Monday, July 29, 2013

Will Weaton Turns 41: A Portrait Of Wesley Crusher

                          One of the qualities I appreciated most Star Trek: The Next Generation is the idea of a starship where the crew could bring their families on board. Very much born out of the production of the original Star Trek's dissolution of Gene Roddenberry's own family,this concept was also in keeping with Roddenberry's optimism for the future. One of the characters in this show was Wesley Crusher,the adolescent only child of the Enteprise's doctor and widowed mother Beverley Crusher. Whether we Will Weaton for his role in Stand By Me,his left wing politics and LGBT rights campaigning or his recent appearances in The Big Bang Theory he will,to me always have the most influence on me in the role of Wesley-a character named for Roddenberry's own middle name as a futurist version of himself so they say.

                     Wesley Crusher was a highly intelligent wunderkind,the "Mozart of 24'th century engineering" as a character in the show called the Traveler once implied. One of the most telling qualities he had however was his generally positive interactions with the crew. He only occasionally exhibited signs of cock sure adolescent attitudes. And although his intelligence led him into leading the Enterprise out of dangerous situations faster than the crew could, he was often more than willing to assist the crew-especially close friends Geordi LaForge and Data,in understanding his visions. He was a positive enthusiast and idealist-reveling in the new encounters he had on the ship. However from the start he had ambiguous feelings about going to Starfleet Academy as Captain Jean-Luc Picard was hoping for. After a time there led to a severe downturn in his enthusiasm he embarked on a more esoteric journey to understanding his gifts.

                  Much to my own regret, most people-especially Star Trek fans,have as equally as much vitriol for Wesley Crusher as I do respect and admiration. Much of this comes from the spiteful humor of 1990's comedians such as Craig Kilborn,one Trekker who delighted in getting hundreds of people to shamelessly laugh at the character. I always had a feeling a lot of this feeling was born of a form of envy-deriving from the young American male "jocks and geeks" style 20th century style social order. Today in the 21st century,as social attitudes are at last expanding there seems to be a strong re-evaluation of  Wesley's character. With no narcissism intended the Wesley character and myself have many qualities in common: strong idealist enthusiasm,a keen intellect,personal vulnerability and a tendency to be misunderstood-often misdirected by others.  I greatly admire Weaton's portrayal of this character. And am wishing a happy 41 to him and to his family!

Friday, July 26, 2013

Nana Visitor Turns 56-A Portrait Of Kira Nerys

                             Perhaps it may seem like a cop out to use an actresses birthday as a platform to discuss one character she played. However in this case I'm of the opinion that this particular role was extremely significant for this particular person. Nana Visitor has,and continues to have a very successful and diversified acting career-even marrying her Deep Space Nine co-star Siddig el Fadil and continuing to act while pregnant with their son Django: the event integrated into the story line of the show. From my understanding the character Visitor portrayed,one Kira Nerys was a replacement for Deep Space Nine's intended representative from Bajor (and Star Trek: The Next Generation) Ro Laren. Aware of Michelle Forbes interest in weekly television at that time,Vistor stepped into her part and fom 1993 to 1999 created a character that was,at the very least,very significant and redemptive.

                       As portrayed by Vistor, first Major Kira was a reluctant and rather resentful Banjoran national who was put into position as a liaison to Commander Ben Sisko on Deep Space Nine,ironically a former Cardassian mining station they called Terok Nor. Nerys was very protective of her possition and her people-known for challenging Sisko's authority on virtually every event on the station-even going over his head on several occasions. As local events on the station evolved into a conflict with the Dominion her life came to a strange full circle. Becoming the awkward midwife to Chief O'Brien's son as well as instructing her adopted daughter of sorts (actually the love child of her sworn enemy Dukat) essentially in how to be a terrorist, Kira Nerys' life became alternately conflicted and domestic. 

                  While I have my own personal conflicts over how Deep Space Nine was handled in its later years,it was the character of Kira that helped define and shape was it started out being: the "darker,grittier" Star Trek-with a firm sociopolitical ethic. One superb example is an episode called 'Duet' from the first season of the show, in which Kira not only has to confront that her worst enemy is actually a possible source of redemption for both the Bajorans and Cardassians-only for him to be killed. If the character of Kira had,say been written out in the next episode this would be her shinning moment on the show. Luckily she had the chance to have seven years of them. Developing a meaningful relationship with misunderstood shape shifter Security Chief Odo Kira Nerys embodied Star Trek's evolution in portraying strong female characters. She was volatile,committed,resourceful,confident and actually very vulnerable in the end. So to me Nana Visitor will always be remembered as portraying not only one of Star Trek's strongest female characters but one of it's strongest characters period. And Star Trek has many.


Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Star Trek Slipping Into Darkness?

                            Before I begin it should be stated that this is not a review of J.J. Abrams newest Star Trek movie staring Chris Pine And Zachary Quinto. One of the few Star Trek admiring friends I still talk with from my adolescence name of Jeff,and I discussed the possibility of seeing this film for the longest time. In many ways,I was more impressed with the first J.J. Abrams Star Trek film than I thought. Which leads to another important qualifier: the current Star Trek movies has virtually nothing to do with Gene Roddenberry's original Trek universe. Save guest appearances by Leonard Nimoy. 

                      While some might debate this factor,it is what it is. And important to know when taking in this particular film. I waited for two months since this film came out. Finally it was dollar day at my local second run movie theater,my teeth were still numb from a filling so finally seeing this film on the big screen to today seemed like a good way to kill some time. Sounds like a very poor endorsement doesn't it? Well not all is as it seems. And that,in a word is the core point of what I'll call a theatrical commentary on the film.

                       Avoiding any potential spoilers,the basic plot of this film involves Captain Kirk (Pine) being reduced in rank after his irresponsible behavior on a mission only to be reunited with his crew on the Enterprise to save Starfleet itself from destruction by a genetically engineered superman  Khan. Yes you've got it right-Khan Noonian Singh himself. Played here by Benedict Cumberbatch Khan is generally given a far colder and calculated attitude (only shedding a single tear throughout the film) than the late Ricardo Montalbahn's alternately smug and vengefully hostile interpretation. Still the question remains for me why is Khan in any modern day Star Trek at all?

                         One of the issues Jeff and I discussed regarding this film was J.J's obvious pandering to the nostalgia of Trekkers the world over with his films. And this particular film offers that level of nostalgia to such a degree it seems almost spoofed at times. Ironically, the characterizations of the original crew of the Enterprise are far closer to Roddenberry's original than they had been in J.J's debut Trek film of 2009. In particular Chris Pine-delivering a more adult swagger this time than the sometimes overblown cockiness in his first time out in the role. Karl Urban's McCoy is also far less of the hypochondriac here which is extremely appealing to me.

                        There are a couple elements that drag the film down significantly and that is the plot itself. Obviously drawing from 1982's The Wrath Of Khan, it does so to the shameless level of even including lines that are almost identical to the original film. The best example of this would involve a severe spoiler for anyone who never saw the movie so I won't include it here. The other element of the film that evades its intentions are that the film revels in so many steroid speed action scenes of characters attacking each other on fast moving objects that other characters,such Alice Eve's Carole Marcus are severely underdeveloped compared to Bibi Besch's original character.

                         Only one element of this film made me as angry as...say Spock's rage at Khan during the conclusion of this film. And that was the site of the Starfleet battleship U.S.S. Venture plowing into Starfleet headquarters. I felt it was a symbolic slap in the face to original Trek admirers and saying de facto that Star Trek somehow only belonged to J.J Abrams now. Aside from that it is a well produced and well acted film that suffers from poor writing made so by virtue of its nearly complete lack of originality. Whatever other controversies that might surround this movie, the overall effect is severe doubt as to whether Star Trek is still a thriving and inspirational  phenomenon or a mere franchise on it's last legs-with its best days in the metaphorical entertainment museum. If this film is any indication, that uncertainty would seem to be here to stay for a good while.