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11/20/02

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Current discussion topics at the STAR TREK BBS
Does trip look like dubya? 17 replies
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TrekWeb Newsbits: Extra coverage your crave!

Nov 13 | Walter Koenig hosts THE MAKING OF documentary now available on the Complete First Season of BABYLON 5. Find out more information at Babylon5.com and order the set from Amazon now to support TrekWeb!


Nov 13 | Emmy Award-winnig STAR TREK and sci-fi writer Hilary Bader passed away last week of breast cancer, according to the L.A. Times.


Nov 10 | TOS writer Jerry Solh died last week at the age of 88 according to CNN. Solh wrote "The Corbomite Maneuver" and co-wrote the story for "Whom Gods Destroy."


Nov 08 | Paramount has released details and a photo of the new TNG Survival Package, featuring the first six season DVD sets of the series with room for the seventh, according to Treknews.de.


Nov 06 | Kate Mulgrew's husband Tim Hagan lost his gubernatorial bid in Ohio last night to incumbent Governor Republican Bob Taft, according to Cleveland Plain Dealer (thanks to 'sky' for this).


Nov 05 | Activision has released STARFLEET COMMAND III to manufacturing and it should arrive on store shelves later this month, according to Sci-Fi Wire.


Oct 30 | Nicole de Boer talks THE DEAD ZONE with Britain's SFX Magazine this month.


Oct 30 | The Cincinnati Enquirer published a detailed profile of Kate Mulgrew in its Oct 27 edition, exploring Mulgrew's perspective on her husband's campaign. Mulgrew is the wife of Ohio democratic Gubernatory candidate Tim Hagan.


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    Typhon Station is a very fastpaced PBeM RPG with skilled, experienced players and a warm sense of bonding and community. We play at the turn-of-the-century, 2400, and are located in the Typhon Expanses, bordering the Neutral Zone, proximate to the Romulan Empire, and near the Iconian Digs, and are on the first warning route of the original Borg Incursion.
    We have three stations to post from, SB 185, USS Odyssey, and USS Wraith. They all have general and particular storylines and all interact. This game is not for the faint of heart! The writing is superb and comes hot and heavy. We have some open spots and also we will consider character suggestions. So, longtime RPGers and novices, check us out. See if you want to make Typhon Station your home away from home.

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    Buy new STAR TREK toys to support TrekWeb!
    Posted: 00:07:58 on October 14 2002
    By: Steve Krutzler
    Dept: TrekWeb Features

    Buy now to support TrekWeb!STAR TREK III: THE SEARCH FOR SPOCK – Special Edition (1983)
    105 minutes
    Rated PG
    Two discs
    List price: $29.99
    Street date: October 22, 2002

    Written by Steve Krutzler

    Sandwiched between the near perfect KHAN and the immensely popular VOYAGE HOME is STAR TREK III: THE SEARCH FOR SPOCK, often overlooked as one of the best of the ten STAR TREK features. While remembered well for its dramatic death of the Starship Enterprise, TSFS is entirely different from its predecessor and yet the polish of Nick Meyer’s film inevitably casts a shadow over this dynamic follow-up. Perhaps the back cover description sums it up best when saying Kirk’s victory over Khan is an empty one, leaving McCoy insane, Spock dead and galactic politics unsettled by the creation of the Genesis planet. It’s in this multifaceted script by writer/producer Harve Bennett that the distinctions from TWOK are what make it the most appropriate companion piece, introducing broader themes, adding profusely to the STAR TREK mythos and arriving at an emotional conclusion every bit as powerful if not more fulfilling.

    Working directly from the events in STAR TREK II, TSFS is a true sequel, without any contrivances necessary to tell a completely new story that follows logically in every respect. Intensely personal from the opening credit sequence to its final shots, character truly takes precedence in a tale with several interlocking themes. McCoy and Spock’s relationship goes further than it could ever have been imagined, invoking the spirituality of death, resurrection and transformation. The questions raised and ignored about the Genesis Project in TWOK take center stage as the classic science fiction theme of technology in the hands of man becomes not simply a gimmick to remind the audience they’re watching a sci-fi picture but an integral component in the transformation and resurrection taking place in the film. Aging is revisited, this time with the Enterprise showing the scars of battle and the characters defying both destiny and duty to assert a sort of “we still got it” bravado. STAR TREK III is woven like a tapestry with every thread touching upon the others to create more than merely the sum of its parts.

    The movie departs from traditional TREK devotion to science and faith in rationality with a story that foregrounds spirituality and loyalty and even takes an antagonist stance toward the usual notions of what is acceptable for these characters in this franchise. The heroes defy Starfleet, destroy their ship, lose faith in the optimism Genesis previously represented and even turn the revered logic of Spock’s hallowed motto from ST2 on its head in the final analysis—certainly there’s more insurrection here than we ever saw in 1998’s TNG attempt. Progress is scoffed at in the form of the Excelsior and condemned in the questionable ethics that create the monster of Genesis, even as this perversion of technology gives the rebirth Kirk seemingly acquires at the end of KHAN true meaning by the end of SPOCK. Christopher Lloyd’s Klingon villain is far more than a device to move the plot forward or a naïve attempt to replicate the good/evil dichotomy used successfully in the previous movie and imitated in later films. Kruge is the logical political consequence of the development of Genesis and in executing Kirk’s son he functions as an ultimate arbiter of the universe, restoring the balance disturbed by the wielding of that godly power. The murder of David is more than an isolated condemnation, however, as the punishment for his arrogance resonates through Kirk while McCoy pays the price with insanity.

    TSFS adds more to the STAR TREK mythos than any of the films, including its predecessor. Vulcan culture is explored enormously, owning largely to the debt first-time director Leonard Nimoy felt to the material he helped create in the original series with Gene Roddenberry, Gene Coon and others. The planet Vulcan is glimpsed for the most extended period since the episode “Amok Time,” after a less-than-detailed cameo in THE MOTION PICTURE (1979). The Vulcan mind meld returns as a crucial plot device with the help of Mark Lenard’s Sarek and is expanded with the concept of the “katra” and the rejoining ceremony. We get several beautiful matte landscapes of Mount Seleya and a plethora of costume pieces and Vulcan language snippets. The Klingons also receive their first major theatrical treatment after, again, a brief appearance at the beginning of ST:TMP. Most significantly, the Klingon bird-of-prey makes its debut in this film, a design that would go on to be used throughout the later television series and the Klingon language got its first systematic organization in III. You can also count the Excelsior, the Grissom, the space dock, the civilian bar and the San Francisco officers’ lounge as major additions that contributed to the demystification of the STAR TREK universe, something perhaps not apparent to contemporary fans accustomed to a gluttonous diet of TREK.

    The Film and Commentaries
    Unlike the last two pictures, this new DVD version of STAR TREK III (hitting U.S. streets next Tuesday, October 22nd) does not contain an altered or updated version of the film. The original theatrical release is superbly intact without the addition of any “long lost” bonus scenes, “belatedly fulfilled” visual effects or other special knick knacks you found on the excellent (and award-winning) ST:TMP Director’s Edition last November or the slightly-less-excellent ST2: TWOK Director’s Edition in August. Without this novelty, it’s left to the rest of the package to sufficiently compensate. What you’ll find, however, is a mixed bag all around.

    Visually the film is brilliant, with the few reds contained near the beginning every bit as vibrant as in ST2 and the film’s contrasting, subdued blue hue (best illustrated in the automated docking sequence) comes through wonderfully to convey the mood of the piece. Celluloid imperfections are apparent throughout, suggesting that more effort could’ve been undertaken to repair the print of the film, but this is only a minor distraction. Having not seen the movie on its prior DVD release, it certainly doesn’t seem like they did anything spectacular with the print used here and if you’ve waited for the Special Edition like many, there’s no denying an improvement over your worn VHS tape. No imperfections in the transfer were readily visible and the only noticeable incongruity or jumpiness between frames occurred for a moment right after Kirk and Spock beam off Genesis and the ground they stood on crumbles in—having not watched the VHS for a while this may be a part of the original footage, though if so, it could’ve been corrected. As with both previous releases, the print could be better but it’s nothing to gawk at. Some with incredibly discerning eyes may be troubled but for most of us it’s absolutely fine.

    Audio is difficult to judge without a thousand dollar surround system, but since most probably don’t have sophisticated home theaters anyway this is of little concern. The audio track sounds wonderful and James Horner’s score vibrates with the emotions of the film. The DVD includes English 5.1 surround and Dolby surround tracks, along with a French Dolby surround track and English subtitles. Lightning during the cave sequence seemed to crackle a bit disturbingly at one point but no glaring problems with the mix can be detected otherwise. But as I’ve made clear in previous reviews, I’m no sound expert. Edward Van Halen once said of his unconventional approach to playing guitar: if it sounds good, it probably is. That’s good enough for me.

    The audio commentary track includes director Nimoy, writer/producer Bennett, director of photography Charles Correll and actress Robin Curtis. The first thing you notice is that clearly these portions were recorded separately, and most likely at the same time they filmed the segments for the DVD featurettes. Since it may be difficult to get all these personnel together for a group commentary, a better choice may have been to give Nimoy precedence and reserve everybody else for the documentaries. As it stands, Nimoy and Bennett dominate the conversation but since their remarks are separate, entire segments of the film will pass when you’re thinking what the other person might have to say about them. Nimoy’s absence is most distracting during the entire Genesis planet fight scene, where he has nothing to say about what was clearly one of the most complex sequences in the film. Instead we get to hear Charles Correll recount the story of the day a fire broke out on the lot and almost burned down the stage, but not very much about the particularities of shooting on it beyond the fact that multiple cameras were used to cut down on the need to re-setup for additional footage.

    Nimoy’s overarching theme throughout is the tight budget of the picture, so he’ll point of various techniques utilized to economize on the film such as reused footage from TWOK. He does a good job of expressing his goal for the visual look of the picture as well as recalling his concerns and thought processes of shooting particular scenes. For instance, he describes the challenge of shooting most of the beginning of the movie because most of the scenes with the crew lacked any sort of action; he credits the power of performance as the main driver of the key scenes, making clear that during production, whether the scenes would resonate with the audience or be ridiculed for lack of believability (teenage Spock’s Ponn Farr meditation with Saavik, for instance) was an ever-present concern. The director also lends some wonderful insights into his vision for the Vulcan sequences at the end of the film, pointing out subtle touches you may not have noticed before and explaining the impact of budgetary limitations.

    Where Nimoy disappoints is similar to how Meyer did so with TWOK’s commentary. Beyond generalities, there are not as many detailed, specific anecdotes about particular scenes or elements that fans have come to expect from these DVDs. Robert Wise’s commentary for TMP:DE is an excellent example of a conversation that stays relevant to the scene at hand with plentiful specifics and is still the model future TREK DVD producers should strive to emulate. Bennett, for his part, has lots to say about the development of the story, which he wrote himself and originally featured the Romulans rather than Klingons. He also gives some insight into the development of the “katra” concept, so central to the film. But most of his remarks would have been better used in the documentaries, allowing for more discussion from the director himself. Curtis’s contribution is also noteworthy but could easily have been contained in the documentary segments.

    Mike and Denise Okuda’s text commentary is, again, a wonderful addition and something nice to put on while you watch the film. It adds value to watching the film for the umpteenth time, full of trivial facts and humorous interjections about the action on screen. Tidbits sometimes venture into the realm of the obvious and the occasional factual error makes you wonder how rigorous the screening process was (TNG’s “The Ensigns of Evolution,” anyone?)

    Despite the lack of any well-known "lost scenes" or blatant visual effects blunders, you have to wonder whether Paramount missed the boat with an excellent opportunity to add novelty value with a tinkered special cut of the film. For instance, both Nimoy and Correll lament about the fact that their Genesis stage was necessary in order to control the environment and because of tight budget they couldn't afford to go on location even to film establishing shots. Modern visual effects techniques could've been used to improve the Genesis scenes and matte paintings, give us a few brand new establishing CGI shots ala Vulcan in TMP:DE, improve the Enterprise self-desctruction and try to blend the Klingon bridge set with the completely new set they fashioned later for ST4. None of this is needed, but TMP proved that a film can be updated extremely well with a little care. No one is suggesting that the original theatrical version of this wonderful film be bastardized for future generations; certainly it is a product of its time and denying the conditions of its production would be disrespectful at the very least. But at 105 minutes, there's no reason a few minutes of brand new FX footage couldn't have been added, the print touched up and both a revamped "director's edition" and the untouched theatrical cut placed side by side on disc one. Disney's BEAUTY AND THE BEAST, released last week, includes three complete versions of the film on its first disc.

    The Extras
    Disc two is where the real fun begins and this time around there are five original documentaries, storyboard and photo archives, the theatrical trailer and a bonus copy of the STAR TREK NEMESIS teaser trailer. This is often where fans familiar with the film begin and comprising half the set, the onus is really on these extras to deliver. The material is definitely here, but unfortunately the presentation leaves a lot to be desired. Several deficiencies are apparent in all five featurettes and as you watch them it becomes increasingly difficult to even call them documentaries. As with the ST2 extras, these segments suffer from poor production values. Shaky camera, poor lighting, minimal editing, static framing and lack of narration become progressively worse as you go from CAPTAIN’S LOG to TERRAFORMING AND THE PRIME DIRECTIVE. The end result is less a collection of stimulating documentaries than nearly two hours of rough footage you might expect from that videotaped college course you took last semester.

    CAPTAIN’S LOG is the meatiest of the productions and, appropriately, suffers the least from these problems. At 26 minutes, it includes new interviews with Nimoy, William Shatner, Harve Bennett, Robin Curtis and Christopher Lloyd. Nimoy and Bennett make the most salient contributions. Minimal repetition from the commentary is present, the most obvious being Nimoy’s recounting of dealings with Paramount executive Michael Eisner to direct the film. Nimoy says that Eisner was resistant to handing him the project because he was under the false impression that the actor hated STAR TREK and had the death of Spock written into his contract for ST2. Nimoy disabused him of this (obviously) and you’ll enjoy the humorous story he tells about Eisner after the first New York test screening of the picture. Although the case description says this program will take you from "production to premiere," there is no discussion anywhere about how well the film performed, let alone premiere night footage or interviews. The program is augmented with behind the scenes photos of the production breaking up the long and painful takes on the speakers, who sometimes venture outside the camera’s unmoving frame.

    The same glassy-eyed Shatner sitting in front of a STAR TREK V poster will greet you in his segments, giving the distinct impression that his portions for both films (and probably the next) were filmed at the same time—a conception hammered home when Shatner seems to forget which film he’s supposed to be talking about and the camera crew have to prompt him that it’s, “oh yes, III.” The main problem here isn’t Shatner’s watery look or the poor lighting or even the claustrophobic close-up that accentuates both; rather it’s the way he hams it up in every deadpan moment. Whether taking credit for Nimoy’s directorial abilities or recounting his own heroism at fighting the fire on the Paramount lot, Shatner’s good for a laugh but not much more. Toward the end of the segment Nimoy thoughtfully explores the choice Shatner made to stumble backwards when Kirk learns his son has been murdered and then solicits confirmation from the actor himself. You won’t get it here; Shatner reappears briefly at the end to once again ham it up with apparent agreement with praise Nimoy showers on him in a previous clip. One wonders how much he’s being paid for these interviews and whether the money would be better served in their production. Curtis mostly recounts the same story about being directed by Nimoy in the film’s ending Vulcan sequence from the commentary and a positively bored Lloyd is pained to utter a few reflections about his performance in the film.

    Under the larger heading THE STAR TREK UNIVERSE lie three more documentaries. The first of these, SPACE DOCKS AND BIRDS OF PREY is easily the most interesting owing to a wealth of behind the scenes photographs of the models used in the film as well as current interview segments with effects personnel who demonstrate some of the models first-hand as they talk. Notable personalities include associate producer Ralph Winter and the Klingon bird-of-prey segment reveals interesting trivia about how the ship was originally meant to be a Romulan vessel that Kruge had commandeered. The pace slows down interminably, however, in the second half as a solid five minutes of shaky camerawork let one of the effects artists talk us through the entire process of compositing multilayered shots with matte paintings without any editing to film clips, behind the scenes footage or even a nice animation demonstrating the process he’s talking about. Lack of narration is very present here, where the participant’s remarks could’ve been considerably edited if a narrator summarized the key points. One need look only to the TMP DVD for documentaries that make extensive use of editing, narration and visual elements to make a professional production you’d expect to find in an episode of MOVIE MAGIC.

    Next up is SPEAKING KLINGON with linguist Marc Okrand, who developed the Klingon language for the film and had previously worked up the small Vulcan exchange between Saavik and Spock in TWOK. Production quality really becomes an issue here as Okrand has plenty of interesting things to say but he’s just standing in an empty hotel meeting room using a white easel to scribble examples on. There is no narration, no graphics and only a few interjections of scenes featuring the Klingon language on screen, making this 21 minute segment seem more like a college lecture than any sort of audio/visual presentation. All this notwithstanding, Okrand's monologue is quite intriguing, detailing how he created a collection of sounds and grammar for the language from scratch. KLINGON AND VULCAN COSTUMES is similarly situated, with nauseating close-ups of one of the costume makers describing the making of Vulcan and Klingon accoutrements for the film—luckily it’s only 11 minutes. Brief scenes with costume designer Robert Fletcher enlighten us to the fact that it was he who first suggested the movie-era Klingons have ridged foreheads in his TMP sketches, over Gene Roddenberry’s objection.

    The final featurette is TERRAFORMING AND THE PRIME DIRECTIVE, which consists of alternately edited video statements by a NASA scientist researching Mars terraforming, a space lobbyist and author David Brin. Chris McKay tells us that lack of plate tectonics on Mars may be why its previous biosphere disappeared and that terraforming the planet would likely take just 100 years. He ends, however, with the offbeat suggestion that we do this and then sit back and see what Martian life evolves in its new manmade biosphere so we can learn clues to our own planet’s lifecycle—not alleviate the problems of overpopulation and resource consumption by populating the newly-created Earth 2. Dr. Louis Friedman, executive director of The Planetary Society, shares his dreams for Mars colonization and David Brin contemplates on the ethical and moral underpinnings of the Genesis story in the film. All of this would make for an interesting and compelling documentary if it were accompanied by some interesting graphics, animations, narration and higher quality video. Either way, it’s a welcome respite from the STAR TREK author segment on the KHAN disc.

    Finally we come to the ARCHIVES, featuring hundreds of storyboard sketches from the entire film. These have become something of a standard for special edition DVD releases and there are plenty here to browse through. There is also a photo gallery totaling around 50 photos, some of which you will have already seen in CAPTAIN’S LOG. The theatrical trailer for the movie is, as always, amusing to watch from an historical standpoint and you’ll instantly know why Nimoy and Bennett protested it, to no avail. It’s comforting to know that trailers used to be just as poorly devised as they are today.

    The Search is Over
    All of this comes bundled in a case that matches the other two releases and with computer-generated interactive menus. Actually, if they had spent as much effort on the featurettes as they apparently did on these menus the set would be much better for it. The menus give us two or three different CGI views of Vulcan’s Mount Seleya locales from the film with Horner’s score echoing in the background. Very nice, very slick. There are no archival interviews from 1983 and none of the rest of the cast makes a contribution, an unfortunate omission. There’s also no feature on the music of the film, one of the most intriguing contributions to the ST:TMP set last year.

    While some of the preceding reveals that this isn’t the best special edition DVD ever made, or nearly as good as could have been made, the fact remains that you’ll be happy with the end result. The film is KHAN’s intellectual equal in every respect and an absolute joy to watch in such excellent quality. The content in the bonus features is undoubtedly here, and most of it is very good; it’s just the delivery of the material that needs serious refinement for the rest of the special edition DVD series. ST:TMP remains the champ in the new TREK DVD wars and should be looked to for guidance. But in the final analysis, whether you’re upgrading from VHS, the original DVD or buying for the first time, STAR TREK III: THE SEARCH FOR SPOCK Special Edition is as good as this film has ever been and, let’s face it, probably as good as it will ever get.

    (out of 5)

    STIII:TSFS: SE hits U.S. shelves Tuesday, October 22nd. Pre-order now to help support TrekWeb.

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