A filmmaker’s story doesn’t begin and end with the script, there are many other influences that shape that story. Some of those are good and some … well, read these letters and you’ll see what we mean.
A book recommendation for those looking for fresh Trek.
Greetings to you and the rest of the Post-Geek Singularity! I’ve just finished watching the season 3 finale of STAR TREK: DISCOVERY, “The Hope That Is You, Part 2,” and I have this to say…
A CONTEST OF PRINCIPLES is a new Star Trek TOS novel from author Greg Cox. I purchased for myself with a gift card I got for Christmas and I’ve devoured the novel. My wife says I’m a notoriously slow reader and she was surprised at the alacrity with which I finished this novel.
The blurb for the novel reads thus: The planet Vok is holding its first free elections after years of oppressive military rule. Captain James T. Kirk and the crew of the Starship Enterprise have been dispatched by Starfleet to serve as impartial observers, but remaining neutral proves a challenge, as Kirk confronts a tangled web of scandal, conspiracy, and assassination plots—with the stability of an entire sector at stake.
To make matters worse, Dr. Leonard McCoy has vanished while on a mission of mercy to Braco, a nearby planet only a system away. With Kirk unable to abandon his vital mission on Vok to hunt for his friend, it’s up to First Officer Spock and Christine Chapel to lead a team in search of the missing doctor, even if it means risking whatever fate befell McCoy.
Unknown to his friends and crewmates, however, McCoy has been spirited away to another world, Ozalor, where he’s expected to find a cure for a mysterious ailment plaguing a member of the planet’s ruling family. Torn between his Hippocratic oath and his desire to escape, McCoy finds himself at the center of deadly palace intrigues—and a struggle for power that may ultimately consume all three worlds!
And BAM! Just like that, within the first three chapters of this novel, I was transported to my childhood watching Star Trek TOS on my 13″ rabbit-eared television in my bedroom after school.
My imagination was aglow with the striking red, blue, and gold of the Enterprise crew’s uniforms and the tell-tale background sounds of the Enterprise bridge that let the viewer know that this is no ordinary television show. You are now far-flung into humanity’s bright future!
The author does a fantastic job capturing the voice of our triad of heroes Kirk, Spock, and McCoy, as the story is told from each of their three perspectives: Kirk on the planet Vok struggling to complete his mission on behalf of the Federation and this fledgling democracy, Spock on the planet Bracon leading a party to investigate the mysterious abduction of Dr McCoy, and Dr Leonard “Bones” McCoy, trapped on the planet Ozalor waging an internal battle to honor is sense of compassion and the Hippocratic Oath or to answer the call of his indomitable spirit and see to his duty to escape and return to the Enterprise.
Nurse Chapel plays a prominent role in the story and, as I was reading, Majel Barrett’s voice and visage sprang to life in my mind’s eye. Additionally, I had the luxury of watching the performances of William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, and DeForest Kelly as the story unfolded in my imagination as if I were watching an episode of a full-color television show produced 50 years ago!
It was my honor to host Nichelle Nichols, George Takei, Jame Doohan, and Walter Koenig as well and we were having the time our lives! Special guest stars in this story are the security and tactical officers Levine and Godwin who, after meeting them for the first time in A CONTEST OF PRINCIPLES, I would demand to have at my side on every away mission — red shirt or not!
If you’re a fan of great morality tales, pertinent allegories, and true Star Trek science fiction I can’t recommend this novel highly enough. This is the first Star Trek novel I’ve read in more than 25 years and I can’t believe that I’ve been sitting around grousing about things I’ve seen streaming on television when I could have lived the life of an imagination connoisseur and delved deeply into these sorts of novels that contain my favorite characters on the most famous spaceship to ever grace the world’s consciousness.
So, if you’re looking for a great time and a way to cleanse your palate, so to speak, pick up A CONTEST OF PRINCIPLES and give your imagination a whirl!
Live Long and Prosper, Friends,
– Troy R.
PS: While exploring the library of Star Trek novels I discovered a TNG/X-Men crossover novel! After gleefully reading the synopsis to my wife, I exclaimed, “I’m so fucking hard right now!” And she dryly replied, “I can imagine,” before refilling her morning coffee on her way out the door to work. God, I love that woman.
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How much of BLADERUNNER is a direct reflection of Ridley Scott’s artistic values?
I’ll send in each of these essays individually starting with: How far does Blade Runner reflect the auteur signature features of Ridley Scott?
An auteur is a director who puts a strong personal stamp on their collection of films which means that you can tell who directed the film from their style. Here’s why Ridley Scott may have the signature of an auteur.
In the opening scene of Blade Runner it is evident of Scott’s artistic background. He attended the Royal college of art in London. The scene itself is very visually striking with short bursts of fire contrasting the black outline of the city. Scott knows how to burn a visual image into your head. As well as that Scott also provides us with an extreme close up of an eye, even though at this point of the film we have no idea what it is for.
Scott knows that eyes are very important to the story as they allow the characters to determine whether someone is a replicant or not by using the voigt-kampff test or that a replicants eyes will shine red in a certain light. This shows that Scott is using visuals to tell us what is important to the story before we know its actually important. This is the sign of a good story teller and maybe a auteur.
One of the most famous scenes in Blade Runner is tears in the rain. This scene echoes Scott’s work in advertisement during the 1970s. When Roy Batty dies he lets go of a dove which then flies out of his hand and into the sky in slo motion. It’s almost like an advert, very slick. This could show Scott to be an auteur as his personal style has shone though into his feature films. However this could also suggest that the style Scott uses is not the style of an individual but a well oiled industry that is backed by multi-million dollar companies.
These advertisements have been tested and tested and then tested again to make sure they can get the most for their money in their short advertisement slot. The individual director is only their to service the product. This could mean that the style Scott uses isn’t his but an industry of money gobbling corporations.
In the original cut of Blade Runner the producers and test audiences didn’t like the ending so they ordered reshoots and wanted to film a happy ending where Deckard and Rachael drive off into the sunset. Scott was against this decision as it wasn’t his original vision for the film but Scott had to compromise eventually citing ‘ being ahead of the times is as bad as being behind the times ‘.
However in 1992, the directors cut of Blade Runner was released and this time it did not include the happy ending. This is most likely because Scott had gained more clout and power in the industry and he wasn’t happy with Blade Runner as it wasn’t his vision anymore. This shows auteur traits as Scott knew what he wanted and when he didn’t get that he wasn’t happy so it was changed later on.
Finally, the film industry is a collaborative industry where everyone combines their talents together to make a great film but when an auteur comes on to direct there can be tension because there might no longer be that collaboration there once was.
In Blade Runner Scott collaborates with Vangelis for the score however the score for Blade Runner has elements of it that are reminiscent of chariots of fire which was released in 1981 one year before Blade Runner, Chariots of fire was also scored by Vangelis. This suggests that the score was more Vangelis than Scott. Jordan Cronenweth was the cinematographer for Blade Runner and the problem with collaboration is that it’s difficult to tell what elements of Blade Runner was Scott’s style and what elements where Croneweth’s style. This makes it hard for us to decipher whether Scott is an auteur or not.
In conclusion I think that Scott is somewhere in the middle of the auteur and not auteur line however he is definitely closer to being an auteur than not being one. One final point to end with is the auteur theory was developed in the 1950’s which asks the question are films still made like they were back then or has the film industry changed. I believe that the film industry has changed and that the better the collaboration is the better the film will be because everyone will give their best to the project.
If you liked reading this I’m more than happy to send in the second essay that I did and anymore that I do in the future
– Jamie W.
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Why the Star Wars Expanded Universe is “the way” THE MANDALORIAN became better than the sequel movies.
So a little time has passed but I want to talk about The Mandalorian season two. Overall, I loved this season but the one thing that was very different this season was the inclusion of the expanded universe.
Though I think they pulled it off and pulled it off very well, part of me misses how far away the first season felt from the rest of the universe. It was new and fresh, yet familiar and it felt so much more unpredictable. By the end of the season when IG-11 was blasting into town with Grogu, who at the time we all knew as baby Yoda, and taking out troopers left and right I was shocked.
Looking back on it I was more shocked by that than when Luke showed up at the end of season two. For me, the surprise of Luke showing up was more of the shock that they actually did it, not the fact that it happened. It was warm, nostalgic and it was most definitely badass and something that most fans, myself included, wanted to see from Luke for a long time.
Though I am on the side of recasting Luke with Sebastian Stan, I would be lying if I didn’t say I loved seeing Mark Hamill there one last time, even if it was a little uncanny.
Anyways, though it was awesome I look back and I was honestly more drawn into what was happening with IG-11 and Grogu. That moment reset Star Wars for me and though season two had moments that did the same for me in other ways, mainly nostalgic ways, I didn’t feel that jump out of my seat excitement that I did in the first season finally and though I love the second season there are ways that I felt bringing the rest of the universe in hurt what season one set up.
Moff Gideon feels like the best example of this for me. At the end of season one I thought he was going to be The Mandalorian’s Darth Vader. Maybe that’s my fault for thinking that ways but even in season two it felt like they were building him up a lot.
I looked at my fiance when he kidnapped Grogu again and I said I don’t know that I’ve ever hated a Star Wars villain more than I do Gideon right now. Then by the season finally he just felt like he was there for Mando to end up with the Dark Saber. He was slimy, conniving but felt super easily defeated. Now I know he is still lurking around but I no longer feel the way I did at the end of season one.
To say this isn’t necessarily to say how they wrote him was bad but I feel like leaving the extended universe out leaves Gideon at the top of the bad guy ticket and the final fight between Mando and Gideon could have been the climax of the season.
So I could go on with my minor complaint and make reference to how they should have done this or that but at the end of the day I love what I got. It’s a strange situation were I felt there were some vital misteps from season one to season two but it was great! How they handled those perceived misteps and brought the universe in has me more excited for Star Wars than I have been in quite some time.
I don’t know if it has me as excited for The Mandalorian itself though. Maybe this will be like the second season of the Netflix Daredevil show. That second season expanded the universe quite a bit and then by the third season they got back to business as usual. Season two of Mandalorian was great but I hope the show doesn’t become just a backdoor pilot machine that serves the characters being introduced more than the characters from the show.
Well Rob, I could go into more detail and make this even more long-winded but hopefully I have been clear enough that I can end here. I would love to hear your thoughts on this.
Also, before I end my letter I did wanna say thank you. I have never been good at finishing things and then a YouTuber I listen to all the time decided to do a film festival. I finished my first short film because of that and I am eternally grateful. Deadlines, they help, who knew?
Anyways, thanks for the content on the channel and thanks for being so open with your community. I can’t speak for everyone but it has at least meant a lot for me.
– Brandon P.
PS sorry about Discovery
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Exasperated over movies with potential – but are ruined by outside meddling and “creative differences.”
Hi Rob, moderators, and Post Geek Singularity,
I know you rant a lot about what is going on with Star Trek, with the showrunners and how the stories and characters are being done.
I see where you are coming from, but for me, it’s with movies which could have been good, but were not meant to be, though I do not rant as I just sigh and realize we can’t always have good things.
What I mean is, there are movies which could have been really good, but studio executives, director, or producers start meddling too much, causing the final films to be less good than originally intended.
Tony Scott and Shane Black said in later years how Last Boy Scout could have been a far better film if Black’s original script was used, but Joel Silver and Bruce Willis took over the production, constantly demanding changes and having Black consistently rewrite the script.
After Shane Black wrote his Long Kiss Goodnight script, direct Renny Harlin felt it was too dark after reading it, and had several script doctors rewrite the script to fit his satisfaction, much to Black’s dismay.
Charles Edward Pogue blamed Rob Cohen and Universal for what happened on Dragonheart, calling the final film a flawed disappointment, and how the original script was diminished in the long process to get it on screen. He blamed Rob Cohen for altering and cutting out parts of the script, which made the film inconsistent, and blamed Universal for dumbing the script down to appeal to kids, as the original script was darker and more serious.
In the case of Last Boy Scout and Long Kiss Goodnight, both scripts sold for record numbers as studios knew there was something really special about those scripts, but then when they are being made, people involved decide to change things which make them less good.
In Dragonheart’s case, Pogue stated how the original script caused a small phenomenon in Hollywood as everyone wanted to be involved with the movie from actors, composers, cinematographers. Universal had the script and greenlit it very quickly after it was written since it had a strong emotional response, indicating there was something special, but then decided to go and meddle with it.
I always think to myself when I read what either studio executives, directors, and producers meddling much, I think “What the hell are you doing? You’re clearly making this less good. If you have good material and you know it’s good, why are you messing with it?”.
Those are just examples where I don’t rant, but I do sigh at the revelation we could have had really good movies, but we can’t always have good things.
Thanks, live long and prosper.
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A more tolerant view of Star Trek: Discovery’s Season 3 finale.
Not sure how to feel about that Discovery finale (just finished). I want to like Discovery and there are elements I absolutely do, but…sigh, why does there have to be so much that’s far fetched and ridiculous? For a long time I’ve argued (mostly with you—thanks for being there) that all Trek has had moments tha
t require suspension of disbelief, but now I have to concede that Discovery stretches too far.
Is it so hard to depict the interior of a ship in a realistic way? Those turbo lift scenes were preposterous.
And Sukal’s ship…somehow recognizes Gray who exists only in Adira’s mind and creates a holo with his consciousness? How the hell does that work?
Book can suddenly operate the spore drive because he’s part telepathic? Huh? And how does he know how to do that exactly? Seems like jumping a ship through a spore network might take months to master. It was like asking a fish to pilot a helicopter.
There was so much action and spectacle and so little substance. I would gladly trade 9/10ths of the action for more dialogue, character moments and exposition.
What was there to like?
I guess I enjoyed Sukal as a character and do enjoy Kelpians as a species. I think the make-up is spectacular. You can say those are rather trivial elements and you’d be right, but it’s in my nature to look for positives, however small.
I don’t share your hang-up about the source of the burn. That is, I don’t have a problem with it being an individual. I think that’s pretty Trek. But the explanation is so foggy and incomprehensible.
You can’t just technobabble your audience into oblivion and expect them to be satisfied, especially about the season’s primary mystery. I still don’t understand what caused the burn and that can’t be.
But I’m weak, Rob. I watch the final scenes with crew members in new silks, Saru on Kaminar, and Michael in the captain’s chair and…I can’t wait for season 4. Hope springs eternal. It’s Trek, and Trek has meant so much to me throughout my life that I constantly pine for more and hope for the best.
Yes, yes, I get it. No Trek has so trampled verisimilitude as Discovery, yet…I want more.
Do I have low standards? I don’t know. Maybe. I want Discovery to be better, same as you. You see flaws and hate the show. I see flaws and find aspects to enjoy. I want Trek to have perfect verisimilitude, same as you, yet I can watch Discovery, recognize its glaring, even offensive flaws, and still enjoy it on the whole.
It’s hard to explain. I’m not sure if this is the perfect analogy and I may take it back later, but… maybe my enjoyment of Discovery is akin to my enjoyment of Trek novels or westerns. Trek novels are not equal in quality to great literary fiction.
I may like Diane Duane, but she is not Austen or Tolstoy. I can enjoy a good Louis L’Amour around a summer campfire without spurning it because it’s not Shakespeare. And I can recognize that Discovery is not equal to any previous Trek without despising it.
But, as always, I’ve gone on too long and imposed on you too much. My life has got busy again and it’s been over a week since I’ve been able to catch a livestream. I miss Robert Myer Burnett and his vitriolic rants about a show I enjoy, but life is getting in the way.
Thanks for being you, Rob, and humouring this too-forgiving Trekkie through another season of mediocre Trek. My friend, I do pine for the days when Trek lead the way in peak Sci-Fi, and like you I begin to despair.
But! Eternally optimistic, I cherish hope Strange New Worlds will re-raise the bar. That it will offer more verisimilitude, less melodrama, fewer plot holes, and more faithfulness to Trek aesthetics (you can’t even make out ships clearly on Discovery)… I hope that Chabon’s writing for Picard series 2 will rise to the level of his novels and not sink below again.
Here’s to hope, my Duke of Dope Discourse. May the new year year bring you joy. Cheers
– Sean P.
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For the nest ELYSAVIEWS, just give us a little “Kiss Kiss …”
Hello Rob and Elysabeth!
I can’t express enough how much I enjoy your show. The chemistry the two of you project on screen (while drinking, of course) is magic! Each episode I watch brings a big smile to my face.
I am writing today to submit a movie suggestion for the show, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang. I know you have seen it, Rob, but I’m not sure if Elysabeth has. It is one of my all time favorites that sadly does not get a lot of attention.
I cannot tell you enough how many friends I have recommended it to that had never seen it, and after viewing, they generally return with much praise and discussion.
Why is it my favorite?
Well, the acting and characters are one of a kind. Val Kimer as Gay Perry is priceless and having an adventure along side Robert Downey Jr is just spectacular! All while accompanying the ever lovely Michelle Monaghan. All of this along side the excellent music of John Ottman (shame he didn’t also get to include his amazing editing skills).
What can I say, I’m a big fan of every film he works on with Bryan Singer.
Thanks again for taking the time to read my letter and for all you both do! I know my English/typing skills are rough.
Please stay safe during these troubled times. Cheers!
– Jonathan H.
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