her consumed by the Red Fire much like it took Dr. Lasky.  But somehow Jones survived.  She even recounted the tale of being surrounded by the Temporal Fire.  So why didn't Cole's fix bring everyone else back?

What changed in Time?  How was this different?  Is Time still that enamored with Jones?

It makes you wonder if this was all part of The Witnesses plan too.  Even if his Army was defeated he still managed to have Cassie grabbed at the end.  

I think we have to conclude The Witness must have known of Cole's decision to mind-travel and shoot Charlie after all. Cole's words, "1957 - 1959, This Was Home" was part of the Time Chart that The Witness had put together.  

Is there another explanation?

The Final Battle Revisited

You had to love how Jones wanted to enter the fray along with Cassie and Cole.  She's already lost her daughter once and she's not going to do it again!

Plus, she's had a year of being a pistol packin', shot gun totin' mama, so heck yeah brink her along.

This time the results of the fight go a lot better for Team Splinter.

The Army of the 12 Monkeys gets shredded in the fight.  Thanks in large part to Jones and the addition of Jennifer and her Daughters.  (Which one was the sharpshooter that took out the Army minions holding the hostages that were Deacon etc?  Damn!)

As for Jennifer, they found room for her in the last few episodes but I can't help but feel she was marginalized.  It was great fun listening to her Braveheart speech but it was really her selfless courage that motivated the Daughters to join the battle.

Still, there hasn't been a lot for her to do and in a blink of an eye she is zapped back to the trenches of World War I much like the original Cole was in the movies.

Why?  I mean, it was a nice nod to the original flick and all but now I'm worried for her character.  She had a hard life but finally found her purpose.  Maybe she wasn't destined to live her life in 2044.

But 1917?

At least she seems to have more of a future than Deacon.  That looked like the end for him.  Too bad.  He was all over the map emotionally but I think he grew on everybody.

Alarm Bells Go Off


Okay, not alarm bells specifically, more like deep bass clarions.

Time to go!  

Here's where things get a little blurry when Cassie starts to remember things from 1959.

Cole makes mention of the Butterfly quote and everything comes rushing back to Cassie.  I read an EW article published right after the season finale and Amanda Schull basically states Cassie will once again have trust issues with Cole again.

Great, more soap opera.  C'mon you kids, don't you know there is a war going on?

I do have a theory about how Cassie had her memory jogged and things didn't change all that much despite the battle being won and the storms rolled back.

Just before the Butterfly quote and Cassie's memory reclamation, Cole had said, "Time will take what it's owed."  Here, Time is acting as an entity if not a character in the show.  Much like it spared Jones over and over it has now acted to ensure Cassie remembers everything.

Too what end I'm not sure.

Cassie was allowed to be captured.  The new timeline didn't spare her from this fate which makes me think despite the changes, The Witness saw this coming too.  Maybe this can be explained as one of his "lies."  They're not really lies, he just makes adjustments as time changes and the chessboard shifts.  Time makes a move so he does also.  It just seems like a lie to his followers that come out on the losing end of it all.

Tough luck.

The point is, Time made a move to make sure Cassie remembers and keeps her pregnancy.  As a crackpot theory, is it still possible its not Cole's child but really Deacon's?  

 For now, I have to believe Time needed Cassie to be in 2163 as did The Witness.

The Mother of All Endings


So weird.

Damn, I'm glad The Pallid Man wasn't revealed as The Witness.  Just one more tease from Terry Matalas.  We've had a few and I think I gulped when PM removed his hood.  Close call.

How about that Congress of an Army of 12 Monkeys?  Were they all manufactured by The Witness much like The Messengers were "made" by him?  They seem normal.  Just before Ramse started knifing them all in 2044 and they claimed "The Witness is safe" they looked like regular people.

Want another crackpot theory?  The Witness is all of them.  Based on the child of Cassie and cloned to be The Army of the 12 Monkeys in the future.  Yes, originally conceived on the Nazi experimentation.  Yeesh, that would be creepy.

Do I hope there is one main Witness that is the child of Cassie?  I do.  We'd have to find out what warped him so badly into creating his death cult, the Plague and the Red Forest etc.  

That should be one story to tell.

Nice twist to see The Striking Woman again.  It's always good to hear her purr something like, "Hello Traveler."  Poor Ramse visibly slumped.  "Just shoot me."  It was actually a little funny.  But she was the one that reached out to Sam.  I'm thinking Sam is in 2044 as a child.  Time zapped sideways. Yes?

Then again, she looks a little younger in this shot when she was revealed to have reached out to Sam and I don't see that shock of grey hair.  Hmm.

So, if she's not with the Army of the 12 Monkeys what do we call her group?

Olivia's Orangutans!

Don't you love it?  Yeah, no, I hate it too.

Here's a wish though, Olivia and Dr. Jones eventually get to sit around the campfire talkin' Godel.  Cigarettes and whisky abound.  God,I want to be part of that conversation.

So, Cassie is "The Mother" in the future.  Here's hoping she is the literal and the clone mother all rolled into one.  

Naturally, Cole is off to the future to rescue her  She looked pretty frightened in the Congress hall.  (Chimp Congress?  Nope, hate that one too.)  How will this change her?  She's been afraid at one time and pretty hardcore in another.  Will she succumb to the pressure of being in 2163?  There's a lot of them and only one her until Cole arrives.

We should factor in her nascent motherhood too.  She might become quite combative in protecting her newborn child.  Or whatever its age might be when Cole gets there!

Like I said earlier I love the hard science (fiction) angle too.  More than the Monkey Mysticism.  The above graphic is pretty cool.  I wonder if all those cube like shapes are "Time Bumps" like we've seen in the show.  I suppose they could be metaphorical steps to the future too.  In the lower right hand corner we get a reference to a Hartle - Hawking anomaly.  Follow that link to Wikipedia for more on that subject.

Time without beginning or end?

I bet that is a clue!