Captain Paul Meredith and his first officer have found themselves trapped on a Klingon-run world. How can they escape? Find out in this strip featuring guest writer Josh Krach!
An edited version of this essay appeared on HiLoBrow earlier this week. They were kind enough to let me run the full version on this site.
The first time we see a familiar face in Star Trek: The Motion Picture, it’s now-Admiral James T. Kirk, stepping off an air-tram into Starfleet Headquarters. Not at all coincidentally, it’s also the first time audiences at the time had seen Earth in the context of the Trek universe. It’s immediately obvious that he is tense and unhappy. The Kirk we see in this scene is not the same man that had represented the Federation’s best and brightest in the wild west that was the galaxy of the mid-23rd century. He’s now brittle, almost openly contemptuous of his work place, and you can’t really blame him. In the two years since Enterprise returned home, he’s become the thing he hated most while in command and out there: a bureaucrat.
It’s written plainly across his face: he’s getting out of here, and soon.
His brief conversation with his old command’s new (Vulcan, because of course) science officer, Sonak, has one of my favorite lines in the entire canon of Trek. “I’m on my way to a meeting with Admiral Nogura which will not last more than three minutes. Report to me on the Enterprise in one hour.”
The new hire raises an eyebrow at this, which is understandable.
The first person to find out that Kirk’s meeting was a successful one is Scotty. If there’s one other man that understands our hero’s passion for his ship, it’s her rambunctious, garrulous chief engineer. This love for the ship (and obvious need to show where a not-insignificant part of the film’s budget went) leads to a luxurious (some would say lubricious) sequence that has become a bit of a joke in the last three decades and change, and for good reason. Yes, it is a very impressive model, and the footage they shot was so good they recycled a significant chunk of it for The Wrath of Khan.
Scotty never once questions why Kirk wants his ship back, just knows that it’s how it’s supposed to be.
It’s obvious that James T. Kirk is the one that has to be in command of the Enterprise at this venture1 . There are (presumably) plenty of Starfleet ships that go and do remarkable things, but it’s only Jim Kirk that can be relied upon to lead a crew to do things that are impossible. After all, he spent five years staring down Greek gods, scuffling with Klingons and even managed to steal the coveted Romulan cloaking device — what’s a giant cloud that shoots balls of lightning to him? Frankly, it’s probably harder for him to get a Space McDonald’s to serve breakfast after 11AM than to take down a godlike energy force that devastates everything in its path.
Of course, there is the matter of Will Decker to deal with. Decker, who was recommended for the captaincy by Kirk himself, is the son of Matt Decker2 , he of “The Doomsday Machine” and much sweating, shouting and self-sacrifice. Stephen Collins as Decker is the perfect 1979 space hero: blond-haired, blue-eyed and with a stiff upper lip, sort of what we’d expect if Joe Friday and Luke Skywalker had a baby. Naturally, Decker gets a fair amount of slagging from fandom, but as a proto-Riker, he’s shown to be competent and a natural leader . In fact, the first time we see him in the film, he’s helping out in engineering, something that I’m pretty sure Jim Kirk never would do unless there was an attractive new magnetic bottle technician.
In the screenplay, it’s stated that Kirk sizes up the situation before being plain-spoken with the other man, that he is actually considerate of another human being. On-screen, however, it’s almost comedic how eager Kirk is to shut down Decker’s hopes and dreams.
I’m taking over the center seat, Will.
I’m replacing you as Captain of the Enterprise.
You’ll stay on as Executive Officer… a temporary grade reduction to Commander.
You personally are assuming command?
That little “Yeah” sums up Kirk’s position in the matter perfectly. Getting command of the Enterprise may have taken Will Decker an entire career and a lot of ass-kissing, but for Jim Kirk, it was three minutes on a Thursday morning. And now that he’s established who’s who and what’s what, he needs to get back to the business of universe-saving.
This isn’t the end of it, of course. Decker wants to know why, exactly, he thinks he can do this sort of thing and there’s a conversation that establishes what we already know, but the real crux is when Kirk apologizes for the takeover. Decker snaps back “No, Admiral. I don’t think you’re sorry. Not one damn bit.”
He’s not. James T. Kirk is supposed to be the captain of the Enterprise. That’s just how it is. If you’re in his way, get used to seeing his ass as he passes you.
1 Outside of the fact that nobody would really want to watch a movie where the dad from Seventh Heaven runs around in space pajamas.
2This is never established in the film, only in the novelization and other related materials. The adaptation (
ghosted by Alan Dean Foster for written by Gene Roddenberry) is a bizarre read, with some details that make absolutely no sense whatsoever. One of these is the fact that the woman who melts on the transporter platform next to Sonak was Kirk’s wife, Vice Admiral Lori Ciana. That’s right: James T. Kirk watches his wife get fed into a Molecular Insinkerator™ and still manages to save the galaxy a couple days later.
It is about the time that James T. Kirk took the Enterprise back from its rightful captain..
As it was severely truncated for publication, I will be running the unedited version on this site on Friday.
I started a Classic Star Trek blog over on Tumblr.
This was my holiday gift from Ming Doyle, artist on The Loneliest Astronauts and much, much more.
I got her the crummy 90s X-Men cartoon on DVD.
From the Bioware site’s description of Miranda Lawson, who serves as your second in Mass Effect 2:
Born on Earth, Miranda comes from a wealthy background. However, underneath her opulent upbringing lies a woman who is calm, collected and driven to accomplish her mission, at any cost. She is quick to judge and values her assignments and goals over people. Miranda is also a powerful biotic as well as a tech specialist.
From the original Star Trek pitch document:
Never referred to as anything but “Number One”, this officer is female. Almost mysteriously female, in fact —- slim and dark in a Nile Valley way, age uncertain, one of those women who will always look the same between years twenty to fifty. An extraordinarily efficient officer, “Number One” enjoys playing it expressionless, cool -— is probably Robert April’s superior in detailed knowledge of the multiple equipment systems, departments and crew members aboard the vessel. When Captain April leaves the craft, “Number One” moves up to the acting commander.
From the Mass Effect Wiki entry (which is based on the game and licensed material):
Miranda [Lawson] was born in 2150. As she explains to Shepard, Miranda never had a mother, only a father who is extremely influential, wealthy, and ego-maniacal. Using a modified copy of his own genome, Miranda was genetically engineered to be a specimen of human perfection. Everything, from her intelligence, physical constitution, biotic abilities, to her appearance were designed before birth to be excellent
From Vulcan’s Glory, a licensed novel by Star Trek series writer D.C. Fontana:
In the four years she had served [Pike] as first officer, first on the old Yorktown and then on the new Enterprise, she had carried out her duties with a precision and perfection he had never seen in anyone else. In fact, perfect was exactly the adjective he applied to her at all times.
(And yes, I know, but I read it when I was 15 or so and it stuck in my head and it was cheap on the Kindle and hey, I occasionally read junk media tie-ins too.)
I also — and I can’t recall where, and I even went through several of the licensed comics along with DC’s Who’s Who In Star Trek — could swear that genetic engineering was added to Number One’s backstory at some point. It’s fascinating that these similarities seem so blatant to me, considering the efforts that the Mass Effect writing team have made to differentiate themselves from other franchises. Their physical appearance is, at least to me, very close and that’s particularly interesting as Miranda’s appearance is based on her voice actress, Yvonne Strahovski, who some of you might know from Chuck and Number One was, of course, played by Majel Barrett.
I’ll just shut up now. OK?
Random.org provided the appropriately randomized integer and it turns out that Bart Jarmusch won Star Trek: The Original Series 365. In a pleasing coincidence, Bart chose “Arena” as his favorite episode of the original series, which is actually the first episode I remember seeing, for slightly unpleasant reasons; I had a fish bone stuck in my throat and I was sipping vinegar to make it bendy so it’d go one way or another and “Arena” was on so I distracted myself from the whole affair by watching Kirk make a fuck-off death cannon out of stone knives and bearskins.
Yes, this is what happens when you’re raised in the south.
ANYWAY, Congratulations to Bart! We’ll see if I can get back on track with these giveaways sometime soon, ok? In the meantime, you can always buy the book on Amazon.
The gang at Abrams figured I was an easy mark for some positive coverage of this book and sent me a copy of Star Trek: The Original Series 365, a nicely-designed look at the original series that covers each episode of the original Star Trek series while including behind-the-scenes information and a well-curated selection of photographs and stills, many of which I’d never seen before. It’s not nearly as gossipy as Inside Star Trek or as nitpicky as the many, many fan-written guides out there and is a better book for its choices. Block and Erdmann’s book is perfect for the casual fan that just wants a nice guide for the series and meaty enough for guys (read: losers) like me.
In order to help spread the good word, Abrams sent me a spare copy to give away. Want to get a chance to win it? From now until 11:59PM ET on Sunday, August 29, just leave a comment with your favorite episode that is not “City On The Edge Of Forever” or “The Trouble With Tribbles.” If you want, tell us why. I’ll use Random.org to pick a winner. Please note that you must use a valid email address when entering or I won’t be able to inform you of your winningness and because of the book’s weight, I won’t be shipping it outside of the United States.
The Star Trek nerd in me desperately wants to write a comic about Sarek and Amanda’s romance and Ming sending me stuff like this isn’t helping one bit.
Thanks to Victoria and Luc for this one. They know what I like.
About three things, I was absolutely positive. First: Sarek was a Vulcan. Second: There was a part of him — and i didn’t know how dominant that part might be — that found my kind utterly illogical and frustrating. And Third:, I was unconditionally and irrevocably in love with him
As I examined them across the Vulcan Science Academy’s cafeteria, one of them looked up and met my gaze, this time with plain-spoken curiosity in an expression I could have sworn was unreadable to anyone else. As I looked swiftly away, it seemed to me that his glance held some kind of unmet expectation.
“Which one is the boy with the straight, slate-colored hair?” I asked. I peeked at him from the corner of my eye, and he was still staring at me, but without the disdain the other Vulcans had plainly written on their face — he had an ever-so-curious expression. I looked down again.
“That’s Sarek. He’s gorgeous, of course, but don’t waste your time. He doesn’t date. Apparently none of Terran girls are logical enough for him.” She sniffed, a clear case of sour grapes. I wondered when he’d turned her down.
I bit my lip to hide my smile. Then I glanced at him again. His face was turned back to the PADD he was holding and he was speaking to the Vulcan to his left, but I thought his eyebrow appeared lifted, as if he were smiling inside.
After a few more minutes, the four of them left the table together. They all were noticeably graceful — even the big, brawny one. It was unsettling to watch. The one named Sarek didn’t look at me again.
“It’s nightfall,” Sarek murmured, looking at the western horizon, obscured as it was by Mount Seleya. His voice was thoughtful, as if his mind were somewhere far away. I stared at him as he gazed unseeingly out of the hovercar’s windscreen.
I was still staring when his eyes suddenly shifted back to mine. His pupils had already dilated a bit in response to the rapidly-encroaching night.
“It’s the quietest time of day for Vulcans,” he said, answering the unspoken question in my eyes. “The easiest time to meditate and center ourselves. But also the most sobering in many ways… the end of another day, the return of the night. Darkness is so predictable on Earth, isn’t it? Your nights do not have dangers like the le-matya or dust storms along the Forge as the terminator crawls across the globe and the cool air collides with the warm ground.”
“I like the night. Without the dark, we’d never see the stars.” I frowned. “Not that you see them here much.”
His eyebrow went up slightly, and the mood abruptly lightened.
“Thank you. But there’s something else I feel should be mentioned.” Sarek didn’t frown, exactly. His mouth became a thinner line.
I waited patiently.
“He called you pretty,” he finally continued, his eyebrows furrowing ever so slightly. “That’s an understatement. You’re … very aesthetically pleasing at this moment.”
“You might be a little biased.”
“I do not believe that to be the case. Besides, I have excellent eyesight, like all of my people.”
We were twirling again, my feet on his as he held me close. “So are you going to explain the reason for all of this?” I wondered. He looked down at me, unreadable, and I glared meaningfully at the crepe paper.
He considered for a moment, and then changed direction, spinning me through the crowd to the back door of the gym. I caught a glimpse of T’pril and Stolok dancing, their heads cocked ever so slightly. Jessica waved, and I smiled back quickly. The slight Andorian Liari was there, too, looking blissfully happy in the arms of George Kirk; she didn’t look away from his eyes, a head above hers. T’lin and Soltar, T’pau, glaring toward us, with Tuval; I could name every face that spiraled past me. And then we were outdoors, in the still warm, yet dim light of a fading sunset on a world light-years from my native Earth.
“Nightfall.” I heard Sarek say quietly to himself.
Thanks, RJ White!